But if it is unpleasing in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!"
I. THE CALL TO CHOOSE.
(1) We are free to choose. Joshua is the leader of the people, yet he does not command submission to God, and forcibly compel it. He exhorts, but he leaves the choice open. God has left our wills free to choose or to reject Him. This liberty is essential to voluntary service - the only service which is true and spiritual. God would not value forced devotion. The worth of devotion depends on its free willingness. Yet the freedom God accords is not release from obligation, but only exemption from compulsion. Is is still our duty to serve God.
(2) We cannot serve God without voluntarily choosing Him for our Master. This is a consequence of our liberty. We shall never come to be truly Christian by accident, or by the unconscious influence of a Christian atmosphere. Religion depends on a decisive action of the will. This need not be so sudden and pronounced as to take the dramatic form it assumes in the narrative before us, and in some cases of sudden conversion. But the fact must be proved by a consequent decisive course of life.
(3) Indecision is a fatal error. We may not choose the evil, yet we practically abandon ourselves to it while we refrain from choosing the good. In ordinary life indecision is a sure cause of failure; so it is in religion. Though we may doubt many points of doctrine, if only we know enough for choice we must not hesitate in the region of practice.
(4) There is no reason for delay. Joshua called for immediate decision. This is most safe, most easy, and secures the longest life of service (Hebrews 3:7).
II. THE ALTERNATIVES OF CHOICE.
(1) Joshua anticipated the position of those to whom it might "seem evil to serve the Lord." This might arise
(a) from misunderstanding the character of God's service,
(b) from fear of the inevitable sacrifices and toils which it involves, or
(c) from lingering affection for the evil things which must be abandoned on entering upon it.
(2) Joshua challenged the people to choose whom they would serve if they rejected the Lord. It is well not only to defend the truth, but to show the difficulties which must be faced if this is rejected. We should look at our prospect all round. It is not fair to object to the difficulties of Christianity until we have weighed well the consequence of any other course of life. We must have some God. Israel must choose - if not for Jehovah, then for the gods of their fathers or the gods of their neighbours. There is irony in Joshua's way of setting out the alternatives. Either the people must go back to the past, deliverance from which they are now rejoicing at, or they must accept the worship of those gods whom they have defied and defeated in the overthrow of their enemies. If we have not God we must follow the world, Satan - our evil past, or the worst foes of our present welfare.
III. THE EXAMPLE OF DECISION FOR GOD. Joshua chooses independently of the popular choice. He is not swayed by the opinion of the multitude. Rather he would guide it by example. It is weak to refuse to choose till we see how the world will choose. Truth and right are not affected by numbers. Every man must make the great choice for himself.
(1) Joshua first chose for himself. We must be decided before we can influence others aright. Yet let us beware lest in saving others we ourselves become castaways (1 Corinthians 9:27).
(2) Joshua also chose for his house. We should seek to bring strangers to the right way, but our first duty is with our own household. It is a good sign when a man is able to speak for the decision of his house. - W.F.A.
I. RELIGION IS VOLUNTARY.
Choose you this day whom ye will serve.
I. CHOOSE you whom you will serve — the Lord, or those idols which an evil heart of unbelief has substituted in His place. You may allege that it does not seem evil to you to serve the Lord. And, speculatively, this may be true; but, practically, it is false. You think, you feel, you act, as if it did seem evil unto you to serve the Lord. There is a latent repugnance in your minds to His service. There is a real devotedness to those whom you ought not to serve which is essentially and irreconcilably inconsistent with a real devotedness to Him whom you ought to serve. And the idea that you are submitting to His sway, when you are, in fact, their slaves, merely because you reject the atrocious saying, that it is "evil to serve the Lord," and are not disinclined to do many things included in that service, is all a delusion, which, however long it may last in this land of self-deception and shadows, must inevitably be broken. Now, it is our wish that this delusion, so sad and so fatal, under which you labour, should be broken before the day of retribution comes. You have been "halting between two opinions"; embrace one of them and abide by it. You have been trying to amalgamate two systems: abandon the one, and cleave to the other.
II. "Choose you THIS DAY whom ye will serve." Having acknowledged that you have been in error — grievous, perilous error — why should you delay forsaking it? Is not this to belie your own professed convictions? "Choose you this day whom ye will serve"; and instead of hesitating, as if you might still snatch another pleasure before you renounce your connection with the world, account the time past as far more than sufficient to have wrought the will of the flesh. Wonder at the forbearance of God in not making you long since a monument of His righteous anger against the unholy and impenitent. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve"; because the sooner that you enter on God's service, in its full import, the sooner will you consult the dignity of that rational nature which He has given you, and which you have been hitherto degrading. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve"; because to delay the change which a right choice implies will be the means of rendering it more difficult in the end. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve"; for if you do not embrace the existing opportunity of devoting your selves wholly and heartily to God, which is your reasonable and bounden service, another opportunity may never be afforded.
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
Sketches of Sermons.I. THE ACT OF CHOICE.
1. Our choice should be Divine in its object. We should choose the Lord for our God.
2. Our choice should be rational in its character. Let us wisely consider what we are doing.
3. Our choice should be decisive in its nature.
4. Our choice should be practical in its operations. Having chosen God, serve Him —
(1) (2) (3) II. THE PERIOD OF CHOICE. 1. We should make our choice this day, because of the criminal neglect of which we have been guilty. 2. From a view of the shortness and uncertainty of our time. 3. Because the present is the only time when God has promised the aid of His Spirit. 4. Because the difficulty of choosing will increase in proportion to our neglect of it. III. THE MOTIVES FOR CHOICE. 1. The capacity which we have for choice is a reason for its exercise. God gives nothing in vain. 2. The perilous state in which we are without this choice is another motive. 3. The happiness that results from our choosing God should prompt us to comply with the requisition in the text. He who has chosen God is in a state of safety and tranquillity. (Sketches of Sermons.)
(2) (3) II. THE PERIOD OF CHOICE. 1. We should make our choice this day, because of the criminal neglect of which we have been guilty. 2. From a view of the shortness and uncertainty of our time. 3. Because the present is the only time when God has promised the aid of His Spirit. 4. Because the difficulty of choosing will increase in proportion to our neglect of it. III. THE MOTIVES FOR CHOICE. 1. The capacity which we have for choice is a reason for its exercise. God gives nothing in vain. 2. The perilous state in which we are without this choice is another motive. 3. The happiness that results from our choosing God should prompt us to comply with the requisition in the text. He who has chosen God is in a state of safety and tranquillity. (Sketches of Sermons.)
(3) II. THE PERIOD OF CHOICE. 1. We should make our choice this day, because of the criminal neglect of which we have been guilty. 2. From a view of the shortness and uncertainty of our time. 3. Because the present is the only time when God has promised the aid of His Spirit. 4. Because the difficulty of choosing will increase in proportion to our neglect of it. III. THE MOTIVES FOR CHOICE. 1. The capacity which we have for choice is a reason for its exercise. God gives nothing in vain. 2. The perilous state in which we are without this choice is another motive. 3. The happiness that results from our choosing God should prompt us to comply with the requisition in the text. He who has chosen God is in a state of safety and tranquillity. (Sketches of Sermons.)
II. THE PERIOD OF CHOICE.
1. We should make our choice this day, because of the criminal neglect of which we have been guilty.
2. From a view of the shortness and uncertainty of our time.
3. Because the present is the only time when God has promised the aid of His Spirit.
4. Because the difficulty of choosing will increase in proportion to our neglect of it.
III. THE MOTIVES FOR CHOICE.
1. The capacity which we have for choice is a reason for its exercise. God gives nothing in vain.
2. The perilous state in which we are without this choice is another motive.
(Sketches of Sermons.)
1. The choice, how ever, is not between religion and no religion. Man is a religious being. Religion is as necessary to his soul as breathing is to his body. To be religious is a necessity, but the kind of religion adopted is a matter of choice. In selecting religion, care should be taken to understand fully the merits of each. The antiquity and popularity of a system, though they show that such a system ought to be examined, are in themselves no arguments in favour of its truth. Truth is beautiful though hated and hooted by the majority of men. The diamond glitters however mean the setting. Like the diamond and the star, truth is beautiful everywhere and always.
2. The choice of religion is limited as to time: "Choose you this day." The present time is God's time and ours: "Now is the acceptable time." We know that; but as for to-morrow, as for the future, we know nothing.
II. RELIGION IS PERSONAL. He says, "Choose you." It cannot be done by proxy. Every man must come to God himself.
III. RELIGION IS POWERFUL. Religion is life; life is example; and example is almost omnipotent. The smallest pebble cast into the quiet pool causes a series of undulations, and the smallest of these leaves its impression, for millions of ages, on the shore; so does the feeblest soul of man, renewed by grace, make a series of moral impressions on the world — impressions whose record will be legible throughout all eternity.
(Evan Lewis, B. A.)
1. Is it not right that you should choose God as your portion and His service as that which should engage your supreme regards? He is in Himself a being of boundless excellence and glory; your creator, preserver, benefactor, and ruler.
2. The duty in question is enjoined by express command of God.
3. This is a duty which perfectly accords with the nature and destiny of the intelligent, immortal mind with which the Creator has endued you.
4. The choice of God, as the being whom you will serve, is the sum and substance of religion; and you ought all to be religious; friends of God and followers of the Saviour.
5. Every man must choose either God or the world as his portion; and according as he chooses the one or the other, so is his character in the sight of God, and his condition in eternity.
6. There is nothing either within or without you which need prevent your choosing the service of God. He who knows perfectly your frame, your intellectual and moral faculties, and all the circumstances of your condition — He, the God who made and upholds you in being, calls you to enter into His service, to choose Him as your Lord and portion.
7. The service of God is the highest glory of your nature, the most perfect freedom of rational moral beings; the surest and most abundant source of inward comfort and outward prosperity. It exalts those who are devoted to it to an alliance with the purest and noblest beings in the universe, with prophets and apostles, and glorified spirits in heaven; with ministering angels on high, and with God Himself, the supreme good. It sets the soul upon an endless career of improvement in all that is worthy and good, opens before it bright visions of heavenly glory, secures God's presence and favour for its support and guidance while passing through this world; brings Divine comforts into the bosom in the hour of death, and finally exalts to everlasting rewards in heaven.
(J. Hawes, D. D.)I. Serve the Lord because of HIS GOODNESS.
II. Serve the Lord because of His WONDROUS MERCY.
III. Serve the Lord because of His LOVE. Let His love in dying for us cause us to serve the Lord.
IV. Serve Him because of His PROVIDENCE.
V. Serve the Lord also because of HIS SALVATION.
(W. Birch.)I. TRUE RELIGION IS A SERVICE TO THE LORD. How well this was understood under the old dispensation by truly good men! The Lord was set foremost as the aim of all piety, not man. If you are in another's service you do not follow your own wishes, but his; you do not aim to please yourself, but him; your business is to help him and promote his interests.
II. THE BEGINNING OF RELIGION IN THE HEART IS WITH THE CHOICE OF THAT SERVICE. Shall Christ have dominion over you or the world? Who has the first right? What says reason? what says conscience? what says the voice of your immortal interests? Thus deliberates the soul in the crises of its history. All persons are to be addressed in this matter as free moral agents.
III. TO SOME PERSONS IT SEEMS AN EVIL THING TO CHOOSE THE LORD'S SERVICE.
1. One reason is that which Joshua gives in the lesson: "Ye cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God." To choose His service is to renounce sin. This is the secret of many irreligious lives.
2. It seems evil to give up idol worship.
3. There is a mortification of pride in the choice of God's service which often seems evil.
IV. WHETHER IT SEEMS GOOD OR EVIL TO CHOOSE THE LORD'S SERVICE, THERE IS A NECESSITY OF CHOOSING, AND OF CHOOSING NOW.
1. Those Israelites were to weigh the fact that they did that day make some choice. That is the serious dilemma of every awakened soul. You are under the necessity of preferring the service of God or some other.
2. The more important, then, to note that the choice of to-day is likely to be that of to-morrow and all time to come.
3. Last, but not least of all, your choice will have a controlling effect on others. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." What a lesson to all who are in high places! What an example for men of prominence in every community! What an admonition to every father of a family! How wide-reaching is the influence of such persons over the decision of others!
(W. E. Knox, D. D.)
I. THE TWO SIDES OF THE ALTERNATIVE PROPOSED.
1. The first particularised is the tragical or fatal side. If you choose this day to give yourselves up to the thrall of your turbulent passions, and to become the slaves of all ungodliness, then drown every rising conviction, strangle in the birth all boding apprehensions and all gloomy forecastings of the future.
2. But if you choose an opposite course, if you prefer the service of Jehovah to the service of Satan, the pleasures of holiness to the pleasures of unrighteousness, then stand not for a moment in fatal hesitation, but range yourselves at once under the standard of the Cross and resign yourselves, without reserve and without condition, to the faith and obedience of the gospel, to the love and service of Christ. Let everything bear attestation to the fact that you consider you have a work to execute of great difficulty and of infinite importance, on the issue of which the whole burden of the destinies of endless ages is staked, and therefore you cannot permit your attention to be for a moment diverted away from this one grand and all-absorbing business of your existence, or your faculties to be engrossed by an inferior object.
II. THE SPECIAL TIME WHEN THIS OPTION IS TO BE MADE AND THIS DECISION COME TO: "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." In every relation and condition of human life much depends on the cultivation of favourable junctures and the improvement of propitious moments. The greatest revolutions that have taken place, the most splendid victories that have been won, and the most permanent conquests that have been achieved, have all depended upon a judicious estimate and critical application of time. If it be true what a writer has observed, "that it is possible to live a thousand years in a quarter of an hour," it holds still truer, that a few minutes lost or improved may decide the complexion of our whole destiny for eternity. Seeing, then, that there is equal hazard and criminality in every moment's delay, in a business so critical and so momentous as the restoration of the soul to God's favour and image, and the insurance of its eternal well-being, we would with all earnestness press it upon you as your first, your predominant, and your ultimate interest, to give yourselves to God now, to give yourselves to God wholly, and to give yourselves to God for ever.
1. Christianity is a religion of reason, intelligence, not of authority and force; it appeals to motives; it sets right and wrong, life and death, before every man's mind and calls upon him to choose between them.
2. The choice is voluntary. No deception is used, and no compulsion of any kind. God never coerced a creature's will, and He never will, even to save him!
3. The choice in all cases is a personal one, in view of motives: "Choose you," &c. Each soul will decide his course and destiny, and wilt be required to give account of himself at the judgment.
4. Every one is at liberty to decline God's service just the same as he is to enter it; but to refuse is to choose. Not to serve Christ is to serve the devil.
5. Hence the entire responsibility of choosing rests on each individual's mind.
(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
The Pulpit.1. Justice and equity imperiously demand this of us.
2. The claims of gratitude join in enforcing it
3. The mysteries of redemption.
4. Our best interests are necessarily involved in it.
(The Pulpit.)1. First as to the permission. There is no leave given — and this we wish to be well observed — for the renouncing religion altogether, but only of choosing between the true and the false. Joshua does not say, "Choose whether ye will have the Lord or no God"; but, "Whether ye will have the Lord or the gods of the idolators." Rut we may not suppose that Joshua here distinguishes atheism from idolatry, as though the people might choose idolatry with a less degree of guiltiness than atheism. He only assumes a broad principle, which the experience of mankind has all along verified, namely, that a nation must have some religion, and that they will worship false gods if they do not worship the true. And then observe, in respect of this permission, that it does not argue indifference on the part of Joshua as to the religion which the people might adopt. He leaves them indeed free to make their election; but still he takes the most effectual made of recommending truth to their acceptance. His declaration as to the religion which he himself would uphold was the giving all his influence to the side of righteousness; and it were not easy to imagine a more dexterous, and at the same time a more powerful, method of bringing the Israelites to yew allegiance to God than thus leaving them their choice, whilst he gave the weight of his own example to the cause which he desired to support. And yet there is more than this to be advanced with regard to the apparent refusal of Joshua to interfere otherwise than by example with the national religion. It would be easy to misrepresent the permission in question — to construe it into an intimation that in matters of religion rulers should leave a people altogether to themselves; but if you consider the circumstances of the Jewish nation when Joshua delivered the address you will perceive that toleration is the only thing enjoined, and not the non-interference of rulers with religion. The Jews were not without an established religion when Joshua bade them choose between truth and error. Their rulers, acting under the immediate direction of God, had woven a system of worship into all the national institutions, and provided, by every possible means, for the instruction of the people in the fear of the Lord. Rulers cannot interfere with conscience, and having established what they know to be the true religion, and determining to uphold it by their example, toleration, and not persecution, is their business. Therefore "choose you this day whom ye will serve"; decide whether ye will be worshippers of Jehovah or idolators with the Amorites. The intrepid leader of Israel's thousands resolved, even if deserted or opposed by his countrymen, that he would remain staunch in his loyalty to Jehovah. He had satisfied himself as to the nature and demands of true religion; and if none had espoused the same side, his purpose was fixed — to stand alone in the championship of truth. This was sublime, because moral heroism; and Joshua was not a thousandth part as glorious when crossing the Jordan as the captain of the Lord's host, or bidding the sun stand arrested in the firmament as when, contemplating the possibility of national apostasy, with the image before him of the tribes whom he had led on to victory abandoning the God who had fought all their battles, he uttered the permission and the resolve — "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
II. Now, we had intended to speak at length on Joshua's determination, as we have done on his permission; but, in handling the one, we have touched on most of the points suggested by the other. The wisdom, for example, of Joshua's choice is demonstrated by the insufficiency of the reasons which were likely to produce a different choice in the Israelites. Neither the antiquity nor the extent of idolatry could justify its adoption; and if, therefore, the ranks of idolators were swelled by accessions from God's professed people, there would be nothing to warrant a change of purpose in Joshua; and it would still be his wisdom, though it would ask great courage to act on the principle that the Lord alone should be worshipped. Hence the wisdom of the determination requires no proof, whilst its boldness may well put us to the blush, when deterred, as we often are, by a frown or a sneer, from avouching ourselves the resolved servants of God.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. AN INTIMATION OF THE DANGER THERE IS THAT A GREAT PART OF THE WORLD MAY GROW WEARY OF RELIGION, EVEN WHILST IT IS TAUGHT IN SIMPLICITY AND TRUTH.
II. AN ADMONITION THAT SUCH AS ARE DISPOSED TO THROW OFF THE BONDS OF DUTY TO THEIR MAKER WOULD THINK SERIOUSLY WHAT SORT OF CHANGE THEY ARE ABOUT TO VENTURE UPON, AND HOW THEY HOPE TO BE GAINERS BY IT.
III. THE RESOLUTION WHICH PRUDENT MEN WILL MAKE, WHATEVER OTHERS DO, TO CONTINUE IN THE PRACTICE OF IT THEMSELVES, AND PRESERVE A CONSCIENTIOUS REGARD TO IT AMONGST ALL THAT ARE PLACED UNDER THEIR INSPECTION.
(Archbp. Secker.)1. It is here supposed that a nation must be of some religion or other. Joshua does not put this to their choice, but takes it for granted.
2. That though religion be a matter of choice, yet it is neither a thing indifferent in itself nor to a good governor, what religion his people are of.
3. That true religion may have several prejudices and objections against it: "If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord"; intimating that, upon some accounts, and to some persons, it may appear so.
4. That the true religion hath those real advantages on its side, that it may safely be referred to any considerate man's choice.
5. The example of princes and governors hath a very great influence upon the people in matters of religion.
(Archbp. Tillotson.)I. CHOOSE. The melancholy majority of men never did choose their course of life, but have been content to take it from circumstances, from accident, from teachers, from outward influences in which they happened to find themselves. And although they may, step by step, have chosen immediate action for immediate results, what a host of people there are that never set clearly before them the definite aim for which they were living. Choose. Standing as you do at the parting of the ways, get a clear notion of what you are aiming at, and do not let yourselves be moulded by mere accident; do not let yourselves be mere children of impulse; do not owe the shape of your lives to the pressure of circumstances; do not let yourselves be ruled by the moment's inclination; do not be like the weeds in the stream, that move only as it flows. Do not be like the jelly-fishes in the sea, that have no locomotion, or next to none, who are borne along helplessly in the current. "Be a hammer, and not an anvil." Choose! Do not let the world shape you. Exercise your will, your reason, your conscience. Formulate your purposes, say to yourselves what you mean to be and to do; and say it strongly, for this world is no place for weaklings; and wishes and inclinations and good intentions are all very well, but they are not enough. Will and choose, and in the name of God choose the right.
II. CHOOSE GOD. I mean choose the God that has come near to you in the Saviour that has loved you and lived for you and died for you; and give your hearts up to Him to be cared for, to be blessed, and your spirits to Him to be cleansed, and to be saved; and then, yielding yourselves to Christ, you will have taken God for your portion. Contrast for one moment the objects that are set before you for your love, trust, and service. And opposite: what a rabble of bestial divinities! Surely there need be no question where a man's heart may fold its wings, like a weary dove, and rest for evermore. For not only is there a contrast between the objects, but there is also a contrast between the results.
III. CHOOSE GOD NOW. It can never be too soon to do what is right and noble; it can never be too soon to do what is duty and safety. And let me tell you four reasons why I pray you this. First, the peril of delay. It is not likely that many of you will be laid in your graves before this day next year; it is certain that some of you will. And because no hand can point to the one that will, let us all listen to the beseeching, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Second, because of the rapidly increasing difficulty of making a choice, which is a change. When the clay is on the potter's wheel the lightest touch of the finger can impress it with any form that he desires; when it is taken off and hardened, nothing will change the shape of the vase but smashing it to fragments. Thirdly, because of the loss that you sustain by delay. Why should you be another day without the best blessing that a man can have? Why should you be another day poorer than you need to be? Fourthly, because of the bitter fruits which you are laying up for yourselves by delay, if ever you come to Christ. I would have you "innocent of much transgression." I would have you to "grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," that you may never have to look back, in the event of a late return to Him, on a life all given to idols, consumed for self and wasted by sin.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Homilist.I. ALL MEN HAVE SOME MORAL MASTER. The moral monarch of the soul is the object of its supreme regard; the predominant love evermore sways the soul.
II. THE MORAL MASTER IS ALWAYS THE OBJECT OF CHOICE. No soul is coerced into the service of any object.
III. THE SOONER MEN CHOOSE THEIR MORAL MASTER THE BETTER.
1. Because a wrong moral master will ruin you.
2. Because there is only one right moral Master — the Supreme One.
I. I observe THAT RELIGION IS A VOLUNTARY THING AND A MATTER OF CHOICE. For mankind are beings endued with reason and liberty, and this alone makes them capable of religion and virtue. Without these powers they would be upon a level with brute creatures, and it is the right or wrong exercise of them that constitutes the moral good or evil of actions.
II. We may infer from the text THAT NO MAN CAN RE OBLIGED TO EMBRACE A RELIGION THAT IS EVIL, i.e., contrary to reason and the moral fitness of things; but, on the contrary, is bound to reject it. If any scheme of religion undermines the perfections of God, which the reason of our minds can demonstrate from certain principles, it cannot be true. Again, that scheme of religion must necessarily be false, and ought to be rejected with detestation, which dissolves or weakens the obligations to universal purity, and tends to licentiousness and vice. And though religion must be a voluntary thing and a matter of choice, it is, however, our duty, in order to the making this choice, to be diligent and impartial in our inquiries. For the great Author of our nature hath endued it with such faculties, as are proper to distinguish betwixt truth and error, and appear to have been given us for this very purpose. There is also a fixed and certain standard of truth in the reason of things which, in all cases of importance and necessary influence upon our happiness, is sufficiently clear and explicit to well-disposed minds. And again, though we may with safety reject a religion that is unreasonable, that patronises vice, and is dishonourable to Almighty God, yet it must be allowed that, in order to our being able to judge whether it deserves that character or no, we must carefully and calmly examine it.
III. We should learn, from Joshua's example, TO RE FAITHFUL TO THE CAUSE OF GOD AND THE INTEREST OF RELIGION AND VIRTUE EVEN IN TIMES OF MOST GENERAL CORRUPTION AND DEPRAVITY. Singularity in things indifferent may generally perhaps be an argument of weakness and folly, or of unbecoming stiffness and obstinacy; but men have carried the argument much too far when they have paid so great a compliment to custom as to urge it against the practice of virtue itself. For the obligations of virtue are upon no considerations whatsoever to be dispensed with, much less for a piece of foolish fawning complaisance, and a man of reason would never consent to do a thing that was really dishonourable for the sake of avoiding undeserved reproach. Again, to daze to be singularly good is an argument of great resolution and strength of mind, and of a confirmed and established virtue: for such must that virtue be which repels the contagion of ill-examples, and flags not at reproaches and ill-treatment.
IV. I shall conclude all with observing that the design of Joshua, TO USE HIS UTMOST CREDIT AND INFLUENCE WITH HIS MORE IMMEDIATE DEPENDENTS FOR THE SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE OF RELIGION, WAS TRULY NOBLE AND GENEROUS, AND WHAT IT WILL BE HIGHLY FOR THE HONOUR OF EVERY ONE OF US TO IMITATE.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
I. THE SERVICE OF GOD IS THE MOST HONOURABLE IN THE WORLD.
II. THE HONOUR IS TO BE SEEN IN THE WORK THE CHRISTIAN IS CALLED UPON TO DO.
III. OBSERVE THE TREATMENT RECEIVED BY THOSE WHO SERVE GOD. A servant wishes kind, generous, just treatment. The service of Satan is at first pleasant, then ends in shame and remorse. Where is the liberty of him who serves appetite, passion? Ask Lord Byron. Said he, "I have not had ten happy days." Lord Chesterfield declared, "I have been the whole round of pleasure, and I am disgusted; and for myself, I mean to sleep in my carriage for the rest of my journey." Sinners, you think you are free; loaded with shackles, yet know it not.
IV. The time will come when THE FINAL SETTLEMENT WILL BE MADE.
(G. E. Reed.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)— A young soldier from Glasgow was talking to a comrade. In their ears was the muffled sound, the "Dead March in Saul," as a comrade was carried to his last resting-place; and this Glasgow soldier, converted up there at Maryhill, was talking to his friend, and pleading with him to come to Christ. The young Highlander there in the funeral march was terribly impressed, and he said, "Jack, I will be a Christian when I leave the service." He had just nine months to put in. He said, "I am determined to be a Christian when I leave the service." Ah! that was his decision. Next week there came orders for the 79th to embark for Egypt. The two friends were in the march across the sands to the Arab encampment of Tel-el-Kebir, marching side by side — the one with the acceptance of salvation in his heart, and the other putting it off till he should leave the service. Softly did they walk across these sands, silently did they steal through the darkness of midnight to the camp of the slumbering Arabs; but the sentinels were on the alert, and they saw a flash of light, and five hundred rifles from the Arab encampment poured their bullets on the advancing Highlanders; and there, dead and cold, was the body of the man who put off the acceptance till he should leave the service. Oh, comrade, what a fatal decision!
As for me and my house, we willI. If we attend to the writings of some, and the manners of more, in the present age, WE SHALL BE LED TO THINK THAT WE ARE NOT TO SERVE EITHER GOD OR MAN; in a word, that we are born free and independent. Why, we should not live six hours after our birth in such a state. From the first moment in which we see light, we depend, for preservation and support on the good offices of those around us; they depend on others, and all on God. Man being thus dependent, it is but reasonable that he should acknowledge such dependence, and that he should serve.
II. WHOM he should serve. For, as the apostle has remarked, "there are gods many and lords many," who, in different ages, have obtained the homage of mankind. The oldest and first idolaters worshipped the powers of nature instead of the God of nature. The world, with its fashions and its follies, its principles and its practices, has been proposed in form to Englishmen as the proper object of their attention and devotion. A late celebrated nobleman has avowed as much with respect to himself, and by his writings said in effect to it, "Save me, for thou art my god!" At the close of life, however, his god, he found, was about to forsake him, and therefore was forsaken by him. "I have run," says this man of the world, "the silly rounds of business and pleasure, and have done with them all. I have enjoyed all the pleasures of the world, and, consequently, know their futility, and do not regret their loss. I think of nothing but killing time the best I can now he has become mine enemy. It is my resolution to sleep in the carriage during the remainder of the journey." When a Christian priest speaks slightingly of the world he is supposed to do it in the way of his profession, and to decry, through envy, the pleasures he is forbidden to taste. But here, I think, you have the testimony of a witness every way competent.
III. How WE ARE TO SERVE GOD. A concise way of coming at this will be, to reflect upon the qualifications you require in a good servant, and to see that they be found in yourselves, considered as the servants of God. These qualifications may all be reduced to two — that he be careful to know the will of his master and diligent to do it. In our inquiries after the will of God we are often apt to be partial. We inquire after only such parts of it as may happen to coincide with our circumstances, our situation, our tempers, our constitutions, our interests. But there are no reserves in St. Paul's question: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Whatever it may be, whatever the difficulties, whatever the consequences, I am ready. There is yet a different error in the conduct of men. It is when they employ themselves to discover the obligations and the failings of others, entirely forgetful of their own. The last mistake that shall be mentioned, relative to our inquiries after the will of God, is, when we make those inquiries as matter of speculation only, as an amusement of the mind.
(Bp. Horne.)I. First, let me DESCRIBE IT. It means many things, all of which must be wrought in us by Divine grace, or we shall never possess them, though we may have their counterfeits.
1. Decision implies, first, that all hesitation is gone. You will make no journey, O traveller, if, now that the sun is in its zenith, you do not decide which way to walk! Mariner, your voyages will be scant if you much longer lie at anchor! The season of favourable winds is passing away, and yet your sail remains unfilled; will you never have solved the problem, "To what port shall I steer? With what cargo shall I load my ship?" Is our life to end in a constant repetition of the question, "What shall I be?"
2. This state of heart indicates superiority to the evil influence of others. Our own understandings should now be exercised, or else why are they given to us? God waits to guide us, but He would have us cry to Him, and not follow the trail of our fellows.
3. Right decision for God is deep, calm, clear, fixed, well grounded, and solemnly made. Joshua does not speak his determination lightly. He speaks with immovable resolve: his soul is anchored and defies all storms — "As for me and my house we will, despite crowds and customs, we will, despite temptations and trials, we will, despite idols or devils, to the end of the chapter serve Jehovah."
4. That resolve on the part of Joshua was openly avowed. That is sorry courage which skulks behind the bushes: that is poor loyalty which never utters the king's name; that is questionable decision which dares not own itself to be on the Lord's side. Are you not ashamed of being ashamed, and afraid to be any longer afraid?
5. In Joshua's case his resolve was not only openly avowed, but earnestly carried out. He was a soldier, and if any one had asked him, "Whose soldier are you, Joshua?" he would have answered, "I am God's soldier." "Whose battles do you fight?" "I fight the battles of Jehovah." "And what is your object in fighting?" "To glorify Jehovah."
6. Joshua's decision was adhered to throughout the whole of his life. He had begun early in the service of God, and he never repented of it. Blessed are they who have this abiding thoroughness in the cause of the Lord their God.
II. Let me now PRAISE DECISION. In religion nothing is more desirable than to be out-and-out in it.
1. To enjoy religion you must plunge into it. To wade into it up to the ankles may make you shiver with anxieties, doubts, and questionings, till you resemble a trembling boy unwillingly entering a bath on a cold morning; but to plunge into its depths is to secure a glow of holy joy. The central position iii religion is the sweetest. The nearer to God the sweeter the joy.
2. Decision for God enables a man to direct his way. David prayed, "Lead me in a plain path because of mine enemies," and the man who has made up his mind by Divine grace that he will serve the Lord has that prayer fulfilled.
3. This saves many men from temptation. As a giant walks along unconscious of the cobwebs across his path, so does a thoroughly consecrated man break through a thousand temptations, which indeed to him are no longer temptations at all.
4. Thorough-going men wield a mighty influence. Joshua was able to speak for his house as well as for himself. Many fathers cannot speak for themselves, and therefore you may guess the reason why they cannot speak for their families.
III. I close by DEMANDING THIS DECISION FOR CHRIST which I have described and praised. Decision is required because the Lord deserves to have it. He who made us ought not to be served hesitatingly; He who gave His Son to die for us ought not to be trifled with. By the splendour of Deity, and the glory of the Cross, I claim your whole hearts for my Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE OCCASION OF THESE WORDS.
II. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE RESOLUTION?
1. A solemn and exclusive worship of God from the heart.
2. In all the actions of our life to have respect to the will of God, to seek to please Him, to seek to glorify Him.
3. There are three ingredients in the service of God that may be considered as giving vitality to it.(1) The first is sincerity. The servant of God makes an entire surrender of himself to the service of God, and keeps back nothing from Him.(2) Next, this obedience must be minute — His service must be universally adhered to. There is a harmony and consistency between all the parts of real practical religion, so that they cannot be separated one from another, and if we separate them we deceive ourselves and lose sight of God.(3) Another ingredient in the service of God, if it be true and genuine, is that, like the principle from which it proceeds, it is permanent and abiding.
III. SOME OF THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CLOSE WITH THE RESOLUTION OF JOSHUA.
1. It is our duty to serve the Lord from the relation in which we stand to Him and the unspeakable benefits we derive from His goodness.
2. The grand distinction of man above the other creatures consists in such a constitution of our nature as appears to have no other end or object but that of qualifying us for the end of worshipping God.
3. Consider, next, the great rewards which hereafter necessarily accompany the service of God.
4. Recollect, again, the impossibility of neutrality and the danger of delay.
5. Recollect, in a very short time, if you are not employed in the service of God, you will have no portion, no employment beneficial or dignified or delightful to all eternity.
(R. Hall, M. A.)I. OF THE BRAVE RESOLUTION OF A GOOD MAN, THAT IF THERE WERE OCCASION, AND THINGS WERE BROUGHT TO THAT EXTREMITY, HE WOULD STAND ALONE IN THE PROFESSION AND PRACTICE OF GOD'S TRUE RELIGION.
1. The matter of this resolution. Joshua here resolves that, if need were, he would stand alone in the profession and practice of the true religion. And this is not a mere supposition of an impossible case, which can never happen; for it may, and hath really and in fact happened in several ages and places of the world.
2. The due limits and bounds of this peremptory resolution. In all matters of faith and practice which are plain and evident, either from natural reason or from Divine revelation, this resolution seems to be very reasonable; but in things doubtful, a modest man — and every man hath reason to be so — would be very apt to be staggered by the judgment of a very wise man; and much more of many such, and especially by the unanimous judgment of the generality of men, the general voice and opinion of mankind being next to the voice of God Himself.
II. TO VINDICATE THE REASONABLENESS OF THIS RESOLUTION FROM THE OBJECTIONS TO WHICH THIS SINGULAR AND PEREMPTORY KIND OF RESOLUTION MAY SEEM LIABLE.
1. It may very speciously be said that this does not seem modest for a man to set up his own private judgment against the general suffrage and vote. And it is very true that about things indifferent a man should not be stiff and singular, and in things doubtful and obscure a man should not be over-confident of his own judgment; but in things that are plain, either from Scripture or reason, it is neither immodesty nor a culpable singularity for a man to stand alone in defence of the truth, because in such a case a man does not oppose his own single and private judgment to the judgment of many, but the common reason of mankind and the judgment of God plainly declared in His Word.
2. It is pretended that it is more prudent for private persons to err with the Church than to be so pertinacious in their own opinions. To which I answer, that it may indeed be pardonable in some cases to be led into mistake by the authority of those to whose judgment and instruction we ought to pay a great deference and submission, provided always it be in things which are not plain and necessary; but surely it can never be prudent to err with any number, how great soever, in matters of religion which are of moment, merely for numbers' sake; but to comply with the known errors and corruptions of any Church whatsoever is certainly damnable.
3. It is pretended yet further, that men shall sooner be excused in following the Church than any particular man or sect. To this I answer, that it is very true, if the matter be doubtful, and especially if the probabilities be equal, or near equal, on both sides; but if the error be gross and palpable, it will be no excuse to have followed any number of men, or any Church whatsoever.
4. It is objected, that as, on the one hand, there may be danger of error in following blindly the belief of the Church, so, on the other hand, there is as great a danger of schism in forsaking the communion of the Church, upon pretence of errors and corruptions. Very true; but where great errors and corruptions are not only pretended, but are real and evident, and where our compliance with those errors and corruptions is made a necessary condition of our communion with that Church, in that case the guilt of schism, how great a crime soever it be, doth not fall upon those who forsake the communion of that Church, but upon those who drive them out of it by the sinful conditions which they impose upon them.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. I SHALL SHOW WHEREIN THE PRACTICE OF THIS DUTY DOTH CONSIST. The principal parts of it are these following: —
1. Setting up the constant worship of God in our families.
2. Instructing those committed to our charge in the fundamental principles and in the careful practice of the necessary duties of religion.
3. I add further, as a considerable part of the duty of parents and masters of families, if they be desirous to have their children and servants religious in good earnest, that they do not only allow time and opportunity, but that they do also earnestly charge them to retire every day, but more especially on the Lord's day, to pray to God for the forgiveness of their sins; and for His mercy and blessings upon them, and likewise to praise Him for all His favours conferred upon them from day to day.
4. One of the most effectual ways to make those who are under our authority good is to be good our selves, and by our good example to show them the way to be so. Without this our best instructions will signify but very little, and the main efficacy of them will be lost.
II. OUR OBLIGATION TO IT.
1. In point of duty. All authority over others is a talent entrusted with us by God for the benefit and good of others, and for which we are accountable, if we do not improve it and make use of it to that end.
2. We are hereto likewise obliged in point of interest; because it is really for our advantage that those that belong to us should serve and fear God, religion being the surest foundation of the duties of all relations and the best security for the true performance of them. Would we have dutiful and obedient children, diligent and faithful servants? Nothing will so effectually oblige them to be so as the fear of God and the principles of religion firmly settled in them.
III. THE CAUSES OF THE SO COMMON AND SHAMEFUL NEGLECT OF THIS DUTY, TO THE EXCEEDING GREAT DECAY OF PIETY AMONG US.
1. This may in good part be ascribed to our civil confusions and distractions.
2. This great neglect and decay of religious order in families is chiefly owing to our dissensions and differences in religion, upon occasion whereof many, under the pretence of conscience, have broke loose into a boundless liberty.
IV. THE VERY MISCHIEVOUS AND FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE NEGLECT OF THIS DUTY.
1. To the public. Families are the first seminaries of religion, and if care be not there taken to prepare persons, especially in their tender years, for public teaching and instruction, it is like to have but very little effect.
2. To ourselves. We can have no manner of security of the duty and fidelity of those of our family to us if they have no sense of religion, no fear of God before their eyes. If children were carefully educated, and families regularly and religiously ordered, what a happy and delightful place, what a paradise, would this world be in comparison of what now it is?
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.I. TRUE RELIGION CONSISTS IN THE SERVICE OF GOD.
II. THEY WHO TRULY SERVE GOD MAKE HIS SERVICE A MATTER OF CHOICE.
III. IF THE SERVICE OF GOD IS THE OBJECT OF OUR CHOICE, IT IS OUR DUTY TO ENGAGE OURSELVES TO IT BY OPEN PROFESSION AND SOLEMN COVENANT.
IV. IF WE HAVE DEVOTED OURSELVES TO THE SERVICE OF GOD IT IS OUR DUTY TO USE EVERY MEANS TO ENGAGE OTHERS IN IT.
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
(J. C. Hare, M. A.)
(Dean Alford.)I. The want of a vivid sense of God, as personal and present.
II. The loose manner in which the present home life is conducted.
III. The diminished regard for the Sabbath.
IV. The overlaying of the Bible and the family altar by the newspapers, and especially the Sunday papers.
V. The dispersion of families among Churches having different views of Divine things.
VI. The division of families on the line of Christian discipleship. VII. The lack in some homes of an expressive and impressive piety in such as do profess to be believers, such as will quietly control and at last convert the household.
(J. L. Withrow, D. D.)
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