Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem.I. GOD'S THREEFOLD MERCIES.
1. Israel's enlargement (vers. 2-4).
2. Israel's exodus (vers. 5-7).
3. Israel's entrance into Canaan (vers. 8-12).
II. JOSHUA'S THREEFOLD APPEAL.
1. He exhorts them to fear and serve this great and this good God.
2. To manifest in yet clearer light that the service of God is a reasonable service, and to show the utter folly of idolatry, Joshua, in the gravest irony, upholds the alternative for the adoption of the people, and mocks the apostasy, the latent germs of which he knew too well ware in the hearts of the great assembly before him.
3. Then, having, both with tender love and with withering scorn, set forth the two alternatives, he declares his own resolute decision in words which should be the motto for every ruler, and for every householder. This is the true order of the growth of piety. First, individual consecration; then follows family control; and then the third stage in the gradation — namely, public influence — will not be lacking.
III. ISRAEL'S THREEFOLD COVENANT.
IV. A THREEFOLD AFFIDAVIT TO ISRAEL'S COVENANT.
1. The first is the memory of the transaction in the minds of the people themselves.
2. Joshua himself, moreover, puts the whole matter into writing, even as we have it here before us in this last chapter.
3. But there is another testimony that shall witness against Israel if they apostatise — "a great stone," which he places beneath the oak in Shechem, "that was by the sanctuary of the Lord."
V. A THREEFOLD SEAL TO GOD'S PROMISES. The Book closes with the mention of three burials. In the peaceful graves of three of God's saints we seem to see three seals to the truth of God's Word. These holy men once served Him among strange nations, but now their bones are laid within the borders of the promised land.
(G. W. Butler, M. A.)
1 Samuel 1:7, 9).
1. In the record of Joshua's speech contained in the twenty-fourth chapter, he begins by rehearsing the history of the nation. He has an excellent reason for beginning with the revered name of Abraham, because Abraham had been conspicuous for that very grace, loyalty to Jehovah, which he is bent on impressing on them. We mark in this rehearsal the well-known features of the national history, as they were always represented; thy frank recognition of the supernatural, with no indication of myth or legend, with nothing of the mist or glamour in which the legend is commonly enveloped. And, seeing that God hath done all this for them, the inference was that He was entitled to their heartiest loyalty and obedience. Never was a good man more in earnest, or more thoroughly persuaded that all that made for a nation's welfare was involved in the course which he pressed upon them.
2. But Joshua did not urge this merely on the strength of his own conviction. He must enlist their reason on his side; and for this cause he now called on them deliberately to weigh the claims of other gods and the advantages of other modes of worship, and choose that which must be pronounced the best. There were four claimants to be considered —
(1) (2) (3) (4) 3. But Joshua is fully prepared to add example to precept. Whatever you do in this matter, my mind is made up, my course is clear — "as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah." He was happy in being able to associate his house with himself as sharing his convictions and his purpose. He owed this, in all likelihood, to his own firm and intrepid attitude throughout his life. His house saw how consistently and constantly he recognised the supreme claims of Jehovah. Not less clearly did they see how constantly he experienced the blessedness of his choice. 4. Convinced by his arguments, moved by his eloquence, and carried along by the magnetism of his example, the people respond with enthusiasm. But Joshua knew something of their fickle temper. He may have called to mind the extraordinary enthusiasm of their fathers when the tabernacle was in preparation; the singular readiness with which they had contributed their most valued treasures, and the grievous change they underwent after the return of the spies. Even an enthusiastic burst like this is not to be trusted. He must go deeper; he must try to induce them to think more earnestly of the matter, and not trust to the feeling of the moment. 5. Hence he draws a somewhat dark picture of Jehovah's character, lie dwells on those attributes which are least agreeable to the natural man — His holiness, His jealousy, and His inexorable opposition to sin. "Ye cannot serve the Lord," said Joshua; "take care how you undertake what is beyond your strength." Perhaps he wished to impress on them the need of Divine strength for so difficult a duty. Certainly he did not change their purpose, but only drew from them a more resolute expression. 6. And now Joshua comes to a point which had doubtless been in his mind all the time, but which he had been waiting for a favourable opportunity to bring forward. He had pledged the people to an absolute and unreserved service of God, and now he demands a practical proof of their sincerity. He knows quite well that they have "strange gods" among them. Minor forms of idolatry, minor recognitions of the gods of the Chaldaeans and the Egyptians and the Amorites, were prevalent even yet. What a weed sin is, and how it is for ever reappearing! And reappearing among ourselves too, in a different variety, but essentially the same. For what honest and earnest heart does not feel that there are idols and images among ourselves that interfere with God's claims and God's glory as much as the teraphim and the earrings of the Israelites did? 7. And now comes the closing and the clinching transaction of this meeting at Shechem. Joshua enters into a formal covenant with the people. When Joshua got the people bound by a transaction of this sort, he seemed to obtain a new guarantee for their fidelity; a new barrier was erected against their lapsing into idolatry. And yet it was but a temporary barrier against a flood which seemed ever to be gathering strength unseen, and preparing for another fierce discharge of its disastrous waters. 8. At the least, this meeting secured for Joshua a peaceful sunset, and enabled him to sing his "Nunc dimittis." The evil which he dreaded most was not at work as the current of life ebbed away from him; it was his great privilege to look round him and see his people faithful to their God. It does not appear that Joshua had any very comprehensive or far-reaching aims with reference to the moral training and development of the people. His idea of religion seems to have been a very simple loyalty to Jehovah, in opposition to the perversions of idolatry. For his absolute and supreme loyalty to his Lord he is entitled to our highest reverence, This loyalty is a rare virtue, in the sublime proportions in which it appeared in him. The very rareness, the eccentricity of the character, secures a respectful homage. And yet who can deny that it is the true representation of what every man should be who says, "I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth"? (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(2) (3) (4) 3. But Joshua is fully prepared to add example to precept. Whatever you do in this matter, my mind is made up, my course is clear — "as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah." He was happy in being able to associate his house with himself as sharing his convictions and his purpose. He owed this, in all likelihood, to his own firm and intrepid attitude throughout his life. His house saw how consistently and constantly he recognised the supreme claims of Jehovah. Not less clearly did they see how constantly he experienced the blessedness of his choice. 4. Convinced by his arguments, moved by his eloquence, and carried along by the magnetism of his example, the people respond with enthusiasm. But Joshua knew something of their fickle temper. He may have called to mind the extraordinary enthusiasm of their fathers when the tabernacle was in preparation; the singular readiness with which they had contributed their most valued treasures, and the grievous change they underwent after the return of the spies. Even an enthusiastic burst like this is not to be trusted. He must go deeper; he must try to induce them to think more earnestly of the matter, and not trust to the feeling of the moment. 5. Hence he draws a somewhat dark picture of Jehovah's character, lie dwells on those attributes which are least agreeable to the natural man — His holiness, His jealousy, and His inexorable opposition to sin. "Ye cannot serve the Lord," said Joshua; "take care how you undertake what is beyond your strength." Perhaps he wished to impress on them the need of Divine strength for so difficult a duty. Certainly he did not change their purpose, but only drew from them a more resolute expression. 6. And now Joshua comes to a point which had doubtless been in his mind all the time, but which he had been waiting for a favourable opportunity to bring forward. He had pledged the people to an absolute and unreserved service of God, and now he demands a practical proof of their sincerity. He knows quite well that they have "strange gods" among them. Minor forms of idolatry, minor recognitions of the gods of the Chaldaeans and the Egyptians and the Amorites, were prevalent even yet. What a weed sin is, and how it is for ever reappearing! And reappearing among ourselves too, in a different variety, but essentially the same. For what honest and earnest heart does not feel that there are idols and images among ourselves that interfere with God's claims and God's glory as much as the teraphim and the earrings of the Israelites did? 7. And now comes the closing and the clinching transaction of this meeting at Shechem. Joshua enters into a formal covenant with the people. When Joshua got the people bound by a transaction of this sort, he seemed to obtain a new guarantee for their fidelity; a new barrier was erected against their lapsing into idolatry. And yet it was but a temporary barrier against a flood which seemed ever to be gathering strength unseen, and preparing for another fierce discharge of its disastrous waters. 8. At the least, this meeting secured for Joshua a peaceful sunset, and enabled him to sing his "Nunc dimittis." The evil which he dreaded most was not at work as the current of life ebbed away from him; it was his great privilege to look round him and see his people faithful to their God. It does not appear that Joshua had any very comprehensive or far-reaching aims with reference to the moral training and development of the people. His idea of religion seems to have been a very simple loyalty to Jehovah, in opposition to the perversions of idolatry. For his absolute and supreme loyalty to his Lord he is entitled to our highest reverence, This loyalty is a rare virtue, in the sublime proportions in which it appeared in him. The very rareness, the eccentricity of the character, secures a respectful homage. And yet who can deny that it is the true representation of what every man should be who says, "I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth"? (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(3) (4) 3. But Joshua is fully prepared to add example to precept. Whatever you do in this matter, my mind is made up, my course is clear — "as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah." He was happy in being able to associate his house with himself as sharing his convictions and his purpose. He owed this, in all likelihood, to his own firm and intrepid attitude throughout his life. His house saw how consistently and constantly he recognised the supreme claims of Jehovah. Not less clearly did they see how constantly he experienced the blessedness of his choice. 4. Convinced by his arguments, moved by his eloquence, and carried along by the magnetism of his example, the people respond with enthusiasm. But Joshua knew something of their fickle temper. He may have called to mind the extraordinary enthusiasm of their fathers when the tabernacle was in preparation; the singular readiness with which they had contributed their most valued treasures, and the grievous change they underwent after the return of the spies. Even an enthusiastic burst like this is not to be trusted. He must go deeper; he must try to induce them to think more earnestly of the matter, and not trust to the feeling of the moment. 5. Hence he draws a somewhat dark picture of Jehovah's character, lie dwells on those attributes which are least agreeable to the natural man — His holiness, His jealousy, and His inexorable opposition to sin. "Ye cannot serve the Lord," said Joshua; "take care how you undertake what is beyond your strength." Perhaps he wished to impress on them the need of Divine strength for so difficult a duty. Certainly he did not change their purpose, but only drew from them a more resolute expression. 6. And now Joshua comes to a point which had doubtless been in his mind all the time, but which he had been waiting for a favourable opportunity to bring forward. He had pledged the people to an absolute and unreserved service of God, and now he demands a practical proof of their sincerity. He knows quite well that they have "strange gods" among them. Minor forms of idolatry, minor recognitions of the gods of the Chaldaeans and the Egyptians and the Amorites, were prevalent even yet. What a weed sin is, and how it is for ever reappearing! And reappearing among ourselves too, in a different variety, but essentially the same. For what honest and earnest heart does not feel that there are idols and images among ourselves that interfere with God's claims and God's glory as much as the teraphim and the earrings of the Israelites did? 7. And now comes the closing and the clinching transaction of this meeting at Shechem. Joshua enters into a formal covenant with the people. When Joshua got the people bound by a transaction of this sort, he seemed to obtain a new guarantee for their fidelity; a new barrier was erected against their lapsing into idolatry. And yet it was but a temporary barrier against a flood which seemed ever to be gathering strength unseen, and preparing for another fierce discharge of its disastrous waters. 8. At the least, this meeting secured for Joshua a peaceful sunset, and enabled him to sing his "Nunc dimittis." The evil which he dreaded most was not at work as the current of life ebbed away from him; it was his great privilege to look round him and see his people faithful to their God. It does not appear that Joshua had any very comprehensive or far-reaching aims with reference to the moral training and development of the people. His idea of religion seems to have been a very simple loyalty to Jehovah, in opposition to the perversions of idolatry. For his absolute and supreme loyalty to his Lord he is entitled to our highest reverence, This loyalty is a rare virtue, in the sublime proportions in which it appeared in him. The very rareness, the eccentricity of the character, secures a respectful homage. And yet who can deny that it is the true representation of what every man should be who says, "I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth"? (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Jonathan Edwards's dying charge to his family: "Trust in God, and you have nothing to fear"; or the English Samuel Johnson's exhortation to his physician, "Doctor, believe a dying man: nothing but salvation by Christ can comfort you when you come to lie here"; or a departing President, like Jackson, saying, "Religion is a great reality: the Bible is true." These and a thousand other instances testify that a thoughtful man going the way of all the earth is pretty certain to have his thoughts fixed on the place to which he is going and the preparation he and those around him may need for that journey.
(W. E. Knox, D. D.)
I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir.I. HISTORY AND THE HAND OF GOD IN IT. See: "I gave"; and then again, "I gave." It is not merely that Esau and Jacob were born of Isaac and Rebekah, but the Lord says, "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau." How plainly doth this declare that the hand of God is in human history! At first sight history seems a great tangle, a confusion; but on looking at it more closely we perceive that it is only in appearance a maze, but in fact a marvellous piece of arrangement, exhibiting perfect precision and never-failing accuracy.
1. We see the hand of God in history very strikingly in the raising up of remarkable men at certain special periods. "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau": children are the gift of God. This is true not only of Isaac but of all mortal men. God gave to a worthy couple, George Washington; to another pair, John Howard; and to a third, George Whitefield. Each of these, in his own special way, was a Divine gift to men. Children are born with different talents and varied capacities, but all about them which will make them blessings is the gift of God.
2. So also is the hand of God distinctly to be seen in all great events. If Esau captures Mount Seir, then the setting up of the Edomite dominion, bad as it may have been, is from another point of view a matter in which God's purpose and design are to be noted, for He says: "I gave Esau mount Seir." In everything that happens, be it small or great, the Lord is present, and His will is done. It is so in all the plottings and manoeuvrings of kings and princes and senates, in the stirs of public opinion, in the marchings of armies, and in all that transpires among mortal men. Though the iniquity of man is seen abundantly, yet the overruling power of God is never absent.
3. To us the hand of God is very visible in our own case. Look at the hand of God that gave to you and to me such parents as we have: I mean those of us who have the great delight of having descended from Christian men and women. Had we anything to do with that? And yet the greatest part of man's future depends upon the parents of whom he is born. Is not the hand of God in it?
4. And do we not see the hand of God, again, in our children? Bring these gifts of God to God, and say, "Here, Lord, are the children which Thou hast given me. O Lord, let Thy name be named on them, and let Thy grace be glorified in them."
5. Observe, further, that the Lord's hand is in all the prosperity which He gives to any. He says, "I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it." It is by God's allotment that temporal things fall as they do: even the ungodly have their portion in this life by Divine grant.
6. And, once more, God's hand is to be seen in the place in which we live. If Esau lives in Mount Seir, it is because God appoints him to be there; and if Israel goes down to Egypt, it is for the selfsame reason. If you and I remove from one place to another, it is sweet to see the cloud moving before us, and to know that the Lord directs our way.
II. BIRTH AND ITS DISAPPOINTMENTS. "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau," twin children born of godly parents. In that birth there was joy, but sorrow came by it as well as joy. Children are certain cares and doubtful comforts. They may bring to their parents such sorrow that they may be inclined to think the barren happier than the fruitful. Hence it is well for us to leave our hopes of posterity with God; and if we reckon that in a childless house we have missed a great joy, we ought also to reckon that we have missed a mint of trouble by the same fact.
III. WORLDLINGS AND THEIR POSSESSIONS. Why does God so often give possessions to ungodly men? Why do they flourish? Why do they have their portion in this life? Is it not, first, because God thinks little of these things, and therefore gives them to those of whom He thinks little? "Why," said Luther in his day, "the whole Turkish empire is but a basket of husks that God gives to the hogs, and therefore He hands it over to the unbelievers." Something infinitely better is reserved for the Lord's own family. The rich blessing of true grace He reserves for His children and heirs. Do you wish that ungodly men should have less? For my part, I am reconciled to their present prosperity, for it is all they ever will have. Poor souls, let them have as much of it as they may here; they have nothing hereafter. Let those have the treasures of this present evil world who have nothing else. Never quarrel with the Lord for saying, "I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it." Besides, these comforts may lead them to reflect upon God's bounty to them; and at any rate they ought to move them to repentance.
IV. THE CHOSEN OF GOD AND THEIR TRIALS. Esau reigns, but Israel serves; Esau set his nest on high, but Israel crouched by the reeds of the river. The worldling would read the Scripture as if it said, "As many as I love, I caress and pamper"; but the Lord speaketh not so; His word is, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten"; "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." To carnal reason this seems strange; faith alone can explain it.
1. Israel and his children went down into Egypt, first, for their preservation. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions. The salt and bitterness of sorrow often preserves men from the gall and bitterness of sin.
2. They went down into Egypt, next, for their improvement. God often thrusts His people into adversity that He may improve them, arouse them, instruct them, and ennoble them. See to it, that the Lord's design be fulfilled in you to the full. May the fire and the file, the crucible and the flame, work in you a clearance of dross and rust, and make you pure and bright.
3. They also went down into Egypt for their education. The chosen seed needed teaching; they were getting to be rustic, not to say barbarous, in their manners; acquirements and knowledge were scant among them. They must go down into the seat of ancient learning to acquire arts and sciences and civilisation. For future usefulness it is well that we bear present sorrow, and like Jacob go down into Egypt.
4. And they went down to Egypt, again, that God might display His great power in them. It is worth while to go down into Egypt to come out of it with a high hand and an outstretched arm. Oh, the glory of the Lord in His redeemed! Oh, the lofty destiny of the tried people of God! Oh, the sublimity of their lives even now! There is God in them; there is God about them. "Jacob and his children went down into Egypt." That is where the story ends, according to my text; but you know the story does not end there after all; for out of Jacob and his children came the Star, the Sceptre, and the Throne.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
I. LIFE'S CONFLICT MUST BE MET BY HUMAN EFFORT AND ENERGY. The promise of the land as an inheritance to the people of Israel is most distinct. Everywhere God said He would give it. Was there not some reason, then, in the expectation that they should have the land without any very special trouble? Is there so much to be wondered at in the disappointment of the spies when they saw they had to fight? One would have thought that the people would have walked in at one side while the inhabitants walked out at the other. God could have done it without the intervention of human effort at all. But this is not the point. What God did, as we learn from the history of this period, was, He used the sword and the bow of the people to secure to them the promise He had given to their fathers. And though no such stipulation is anywhere directly stated, yet universally we find that the human effort and skill are needful to the attainment of the gift of God. And it is just so with all that has to do with God. He has endowed us with certain powers which He calls upon us to exercise. When, then, on the one hand we sit down quietly and say, "God has promised and will perform — there is nothing for me to do," or when we refuse to do anything because of our great weakness, or when we fail to call upon our powers of mind and heart to rise against the inroads of our spiritual enemies, or quietly submit when we are taken captive in the snares of the devil, we are just putting ourselves outside the pale of the directions which God has given us. So, too, when we ask God to work for us, and make supplication to Him to remove trouble or give us light and peace, if we say, "God can and will work," and we do nothing ourselves, then we are forgetting this part of God's ways. It is not by longing, wishing, desiring, however ardent, that God fulfils His loving purposes towards us; but by prayer, girding up our minds, and resolute, undaunted courage, that we must meet our foe — "with thy sword and with thy bow." But what is the energy and activity here indicated? You will observe that God has not endowed man with any natural modes of offence or defence. The smallest insect is apparently better equipped for the dangers of its life than we are. But God has given man a stronger force than all. Will — moral force — the power of doing — are his; so that though unarmed he is more fully equipped against the multifarious dangers of his way. Nothing can assault him, but he can adopt such means as shall protect — such measures as shall totally defeat the foe. He has the sword and the bow. Moral dangers must be met by moral means, e.g., conscience must be kept clear, its voice must be listened to, and when heard the will must without hesitation obey. Spiritual blessings must be obtained by spiritual effort. God has promised them, He will give; but you must overcome the obstacles. Will you have the promise? then adopt the means needful. If you would scale the mountains, you look for a guide, and take provisions, and put on suitable dress. "Put on the whole armour of God." Just as the poor shipwrecked one lays hold of the floating spar for very life, so you must lay hold of God, and laying hold of Him, do what He tells you. Cannot! No such word ought to be used. "I can, I will!" these are your sword and bow, and if you would extract blessing out of everything it must be by their use, and only thus will you gain the end you desire. But then it must be "thy" sword and "thy" bow. There is a speciality here. It is the act of the individual, the perseverance of the man.
II. LIFE'S CONFLICT IS NOT WON BY THE HUMAN EFFORT AND ENERGY. The greatest effort cannot obtain the victory; the most stupendous energy cannot save from defeat. It is one thing to meet the foe, it is another thing to win the day. And so our text tells us that it is not by thy sword nor by thy bow. You must fight, but God gives the victory. It is not won by your fighting, but by God's aid. It is not secured by your prowess, but by God's strength. It is all God, not you.
(H. W. Butcher.)
And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour.
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him.
Sermons by the Monday Club.I. THE REASONABLENESS OF SERVING GOD (vers. 14, 15). To serve God, to obey Him, to love Him, to submit heart and life to His control, is only a seemly and adequate acknowledgment of claims felt to be just. God's character, His mercy, His grace in the gospel, His promises of pardon, the gift of eternal life through His Son, create an obligation which, if it be disregarded, makes our attitude towards God not only sinful, but unreasonable. It is inconsistent with all in us that is true and noble and manly. This is the paradox of sin: it makes one conscious of placing an inferior good above the superior, of seeking for dross and refusing the gold, of plucking a bauble and rejecting the crown.
II. THE STATE OF MIND REQUIRED FOR THE SERVICE OF GOD (vers. 19, 20.) The service of God must be born of something more than impulse. It must be the result of choice; it must be the determined purpose of the whole being to enter and continue in a life of obedience. To every one God is saying, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." Many desire to be Christians, they wish they were the servants of God, but they are unwilling to "choose" to become such. If for a time they set their faces heavenward, they soon turn back. When they sink in the Slough of Despond, they struggle to be free on the side nearest the City of Destruction. Such need to remember that, when the service of God is entered, the will is to be unalterably set towards Him.
III. THE RIGHT ATTITUDE FOR THOSE WHO PROPOSE TO SERVE GOD. "Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God," &c. Joshua well understood the benefit arising from such a formal enactment.
1. It would be a test of the strength of their purpose. Often the way to disclose the feebleness of one's Christian aims is to bring them to the test of an open declaration — to ask, "Are you willing that others should know, that all should know, that you commit yourself unqualifiedly to be the Lord's?"
2. It would be helpful by bringing to their aid the motive of consistency. Most men desire to act in harmony with their past record.
IV. THE VALUE OF A SINGLE LIFE DEVOTED TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. Joshua's days are now ended. His work is done, and he is ready for his reward. Few men have lived so worthily. Men are needed everywhere of like decision, and who are ready to thus openly declare for God. Will you be one?
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
I. ZEAL FOR THE SERVICE OF GOD IS BORN OF VIEWS WHICH ARE TAKEN OF GOD. This plainly was the case with Joshua; this was the case with the people also, and universally this must be true. We are asked to view God as creation presents Him (Psalm 19.). This has, at least, the merit of being poetry of the highest school; it is a thousand pities if it is not true. Oh, does not this vast fabric suggest a God? Perhaps not; but we have got the suggestion somehow, and to our anxious inquiries of her all nature seems to give back a ready affirmative response. We are asked to view God as He is presented to us in the phenomena of mind. One observes that these mental phenomena taper away downwards to the tiniest forms of sentient life. One feels that somehow it must and does, in a corresponding manner, expand in its upward way, and when we have reached the loftiest heights of the finite we seem to come in sight of the lowest rays of light from the throne of the Infinite mind. Then if the Lord our God is one Lord, there will be a concentration of thought on Him; our love will be undivided, rising to suitable proportions to its Infinite object. We are asked to see God in His providence. This is a name we give to a constantly-observed work resulting from an unseen Presence. We notice the perpetual operation of certain great forces in nature, which say nothing so distinctly as they say that they are only the expressions of an all-comprehending and sufficient Power behind them. Can we connect this governing power with that all-pervading mind, and with the creating power of which we have spoken? Yes, I am sure of it. There are unattached threads in all. They evidently find their complements in one another. Then if this is the "God of my life, throughout my days my grateful powers shall sound His praise, my song shall wake with opening light, and cheer the dark and silent night." But all these are summed up and expressed by the Incarnation. You are asked to view God in Christ. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son hath declared Him." It is when we view God thus that our zeal for His service will rise and abound; will flow forth and overflow. "Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so Divine," demands a house of prayer, a noble service, Christian toil, more than we can give, or think to give.
II. ZEAL FOR GOD'S SERVICE IS NOURISHED BY THE VIEWS WHICH WE CHERISH CONCERNING THE CHARACTER OF THAT SERVICE. Our experience and our observation are faithful witnesses hereto. Joshua presents a severe but accurate view of God's holiness, and then urges a service that shall perfectly accord with it — a service that was pure, and sincere, and true, and grateful. "Serve the Lord," said he, "in sincerity and truth." "It must," he meant to say, "be service of the heart rather than of the hands." A service which demands the heart nourishes the zeal born of right conceptions of Jehovah. This is living bread, this is water of life. Our God searcheth the heart, but we are not afraid, we are the more confident. The sacrifices He desires are the broken heart, the contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:1-5). But outwardly and visibly it must be pure, as inwardly it was sincere and true. The oldest forms of God's service were wealthy in sacrifice, and prayers, and Divine blessing. David, the Homer, the Virgil, the Milton of the Hebrews, enriched that service by adding psalmody and music. Later times added the stated reading of the Scriptures, and later still we have the sacraments and the proclamation of the gospel. Of our Christian ritual, then, we boldly say that it supplies us with the green pastures and still waters of God's Word. It has the spread table of heaven's bounties, if not dainties. It anoints the devout worshipper with a holy oil, and gives him an overflowing cup. It is the expression of the goodness and mercy which follow every step of the pilgrim, making him glad to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
III. JOSHUA'S ENTHUSIASM WAS PERFECTED BY HIS CONVICTION OF THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE WORSHIP OF GOD EXERTS ON MEN. To tell the history of its influence on individuals is to tell the story of every worthy instance of personal piety. You may seek for them and you will find them among all ranks and kindreds. You may scan the calendar of your own history, and its red-letter days are those you have spent in the service of God. To tell its influence on families would be to write the history of the best of earth's households and homes from tent to palace. To these God has kept covenant and showed mercy to the fourth generation. What a heritage of mercy! Let us in our families see to it that the legacy never runs out. Let the men of the fourth generation in this descent remember what they ought to do. But how shall we tell its historic influence on the nation? It has supplied the place of navies; invincible armadas have been scattered as forest leaves before it. It has been better than armies, than revenue, than police.
In sincerity and in truth.
I. If we would know whether we serve God in sincerity, LET US LOOK WITH AN ATTENTIVE EYE INTO OUR HEARTS, in order to trace the true springs or principles of our actions.
II. Another evidence of our serving God in sincerity is, WHEN WE ARE AS CAREFUL TO PRESERVE A GOOD CONSCIENCE AS TO SAVE APPEARANCES, and act with the same integrity in secret, where God is the sole spectator of our actions, as when they lie open to the view and observation of the world.
III. Another evidence of our serving God in sincerity and in truth is, WHEN WE PAY AN EQUAL REGARD TO THE WHOLE LAW, and mean not, by selecting some favourite duties, to compensate for the habitual violation or neglect of others that happen not to fall in with our taste and inclination.
IV. Another evidence of our serving God in sincerity is, WHEN WE RESIST AND OVERCOME TEMPTATIONS; for to serve God in those instances only where we are not tempted to disobey is a very defective test of our integrity. The decisive proof is, when we are faithful to our duty in opposition to seducements, and reject every solicitation that offers to corrupt us.
V. The last evidence I shall mention of our serving God in sincerity is, IF, IN CASES WHERE WE ARE DOUBTFUL OF THE OBLIGATION OR LAWFULNESS OF AN ACTION, WE ALWAYS INCLINE TO DO WHAT APPEARS MOST CONFORMABLE TO DUTY, what will best answer the ends of piety, and be most conducive to the honour of religion.
(G. Cart, B. A.)
Put away the gods which your fathers served.
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.)
I. RELIGION IS VOLUNTARY.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is an holy God.I. THE DIFFICULTY OF SERVING GOD. "Ye cannot serve the Lord." It was a staggering admonition. It embodied what theologians have called the doctrine of "moral inability." The seat of the disorder is in the will. There is the conflict. Till that is established in the choice of holiness it will still be true, as in the case before us, that one can not serve God. "Ye cannot" should still read for many, loath to abandon practices and ideas and hopes which He condemns, "Ye will not."
II. THE CONSCIOUS ABILITY TO SERVE GOD. With much vehemence the people asserted that they would, and therefore could, be true to their promise. They realised that no more was demanded of them than was within the range of their powers to do. Their tribute to the righteousness of their Maker is the universal testimony as well. From the shrine of the most besotted savage to the latest Christian altar we see the multiplying tokens that each and all might have heeded and wrought that full measure of righteousness which their God prescribed. Everywhere, on all the recognised possibilities of a human soul, is plainly imprinted, and none can honestly exclaim against it, "This is your reasonable service."
III. THE SOLEMN PROMISE TO SERVE GOD. The transfer of estates, the giving in marriage, the parting with a child — these chief acts of our lives are trivial and ordinary compared with that in which a heart yields itself for ever unto Him who has sought it from its first conscious moment. It is serious business we transact with Him. He hears, too, each voice among the myriads as though it were the only one, and receives each uplifted spirit as though no other had come.
IV. THE ABIDING WITNESSES OF THE PLEDGE TO SERVE GOD. As our memorials and statues are eloquent of former scenes and persons, to those who will pause a little to listen, so this column in the spot of sanctuary told to children's children that their fathers were given here and for ever to the Lord. Every individual, too, that stood near any who there uttered his "credo" had stamped upon his memory his neighbour's act, to be made to glow as secret tracings when heat is applied. But are men aware of the numerous objects which have heard and may testify to their former promises to do the will of God? It was in some severe sickness, when the spectre of death seemed to draw nigh, when, begging for reprieve, you said: "If I am spared I will dedicate myself to Him." And the walls of your chamber listened, and now and then repeat it in the stillness of the night. They who watched heard it, and are wondering yet if you have forgotten. Or it was when some sudden horror of doom flashed on you, and you proffered all you had for your life, while billows or tempest or hurrying car or roadside fences heard your cry and occasionally remind you of the pledge! Or, as you sat under the moving influences of the Spirit, and you were sure the acceptable time for turning to God had come, did you not say: "When I have made my fortune, or gained this office, or reached that age, I will"? And now the fortune is yours, the office has been held, the age has been passed, but your heart is not yet in the Lord's keeping. It is easy to mortgage the future, so unknown, so full of plausible chances and opportunities. Be as fair, friend, with the Lord as with your neighbour, whom you are proud always to have satisfied, for He has waited longer, till you shall pay your vows to the full.
(De Witt S. Clark.)
The Weekly Pulpit.I. SOME OF THEIR DIFFICULTY WOULD BE FOUND ON THE SIDE OF GOD. "He is an holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins" so as to fail to punish them. "He will turn, and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He hath done you good."
1. If Jehovah is to be served at all, He must be served alone. There can be no possible rivalry between Him and any other claimants to be gods. We may think of three things that are ever pressing in our day to be gods with God — the luxury of wealth; self-seeking pleasure; mere mind knowledge.
2. If God is served at all He must be served in righteousness. God will search through and through every form of service offered to Him, and it must be sincere, it must be "clean every whit," or it cannot be acceptable to Him. The service of a holy God must be the service of intention and resolve, not of mere accident. It should be thought about, resolved upon, prayed about, made the most earnest thing in the whole life.
II. SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES WERE FOUND ON THE SIDE OF ISRAEL. "Ye cannot." "Ye are too frail. Ye are too much exposed to the power of temptation. Ye have too serious inclinations to evil. You do not know yourselves, or you would not promise too readily. You do not fully estimate the influences of the past, or you would fear for your future." They who know themselves learn to pray, "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe, and I shall have respect unto Thy commandments."
(The Weekly Pulpit.)
I. ALTHOUGH THE LORD IS FULL OF COMPASSION AND MERCY, HE IS YET A HOLY AND A JEALOUS GOD. We must beware of attributing to our God any qualities which are inconsistent with those by which He is known to be guided.
II. As a necessary consequence of the holy jealousy of God towards wilful sinners THERE ARE CERTAIN CONDITIONS OF MIND IN WHICH HE WILL NOT FORGIVE your transgressions nor your sins, and in which, therefore, ye cannot serve the Lord. The impenitent, the unbelieving, the careless, the presumptuous will be excluded from the blessing. The fact is, that one thing is indispensable to your acceptable service of God; and that is, that you should be in earnest.
III. Ask yourselves the question, ARE YOU DESIROUS TO SERVE THE LORD YOUR GOD?
(E. G. Marshall, M. A.)
1. First, however, we shall seek to show that this procedure on the part of God is not so unusual. You may recollect how the band of Gideon was chosen. When the wise men from the East came seeking Christ the star seemed to desert them, and they met with disappointment and perplexity from all their inquiries in Jerusalem. When the Jews, stirred up to expect the coming Messiah, sent messengers to John, in the hope that they had found their desire, "he confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ." We cannot forget the strange treatment of the woman of Canaan by the Lord Himself; how she cried after Him, and was not answered, and met at length what appeared a contemptuous rejection. In the same way He acted to the scribe who came to Him with such an unconditional offer of discipleship, "Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." "This is no common pleasure-walk," was the reply; "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." There is another way of finding the same result in the Bible. Consider, for example, the view that is given of the character of God. He is presented to us not only as good, and ready to forgive, but as just and righteous — a God who cannot look on sin without displeasure. There are many terrible threatenings, many dreadful judgments against sin and sinners, which have all this language in them: "Ye cannot serve the Lord, for He is an holy God." When we leave Bible representations, and come to the experience of individuals, we meet with many similar illustrations. In regard to the general evidence of the divinity of the Bible, we can see that God has not constructed it on the plan of overpowering the conviction of any man at first sight. And even when a man has come to the entire conviction that the gospel is Divine, that there is "none other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved but the name of Jesus Christ," he is not assured thereby of perfect peace.
2. Having sought to show that this procedure, on the part of God, is not so unusual, we may now attempt to find some reasons for it.(1) As a first reason we may assign this, that it sifts the true from the false seeker. The gospel comes into the world to be a touchstone of human nature — to be Ithuriel's spear among men. There is enough in it to attract and convince at last every man who has a sense of spiritual need and a desire of spiritual deliverance, but it is presented in such a form as to try whether the soul really possess this, and therefore we may have obstacles of various kinds at the very entrance. It may seem a strange and unworthy thing that such an obstacle should meet a man in the very commencement of such a journey; but, after all, let it be remembered that what makes it an obstacle is the state of heart of the man himself. This further may be said, that no one will be able to complain of any real wrong from such obstacles. The false seeker is not injured, because he never sincerely sought at all. There was no sense of sin's evil, no wish to be saved from it, and till this exists nothing can be sought, and nothing found. The true seeker is not injured, for never was such an one disappointed.(2) Next, it leads the true seeker to examine himself more thoroughly. If a man is accepted, or thinks he is accepted, at once, he takes many things for granted which it would be well for him to inquire into. Very specially is this the case in regard to the nature of sin and the light in which God regards it. The easy complacency with which some talk of pardon and their assurance of it, often springs more from dulness of conscience than strength of faith. The natural result of such a defective view is, that when a man enlists with it in God's service, he does so without any distinct idea of what he is to aim at. He does not see that the gospel binds us to the service of a God of truth and purity, and that only in this way can its blessings be enjoyed.(3) Further, it binds a man to his profession by a stronger sense of consistency. There is a paper of obligations put into our hands to sign, and, when we take the pen, we are bidden read it over again and ponder it, that we may subscribe with clear consciousness of the contents. God will beguile no man into His service by false pretences.(4) Lastly, it educates us to a higher growth and greater capacity of happiness. When we see the wind shaking a young tree, and bending it to the very earth, it may seem to be retarding its rise, but it is furthering it. In the intellectual world a strong man thrives on difficulties. There is no falser method of education than to make all smooth and easy, and remove every stone before the foot touches it. God Himself has hidden the knowledge of His creation in the depths of the sky and the bosom of the earth. He has demanded toil and travail, keen and patient thought, till study has become. a weariness to the flesh, in order that man's intellect may rise to its proper stature. It would have been a strange thing if the spiritual world had been an exception. Read the manner in which such men as Paul and Luther and Pascal passed through the gate of life, not easily and complacently, but with fears within and fightings without, and you will see how God made them grow such men as they became. And, though we are far distant from that mark, very humble plants in the garden of God beside those great trees of righteousness, yet, if we are to rise to anything, it must be in the same way, not by soft indulgent nurture, but by endurance of hardship, and pressing on against repulse. If there be some who have been seeking God, as they think, in vain, and have given up the search as fruitless, what can we do but urge them to renew the application? Come, as these Israelites did, with the words, "Nay; but we will serve the Lord." I can suppose a twofold class who have ceased to seek. There are some, perhaps, with a feeling of wounded pride or petulance. They say they have done their best, and it is useless. They have gone through a course of inquiry and search and prayer, and they have found neither comfort nor hope. Would it not be worth the while of such to reconsider this part of it, and to see whether some of the blame may not lie with themselves? There may, however, be another class who have left off seeking God, from very different motives, not in petulance, but in despondency, who have not so much turned their back on search, as sat down, wearied and hopeless, in the midst of it. Let them consider that they have to do with One who will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax; that the heart of God is with them; that the darkness and death of Christ, now changed to the strength of intercession, are on their side, and all those heavenly promises which are yea and amen in Him, and which, as bright and as many as the stars in their courses, all fight for them. Let them think of Jacob's wrestling, of David's tears, of Paul's threefold prayer, of the woman of Canaan, &c.
(John Ker, D. D.)
I. THE CERTAINTY OF THE TRUTH THAT UNRENEWED MEN CANNOT SERVE GOD.
1. The nature of God renders perfect service impossible to depraved men.
2. The best they could render as unrenewed men would lack heart and intent, and therefore must be unacceptable.
3. The law of God is perfect, comprehensive, spiritual, far-reaching: who can hope to fulfil it?
4. The carnal mind is inclined to self-will, self-seeking, lust, enmity, pride, and all other evils.
5. Let men try to be perfectly obedient. They will not try it. They argue for their ability, but they are loth enough to exert it.
II. THE DISCOURAGEMENT WHICH ARISES FROM THIS TRUTH.
1. It discourages men from an impossible task.
2. It discourages from a ruinous course.
3. It discourages reliance upon ceremonies or any other outward religiousness, by assuring men that these cannot suffice.
4. It discourages from every other way of self-salvation, and thus shuts men up to faith in the Lord Jesus. Nothing better can befall them (Galatians 2:22, 23).
III. THE NECESSITIES OF WHICH WE ARE REMINDED BY THIS TRUTH.
1. Unregenerate men, before you can serve God you need —
(1) (2) (3) (4) 2. If you cannot serve God as you are, yet trust Him as He manifests Himself in Christ Jesus; and do this just as you are. 3. This will enable you to serve Him on better principles. 4. This change of your nature will be effected by the Holy Spirit, who will come and dwell in you. 5. This will fit you for heaven, where "His servants shall serve Him." ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(2) (3) (4) 2. If you cannot serve God as you are, yet trust Him as He manifests Himself in Christ Jesus; and do this just as you are. 3. This will enable you to serve Him on better principles. 4. This change of your nature will be effected by the Holy Spirit, who will come and dwell in you. 5. This will fit you for heaven, where "His servants shall serve Him." ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(3) (4) 2. If you cannot serve God as you are, yet trust Him as He manifests Himself in Christ Jesus; and do this just as you are. 3. This will enable you to serve Him on better principles. 4. This change of your nature will be effected by the Holy Spirit, who will come and dwell in you. 5. This will fit you for heaven, where "His servants shall serve Him." ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
3. This will enable you to serve Him on better principles. 4. This change of your nature will be effected by the Holy Spirit, who will come and dwell in you. 5. This will fit you for heaven, where "His servants shall serve Him." ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
3. This will enable you to serve Him on better principles.
4. This change of your nature will be effected by the Holy Spirit, who will come and dwell in you.
5. This will fit you for heaven, where "His servants shall serve Him."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Genesis 37:4) that they "could not speak peaceably unto him," so strong was their personal dislike to him. But an inability arising from this source was obviously inexcusable, on the same grounds that a drunkard's inability to master his propensity for strong drink is inexcusable. In like manner the "cannot" of the impenitent sinner, in regard to the performance of his duty, is equally inexcusable.
British Evangelist.— A man deeply exercised about his soul was conversing with a friend on the subject, when the friend said, "Come at once to Jesus, for He will take away all your sins from your back." "Yes, I am aware of that"; said the other; "but what about my back? "I find I have not only sins to take away, but there is myself; what is to be done with that? And there is not only my back, but hands and feet, and head and heart are such a mass of iniquity that it's myself I want to get rid of before I can get peace.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
If ye forsake the Lord... He will turnI. THE REASONABLENESS OF EXPECTING THAT ABUSED MERCIES MUST LEAD TO MORE AGGRAVATED PUNISHMENT. We see this clearly in the history of Israel. Their career as a nation was marked by perfidy and ingratitude; at almost every step of their progress we find them in rebellion against the Most High — "forsaking the Lord, and serving strange gods." And how did God deal with them when they thus acted? Is it not the case that He scourged them, and caused them to suffer punishment? Look at the plagues that befel them in the desert; look at the slaughters which God permitted them to experience in warfare with their enemies. And who can survey the subsequent history of the Jews, and not read a fulfilment of the threatening contained in our text? And what we are desirous you should gather from the foregoing observations is mainly this, that no experience of good at the hands of the Almighty affords warrant to expect that future disobedience will not be visited with righteous severity. "If ye forsake the Lord and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt and consume you, after that He hath done you good."
II. THE JUSTICE OF THE DEALING WHICH IS REFERRED TO IN THE THREATENING BEFORE US. NOW it will be admitted that every reason was given Israel to expect the continuance of the Divine favour and protection. We think it easily to be perceived that one main purpose of the Almighty in the calling of Israel as a nation was to maintain upon earth, through means of that race, the pure knowledge of Himself; to afford a witness to the unity of Jehovah, and against idolatry; to secure glory to Himself by the exhibition, on the part of this people, of a consistent obedience. Surely, then, if this purpose was, through the nation's profligacy and disobedience, altogether thwarted, if all the resources which God gave them of national strength were abused and corrupted, indeed it were strange not to perceive that their conduct in this respect released every presumed obligation "to do them good," and in short vindicates to the letter the justice of the warning, "If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He hath done you good." And now, to take a more comprehensive range, from looking at the case of the Jewish people let us turn to that of mankind in general. Does it appear that God can be just in the apportionment of unmitigated wrath to mankind, notwithstanding all the manifestations of His determination to do them good? There are two grand exhibitions to be met with of God's merciful intention towards mankind at large, to do them good. The first of these is furnished by creation, and the second by redemption. Our object of inquiry is simply this: whether the display of God's love in creating or redeeming mankind offers any reason to conclude that, in harmony with His justice, He cannot "turn and do them hurt, and consume them." To begin with creation: no man can doubt that his creation is the proof of a purpose on God's part to "do him good." Beyond all question this purpose was man's happiness, but then his happiness was to consist in assimilation to the Godhead; and if upon man devolve the guilt of having voluntarily destroyed and renounced that similitude, where is the inconsistency of the dealing, should God "turn and do him hurt, and consume him"? The nobler the faculties wherewith he was endowed the brighter the evidence of God's purpose to "do him good," the stronger then seem to me the reasons wherefore wrath should be executed upon those by whom the faculties are abused and the evidence slighted. We turn, lastly, to the manifestation of God's goodness as displayed in redemption. There have been those who have argued — redemption is the evidence of a love so surpassing, they can never believe God will sentence to destruction those whom He has redeemed at such cost. "The method of our atonement involves an expenditure of such wisdom and mercy, that how can we conceive of the Almighty as permitting its objects finally to perish?" Mast to reason thus is equally, as in the former instances we have adduced, to overlook one main purpose of God in the scheme of human redemption. Is it not strange that men who have been made the objects of a sacrifice so costly should regard it so lightly and requite it so coldly? We may wonder that redeemed sinners should perish, but is it not more wonderful that redeemed sinners should refuse to be saved? Again, let us revert to the purpose of God in redemption. Indeed it was to bless the whole earth; it was to ransom humanity from the bondage of evil, and to exalt it to transcendent felicity. But after all, throughout every dealing of God with His intelligent creatures, we may discover the purpose to treat them as responsible beings, free to reject the overtures of His mercy. Now, redemption is offered upon certain terms; man is required to repent and to believe in order to be saved. It is no part of redemption to offer him an entrance into heaven irrespective of a moral fitness, to render him meet for heaven's enjoyments; and in the acquisition of this moral fitness man is required to co-operate with the Divine Spirit. He can refuse to profit by what God hath done for him, and thus prove himself a despiser of the love which is so unsearchably great. He can resolutely withstand the design of the Almighty in redemption, namely, that he should glorify God, both in his body and soul; and, I ask, if it be possible for Him to act thus, is there not justice in the sentence which awards him to suffer in spite of all the declared willingness of God to do him good?
(Bp. R. Bickersteth.)
I. THAT WE ARE UNDER OBLIGATIONS TO SERVE THE LORD FROM OUR OWN CHOICE, OR VOLUNTARY ENGAGEMENTS. Here I would premise that though voluntary obligations, taken upon ourselves by our own act, have something of a peculiar force in them, yet they are not the only obligations we are under to serve the Lord. We are bound to be His servants whether we will or not. His character as our creator, our preserver, and benefactor, and as a being of supreme excellency, give Him the most firm and indisputable right to our obedience. But though we are all under obligations to God, independent upon, and prior to, our own consent, yet there are a class of obligations which we have personally, and by our own act, taken upon ourselves; and in the breach of these we are guilty of more direct and aggravated perjury.
II. TO INQUIRE HOW AND WHEN, OR IN WHAT RESPECTS, AND AT WHAT PERIODS OF TIME, WE ARE WITNESSES AGAINST OURSELVES THAT WE HAVE CHOSEN THE LORD TO SERVE HIM.
1. You yourselves are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord to be your God. You know and confess that you have been dedicated to God in baptism; and some of you know it was your own act and deed when capable of choosing for yourselves. You also know in your own consciences that you are often present at the table of the Lord, and there you renew your covenant with God afresh.
2. You are witnesses against one another that you have chosen the Lord to serve Him. You have seen the transactions that have passed between God and you in His house; you have seen some baptized themselves, some presenting their children to baptism, and so renewing their own covenant with God; some sealing their religious engagements at the Lord's table.
Joshua made a covenant.
(W. M. Punshon, D. D.)
Joshua... took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.
Homilist.Solemnity of occasion. Joshua, dying, calls upon the nation to "choose whom you will serve." Here we have —
1. A wise effort to impress and perpetuate religious resolutions.
2. A fine impersonation of material nature.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS RESOLUTIONS. They are worthy of perpetual remembrance. The world has monuments of earthquakes, wars, deaths; but how few of devout resolutions!
II. THE HIGHEST USE OF MATERIAL OBJECTS. Without actually setting up material objects, nature might be appropriated in her different manifestations as types of God's character, and as mementos of events in the religious history of an individual or a family.
III. THE MOST SOLEMN ASPECTS OF NATURE. Who dares to say that nature cannot hear or speak? Who shall say, at the last, what nature, after her long silence, shall reveal? Take heed what you do and say: stones may hear without a Joshua's invocation.
Joshua... died.Genesis 50:5). How remarkable that the place where Joseph obtained interment, and where at length he was gathered to his fathers, should turn out the inheritance of his sons; and that, though separated many years from his father in life, he should, as he, rest in Canaan, and find a grave even in his own inheritance. Oh! it was a sweet privilege to be entombed in his own inheritance, and to hold a place with both his sons and his fathers in what bespoke the common hope and claim of all the faithful. It was a choice spot, and where any saint would have wished to have been laid, and there to have rested in the hope of all that was, in the perfection of the Church and close of time, to open in the grandeur of the resurrection, when, as the heirs of promise, and the sons of immortality, they would rise to claim a fairer, brighter, and more lasting inheritance above the skies. The ground was a purchase (Genesis 23:16, 17). And now the purchase of Jacob became the burying-place of Joseph. The heavenly land is spoken of as a purchased possession, and that in no part ever to become a burying-place, but the seat of endless life and felicity to the whole Church of God. But, oh! what has been the purchase, what paid for it, by the eternal Son of God! One more burying-place within this inheritance is pointed out: "And Eleazar the son of Aaron died," &c. As situated near Shiloh, this was, probably for its convenience, assigned as the residence of the high priest. We see the inheritances of Israel fast changing into the burying-places of the dead. It was not the land of immortality, not that state of being of which it is said, "There shall be no more death," &c. In Canaan all must die, as well princes, priests, and rulers, as others; but in heaven none die: there natural evils and moral pollutions are for ever removed.
Israel served the Lord.
(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.).