Imágenes de páginas

naan; there He renewed with them ing to fasten on them the great duties the covenant he had made with them of religion, and to enjoin them to enter before, when he called them out of into a covenant again, or to renew that Egypt, and in consequence of which covenant into which they had preAaron built an altar to the Lord. viously entered with the Lord. Shechem was near to Shiloh, where “ If it seem evil unto you to serve the ark was, at which the people were the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye accustomed to assemble. It was near will serve.” Here it is evident, that the abode of Joshua, who had allotted religion was supposed to be a matter to him Timmath-serah, a town or city of choice. Religion cannot be comwhich he built, and was near to the pelled; the external acts of it may be place of rendezvous. He had before, compelled, but still these are separated on other occasions, assembled the from the internal principles. Religion people of Israel for the same purposes itself cannot be the subject of compulas that which prompted him here. He sion, and any attempt to enforce it in had called them together to meet him this way may multiply hypocrites, but at Shechem, and there he made it his can never make saints. When it is business to deliver a discourse to them said, that we are to “Go out and comin his character of religious teacher, pel them to come in,” it is not any laying aside every thing that applied thing but strong persuasion that is to to his military habits, and directed be used : the messengers of the Gospel their attention to the precepts and or- are not armed with any military force, dinances of religion. His life being all seems rested on pathetic persuaspared longer than most men (for he sion. God deals with men as reasonis declared to be old) 'he at this time able creatures, and though they are recame forward and enjoining what lay so sponsible to Him, yet they are to none near to his heart, he assembled the else: it is left to their choice. The people again in the most public form, Divine Being deals with them accordgathering together the heads of the ing to their reasonable faculties, and separate tribes, their governors and while he presents, he leaves it to them rulers.

to refuse or accept, setting before them You will here perceive, that the de- life and death, telling them at the same sign of Joshua was to confirm them in time the awful responsibility they intheir intention towards God, to guard cur by neglecting his precepts and serthem against any future seductions ; vices. and for this purpose he calls their at- Religion is not only a matter of tention, in the first place, to the deal choice, but it ought to be a matter of ings of God towards them, tracing deliberate choice; and on this account them up from the calling of Abraham, we may perceive, how judiciously the mission of Moses, their deliver. Joshua managed when he was negoance from Egypt, their conduct on tiating between the God of Israel and being led through the wilderness, their his people. He declares what his rebeing conducted over Jordan, the de- solution shall be in the first place, feat of the kings of the Amorites, the knowing with what deference it would defeat of the seven Canaanitish nations, be received from his high station. and the peaceful and triumphal settle-“ As for me and my house, we will ment they had witnessed in the land serve the LORD.” The effect of this of promise. After having thus laid be- was, naturally, as he expected, to fore them the great mercies of God to draw from the people an immediate wards them, he begins by endeavour. acquiescence and compliance as far as language went. “The people answered and that they might be the objects of and said, God forbid that we should jealous circumspection, lest, by this forsake the Lord to serve other gods, infatuation of theirs, they might taint for the Lord our God, he it is that the whole camp. brought us up, and our fathers out of “ But the people said, We will serve the land of Egypt, from the house of the Lord, although he be an holy bondage, and which did these great God, a jealous God, and a God who is signs in our sight, and preserved us in not to be treated with neglect.” Jo. all the way wherein we went, and shua takes them at this seasonable among all the people through whom moment; he closes the treaty while we passed. And the Lord drove out their minds are yet open, and he says, from before us all the people, even Ye are witnesses against yourselves the Amorites which dwelt in the land, that ye have chosen the Lord, to therefore we will serve the LORD, for serve him. And they said, We are he is our God.”

witnesses.” These declarations, these Joshua is not satisfied with this : he vows, these protestations of devotion knew the deceitfulness of the human to the service of God will rise up heart, and that in general expressions against you ; and you will need no more of acquiescence in the duties of reli- decisive witnesses to condemn you gion, and the obligations of piety, hereafter than the testimony of your there was hid frequently a great deal own consciences, and the recollection of uncertainty. He, therefore, en- of these solemn declarations. “And deavoured to search them more com- Joshua wrote these words in the book pletely, and to bring them to a more of the law of God, and took a great strict and decisive test. He says, stone, and set it up there under an oak Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. an holy God, he is a jealous God, he And Joshua said unto all the people, will not forgive your transgressions, Behold, this stone shall be a witness nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, unto us; for it hath heard all the and serve strange gods, then he will words of the LORD which he spake turn and do you hurt, and consume unto us: it shall therefore be a wityou, after that he hath done you good.”ness unto you, lest you deny your This may appear at first sight dis-God.” couraging. It was presenting religion There was a peculiar reason for Join its severest aspect-it was present- shua proceeding in this manner on this ing it in an aspect more severe than occasion : he knew there was a secret was perfectly consistent with the Old leaning to idolatry still in the hearts of Testament; but it was to detect hypo- some of the people, and therefore, crisy, and make apparent to all that when he brought them, thus far, to he was not a God to be trifled with, make a declaration of adherence to not a God that was to be worshipped God, he says, “ Put away the strange as it best suited themselves, not a gods that are among you, and incline God to be mocked and deceived by your heart unto the LORD God of vain and hypocritical pretences, nor Israel.” There was a secret lingering was he such God as they relished and towards idols, like that which appears approved. Joshua perhaps wished to to have possessed the family of Jacob, detect those who might be disposed, who, at this very place, commanded on this statement, to come forward his household to put away their strange and disavow the Most High, that gods, and they buried them under the thereby his eye might be upon them, very oak beneath whose branches Jo.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

shua was standing at this time. This tion to religion, but still they feel the place was remarkable on that account, most sincere desire that their children on account of its being the scene of two and relations might be found partakers such similar transactions : for at each of eternal life. I recollect a passage in of these separate periods of time a the diary and memoirs of the Rev. leaning to idolatry was detected, first Mr. Williams, of Kidderminster, in by Jacob, and afterwards among his which that good man observes, that descendants by Joshua, so as to make when young, he was riding to market it necessary to put them to a severe with a highly respectable person and test, and that Joshua should say as a his son, his acquaintances, and while proof of their sincerity, “ Put away they were walking and riding, and the strange gods from among you.” conversing together on indifferent sub

The resolution that Joshua expressed jects, the father stopped and demanded here is a most noble resolution, and of his son, and enjoined him, to cultideserving of our most serious imita- vate the acquaintance of that young tion, As for me and my house, we man : for, said he,

he will lead you will serve the Lord.” He would not to religion, he will acquaint you with serve the Lord, either without his what is good; but as for me, he said, house, nor would he suffer his house the time is gone by, my heart has beto fear the Lord, and yet at the same come hard and insensible." How awful time to neglect Him. As for me and is such a declaration! What a dreadmy house, we will serve the Lord.” ful acknowledgment! calm, and yet He was decidedly on His side ; he had full of despair in the prospect of etermade a vow to be the Lord's, and he nal ruin! How striking an illustrawould not go back. But he was not tion of the alarming potency of sin content with his own personal devo. which makes a man contemplate with tedness—" My house will serve the apathy and indifference the prospect Lord.He could not command the of everlasting perdition ! obedience of the tribes of Israel to the But with Joshua the case was toextent he wished, having now laid tally different. “ As for me and my aside his public duties ; but he still house, we will serve the LORD.” If all retained a power over his own family the tribes of Israel had determined to to demand of them to listen to instruc- leave God, if all the families of these setion-he could command their ear, if parate tribes had determined to abandon not their hearts; and he was deter- the sanctuary and institutions of His mined to command his household, that worship, yet Joshua's heart was fixed, they might keep the way of the Lord, his mind was determined, he would to do justice and judgment, that the dare to be singular, and to stand alone Lord might visit them with the good despite the frowns of thousands who things of which he had spoken. He had cast off the fear of Jehovah. This, declares that he will serve the Lord as my friends, is a universal test of true well as his house.

religion ; when we can dare to stand It is to be lamented that there are alone without example--when we can heads of families who give up all stem the torrent, and go against the thoughts of religion themselves, and course of this world, and assert the yet at the same time feel sincere soli- divine liberty of a mind which is decitude for the salvation of their chil-voted to God, and dependent on him, dren. There is a certain period at which looks for protection to him, and which they begin to imagine that it is to him only. in vain for them to turn their atten- Let us consider in the Second place WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE RESOLU- | they deny the Supreme Being to be TION THAT JOSHUA EXPRESSES. As the object of religious adoration. Can for me and my house, we will serve the there be a greater proof of the total Lord.This is a comprehensive ex- blindness under which these persons pression, and involves all the depart- labour of the Supreme Being, and of ments of practical piety. It presents all the exhibitions of veneration which the Divine Being in the character of a should be shown towards him. That great Governor, entirely independent worship which springs from the lips of our recognition and homage, clothed only is of no account : but if we serve with absolute dominion, and of whose Him we must call on His name, we kingdom there is no end. But real re- must delight in His worship, and in ligion teaches us to recognize that au- pouring out our hearts to God in the thority, to confess and feel it, to yield utterance of petitions, and in the celeourselves to His direction, to rest on bration of His praise. the Divine Being for protection, to In the next place, to serve God is, make a surrender of ourselves to His in all the actions of our life, in the will and His disposal. Nothing short whole habitual course of our proceed. of this can be considered as amount- ings, to have respect to the will of God, ing to a declaration of " serving the to seek to please him, to seek to gloLord.” It includes particularly two rify him as the great end of our acthings.

tions; to make the pleasing of him the In the first place, a solemn and ex- grand scope and design of all we do. clusive worship of God from the heart. Nothing short of this can be consi. Whenever God is served he is wor- dered as at all coming up to the idea shipped. He is worshipped by the of serving the Lord. The will of God, outward act, as well as with the inte- if we really serve the Lord, must be rior sentiment of the mind. There consulted on all occasions. The pleacannot be a greater proof of ignorance sure of God must determine us in of God than of abstaining from wor. every instance of life, where there is shipping him, thereby we lose sight of room for choice. In forming the plan his character as God, and of all that of our lives we must consult the will proclaims him to us in every part of the of God, and those instances in which Universe. He is God, the great author it is made known and declared to us, of our spirits, on whom we depend for it must be to us a law from which life and breath, and every thing. If there is no appeal, and as respects a every thing is in the hand of God—if we compliance with which there is no are sinners and need to be pardoned, hesitation. He alone serves the LORD surely the worship of God must neces- who sets God always before him, who, sarily spring up in the mind which is like Enoch of old, walks with God, and convinced of the importance of these who conducts himself in all the acgreat truths. And there cannot be a tions of his life with a view to please greater proof of ignorance of the Di- and glorify him. Hence, my brethren, vine character, than that infidelity, the most indifferent actions, in themwhich is always accompanied with a selves, become sanctified; they are puneglect of Divine worship, for infidels rified by the word of God and by live without worship; and though they prayer ; and if they are directed to boast of their numbers, yet they never the great end of his glory, they behad sufficient zeal to unite together so come a very important part of true reas to form themselves into any reli- ligion. Nothing can be a greater mis. gious sect whatsoever. In their acts take than to confine religion to the

sanctuary, to shut it up for particular | good man ever perfectly performed seasons, or to imagine that it can be every part of the will of God, yet there comprehended in any particular con- is no part but he addresses himself to; juncture of life. It is a spirit and prin- he carries his attention and his eye ciple that diffuses itself over all the to all the parts of the will of God. He modes of life, moulds the whole man who lives in the habitual neglect of and never ceases to operate. It casts any command of God, makes it plain, into a new mould and character all the that his heart is not sincere, and makes moral features of the human mind.

it evident that he is not influenced by But this leads me to observe, that a real regard to God. Had this been there are three ingredients in the ser- the consideration that influenced him, vice of God that may be considered as it would have secured an obedience in giving vitality to it. The first is sin- that point which is neglected. The cerity. Joshua persuades them, and same Being that commands one part of commands them to serve the LORD the duty commands another; and hawith sincerity and truth.

God re- bitual neglect of any part of the requireth truth in the inward parts. He vealed will of God involves a contempt is a being that searcheth the heart, and of the whole principle of obedienceno service will prove acceptable that involves a contempt of that authority does not proceed from hence. If our from which it all flows. There is a religion is for the applause of men, we harmony and consistency between all lose our reward. If our acts of obe- the parts of real practical religion, so dience spring from any motive than that they cannot be separated one from that of pleasing God, and inward sub- another, and if we separate them we mission of mind to his authority, we deceive ourselves and lose sight of God. lose our reward. If we do what is Let me not be supposed to inculcate right in our wealth and worldly pros- absolute perfection in any one grace; perity from mere mechanical habit, but it belongs to man to allow himwhile at the same time, regard to self to walk in no evil way, and esGod is not at the bottom of our vir- pecially to keep himself from his initues, it will be of no avail, and they quity : so that instead of allowing the will have no reward. The service of excuse of neglect for the indulgence of God must be that which springs from it, it is with him a season of peculiar the mind, and it must be accompanied vigilance and prayer, that he may be with the belief that he is a rewarder secure and protected on the weaker of them that diligently seek him—that side. he is an infinitely good and gracious Another ingredient in the service of God--that he is entitled to our ser- God, if it be true and genuine is, that, vice-that he is the only adequate ob- like the principle from which it project of our choice—that he only is fit ceeds, it is permanent and abiding. He and qualified to be the end as well as that serves God occasionally, and then the beginning, the Alpha as well as falls back into the spirit of the world, the Omega of all things. Thus the is not the true servant of God; it servant of God makes an entire sur- shows him to be the servant of another. render of himself to the service of It belongs to the true servants of God God, and keeps back nothing from to adhere unremittingly to him, to him.

please him with full purpose of heart, In the next place this obedience and thus to endure to the end. The must be minute His service must be true servants of God bring forth fruit universally adhered to. Although no to perfection—they stand firm in the

« AnteriorContinuar »