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among you, and incline your heart And now, LASTLY, we have to state unto the LORD God of Israel. And the SOME OF THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice Joshua—WHY WE SHOULD SAY WITH will we obey. So Joshua made a co- HIM, “As FOR US AND OUR HOUSES, venant with the people that day, and WE WILL SERVE THE LORD." This, set them a statute and an ordinance in my dear brethren, is a part of the unShechem.” You were reminded that dertaking of a Christian minister to religion was a matter of choice—that which
are utterly inadequate; God deals with us as reasonable crea- and though we may state sufficiently tures, and that he proposes to us mo- to the satisfaction of ourselves and the tives of the strongest and most forcible consciences of our hearers, why the description to accept the overtures that service of God ought to be chosen, it is he makes to us; but, at the same time, only in an humble dependence on the He leaves it to our own examination, Divine agency that we can attempt it; without using any physical force by but as God is pleased to make use of the instrumentality of creatures or se- motives we are bound to have recourse cond causes to extort our consent; and to these-we are bound to declare those we must recollect, that we are respon- truths of the word of God which, sible for the choice we make, and that though ineffectual in themselves, are that choice ought to be most deliberate. salvation to every one who believes ; Religion and her ministers disdain to nor is it at all unnecessary for Christake advantage of a sudden impulse, tians who have already chosen God, and wish to have only such converts and who walk in his ways, to be reas will adhere to its sacred cause and minded of the reasons which first proendure to the end, and who have duced that choice, and the evidences come to that determination, after on which their religion rests. These ample and serious consideration of the are very deep and permanent grounds evils, difficulties, and trials that beset that will support the stress we lay on their path. Jesus Christ, when he them, and the more they are viewed gave instruction to his followers, acted the more will they support us. There in the same candid and open manner cannot be a more wholesome exercise as Joshua. He reminded his disciples, to Christians than to retrace their that instead of seeking great things in reasons for serving God, and to make the present world, they were to count themselves familiar with the obligations on nothing but dishonour; they were to on which this great duty rests. Let me, take up their cross, and deny them- then, as I observed before, in humble selves daily if they would follow him. dependence on the Divine agency and The nature of that service we then blessing of God, briefly remind you of proceeded to state to be the worship of some of the reasons, the most obvious God, and the surrender of ourselves to and striking, for making the resolution his command and to his will, so as to of Joshua our own resolution. be goverved in all things by his holy In the first place, it is our duty to precepts. And it is to be observed, serve the LORD from the relation in that the three ingredients to render which we stand to him, and the unspeakthis worship acceptable, are sincerity able benefits we derive from his goodness. in the objects of it-obedience in the The relation in which we stand to him performance of it—and perpetuity of is most important and intimate; it is duration, and continuance and adhe- that of creatures to a Creator, of the rence to the end.
thing to Him that formed it. We can entertain no idea of a relation equal to from innumerable evils, who has given this; we can form nothing—we can you all things richly to enjoy, who has bring nothing into being which had not kept alive the breath of life which a being before; our power consists only would have been extinguished had it in changing the relation which parts of not been continued every moment by objects bear to each other; and though his inspiration ; He it is who has in. we can modify the minds of our fellow- spired the hearts of your friends with creatures, we can give birth to no that friendship they feel, and your faculty of the mind, much less can we parents with that tenderness which led give birth to the mind itself—not to them to protect you when you were any particle of matter, much less to unconscious of it. All the affections those laws which guide its operation. that spring up in social life are the God is our Creator, and he is most effect of His benificence, they have emphatically the father of our spirits ; been grafted by His hand, and sushe has given being to those faculties tained continually by the goodness of of body and mind which constitute our His providence. You cannot think of complex nature. Now, surely, he that a single enjoyment but what is enhas given us existence has a right to tirely his gift; and every moment of prescribe the acts of that existence your existence it is, through his mercy, he that has given us a power of action that you are not consumed. has a right to prescribe the manner in But besides this, as guilty creatures, which that power shall be exercised, the Divine Being has redeemed you with he that has made us capable of hap- the price of his precious blood; He repiness has a right to guide us with vealed his heaven to you in order to sovereign authority in the way to it, attract your attention—to win you and to point out the condition on from the world—to cause you to aspire which it is to be attained-he, in short, to the honour of being the children of who has made man, must be the being God, and the heirs of immortality. He entitled to govern him with an abso- has appointed you to be a light to the lute dominion, and with a universal world; he has given us the society of and unlimited control, suited to the saints, the communion of his people, nature of that relation in which we the ordinances of his house, and the stand to God as our Creator. "Shall ministry of his word. He has given the thing formed, say to him who you a companionship with a superior formed it, Why hast thou made me order of beings who will after a time thus?" We are but clay, and he is be our inseparable and eternal comthe potter. Surely, the great LORD panions. What hath the LORD not has a right to do that which he will done for us as a God of providence and with his own, and consequently, to im- a God of grace, and on account of press on them those laws, and com- which we should not for a moment mand them to all sort of service, the hesitate in yielding ourselves to him, obligations of which is so clear and in giving up ourselves entirely to his certain from this mysterious relation. disposal ?
But consider, besides this, that God But in the next place, the grand disis your benefactor, your rich heavenly tinction of man above the other creatures, benefactor. He is your Almighty friend consists in such a constitution of our and patron; He is the Being from nature, as appears to have no other end whence all your mercies have sprung; or object but of that of qualifying us for He is the Being who has watched over the end of worshipping God. It has you for good, who has preserved you been observed many thousands of times, and on that account is the moretention and design of the Divine Being likely to be true, that the great dis- in forming him for himself. Unless tinction of man from the other crea- we show forth the praise of God, and tures, is his susceptibility of religion. order our lives according to his will, He becomes susceptible of religion by the province of our existence is in vain. being capable of understanding moral In the next place, let it be remarked, distinctions-he is able to discern be that although there are many circum. tween right and wrong-he has a stances which may influence persons sense of law-he feels the obligation to draw back from the service of God; to gratitude which springs from bene- yet, at the same time, these are not of a fits received-he recognizes cause and nature for a moment to justify them in effect; and could ascend, and would, no not coming to the resolution contained doubt, but for the secret aversion of the in the text. We are reminded that heart from what is good, to the invi- there are some to whom it seems an sible things of God. This is the grand evil thing to serve the LORD: “If it distinction of human nature; not that seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, it possesses Reason only, but that it choose ye this day whom ye will serve." possesses Reason capable of expressing Now, the grand reason why men feel itself, and capable of feeling its obli- a disinclination to religion springs gations to an Almighty Creator and from the sacrifices they are obliged to gracious benefactor. This part of our make to their sinful lusts, and to live nature has no proper scope but in re- according to the rules of virtue, soligion ; and he that neglects religion briety, and religion. But that this, and refuses to serve God, loses the which is the only excuse for our not great end of his being, loses the great taking up the yoke of obedience, will design for which he was created a not justify us, is evident from two rational creature, capable of being considerations. In the first place, governed by an Holy God, and of there is nothing withheld from us by finding happiness in God. Hence the His prohibition but what is better for degrading terms in which the Scrip- us to forego than to possess. The ture usually speaks of such : they are only prohibition is the indulgence of represented as “slaves," as "in bond- evil and sin; and sin is a disease in age and corruption,” as “ led captive our moral nature which it is infinitely by Satan at his will,” as “blind,” and better to have cured than to retain ;
These expressions, though and they who are contending for the they are figurative, are intended to de- privilege of living in sin, and walking note a great truth, they are in the without rule, and gratifying the lusts state of rational creatures who are of the flesh and of the mind, inherit destitute of the fear of God; and such eternal death. There is more than a faculties as they have fail to discover compensation, even in the present and adore their Creator, and serve life, by the advantages which piety and worship Him according to his re- and virtue bring to their possessor vealed will. Were man not intended than any of the exercises of sinful to be religious and to be the creatore pleasure; so that that saying is veri. of a moral government, he would have fied which our Lord spoke, “If any been differently constituted from what man lose father, or mother, or bro. he is, and the marks that he bears ther, or sister, or wife, or children for about him of his lofty condition would his sake, he shall receive a hundred fold be wanting; and that they are found in this life, and in the world to come in him are plaiu indications of the in- life everlasting." But although this may require resolution far beyond our is no well-meant service to God that power, it cannot discourage enquiry will pass without a recompense, no ininto religion. Once set your mind to tention to glorify him but will meet serve God, and make it your sincere with its remuneration ; a cup of cold prayer that you may be enabled so to water given to a disciple in the name do, and there is a glorious doctrine in a of Christ shall not loose its reward; part of the Gospel which assures you seed that is sown in the service of God of the succour and aid of the Holy shall return an hundred fold; every Spirit to help your infirmities, to plant sincere effort to glorify him, every dewithin you new principles, to make sire of seeing him glorified, every asyou a new creature, to take the great piration after his image and after his realities of the Gospel and present service, will meet with an appropriate them in such a manner as to reveal reward. Those who have made it them to you, to make them become their business to serve Him here, and powerful, and to fill you with holiness. have employed their feeble powers in And here, therefore, all objections praising Him, God will employ his against the service of God are at once mighty powers in rejoicing over them; swept away; we are infinitely benefit- He will heap on them recompense such ed by being sanctified, and it becomes as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard ; no presumption to aspire after it, when and as they made his authority parawe recollect, that if we are sincerely mount above all others, the Divine desirous of serving God, the Holy Spirit Being will show that he is infinitely is sent forth to strengthen us and to richer than any of the monarchs of enable us to come forth and unite in the this world. “I appoint unto you a living head. The Lord Jesus Christ kingdom as my father hath appointed is able to supply all our wants out of his unto me, that you may eat and drink fulness-s0 that babes have perfected at my table in my kingdom.”—“To the praise of God, and persons of the him that overcometh will I grant to meanest condition have broken forth sit with me on my throne, even as I from a course of sin and inveterate also overcame and am sit down with habits of wickedness, not certainly my Father on his throne." from any resources of their own, but Recollect, again, my dear brethren, in consequence of hearing the call of the impossibility of neutrality and the the Gospel, and from a desire to serve danger of delay; you cannot be neuter. God; and blessed be God it may be so “Choose you this day whom you will with sinners stil).
serve," or CHOOSE THIS DAY." What Consider, my brethren, in the next was there in that day? Nothing parplace, the great rewards which hereafter ticular marked that day; but it was necessarily accompany the service of God; to-day-the present time, that which is and these are such as it is impossible now in our possession, to-morrow or for us at present adequately to con- the next day is in the hand of God, it ceive, much less to represent in mor. lies hid in his counsels, and whether tal language. Hear what our blessed it may be disclosed in time or eternity Saviour speaks himself. He tells you none but the Divine Being can know. respecting the watchful servant, who It is, therefore, the present time, and is occupied in waiting for his master, on that account Joshua presses on them He will gird himself and serve him. the immediate improvement of it. There He will say to such a one, “Well done are some here who are ready to start thou good and faithful servant, enter back and say, we intend to serve the thou into the joy of thy Lord." There LORD, we shudder at the thought of dying in irreligion, we do not intend no portion, no employment beneficial or to give up ourselves to sensual enjoy- dignified or delightful to all eternity. ments, we intend to be serious and There are many ways in which men religious, and the true servants of God, employ themselves at present, by which but who procrastinate still. But, my they amuse their leisure and contrive brethren, think of this, that time is not to pass away their hours tranquilly, your own; if you fix on another time, till the hour of sickness, or the bed of that time is in the hand of God, but death arrive ; but there is no amuseis, perhaps, never destined for you; you ment, no avocation, no employment will witness it, but witness it as a part of the faculties in eternity to such as of eternity. Now is the accepted have not served the LORD. In heaven time. Let not any one count with God is all in all, the enjoyment of certainty on having another opportu, it consists in seeing him as he is, in nity; this may be the last, the only serving him with perfection, and being sermon, the only invitation that they for ever like him. The joy of the remay have from the lips of truth and deemed is to celebrate the praises of mercy. Recollect, there is no neutra- God, and to serve him day and night lity, you must either be the servants in his temple; there is not the least of God or his enemies. When the le
effort or energy but will be called forth, gitimate claims of a monarch are such all the affections will ascend up as a as can be distinguished, to be neutral pleasing offering to God, all the pow. between him and the usurping rebel, ers will intensely and eternally be is the highest act of insult, and stamps employed in his service, nor will these such persons as traitors against him. perfected spirits cease day nor night Though you profess to serve God, if from crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord you refuse to serve Him, if you bar the God Almighty, who was, and is, and heart against Him, if other Lords have is to come.” Therefore, my brethren, dominion over you, if He does not if you are not able to serve God here, reign as the sovereign of your heart, you will not be able to serve God He will consider himself as deprived there ; the recollection of the past, of his right; He will bear no compe- and the fearful presentiment of the titor, He is a jealous God, and says, future, the resources of your own mind, "Thou shalt serve Him, and shall and the depths of eternal torment and serve Him only." This is the doc- despair must convince you of this. trine taught by our Lord, my bre. Could you live your own time you thren, and from which there is no ap- might neglect religion; but God will peal. “He that is not with me is call every one to judgment. There is against me, and he that gathereth not an appointed day in which he will with me scattereth abroad." There is judge the world in righteousness, and no possibility of being neutral, nor as there is no neutrality, he will then will the state of man's heart be neu. exercise his judicial authority, and say, tral, because, if he does not love God“ bring hither those men who would by choice, and serve and honour and not that I should reign over them and love his Creator, he must be at enmity slay them before me.” with Jehovah ; and such persons can- Is there any person here who ima. not please God, or be subject to the gines it is undignified to serve the laws of God.
LORD, when he recollects that Joshua, Recollect, my dear brethren, in a one of the most eminent of legislators, very short time, if you are not employ. after having been engaged in continual ed in the service of God, you will have warfare for many years, and then enjoy.