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body, the watchfulness over their thoughts, words, and actions, this is more than we can undertake; are there none who if they either walked, or thought of walking with Jesus, go back and think no more of walking with him ?1 If Joshua had not set before them the full extent to which the Lord laid claim to their services, there would have been none dissatisfied, there would have been none to whom it would have seemed evil to serve the Lord. And so it is still. If we would leave men to themselves and just let them do as they please, believe as much as they like, and serve God as much as they choose, none would be discontented. Let their Christianity be just such as suits their convenience, their taste, or their interest, and all is well. But state it more plainly and more unequivocally; show them the actual necessity of turning to God by a living faith, that no man is in a state of salvation who has not actually laid hold of the hope of life in Christ; show them, that “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him;" ? show them that" he that hath believed in God, must be careful to maintain good works,"3 that “ if any man be in Christ he is a new creature ;"4 that conversion unto God implies an entire change, and then, with these as the consequences, “it seems evil unto them to serve the Lord.” Now, my dear brethren, if any such are here, to 1 John vi. 66.
2 John iii. 36. 3 Titus iii. 8. .
4 2 Cor. v. 17.
whom will you go? what will ye serve? There is indeed no system of gross and actual idolatry ranged in opposition to service of the true God. But there are other lords to whom you must offer your services, if you refuse them to God. There are the world, the flesh, and the devil, putting forth their claim for your heart and service. Choose you then between them. But why do I say choose? There might have been an opposition and a rivalry between the old and the new idolatries of which Joshua spoke; the service of the gods on the other side of the Euphrates might not have accorded with that of the idols of the land of Canaanites, they might each have been as jealous of the other, as they were of the God of hosts. But here is no opposition, no jealousy. You may here serve many masters, at least many such masters; for all these services resolve themselves into one, that of the Prince of the power of the air, the God of this world,3 the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. You may perhaps think that you can live without paying homage to any, that you may throw off the service of God and walk at liberty. But it is an absolute impossibility. Serve and obey some one you must, and just consider what profit will the separate or the joint service of these lords bring you? Suppose you serve the world—follow eagerly all its pleasures or its gains -aspire after all its honours. Suppose you are the world's best and most favoured servant, that
3 Ephes. ii. 2.
the world gives you all the world can give, its whole self; suppose you gain the whole world and lose your own soul, what shall it profit you ?4 Will the world's pleasures, or riches, or honours, or rewards, avail you any thing, when you hear these words, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee!"5 Suppose you serve the flesh—that you “sow to it" in every way in which the flesh loves to be ministered unto, in its lusts, in its indulgences, in its luxuries, what will you “reap” from it? “Corruption.”6 Suppose you serve Satan, as indeed you must, for in serving the world or the flesh, you are only bowing the knee to him who rules them, -what then will you gain? In what will it end? In Satan's well-paid wages. You cannot escape from them-you must receive them, even to the uttermost farthing. He is a hard taskmaster, he will have your full service; but he is a sure paymaster, and will pay you your full wages, and “the wages of sin is death."? My brethren, “if it seem evil unto any of you to serve the Lord,” affect not independence. Say not you are free. “His servants you are to whom you obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.”8 If you refuse God--under one or the other or all of these miserable tyrants must you range yourselves. There is no middle course (bear this well in mind) between the devoted heart-service of God, and this wretched bondage. 4 Matt. xvi. 26. 5 Luke xii. 20. 6 Gal. vi. 8.
7 Rom. vi. 23. 8 Rom. vi. 16.
III. Consider then, in the last place, THE DETERMINATION OF JOSHUA, and may God direct our hearts to the same choice, “ As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Observe the decision with which he speaks. This would seem to be the purport of what he says: “ although I stand alone, I will be a follower of the true God. We are not to suppose that this implies indifference as to what others should do. His whole conduct, and more especially his expostulation and exhortation to the people at this time, sufficiently prove the contrary ; and this declaration of his own fixed purpose and intention was particucularly designed to influence them. In this respect, the conduct of Joshua deserves our imitation. Joshua resolved as one that had fully made up his mind, having well considered every thing; and it is this sort of decision that is required on our parts.
In the first place, it is necessary so far as we consider our duty to God, for God will not be satisfied with any hesitation upon the subject. He requires us, indeed, to follow him upon the mature exercise of our judgment, that we should not take up our resolution unadvisedly; but when we have taken it up, he expects that we should maintain it firmly. And it is as necessary to our own peace and happiness. “The double-minded man,” (that is, the man that looks this way and that way) “is unstable in all his ways.”9 He is like "a wave of
9 James i. 8.
the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.”1 He is without strength or power, every trifle can turn him aside, and every shadow alarms him. And as Joshua proclaimed openly the decision of his mind, so this is essential to be observed by us likewise. It is not enough that the Christian should follow the Lord fully, but his set purpose of heart to do so should be known. Let your purpose then, my brethren, be like Joshua's, let it be formed in dependence upon divine grace, and let it be openly declared. Let your conduct and your profession be such, that ye may be “known and read of all men.” Do not leave it as a matter of doubt to any whether you are indeed on the Lord's side. It is the want of this openly expressed decision that encourages sin and sinners. There is a selfishness in withholding the influence and authority of your example; there is a moral cowardice in shrinking from avowing yourselves. I know of none who have a more awful account to render up than they who, by the grace and mercy of God, have known the way of truth ; have seen what service God requires; have been anxious to offer it themselves ; but have been afraid or ashamed to declare it. I fear there are many such ; whose chambers are witnesses to religious emotions, which their outward manners do not evince. Such persons are under grievous delusion. The great feature of the converted man is the desire to influence others, and every description of the believer which we have in James i. 6.
? 2 Cor. iii. 2.