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evil day—they endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; there are none of them that draw back to perdition, but all of them believe to the saving of the soul. Those who appear to believe for awhile and then are offended, are compared by our Lord to those on whom religion has produced no saving benefit; they are never found at the right hand of God. But they who follow the Lamb wholly, it is they who endure to the end—it is they who keep the word with patience—it is they who hold fast what they have received; and although they may be occasionally defeated, yet their whole course is a resistance against temptation; these are the only ones that will stand at the right hand of Jesus Christ, and be rewarded with crowns of immortal glory.
And you who make a profession in this place, if you have found from past experience that the ways of God have been ways of pleasantness, then persevere, cling fast, keep that which you have, endeavour to make progress; not only maintain your ground, but press forward to the mark for the prize of your high calling. It is true, my brethren, there are many trials and difficulties attending religion: you know it, and Joshua knew it, by experience, but at the same time he could say, in the strength of Christian principle, and in the spirit of consecrated magnanimity, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
And now, my dear brethren, if Jesus Christ has brought pardon to your souls by his precious blood—if he has renewed you in any degree with his Holy Spirit—if he has called you with a high and heavenly calling—if he has brought
his peace into your heart—if he has sent his Holy Spirit to give yoa the spirit of the children of God,—can you for a moment after this hesitate what course to pursue ?—can you for a moment be tempted to believe that it is an evil thing to serve the Lord? No, my dear brethren, you are happy that your Saviour has drawn you with cords of love, and the bands of a man, to the horns of His altar. You determine to adhere to him through evil and through good report—to choose your portion with him—to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and to esteem them but dung, that you may win Christ and be found in him.
The remaining part of this subject I must defer till another opportunity. It would be in vain to attempt now, our time being very short, to enter into the motives and reasons, why we ought to flee to the service of God, and to embvace the resolution of Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." How happy it would be if this was the language of every one in the presence of God this morning! Why should it not be? Dear brethren, you may depend on this, that there is a time coming when every one of us would give a thousand worlds that we had regarded it—there is a time coming when God will be our only prop and stay. You will soon find yourselves in that solitude and desolation when life scarcely lingers in the body, you will then feel that God is all in all; and that every thing else is worthless, unsatisfying, and vain, in connexion with that boundless eternity in which you must rejoice, or lament for ever and ever.
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f t Sermon
DELIVERED BY THE LATE REV. R. HALL,
AT BROADMEAD CHAPEL, BRISTOL.
Joshua, xxiv. 15. —" And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye thit day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
In discoursing on this passage of Scripture in the preceding part of the day, the occasion on which Joshua spoke these words was largely noticed. It was observed, that it was on the occasion of his assembling the people of Israel together to hear his last charge, to receive his instructions respecting their adherence to the service and worship of the eternal God. It was an assembly held at Shechem, a place distinguished in an eminent degree by past events connected with the history of religion. We had occasion to observe the manner in which Joshua managed the treaty, which he was attempting to make between the people of Israel and Jehovah, with a view to confirm the covenant into which they had already entered with Him on past occasions. He proceeded with great skill, and with a consummate knowledge of human nature. He presents his own example, and that of his family, in the first instance, as likely to have a powerful influence in consequence of the respect in which his station and character were held. He draws from them most impressive declarations of their determination to adhere to the service of God: but not satisfied with
this, he proves them still further—he brings them to the test by reminding them of those parts of the Divine character which might be supposed to repel their attachment. He reminds them that God is a holy God, and would not forgive their transgresions and sins ; and he goes so far as to say, "Ye cannot serve the Lord." This he uttered, no doubt, with a latent suspicion of the religion of some in the assembly. He knew that there were some who flattered him with their lips, while their hearts were not right with God, and he designed this as a test. But still the people adhered to their determination; after this discouraging representation they declare their determination to persist in their attachment to the God of Israel. "Nay," said they, "but we will serve the Lord, and Joshua said unto the people, ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen the Loud to serve him, and they said we are witnesses,"
That there were still among them images of deities and idols is certain, and with a view to extort a sacrifice of these it was, that he uttered the following language: "Now, therefore, put away the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart I unto the Lord God of Israel. And the I people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we senre, and his voice will we obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem." You were reminded that religion was a matter of choice—that God deals with us as reasonable creatures, and that he proposes to us motives of the strongest and most forcible description to accept the overtures that he makes to us ; but, at the same time, He leaves it to our own examination, without using any physical force by the instrumentality of creatures or second causes to extort our consent; and we must recollect, that we are responsible for the choice we make, and that that choice ought to be most deliberate. Religion and her ministers disdain to take advantage of a sudden impulse, and wish to have only such converts as will adhere to its sacred cause and endure to the end, and who have come to that determination, after ample and serious consideration of the evils, difficulties, and trials that beset their path. Jesus Christ, when he gave instruction to his followers, acted in the same candid and open manner as Joshua. He reminded his disciples, that instead of seeking great things in the present world, they were to count on nothing but dishonour; they were to take up their cross, and deny themselves daily if they would follow him. The nature of that service we then proceeded to state to be the worship of God, and the surrender of ourselves to his command and to his will, so as to be governed in all things by his holy precepts. And it is to be observed, that the three ingredients to render this worship acceptable, are sincerity in the objects of it—obedience in the performance of it—and perpetuity of duration, and continuance and adherence to the end.
And now, Lastly, we have to state Some Or The Seasons Why We Should Close With The Resolution Of Joshua—Why We Should Say With Him, "as Por Us And Our Houses,
WE WILL SERVE THE LORD." This,
my dear brethren, is a part of the undertaking of a Christian minister to which we are utterly inadequate; and though we may state sufficiently to the satisfaction of ourselves and the consciences of our hearers, why the service of God ought to be chosen, it is only in an humble dependence on the Divine agency that we can attempt it; but as God is pleased to make use of motives we are bound to have recourse to these—we are bound to declare those truths of the word of God which, though ineffectual in themselves, are salvation to every one who believes; nor is it at all unnecessary for Christians who have already chosen God, and who walk in his ways, to be reminded of the reasons which first produced that choice, and the evidences on which their religion rests. These are very deep and permanent grounds that will support the stress we lay on them, and the more they are viewed the more will they support us. There cannot be a more wholesome exercise to Christians than to retrace their reasons for serving God, and to make themselves familiar with the obligations on which this great duty rests. Let me, then, as I observed before, in humble dependence on the Divine agency and blessing of God, briefly remind you of some of the reasons, the most obvious and striking, for making the resolution of Joshua our own resolution.
In the first place, it is our duty to serve the Lord from the relation in which toe stand to him, and the unspeahable benefits we derive from his goodness. The relation in which we stand to him is most important and intimate; it is that of creatures to a Creator, of the thing to Him that formed it. We can entertain no idea of a relation equal to this; we can form nothing—we can bring nothing into being which had not a being before; our power consists only in changing the relation which parts of objects bear to each other; and though we can modify the minds of our fellowcreatures, we can give birth to no faculty of the mind, much less can we give birth to the mind itself—not to any particle of matter, much less to those laws which guide its operation. God is our Creator, and he is most emphatically the father of our spirits; he has given being to those faculties of body and mind which constitute our complex nature. Now, surely, he that has given us existence has a right to prescribe the acts of that existence— he that has given us a power of action has a right to prescribe the manner in which that power shall be exercised— he that has made us capable of happiness has a right to guide us with sovereign authority in the way to it, and to point out the condition on which it is to be attained—he, in short, who has made man, must be the being entitled to govern him with an absolute dominion, and with a universal and unlimited control, suited to the nature of that relation in which we stand to God as our Creator. "Shall the thing formed, say to him who formed it. Why hast thou made me thus?" We are but clay, and he is the potter. Surely, the great Lord has a right to do that which he will with his own, and consequently, to impress on them those laws, and command them to all sort of service, the obligations of which is so clear and certain from this mysterious relation. But consider, besides this, that God is your benefactor, your rich heavenly benefactor. He is your Almighty friend and patron; He is the Being from whence all your mercies have sprung; He is the Being who has watched over you for good, who has preserved you
from innumerable evils, who has given you all things richly to enjoy, who has kept alive the breath of life which would have been extinguished had it not been continued every moment by his inspiration; He it is who has inspired the hearts of your friends with that friendship they feel, and your parents with that tenderness which led them to protect you when you were unconscious of it. All the affections that spring up in social life are the effect of His benificence, they have been grafted by His hand, and sustained continually by the goodness of His providence. You cannot think of a single enjoyment but what is entirely his gift; and every moment of your existence it is, through his mercy, that you are not consumed.
But besides this, as guilty creatures, the Divine Being has redeemed you with the price of his precious blood; He revealed his heaven to you in order to attract your attention—to win you from the world—to cause you to aspire to the honour of being the children of God, and the heirs of immortality. He has appointed you to be a light to the world; he has given us the society of saints, the communion of his people, the ordinances of his house, and the ministry of his word. He has given you a companionship with a superior order of beings who will after a time be our inseparable and eternal companions. What hath the Lord not done for us as a God of providence and a God of grace, and on account of which we should not for a moment hesitate in yielding ourselves to him, in giving up ourselves entirely to his disposal?
But in the next place, the grand distinction of man above the. other creatures, consists in such a constitution of our nature, as appiars to have no other end or object but of that of qualifying us for the end of worshipping God. It has been observed many thousands of times, and on that account is the more likely to be true, that the great distinction of man from the other creatures, is his susceptibility of religion. He becomes susceptible of religion by being capable of understanding moral distinctions—he is able to discern between right and wrong—he has a sense of law—he feels the obligation to gratitude which springs from benefits received—he recognizes cause and effect; and could ascend, and would, no doubt, but for the secret aversion of the heart from what is good, to the invisible things of God. This is the grand distinction of human nature; not that it possesses Reason only, but that it possesses Reason capable of expressing itself, and capable of feeling its obligations to an Almighty Creator and gracious benefactor. This part of our nature has no proper scope but in religion; and he that neglects religion and refuses to serve God, loses the great end of his being, loses the great design for which he was created a rational creature, capable of being governed by an Holy God, and of finding happiness in God. Hence the degrading terms in which the Scripture usually speaks of such: they are represented as "slaves," as "in bondage and corruption," as " led captive by Satan at his will," as "blind," and so on. These expressions, though they are figurative, are intended to denote a great truth, they are in the state of rational creatures who are destitute of the fear of God; and such faculties as they have fail to discover and adore their Creator, and serve and worship Him according to his revealed will. Were man not intended to be religious and to be the creature of a moral government, he would have been differently constituted from what he is, and the marks that he bears about him of his lofty condition would be wanting; and that they are found in him are plain indications of the in
tention and design of the Divine Being in forming him for himself. Unless we show forth the praise of God, and order our lives according to his will, the province of our existence is in vain. In the next place, let it be remarked, that although there are many circumstances which may influence persons to draw back from the service of God; yet, at the same time, these are not of a nature for a moment to justify them in not coming to the resolution contained in the text. We are reminded that there are some to whom it seems an evil thing to serve the Lord : " If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, chooseyethis day whom ye will serve." Now, the grand reason why men feel a disinclination to religion springs from the sacrifices they are obliged to make to their sinful lusts, and to live according to the rules of virtue, sobriety, and religion. But that this, which is the only excuse for our not taking up the yoke of obedience, will not justify us, is evident from two considerations. In the first place, there is nothing withheld from us by His prohibition but what is better for us to forego than to possess. The only prohibition is the indulgence of evil and sin; and sin is a disease in our moral nature which it is infinitely better to have cured than to retain; and they who are contending for the privilege of living in sin, and walking without rule, and gratifying the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, inherit eternal death. There is more than a compensation, even in the present life, by the advantages which piety and virtue bring to their possessor than any of the exercises of sinful pleasure; so that that saying is verified which our Lord spoke, "If any man lose father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or wife, or children for his sake, he shall receive a hundred fold in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting." But although this