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Joshua's refolution to ferve the Lord.
JOSHUA xxiv. 15.
If it feem evil unto you to ferve the Lord; chufe you this day whom you will ferve, whether the gods which your fathers Served, that were on the other fide of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whofe land ye dwell: but as for me and my houfe, we will ferve the Lord.
Good refolution to begin the new year with. This text directs us to the very beft choice we can make, both for time and eternity. Chufe you this day whom ye will ferve, faid Fofbua to the tribes of Ifrael, when they were affembled together. I have call'd you together here this day, to make the very fame propofal to you, and efpecially to thofe of you who are now in the chufing time of life, that is in your younger years; Chufe you this day whom you will ferve, God or the world, Christ or Satan.
We are this day entring upon a new year; and now methinks it would be very proper to take it into fober confideration, what we purpofe to do this year, if it fhall please God to fpare us, and what mafter we shall refolve to ferve. Would to God, we might every one take up Joshua's refolution in the text! As for me and my boufe, we will ferve the Lord.
As for the occafion of his fpeaking these words, the story lies thus. After Joshua had fafely conducted the tribes of Ifrael into the promised land, and fettled them in the quiet poffeffion of it; he was defirous alfo to fettle them in the true religion, and confirm them in the fervice of God, before he died. He had always had their intereft much at heart; and he well knew that this would be their best fecurity, after he was gone: but he alfo knew their evil difpofition to idolatry, and was much afraid, leaft after he was dead, they would forfake the Lord, and turn afide after strange gods. He was willing therefore, before he died, to get their folemn promise upon it, that they would never forfake their God. For this end he calls a general affembly of all Ifrael, and, in a very moving speech to them, he proposes such confiderations, as fhould engage them to be ftedfaft in the service of their God: for this, he runs over their great deliverances, and the miracles of kindness which God had wrought for them; he appeals to their own confciences, that God had been faithful to
them in performing all that he had promised: and now, in our text, he puts the matter to their choice, and defires to know their refolution about it, but with all tells them, what he was refolved upon, for his own part, let them do what they would, Chufe you this day whom ye will ferve, &c. There are three or four obfervations which are easy to be made. from this text, and may be of general use.
1.) That religion must be the matter of every ones own choice. Chufe you whom ye will ferve. Fofhua had done great things for Ifrael, he had led them over the river Jordan without bridge or boat, he had conquered a whole country for them, and driven out their enemies before them, he had divided their poffeffions among them, and fettled them as a body politick; but, after all, Joshua could not make one foul of them truly religious, that must be the matter of their own choice: he could only advise them, and perfuade them, and then leave it to themselves to chufe, whether they would ferve the Lord or no.
Humane laws and penalties may affright men into an outward profeffion of religion; but that is the moft they can do, for they cannot force the choice of the mind: it is quite out of their power to change and renew the foul. Your parents and your minifters cannot make you truly good; they can but inftruct you, and advise you, and pray for you, and many times they pity you, and weep for you in fecret; but the matter lies in your
own choice, whether you will devote yourfelves to God or no.
Let none therefore build too much on a pious education, as if that would fave them : let none expect too much from the prayers of others, whether parents, or minifters, or any other godly perfons, as if thefe would procure them the favour of God, and a pafs-port into heaven, for after all, you must chufe for yourfelves, and ferve the Lord yourselves, or all that your best friends in the world can do for you will avail you nothing.
2.) There is a fufficient hint in our text for this farther obfervation, that most persons make a very ill and imprudent choice in this matter. Chufe you whom you will ferve, the gods which your fathers ferved, or the gods of the Amorites, in whofe land ye dwell, or the living and true God. Their fathers had ferv, ed idols, and fo did all their neighbours round about them; and Joshua was not a little jealous leaft they should do fo too.
Religion was never a general thing in the world fince the fall of Adam. At the time of the flood there was but one godly family to be found any where; in all Sodom there was but one good man left; and, it should seem, that there was fuch a general defection from religion in Joshua's time, and even in Ifrael, that the good man was apprehenfive, that he and his family might be left to ferve the Lord by themselves. If we come down to the times
of the gospel difpenfation, whereby the fpiri tual kingdom of God in this world is greatly enlarged to what it was before; yet Chrift calls his flock a little flock, and he fays, that ftrait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that Find it, Matt. vii. 14. that is, few in comparifon with the multitudes which go to deftruction. There are few, but very few comparatively, who make Joshua's refolution and choice, that they will ferve the Lord. Here the world, and the flesh, and the Devil have many more fervants than God. "In chufing my religion then, I muft not "follow the multitude; in other matters, "and things indifferent, I will not affect to "be fingular, but if I would go to heaven, "I muft differ in my religion from the "greatest part of the world: nay in this I
may happen to ftand alone, and not have "one friend nor relation to bear me compa"ny; and for this I may become the jeft of
all mine acquaintance: let it be fo, faith Joshua, yet I am refolved, that as for me, "and my boufe, we will ferve the Lord." Which brings me to a third obfervation.
3.) That whatever others do, and whatever choice they make, it is our duty, and our prudence to ferve the Lord. In fuch a cafe as this, a wife man will be content to stand alone, and to go counter to the opinion and practice of a whole world. Thus Joshua re