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BY BREWIN GRANT, B.A.
Outline of a Discourse addressed to the Glasgow Young Men's Sabbath Protection Association.
"If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this 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."JOSHUA Xxiv. 15.
THIS was a reasonable, noble, and manly appeal of Joshua to the people of Israel, that they should now make up their minds what they intended doing-openly and deliberately choose whom they would serve if they were not disposed to abandon their idols-if "it seemed evil to them to serve the Lord," they were to "choose, that day, whom they would serve;" whether the gods whom their fathers worshipped on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land they dwelt;" but whatever their decision might be, his course was clear-" as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Here is an example well worthy of our imitation, both in the rational and independent way of appealing to others, and in the conscientious determination on our own account, for ourselves and our house, that, at least, whatever others may do, our own line of conduct is decided upon; while the response of the people to this appeal should commend itself to all who have hitherto been undecided-" We also will serve the Lord; for He is our God."
Let us, then, consider this whole case, and regard the appeal of Joshua as one made to ourselves; and the answer of the people as one made by ourselves; and an answer given in the true spirit of earnestness, but with a devout reliance on the help of His grace, whom we promise to serve, to aid us in our service, and keep us loyal to our pledge and duty.
I. First notice the independence of the appeal, in throwing men on their own responsibilities; letting them clearly understand that it is their own concern, and not any favour bestowed on those who recommend religion to them.
For sometimes religion is treated as if it were a canvassing for an election, and as if every vote and adherent were some gain to a party. This makes it scorned and despised; as if to receive its principles, or to profess its hopes, were to confer an obligation on man, which can be given or withheld at pleasure. While those who advocate its claims seem sometimes to make religion go abegging, instead of walking forth in queenly majesty, uttering the sovereign commands of Heaven, and summoning the world to submission, as well as offering to the world salvation.
It is true that there is a beseeching and imploring attitude of pity and benevolence which the Gospel assumes towards some, praying them, in Christ's stead, as though God did beseech them by His messengers, to be reconciled to Him. But when this fails, when men assume a false independence, or a hardened indifference, the subject is placed coldly, calmly, and severely before them, as a question quite indifferent to those who urge it, and only the concern of those who are addressed.
When men with impudent hardihood say, we will not have your religion; we do not believe your Bible; the only answer is―That is your own look-out; we wish for your sakes that you did; but if you disbelieve and reject the offers of the Gospel, you are the losers; you deprive yourselves of all the blessings which the Saviour has purchased, but you do not escape the responsibility which He will enforce; if you choose to peril your immortal soul, to despise the great mercy displayed on the cross, be assured of this, that we shall never abandon it. Nor will it fail because you despise it; "the foundation of God abideth sure;" and for our part we shall hold to it, and wish you would join us; but, "if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord," choose for yourselves "whom you will serve," "but as for us and our house we will serve the Lord."
This is the first and leading characteristic of Joshua's appeal, the independence of the address, in throwing the people upon their own responsibility; to neglect religion at their own risk, “if it seem evil," to attend to their own concerns.
II. The second principle in the address is to treat religion as a question of reason on the one hand, and of free choice on the other.
The reason is, what it brings in its own nature, as something that not only demands attention, but deserves it; the free choice is what this reason is to bring us to. Here Joshua lays the
whole case before them; tells what God has done for them; shows how true He has been hitherto to His promises, in bringing them into that land as their inheritance. Josh. xxiii. 14-16.
He now puts it to them, which they will serve the gods of the Amorites, who had failed to defend the people against Israel; or that Jehovah, who had been as good as His word in keeping the promise of bringing them out of Egypt into this goodly land, who would equally be true to His threatenings to expel them also if they rebelled against His laws. In like manner God has fulfilled His promise that He would send Jesus to save us; and this is a proof that He will send Jesus to judge us; and He hath given a second "assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead." Thus the same appeal is made to our reason; we are led into the land of Canaan-into the promised inheritance of Gospel privileges. God has provided the Passover Lamb for us, carried us through the desert of ignorance and heathen wandering, and brought us into the possession of all the means of grace, that, by the "obedience of faith," we may secure all this blessedness as our eternal inheritance. "If we believe not, He abideth faithful;" He is true to His promises, for they are performed; and He will be true to His threatenings and warnings if these promises are despised.
The same free choice is placed before us in the Gospel; and after we are called by every moving consideration to accept the Saviour, if we refuse, the condemnation is, Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely."
If we perish, the guilt is on our own heads, since "God hath so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him,"-freely and heartily relies on His atoning, interceding, and sanctifying work,-".might not perish, but have, everlasting life." It is a matter of reason and free choice. We are the more bound, for our own sakes, to accept this opportunity of a free choice of salvation; because,
III. There is no middle course; it is either life or death, heaven or hell; we cannot trim between; we cannot unite God and mammon, Christ and the world; we cannot serve both; but we must serve one; the only question is, which shall it be? We are to "fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth," without any mixture, without any secret service of other gods; we are to put away all strange gods, as a pledge of our sincerity; “for
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but of the world." We are to forsake all and follow Christ; to "cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart;" as sheep we are to hear His voice, and know it, and follow Him; a stranger we are not to follow, for we are not to know the voice of a stranger. Our eyes and ears are to be closed to all but the Good Shepherd, who will lead all His sheep into safety, and give unto them eternal life.
But we cannot go two roads at once, nor stop at the crossing; we must be one thing or the other-saved or lost; a doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways, let not such a man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." Christ will not have a divided heart; God is a jealous God. He demands our entire and supreme affections, that we should serve Him with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Nothing is left for any other service. His glory He will not give to another; it must either be the Lord, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land we dwell; the God of Heaven to open our eyes, or the god of this world to blind them and lead us to destruction. There is no
middle course; choose ye which ye will take. Besides that, we have not two roads, but must take one or the other, so we have no time to lose; for,
IV. Fourthly, the decision should be now, while the matter is fairly before us; this day; as soon as we come to years of discretion, and learn the truths of religion, the value of the soul, the claims of the Saviour as our Priest and King. There is no room for delay, since His claim to us is now or never, as much now as ever it will be; and our chance is now, while God condescends to reason with us, saying, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; and though they be red as crimson, they shall be as snow;" as far as the east is from the west, so far will He put our transgressions from us;" for "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
"Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." It was at the time of their warning that Joshua sought to bring them to a decision. "Choose ye, this day;" do not wait to another; it is your own concern; the whole matter is laid before you; come now to a deliberate and enlightened decision. decision be?
What can such a
V. As the address is independent, throws the responsibility on
the hearer, and as the appeal is to free choice, so in the fifth place our decision should be independent of all other people; since we must answer for ourselves-whatever others do, "I will serve the Lord;" the stream of fashion shall not carry me down the falls of the gulf; I have been fooled by companions and fear of the world long enough; by God's grace, I will now begin to think for myself, fearing only God's frown, but no man's sneers, trembling only before Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, and, seeking, find His favours, who will glorify both soul and body in heaven.
Do not wait for anybody else. Tell them beforehand what you mean, and get them to join you if you can; but join yourself to the Lord in an everlasting covenant, and He will seal it with His own royal signet, and seal you with His own Holy Spirit.
Finally, while you are independent—a man on your own account by the Saviour's side-do not be unfeeling for others; do not let them draw you aside; but bring them with you if you can; and be sure that God will bless all wise attempts to serve Him by saving souls.
Look first to yourself, and then to 66 house; your as for me and my house," said Joshua, we will serve the Lord." He could answer for them. We cannot always do it, but we should always try. Let us ask ourselves as fathers, and as professors of religion, how far our example is the cause of others seeing it "evil to serve the Lord."
If ever any think ill of religion, it is either because they are evil themselves, and therefore naturally dislike what by its very goodness condemns them, or else, because they judge of it by their opinions of those who profess it. We cannot always avoid the ill opinion of censorious men, but we should seek never to deserve it, and, above all, to avoid those defects which tend to throw discredit on religion itself. Men have a right to look, especially, for justice and generosity, uprightness and benevolence, in the professors of religion; but when the most rigid formality is found associated with bitterness, injustice, and meanness, they are apt to take this one bad specimen for all religious people, and to transfer their dislikes to religion itself. This refers to our influence on the world; but, in our own families, with our children, still greater care is required, to avoid moroseness, and the enforcement of what they can neither understand nor appreciate; and, above all, to let them see that religion has an indirect influence on our whole