« AnteriorContinua »
remember the dying words of your heavenly Redeemer, who, unwilling to lay any unnecessary burden on human infirmity, only said, “ Do
THIS IN REMEMBRANCE of me.'
ON THE DUTY OF ATTENDING TO THE RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES AND CONDUCT OF OUR OWN HOUSEHOLD.
JOSHUA XXIV. 15.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
JOSHUA, the venerable leader of the hosts of Israel, having by his valor and his wisdom established the Jewish people in the promised land of Canaan, assembled the elders, the judges, and officers of all the tribes at Shechem, and recounted to them the many signal instances of divine mercy, and protection, which they had experienced. He began with the call of their father, Abraham, dwelt on their deliverance from Egypt by Moses and Aaron, and concluded by mentioning the victories, which, by the blessing of Providence, they had recently obtained over the Canaanitish nations, and re
minding them of the actual possession of their enemy's country.
These benefits and blessings he considers as a direct call on them to forsake for ever the follies and absurdities of idolatry, and to establish in their minds the worship of Jehovah, the only true God. When he was now more than a hundred years old, and saw his latter end fast approaching, he was extremely anxious, as every ruler ought to be, on this important point. Noticing, therefore, the land which they now occupied; for which, as he observed, they did not labor, the cities which they inhabited, but which they did not build; and the vineyards and oliveyards, of which they eat, but which they had not planted; he wished to establish their religious worship, in future, on the broad and solid basis of devout love, gratitude, and adoration; and then addressed them in these impressive words.
"Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt, and serve ye the Lord." But, that their religion might have the character of a voluntary, conscientious service;-that it might be founded on the devotion of the heart, and not be considered merely
as an established form, imposed by arbitrary authority, he continued to address them thus"But if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood," (meaning by the flood, the river Euphrates,) "or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:" for, as to the shocking anomaly of living without a national religion, that seems not to have entered his mind.
Having thus appealed to the experience, which the eventful history of their forefathers afforded, to their recent conquests, and the many blessings of their present condition, he left the momentous affair to their own decision, and concluded with the remarkable declaration in the text-"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." The context, therefore, exhibits a memorable and instructive example of a ruler anxious, before his death, to establish the people whom he governed, by an eloquent appeal to their reason and their passions, in the worship of the only true God; but without offering any thing like compulsion, or exercising over the assembled tribe any undue authority. The whole may be considered as an instance of
that sound and liberal toleration, with respect to religion, which, if surrounded with bigots, persecutors, and fanatics, we should so much need and value ourselves, and which we should, therefore, be always ready to grant to others.
This conduct of Joshua, which appears to have been the last public act of his life, and in which wisdom, true liberality, and patriotism were combined, had the desired effect; for the people unanimously exclaimed, "God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods!-we will serve the Lord."
In discoursing farther on the words of the text, I wish particularly to direct your attention to the pious resolution, which this illustrious chieftain had formed, and the actual responsibility, with which he thought himself invested, in regard to his own house; that is, his own household, comprising the whole of his domestic establishment, at least, if not every branch of his kindred and family. A due consideration of his sentiments and conduct, on this occasion, may lead to a train of reflections, which will render the words of the text at all times seasonable, but more especially at present, and replete with practical wisdom.
In the first place, few will attempt to deny,