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and art. As they are, I hope the candid and ingenuous readers will take them in good part.
And I do heartily wish, that all that are concerned in the respective duties treated on in the following sermons, would be persuaded fo to lay them to heart, as to put them effectually in practice : that how much foever the reformation of this corrupt and degenerate age in which we live is almost utterly to be despaired of, we may yet have a more comforta able prospect of future times, by seeing the foundation of a better world begun to be laid in the careful and conscientious discharge of the duties here mentioned; that by this means the generations to come may know God, and the children yet unborn
fear the Lord. I have great reason to be sensible how fast the infirmities of age are coming upon me, and therefore must work the works of him whole providence hath placed me in the station wherein I am, whilst it is day; because the night cometh when no man can work.
I knew very well, before I entered upon this great and weighty charge, my own manifold defects, and how unequal any best abilities were for the due discharge of it; but I did not feel this so sensibly as I now do every day more and more. And therefore, that I might make some small amends for greater failings, I knew not how better to place the broken Hours I had to spare from almost perpetual business of one kind or other, than in preparing something for the publick that might be of use to recover the decayed piety and virtue of the present age, in which iniquity doth so much abound, and the love of God and religion is grown so cold.
To this end I have chosen to publish these plain fermons, and to recommend them to the serious perufal and faithful practice both of the pastors and people committed to my charge; earnestly beseeching almighty God, that, by his b!elling, they may prove effečtual to that good end for which 1. hey are fincerely designed.
The S E R M O N.
J SHU A xxiv. 15.
The first sermon on this text.
Fter Joshua had brought the people of Israel into
the promised land, and settled them in the quiet
possession of it, his great desire was, to cstablish them in the true religion, namely, in the worship of the one true God, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and given them the possession of that good land, the land of Canaan.
And now, finding himself weak and declining, being an hundred and ten years old, and fearing lest after his death the people should fall off from the true religion to the worship of idols; he, like a wise and good governor, considers with himself what course he had best to take to keep them firm and stedfast in their religion, and to prevent their defection to the idolatry of the nations round about them.
And to this end he calls a general assembly of all If rael, chap. xxiii. 2. ; that is, of the elders, and heads, and judges, and officers of the several tribes; and, in a very wife and eloquent speech, represents to them in what a miraculous manner God had driven out the nations before them, much greater and stronger nations than they, and had given them their land to possess it; and, in a word, had performed punctually all that he had promised to them.
And therefore they ought to take good heed to themselves, to love God, and to serve him; and if they did not, he tells them, that it should come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the Lord yorur. God promisect you ; fo shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you, chap. xxiii. 15.
After this, he calls them together a second time, and gives them a brief historical account and deduction of the N 2
great mercies of God to them and their fathers, from the days of Abraham, whom he had called out from among his idolatrous kindred and countrymen, unto that day.
From the confideration of all which, he earnestly exhorts them to renew their covenant with God; and, for his particular satisfaction, before he left the world, folemnly to promise that they would for ever ferve God, and forsake the service of idols : Now therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him in fincerity and in truth; and pit away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the food, and in Egypt : and serve ye the Lord, chap.
And then, in the text, by a very elegant scheme of speech, he does, as it were, once more set them at liberty; and, as if they had never engaged themselves to God by covenant before, he leaves them to their free choice: And if it seem evil uinto you to serve the Lord, chuse 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.
Not that they were at liberty whether they would serve the true God or not; but to infinuate to them, that religion ought to be their free choice : and likewise, that the true religion hath those real advantages on its side, that it may safely be referred to any considerate man's choice: If it seem evil unto you; as if he had faid, if after all the demonstrations which God hath given of his miraculous presence among you, and the mighty obligations which he hath laid upon you, by bringing you out of the land of Egypt, and the house of bondage, by so outstretched an arm ; and by driving out the nations before you, and giving you their land to possess : if after all this, you can think it fit to quit the service of this God, and to worship the idols of the nations whom you have subdued, those vanquished and baffled deities: if you can think it reasonable so to do, but surely you cannot; then take your choice: If it feem evil unto you to ferve the Lord, chuse you this day whom je will ferve.
And to direct and encourage them to make a right choice, he declares to them his own resolution, which he hopes will also be theirs; and as he had heretofore been their captain, so now he offers himself to be their
example: but whether they will follow him or not, he for his part is fixed and immoveable in this resolution : But as for ME and my house, we will serve the Lord.
In effect, he tells them, I have proposed the best religion to your choice; and I cannot but think, nay I cannot but hope, that you will all stedfastly adhere to it; it is so reasonable and wise, so much your interest and your happiness to do it. But if you should do otherwise; if you should be so weak as not to discern the trùth, so wilful and so wicked as not to embrace it: though you should all make another choice, and run away from the true God to the worship of idols ; I for my part am stedfastly resolved what to do. In a case so manifest, in a matter so reasonable, no number, no example shall prevail with me to the contrary; I will, if need be, stand alone in that which is so evidently and unquestionably right: and though this whole nation should revolt all at once from the worship of the true God, and join with the rest of the world in a false religion, and in the worship of idols ; and mine were the only family left in all Ifrael, nay in the whole world, that continued to worfhip the God of Israel, I would still be of the fame mind; I would still persist in this resolution, and act according to it: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
A resolution truly worthy of so great a prince and so good a man: in which he is a double pattern to us.
1. Of the brave resolution of a good man, namely, that if there were occasion, and things were brought to that extremity, he would stand alone in the profesion and practice of the true religion : As for ME, I will serve the Lord.
2. Of the pious care of a good father and master of a family, to train up those under his charge in the true religion and worship of God: As for me and Mr HOUSE, we will serve the Lord.
I shall, at this time, by God's aslistance, treat of the first of these, namely,
First, of the brave resolution of a good man, that if there were occasion, and things were brought to that extremity, he would stand alone in the profession and practice of God's true religion : Chuse you this day (says Joshua) whom ye will ferve: but as for ME, I will serve the N 3
Lord. Joshua here puts the case at the utmost extremity, that not only the great nations of the world, the Egyptians and Chaldeans, and all the lesser nations round about them, and in whose land they dwelt, were all long since revolted to idolatry, and pretended great antiquity and long prescription for the worship of their false gods: but he supposeth yet further, that the only true and visible church of God then known in the world, the people of Israel, should likewise generally revolt, and forsake the worship of the true God, and cleave to the service of idols: yet, in this case, if we could suppose it to happen, he declares his firm and stedfast resolution to adhere to the worship of the true God; and though all others should fall off from it, that he would stand
alone in the profession and practice of the true religion : But as for ME, I will serve the Lord.
In the handling of this argument, I shall do these two things.
1. I shall consider the matter of this resolution, and the due bounds and limits of it.
2. I shall endeavour to vindicate the reasonableness of this resolution from the objections to which this singular and peremptory kind of resolution may seem liable.
I. I shall consider the matter of this resolution, and the due bounds and limits of it.
1. The matter of this resolution. Joshua here refolves, that if need were, and things were brought to that pass, he would stand alone, or with very few adhering to him, in the profession and practice of the true religion. And this is not a mere supposition of an impossible case, which can never happen: for it may, and hath really and in fact happened in several ages and plaçes of the world.
There hath been a general apostasy of some great part of God's church from the belief and profession of the true religion to idolatry, and to damnable errors and heresies : and some good men have, upon the matter, stood alone in the open profession of the true religion, in the midst of this general defection from it.
Elijah, in that general revolt of the people of Israel, when they had forsaken the covenant of the Lord, and broken down his altars, and flaix his prophets, and he only, as