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FAMILY RELIGION IN GENERAL.
Joshua xxiv. 15.
A MORE striking scene can scarcely be beheld,
than that exhibited to our view in the history before us Joshua, the servant of the Lord, and the successor of Moses, at the head of a numerous house. hold, with a countenance which piety and age had made ferene and venerable, publicly announcing his own personal regard to religion, and offering his example in the government of his family to the imitation of all the tribes of Israel.
The assembly was large : it consisted of the people in general, with their elders, heads, governors, and of. ficers. They all felt the obligations they owed this great and good man, as their captain and leader, their ruler and judge ; and were in a dispo. fition, as the event shewed, to receive the instructions he should give them. He puts them in mind, therefore, of what God had done for their forefathers and for them, the fignal miracles he had wrought in
their favour, the glorious victories which through his interposition they had obtained, and the happy fruits they had reaped from them. And he then with great earneftness and affection entreats them to fear the Lord, and serve him in fincerity and truth, totally renouncing the idolatrous practices of the heathens. So he adds, in the verse of which our text is a part, “ If it “ seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, chuse you this “ day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which “ your fathers served on the other side of the flood, " or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye “ dwell."
The manner of his address is at once authoritative and persuasive. It is as if he had said, “ If, after “ you have duly weighed the facts which have been “ laid before you, and those of which you have been “ yourselves eye-witnesses, it should seem unreasona. “ ble, or any way prejudicial to your intereft, to serve “ the Lord, Jehovah--the God that rescued you from “ the cruel yoke of Pharaoh, led you through the wil. “ derness, and put you in poffeffion of this fair and * fruitful country ; chuse you this day whom you will " serve. Consider under whose protection ye will put “ yourselves, and whom it is most eligible to worship, “ whether the gods of your ancestors, Terah, Na“ hor, and others from whom your father Abraham “ sprung, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land " ye dwell, and who were utterly unable to defend “ their worshippers, or themselves, against the ven“ geance of Jehovah, the only living and true God." In such terms does he expose the great fin and folly of their becoming again idolaters, and at the same time teach them the infinite reasonableness and importance, not only of their profelling the true religion, but of their acting therein upon the grounds of the most deliberate confideration and choice.
He then adds in the text, But as for me and my boule, we will serve the Lord. As if he had said, - Whaterer effect these my reasonings and persuasions “ may have upon your minds, whether ye adhere to “ the true religion or renounce it, I am come to a point “ with myself upon the matter : it is my free, deli% berate and firm resolution to serve the Lord, to avow “ Jehovah for my God, in the face of the whole “ world, to render him the worship he has required, “ to aim at universal ohedience to his commands, and “.to endeavour, to the utmost of my ability, to pro“ mote his interests among mankind. This was the “ resolution I formed in early life; to this resolution I “ have hitherto adhered ; and, by the grace of God, “I am determined to abide by it to the end of my days. “ Nor am I fingular in this resolution: my family agree “ with me in it. They are all convinced it is both their “ duty and interest to serve the Lord. There is not “ a diffenting voice among them. And as to those of ** them who are not yet capable of discerning good " and evil, I will train them up in the fear of God. " By my authority I will restrain them from vice and “ fin, and oblige them to comply with the external “ forms of religion. By my counsels and instructions " I will endeavour to fix falutary impressions upon “their young and tender minds. By my example I “ will allure them to the practice of virtue and piety. "s And my inceffant cries shall ascend to heaven for the " blessing of God on these my well-meant exertions " for their good. As for me and my house, we will “ jer ve ihe Lord."
What a noble resolution was this, and how happily expressed! Never did Jofua appear to the eyes of the pious Israelites in a more venerable point of light than upon this occasion. His attitude, voice, countenance, and manner of address, we may be fure, all strongly marked his ardent zeal for the glory of God, and the tender ferlings of his heart for their real good. Nor was the effect inconfiderable, which this last fermon of his produced on the minds of this large and solemn audience. The people answered and said, “ God forbid, that we should forsake the Lord, to “ ferve other gods. We will serve the Lord, for he “ is our God *.”
And now the object we have in view, is to persuade you, Sirs, and ourselves, with great fincerity and cheerfulness, to adopt the language of the text. And should we succeed, how glorious will be the consequence! You will be happy and honourable in life, in death, and to all eternity. Yea, I will add, -a thought which cannot fail of inspiring every ingenuous mind with ardour,--you will be the instruments of making multitudes around you happy also. Let us then consider more particularly,
First, The import of this resolution which every good man, who is master of a family, forms in regard of himself-As for me I will serve the Lord. And,
Secondly, The influence which this resolution, rightly formed, will and ought to have upon his temper and conduct towards those under his care, “ I só will use my endeavours that my house also may serve 56 the Lord.”
* Ver. 16, 18.
First, Let us consider the import of this resolution in regard of the master of a family himself.
What we here mean is, to give a clear and compendious account of Personal-religion ; and the rather as this is the true and proper ground of Family religion. For if he who presides over a house is himself an utter stranger to the fear of God, it is much to be apprehended that there will be little of it among those under his care. Our ideas we will class under two heads-What it is to serve the Lord and the principles upon which every Christian man is disposed so ta do.
I. As to serving the Lord, it is a phrase that com. prehends in it the whole of our duty; the main branches of which are the worship of God--the living a holy life—and the using our influence to promote the cause of religion in the world.
God is to be worshipped. This is the main idea meant to be conveyed in the text, as is evident from the occasion on which the words were spoken, namely, the propensity of the Israelites to idolatry. YoJhua wished therefore to diffuade them from this great evil, and to engage them to the worship of the only living and true God. The modes of worship indeed under the present dispensation are different from those of the former, not tedious and expensive, but plain and fimple. We are to offer prayer and praise to God, in his house, in our own houses, and in our retirements. We are to profess our faith in Christ, through whose mediation we look for pardon and eternal life, by a submission to the two inftitutions of baptism and the Lord's supper. And we are devoutly to attend