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means which he thinks best ; if it may be, by gentle influence and secret whispers of the Spirit; but if needs be, by sharper and more grievous admonitions ! And if our hearts cannot be softened till they are broken, even so may he make them his own! for a broken and a contrite heart, O Lord, wilt thou not despise.
CHOICE OF A RELIGION.
JOSHUA XXIV, 15.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose
you this day whom ye will serve.
When Joshua gave this direction to the children of Israel, he did not intend to say, that they were at liberty to choose between the gods whom their fathers, in times of ignorance, had served, or the gods of the Amorites, and the Lord who had delivered them out of Egypt, as though no very important consequences depended upon the choice: but that it was necessary for them to adopt a decided line of conduct; and either to devote themselves in good earnest to the service of Jehovah; or to be considered as choosing the service of other gods, whom their fathers had served, who dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time ;' to follow the idolatrous practices of the people amongst whom they lived; and to take the consequences. It was as if he had said ; You may perhaps repine at the strictness of that law, which the Lord has imposed upon you; the burthensome ceremonies, and multiplied observances which it requires. If you think that these are not more than counterbalanced by the advantage of having the Lord himself for your king and protector, you can, and probably will give way to the idolatrous errors and abominable indulgences of your heathen neighbours. Be it so : you will then have made your choice; and you know what reward to expect. But do not flatter yourselves, that you can serve both the true God, and the gods of the Amorites, at one and the same time; the two services are utterly incompatible. Therefore make your choice once and for all.
Mine is already made : as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people answered and said ; God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.
I come now at once to the application of this text; and intend to show, that what Joshua called upon the children of Israel to do, must be done by every reasonable creature; at least by every one who has ever heard of revealed religion. To all such, it is the language of reason, as well as of the Scriptures, as soon as they are able to discern between moral good and evil; Choose you this day whom ye will serve.
1 Josh. xxiv. 2.
Unless a man is certain, which he never can be, that his soul will perish together with his body, religion can never be a matter of indifference to him. In any case he must choose between religion and no religion. Even the people of the heathen world, who had no knowledge of revelation, had yet such a knowledge of God, as rendered them accountable to him for their actions; and consequently made it imperative upon them to choose their religion : and for choosing wrongly they incurred the just displeasure of the Most High; because when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful — but became vain in their imaginations — and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four-footed beasts, and to creeping things.”
It is evident, that if God has been pleased to make a revelation of his will and purposes to mankind, that revelation is the only sure guide to which they can look, in matters of religion. If God has told them that they must believe certain truths, and practise certain duties, in order to secure his favour, no man can expect to escape his just anger, who disbelieves, or disobeys his words: and if there be in the world any religion, which is authenticated by sufficient evidence, as having been revealed to mankind by God, it cannot possibly be a matter of indifference with any man, to whom that religion is proposed, whether he receive it or not. No reasonable being is at liberty to pass it by, as of no importance; or to say, that he will not trouble himself to consider whether it be true or false. For the question, whether it be true, involves another most awful one, that of salvation or condemnation; and he, who refuses to look at it, or neglects to walk by it, does yet in effect make his choice: he chooses for himself condemnation. When the souls of all mankind shall be assembled before the judgment-seat of Christ, none may appeal from that tribunal, upon the plea, that they never considered the law of God proposed for their acceptance, nor made any choice of religion. The not having done so, is itself a sin deserving of punishment.
2 Rom. i. 21.