Imágenes de página

of trifes. But the last words of a veteran officer under whom they had fought and conquered, of a wise and heaven-directed ruler, by whom they had been settled, according to their tribes, in pleasant and peaceable habitations, must, above all others, deserve to be heard and remembered for ever. He reminded them of all the mercies which God from time to time had shown to the nation, of the wonders that had been wrought, and the very minute and punctual manner in which the divine promises had been fulfilled. He urged from hence the return which they ought to make, and the bitter consequences which they might expect to follow their ingratitude and apostasy; since God would not be less exact in the infliction of his threats, than he had been in the performance of his promises. The means by which these likewise would be accomplished, were pointed out. Notwithstanding their establishment in Canaan, enemies of that establishment still subsisted, and were left for this very end, in case of their rebellion, “to be scourges in their sides, and thorns in “their eyes, till they perished from off the good land “ which the Lord their God had given them.” He then draws all his instructions and admonitions to a point, and thus leaves his testimony recorded against them, on the behalf of himself and his family—"If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve—but as for me and my house, " we will serve the Lord."

Such are the particulars of the case alluded to in the words of the text. The general instruction they contain may be drawn forth, for our own use, by considering, why we are to serve; whom we are to serve; and how we are to serve.

If we åttend to the writings of some, and the manners of more, in the present age, we shall be led to think, that we are not to serve either God or man; that we have nothing to do with church or state; that the world is a forest, into which we are turned loose, like so many wild asses' colts, to snuff up the wind, and run till we drop; in a word, that we are born free and independent. Alas, poor creatures ! free and independent, indeed! Why, we should not live six hours to an end, after our birth, in such a state. From the first moment in which we see light, we depend, for preservation and support, on the good offices of those around us, they depend on others, and all on God. One planteth, and another watereth ; but who else can give the increase? Who is it else that can direct the operations of the powers of nature, concerned in bringing food out of the earth; that can open the bottles of heaven to pour down a kindly rain; or can stay them when they threaten to overwhelm and destroy all the hopes of a promised harvesti Let others talk of matter and motion, of chance or necessity; WE praise thee, "O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.”

To behold the fair frame of the world, with the several parts so constructed as they are for use and beauty, and all the various movements carried on in it, and to suppose it had no Maker, must surely argue a great defect of understanding. " The fool bath " said in his heart, there is no God ;” and he is represented as having said it only in his heart, not daring to utter with his mouth so preposterous a sentiment. Lives there a man, who can look at a house, or even a plough, and imagine, for a moinent, that it made itself? How much less, then, the heavens and the earth, and the works that are therein ? Away with the idle fancy, the sick man's dream; it would be criminal to waste any more time in the consideration of it!

But shall we then suppose, that he who created the world has withdrawn himself from the care of it; that he regards not the creatures which he has inade, nor desires to be regarded by them? The supposition is unnatural and absurd. It was made by one sect of the Heathen only, in their lowest and darkest state, and that sect long abhorred by the rest for its folly and impiety. When riches flowed in froin the East, and luxury had corrupted the minds and unstrung the nerves of the old Romans, these tenets became fashionable; a circumstance which was thought, by wise men, to prognosticate and to hasten the downfall of the einpire. It is matter of melancholy reflection to observe, that the very same tenets have been of late revived and recommended in Great Britain, under the name and notion of philosophy, and are, if fame says true, daily gaining ground among the wealthy and the great, from whom they will soon descend to the middle and lower ranks, till the religious principle shall perish among us. May Heaven avert the omen, and save the land! The offence of Englishmen far exceeds that of the Romans, and is very greatly aggravated by this consideration : they who were atheists formerly, were atheists in opposition to a false religion; they who áre atheists now, are such in opposition to the true. The Son of God is coine, and has led us into all truth. The Scriptures have dispelled (and it ought to have been for ever) such gloomy and comfortless principles., They give us full assurance, that the providence of God extendeth itself over all things and all persons; that though his throne be indeed far removed from us, though it be exalted as the sun, yet that, like the sun, “Jebovah looketh from “ heaven, he beholdeth all the sons of men ; from “ the place of bis habitation he looketh upon all the “ inhabitants of the earth;” that he doth what the sun cannot do-" He fashioneth their hearts alike, es and considereth all their works;" that “the eyes

of "all wait on him, and he giveth them their food in due season."

Man being thus dependent, it is but reasonable that he should acknowledge such dependence, and that he should serve. We are to inquire,

Secondly, Whom he should serve? For, as the apostle has remarked, “there are gods many, and “ lords many," who in different ages have clained and obtained the homage of mankind. The point in dispute between Joshua and his people was not, whether they should serve at all, but whom they should serve, whether the gods of the nations around them, or Jehovah, the God of Israel.

It may seem difficult to account for, and even to conceive, that strange propensity which appears in the early ages of the world to the worship of idols, and of which nothing less than a seventy years' captivity in Babylon could finally cure the Israelites themselves. Before that event, notwithstanding all the miracles of power and goodness which God had wrought for them, we read continually of their forsaking him, and going over to the worship of strange gods. Who these strange gods were, or what charms they possessed, thus to bewitch and seduce the minds of persons better taught and instructed, deserves consideration.

Now it appears, by the testimony of all history, sacred and profane, that the oldest and first idolaters worshipped the creature instead of the Creator, the powers of nature instead of the God of nature. Receiving life, health, food, and many other blessings by means of the sun, the light, and the air, they forgot God who made those elements, and deemed them to be the gods that governed the world, supposing them to be endued with understanding and wisdom, as well as power and might.

This kind of idolatry perished long ago, with the nations among whom it was practised. But let us not imagine we ourselves are therefore free from the crime; since every man is guilty of it, who offers to the world or any thing in the world, the service which is due to God only.

The Scripture declares concerning covetousness, that it is idolatry; and concerning unbelievers and bad men in general, that they serve the god of this world. . He, therefore, who devotes his time and his pains, his words and his actions, his heart and his affections, to the pursuit of power, wealth, or pleasure, in effect revives the old idolatry, and virtually

« AnteriorContinuar »