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Joshua 24:16-31 -

A great decision.

One of the beautiful things about Scripture is the fine endings of all courses in which God has been leader. This book is no exception. The last view we have of Israel shows them entering into a solemn covenant with God, and one which, speaking roundly, all who made it kept. They respond grandly to Joshua's challenge. "God forbid that we should serve other gods." And even when reminded of the difficulty of serving Him, their purpose remains unshaken. In this great decision there are many things worth noting.

I. HE WHO LEADS MEN RIGHTLY WILL NEVER LACK FOLLOWERS , Some say, Go, and men go not. But when they say, "Come with us," they find men responsive. Advice that costs nothing is futile, but example that costs much constrains. Joshua leads grandly, because he moves before the people. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." It is strange the contagiousness of faith and goodness; the force of unconscious influence. The courage of another wakes courage; the honour of another wakes honour. The faith of others is itself "evidence of the things unseen." A man like Joshua is a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, that "marshals men the way that they were going." However arduous the calling to which you summon men, if you can say, "As for me, I will serve," you will always be answered by some, "We will serve the Lord." Despair not of holy and saving influences. Every one marching on the Divine way of duty, mercy, faith will have more followers than he dared to hope for. It is the grandest illustration of the influence of man on man that we can guide men even to heaven itself by the constraint of a good example. Note this, the good leader has always good followers. [See a beautiful treatment of this subject in Horace Bushnell's sermon on 'Unconscious Influence.'] Secondly observe—

II. A GREAT DECISION SHOULD BE SOLEMNLY AND FORMALLY MADE . He leads them to make a formal covenant with God. He constrains them at once to give up their idols, and in the spot where Jacob had buried the idols which his family had brought with them from Padanaram he buries them; and he sets up a pillar as a memorial. These several things all tend to fortify and consolidate the resolution to which they had come. Sometimes we make a great decision, but fail to keep it through some neglect to fortify it with special solemnities. One great object of the sacraments ordained by the Saviour, unquestionably, was to give to religious decisions this solemn and formal character. They were meant to bring vague feelings to a point; to detach utterly from the world; to attach strongly to the Saviour. If we mean to serve Christ, the idols should be brought out and buried, and the covenant rites of God entered into. There should be openness, for without confession we remain constantly amid entanglements. There should be thoroughness, for a great change is often more easily made than a gradual one. There should be the sacramental covenant and vows that we may have at once the strength and the constraint which come with the feeling that we belong to God. As here the determination was avowed—carried out thoroughly—solemnised in a covenant—so ours should be. Men do not know what they lose by a secret and uncovenanted sanctity. When we are secret disciples there is a perpetual danger of the secresy destroying the discipleship. We lose the protection of a definite position, the power that lies in fellowship, and much of the usefulness which our goodness might carry if it were not counteracted by our reserve. If you are deciding to serve God, let your decision be thorough, open, sacramental. Observe lastly—

III. THE GRAND RESULTS OF THIS GREAT DECISION . Sometimes good resolves are badly kept. They are like "grass on the house tops, which withereth afore it groweth up." Whether they are well kept or not depends largely on whether they are well made. Generally it will be found where they are broken that there was some defective part: sin not wholly left; the surrender to God not absolutely made. Here the great decision is worthily and thoroughly made, and the grandest results flow from it.

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