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Preached on the day of National Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, 1759,
JOSHUA xxiii. 11.
Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love
the LORD your God.
THESE are the words of a soldier and a saint; a soldier, equally brave and successful; a saint, distinguished by the testimony of God himself. They are the words of Joshua, the victorious leader of God's ancient people, and make a part of that solemn valedictory speech wbich he pronounced in a national assembly of his countrymen a little before his death.
The same happy union of fortitude and piety which had rendered his active life so glorious, still shone forth with undiminished strength to adorn the concluding scene. Never did the magnanimity of the soldier, never did the piety of the saint, never did the generous zeal of the patriot, appear with more becoming grace and dignity, than when this great and good man rose up in the presence of all his brethren, and thus addressed the tribes of Israel : “I am old and stricken in age; and ye have seen all
I that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is he that hath fought for you. Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. And the Lord your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight, and ye shall possess their land, as the Lord your God hath promised unto you. Be ye therefore very courageous, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom, to the right hand or to the left; that ye come not among these nations, these that remaiu amongst you, neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them; but cleare unto the Lord your God as ye have done unto this day. For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong; but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand; for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as be hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord
“How forcible are right words !” Well did Solomon say, that “the tongue of the wise is health,” and “ a word fitly spoken, like apples of gold in pictures of sil. ver.” An address more worthy of the speaker, or better adapted to those who heard it, cannot be devised, than that which these verses present to our view. The Jews were at this time in full possession of the promised land; every man dwelt safely under his vine, and undler his fig-tree; neither was there any to make them afraid; for the Lord bad given them rest from all their enemies round about.” By a train of the most astonishing victories, they had totally subdued the nations of Canaan, whose country they divided by lot among themselves. Such a valuable conquest, equally complete and glorious, afforded matter of joy and triumph to
them all; but chiefly to Joshua, who conducted their arms, and to whose wisdom and valour, as the means under God, they were visibly indebted for all their success.
Here then was a theatre on which ambition and vain glory might have acted their parts to great advantage; nay, they might have done it almost without fear of detection or reproof. No claim of merit would have been thought excessive, no applause too high, no reward too great, for such an illustrious hero as Joshua ; and had his speech been artfully framed to exalt himself, the effect of it would probably have been similar to that of Herod's oration, when the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.”
But Joshua possessed “another spirit.” Long had he been dead to pride and self-interest. He sought not his own praise, but the honour of his God, and the prosperity of his brethren. He reminds them, indeed, that he had often led them to victory and triumph; but, with the same breath, he reminds them also, that it was the Lord their God that fought for them.” They got not the land by their own sword, neither did their own bow save them, but the right hand and arm of Almighty Jehovah.” To him therefore the sole-tribute of praise was due: this was the important truth which Joshua chiefly recommended to the attention of his hearers. And now knowing that the time of his departure was at hand, as the last and strongest proof of his affection and care, with the authority of a governor he commands, with the bowels of a father he intreats, and, with all the seriousness of a dying saint, he obtests them to love the Lord their God.
This, my brethren, is the charge which the best of kings, our truly magnanimous and most gracious sove.
reign, doth this day address to us. He hath called us together by his royal proclamation, to return public thanks to Almighty God, for the variety of great and public blessings which bave enriched and distinguisbed this memorable year. The preceding year was indeed glorious; but of this it may be said with a peculiar emphasis, that it excels in glory. Even to the present day, the series of victory remains unbroken; no defeat hath stained our national honour, nor any public disaster interrupted our joy. Hitherto our sunshine hath been clear and unclouded. Amidst the tumults and horrors of surrounding war, blessed with uncommon plenty at home, we enjoy all the comforts of domestic peace; whilst every quarter of the world hath beheld our triumphs, and on every element, by sea and by land, success bath crowned the British arms. Success I say, of the best and most valuable kind; for the fruits of our victories are not the romantic and airy additions of military fame, but advantages of a substantial and more enduring nature;—the increase of our naval strength, which experience hath shown to be the surest means of our defence; the enlargement of our commerce, the great source of our wealth ; the protection of our king's electoral dominions, unjustly invaded on our account; and the secu. rity of our colonies from the inroads and devastations of merciless savages, rendered still more savage by the instigation and example of perfidious Frenchmen. These are laurels which wither not; acquisitions of real and permanent worth, which, with humble boldness, we may publish to the world, and even avow to our own hearts, as becoming grounds of thanksgiving to that God, “who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works ; who executeth judgment for the oppressed, but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down."
This King of heaven, “ who abaseth those who walk in pride; all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment;" we praise, extol, and honour this day, as the author of these signal and unmerited blessings. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us;" not unto the wisdom of our counsellors, not unto the valour of our troops, though both have equalled our wishes, and even exceeded our hopes; yet, not unto these, but“ unto the name of God," is all “ the glory” due. He it was wbo taught our senators wisdom; He it was who girded our soldiers with strength; it was the Lord who fought for us in every successful enterprise; who, in Germany and Canada, revealed his mighty arm on our side; who hath thus far prospered our righteous cause, and made us to triumph over them that hate us.
Justly may we say with the church of old, “ O sing" unto the Lord a new song, for he hath done marvellous things; bis right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The Lord hath made known his salvation, his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen: he hath remembered mercy towards" Britain ; " all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."
But, my brethren, thanksgiving and praise are only a part of the tribute we owe. Joshua made a farther demand upon his countrymen. And as our situation, in some of its most important circumstances, is apparently similar to theirs; the same charge that was given to them, with the utmost propriety may be addressed to us :
Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God. For,
In the first place, It is for this very end that national mercies are bestowed. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,” is the first