TAKE GOOD HEED, THEREFORE, UNTO YOUR SELVES, THAT YE LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD."--(Josh. xxiii. 11). "AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WIll SERVE THE LORD."--(Josh. xxiv. 15.)
The testimony of Triumph was not permitted to be the close of the Book of Joshua. The aged Leader of God's people, looking to their future as well as to their past, had a solemn message to leave with them before he was gathered to his fathers. Once and again he must speak those words of cheer, and words of warning, that pressed upon his spirit. His deep interest in the nation, and his own sense of responsibility, received an unmistakable emphasis in the second gathering at Shechem, where the Elders and Judges "stood before God," while Joshua, with all intensity of earnestness, gave his parting charge.
There was no new thing to say; but simple as the exhortation was, momentous were the interests that hung upon their heeding. He reminded them of what the Lord had done in the past--of what He was ready to do in the future. It was the Lord who would still fight for them, and continue to drive out their enemies; therefore one man of them should chase a thousand. But as He had brought all good things upon them, so would He, if they turned away from Him, bring upon them all evil things. St. Paul repeated the same charge in substance, when he wrote to the Church in Rome: "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God--on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."  By reason of such hopes, and by reason of such fears, they were to be very courageous to keep and do all that had been commanded. From idols and false gods, and from all who served them, they were to turn utterly away. And that all this might be accomplished, there was given one golden watchword-- "take Good Heed Therefore Unto Yourselves, THAT YE LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD."  As God has no other power whereby to draw us unto Himself than His "bands of love," so has He no other power by which to hold us steadfast unto the end. It is the only clew that has been given us, to lead us safely out from the labyrinth of life, and we may not let it slip; for losing this, we wander in "the mist of darkness forever." With weightiest reason, therefore, did the dying Leader of his people say, "Take good heed that ye LOVE the Lord your God."
The first pass-word given to the youthful soldier is "Trust;" but as the hours move on, he finds that he must learn still another to secure his safety--"Watch." The Captain of our salvation who gave the first so often, gave this also at the last. Sitting on the Mount of Olives, with none but Peter and James and John beside Him, He could not say it to them only; but His holy care took us all into His thought that hour:--"What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch."  How solemnly He spoke it in the Garden! Temptations were gathering thick around them; therefore they were to watch with an eye glancing at the enemy, even while resting evermore upon God:--"Watch and PRAY, that ye enter not into temptation."  And there was yet another need to watch. The Master was coming in the Morning; but neither man nor angel knew when that morning would dawn: and meantime the thief would be seeking to enter;--"Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." 
So, also, St. Paul at Miletus, looking for the last time on that dear flock from Ephesus, foresees the grievous wolves, and straightway charges them, "Therefore, Watch!" Already by the space of three years, he had not ceased to warn every one night and day with tears. But still the peril will come. Even from among those very men, now weeping sore upon his neck, will some arise to speak perverse things; and unless they watch, others still will be drawn away--"Take Heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock." 
St. Peter, also, counted it not enough to tell in his last Epistle, of exceeding great and precious promises; but looking on to the days of "false teachers" and "destructive heresies," he gives thus his closing charge: "Beloved, BEWARE lest ye also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." 
At the close of that most wonderful Epistle, which above all others, tells us of Life, and Light, and Love, with what startling abruptness come the closing words--as though the Apostle had said already his last tender thoughts, and then turned again to utter this one brief warning--"Little children, beware of IDOLS." 
Finally, when the Lord Jesus, walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks, sends forth His messagesto the Churches, it is to sound successive notes of warning, even while holding out the highest promises. The solemn charge to Sardis is more or less the common burden of all--"be Watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." 
If one would understand the necessity for such warnings from age to age, let him but turn to the records of that Church which Christ purchased with His own blood. "So safe," is our thought at first, as we look upon our Surety. So safe with such a Saviour--so safe through the might of the indwelling Spirit. But these records, what say they? There is no study that is so passing sorrowful as Church History, even with all that also makes it joyful. Behold how quickly the wolves break in, and the slaughter and scattering of the sheep! Behold the heavy mists of speculative thought rising along the stagnant shores of old Philosophy, and spreading far and wide, till the pure air is poisoned in the homes of thousands! Behold the floods of worldliness let loose, and sweeping along the multitude! Behold, again, the gross darkness that covers the people, till they weary themselves as in the very fires, to purchase peace and pardon!
And even when the Lord came forth so marvellously to restore the lost Truth, and sent a new Morning, and a glad Spring-time to the world--behold how speedily once more, there came the blighting winds of deadly doctrine, or more destructive still, the chill frosts of utter apathy! And looking also at the time not yet handed over to History, behold the swift and scathing fires that incendiary hands have kindled-- setting any of their wild lights to do the work, and snatching often as they dare the sacred torch of Science, to hurry on the conflagration! Yet of the lands that have been thus ravaged, we must remember, that the Lord may still see and count His seven thousand, while even a prophet thinks himself alone.
In view of all the past, and the scourges of the present in many a region, can we fondly hope that our own day, or our own land, is to prove at last the happy exception? Never, indeed, was there witnessed such activity in spreading the Gospel--such affluence even of Christian appliances. But may not the Church be nearing in her career the case of that last one among the typical Seven, when she seemed in her own eyes to have need of nothing?--and yet all that the faithful and true Witness could say was this, "Because thou art lukewarm, I will spew thee out of my mouth."  No external activity can ever take the place of personal affection and inward communion with the Lord.
Nor is this the only peril of our day. We recognize with great joy, the fact of a wide-spread earnestness to come up to a higher standard of Christian life. Sometimes it would seem that we are even on the eve of unprecedented blessings. There is good promise of a more vital hold on Truth, as well as of its clearer vision. There are signs of mere ardent love, and more joyful sacrifice in service. Above all, brotherly love is making the boundary lines of a greatly divided Church, if not yet indistinct, yet far more unobtrusive. No longer high walls and moats, but blooming hedgerows mark the fields upon the one vast estate. Indeed, one can so look at the present blessings of the Christian community, as to make the simplest suggestion of fear appear a discord and disloyalty.
There have been times not a few--and in whose memory is there not such a one--when God's Spirit has so brooded over great assemblies, as to knit them into wondrous unity, and to lift them up as on wings of eagles. Did it not seem on some such happy day as though all that was low, and petty, and self-willed, had gone forever! The River swelled with the upheaving tide from God's great outer Sea, till all its wonted obstacles, its sand-bars and its snags, were too far down to touch, and free and fearless each little sail went on its way. The full flood of Heavenly Love had lifted them all up into safety. But have we no need to watch the ebbing? How soon may the mindful Spirit need to revive these memories--"Remember, therefore, how thou hast received and heard; and hold fast, and repent." 
Do we not already see the signs that should be heeded? Has not the Philistine stalked into our conquered Canaan? It is such an easy step from leading the people like a flock, to lording it over God's heritage; so natural after judging for oneself, to judge the consciences of others also; so easy to forget, that the angelic tongue may turn to a poor tinkling cymbal, and all knowledge and all faith become nothing, the moment charity collapses. Arrogance, bickerings, cliques, dogmatism, jealousies--one dead fly among them all, will spoil the best "ointment of the apothecary"--What have they who speak of holiness, to do with unclean things like these!
Nor must it be overlooked that the very qualities which fit men to be leaders, expose them to the danger of such assumption, grounded upon strength of will. And precisely here are some of the most difficult of conquests called for: the development of active energies is an easy task; but to be gentle as Christ was gentle--"in meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves"--to make oneself of no reputation--this is the difficult task; for this sets aside the high spirit of man, that the Spirit of Jesus may rule in all things.
All such as have found in faith the victory that overcometh the world, still need to listen to one of the most striking features in this last charge of Joshua;--the direction given to still drive out their enemies.  Such a charge at first seems to contradict the claim of a complete conquest. But it is found thoroughly true in experience. Whoever dreams that because his Garden has been well-weeded, he may now give over that care? How often it happens that the round is not complete, before it needs somewhere to be renewed. No weed may be suffered to sow its seed in that well-enclosed spot, but the germs are in the very soil, and they float on all the winds. One may gain upon them, some of them may wholly disappear, and the others be known only to one vigilant eye and unsparing hand--but wherever man is put into his garden "to dress it and to keep it," he will have to continue this conquest. And what need to watch also the too rampant growth--to train that which is wild and irregular, to prune the choice vine that it may bear much fruit--to watch the insidious and fast-spreading blight--the sudden attacks of insect enemies--the withering heat and the wanton winds! Never may one dream of success through immunity from these: that is the reward of never tiring watchfulness.
But it may be suggested, such watchfulness is painful. It involves anxiety, care, responsibility, which we are taught to cast upon the Lord. Why not, since we are so apt to become unwatchful, simply hand it all entirely over to the Lord? Because we have nowhere any warrant so to abuse that trust--because we are never to abandon that duty which He has plainly laid upon us. We may and must abandon all anxiety, all distrust--but watchfulness, never! The watchword that the Lord Jesus gave us was not "Abandon yourselves," but "Watch!"
This combination of both trusting and watching is perfectly simple. The Alpine traveller selects his guide with care, and then places full confidence in him. But does he expect his guide to absolutely carry him?--or does he forthwith become reckless? Does he rush to the edge of the precipice, or whither he will? Does he not understand rather that his own prudence is presupposed, and that he must, under the directions of his guide, use his foresight, skill, and strength, to their full limit? And yet his confidence is solely in his guide; and because he watches him, and follows him, and obeys him in all things, he can also trust him.
We are told that in the last days, perilous times shall come, and that a multitude of evils will then be let loose. How much more is yet to come, none of us can tell; but certainly it seems the characteristic of our own time that all the various enemies that have ever attacked the Church, are now combined against it; so that while we watch on one side the openly advancing foe, the secret snare is set for us upon the other. Never, surely, was there such a necessity to "watch in all things." Every new treasure entrusted to our keeping, must needs draw down the thief upon us. All our priceless possessions as the Church of Christ, expose us in precise proportion to their development, to the rage of him "that dasheth in pieces." Therefore are we charged--"Keep the munition! Watch the way! Fortify thy power mightily."  Not to the few, not to the most, but to all His soldiers--every one of them in a post of danger--does the Lord Jesus now speak from heaven, "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!"
Watch, then, even along the very line of progress and of seeming safety, lest ye take one step beyond the safe footing; lest you carelessly cross that light line which is still the very real boundary between good and evil.
Watch, lest while you break free from the trammels of mere Tradition, and claim that freedom of thought which is your rightful heritage, in which every man is to be "fully persuaded in his own mind"--watch, lest there come an overweening sense of your own power, and scope of thought--lest you fancy in some vain moment, that by searching you can find out God. Watch, lest, like that anointed cherub, set by God, of old, upon His holy mountain, thy heart also be lifted up, and thy beauty be corrupted by reason of thy brightness. Watch, lest thou "set thy heart as the heart of God!" 
And watch also, ye whom the very Spirit of God is leading on, illuminating your vision--who see deeper than all forms and symbols, and yet behold them as mediating between the natural and the spiritual; who have learned what channels have been constituted, through which the all-powerful Word can give and your lowly faith receive--Watch, lest that which is now real, become ideal only; lest Imagination usurp the place of the Invisible power of God, and Sense encroach upon the realm of Spirit. Watch, lest your high-way of spirituality bend little by little toward that which is beneath; remember that even along such a treacherous track as this, has many an unthinking traveller missed his mark--Therefore, Watch!
And you who, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, find Him teaching as man never taught, beware lest in some moment when your ear is turned the way of your own heart's lust--a stranger's voice should seem to you the voice that calls you onward; and your fancies and your fears alike combine to cheat you, till you wander far from the Good Shepherd: remember that this very road is white with the bones of those who have fallen upon their high places:--Therefore, Watch.
And you who have come to account Charity as greater than all creeds, who see everywhere how they that love and fear God are accepted of Him, beware lest you lose sight of Truth, in giving place to her poor counterpart--and the mere convictions of Conscience, with all her variable voices, come to claim a common credit. Remember that Eternal Truth is stable as the being of God is stable. Remember that her pure, white light, as it floweth from His throne forever, is more potent by far than any of the brightest of those refracted beams that work their little wonders. Remember that Truth is no divisible fund, but "the living Child" which no sword must slay; and that every fragment which you forfeit, is so much loss in the completeness of your own life.
And you also who have learned that this Truth is, indeed, the chief jewel in the crown laid up for you --who know that it is not a vain thing for you, but your very life, to be embodied in you as it was in Him who said--"I AM the Truth" -- watch in your turn, that while you thus hold fast to all that is immovable, you give full freedom also to that which ever changes, because it ever lives. Smother her not in a close-fitting shroud--stiffen her not into a statue --and settle not the measure of a growth that is not reached. Therefore, watch as Wardens of the Truth, that while you guard the majestic forest oak, and suffer no rude hand to mar that strong old trunk that has stood the same for ages--that still you let it year by year put forth its new and living verdure as it pleases.
Watch, ye who have been trained in holy awe of the high attributes of your God, and have stood afar off as ye worshipped, lest this very reverence of yours become a barrier, to stay that tide of love with which the Lord is seeking to enrich your being--lest ever, ye lie flat upon your faces, forgetful of that blessed bosom where every disciple whom Jesus loves, may lean as fearless as a child. But watch, ye who have learned this lesson, and remember that you are not to be less reverent because more loving; that your freedom is to be no forwardness. Remember, also, that it is fitting that the household caress should be sheltered under the home shadow. Sons and daughters of a King, it is your sweet privilege to forget all state in a Father's fondness: but before that world that knows Him only as its Sovereign, give Him the reverence that is His due. Let not even the dear, familiar names by which He would have you call Him when alone with Him, fall so freely upon the ears of others, that they turn away to misdeem His dignity. Therefore, watch!
Take heed that when the Lord Jesus bids you "go and show what great things God hath done to you," that at once you go your way and publish it: but take heed also that when He charges you, as He sometimes will--"See thou tell no man," that then you only keep all these things, and ponder them in your hearts.
Watch, ye whom the Lord has brought into His good Land of Promise, and given it to you to possess--watch, lest ever you come to rely upon a past experience, instead of His continual faithfulness.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Resist him steadfast in the faith. And watch him all the more when he transforms himself into an angel of light. Watch his open attacks and his secret entanglements. Watch that you suffer nothing which the Spirit of God condemns to linger in your land--that even the little failures of your consecrated lives, prove not the daily vexing of your souls, as of those who walk among thorns and briers.
Watch all along the line of His Commandments--walking in love--walking as children of Light--walking circumspectly--proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. Watch that ye use faithfully every gift that He has given you. Take heed especially that you "first learn to show piety at home." Watch that as you say in the hearing of all Israel, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord," so you be willing to write upon the very bridles of your horses,  "Holiness unto the Lord."
Watch all along the line of His Promises, that you receive all that He so freely gives. Day by day let the healing, animating beams of the Sun of Righteousness shine down upon you. Moment by moment take that breath of life which the Lord Jesus breathed into you when He said--"Receive ye the Holy Ghost."
Take good heed that ye still search the Scriptures daily. Watch the ripening, one after another, of the twelve manner of fruits that are borne upon its blessed boughs--that so your souls at each new period of life may feed upon never-failing freshness.
And watch that ye still come continually to Him of whom these Scriptures testify, that ye may have life. Feed upon Him daily as your true Bread of Life. Let your holy fellowship with Christ be close and continual. "Watch unto prayer"--"praying always"--"praying in the Holy Ghost." Take heed above all things that ye "continue in His love." Watch most of all this Fountain-head of all the issues of your life. Take heed that evermore this love of Christ constrain you. So in a perfect love that casteth out all fear--in trust and not in terror, shall ye sing upon your Watch-tower, "The Lord is my Keeper"--"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusteth in Thee."
BLESSED IS HE THAT WATCHETH.
1. Rom. xi. 22.
2. Josh. xxiii. 11.
3. Mark xiii. 37.
4. Matt. xxvi. 41.
5. Matt. xxiv. 42.
6. Acts xx. 17-38.
7. 2 Pet. iii. 17.
8. 1 John v. 21.
9. Rev. iii. 2.
10. Rev. iii. 16.
11. Rev. iii. 3.
12. Josh. xxiii. 5.
13. Nahum ii. I.
14. See Ezek. xxviii. 1-19.
15. Zech. xiv. 20, marginal reading.