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nations of Canaan, at the command of God, with a view to put the Israelites in possession of that land which God had sworn to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, he would bestow on their posterity. Joshua had just been invested with the office of the leader of the chosen people in the room of Moses, who was dead; he had witnessed their frequent rebellions against his predecessor, who had claims to their obedience peculiar to himself; and he had great reason to apprehend, that the spirit of perverseness and insubordination, which occasioned so much uneasiness, would burst out against him with additional violence. Add to this, the enterprise on which he was entering was, in itself, extremely difficult and formidable.
The miraculous appearance presented to him on this occasion was probably intended to obviate his fears, and to arm him with an undaunted resolution in accomplishing the arduous duties assigned him. It is generally agreed by the most júdicious commentators, that the personage who presented himself to Joshua at this time was no other than he who afterwards became incarnate,“the Son of God,” “the Angel of the Covenant,” and “the Captain of our salvation.” From his commanding Joshua to pull his shoes from off his feet, assuring him the ground whereon he stood was holy, he could not fail to infer, that he who addressed him was a divine person; these being the identical words addressed to Moses when God appeared to him in the burning bush.*
We may learn, from various passages in the New Testament, that the Lord Jesus Christ, in his pre-existent state, presided over the Jewish nation, conducted it through the wilderness, and communicated that spirit of inspiration by which its succession of prophets was actuated.
It is to those divine manifestations of himself in the ancient church, there is reason to believe, St. Paul refers, when, contrasting the pre-existent state of Christ with his appearance while on earth, he attributes to him the form of God, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” of
Nothing can be conceived more adapted to support the mind of this great man of God, and enable him to encounter every obstacle with fortitude, than such a divine manifestation ; by which he was assured the Son of God himself undertook the conduct of the war, and the discomfiture of his foes.
The certainty of God being engaged on their side is, in every age, the chief support of the christian Israel, in the conflict they are called to sustain with their spiritual enemies.
The present state of the church of God is justly styled a militant state, which is the chief distinction between its present and future condition. An everlasting victory is in prospect, • Exod. iii. 5.
† Phil. ii. 6.
when all enemies will be placed under its feet. In the meanwhile, whoever belongs to the true Israel of God is engaged in the serious and momentous contest, which bears, in many points, a striking and designed resemblance to the wars which the tribes of Israel, under the conduct of Joshua, waged with the inhabitants of Canaan.
As I conceive, if we attempt to trace a resemblance, it may possibly minister to our instruction and improvement, I shall confine the following discourse to that point.
I. The war in which the tribes of Israel were engaged was of divine appointment. It was a holy war,—not originating in the enmity or ambition of the people who undertook it, but in the sovereign will and pleasure of God, who had promised, ages back, to put them in possession of the land of Canaan ; but resolved, for the wisest ends, that the actual possession of it should be the fruit of conquest.
The warfare in which christians are engaged, in like manner, is of divine prescription; it is one to which they are solemnly called. The enemies they are called to combat are God's enemies; and it is his will that we shall yield ourselves as instruments in his hand for their destruction.
In resisting the world, the flesh, and the devil, we are executing his commands, and are consecrating our services to the Most High. To be resolute and determined in this warfare, is to eater into the very essence of our christian calling ; and it is the principal test of our fidelity and allegiance to the King of kings. Our Saviour has distinctly exhibited them in his word, has set us in battle array against them, and says to us, These are my enemies, and also yours, and you must destroy them.
While we remain in a state of unregeneracy, we are scarcely aware of the existence of these enemies. We have no apprehension of danger, and consequently seem to ourselves to be in a [region] of peace and safety. But no sooner are the “ eyes of the understanding enlightened,” than a new scene presents itself, and we perceive ourselves to be encompassed with foes, and are at once convinced that no representation of the christian calling is more just than that which likens it to a warfare.
II. The nations of the Canaanites, whom the Israelites were commanded to expel, were extremely numerous and formidable. So they appeared to the spies who were sent by Moses to search out the land. “ The land,” say they, “ floweth with milk and honey: nevertheless, the people be strong, and the cities are walled, and very great: and we saw the children of Anak there. We be not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we; all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature; and there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants : and we were, in our own sight, as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” *
* Numb. xiii. 27, 31—33.
Moses himself frequently reminds the Israelites of the obligations they will be under to love and serve God, when he shall have “subdued under them nations stronger and more numerous than they."
Here we may infer, with certainty, that there was naturally no proportion betwixt the strength of the Israelites and that of the people they were appointed to subdue. The victory to which they aspired was not to be achieved by their own power ;—they were encouraged by the assurance that the Lord would fight for them,—which is abundantly verified in the events recorded in the book of Joshua. Thus the enemies which obstruct our salvation are numerous and formidable, far exceeding our active powers of resistance; so that we could entertain no hope of success, were we abandoned to our own unassisted efforts.
Who could flatter himself with the expectation of vanquishing the assaults and escaping the snares of his great adversary; quelling the motions of the flesh, and overcoming the temptations of the world, if he had no hope of superior succour ? Never were forces brought into the field more unequally matched, than the power and subtlety of Satan, enforced by the influence of the world and the treachery and corruption of our own hearts, and the naked, unaided efforts of a feeble worm.
When we consider the perfect subjection to which the far greater part of mankind are reduced under these their spiritual enemies, and the havoc