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as to be able to remove mountains.” “Covet earnestly the best gifts:" but rather cultivate the fruits of the Spirit, “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law,” Gal. v. 22, 23.
III. While we admire the wisdom and goodness of God, in counteracting the intention of wicked Balaam, and turning the curse in his mouth into a blessing, let us bow the knee in gratitude to that great Prophet, who has fully, ‘and for ever, done away the curse; let us give glory to “God, who hath sent his Son Christ Jesus to bless every one of us, in turning us from our iniquities;” and to introduce us into more than an Eden, more than a Canaan, even into the paradise of God; where there is no more curse"-where “ God shall wipe all tears from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away," Rev. xxi. 4.
IV. While we behold the madness of the prophet -a heart hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, let us tremble to think that the seeds of this very sin are implanted deeply in our own nature; that they have even discovered their baleful shoots; that they bring forth fruit unto death. Every plant which our heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be plucked up and rooted out; and this is one of them. Look to it carefully, O man: watch it with a holy jealousy. It is “the root of all evil.” “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever," i John ij. 1-17.
HISTORY OF BALAAM.
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his
ass, and went with the princes of Moab.NUMB. xxii. 21.
THE eagerness which men discover in pursuing the objects of time and sense, is a melancholy contrast to their coldness and indifference respecting the things of God and eternity. The carnal mind needs but a hint to attach itself to the pursuit of riches, pleasure or honour; and when engaged, no argument is of weight sufficient to dissuade; no danger intimidates, no difficulty discourages. The understanding becomes the dupe of the passions, conscience is led hoodwinked by appetite, and the man is shamefully sunk in the brute. But the alarm must be louder than thunder, which awakens the thoughtless, the sensual and the selfish to serious reflection; and it must be repeated every hour, else they will slumber and sleep again.
Water has in its natural coldness a tendency to congeal; and, once renduced to ice, has no principle in itself to recover from that torpid state. The cause of change must come from without. To dissolve and restore it to its liquid state, the sun must shine, the wind must blow; withdraw the action of air and fire, and it will gradually freeze again. In like manner, without any cause from without, the human body, by
a principle of corruption within itself, must speedily dissolve and be destroyed; and the human mind, by a similar internal principle of moral corruption, degene. rates from depravity to depravity, till, lost to shame, fear, remorse, and, at length, to feeling, men come to commit iniquity with greediness, and to glory in their shame. To
To preserve the body in life, there must be constant supplies of nourishment administered; and to preserve the soul in health, there must be “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little."
It is truly affecting to see men enlightened and persuatled, yet wedded to their lusts; clearly informed of the right path, but wilfully and deliberately persisting in error; hardening themselves against God, and yet thinking to prosper; acknowledging God in words, but in works denying him.
These observations are all strikingly exemplified in the character and conduct of Balaam, of which we attempted to give you a general idea in the last Lecture, and to which were added some observations tending to elucidate his singular history. We are now to enter on the particular detail of it, as it is delivered in the sacred record. The Israelitish nation was now in the last
of their peregrination through the wilderness; their civil and religious government were fully settled, and the theocracy finally established. They were now approaching the banks of the Jordan: and by their number, order and discipline, striking terror into all the neighbouring nations. Two kings, their armies and their people, have already fallen before their victorious arms; and nothing is left to oppose their progress to Canaan, but the river, the boundary itself of the promised land. They pitch their camp quietly in the plains of Moab, expecting the signal from their divine leader and commander to pass over, conquer, and take possession. Their warlike array and recent successes,
have alarmed the apprehensions of Balak, king of Moab, as their prosperity and prospects had excited his envy and jealousy. Diffident of his strength, either to repel invasion, if attacked by so powerful an adversary, or to attack them first, and endeavour to obstruct their progress, he enters into an alliance with the people of Midian, for their mutual security and defence. And even then, still doubtful of the force of their united arms, they agree to employ the arts of divination in aid of the sword, and dream of conquering by the power of enchantment, those whom they were afraid to encounter in the field. To such base, such wretched shifts do princes and nations resort, to gratify pride, ambition or revenge. For this purpose, they send a joint embassy to Balaam, the son of Beor, a noted soothsayer in the neighbourhood.
Balak and Moab had degenerated from the faith of Lot, their forefather, and were sunk into idolatry; it is therefore no wonder to see them of a jealous and hostile spirit towards Israel, their brother. A principle of religion, consisting in the fear and love of God, is the great bond of union among men; it strengthens the ties of natural affection, and even conciliates friendship between enemies; but irreligion, or what is worse, an erroneous principle of religion, turns men loose against each other, dissolves society, and fattens the earth with human blood. We cannot help recollecting, alas! that Abraham and Lot, the uncle and nephew, the progenitors of the two nations, were under the necessity of separating from each other, on account of their increasing wealth; and we see, many years after they were laid in the dust, the self-same cause, whetting the spirits and the swords of their posterity, and arming them for their mutual destruction. The whole world is a possession too scanty for avarice and ambition; the success of one seems to be a diminution of the happiness of another; and even the immense ocean is crimsoned with gore, that one may enjoy sole
and sullen empire; as if that vast space could not ac. commodate the operations of two tribes of ants on yonder mole-hill. Blessed world, where envy and strife shall rage no more; where there is bread enough and to spare, room enough and to spare; where the felicity of every one is an accession of felicity to every one!
Balaam is described in scripture by his parentage, his country and profession. He was the son of Beor, or Bosor, the difference of which pronunciation is accounted for, from the difference of dialect in the ori. ental languages. The father exists to us only in his name, and in the history of his son: and happy had it been for that son, to have left behind him nothing too but a mere name, instead of one loaded with infamy and detestation. Pethor, the place of his residence, was a city of Haran, or Mesopotamia, the very country where Abraham himself was born, and where he resided till his seventy-fifth year; the native country of* Rebekah, the wife of Isaac; the country where Jacob passed a great part of his youthful years; where he married; where all his children, except Benjamin, were born, and whence he obtained the name of a Syrian. Pethor was situated on the river Euphrates, called the river, by way of eminence or distinction, it being the largest in the country; and thence, in many passages of scripture, styled the great river. The country adjacent, to a vast distance, being plain, it was favourable to the observation of the heavenly bodies; and accordingly we find the science of astronomy was early cultivated there; and the pretended science of astrology, that is, the power of foretelling future events, from the appearances and supposed influence of the stars, was speedily grafted upon it. Pride, presumption, and a little knowledge, soon arrogated to themselves a power of controlling these great luminaries, which seem in perpetual motion to encompass our earth, and of suspending or altering their influen