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morselessly involying them in guilt which threatened eternal ruin: and all this under the character of a
prophet, whose office bound him to call the people away from their wickedness, and to save perishing souls from death; and all for what? For so much trash as may be grasped thus.” Base passion, what canst thou not make us do? “ Surely the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
The history of Israel's seduction, in consequence of Balaam's horrid advice, fails not within our present design, and we are forbid by decency to pursue it. The guilt of this fatal defection cost no less than twentyfour thousand lives of them who died of the plague, besides those who suffered by the hands of justice. So horrid are the sacrifices which pride, ambition and covetousness, are daily offering up! So dreadful the havoc which ungoverned passion makes amongst the works of God! But short is the triumph of the most successful villany: remorse embitters the enjoyment of it, and justice hastens to bring it to a period.
In the very first attack made upon Midian, we find Balaam in arms, supporting his pernicious council by the sword; but it cannot prosper: Midian is discomfitted on the first onset, and the hoary traitor falls unpitied in the field, leaving behind him a name to be detested and despised of all generations, while one iota or one tittle of the book of God remains.
We shall have attended, however, to the history of this singular man in vain, unless we learn from it the infinite danger of being under the dominion of any one ungovernable passion; and unless we are persuaded to watch over, to resist, and to subdue," the sin which doth so easily beset us.” Of little avail is it that our vice is not the vice which governed, ensnared and ruined Balaam, if it alienate the heart from God, dissolves the obligations of religion, disorder the understanding, and lull the conscience asleep. One disease for another, one vice for another, is but a miserable exchange. If the patient must die, it will not alleviate one pang, that he perishes by the fever rather than the hydropsy, the consumption, or any other distemper.
The unrestrained dominion of any one sinful appe. tite must become fatal at length. Covetousness, pride, lust, envy, malice, revenge, are the mortal distempers of the soul, which, perhaps insensibly, but most certainly, are impairing its beauty, and wasting its strength. “ Lust,” whatever be its particular name, “ having conceived; bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Instead, therefore, of amusing or of perplexing himself with inquiries into the general symptoms of disease, it concerns every man to study his own particular case; to watch against “the sin which doth so easily beset him;" to keep himself from his iniquity; to discover, and to rectify the disorder of his own constitution, “ the plague of his own heart." That where he is naturally, or by habit, weak, he may become strong, “through the grace that is in Christ.”.
Let us be instructed to value qualities, whether natural or acquired, not from their currency and estimation in the world, but from their appearance in the sight of God. “ As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts,” Isa. lv. 9. ' By him actions are weighed.” By his judgment we must stand or fall. Has Heaven blessed thee, O man, with extraordinary gifts? Let it be a motive to humility, not a source of pride. It is a trust of which thou must render an account; and “to whom men have committed much, of him they will require the more.” If he who buries his one talent in the ground be criminal, what shall become of that man who dissipates and destroys ten in riotous living?
There is but one road to a happy end—a holy life. There is but one ground of hope, in death, to a guilty creature--the mercy of God through a Redeemer. Abraham saw the Saviour's day afar off, believed and rejoiced. Balaam saw it afar off, persisted in impenitence and unbelief, and died without hope. On the one, “the Star of Jacob” darted a mild and healthful influence, which cheered the path of life, and dispelled the horrors of the grave.
On the other it shot a bale. ful fire which drunk up the spirits, blasted present enjoyment, and increased the gloom of futurity-Arise, star of Jacob, arise upon my head with healing in thy wings! Let me walk in thy light; let me “hasten to the brightness of thy rising!" Christian,“ arise, shine: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,' i John ïïi. 2. dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory,” Col. iii. 3, 4.
For ye are
END OF VOLUME II.