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that he wished for a sword that he might kill her. Had he known at the time what danger he was exposed to, and what obligations he owed to his beast for that very conduct which so incensed him, he would have seen, that he had reason for unbounded thankfulness, where he thought that he had the greatest reason to complain.
And is it not thus oftentimes with us? If nothing had been revealed to us respecting the deliverance of Balaam, we should have thought him fully justified in his anger: and, because we do not see the particular mercies which God vouchsafes to us, we think ourselves justified in raging against the means and instruments that he employs. There are a thousand things which we call accidents, on which the greatest events depend. Evils might have come to us, or blessings might have been lost, if some circumstance, which at the time we deemed most unfortunate, had not taken place: nor can any but God himself conceive the extent to which we are indebted to him for things, which at the time excited our grief and indignation.
On this subject, I must leave every one to consult his own experience. But there is one view of it which will come home to the hearts of all. How often, when God has sent a guardian angel, a friend or minister, to instruct and warn us, have his reproofs kindled resentment, rather than gratitude, in our minds! and how many of us now see reason to be thankful for warnings which once excited our displeasure, whilst others have been eternally ruined by continuing to disregard them! Think only of the ministry of Christ and his Apostles, and of the different states of those who rejected or received their testimony, and this part of our subject will need no further comment. Moreover,] III. Those interpositions which are acknowledged to
have been sent in mercy, produce, for the most part, a very transient effect
[Balaam, when his eyes were opened, and he was informed that he had narrowly escaped death, acknowledged his sin, and professed a readiness to return. But it is observable, that his very confession touches only on the supposed guilt of attempting to proceed in opposition to the angel, and not on the real guilt of going with a disposition and purpose directly opposed to the known will of God. So far from being humbled for this offence, he was glad at any rate to gain a renewed permission to prosecute his vile designs. Nor did he afterwards reflect, or repent him of his evil ways; but persisted in them, till vengeance overtook him, and he perished amongst the enemies of God.
Thus have we at times been made sensible of our danger. Some great calamity has overtaken us, or disease has brought us to the gates of death. Then we have acknowledged our
sins, and professed a willingness to forsake them. But no sooner have the impediments been removed, than "our goodness has proved as the morning dew; and as the early cloud it has passed away." Thus it was with Pharaoh, when God, by many successive judgments, strove to overcome his obstinacy: and thus it was with Saul, when David repeatedly spared his life. The judgments and mercies of God affected both of them for a moment, so that they confessed their sins: but the effect was transient, and they perished under an accumulated weight of guilt. O that it may not be so with us !
O that we may not any longer resemble the rebellious Israelitesk; lest, like them, we exhaust the patience of our God, and provoke him
swear in his wrath that we shall never enter into his rest!”] ADDRESS, 1. Those who are bent on their evil ways
[Covetousness is a common, and destructive sin : and many are guilty of it, whilst they seem unconscious of any great evil. They are decidedly guilty of it, who prefer the prosecution of their interests to the will of God and the welfare of his people. Let such offenders know then, that God and his Angel stand before them with a fiery sword; and that, for ought they know, the very next step they take may transmit them to the presence of an angry God. Methinks the brute creation that obey their will, would, if their mouths were opened, rebuke their disobedience, more pointedly than ever Balaam's ass rebuked him'. See, Brethren, how Solomon describes your statem! see how he warns you of your endn! O beg of God, that he would never give you his permission to proceed, but contend with you effectually, till he has gained his point! If once “ he give you up,” and say, “ Let him alone°," it were better for you
that you had never been born.] 2. Those who desire to return from them
[Whatever have been the means of stopping your career, be thankful for it: falls or bruises, such as Balaam had, are mercies when sent for such an end. Bear in mind what your conduct has been P, and be humbled on account of it in dust and ashes. Bear in mind too that you will assuredly " return, like the dog to his vomit," if Almighty God do not keep you by his grace. But he has promised to his people to "hedge up their way with thorns, and to build a wall against them, that they may not find their former waysq;" entreat him earnestly to do this for you; and to "keep you by his own power through faith unto salvation."] k Ps. lxxviii. 34–37. 1 Isai. i. 2, 3. Jer. viii. 5—7. m Eccl. ix. 3. n Prov. xxix. 1. • Ps. lxxxi, 11, 12. Hos. iv. 17. p Isai. lvii. 17.
9 Hos. ii. 6, 7.
BALAAM'S FIRST ATTEMPT TO CURSE ISRAEL. Numb. xxi. 7–10. And he took up his parable, and said,
Balak, the king of Moab, hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the East, saying, Come, curse me Jacob; and come, defy Israel. How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed ? or how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied ? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and 'shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous ; and let my last end be like his !
IT is scarcely to be conceived to what a degree superstition will blind the eyes of men. There is nothing so absurd or incredible, which a person under the influence of it is not ready to believe. Who would imagine that persons could be brought to believe the infallibility of the Pope, and the power of the Popish priests to forgive sin ? Who would suppose that any person could be brought to believe, that a priest is able to convert bread and wine into the body and soul, yea, and into the Godhead also, of Christ; and that every individual who partakes of that bread and wine, eats and drinks the whole body, the whole soul, and the whole Godhead of Christ? Yet these things are credited by millions of persons, as firmly as they believe that there is a God. Were it not that we have such evidence of the
power of superstition in later ages, we should scarcely conceive, that any Being endowed with reason would act like Balak, when he sent for Balaam to curse Israel. How could he entertain such a foolish thought, as that Balaam should be able to inflict a curse upon the whole Israelitish nation, so as to ensure the conquest of them to the king of Moab? Yet this superstition obtained, not only there, and at that time, but fifteen hundred years afterwards at Rome also, where there was an officer expressly appointed to imprecate curses on their enemies.
How little it was in the power of Balaam to effect, we see in every renewed attempt that he made. So far from being able to inflict a curse on Israel, he was not able even to denounce one : for God overruled and constrained him to bless the people whom he desired to curse.
Having offered seven bullocks and seven rams on as many altars, he came to Balak, who was anxiously expecting the accomplishment of his wishes. But, behold, the man on whose power he relied to curse Israel, was constrained explicitly to declare, I. Their security
Balaam acknowledges that it was not in his power to curse them: and declares that, instead of being vanquished by Balak, they should prevail against every enemy, and be a peculiar people to the end of time.
This has ever since been verified in relation to those who are Israelites after the flesh
[That nation did prevail over their enemies; did get possession of Canaan; did maintain it against all their enemies, till, for their iniquities, God sent them into captivity in Babylon. Yet even there did they retain their peculiarities : yea, even at this day, though dispersed through every country under heaven, they are as much a peculiar people as ever. Other nations, when vanquished and dispersed, have become incorporated with their victors, and been assimilated to the people amongst whom they have dwelt: but the Jews in every country are still a distinct people: and are living witnesses of the truth of this prophecy.]
It is no less verified in relation to the spiritual Israel
[Every blessing promised to Abraham and his natural seed was, in a spiritual sense, made also to his spiritual seed. The Gospel itself, with all the blessings of salvation, was contained in that promise, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed a.” It is evident, moreover, that Balaam himself was instructed of God to prophesy of persons under the gospel dispensation, even of those who should be the subjects of the Lord Jesus Christ b. Now they are indeed a peculiar people":" they“ dwell alone:” “ though in the world, they are not of the world, even as Christ himself was not of the world d:" they
a Gal. iii. 8.
b Numb. xxiv. 17-19.
are not conformed to it;" “they come out from it and are separate;" they can “ have no more communion with it, than light can have with darkness, or Christ with Belial.” They dwell in the midst of enemies, amongst whom they are wondered at." Wherever they are, they are, and ever have been, in a greater or less degree, objects of hatred and persecution. Every possible method has been used to extirpate them; but no enemy has ever been able to prevail against them. They are still, and ever shall be, monuments of God's power, and objects of his love.] II. Their increase
The Israelites, as a nation, became very numerous
[At the time that Balaam saw them, they probably amounted to two millions : but after their settlement in Canaan they multiplied exceedingly, so as to fulfil the promise made to Abrahame, and to justify the declaration in the text.]
But the true Israel shall indeed be " as the dust of the earth”
[In the first ages of Christianity they were spread over the whole Roman empire: and though we acknowledge that hitherto they have not been numerous, when compared with their enemies, yet we are assured, that they shall in due time cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and for the
space of a thousand years fill the whole earth. And, if we consider how they will multiply when wars shall cease, when the diseases arising from men's folly and wickedness shall be removed, and “the man dying at an hundred years old shall be considered but a child” brought to an untimely end'; we may well imagine, that their numbers shall far exceed that of all who have perished in their sins. We are sure at all events, that, in the last day, they shall be “ a multitude, which no man can number, out of every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue;" and that they shall join together in everlasting hallelujahs, “saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb!!" O blessed period ! May
May “God hasten it, in His time !"] III. Their happiness
Balaam proclaims them happy also in their eternal state
[Here he must refer to those who were the true Israelites; since an ungodly Jew can no more be saved, than an ungodly heathen. And it is worthy of notice, how strongly he asserts
e Gen. xxviii. 14.
f Isai. lxv. 20.
8 Rev. vii. 10.