Page images


ly attentive to the ordinances of religion, they hope for heaven while they are under the curse.

Guard then against a vice thus deceptive; especially since, unlike many other passions, it grows with your years, and becomes more inveterate as we

, advance in age. If you yield your heart to it, you know not to what crimes you may be led.

be led. Leaving no room in the soul for God and for religion, it will gradually call in to its aid the arts of oppression or of guile, till at last it forms perfect Balaams, or complete Judases, capable of any infamy or crime, if thereby riches may be amassed or retained.

Suppose not for a moment that he who is covetous can be a child of God. “ No covetous man who is an idolater,” says the apostle, “ hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. v. 5.) Yes ! it is idolatry; Mammon is his end, his life, his confidence, his happiness, his god; his heart the altar where he is adored; his affections the offerings which he presents ; the ardour with which he pursues' riches the incense which he burns; and his conscience, his religion, his salvation, the victims which he immolates. These were the dreadful sacrifices made by Balaam: flee from the crime which led to them.

2. The history of Balaam teaches us that in an unregenerate and unholy man there may be an internal conflict, in many respects resembling the combat between 6 the flesh and the spirit” in the sout of the believer.

In the child of God there are two principles diametrically opposite to each other, which are constantly struggling together. They are termed in the scriptures, the flesh and the spirit: the flesh is that principle of corruption with which we are all born,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


which leads us into sin, and which is not so entirely mortified and extinguished in the believer but that it sometimes endeavours to push him into sin and recover its supremacy. The spirit is that new principle which is implanted in all the regenerate; which destroys the dominion, though not the existence of sin in their hearts; and which is the source of all holy desires, of all good thoughts, of all pious actions. These two principles, (which are also distinguished in scripture by the appellations of the is old and new man, the law of the members and the law of the mind,”) are directly contrary in their nature, their tendencies, and their actings; and from this contrariety all those inward combats result, which are so frequently described in the scriptures, and which the most pious Christians sometimes experience here below. Though the unregenerate are strangers to this struggle between the flesh and the spirit, since they are not partakers of the Spirit in his sanctifying influences, yet they experience something which at first view resembles it. Even the impious Balaam, without the least true love for holiness, has strong internal struggles whether to obey his passions which make him desire the wages of unrighteousness, or to comply with the dictates of an enlightened conscience, which teach him the danger of disobeying God. There are many impenitent men who, because they cannot sin without this inward conflict, suppose they are the children of God. But in every essential respect this differs from the internal combat of the believer. It differs in its motives and principles. Balaam, and the unregenerate, struggle against sin merely from a dread of the vengeance of the Almighty, and from their hatred of future misery. But the believer would still resolutely and earnestly fight

against sin from a principle of love to God, even if all anticipations of hell, all fear of wrath, if all workings of the spirit of bondage were removed. The conflicts differ in their seats and stations. In Balaam, as in all natural men, it was only a schism or rupture between different parts of the soul. Sometimes the understanding opposes the passions; sometimes conscience combats the will; sometimes one passion forbids the gratifịcation of another. But in the regenerate, the struggle is not between different, but in the same faculties; the wisdom of the flesh and of the spirit counter-working in the same understanding, the desires of the flesh and spirit in the same will. They differ in their extent.

Balaam will oppose some iniquities and retain others; the believer makes peace with no sins. They differ in their effects. No victory follows the natural combat, and no new strength is derived from it. Balaam still loves the sin against which he struggles, and yields to it; his iniquity is only repressed; it is not dead but sleeps. The spiritual conflict diminishes the power and strength of sin, and fortifies the believer.

I have but glanced at a subject that deserves a fuller development; but even these slight observations will assist you in examining what is your real character.

3. The history of Balaam leads us to reflect on the restraints which God in his providence lays upon men, preventing them from doing all the evil that they desire. For these restraints, what gratitude should be exercised by us! Have they been laid upon ourselves? Have we plotted or contrived some ambitious, or fraudulent, malicious, or voluptuous design, which God, though not by the

appearance of his angel, yet by some unexpected intervention of his providence, hath overthrown? Have we never, like Balaam, resolved and prepared to sin, when he has pulled us away from the pit into which we were plunging, as he pulled Lot out of Sodom; and kept us from executing our design by terror of conscience, by fear of danger, by removing opportunities, by casting impediments in our way, or by various other means? Surely, in recalling these circumstances, we should cry, in the language, but with very different feelings, of this impious prophet, “ The Lord would not suffer me to do it.”

And if we should be thankful for the restraints laid upon ourselves, so also should we for those imposed upon others. Had it not been for them, we had long since been in misery, in death. Enemies, as desirous to curse us as Balaam was to pronounce his imprecations upon the Israelites, have been restrained. Were it not for the shackles that God imposes upon the passions of men, the whole earth would be an Aceldama, a field of blood.

4. This history teaches us, that with splendid gifts, with much knowledge of divine truth, with confident professions of our resolution to obey God, with partial obedience, and with a sincere desire, whenever our thoughts are directed to the grave, to die with the righteous, we may yet be the enemies of God. Oh! let us sincerely inquire whether we have advanced further; whether our knowledge is reduced to practice; and whether, in our daily walk, we act like those with whom we would wish to die, and have our portion for ever! Let us unreservedly dedicate ourselves to God; follow him with an undivided heart; living the lives, that we may “die the

66 death of the righteous."



JOSHUA xxiv. 29.

* And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua, the

Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten




The death of Moses was calculated not only to inspire grief in the Israelites, but also to fill them with apprehension and dismay. He who had been the honoured instrument of their deliverance from Egypt, who had so long conducted them in the wilderness, whose prevalent prayers had so often averted the divine indignation from them, was removed from earth at that critical season when they most needed a leader and commander; when they were just entering into the promised land, and about to oppose numerous and powerful enemies. But though Moses was taken from them, the God of Moses remained. By the death of their great legislator, it was shown to the Israelites, that not by a human arm, but by divine power, were they led into Canaan; and by the



« PreviousContinue »