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him in his love, as well as in his power; of God as in Christ waiting to be gracious, to accept and bless all who turn to him from their sins. “This," said Jesus,“ is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” This is the knowledge of those whose eyes have been anointed by the Spirit, and the veil taken away from their obdurate hearts.
It had sounded well to hear the prophet's wish, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.”8 Any miscreant can wish well to himself. No sinner hopes to die a sinner. But Balaam lived the life of the unrighteous, and, therefore, among their ranks he fell. “The hypocrite's hope shall perish."9 Ah, how many who now speak fairly and glibly of Christ and of his Gospel will hereafter be found to be castaways! “ Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
8 xxiii. 10. Jeremy Taylor, in his Life of Christ, part iji, sect. xiii. 14, considers these words as expressing a wish for a peaceful, and a deprecation of a violent and immature end ; but devoid of all allusion to repentance, or any reference to the salvation of his soul. Sherlock considers that both temporal prosperity and everlasting happiness were included in the wish of the prophet. Sermon lvii. vol. iii. p. 119.
9 Job viii. 13.
of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”1
From the history which has now occupied our attention we may, in conclusion, derive both warning and encouragement: warning, from the example of Balaam ; encouragement, from the security of Israel against the evil devices of their adversaries.
First, by Balaam's history we are taught to walk ever up to the light which the Lord has been pleased to grant us. When once you are assured of the will of God, stand not arguing the point, nor tamper with it, but yield to it forthwith the obedience of faith.
Again, cherish in your heart no desire contrary to the revealed will of God. The fear which now restrains the outbreak of the desire will, otherwise, soon oppose an insufficient barrier to its headlong impetuosity. Thus was it with Balaam : he plainly appears to have at length cast off all fear of the Lord of hosts.
In the second place, from the present security of the Lord's people Israel we may derive much encouragement.
However our enemies may curse, “ the curse causeless shall not come,"_except upon the head of him that utters it.
* Matt. vii. 21-23. 2 Prov. xxvi. 2.
However Satan, in concert with his infernal powers, may secretly be plotting your destruction, (as, in the present instance, Balak and Balaam that of the Israelites,) yet if you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, there shall no evil befal you, neither shall any plague come nigh your dwelling. He that keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Of the Lord Jesus Christ it is prophesied, that “a man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."3 If, then, you have taken refuge in Christ, you may boldly say, “ The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid ?"4
It is sin alone which can separate you from the protection of your Lord. If you yield, as did the Israelites, to the temptations which solicit you, then is your boasted confidence in the Lord all vain ; you give occasion of triumph to the adversary. It was from the conviction of his inability to injtre Israel, so long as they clave to the Lord their God, that Balaam devised that satanic temptation by which he succeeded so fatally in alluring them into sin : then it was that their enemies ob3 Isa. xxxii. 2.
Ps. xxvii. 1.
tained their desire, which all their own efforts, their gifts of divination to the prophet, and their malicious imprecations, were, otherwise, unable to effect. Be it yours then, beloved brethren, to set the Lord alway before you; and while, in the conviction of his presence, you object against each temptation of the adversary the solemn consideration, “ How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” rest satisfied in the assurance that, because the Lord is at your right hand, therefore you shall not be moved.5
Ps. xvi. 8.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize ? So run that ye may obtain.”
It appears to the children of this world a strange thing that the children of light “run not with them to the same excess of riot."1 They conceive that this abstinence from the pastimes of sense must, of necessity, be accompanied by much gloominess of spirit.
The world understands not that grace rectifies, not thwarts, the affections of nature. Where the Holy Spirit has anointed the sinner's eyes, new objects burst upon his view ; he becomes now the
11 Pet. iv. 4.