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certain sign of God's favour ; and this opinion the Scripture takes pains to contradict, by showing us one who was a prophet, and whose life, notwithstanding, was disobedient to God, while his death was with the wicked. In our time, to be useful in our generation, and to be worthy members of society, are the things which most draw the regard of the people; and men should be reminded therefore, that these are not certainly the signs of a regenerate man, unless they are built upon those Christian principles which are given and strengthened in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

Balaam, it seems, was living in his own country when he received a message from Balak, the king of Moab, requesting him to come to him and curse the children of Israel. Knowing that Balaam was a prophet, he could not tell how great was his power ; but he supposed that his blessings and his curses would be confirmed by God; and that therefore, if he could gain him over to his side, he would be a very useful friend to him against the Israelites. He sent, therefore, some of the elders of Moab to Balaam, with the rewards of divination in their hand : in other words, he tried to bribe Balaam to say what he wanted; he wished to bribe him by money to speak in the name of God. Now we are told that when Naaman, the Syrian, applied to the prophet Elisha, not to curse any one in the name of the Lord, but merely to cure him of his leprosy; and when he had been healed, and wished to offer some present in return for the great service he had received, that Elisha would take nothing of him at all : he did not like to make a gain of those wonderful gifts which God had given him for His own glory and the good of man. But Balaam had no such scruples ; he was willing to sell his gift of prophecy to any one that would buy it; he did not ask whether it was according to the will of God that he should curse Israel or no, but whether he should get any thing by it or no. Being of such a temper, he was not likely to consider very carefully how he might most please God; but was anxious to go with the men whom Balak had sent, when God told him that he should not go with them, nor curse the people, for they were blessed. This stopped him for a time; but Balak would not give up his purpose so easily. He sent other messengers of higher rank than before, promising him riches and honours in abundance, if he would but come to him. Balaam was again shaken; he wished greatly to gain the rewards that Balak had promised him, but he wished also to gain them without directly disobeying God. He hoped, it seems, to compound the matter : “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God to do less or more.” So much he yielded to his sense of duty ; but then the love of gain came in, and

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tempted him to add, “Tarry ye here this night, that I may

know what the Lord will say to me more." He wanted to ask counsel of God, in the way

that we ask it sometimes of our worldly friends; we let them see plainly what advice we wish them to give us; and if they have first answered us honestly according to the truth, we try to win from them some softening of their first opinion, something that may encourage us to do that which we are bent upon doing. But woe to him who deals thus deceitfully with God and with his conscience ! Balaam gained exactly the very answer that he desired; God answered him according to his idols. He had said that he could not say any thing beyond what God should tell him ; but still he might perhaps be allowed to go with the men. so was the answer, “ If the men come to call thee, rise up and go with them ; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do." God had spoken to him after his own heart, and Balaam was then fully satisfied; he did not ask the messengers to tarry yet another night, that he might know what the Lord would say to him more; he rose up in the morning and went with the princes of Moab.

We are expressly told that the persons to whom God sends strong delusion that they should believe a lie, are those who love not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness; whereas on the other

And even

of duty.

hand our Lord assures us, that if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or no. There is no doubt that the fact is so; that men of honest and fair minds have a very clear and sound judgment in all points of practice, whilst insincere men, endowed perhaps with much higher abilities by nature, become absolutely blinded and weak, when they come to determine questions

Nor is it to be doubted that this law of God's providence is a just and wise one; inasmuch as it enables persons of inferior understandings to correct their deficiencies by the goodness of their hearts, while it deprives the wicked man of the benefit of those talents which he is abusing. It is not without great reason that the Scripture so often recommends purity and singleness of heart, and threatens the double-minded. Few men, comparatively speaking, will make up their minds to do evil at any rate; and the number of those who wish to serve mammon only, is perhaps even smaller than that of those who wish to serve God only. The great mass of mankind are undone by a vain endeavour to serve at once both God and mammon; to their consciences they hold out the quieting language of Balaam, “ If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord to say less or more;" while to their appetites they whisper at the same time, “Tarry ye here awhile, that I may know what the Lord will say to me more.” Then it is that the voice of the Lord, which they pretended to wait for, does indeed lead them to their ruin. For their conscience is God's voice speaking within them ;

i and this, when dishonestly applied to, becomes a false guide, disguising the guilt of our conduct, or encouraging us to hope that the mercy of God will grant it forgiveness. It permits us to do things for which God's anger will surely be kindled ; and although we should make answer that we did no more than we believed to be right, yet we shall be reminded that they who killed Christ's servants, thought that they were doing God service; but that this their blindness rather aggravated their sin than lessened it; for it was a proof, as Christ Himself declares, that they had neither known His Father nor Him. Man indeed may not be able to judge of the heart of man, nor can we pretend to say that our neighbour's ignorance in many points is not an innocent ignorance, rather than a blindness sent by God as an earnest of his future condemnation. But, though we may not judge of one another, yet He who judges us all, can see through every corner of our souls, can separate insincerity from truth, and can well perceive the weakness of those excuses, which to human eyes might appear fair and reasonable. Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest, but suffer me first to go and bury my father,” was a speech that could have

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