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flashed its terrors before him. But blindness had happened to him in part. His eyes were closed, so that he could not see; and in the darkness of unthinking security, and ungodly avarice, he urged forward the animal on which he rode, and would have precipitated himself upon certain death. Thrice would he have gone forward, and thrice did the ass swerve from the way, to save his soul alive. If the eyes of unthinking transgressors, who are pressing forward in the way of death, were not so strongly closed--if Satan had not so entirely blinded them, they would acknowledge the imminent peril to which they have been exposed, and the infinite compassions of God, by which they have been again and again preserved, in the full career of heedlessness and folly. Who shall tell, my brethren, on this side the disclosures of eternal judgment, how often it might have been said, concerning each of us, as we walked in the way of our own device, Truly, as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between thee and death. Who shall tell, how much, and how fearfully we neglect the gracious providences which hinder us from the commission, and save us from, the punishment of sin, because God is not willing that we should perish; but come to repentance, and live. Of this description is every check of conscience,
resistance which the voice of the Most High within us, the pages of scripture, the preaching of the gospel, and the pleadings of the Holy Spirit, separately, or unitedly, produce. And shall we strive for victory here? Shall we, determinately wrestle down the convictions and alarms of a gracious God, and say,-as we put aside the hand of his preventing goodness, “I have loved strangers, and after them I will go? What a mournful, what a dreadful conquest, should we then achieve! A triumph over the opposition of conscience is most perilous to the eternal hope and state of men. That monitor retires not from every conflict, like the judge of Israel, with undiminished strength. It exerts a more feeble resistance after every attempt to subdue it; until, at length, instead of remaining a watchman for God, and a servant of his grace by the Holy Ghost, it becomes the obsequious slave of our corruptions, and slumbers on, amidst all the dangers of eternal death, like Sisera, in the tent of Jael, where he slept to awake no more.
When the dumb ass, speaking with man's voice, had forbidden the further madness of the prophet, and showed him not only the extent of his danger, and of the divine forbearance, but that the curse of God, which he was anxious to utter against Israel, would probably be
averted from them, and directed against himself, he started from his security in deep alarm, and fell on his face before the angel of the Lord, who withstood his rebellious way. He even offered to return from his iniquitous journey; but in terms which manifested the struggle at that moment taking place in his mind, between the obedience of fear, and the incitement of avarice. “Now, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.” The searcher of hearts beheld his insincerity, and wished to use the very sword of Balak against himself and Moab, by changing the meditated curse into a blessing. Accordingly, while his guilty purpose is controlled, the desire of his heart is given him. He has prevailed, as it were, against God, and against his soul, in this dreadful strife, and passes forward, as if the rebuke were utterly forgotten. Do you stand amazed at a conduct so blindly perverse and daring? My brethren, it exactly represents the spiritual condition of that man whom the gracious providence of God has checked by some salutary restraint, or rebuke of sickness, or affliction, that he might turn from the way of death ; but who, after the first terror produced by his danger has passed away, and the good hand of his God is removed, follows the impulse of a carnal mind, and goes onward in his career of transgression. Pray ye, that the Holy Ghost, the author of spiritual light, may not only open your eyes to behold the danger in which you stand from him, when your way is perverse ; but, that he may also create in you a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you. Pray, that you may return from every evil, to the fold of the eternal Shepherd, the salvation of the cross, and the command of God; and that so iniquity may not be your ruin. Woe to him that striveth with his Maker, in a dreadful contest between the mercy of the Lord, and the incitement of his own sin! Woe to him who thus resists the offered grace of Him, whose Spirit shall not always strive with man! Who hath thus hardened himself against the Lord, and prospered in such a warfare? God forbid, that our experience should answer the question! He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy.
IV. It plainly appears, that while Balaam feared God in the letter, he absolutely disregarded the Spirit of the divine command. His lips were closed, that he could not curse Israel. Some invisible, but Almighty agency on the other hand, changed the intended denunciation into a large and liberal declaration of blessing upon the people. Balak stood ready to bestow
the wages of unrighteousness; but Balaam must not obtain then). If Balak would give him his house full of silver and gold, he cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do less
At length he rises up, and returns to his place, no richer than when he came into the tents of Moab. What however, he could not effect, according to the purpose of Balak, by cursing the people, he accomplishes by recommending him to seduce the chosen heritage into sin, and leave it deprived of its almighty protection, like our fallen parents in paradise, when they knew that they were naked. The idolatrous women of Moab, as the sacred record declares, “ caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord, in the matter of Peor ; and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.” 1 The revelation made to John in Patmos expressly testifies, that Balaam taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 2 The diviner of Mesopotamia, therefore, pretends to honour Jehovah with his lips, while his heart devises the most dreadful scourge against His people. He will, if possible, obtain the presents of Balak; and he scruples
11 Numb. xxxi. 16.
2 Revel. ii. 14.