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for the prize of his high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The strong passion necessarily occupies his heart; for no man can serve two masters. It necessarily places him within the utmost peril of that tremendous denunciation,Know ye not, that the covetous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ?
II. With a mind thus awfully divided between God and Mammon, we are prepared to find this unhappy man parleying with the temptation which the messengers of Balak set before him. “The elders of Moab, and the elders of Midian came unto Balaam with the rewards of divination in their hands, and spake unto him the words of Balak.” They lodged with him. God also communed with him that night: and in answer to his statement of the errand on which the elders came, peremptorily forbade his acquiescence. “Thou shalt not go with them : thou shalt not curse the people for they are blessed.” Alas, how does the diviner's covetousness soften down this unqualified expression of the mind of God! “Get you into your land; for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.” He wished to go : he would have run greedily for reward : and restrained as he was, by a servile fear of the Most High, he could not frame his lips to that positive denial which might have preserved him from further importunity. Princes are sent yet again more and more honourable than the former. Balaam, instead of closing his house and his heart against them, upon the strong authority of God's last command, admits them to both. Tempted himself, he endeavours to tempt Jehovah to a reversal of his decree, and to exact from him permission to seek the tents of Moab, and curse Israel. On what a precipice of danger-near what an abyss of woe, is that man standing, who, warned by the gracious Spirit of his heavenly Father, and fenced from temptation, as it were, by the outstretched hand of God himself, in a positive injunction, lends his ear to Satan, and dallies with the seduction that is luring his soul to death. The prayer which his lips dare not utter, but which is offered
up of his soul, may be granted him in judgment. The same voice which gave Balaam permission to go on his godless journey, may withdraw the defences ofrestraining grace, and yield him up to those sins, with all their dreadful consequences, from which he was unwilling to be separated.
Not a word could Balaam utter, save as the Lord put it into his mouth. Yet he goes
forward, self deceived, and to his ruin. Equally led away by the error of the wicked is that man, from whom God removes the controlling influences of his Spirit, and declares, Ephraim is
in the secrecy
joined to idols ; let him alone. If you regard the love of God—if you would avoid this mournful desertion—if you are anxious for the safety of your souls, implore the Lord to deny the wish of your affections, in infinite mercy, rather than to grant them in wrath and vengeance. Cast me not away from thy presence, take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation :
Even when Balaam had arrived at the camp of Moab, and strongly felt the hand of the Most High upon him, he repeated his sacrifices and invocations; importuning God to withdraw the prohibition, and defy Israel by his mouth. The farther he advances in this sad career, the more feebly does he seem to strive against the indwelling sin :-the more fully does he yield himself, so far as the divine will permits him to the views of Balak. The power of God irresistibly prevents the utterance of the meditated curse; but Balaam's will makes no resistance against it. There is no safety, my brethren, in that dark hour of temptation, when the prince of this world would bribe us to make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, except in the Spirit and imparted strength of the incarnate Saviour, when he foiled the enemy of souls in the wilderness, and said, “Get thee behind me Satan.” There is no defence, under the influence of Almighty grace, like that unanswerable question of Joseph, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” We may entertain temptation, in a blind confidence of our own strength, like him, whose future enormities the prophet placed before his eyes, and who started back from the picture, imagining, that it would never be realized. “But what, is thy servant, a dog, that he should do this great thing?" We may imitate Peter in his assertion, “Though all men should deny thee, yet will I never deny thee.” Like him, we may fall deeply from our steadfastness : and if the insulted Saviour whom we are led to deny, turn not, and look upon us with that mild and merciful rebuke, which reached and renewed the soul of Peter, we may fall, to rise no more. man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed. What then shall be our refuge, when the prince of darkness thus makes his assault, through the corruption of in-dwelling sin? Realize the presence of God. Remember, that he is as near to observe your conduct, as Satan to seduce you from your allegiance. Nay, nearer still. The author of sin, the father of lies, stands by your side; but God is within
you may be
you, ready to communicate the fulness of spiritual strength, and to give you a victory over all the devices of your enemy, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. Resist the first seduction, with all the powers of your minds, in that ability which the sufficiency of the Holy Ghost can alone bestow : and then, take an unspeakable consolation from the blessed assurance, “ that no temptation can befal you, but such as is common to mun--that God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able ; but will, with the temptation, also make a way for you
to escape, that able to bear it."
III. Thus led astray by entertaining the seduction with complacency, we are not surprised to find, that Balaam should oppose the rebuke of the Lord, and the voice of his own convictions. He had, so to speak, extorted a permission from Jehovah, to accompany the princes of Moab: but even now the long suffering of heaven did not abandon him. The angel of the Lord withstood him in the way, graciously to convince him of his sin, and put him upon his guard, in the perilous way along which he journeyed. The messenger of heaven, the angel of the covenant, Jesus Christ himself, held forth the sword of a divine prohibition, and