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coftly facrifices, if they would avail to render propitious the God who had wrought fuch wonders in Egypt, and in the wilderness for the falva. tion of his people. He would offer all the cattle, and all the oil of his kingdom, thousands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil! Yea, he would even offer his first born, the heir of his crown! Would not refuse the dearest of his offspring to atone for his fin, and bring over the God of Ifrael to be his God, in the time of his distress!
SUCH were his propofals. We may observe in them several mistakes refpecting the fervice of God, or the homage which is acceptable to him; miftakes not uncommon among men. As,
FIRST, a fuppofition that fins may be atoned and mankind allowed to continue in them, if they will come up to the price.
THE Country of Moab abounded with flocks, particularly with fheep; it abounded alfo with oil; and Balak fuppofed that the divine favor might be obtained by facrifices of this kind-by a profusion of them-thousands of rams, and ten thoufands of rivers of oil. He knew himself a sinnerhe knew that he had taken part against the God of Ifrael; had served other gods, who were his rivals. But now he saw his need of the divine favor, and he wished to purchase it-at any price, to purchase it. He was ready to pay for his fins; only waited to know the price, and he would make the payment!
*2 Kings iii. 4.
Nor a word do we hear of his parting with his fins and returning back by repentance.
FEW left to the light of nature seem to have conceived the neceffity of repentance, in order to obtain the divine favor. For their fins, they must fome how, make atonement, and they would then be forgiven, though they continued to commit them! Mankind have entertained different ideas of what was neceffary to make atonement. The more common idea hath been, that it was to be done by facrifice; however they came by that idea. It probably derived by tradition from the first family of our race. But there seems to have been a general mistake respecting the design of facrifice. By those devoid of revelation, it hath not been confidered as pointing to a divine facrifice, but as having in itself an atoning virtue. So it seems to have been viewed by this Moabitish prince.
ANOTHER mistake refpecting facrifices, which hath been common in the world, is this-That their value depends on their coft to the offerer. This was a mistake of Balak. If common offerings, and the usual number of victims would not procure the divine favor and atone for his fins, he would offer more, and more coftly ones—thoufands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil! Such a profufion of facrifices, of the fame kind, or partly fo, with thofe offered by Ifrael, so many more they were able, coming out of the wilderness, to offer, he hoped would prevail to detach from them their God, and buy him ffo to be his friend!
BUT if not, if these were too little, he would facrifice his offspring! Give his firft born for his tranf. greffion-the fruit of his body for the fin of his foul f A facrifice much more coftly, much more painful, than that of all earthly treasure! Surely such an offering must prevail !
SIMILAR Conclufions have not been very uncommon! The homage offered up to God hath been estimated by its coft to the offerer! A circumftance which adds nothing to its value. The value of what is done for God depends on its conformity to his orders. That its coft to the offerer enhances its value, in the divine eftimation, fupposes him to be pleased with the fufferings of his creatures, and delighted with their forrows, than which, nothing is farther from truth. "God grieveth not willingly-Judgment is his ftrange work." Were it otherwise, the more reluctant the offerer, the more acceptable would be the offering: But God loves a cheerful giver; yea, he is so pleased with this difpofition, that he accepts and rewards it, where ability is wanting to carry it into action. "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted.”*
THE facrifices of old derived all their value from the facrifice of Chrift, to which they pointed. God had determined, when and how they should be offered. Additions to the number, or coft, added nothing to their value, but had a contrary effect, fpoiled and rendered them unavailing. Human victims, the most coftly, and therefore fuppofed by the heathen, to be the most efficacious, were fo far
* 2 Corinthians viii. 12.
from having power with God to draw down his bleffing, that they moft certainly drew his curfe on all who offered them. This was one of the fins of the Canaanites, which above all others, availed to bring the divine judgments upon them. And when Ifrael fell into the fame fin, it kindled the wrath of God against them to their deftruction. This was the fin of Manaffeh," which God would not pardon."
BALAK first proposed other facrifices-a profufion of them; but if they were not fufficient to atone for his fins and procure the friendship of Je hovah, feems to have thought that the facrifice of his first born must avail !
SUCH were his blunders refpecting the nature of that religion which would render him acceptable to the true God. He feems not once to have thought of repentance; or if he did, he made no offer of it-did not once propofe "crucifying the flesh with its affections and lufts." He chose rather to facrifice all the treasures of his kingdom, and all the members of his family, than part with his fins and become holy in heart and life.
SUCH is the temper of depravity. The fervants of fin are sooner perfuaded to make any other facrifice than that of their lufts and corruptions. And many foolishly flatter themselves that other facrifices will avail to procure the divine favorthat holiness of heart and life are not indispensibly requifite, but that fomething befide may be fubftituted in its ftead. Countless examples of this folly meet us in hiftory, and even in the hifto
ry of a church which calls itfelf Chriftian! Yea, which claims to be the only catholic church of Chrift!
THUS did Balak mistake the nature of true religion, and confider it as confifting in that which was foreign, yea, repugnant to its nature. Such were his proposals which he spread before Balaam, and of which he required his opinion. Let us hear then the answer of the Sage.
BALAAM was better inftructed: He appears to have understood the nature of true religion, and clearly points it out to Balak, though he neglected himself to conform to it. He hath fhewed thee, O man, what is good: And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do juftly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly, with thy God?
THERE is fcarcely a better definition of true religion to be found in the bible.
He hath fhewed thee, O man, what is good.—From Balak's inquiry we fhould be ready to conclude that he was ignorant of God and religion—that he supposed that God preferred facrifice to juftice and mercy-that facrifice would fupply their place and render them of no account. Balaam tells him that he had been better inftructed; though we know not where, or how. He hath fhewed thee, what is good; and he appeals to Balak whether this was not the cafe-What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, &c.
To do justly-There is no true religion where juflice is not received as a foundation principle. "I the Lord love judgment; I hate robbery for