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burnt offerings; and I will direct their work in truth."* Fraudulent people may pretend to religion; may make many and long prayers, but their religion is of no avail; their facrifices are an abom. ination.† Witness the scribes and pharifees, who received the greater damnation.
THE next characteriilic trait here given of the good man, is the love of mercy. What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do juftly and to love mercy? THERE is fomething particularly to be ob served in the language here used-love mercy.—It may not be in every one's power to fhew mercy; but every man may, and every good man does love mercy. To "feed the hungry and clothe the naked," are acts of mercy, but not in the power of all men. Some are, themselves wholly dependent on the mercy of others for their own fupport.
JUSTICE often reftrains and fets bounds to the exercise of mercy. The judge may be grieved for the malefactor, and with that he could fhew mercy to him, but find himself obliged to condemni him and fuffer justice to take its course. The debts which a perfon hath contracted may require all his goods, or all his neceffities do not require. In fuch cases he is under obligation to fhut the hand of charity, even against the proper objects of it. We have no right to defraud fome, that we may fhew mercy to others. Juftice is a prior duty. We are tied up to the discharge of it-are bound to do jufly; whereas it is only required that we love mercy. The love of mercy will difpofe us to
+ Ifaiah i. 10, &c.
* Ifaiah Ixí. 8.
fhew mercy, where we have ability to do it without violating juftice. Yea, it will caufe us to do it with pleasure, rendering us like God, who " delights in mercy."
Acrs of mercy may proceed from other principles beside the love of mercy, but these do not anfwer to the divine requirement. In the view of him who fees the heart they are not characteristic of renovation, or a heart right with God.
THE third particular here mentioned as conftituting the finishing part of the good man's character, is humility-that he walks humbly with his God that he is fenfible of his imperfection, and of his need of mercy from God. This always makes a part of the good man's character.
THE good man, while he is juft to all, and while kind and benevolent, and difpofed to do good to all, as he hath opportunity and ability, retains a sense of his defects, of his remaining depravity-that he but too often deviates from his own principles-that in every thing he comes fhort of his duty. Therefore doth he confefs himself "an unprofitable fervant" -that he lays God under no obligation-yea, that he lives on mercy-that all the good things which he receives, are unmerited, the gifts of divine grace
that was mercy denied him, and "the reward of his hands given to him, it would be ill with him"he fhould be undone forever.
SUCH is the character drawn by the Eastern foothfayer in the laft verfe of our text: And it is the perfect character of a child of God, in this ftate of imperfection, trial, and improvement,
where he is preffing on towards that perfection which he never attains till he "puts off the body, and is clothed on with his houfe which is from heaven." Then the spirits of just men are made perfect," and not till then.
"THE fpirits of juft men"-The words are expreffive, plainly implying that none who allow themselves in injuftice are the children of Godthat all the faints will eventually be found, to be "Ifraelites indeed in whom there is no guile.'
THUS did Balaam inftru&t Balak, or remind him of what God required. Balak did not regard him. He could not be perfuaded to make fuch facrifices as thèse. He would give all the treasures of his kingdom, and even the fruit of his body, to procure the favor of God; but to facrifice his corrup tions, and put on the temper of a faint!-Thefe were hard requirements-he must be excused! Therefore did he difmifs his inftructor, who hitherto had "spoken only the word which God had put into his mouth"-and went away though he went forrowing!
THE fame is the temper of too many others. We may do much which God requires, may even go beyond and do much which he doth not require, and yet be nothing in religion. There must be the spirit and temper of true religion. There can be no commutation-Nothing will be accepted as a fubftitute. We must do juflly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God, or have no part in him. Nothing without it will be accepted; not even "giving the body to be burned."
PEOPLE may also have a good fpeculative ac. quaintance with religion and yet remain devoid of it. Such cafes fometimes occur. Such an one occurred in him who pake fo well in our text. Balaam appears to have had a perfect knowledge of the nature of religion; to have understood what it was and wherein it confifted. He was fenfible also of the importance of being found at laft to have lived under the influence of it. Therefore when looking forward to the period of his diffolution, did he utter that earnest wish, or prayer"Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my laft end be like his." Yet he was not a good man! his knowledge refided in his head: It never reached his heart. "He loved the wages of unrighteoufnefs;" lived and died under the govern. ment of depravity and wickedness! He dared not indeed to go in direct oppofition to the letter of the divine command-dared not curfe Ifrael with his lips, though he longed to do it, and wifhed the curfe to fall upon them, while he was bleffing them and foretelling their future greatnefs. But he dar. ed privately to advise Balak "to cast a stumbling block before them"-To fend among them the women of Moab, and feduce them to uncleannefs and idolatry, in order to bring the curfe of heaven upon them! His advice was followed and partly fucceeded! Not to procure a victory for Moab, but to bring the judgments of God upon Ifrael; twenty four thousands of whom fell by the peftilence which was fent to punish "their fin in the matter of Peor." And more tragical events would
probably have followed, had not Phinehas flood up and executed vengeance on fome of the princi. pal offenders, and thus turned away the anger of the Lord from his offending people.*
WHO can contemplate these things without af tonishment! Who confider the character and conduct of Balaam and not be amazed! That a man fo inftructed refpecting the divine character, the nature of religion, and the confequences which will follow human conduct here, fhould dare to fet himself deliberately to evade the divine law, as wicked and artful men do human laws, furprises and confounds us! Yet fo it certainly was in the cafe before us!
WE are not left ignorant of the confequences: To him the "end of thofe things was death," eternal death, for he died in rebellion against God. And he seems to have anticipated the event; when fpeaking of the divine being, the true God and Redeemer, he breaks out into that language-" I fhall fee him, but not now; I fhall behold him, but not nigh."
We can form no judgment of a person's moral ftate by his fpeculative knowledge of God and religion. Knowledge in divine things is important; on many accounts it is fo; but it does not enfure goodness of heart, without which we cannot be faved; we may have "all knowledge," yet perifh in our fins. So it happened to Balaam,
* Numbers xxv, and xxxi, 16.