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People may also have a good speculative ac. quaintance with religion and yet iemain devoid of it. Such cases sometimes occur.
Such an one occurred in him who fpake so 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 corGfted. He was fenfible also of the importance of being found at last to have lived under the influence of it. Therefore when looking forward to the period of his dissolu. tion, did he utter that earnest wish, or prayer“ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
Yet he was not a good man! his knowledge resided in his head : It never reached his heart. “ He loved the wages of unrighteousness;" lived and died under the govern, ment of depravity and wickedness! He dared not indeed to g» in direct opposition to the letter of the divine command-dared not curse Israel with his lips, though he longed to do it, and wished the curse to fall upon them, while he was blessing them and foreielling their future greatness. But he dar. ed privately to advise Balak " 10 cast a ftunbling block before them"-To send among them the women of Moab, and seduce them to uncleanness and idolatry, in order to bring the curse 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 Israel ; twenty four thousands of whom fell by the peftilence which was sent to punish “ their fin in the matter of Peor," And more tragical events would
probably have followed, had not Phinehas stood up and executed vengeance on some of the princi. pal offenders, and thus turned away the anger of the Lord from his offending people.*
Who can contemplate these things without aftonishment! Who consider the character and conduct of Balaam and not be amazed ! That a man so instructed respecting the divine character, the nature of religion, and the consequences which will follow human conduct here, should dare to set himself deliberately to evade the divine law, as wicked and artful men do human laws, surprises and confounds us ! Yet so it certainly was in the cafe before us !
We are not left ignorant of the consequences : To him the "end of those things was death," eter. nal death, for he died in rebellion against God. And he seems to have anticipated the event; when speaking of the divine being, the true God and Redeemer, he breaks out into that language" I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh.”
We can form no judgment of a person's moral state by his fpeculative knowledge of God and religion. Knowledge in divine things is important; on many accounts it is so ; but it does not ensure goodness of heart, without which we cannot be saved ; we may have “all knowledge,” yet perish in our fins. So it happened to Balaam, and probably to others belde him.
*Numbers xxv, and xxxi, 16.
" If ye know these things happy are ye, if ye do them."
But we are chiefly concerned at home to know our own state. Do we do juftly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God? If these are found upon us, happy are we ; but if any of them are habitually wanting to us, we “are yet in our sins, and the wrath of God abideth on us."
'If any are disposed to inquire with Balak, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ? Let them attend to the answer given by Balaam-if we add, reliance on divine grace in Christ, no better answer can be given.
How far those of old were let into the gospel way of salvation we know not. Balaam expressed the temper of a child of God.
Whoever pof. fessed that temper relied on divine mercy, while endeavoring to fulfil all righteousness. Such would refer themselves to divine grace; and surely God would not be wanting to them. He might lead them by a way which they understood not; " but would bring them to their desired haven, and unto God their exceeding joy. Their labor would not be in vain in the Lord."
DEPENDENCE on divine mercy is still our duty: Though favored with gospel light, many things are yet hidden from us. Let us therefore do juftly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, and he will guide us through the darkness, and bring us to the rest which he hath prepared for those who love and serve, and trust him here. For these there is no commutation. Knowledge the most perfect ; faith the most miraculous ; and sacrifices the most costly, would all be of no avail. God hath shewn us what is good, and what he requires.' May we hear and obey. Amen.
-If we deny him, he also will deny us. This is predicated of Christ; and looks for. ward to the day when all mankind will stand be. fore him as their judge.
DENYING Christ is here declared to be a mortal fin. Those found guilty of it will hear that sentence-- Depart ye cursed !” But this is to be understood only of a persevering denial of him. Those who turn by a timely repentance, will find mercy. This is true of every fin.
But repentance may be too late. It must antecede death, or it will be of no avail. The day of grace termi. nates with life. From that period man ceases to be a probationer, and his state is unalterably fixed.
When the offers of pardon and peace are fent abroad, some will not hear. Who will receive, and who reject the grace of life, is to us unknown. Our expectations are often disappointed. Some