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UMBERS XXIV. 5, 6. How goodly are thy tentSy Jacoh^ ahd thy tabêmacleSy O Israel ! As the vaUêys are they spread forthy as gardens hý thé river's sidej as the trees of Hgn-aloes which the Lord hath plantedy and as cedar trees beside the waters. We have already expounded two oí tfaose predictions of prosperity and power, mtíi which Balaam, under the compulsory power of the Spirit of God, was mude to bles» the children of Israel, as they were lying en^. camped in the plains of Moabi I saj tltó comptdsory power of the Spirit of God, becau^ it was in hÍ3 heart to '• hare done fáx otíberwise. Such was in his case &e ^^ïft of piophecy.
FURTHER PROPHECIES, &C. 127 It is not so in the gift of saving grace. The first operation of the Holy Ghost on the mind of man is to make him a willing subject of divine influence. It begins by removing his natural opposition to the wiU of God and the method of his salvation ; it implants in him spiritual desires and holy purposes; it disposes him to approve of all the things which God has revealed and commanded, and infuses into him a love for the people of God, and a desire tp do them good and to have his own portion among them. Thus instead of remaining under this influence an unwilling creature, all the while desiring othei"wise, rebelling and doing despite to the Spirit, ^ the gi*ace of God by Christ prevents him that he may have a good will and works wiúi him
when he has that good will.' There is this most important difference between the mere gift of extraordinary powers, and the sanctifyiug communicatious of saving grace. With these observations I proceed to conslder the two remaining prophetical blessings wbioh Balasun was compelled to pronounce upon the Israelites, as they are recorded in
128 FURTHER PROPHECIES tbÍ8 cbapter. Perceiving from what bad already passed tbat it was God's detexmined purpose to bless tbem, notwitbstandiug ali bis attempts to procure a contrary decisiou, be desisted from bis encbantments, and. seema as if be would bave ceased from any furtber attempts against tbem. But be was overruled even in tbis partícular. Wbile Im beheld tbem abiding iu order in tbeir tents, according to tbeir tribes, tbe Spirit of God ^aiu came upon bim, and constrained bim ta utter still more noble predictions. Tbis third propbec^ opens with wbat appears to be a pompous description of bis attainments in respect of propbetic visions. ^^ Balaam the son of Beor batb said, aud tbe man wbose eyes are open bath said ; be batb said whicb beard tbe words of God^ wbicb saw tbe vision of tbe Almigbty, falling into a trauce, but having his eyes open." Tbese are tbe words of our common translation, and if they are correct^ they certainly display tbe vanity of Balaam, and tbe complacency witb which he prided himself in bis giíls. But I must observe to you tbat it is generally
OF BALAAM. 129 tinderstood that the passage should rather be read thus. — *^ Balaam the son of Beor hath
said, and the man whose eyes were that hath said ; he hath said which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling, and his eyes were opened." If this be the ríght translation, the words probably refer to his inability to see his angel of the Lord which stood in the way, while the ass saw him, and to his falling down when the ass fell, and then perceiving the divine messenger. Whichever way we read, the import of the prophecy is not affected by it, nor yet the character of Balaam. For, alas for him, while his eyes were opened, his heart was shut against the word of God. Giorious iudeed were the views that were vouchsafed to him, and the revelatious which were made to him ; but he derived no advantage from them to himself. His knowledge did not profit him, because his heai't was not right with God. And no discernment of divine things, however obtained, will be beneficial to any man, unless it be accompanied with a bowing of the wiU to all that God would G5
130 PURTHER PROPHECIES have him to say and do, and a delight aiid joj of heart in the thingB wfaich God cominands> and in the people whom he hononrs. The prophecy behig thns opened, Balaam delivers the whole of it in these words. " How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, aud thy tabernables, O Israel! As the vallies are they spread forth, as gardens bj the river'^ eáde^ as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lotd haih planted beside the waters. He shall pour ihe water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his hing shall be higher than Agag, and his kiugdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt ; he hath as it were the streugth of a unicorn ; he shall eat up the uations his ene-
mies, and shall break their bones, aud pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion aud as a great lion ; who shall stir him up ? Blessed is he that blesseth thee and cursed is he that curseth thee." lu most beautiful imagery is the preseut position of the Israelites described, and thdr futnre glories predicted» Theír increase in population^ their power, their
Oï* BALAAM. 131 victories^ tbeir influence on tbose who migbt love or hate them^ are all set forth by figiires selected from tbe loveliest scenes in natnre, or the swiftest and most powerful beasts of the íbrest. And well was the prophecy fulfílled to them. The rapid increase of the people and of their flocks and herds after they got possession of the promised land, the astonishiug fertility of tbeir country which long flowed to them as with milk and houey, the triumphs which tbey won over the devoted nations, the military ' glories of their early kings, their peaceful and quiet state in the reign of Solomon, resting like a great lion couching after his repast, but ready to spring upon whatever disturbed him in his lair, all these things were fulfiUed to the cbildren of Israel by the hand of their God upon them. And according to the blessing and curse upon otbers, as they should favour or hate them, which was originally pronounced upon Abrabam, and confinned to Jacob, the Jews were a protection and the eause of prosperity to all wbo formed alliauces with them, and the destruction of all who
132 fURTHER PROPHECIES dared to lÍBe np in arms against them* ay I donbt not bnt that if the hisloiy of áll uations could be accnrately examined on thk
particnlar point, it wonld be fonnd that the prediction has been fnlfilled even in the tímes of their dispersion, and that those nadons which hare dealt kindly with them have been rewarded for it bj providential mercies and blessings, and those which have persecuted them have been punished. Balaam's views might not extend beyond the application of this prophecy to the children of Israel, bnt donbtless the Spirit of God took a wider range, and then looked upon the whole of the futnre Chnrch of Christ^ as it was spread forth before his eternal view in the long vista of futurity. To it let us uow direct our thoughts. Let ns contemplate the people of God as gathered together in the new dispensation, and look upon the privileges which it at present enjoys^ aud the blessings which ai'e yet reserved for it. May I not look over this congregation^ and may not you, in the power of the mind's imagination, look upon the various congregations
OF BALAAM. 138 wlio are assembled together in their reHpective places of wotship on this and cther holy sábbaths ? aud beholding them peacefullj occapying their seats^ and worshipping in their places, offering up the yoice of prayer and pmse, listening to the Lord's word, rejoidng in the ordinances of the gospel^ and blessed with the presence of their God in their assemblies, may we not adopt the words of Balaam and say, " How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabemacles, O Israel ?" And if we could but see the various tribes of this spiritual Israel divesting themselves of their jealousies, and throwing away their dissentions, and all speaking the same things, and perfectly joined together in the same judgment, and keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, how much more applicable and appropriate would the exclama-
tion be ! Yet even as things are, and as each community is united, or single congregation is assfmibled in the worship of the Lord and the eujoyment of the word and its ordinances, we may truly say, "How amiable are thy tabemacles, O Lord of hosts! Blessed are
134 FURTHER PROPHECIES thej that dwell iu thj honse : thej wiU be stiH praÍBÍng thee/' Oh when the love of God ia ahed abroad upon their hearts by the Holj Ghost given unto them, and all the divine inflnences of the Spirit are poured out upcm them, under the means of grace, filling them with light, and life, and peace, and love, delightiug them with joj and gladness, enriching them with holy affections and heavenly puq^oses, and reflected back again in tfaeir labours of love and works of ríghteousness, Oh then words can scarcely be found, even in the lovely imagery of the prophets themselves, to describe the happiness and glorj of Christ's real church on earth. His presence and grace, his strength and power, are in tbe midst of them : highly indeed is their king exalted, higher than all the kings of tfae earth, for his throne is in their hearts, and fais sceptre has a universal sway amoug all the various peoples, and nations^ and languages who constitute that chiurch. While greait and ricfa as is this present state of the Spírítaal Israel of God^ iar greater and rícher wiU its iuture gloríes be ; for the prophecy is yet not
OF BALAAM. 185 whoUy fulfílled. A vast increase shall yet be made to it. The whole heathen shall be given to Chríst in possession bj grace, as they are for au inheritance by promise ; the Jews shall be recovered from their fali and he shall reigu over them also ; the kingdoms oí
this world shall be the kingdoms of our God aud of his Chríst, all his enemies shall be subdued unto him and great will be the abundance and peace of his children. And when that church is transplanted into heaven, and all its members are perfectly purífied from earthly dross aud sin, and their king appears in his beauty, aud all are gathered together around his throue, or spread over tlie vast expanse to fulfil his high behests, when they rejoice eternally in his love, and are glorified with him in his glory, what sbaU I say? where is language to be found which can descríbe, what '^ eye hath not seen nor ear heard ?" o vision of prophet or apostle has ever been able to give any adequate descríption of the blessedness of the Lord's people iu heaven^ the greatness and glory af the kingdom which they shall then iuherít^ or
136 FURTHEB PJHOPHBCIES the king who shidl role over them. Eveo the beloTed diflcíple ooold mly Basy, *' it dodi not yet appear what we shall be;*' and the great apostle of the Gentiles, who had been canght op into the fbird heavens, btoi^|ht back no acconnt o( the visions wfaích he saw, and the nnspeakable words which he heard* Oh ! brethren, desire eamestlj to be mcmbeis of Christ's tme spiritnal chnrch on earth, aad then you wiU hereafter enjoy all its glories in heaven. I now go on to consider and expoond te you the next aud concloding prc^hecy of Balaam. Ënraged by the gríevoos disap' pointment of his expectations Balak dismisses him with reproaches, and taonts him with the loss of the great things which he bad int^ded to give him. " I called thee," he says, " to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thoo hast altogether blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thonght to promote thee nnto great honoor;
but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back' from honour/' Most true iudeed, the Lord had kept Balaam back írom honoor; and so he
OP BALAAM. 1^7 will every one whose way is perverse befor^ him. But God is not to be thus sent away at Balak's pleasore, and tfaerefore fae sfaall hear somewfaat more of tfais people to fais discomfort and dismaj. Balaam a^n tells faim tfaat wfaat the Lord said unto faim tfaat fae must speak, and ere fae parts from faim proceeds to advertise faim furtfaer wfaat tfaat people would do unto fais people in tfae latter days. He opeus tfais propfaecy in tfae same manuer as tfae preceding^ witfa tfae same description of fais knowledge and visions, and I need not remark again on tfae difference between extemal gift» and internal graces, between knowledge in tfae faead and love in tfae faeart. But ofa! if sucfa gifis as tfaese wfaicfa Balaam possessed reside in an unsanctified soul, faow awful is its case ! and if sucfa ligbt as his be darkness, how great must tfaat darkuess be ! The prophecj is as foUows. Tfaus Balaam speaks. ^^I sfaall see him, but not now: I sfaall befaold faim, but not nigfa : tfaere sfaall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre
138 PURTHfiR PSOPfiECiES shall lÍBe out of Israel, and shaH smíle the corne» of Moab, and destroy all the children of SheÚL And Edom shall be a possessioD, Seir also shall be a possesflioD for his enemies: and Israel shall do valisuitljr. Bat of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion. and shall destrov him that remaHH
eth of the ÁtjJ* The prophecy concliides with predictions of Ibe fate of other nations, and looks forward not onlj to the destraclMn of the Amalekites and Midianites, bnt to the Tictories of the Assyrians, Greeks, a&d Romans, and the forthest end of time* I shall onlj take notice of those parts of it which refer more evidently and directly to the spiritnal state of the chnrch of Cbiist and its heavenly king. The abrnpt manner in which Balaam here speaks is worthy of observation. ^' I shidl see bim, but not now; I shall behold him) but not nigh." Whom does he mesm by this pronoun, him P o person had been previ^ ously spoken of, to whom it can be referred. o^ for in the eager haste and rapid lan« guage of prophecy the Spirit hurries him on
OF fiALAá.M. 139 to. speak of Cbríst, the great Messiab^ tbe gloríous star . and migbty sceptre. He is here spokeu of as a uew star arísing in tbe finnament, appearing for tbe admiration of men, and to give ligbt unto tbe world. Tbus did an emblem of bim sbine fortb, tbe star in the east^ wbich guided tbe wise men to tbe place of bis birtb. Tbus was he spoken of by Zacbarías, " the tender mercy of God, whereby tbe dajspríng from on bigb batb ^isited us, to give light to tbem tbat sit in darkness, and in tbe sbadow of deatb, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Thus also tbe Lord speaks of bimself in tbe vision vouchsafed to St. Jobn in Patmos, ^' I am the root and offspritig of David, aud the brígbt and moming star." And St. Peter also apeaks in a similar figure. He with two otlier fdvoured apostles, had seen tbe Lord transfigured before tbem. They bad been eyewitnesses of somewhat of bis essential majesty bonom* and glory ; tbey bad heard a voice from heaven in the holy mount : yet be
teUs tb^ tbat tbey bad a better medium of instruction and information than any which
140 FURTHEB PROPHECIES coold be deiived from such tísíods as tbese. *' We have also/' he says, ^^ a more siire word of prophecy ; whereanto je do well that je take heed, as mito a light that shineth in a dark plaee, until the day dawn, and tbe daj* star arise in yonr hearts." We then need not enyy the visible dísplay of gloiy wfaich these apostles witnessed, nor the revelations given to St« Paál in the third bearens, nor the visions Tonebsafed to St. John in the isle of Patmos, and least of all, the prophetic spirít which was possessed bj Babiam, and Ahaz, and Sanl, and others of a símilar description. We haye the word of God^ ** a liglit nnto onr feet and a lamp nnto onr path ;*' and we haye the blessed inflnénce of his Spiiit in onr hearts, workÍDg ihere intemally, to sanctify as well as to enligbten, to fiU onr sonls with loye as well as knowledge, to make us like him, and able to discem his gloiy. He is also come ont of Israel as '' a sceptie/' the emblem of regal antfaotity and power* For Jesus is the King of Zion and the prinoe of peace. But his kingdom is not of tfais world. He received it not hy any
OF BALAAM. 141 eartbly appointment. It is not an outward and yÍ9Íble kingdom, directing the common affairs of state. It bas little to do with the pettj politics of sublunarj tbings. It is a kingdom establisbed in men's hearts, a government of religious and pious influence^ a system of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Its sceptre is swayed over the emotions of tbe soul, which it sub-
jects to the rule of Jesus, " casting down imaginations, and every high tbing that exaltetb itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Ghrist." But what says Balaam of this glorious light and king ? ^^ I shall see him, but not now. I shall behold him but not nigh.'' This was true in one sense, for Balaam saw him through a period of fifteen bundred years which bad stiU to run before his actual appearance. It was true in a far more important sense to himself personally, for he has yet to see him, and the day in which he shaJl come in his glory, toexecute the fínal judg^ ment upon him and upon all the workers of
142 FURTHER PROPHECIES iniquity. ^^Behold he cometfa with clouds: aiid every eje shall see hhn, and they also which pierced him : and all kindreds of tbe earth shall wail because of him." ^^ Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ and he sa\r it and was glad," and thongh it was further oíf in point of time than when Balaam had this view of it, yet Abraham even then had Jesus fiigh unto him, for he dwelt in bis henrt by faith, while Balaam had Jesus far oíf from him, for his heart was full of covetousness, and of evil designs and practises against his people. Oh ! that we may be enabled to see the Lord Jesus by faith and after a spiritual manner. There is a view of him which the mind may take though he be not seen by the eye in visible form, nor in vision by the spirit. There is a lookiug unto Jesus whicli can purify, animate, strengthen, and comfort the soul. God give unto you, my brethren, such a view of Christ, And as you thus look upon him, may you become the wiUing subjects of his spiritual kingdom. Oh ! that jou
may also be nigh unto him, and he unto you,
OP BALAAM. 143 and that you may feel all the power, happiDess, and joy of his presence with you. Then vrhat present privileges and blessings wiU be yours ? Holy and heavenly peace, joy in the light of his countenancey instruction and guidance in his ways, protection from all adversities, victory over all enemies, with every otl^Br blessing that is promised in the gospel, or necessary for your comfort and salvation. And oh ! what a view of Christ awaits bis faithful people ! when they enter with him into his heavenly kingdom, and see him as he is. If he be now precious to yom* hearts by faith, if he be one " whom having not seen ye love, in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and fuU of glory." Oh how blissful will be the sight of him, when you are admitted into his immediate presence, and beliold him in the effulgence of his glory.
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