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[No sooner had our Lord given up the ghost, than 'the Centurion, the first fruits of the Gentiles, was led to acknowledge him as the Son of God. Presently, not Judea only, but the whole Roman empire, was filled with those who were gathered unto him. And, at this moment, "all who are taught of God come unto him as the one foundation of all their hopes, and the only fountain of all their blessings. There is a period still future, when this prophecy shall be fulfilled in its utmost extent; when "all kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall serve him." Blessed period! may" God hasten it in its time!" may his " gospel run and be glorified," and "his glory fill the earth!"]
Let us now ADDRESS a few words
1. To those who are yet dispersed, and at a distance from the Lord
[How many are there even in this Christian land, who have no more fellowship with Jesus than if he had never come into the world! But what account will they give to him when they shall stand at his tribunal in the last day? Are not the words of our text a direction, as well as a prophecy? Are they not equivalent to an express command? Has not Christ himself enforced this command by repeated invitations and promises, "Look unto me, and be ye saved;" "Come unto me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls?" Has he not even sworn that all shall come to him, or perish for their neglect"? Why then should we not all gather ourselves around him as in the days of his flesh? Why should not the blind, the lame, the leprous, the possessed, come to him for deliverance? Why should not the poor trembling sinner press through the crowd, and "touch the hem of his garment?" Surely none should find it in vain to come unto him; "Virtue should go forth from him to heal them all." O let the prophecy then receive a fresh accomplishment this day; and may God so "draw us by his Spirit that we may run after him," and abide with him for ever!]
2. Those who, through grace, have been gathered to him
[The sceptre is now passed into the hands of Jesus. He is the true lion of the tribe of Judah, to whom all power in heaven and in earth has been committed. What then have ye to fear, who are under his protection? Who shall ever pluck you from his hands P? When, or to whom shall his sceptre ever be transferred? His mediatorial kingdom will indeed be put
* Isai. xlv. 22-25.
Rev. v. 5.
P John x. 28.
put down, when there shall be no more occasion for it. But though he will cease to mediate between God and man, his sovereign dominion shall exist to all eternity; "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; of thy kingdom there shall be no end." Rejoice then, believers, in your Lord; "let the children of Zion be joyful in their king." Cherish his attractive influences gather yourselves around him yet daily and hourly spread before him your every want: commune with him on every occasion: consult him, listen to him; obey him : cleave to him with full purpose of heart; so will he keep you stedfast unto the end, and admit you to the richer fruition of his presence in his kingdom above.]
૧ 1 Cor. xv. 24. This relates to the peculiar mode of administering the affairs of his kingdom as our Mediator.
Iai. ix. 7. Dan. ii. 44. Heb. i. 8.
CHRIST THE STAR SPOKEN OF BY BALAAM.
Numb. xxiv. 15-17. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: He hath said, who heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, who saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a stár out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
IT has pleased God on various occasions to make known his will to persons of a very unworthy character; and to shew that his ways and thoughts are not regulated by the vain maxims of human wisdom. He proclaimed to Ahaz the conception of our Emmanuel in the womb of a virgin. To Nebuchadnezzar he revealed the successive destruction of the four great monarchies, and the erection of the Messiah's kingdom on the ruins of them all. Thus, in the passage before us, we are informed, that he declared to Balaam not only his purposes respecting Israel and the nations that surrounded them, but the advent of that glorious person, who, as a star should enlighten, and as a prince should govern, the whole world.
The introduction to this prophecy is not unworthy of our
It seems very strongly to characterize the person who delivered it
[When prophecies have been delivered by pious men, they have either been introduced with a plain declaration, "Thus saith the Lord;" or the prefatory observations have been calculated to exalt and glorify God. But Balaam's prediction is ushered in with a pompous exhibition of his own attainments, intended, as it should seem, to wrest from Balak that respect and honour, which he had failed to procure by his preceding prophecies*.]
It shews us too, in a very awful and convincing fight, how much knowledge we may possess, while yet we are utterly destitute of converting grace
[The most highly favoured of God's servants from the beginning of the world had not delivered a clearer prophecy of Christ than that which was uttered by Balaam on this occasion. Nor is it improbable that the expectation which obtained throughout the east, that a prince should arise out of Judea and rule the whole world, was occasioned very much by this prophecy. It is remarkable that the Eastern Magi no sooner saw the supernatural star, than they concluded that this Prince was born, and came immediately to Judea to enquire, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? Yet where shall we find a baser character than Balaam's? Having considerable knowledge of the true God, he still continued to use inchantments as a magician. He was so covetous that he " ran greedily after a reward," and preferred "the wages of unrighteousness" to every consideration, either of duty to God or of love to man. His hypocrisy was conspicuous from first to last; for in the midst of all his high professions of regard to the will and word of God, he laboured to the utmost to counteract the designs of God, and to reverse his decrees. More murderous purposes never were entertained in the heart of man; for it was his most earnest desire to curse all the people of God, and to consign them over to destruction by the sword of their enemies. His last act especially was truly diabolical: when he found he could not prevail to destroy their bodies, he taught
* There is some little obscurity in the passage, occasioned by the translation. The words "whose eyes are open," in ver. 15. should be," whose eyes were shut" and the words "in a trance," which are printed in Italics, should not have been inserted. The former refers to his not seeing the angel, when the ass saw him; and the latter to his falling flat on his face when the angel discovered himself to him. See ch. xxii. 27-31. b Jude xi. 2 Pet. ii. 15, 16.
taught their enemies how to tempt them and to destroy their souls. After comparing his character with his professions and attainments in divine knowledge, what shall we say? Shall we not tremble for ourselves, lest we should rest in a speculative knowledge of Christ, and fail, after all, of obtaining any saving interest in him? We are elsewhere informed that we may have the gifts of prophecy, of tongues, and of a miraculous faith, and yet be only as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbals. And our Lord assures us that many will in the last day plead the miraculous works that they have performed, but be dismissed with this humiliating answer, Depart from me, I never knew you. Even Judas himself was not, in respect of gifts, behind the very chiefest apostles. Let us then never value ourselves on any discoveries of divine truth, unless we have suitable affections and a correspondent practice.]
The prophecy itself is deserving of particular attention In its primary sense it must be understood in reference to David
[The immediate intention of Balaam was, to inform Balak "what the Israelites should do unto his people in the latter days." Accordingly he declares that one, like a star for brightness, should arise from among the Jews at a distant period, to sway the Jewish sceptre, and to destroy the kingdoms of Edom and Moab. This was fulfilled in David, who subjugated the Moabites, and slew every male in Edom.]
But there can be no doubt of its ultimately referring to Christ himself
[Christ is called in scripture "the Day-star," "the bright and morning star;" nor did ever any one arise with splendor comparable to his. He too sat upon the throne of his father David, and exercised unlimited dominion. The children of Edom and Moab may be justly considered as representing the enemies of his church and people. These he subdues and will finally destroy; not one shall live before him: "he will reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Doubts have arisen whether by "Sheth" we are to understand that son of Adam, whose posterity alone survived the flood; or some person or place of eminence in Moab; (which on the whole is the more probable) but in both senses the prediction was equally fulfilled in Christ, who "has the heathen for his inheritance and the utmost ends of the earth for his possession." HIM then did Balaam see, as Abraham also had seen four hundred years before, but not, alas! with Abraham's joyful hope.
© Rev. ii. 14.
e Matt. vii. 22, 23.
1 Cor. xiii.
hope. Of his victorious career he spake, saying, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh."]
Should not we then rejoice, who have seen this pro-. phecy accomplished?
[We have not to look forward at the distance of fifteen centuries; nor yet to travel like the Eastern Magi through trackless desarts to behold the Lord. The star is risen on our benighted world; the kingdom is established on the ruins of Satan's empire: "the Prince of this world is cast out;" and every enemy of our salvation is vanquished. We have only to open our eyes, and we shall see the beams of the Sun of Righteousness: we have only to yield ourselves up to Jesus, and we shall enjoy all the peace and glory of his kingdom. We may see him even now; we may behold him nigh, even in the very midst of us: O that our eyes may behold him, and that we may (6 see him for ourselves and not for others! " Let us improve our privilege: let us pray that this "Day-star may arise in our hearts." and let this monarch so captivate our souls, as to lead us to a willing and unreserved obedience.]
Should we not be thankful too that we have One engaged to vanquish all our enemies?
[This is the work and office of the Lord Jesus; nor will he ever fail in the execution of it. What though we be, like Israel, unarmed and unused to war? The Captain of our salvation is mighty; and "he who hath promised is able also to perform." The promised land is before us, and in vain shall our enemies conspire against us. They may strive to curse; but "there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel:" in due time it shall be said by each of us with wonder and amazement, "What hath God wrought1!" "Be strong then, brethren, and very courageous." "Believe in the Lord, so shall ye prosper, believe his prophets, so shall ye be established." Even " a worm shall thresh the mountains," for "the Lord our God is with us, and the shout of a king is among usk." Let "Israel then go forth and do valiantly;" and let the weakest rejoice in a confident expectation of victory; "for God is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent1."]*
The division of the subject is omitted, as in a few other instances, in order to shew how all the subjects might be treated without any division at all. But the natural division would be, I. The Introduction to the Prophecy. II. The Prophecy itself. The two concluding sections would form the Improvement.