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daily insulting him by their abominations as speak out?' He makes our voices the vehiin the case of Pharaoh and Abimelech al-cles of his will, without permitting us a choice ready mentioned, as in the case of Nebu- in the matter. I well remember for what chadnezzar, the grossest of idolaters, many purpose the joint entreaties of you and the ages afterwards, and in the case before us. Midianites have brought me hither. I have All this leads to make an obvious and an im- undertaken this journey with a fixed deterportant distinction, between the extraordina- mination to favour your earnest wishes: but ry gitts and the graces of God's Spirit. It God is more powerful than the bent of my inis one thing to have a clear, enlightened clination, which aimed at the gratification of head, and another, to have an affectionate your desires. For when he takes possession and obedient heart. It is a blessed union of our minds, he occupies them wholly, and where they meet, but the former without the leaves us nothing of our own. I had nothing latter only renders wickedness more con- less in my intention, than to trumpet the spicuous, and condemnation more just. The praises of this mighty host, or to display the charge, alas! does not stop at wicked, cove- blessings which God has in reserve for this tous Balaam; it was matter of complaint favoured race. But being graciously disposed down to the days of Micah, and of prophets towards them, and determined to exalt them of a different description. “ The heads” of to the highest pinnacle of glory and felicity, God's people judge "for reward, and the He suggested to me the predictions which i priests thereof teach for hire, and the pro- could not but utter."* phets thereof divine for money.'
Sometimes the representation of some blessed Lord, to level all confidence in the dreadful punishment, to be instantly inflicted, possession of the choicest gifts, assures us, if they dared to falsify the oracle committed that many shall say to him in the great day, to them, might serve as a curb to their own “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy natural and unruly propensities; and, somename? and in thy name have cast out de- times carried wholly out of themselves, they vils ? and in thy name done many wonder- delivered, in an extacy, what was committed ful works? And then will I profess unto to them, unconscious of what they said or did. them, I never knew you: depart from me ye In the prosecution of the history, we shall find that work iniquity."*
Balaam under both these kinds of inspiration ; We observe farther, that though God was both awed by fear, and wrapt into the vision sometimes pleased to bestow the gift of pro- of futurity, in a trance. phecy upon the unworthy, the prediction, I only make one observation more, for the though uttered by unholy lips, was the truth clearing up of this remarkable story. It was of God, which no weakness, perverseness, a generally received opinion among the Gennor disinclination of the prophet was able tile nations, that prophets, or diviners, had a either to alter or suppress. “For the pro- power, by means of incantation, to inflict or phecy came not in old time by the will of to remove public calamities; that they underman: but holy men of God spake as they stood the art of decoying from among their were moved by the Holy Ghost.”+ They enemies, the tutelar deities who presided over spake under an irresistible impulse; they them; in consequence of which, they were spake sometimes what they understood not, easily and certainly discomfited. Homer and what they would have concealed, if they makes the capture of Troy to depend on the could. Thus Caiaphas, the avowed enemy removal of the sacred image of Minerva from of our blessed Lord, uttered a notable pro- its residence in the citadel of that metropolis: phecy concerning him, not knowing what he and Joshua himself, in the conquest of Casaid. Thus Jeremiah, disgusted with the ill naan, takes advantage of this vulgar prejusuccess of his preaching, finding the word of dice, to encourage his men to proceed to victhe Lord made a reproach and a derision tory; and to prevent the ill effects of the tidaily, by the thoughtless men of his genera- mid and terrifying report of his colleagues tion, resolved not to make mention of him, respecting the strength of the country. nor speak any more in his name. “But,” | bel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye says he,“ his word was in mine heart, as a the people of the land ; for they are bread for burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was us: their defence is departed from them, and weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." the Lord is with us: fear them not.”t. It was And Josephus, in perfect consistency with accordingly usual, on undertaking military exthe character of Balaam, as drawn by Moses, peditions, to nerve the arm, and to whet the puts into his mouth this address to the king sword of the soldier, by the tongue of the of Moab, who upbraided him with breach of priest, and the tremendous forms of religion. agreement, in pronouncing the warmest of They attempted to make the gods parties to benedictions, where he was expressly hired their quarrels, and devoted to perdition the to curse: "Can you imagine, that when nations against whom they waged war. An prompted by the Spirit of God to disclose ancient author has transmitted to us the form futurity, it depends on us to be silent, or to of execration employed on such occasions, • Matt. vii. 22, 23.
1 2 Pet. i. 21,
* Joseph. Antiq. lib. iv. cap. 4. † Numb. xiv. 3.
which, on account of its relation to our sub- cure good to themselves. Had these Midianject, perhaps you will have the curiosity to ites, and Moabites, associated together to hear. It is a perfect contrast to the blessing strengthen their borders; had they invited a which Balaam was obliged, reluctantly, to prophet to come and confirm their bands of al. pronounce upon Israel. The priest destined liance, and encourage the hearts of their sol. to this awful employment, after presenting the diery, by pronouncing a blessing upon themusual sacrifice, advanced to the head of the selves, they had not been reprehensible; but army, and in the presence of the general and such is the corruption and malignity of the huprincipal officers, pronounced aloud words to man heart, that it not only takes pleasure in this ellect: “ Almighty Father of gods and the evil that befalls another, where our own men, or if thou wouldst rather be addressed interest is concerned, but in the very mischief by the name of Jupiter, or it any other appel- that is wrought for mischief sake. The great lation be more grateful to thine ear; pour out, evil is, men engage in transitory pursuits, as I conjure thee, upon this army,” or “this if they were immortal; and had they the city,” according as the case required, " the power, together with the inclination, would spirit of terror and dismay; deprive of the prosecute momentary offences with everlastsight of their eyes, all those who shall level ing punishments. What is it to one nation their blows at us, our legions or troops ; spread that another great nation be utterly extermidarkness over our enemies, over their cities, nated, provided a favourite scheme of ambiover their fields, over their armies. Look tion, commerce, or revenge, be thereby proupon them as a thing accursed : bring them moted! When we hear a poor wretch, a under the hardest conditions that ever an ene- common curser and swearer, on the most frimy was constrained to undergo. As for me, volous occasions, imprecating eternal damnato destruction I hereby devote them; my tion on his fellow-creature, we are filled with curse I pour upon them, and take this prince, horror; and yet without surprise, we behold these captains, this people, to be witnesses of religious sects in their zeal, and mighty emit."* This ceremony being performed, and pires in their pride and fury, deliberately the soldiers inspirited by the sanctions of re- doing the same thing. What principle so imligion, they advanced to the combat, in confi- portant to individuals and to states, as a prindence of success.
ciple of true religion! It is a comforter in It was for a purpose of this kind, that Ba- affliction, a counsellor in darkness and uncerlaam wa
now sent for by the confederated tainty, a refuge in danger and distress, a suppowers of Moab and Midian. How the lat- port in death. What so seductive and mister of these two nations had been induced to chievous as an erroneous principle of this sort! join in such an embassy, we are not informed. “If the light that is in men be darkness, how The middle forty years of his life, Moses had great is that darkness?" False religion is a spent among that people; had formed alli- wandering fire of the night, hurrying men ance with them, by marrying the daughter over a precipice; plunging them in the of Jethro, one of the princes of the country, gulf-pretending to bring a tribute of glory with whom he maintained a most friendly to God by destroying mankind. It is the spicorrespondence, after he was raised to the rit of the great enemy of God and man, who command of the armies of Israel. He can- is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. not, therefore, be suspected of forming a hos "It is the perilousness of the times that has tile design against his ancient hosts and rela: | tossed Balaam into notice, and consequence, tions; and it was much more natural for them and infamy. In a quieter period, he had to form an alliance with a man of Moses's well floated unnoticed on the surface, and silently known wisdom and moderation, and with a increased the paltry,gains of his black art, people so sensibly favoured of Heaven as Is- by playing on the credulity of silly women rael was, than with a nation of idolators, and and children. · But the old wizard has had a prince, who was reduced to employ the poor the good fortune to attract the notice of arts of incantation against his enemies. But, prinoes, and has the opportunity of selling in many cases it happens, that, aiming at an his magical spells at his own price; and he over-refined wisdom and policy, men prove fails not to make the most of his market
. themselves fools. Jethro was probably by this With the clue afforded us in scripture, we time dead, and the Midianitishi estate was will attempt in another - Lecture, to follow governed by councils, very unlike those which the various turnings and windings of that would probably have been suggested by that profoundest, darkest, most intricate of all wise and good man: and a deputation of their labyrinths, a carnal, .covetous heart. . We princes joins those of Balak, in an application conclude the present with calling upon you" to Balaam, to strengthen their united forces, To remark and to revere the righteous by laying Israel under a curse.
judgment of God, in giving up to strong
deIt is melancholy to think that from the be- lusion those who seek and follow delusions. ginning to this day, men have been more ea- Every deliberate violation of God's law, every ger to bring mischief' upon others, than to pro-. yictory which a man gains over his own con* Macrob. Saturnal. lib. iii. cap. 9.
science becomes bis punishment, as it is his
crime. Let not him who has wilfully de- | know but this, is more than “ to speak with ceived himself, in the first instance, pretend the tongues of men and of angels”— is more to complain, that he has been hurried into than to have the gift of prophecy, and to mistakes which he never intended, but could understand all mysteries and all knowledge; not avoid. The first wrong step was in his and to have all faith, so as to be able to repower, but not the fourth or the fifth. The man move mountains.” “ Covet earnestly the needed not, unless he chose, to have set him- best gifts;". but rather cultivate the fruits of self a running down a steep place, but, once the Spirit, “ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, in motion, it is not in his power to stop when gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temhe would. If therefore he plunge into the perance: against such there is no law."* flood beneath, the fault is in himself, not the III. While we admire the wisdom and laws of motion, which only carried on what goodness of God, in counteracting the intenhis own will had begun. The man who has tion of wicked Balaam, and turning the curse destroyed his faculties by excess, must not in his mouth into a blessing, let us bow the charge his bad memory, his erroneous judg- knee in gratitude to that great Prophet, who ment, or the inconveniences in which they has wholly, and for ever done away the curse; have involved him, upon nature or the God let us give glory to “ God, who hath sent his of nature. No, they only establish the work Son Christ Jesus to bless every one of us, in of his own hands. In this view, it is per- turning us from our iniquities;" and to infectly just that “ to him who hath should more troduce us into more than an Eden, more be given, and from him who hath not, even than a Canaan, even into the paradise of God; that which he hath should be taken away." where there is no more curse"_" where
II. Let us rejoice that we have a clear God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes ; and " sure word of prophecy," to direct and and there shall be no more death, neither assist us in every doubtful and difficult case ; sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be and that “ the testimony of Jesus is the spirit any more pain: for the former things are of prophecy” The gift of prophecy was not passed away.”+ always a blessing to the possessor; and, as IV. While we behold “ the madness of the the mere knowledge of future events, it would prophet”—a heart hardened through the debe the reverse of a blessing. In tender mercy ceitfulness of sin, let us tremble to think that and in loving kindness, God conceals futurity the seeds of this very sin are implanted deeply from men. But all that pertains to the ac- in our own nature; that they have even disquisition of wisdom, and the attainment of covered their baleful shoots ; that they bring happiness; all that assures us of life and im- forth fruit unto death. Every plant which mortality, and makes us meet for the enjoy our heavenly Father hath not planted, shall ment of it, the words of this prophecy fully be plucked up and rooted out; and this is unfold. “The righteousness of faith speak- one of them. Look to it carefully, O man: eth on this wise, Say not in thine heart, who watch it with a holy jealousy." It is the shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring root of all evil." “ Love not the world, neiChrist down from above) or who shall descend ther the things that are in the world. If any into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ man love the world, the love of the Father again from the dead.) But what saith it is not in him. For all that is in the world, The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and in thy heart : That is, the word of faith and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but which we preach, That if thou shalt confess is of the world. And the world passeth away, with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt be- and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the lieve in thine heart that God hath raised him will of God abideth for ever.”I from the dead, thou shalt be saved."* To
Gal. v. 22, 23.
| Rev. xxi. 4. * Rom. x. 6_9.
1 1 John ii. 15-17.
HISTORY OF BALA A M.
NUMBERS Xxii. 21. THE eagerness which men discover in indifference respecting the things of God and pursuing the objects of time and sense, ig å eternity. The carnal mind needs but a hint melancholy contrast to their coldness and to attach itself to the pursuit of riches, plea2 Q
sure, or honour; and when engaged no argu- Their warlike array and recent successes, ment is of weight sufficient to dissuade , no I have alarmed the apprehensions of Balak, danger intimidates, no difficulty discourages. | king of Moab, as their prosperity and prosThe understanding becomes the dupe of the pects had excited his envy and jealousy. passions, conscience is led hoodwinked by Diffident of his strength, either to repel inva. appetite, and the man is shamefully sunk in sion, if attacked by so powerful an adversary, the brute. But the alarm must be louder or to attack them first, and endeavour to than thunder, which awakens the thought-obstruct their progress, he enters into an less, the sensual, and the selfish to serious alliance with the people of Midian, for their reflection; and it must be repeated every mutual security and defence. And even hour, else they will slumber and sleep again. then, still doubtful of the force of their united
Water has in its natural coldness a ten- arms, they agree to employ the arts of divinadency to congeal; and, once reduced to ice; tion in aid of the sword, and dream of conhas no principle in itself to recover from quering by the power of enchantment, those that torpid state. The cause of change must whom they were afraid to encounter in the come from without. To dissolve and restore field. To such base, such wretched shifts it to its liquid state, the sun must shine, the do princes and nations resort, to gratify pride, wind must blow; withdraw the action of air ambition, or revenge. For this purpose, and fire, and it will gradually freeze again. they send a joint embassy to Balaam, the In like manner, without any cause from son of Beor, a noted soothsayer in the neighwithout, the human body, by a principle of bourhood. corruption within itself, must speedily dis Balak and Moab had degenerated from the solve and be destroyed; and the human mind, faith of Lot, their forefather, and were sunk by a similar internal principle of moral cor- into idolatry; it is therefore no wonder to ruption, degenerates from depravity to de- see them of a jealous and hostile spirit pravity, till, lost to shame, fear, remorse, towards Israel, their brother. A principle and at length, to feeling, men come to com- of religion, consisting in the fear and love of mit iniquity with greediness, and to glory in God, is the great bond of union among men; their shame. To preserve the body in life, it strengthens the ties of natural affection, there must be constant supplies of nourish- and even conciliates friendship between enement administered ; and to preserve the soul mies: but irreligion, or what is worse, an in health, there must be line upon line, erroneous principle of religion, turns men precept upon precept, here a little and there loose against each other, dissolves society, a little."
and fattens the earth with human blood. We It is truly affecting to see men enlight-cannot help recollecting, alas ! that Abraham ened and persuaded, yet wedded to their and Lot, the uncle and nephew, the progenilusts; clearly informed of the right path, but tors of the two nations, were under the newilfully and deliberately persisting in error ; cessity of separating from each other, on hardening themselves against God, and yet account of their increasing wealth ; and we thinking to prosper; acknowledging God in see, many years after they were laid in the words, but in works denying him.
dust, the self-same cause, whetting the spirits These observations are all strikingly ex- and the swords of their posterity, and arming emplified in the character and conduct of them for their mutual destruction. The Balaam, of which we attempted to give you | whole world is a possession too scanty for a general idea in the last Lecture, and to avarice and ambition; the success of one which were added some observations tending seems to be a diminution of the happiness of to elucidate his singular history. We are another; and even the immense ocean is now to enter on the particular detail of it, as crimsoned with gore, that one may enjoy it is delivered in the sacred record. sole and sullen empire; as if that vast space
The Israelitish nation was now in the last could not accommodate the operations of two year of their peregrination through the wil. tribes of ants on yonder molehill. Blessed derness; their civil and religious government world, where envy and strife shall rage no were fully settled, and the theocracy finally more; where there is bread enough and to established. They were now approaching spare, room enough and to spare; where the the banks of the Jordan: and by their num- felicity of every one is an accession of felicity ber, order, and discipline, striking terror into to every one! all the neighbouring nations. Two kings, Balaam is described in scripture by his their armies, and their people, have already parentage, his country, and profession. He fallen before their victorious arms; and no was the son of Beor, or Bosor, the difference thing is left to oppose their progress to Ca- of which pronunciation is accounted for, from naan, but the river, the boundary itself of the the difference of dialect in the oriental lanpromised land. They pitch their camp qui- guages. The father exists to us only in his etly in the plains of Moab, expecting the sig- name, and in the history of his son: and nal from their divine leader and commander happy had it been for that son, to have left to pass over, conquer, and take possession.' behind him nothing too but a mere name,
instead of one loaded with infamy and detest- | licked up the water that was in the trench."* ation. Pethor, the place of his residence, The ox, as he feeds calmly and stately along, was a city of Aram, or Mesopotamia, the employs his tongue only, and the grass perishyery country where Abraham himself was i eth without pushing with the horn, or stampborn, and where he resided till his seventy- ing with the foot, actions that denote strength fifth year; the native country of Rebekah, and exertion, but by the easy motion of a soft the wife of Isaac; the country where Jacob and pliant film of flesh, he sweeps away all passed a great part of his youthful years; before him; thus easily and certainly, Balak where he married; where all his children, apprehends, was Israel advancing to his and except Benjamin, were born, and whence he his people's destruction. obtained the name of a Syrian. Pethor was And how was this approaching plague to situated on the river Euphrates, called the be resisted or averted ? “Come now, thereriver, by way of eminence or distinction, it fore, I pray thee, curse me this people, for being the largest in the country; and thence, they are too mighty for me; peradventure I in many passages of 'scripture, styled the shall prevail that we may smite them, and great river. The country adjacent, to a vast that I may drive them out of the land; for I distance, being plain, it was favourable to wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, the observation of the heavenly bodies; and and he whom thou cursest is cursed.”+ We accordingly we find the science of astronomy have here an assemblage of all the baser and was early cultivated there; and the pretend- more contemptible passions of the human ed science of astrology, that is, the power of mind, called forth, and led on by the predoforetelling future events, from the appear- minant one of fear: a low grovelling superances and supposed influence of the stars, was stition, expecting from magical spells, what speedily grafted upon it. Pride, presumption, ought to have been sought for from wisdom and a little knowledge, soon arrogated to and valour: unprovoked violence and cruelty, themselves a power of controlling these great in seeking the destruction of a people, who luminaries, which seem in perpetual motion were dwelling peaceably by him, and who to encompass our earth, and of suspending or had given such strong and recent proof of altering their influences; and ignorance, their moderation, in submitting to a tedious superstition, and credulity easily admitted and difficult march round the whole land of the insolent claim, and resorted to it. This Edom, rather than offend an unkind brother, was apparently the profession of Balaam, for who had refused a passage through his land, in the book of Joshua he is expressly termed which they could easily have cut with the " the soothsayer." It was probably to his sword; and unmanly, abject adulation of a vile skill and power as an astrologer, that Balak wizard, whom he supposed capable of serving had recourse for assistance against Israel, his turn. On the other hand, the two great and when we come to his prophecy itself, we leading passions of Balaam's soul, vanity and shall meet with some, and these not obscure covetousness, were likely to be gratified to allusions to that art.
the full. How would his heart exult, to see The message put into the mouths of these a train of princes standing at his gate, and ambassadors, is strongly expressive of terror presents, worthy of kings to bestow, poured and consternation. "There is a people come down at his feet! A prophet indeed, would out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face have known from the beginning, that the apof the earth, and they abide over against plication was nugatory, and that it must come me."* The dreadful plagues inflicted on to nothing; and an honest man would have Egypt, in effecting Israel's deliverance, had rejected it with firmness, and persevered in been heard at the distance of Moab; and that rejection. But we see his heart is won though forty years have elapsed, they are from the first moment, and all that follows is neither forgotten, nor have lost their impres- a wretched struggle between inclination and sion. Fear ever magnifies its object; “ they conscience, in which the former, at length, cover the face of the earth :" the word is, the carries off the victory. eye or sight of the earth; their tents extend He receives the messengers with great so far, that the earth and they seem to have courtesy, and accommodates them in his one limit, and they are marshalled so close, house; for even a miser can be hospitable, if that no ground can be seen. Another image, he be sure of gaining by it
. Abraham's serstrongly expressive of the same passion, is vant, followed by a camel loaded with the that in the fourth verse. “ Now will this com- good things of Canaan, can easily force open piny lick up all that are round about us, as the doors of such a man as Laban, or Balaam. the ox licketh up the grass of the field.” He affects an air of great mystery; he can“Lick up, it is the same word which is ’sed not give his response immediately. Night, 1 Kings xvii. 38, to express the action of the season of incantation and dreams, must devouring fire. “Then the fire of the Lord intervene; and, horrible to think, the great fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and and dreadful name of Jehovah is interposed, the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and to sanction and conceal the wicked purposes • Numb. xxii. 5.
• 1 Kings sviii. 39. | Nunub. xxii. O