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of a heart hunting after its covetousness; knew no more than he had a mind to comand he promises to report in the morning the municate to them, he delivers it in terms result of his consultation. How faithfully calculated only to stimulate the eagerness the report was made the sequel will show. of the king of Moab, by encouraging a hope
It appears, on the face of the history, that that something might be extorted, by dint of God waited not for an application from Ba- importunity and perseverance; or that, perlaam, concerning this business, but whether haps, he might be allowed to do that at a in a dream, a vision, or by a voice, prevented distance, which he might not do by a nearer him, with an inquiry concerning the deputa- approach. The command was clear and full, tion from Moab. In many instances, Jehovah - Thou shalt not go with them;" but in the is represented as drawing information from mouth of Balaam it is mutilated and pervertmen's own mouths, of what evidently lay re-ed: “ The Lord refuseth to give me leave to vealed to his all-seeing eye, and thus making go with you."* This satisfies Balak at once, their folly and wickedness to expose, reprove, that the prophet's good will was with him; and condemn themselves. “ And God came that it was not from want of inclination unto Balaam, and said, What men are these that the messengers returned without him; with thee?"* This question must have put and, he justly concludes, that with such a the prophet into great agitation. Awful is proportion of the man on his side, it would the voice of the Eternal, at whatever season, not be difficult to make the rest to follow. in whatever form, and on whatever occasion The father of lies himself will speak truth, it is heard! How awful then to a bad man, when it makes for his purpose ; and Satan harbouring an ill design, shutting wilfully will quote scripture, if he can but deceive his own eyes, and yet flattering himself
, and by it; as in his temptation of our Saviour in saying, Doth God see, and is there know- the wilderness. But then there is always some ledge with the Most High? That he con- material circumstance disguised, perverted, sidered the very question as ominous, and or suppressed : and thereby a different meanfatal to the cause of his avarice and vain- ing is conveyed from what was intended. glory, is evident from the circumstantiality The word of God, then, is håndled deceitfully, of his answer. It discovers a soul trem- not only when it is wrested, and made to blingly alive to the voice of interest: it is speak a language not its own, but when any minute and particular, as if, by a parade of part of the truth is purposely, artfully, and words, he could deceive his Maker into an wilfully concealed : and he “ who shuns to approbation of his purpose and desire. What declare the whole counsel of God," is equally then must have been his chagrin and disap- criminal with him who presumes to deliver, pointment, when a prohibition, so peremptory as the word of God, what wants the stamp of and positive, in a moment blasted all his his authority. Balaam simply relates, that prospects of gain and preferment!
he is not permitted to go; not a syllable of “And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt the prohibition to curse Israel, nor of the not go with them, thou shalt not curse the reason assigned for that prohibition. people, for they are blessed.”+ The applica, As the message lost much by the way be tion had two objects in view, permission to tween God and the princes of Moab, from go into the land of Moab, and liberty to curse Balaam's manner of rehearsing it; so it loses the children of Israel, and both meet with a still more between Balaam and their master, flat denial. He must not accompany the from their mutilated and partial report: so ambassadors to him who sent them; neither that by the time it reaches Balak, an entirely must he, either at home, or abroad, in this different turn and meaning is given to it, place or in that, presume to curse, or in any The words of the oracle are, “ Thou shalt not shape whatever to molest that people. And, go with them : thou shalt not curse the peoas if the sternness of interdiction had not ple, for they are blessed :"4 rehearsed by Babeen sufficient, a reason is assigned, “for laam, " the Lord refuseth to give me leave they are blessed.” The commandments of to go with you :"'* reported by the ambassaGod, in general, are so clear, that it is im- dors, “ Balaam refuseth to come with us." I possible to misunderstand them; it is not ig. Thus, by the alteration of a few circumstannorance, but presumption, that ruins man-ces, even without a direct violation of truth, kind.
by passing through a very few hands, a plain Balaam, however reluctant, must next proposition is made to contradict itself; and morning deliver an account of the night's if we add to the easiness of varying facts, by success; and we find he does it in a very varying phrases, and modes of expression; partial and imperfect manner. When he re- the difference, still more easily made, by the ported the message of Balak to God, having infinite diversity of tones, looks, and gesture, to do with the great Searcher of hearts, with we shall not be surprised to find, what frewhom disguise avails nothing, he is accurate quently happens, a man made to say diameand distinct; but in carrying back the an- trically the reverse of what he did say, and ewer of God, having to do with men, who what he intended.
* Numb. xxii, 9, | Numb. xxii. 12 *Num, xxii. 13. Num. xxii. 12 Num. xxii. 14.
Balak having received this answer as the ing to deceive the king of Moab's messengers prophet's, with great colour of reason, con- into the expectation of a response more fasiders it as a mere artifice, employed with a vourable to their united wishes. Accordingview to raise his price and importance; and ly, he courteously invites them to lodge with he hopes to conquer Balaam's reluctance, by him that night also ; if, peradventure, there assiduity, perseverance, presents, and flattery; might be obtained a reversal of the decree. for both good and bad men judge of others And now the sable curtain is drawn, and by themselves : and apprized, it would ap- Balaam is left alone, and no eye sees him but pear, of Balaam's weak side, ambition, and the all-seeing eye of God. Without waiting avarice, he despatches a second embassy, con- to be consulted, and the prophet, without sisting of a greater number of persons, and doubt, was both afraid and ashamed to venof still higher rank, with this weighty and ture on this second rencounter, God again importunate address : “ Thus saith Balak, prevents him, and tacitly, though not directly, the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, charges him with having invited this second hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will application, in the face of a positive and depromote thee unto very great honour, and I cided answer. Balaam and Balak are both will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: men of this world, and having one and the come, therefore, I pray thee, curse me this same spirit to govern them, they readily unpeople."* How
flattering all this to a worldly, derstand each other. Balaam evidently courts selfish mind! Balak puts a chart blanche in- a second address; and Balak is not slow to to his hands; leaves him to name his own pay it. Now, this is the very thing which terms. All the honour which a king could gives so great and such just offence to a holy bestow, all the wealth of Moab is before him; God—that two presumptuous, selfish wretches the very things which his soul lusted after. - should presume to imagine, that the counsels Blessed Jesus, thou chief of the prophets, of Heaven could be shaken, in compliance with even the prince of this world, the chief of their humour or interest. * And God came tempters, when he came, found nothing in unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the thee! found no weak side, no vulnerable part. men come to call thee, rise up, and go with The kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them; but yet the word which I shall say them, dazzled not thine eyes : to the loudest unto thee, that shalt thou do."* The word calls of nature thou turnedst a deaf ear. The might have been rendered, “ Seeing the men applause of men thou didst despise; thou have come to call thee, Balaam, you have soughtest not thine own glory, but the glory carried, thus far, your point. A more honourof Him that sent thee: thy “meat and drink able embassy attends you. Your desire is to was to do the will of Him that sent thee." go: you are unable to withstand the allure
Balaam had now been at the summit of his ments of riches and honour : you know the wishes, but for a stern, pointed command of better course, but will pursue the worse. God; which, like a drawn sword, hung by a Well then, fulfil thy desire. I have declared single hair over his head. Shocking dilem- my will ; but thou preferrest thine own. ma! he is goaded on by desires as impetuous I have said, Go not ; curse not ; but the deas ever took possession of a proud and covet- mon of gain, Mammon, says, go and curse. ous mind; he is bridled in by a prohibition, Obey him. Go, and take the consequence." as decisive as words could make it. For a This is clearly the language of the permismoment we are in hope that the good prin- sion given him to accompany the messengers. ciple has got the ascendant, that the fear, if And can there be a clearer proof of the divine not the love of God is shed abroad in his heart. displeasure, than when God yields to men, Who could speak better? “ If Balak would and gives them their own way? give me his house full of silver and gold, I ple,” says God, “ would not hearken to my cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my voice, and Israel would none of me; so I gave God, to do less or more."! It is the very them up into their own heart's lust, and they sentiment of chaste and virtuous Joseph, walked in their own counsels. O that my when solicited by temptation of a different people had hearkened unto me, and Israel sort. But here is the difference :-Joseph had walked in my ways! I should soon have fled from temptation and overcame: Balaam subdued their enemies, and turned my hand tampered with it, and fell. Even the worst against their adversaries."! The wickedness of men feel themselves under a necessity, for of the old world at length overcame the patheir interest's sake, to save appearances; tience of God; and he said, “ My Spirit shall and something must be said, at least, to still not always strive with man:” and so they the clamours of conscience. Unhappy man! were left to eat and drink, to dance and to steady, himself, to his own base and wicked play; but then the waters of a deluge were purpose, he is weak enough to entertain the at no great distance: and when God says, conhope, that the great, the unchangeable Je- cerning a people, or an individual, “ Ephraim hovah may depart from his. Thus deceiving is joined to idols, let him alone ;" short of hell, himself, it is no wonder to see him attempt it is the worst that can befal them. * Num, xxii. 16, 17. Num. xxij. 18.
* Num. xxii. 20. † Psalm lxxxii, 11-14.
Balaam flattered himself and the Moabites, quicksighted as a covetous man pursuing his with hearing more from God; but, as the pu- gain? And yet, who so stupid and dull
, as nishment of abusing the light he had, he hears the man whose eyes the god of this world less than before ; and the vision is obscured hath blinded ? Balaam is up betimes in the to the man who had wilfully shut his own morning, equipped for his journey, on his way eyes. He was formerly forbidden either to for the land of Moab. “For the children of go, or to curse. He is now, at his peril, al- this world are in their generation wiser than lowed to go: but should he be so rash as to the children of light."* And there, for the proceed on so slender a warrant, he is, at his present, we shall leave him, with this melanperil, warned to walk by the instructions choly, mortifying reflection—that a corrupted which should be given him. How easily men heart has infinitely greater power to pervert a believe, how promptly they obey, when the sound understanding and a well informed condoctrine tallies with their prejudices; when science, than an intelligent conscience and a the precept coincides with their inclinations a clear head have to reform and purify a coror their interest. Balaam is weak, I ought rupted heart. If God permit, we shall continue to have said, wicked enough, to imagine his the history next Lord's day. May grace and way perfectly clear. Ilaving carried, as he wisdom be granted us to make a proper use thought, one essential point, all the rest, he of it; and to God's holy dame be praise. Amen. presumes, will follow of course.
* Luke xvi 8.
HISTORY OF BALA A M.
LECTURE LXI X.
These are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteous
ness; but was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass, speaking with man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet.—2 PETER ii. 15; 16.
The ordinary powers of nature, if we con- | any degree of application, to the operations of sider them attentively, are no less wonderful his own mind; and to what, in the ordinary in themselves, and are not less a proof of the course of human affairs, is every hour presspower and wisdom of God, than those extra-ing upon his observation. ordinary gifts which have been bestowed, and In a crowded assembly, without the utterthose preternatural powers which have been ance of a single sound, by one glance of the exercised at particular seasons, and for spe-eye, the inmost thoughts, the most secret cial purposes; and which have excited the emotions, shall, quick as lightning, be conadmiration and astonishment of one part of veyed from soul to soul: and the stranger be mankind, and the incredulity of another. That unable to intermeddle with, to partake of the a company of illiterate men should suddenly, sorrow or the joy. Let the veil of night be and without instruction or study, be endowed spread ever so thick, and the use of sight suswith the gift of readily speaking various lan- pended, as if the eye ball were extinguished, guages, justly raises our wonder, and conveys the vibration of a little film of flesh shall disto our minds a very lofty idea of that divine sipate the gloom, and convey the accents of intelligence which can communicate such affection or of wo to the ear and the heart of power unto men: but we overlook the won- sympathy. Place the diameter of the globe der equally great, because it is continually between my friend and me, by an art subtile occurring, of the common gift of speech, and as the magic spell, what I know and feel in the conveyance of thought by it; and the ac- the frozen regions of the north, shall flee on quisition of language by means of letters and the swift wings of the wind, and touch his memory. That a dumb ass should speak soul under the more clement sky of the oppowith man's voice, and the dull ass reason, fills site hemisphere. Knowing from experience us with surprise, because the instance is sin- all this to be true, history can record ro fact, gular and unparalleled ; but the gradual in- promise suspend before my cyes no future crease of the human body, the imperceptible event too wonderful for me to believe. The expansion of the powers of the human mind, omniscience, omnipotence, and infinite goodpass for a thing of course ; though the hand ness of God once admitted, every difficulty of God be conspicuous in the one case as in vanishes. Is there any thing too hard for the the other. Nothing is incredible to them who Lord to perform? No: Then Sarah conknow the scriptures, and the power of God : ceives a son at ninety years old; the dumb nothing is incredible to him who attends, with ass reproves the madness of his master; unlet
tered fishermen speak with tongues ; the dead | adversary. We find him on other occasions, shall arise; all these things shall be dissolved, appearing to direct the wandering, to protect and “new heavens, and a new earth, wherein the weak, and to succour the distressed; as dwelleth righteousness," shall be expanded, in the case of Hagar, Lot, and Jacob: but the to endure for ever and ever.
face of the Lord is set against them that do Having premised these things, not alto- evil. And now behold him in the way to gether foreign, we trust, to our subject, we check the progress of pride, violence, and proceed to the farther prosecution of a history, covetousness. The great enemy, foe to God as singular, and as instructive, perhaps, as and man, is termed by way of distinction the any in scripture.
adversary: but lo! that awful character is Balaam having obtained what he was will- assumed by a very different being-by one, ing to believe the consent of God to his infinitely greater and mightier than him ; journey into the land of Moab, for we easily whose wrath is infinitely more terrible; who believe what we wish, loses not a moment in has power to save and to destroy; and, if he making preparation for it. He is mounted, take upon him that form, it is still in consistand on his journey by the first dawning of ency with his gracious characters of good and the day, as if afraid of prevention, by a revo- merciful : it is to humble the proud, to precation of the permission ; ill at ease in his vent and counteract the causeless curse; to mind, but smothering conviction, in the ex- disappoint malice, and make the purposes of ultation of having princes in his train, and in revenge recoil upon itself; it is to support the prospect of all the riches and honour the friendless, to guard the innocent, and to which confederated kings had to bestow. relieve the miserable. Scripture gives us the idea of a holy violence This formidable apparition was observed offered unto God, with which he is well neither by the prophet nor his servants. pleased, and to which he graciously submits Neither the natural vision of the latter, nor to yield; as when it is said, “ the kingdom the extraordinary and supernatural sagacity of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent of the former, discerned any thing save take it by force.” Hence the command- empty space, where the dullest of brute animent, to " strive to enter in at the strait mals descried the presence of Him, who gate,” to wrestle and make supplication, “ to makes all nature tremble at his nod; who pray always and not to faint.”. But there is giveth understanding to the prudent, and to also suggested the idea of an impious, a pre- him that hath no might increaseth strength." sumptuous, and a fatal strife and contention is not this a striking representation of what with our Maker, in which, wo be to the daily comes to pass in the course of proviman that prevails. Such was the violence dence? We see men soaring in the clouds, which worldly minded Balaam offered; and with their eyes and imagination, while with how could he think to prosper? God, justly their feet they stumble and fall into the ditch displeased at his perseverance in a cause that is before them; possessing every kind which he knew to be disapproved of Heaven, of sense, except common sense : pretending leaves him not long in uncertainty respect to superior refinement, and yet stupid and ing his will.
gross, in the plainest and most essential The princes of Moab, it would appear, had things. Thus the simplicity of the gospel now left him, and were proceeding with a was“ to the Jews a stumbling-block and to quicker pace to apprise their master of the the Greeks foolishness :" and on this very prophet's approach ; and Balaam remains at- account, the condescending Saviour of mantended by only two of his own servants, when kind is represented as rejoicing in spirit, and the angel of the Lord places himself in the saying, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of way for an adversary against him. We shall heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these find, in the sequel, the person styled the things from the wise and prudent, and hast angel of the Lord, as in other places, so here, revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, assuming the character and exercising the for so it seemed good in thy sight."* Thus prerogative of Deity: for he it is that after-God destroyeth the wisdom of the wise, and wards says, “ The word that I shall speak brings to nothing the understanding of the unto thee, that thou shalt speak.” We are prudent.”+ to understand, therefore, by this designation, What an object of terror is here reprethe mighty, the uncreated Angel, by whom sented as obstructing the passage! An anGod made the worlds; the eternal Word, gel! The prince of angels armed with a which was in the beginning, which was with sword, and that sword drawn in his hand ! God, and which was God, and which, in the What was the strength of Egypt, in that fulness of time was made flesh, and dwelt dreadful night, when one of his flaming mes. among men: " And they beheld his glory, sengers walked through the midst of it, and the glory as of the only begotten of the Fa- made all its first-born io bleed to death under ther, full of grace and truth."* But never, his stroke? How easy had it been for that till now, did he appear in the character of an arm, with one stroke of that sword, to have
* Matt. xi. 25, 26.
1 1 Cor. i. 19.
John i. 14.
put an end to the life and madness of the pro-, arm of the great Archangel, in front, to phet! But he chose to employ a meaner in- oppose. There is no way of safety but in strument, and thereby to vindicate to himself turning back and fleeing for life, and yet he higher praise.
will madly push on to his own destruction. There is a striking progress described in When men are once engaged in a way that the mode of admonition and reproof, adminis- is not good, difficulty only stimulates their tered to the prophet by the successive actions ardour; they rush on through danger to of the dumb creature. First, “ he turned danger, till they involve themselves in inaside out of the way, and went into the field;" evitable destruction; according to the fearful a piain intimation to his accustomed rider, progress described by the prophet—"Fear, that something extraordinary obstructed his and the pit, and the snare shall be upon thee, path. Thus, in many passages of scripture, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the Lord. He the common instincts of the dullest animals, that fleeti from the fear shall fall into the are employed to expose the greater thought- pit, and he that getteth up out of the pit, lessness and folly of rational beings.. “ Ask, shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring now, the beasts,” says Job, " and they shall upon it, even upon Moab, the year of their teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they visitation, saith the Lord. They that fled shall tell thee: or speak to the earth, and it stood under the shadow of Heshbon, because shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall of the force; but a fire shall come forth out declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of these, that the hand of the Lord hath wrought Sion, and shall devour the corner of Moab, this?"* “ Hear, O heavens;" says God by and the crowd of the head of the tumultuous Isaiah, “ and give ear, 0 earth: for the Lord ones."* hath spoken: I have nourished and brought The reproof now becomes more distinct up children, and they have rebelled against and direct. The wretched animal, urged on
The ox knoweth his owner, and the by his furious rider, hemmed in with a wall ass his master's crib: bút Israel doth not on either side, and opposed in front as with know, my people doth not consider.”+ “Yea, a wall of fire, in making a desperate effort the stork in the heaven,” saith God-by another to pass by and advance, thrusts herself close prophet, “ knoweth her appointed times : to the wall
, and crushes the prophet's foot. and the turtle, and the crane, and the swal. Thus slow, thus reluctant, is a merciful God low observe the time of her coming ; but my to proceed to judgment. He first warns and people know not the judgment of the Lord."threatens; then touches the extremities, if Thus, in the passage before us, a more indi- peradventure the sinner will take warning, rect reprooof was given to the eagerness and and turn back: and not till all means have speed of Balaam, pricked on by the spur of been tried and found ineffectual, is he procovetousness and ambition, by the action of voked to strike the deadly blow that reaches the ass, in deviating from the right path; the heart. and had not the eyes of his understanding Mark on the other hand, by what dreadful been blinded by the wages of unrighteousness, degrees sinners harden themselves against this, without the vision of an angel, might have God, till they become lost to feeling. The taught him that the way in which he went commission of one sin as naturally leads to was perverse before God. But following another, as every step down a steep place only the blind impulse of a carnal mind, he accelerates the speed of that which is to folwreaks, in reiterated blows upon the unof- low: and yet transgressors vainly imagine fending brute, the resentment which ought it is in their power to stop when they please, to have been levelled against his own rash- or to turn against the bias. One of the most ness and presumption. Who was here most fearful symptoms of a reprobate mind, is, worthy of stripes ? Let the adage of the when the very means of awakening, conwise man determine. “A whip for the vincing, and converting, serve as opiates to horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the the conscience, and increase that insensifool's back."
bility which they were meant to cure. If Behold the patience and longsuffering of the constitution of the patient be so vitiated God. The ass, by dint of blows, is forced as to convert medicine into poison, dissolution back again into the road, and the angel him- cannot be at a great distance. Affliction, that self gives place and retires. Folly and wholesome, though unpalatable potion, never obstinacy seem to have carried off the victory; leaves the mind exactly where it found it. but alas, how short is the triumph of impiety! A cure is either begun by it, or the distemper If omnipotence yield, it is only to meet the is confirmed. The history of Balaam is the sinner on ground more difficult and danger-illustration of this position. The pain of his
The heavenly messenger now takes foot has only served to whet the asperity of his stand in a place where there was no way his disposition; and the more he is opposed, to escape, "a wall on this side, and a wall on the more earnest he is to get forwards. O that,” and a flaming sword wielded by the that the children of light were thus perse| Isa. 1. 2, 3. 1 Jer. viii. 7.
* Jeremiah xlviii. 43–45.
Job xii. 7-9.