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verant in a good cause, and not weary of well pleasure elevate it to a higher, or depress it doing.
to a lower sphere; can confer upon it a force It is astonishing that superstition, if not unknown before, or deprive it of what it the fear of God, did not now turn him back. formerly possessed; can break the strength Surely never journey had a more ominous, of Egypt, by an army of frogs or flies, or preinauspicious beginning: but the passions, by serve Daniel unhurt in the midst of the lions; which he was actuated, are among the last can catch the serpent in his own craftiness, to be discouraged; on he drives, and the and teach the dull ass speech and reason. angel, in patience mixt with displeasure, The cunning of Satan, and the undercontinues to retreat, till at length the path standing of inan, look out for likely, promisbecomes so narrow, that it was impossible to ing and adequate instruments to carry on turn to the right hand or to the lett, when their designs. The wisdom of God chooses the patient brute, wearied and wasted with to execute his by such as are apparently stripes, and scared with the dreadful vision weak, unpromising, and inadequate. To seimmediately before her eyes, at last sinks to duce our first parents, the devil employed the earth under her burden.
the agency of that creature which was the This was the third stage of admonition and most sagacious of all the beasts of the field. reproof. God first waves the flaming sword, | The most stupid, in the hand of the Almighty, but cuts not; shakes the rod, but smites not, was sufficient to confound, and to convict, That being disregarded, he puts forth his and to condemn, the proudest and most highly hand and smites the heal, but spares the gitted of his race. And the gospel of Christ vitals. He then proceeds to block up the becometh effectual unto salvation, not through way, that the sinner cannot pass; but is con- the wisdom of words, but by demonstration strained to fall down before him. Humanity of the Spirit; for “God hath chosen the foolis shocked as we proceed. “The merciful ish things of the world to confound the wise; man is merciful to his beast, but the tender and God hath chosen the weak things of the mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Behold world to confound the things which are an old, simple, uncomplaining drudge expir- mighty; and base things of the world, and ing under the angry blows of her unkind things which are despised, hath God chosen, master. The very stones of the field are yea, and things which are not, to bring to ready to cry out, and to upbraid the hard- nought things that are: that no flesh should hearted, ungrateful wretch with his cruelty. glory in his presence.' “ Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote Finally, for we must make an end of our her with a staff.”
reflections on the subject-What creature In the history of the miracle which follows, so brutish, as a rational being under the do a multitude of reflections crowd upon us. In minion of his lusts! the novelty of an ass the order and frame of nature, every creature speaking, reasoning, remonstrating, seems to of God has a special use and end ; neither is have excited no astonishment in the furious there any schism, deficiency, or redundancy, prophet: he is not awakened to one sentiment permitted in the great body of the universe. of compassion, nor of godly fear, by a pheEvery thing is in its place; every thing is nomenon so singular. The only regret he fulfilling the purpose of its Creator; and feels, is the want of a deadly instrument to therefore nothing ought to be mean or con- prosecute his resentment to the full. Men temptible in our eyes. The great Lord of most vainly, and in the face of experience, all, exercises a tender concern about the imagine, that such and such means of conlowest of the brute creation, provides for viction would certainly work their effect. them, and resents the cruelty and injustice “ Nay, but if one went from the dead they which are offered them. “ Hře feeds the ra- will repent;" but the truth is too well consens," " the young lions ask their meat from firmed by every day's experience, to be called God," " he careth for oxen," " a sparrow fall- in question, that “ if they hear not Moses eth not to the ground without our Heavenly and the prophets, neither will they be perFather.” And lo, the dull ass findeth com- suaded though one rose from the dead.”+ A passion and an avenger, when under oppres- miracle greater than even opening the ass's sion, from him whom angels worship. 'Who mouth must be performed, before Balaam be so lofty as to be beyond his reach, as to defy persuaded. A heart wedded to gain, is not his power? What so little as to be beneath to be reasoned out of its favourite pursuit ; his notice, or shut out from his pity. There and unbelief, do what you will, always finds is of consequence a return of attention and a 'strong hold whereto it can resort, and tenderness due from the human race to every which it easily renders impregnable. “Show order of creatures below themselves, and us a sign from heaven and we will believe.” whose services, whatever their faculties may Well, the very petulance of incredulity is be, Providence permits them to employ either humoured, the sign is exhibited, Satan is for pleasure or for use. The power and cast out. Surely they will now believe. No wisdom which stationed every creature in its such thing. “This man casteth out devils proper place, and preserves it there, can at
| Lake rri. 31.
* I Cor. j. 27-29.
by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” The prevail over his enemies, by the power of eneyes of Balaam are blinder, his heart more chantment; the other to possess himself of hard than when the tongue of the ass is the riches and honours of Moab. The one mute.
lays aside the state of a king, and advances At length, God vouchsafes to effect that by to his utmost border, out of respect to his exa second miracle, which had been obvious to pected guest. The other, with more speed a tender conscience, much more to a pro- than became a prophet, hastens to partake of phetic eye, without any miracle at all; and the prince's repast, little scrupulous whether the angel stands confest to the sight of the the bill of tare consisted of things offered unsoothsayer, clothed in all his terror. And to idols or not. But happily for Israel, God, now violence, ambition, and covetousness their protector, had put a hook in his nose, stand for a while suspended, swallowed up of and a bridle in his jaws. He himself feels fear at this alarming sight. His eyes are no and acknowledges it, however reluctantly. sooner opened to see with whom he had to “ And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come contend, than he shuts them again in con- unto thee: have I now any power at all to sternation and astonishment; "he bowed his say any thing ? the word that God putteth in head and fell flat on his face." What a mi- my mouth, that shall I speak."* serable figure a haughty man makes when The prophecy itself, one of the most beaucaught in the snare! How vain the expect- tiful passages in the sacred history, though ation of fleeing from God, or of opposing him uttered by profane lips; and the power of with success! How dreadful it is to meet as God therein exemplified in making the wrath an adversary, Him whose counsels we have of man to praise him, will furnish useful matslighted as a friend! Balaam has now the ter for another discourse. Let what has been unspeakable mortification of discovering that said, be improved as a solemn warning to obhe owed the preservation of his life to the serve, regard, and submit to the admonitions slender sagacity and discernment of the poor of God's word and providence. Wo be to brute whom he had treated so unmercifully; that man who sees no angel standing in the and he is again assured, without reserve or way of a sinful career, till the angel of death disguise, that the design of this journey was stop him with his fatal dart. Let the checks highly odious and offensive to God. Behold, of conscience be listened to. Has the hand, I went out to withstand thee, because thy or the foot been bruised, retreat in time. way is perverse before me. And the ass There is a lion in the way. He that proves saw me, and turned from me these three too strong for his Maker, by a bold persevetimes; unless she had turned from me, sure-rance in an evil course, is only hastening ly now also I had slain thee, and saved her forward his own destruction. The same per
son is the kindest friend, and the most formiBut though intimidated and confounded, dable adversary. his heart still cleaves to “ the wages of un God can find an instrument to punish, in righteousness.” Disapprobation could not the meanest and most contemptible creature; be expressed in clearer and stronger words, therefore despise none, abuse none. Be not than had all along been employed, “thou weary in well doing. Take an example from shalt not go, thou shalt not curse," “ I went Balaam, in respect of perseverance; but out to withstand thee: thy way is perverse choose an honester and worthier object of before me," and yet he has the assurance to pursuit. Honour God with your superior make it a matter of doubt whether God were reason and use of speech. Behold an ass displeased with him or not. A conscience wise, and a prophet mad: blush at thy own not quite callous, a heart not totally harden-folly, and be humble. ed like his, would have sought instantly to Let us go, as has been already suggested, retreat, thankful that his presumption had not and learn wisdom from the brute creation. already cost him his life ; but he cannot give - The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his up the hope of getting forward. “If it dis- master's crib;" be instructed to acknowledge please thee, I will get me back again." + " If the hand that feeds thee: learn attachment it displease thee." Could he doubt it? What to thy Protector, learn gratitude to thy Benekind of assurance would he have had ? And factor, repay kindness with kindness. Learn yet, wonderful to be told, the angel continues industry from the bee. “Go to the ant, thou once more to give way; and Balaam has still sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise : the hardiness to proceed; and the issue proves which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, the truth of the wise man's assertion : “He provideth her meat in the snmmer, and gathat being often reproved hardeneth his neck, thereth her food in the harvest. How long shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt remedy." I
thou arise out of thy sleep?"+ " The hen The history now hastens on to the meet- gathereth her chickens under her wings." ing of Balaam and Balak; the one eager to “There be four things which are little upon
the earth, but they are exceeding wise. The | Num. xxii. 34. Prov. xxix. 1.
† Prov. vi. 6-9.
Num. xxii. 32, 33.
* Num. xxii. 38.
ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare palaces."* May God open our eyes, and distheir meat in the summer; the conies are but pose our minds to receive instruction from a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in every thing around us; and preserve us from the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet go opposing his will, and make his way straight they forth all of them by bands; the spider before our face. taketh hold with her hands, and is in king's!
* Prov. XXX. 94-28.
HISTORY OF BALA A M.
LECTURE LX X.
Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the
death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.-NUMBERS xxiii. 10. HUMAN conduct, as far as it is governed by folly and the misery of man; we eagerly the spirit of this world, exhibits a wretched imbibe and follow the spirit of this world and contemptible, but a dangerous and fatal while we live; and fondly dream of assuming, opposition to the will of God. Men would in one propitious instant, the spirit of heaven, be happy in their own way; but whether when we come to die. We think of passing our they succeed in their pursuits, or whether thirty or forty years with the gay, the giddy, they fail, they find themselves miserable in and the vain ; as if that could be a preparathe end. God is conducting us, if we would tion for an eternity with God, and angels, but be conducted, to real and substantial and the spirits of just men made perfect. happiness, but it is through a narrow gate, Our understanding and conscience are on and along a path in many places strewed with the side of wisdom and piety; our passions thorns. The prosperous successes of vanity and habits, and alas ! they are more powerand wickedness, like sweet poison, may ful, are of the party of dissipation and vice. afford a transient pleasure in the moment of “ The fool says in his heart, there is no God;" swallowing: but lasting and unutterable an- and men, reputed wise, live as if there were guish immediately succeeds. The bowels none. are torn with pain insupportable, and the The unhappy man, whose character is farman dies, dies for ever, for the indulgence ther unfolded to us in the text, exhibits a and gratification of one poor instant of time. most affecting example of this strange inBut the sacrifices we are enabled to make to consistency and self-delusion. Who so enGod, and to the testimony of a good con- lightened as Balaam,“ which heard the words science, are like a nauseous medicine, which of God, which saw the vision of the Alby means of a shortlived disgust, rectifies mighty?" Who so blind as the covetous the constitution, sweetens the blood, confirms prophet who "loved the wages of unrighteoushealth, and prolongs a happy existence. ness," whose eyes the god of this world The grievousness of affliction in due season, blinded? Hear him speak; the manna of "yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness heavenly eloquence falls from his lips: beto them who are exercised thereby.” hold him act, and lo, a fiend from hell spread
In whatever way men choose to live, and ing snares and destruction. Under the convery different are the roads which they take, trol of God, not Moses himself thinks more they have but one idea, one wish, one prayer, affectionately, expresses affection more arin the prospect of death and eternity. When dently towards Israel, than Balaam. Under man finds himself on the brink of the world the impulse of his own passions, not Satan of spirits, it will afford him but slender con- could plot more malignantly nor more efsolation, to reflect that he has lived long fectually. As the prophet of God, who so enough to amass a fortune, to enjoy a ban- warm a friend? As the counsellor of Balak, quet, to attain a post of honour, to acquire a who so dreadful an adversary? In the prosname. And he will feel as little pain and pect of death, who more devout? In life, mortification, on the other hand, in recollect- who so profligate ? In judgment and opinion, ing that he has passed life in obscurity, that who so clear and sound ? In practice, who he has struggled with poverty, that he has so prostitute and abandoned ? endured unmerited reproach. But this is the In the face of a prohibition, the clearest
and fullest that words could convey, through number seven is, through the whole of dithe difficulties and dangers of a journey the vine revelation, connected with many immost eventful upon record, Balaam is now portant ideas, institutions, and events, in arrived at Balak's metropolis, Kirjath-huzoth, cases depending on the sovereign authority the city of streets.-Greetings, such as may of the great God. This leads us to conclude, be supposed to pass between wicked and that it has a meaning and design, the knowselfish men, being over, the sacrifice is of ledge of which is either lost to the world fered up, and the banquet is prepared, accord- or never has yet been revealed to man. It ing to the state of a king, and the sacredness cannot be for nothing that it presents itself and importance of his guest. The evening so often, and in so many forms, upon the being passed in festivity, they retire to rest ; sacred page. That God rested the seventh and early on the morrow, Balaam permits day from all his work, and sanctified ithimself to be conducted by the Moabitish that on the solemn day of the atonement, prince into the “high places of Baal, that under the law, the blood of the sin-offering thence he might see the utmost parts of the was sprinkled before and upon the mercypeople.” Here the cloven foot appears at seat seven times—that the altar of burntonce. Balaam was too intelligent to believe offering was consecrated by being anointed that Baal was any thing; that his sacrifices seven times with the holy oil-that the conor high places were any thing: but Balak's secration of Aaron to the priesthood congold being, indeed, the god whom he himself sisted of a service of seven days that the worshipped, it is to him a matter of the last leper was to be sprinkled, in order to puriindifference before what idol the superstitious fication, seven times; and after a separation monarch bowed down. Reason and religion of seven days, be admitted to his rank as a say, "What concord can there be between citizen-that every seventh year was ordainGod and Belial; between him that believeth, ed a year of rest, to the land of proinise; and and an infidel? Ye cannot serve God and that a revolution of seven times seven years mammon.” But avarice will attempt any brought on the jubilee, or universal release thing, submit to any thing, commit any thing; —that seven priests, bearing so many trumwill adore the God of Israel, or bend at the pets, were commanded to begin the conquest altar of Baal, just as it serves the occasion. of Canaan, by seven days encompassing Balaam even volunteers in the service of the Jericho; and that, upon the seventh circuit, idol; feeds the superstition of Balak, which and at the seventh blow
of the trumpet, it was his duty to have corrected; and, as if the walls of that city should fall to the there had been something potent and myste- ground—that the like number of priests rious in the number, directs seven altars to should be employed to precede and announce be erected, and a bullock and a ram to be the removal of the ark, when David brought prepared for a sacrifice upon each of the it home; and not to multiply instances with
out end-that the Lamb, which John saw in Behold how soon the reproof of a speaking, vision in the midst of the throne, should be reasoning brute, the terrors of the opposing represented as having seven horns and seven angel, and the admonitions of the heavenly eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent vision, are disregarded and forgotten! Balak out into all the earth—that the book in the right is deliberately suffered to remain the dupe hand of Him who sat upon the throne, should of his own credulity: he is fed with the vain be sealed with seven seals—that in these, hope of triumph, in a way by which it could and so many more cases, which the careful not be achieved; and an attempt is impious- reader of the scriptures need not have pointly made to aid him in an enterprise which ed out to him, the Spirit of God should see Heaven had repeatedly condemned; and, meet to press upon our minds, with such pedreadful to think, this is done under all the culiar emphasis, this number of perfection, awful forms of a religious service; and a as it hath been called both by Jews and purpose too vile to be avowed, even to men, Heathens, though we cannot account for it, is presumptuously obtruded upon the great leads to this pleasing conclusion-That Jehovah, as if his determinations were to there are in the word of God, many precious fluctuate with the vile interests and caprices mines of knowledge, yet undiscovered; endof mortals. " The sacrifice of the wicked," less mysteries of wisdom, goodness, and love, saith the wise man, “is an abomination, yet to be unveiled; depths of mercy, which how much more when he bringeth it with the capacity of angels has not yet fathomed ; a wicked mind." The religion of God is, heights of grace, to which the seraphim's "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." But wing hath not soared. Is it imagination, the leading article of Balaam's creed is, merely, to suppose that the felicity of saints “ Gain is godliness;" hence he attempts to in bliss may consist in diving deeper and sanction cursing and cruelty, under the deeper into the plan of redemption; in tracing solemn ordinances of the blessed God. its progress, its history, to its consummation;
We have observed formerly without pre- in reading this wonderful book, with the reil tending to assign a reason for it, that the removed from our eyes; to find in it all the
stores of natural, moral, and divine truth; in not, the tardiness of man delays him not, the for ever learning, ever beginning to learn Hattery of man sways him not. “ the love of Christ which passeth know Balaam has the confidence to advance a ledge ?" I will indulge the dear, the delight- plea of merit for the service which he had ful hope, that the period will come, when, performed, in erecting so many altars, and taught of that Spirit, who is promised to offering so many victims; but he has not the “ take of the things of Christ and show them assurance to avow the motive, nor directly to unto us," I shall discover, in this blest volume, prefer the request to which it plainly led. ten thousand excellencies to which I am now Without paying the least regard to the one blind; ten thousand truths, of which I have or to the other, God, the great God, puts the at present no perception; ten thousand beau- word he would have spoken into Balaam's ties I am now incapable of relishing. But to mouth, and sends him back to pronounce it return.
aloud in the ear of Balak, and his attendants. It is no great wonder to find a man of so I see, with an honest satisfaction, the disapmixed a charaeter as Balaam, employing al- pointed, mortified enchanter, returning with tars and victims, according to a number and downcast eyes, sullen and slow from the soquality long before sanctified by the appoint- lemn meeting : his schemes of malignity ment of the true God. For all the rites of checked and prohibited, all his prospects of idolatry may easily be traced up to divine ambition and avarice for ever blasted; cursing institutions. But what signifies the form, in his heart that inflexibility of purpose which when the spirit and meaning is lost? Che-he durst neither attempt to alter or oppose. mosh was the peculiar idol of the Moabites, I see the expecting monarch in the midst of as we learn from chap. xxi. 29 ; for Baal, that his seven altars, all eye to watch the moment is, lord, was a general term, descriptive of of the prophet's return; eagerly anticipating the whole tribe of deities, and applied by his message from his looks, and all ear to every particular nation to its respective pa- hear it delivered in articulate sounds. tron; yet we find Balak easily persuaded by The emotions which filled the hearts of Balaam to offer saerifice to Jehovah. For both, are to be conceived, not described, they that have false notions of Deity, cannot when the reluctant tongue of Balaam thus be very difficult in their choice of a god; and pronounced the immutable decree of the Balak probably was so weak as to imagine, Holy Oracle, while the assembled princes of that by this piece of flattery and respect, the Moab listened with sorrow and disappointGod of the Israelites might be decoyed from ment. Balak, the king of Moab, hath them, withdraw his protection, and give them brought me from Aram, out of the mountains up to the sword of their enemies.
of the east, saying, Come, curse me, Jacob, Balaam, now the sacrifice was set on fire, and come, defy, Israel. How shall I curse directs the king to stand by it, in solemn ex- whom God hath not cursed? Or how shall I peetation of its success; he himself with defy whom the Lord hath not defied ? For draws to an "high place," or, he went soli- from the top of the rocks I see him, and from tary; probably to some adjoining clift of the the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall rock, favourable either to meditation, or the dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among practice of his enchantments: for observation the nations. Who can count the dust of of any preternatural signs that might be Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of given, or for a clearer prospect of the camp Israel ?"* to be devoted. Nothing astonishes me more
The first reflection that naturally presents than the boldness of this retreat. An ill con- itself, on hearing these words, is one that has science seeks concealment from the eye of frequently occurred in the course of these God in noise and a crowd. To what a pitch exercises, and which it is impossible to reof insensibility has this man attained, who peat too often:—How wonderful, how trehas the dreadful courage to go forth to meet mendous, how irresistible the power of God, an offended God in solitude !"" And God met which has thus all matter, all spirit, at its Balaam.” In what manner we are not told, disposal! which can make the dumb ass speak neither is it of any importance to know; but what naturally he cannot, and the mad proit is of importance to observe that "God's phet to utter what wickedly and perversely ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our he would not: "and out of the mouths of thoughts.” Insulted in the same manner, babes and sucklings perfecteth praise." Mark what man but would have felt resentment, how God brings to nought the counsel of the and have returned insult for insult! In no- heathen; writes vanity upon the counsels of thing, Father of Mercies! is thy glorious su- princes, and “maketh diviners mad.". Thus periority more conspicuous than in thy gen- said Balak; thus did the king of Moab;
how tleness and patience. God is not a man that poor and contemptible, compared to “ Thus he should be ruffled and discomposed, nor saith the Lord."* " The enemy said, I will the son of man, that he should oppose vehe- pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the mence to vehemence. The wrath of man spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; provokes him not, the haste of man urges him
Numb. xxiii. 7-10.