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vered fishermen speak with tongues; the dead 1 aus ersary. We find him on other occasions small 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 ofa history, covetousness. The great enemy, foe to God us 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 it 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 causcless 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 i Neither the natural vision of the latter, nor to yield; as when it is said, "the kingdom the extraordinary and supernatural sagacity of heaven suflereth 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 ned; 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
“ 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 an. God 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 to 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.
t 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 fleeth 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 towls 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 Bioab, 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: but 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.”7 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 ihe 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,” end a flaming sword wielded by the that the children of light were thus perse
• Job xii. 7-9.; Isa. i. 2,3 I Jer. viii. 7.
• Jeremiah xlviii. 43–45.
vorant 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 man, 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 gifted of his ráce. 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 f 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 nearted, 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 doa 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 só 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. “ He feeds the ra- will repent;" but the truth is too well convens,'
" " 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 devus proper place, and preserves it there, can at
| Luke xvi. 31.
* 1 Cor. i. 27-29.
by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." The prevail over his enemies, by the power of en eyes 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 fare 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 formi. But 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 nis, 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, 0 sluggard? When wilt remedy."|
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 * Num. xxii. 32, 33.
| Num. xxii. 34.
the earth, but they are exceeding wise. The Prov. xxix. 1.
† Prox ri. 6-9.
* Num. xxii. 38.
ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare palaces."* May God open our eyes, and dis their 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. 24-28.
HISTORY OF BALAAM.
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 a 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 far. man dies, dies for ever, for the indulgence ther unfolded to us in the text, exhibits a and gro:ification 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