Изображения страниц


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 know selfish 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 it, himself 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 burnt

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 promise ; 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 blowing 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 iinpious- 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 wonderfu' book, with the veil tending to assign a reason for it, that the removed from our eyes; to find in it all the


stures of natural, moral, and divine truth; in not, the tardiness of man delays him not, the for ever learning, ever beginning to learn fattery of man sways him not. “ lhe 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 character 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 sacrifice 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 Aattery 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 pectation 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 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 ruffed 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

amp Israel ?'*

• Numb.rriii. 7-10.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy to the same great poet ; who, beholding their them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the pure and innocent affection, “ turned aside sea covered them: they sank as lead in the for envy,” and exclaimed : mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O "Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Thus these two. Lord, amongst the gods ! who is like thee, Imparadis'd in one another's arms,

The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill glorious in holiness, tearful in praises, doing

Of bliss on bliss, while I to hell am thrust; wonders !"* Mark how the slow and reluc Where neither joy nor love, but tierce desire, tant prophecy of Balaam accords with the

Still unfulfilled, with pain of longing pines." predictions of former times, and the history It was a spirit and a situation not unlike of periods yet to come. “Look up now, to this, which suggested to the wicked prosays God to Abraham, “ toward heaven, and phet the words of the text; “ Let me die the tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: death of the righteous, and let my last end and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”+ be like his !"* Unhappy Balaam! he descried And lo, the promise is more than fulfilled: it from the top of the rock goodly tents, in is infinitely exceeded by the accomplishment. which he had no part nor lot; he discerned “ Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the the happy estate of the righteous, but chose number of the fourth part of Israel ?" Look to be a partaker with the ungodly; he adforward to the days of Solomon, when the mired and envied the happy end of the peoglory of Israel was in its zenith, when the ple of God, but felt his own end approaching descendants of the men in the plains of without hope; he saw and approved the Moab were multiplied as the sand on the beauty and loveliness of virtue; he persisted sea shore; and thence rise higher still, to a to the last, pursuing and cleaving to the greater promise, to a better covenant, to the wages of unrighteousness. spiritual seed of faithful Abraham increased But what, I beseech you, could dictate this “to a great multitude, which no man can wish to Balaam? What but a strong and number, of all nations, and kindreds, and irresistible persuasion of the immortality of people, and tongues, standing before the the soul, and an approaching unalterable state throne and before the Lamb, clothed with of rewards and punishments ? What but a white robes, and palms in their hands;"I consciousness of having acted wrong, and the encamped not in a fertile terrestrial plain, dreadful knowledge of his being accountable but expatiating through the vast regions of to a holy and righteous God? And is it really eternal day, and possessing, not a land flow- possible for reasonable creatures to fall into ing with milk and honey, but the pure and such gross absurdity and contradiction ? And sublime delights of the paradise of God. can there exist such characters in the world? How I envy Balaam the prospect from the Let us bring the case home to ourselves. It top of the rock! A rich champaign country, is too evident to need a proof, that many inskirted by the silver Jordan, meeting the dulge themselves in very unwarrantable pracdistant horizon; the tents of Israel spread tices, whose religious principles, notwithout like the trees in the forest, and covering standing, are exceedingly sound and just. an innumerable multitude; a whole nation Try them on the side of soundness in sentiof men beloved of God, and destined to con- ment and opinion, and they talk and reason quest; the spacious tabernacle, the habitation like angels from heaven: consider how they of the Most High, expanded in the midst, live, they are mere men of this world. They and the cloud of glory, the unequivocal proof find a salvo for conscience, by making a sort of the presence of the great King, resting of composition with their Maker, as some upon it. How many objects to delight the men find a salvo for their integrity, by putting eye, to swell the imagination, to elevate the off their good-natured creditors with a certain soul! No wonder the tongue of envy was proportion of their debt, when they are either charmed from its purpose. But alas! the unwilling or unable to pay the whole. And, heart of malice and covetousness remains with equal insolence and presumption, the one unchanged; a chest full of gold had been to vainly imagines that his Creator and Lord, Balaam a sight more enchanting. Place him the other that his credulous friend, may think in heaven, like Mammon his father; accord- themselves sufficiently satisfied with such ing to the description of our great poet, his partial payments as they think fit to render. attention had been fixed but on one object. Such of God's commands they will cheerfully Maimon, the least erected spirit that fell

obey ; but as to others, why, they will make From heaven; for even in hcaven, his looks and all the atonement in their power—the proud,

thoughts Were always downward bent, admiring inore

the ambitious, the covetous, the dissolute, The riches of heaven's pavement, trolden gold, each in a way that shall not clash with his Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed

favourite pursuit. One will give his time, anoIn vision beatific."

ther his diligence, a third his moncy to God, The beautiful view beneath, therefore, was just according as it is the article upon which lo Balaam what the conjugal bliss of our first he himself puts least value, and the conscious parents in paradise was to Satan, according deficiency he aitempts fecbly to cke out, by • Erod. xv. 9. 11. 1 Gen. xv. 5. * Rev. vij. 9.

• Num, xxiji. 10.

faint hopes and half resolves, that some time , live what way men will, they have but one or another he will exhibit a more uniform thought, one conviction, one prayer, when they and thorough obedience to the will of God. come to die. After the pleasure or the advan

When the command is clear and express, tage of a wicked action is over, who would not to question and reason on the subject is re- gladly get clear of the guilt of it? But this bellion. By this the allegiance of man in a is the misery; the profit and pleasure quickly state of innocence was assailed ; and, listen- pass away, the guilt and pain are immortal. ing to this, he staggered and felı, “ Yea, | Could a lazy wish or two supply the place hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of virtue, all would be well : the conscience of the garden ?" When temptation of this would go to rest, the "strong man armed sort is once listened to, men will gradually would keep the house.” But the very wishes come to doubt of every thing and learn to ex- of indolence and impiety betray their own plain away every thing: Deliberation and flimsiness; and Balaam feels his own prayer doubt in the face of “ Thus saith the Lord,” falling back with an oppressive weight on his are dishonesty and impiety: and to attempt guilty head. Let us be instructed to mend it to get rid of one uneasy text of scripture, is a little, and say with Paul, “ None of us liva direct attack on the validity of the whole. eth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

When we see a man so intelligent as Ba- For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; laam, duped by his passions into a train of and whether we die, we die unto the Lord : folly and wickedness so gross and palpable, whether we live, therefore, or die, we are let us look well to ourselves. The absurdi- the Lord's.'* “ To me to live is Christ, and ties into which we fall, escape our own notice: to die is gain.” Lord help us so to live, as but a discerning by-stander sees them, smiles to be raised above the fear of death. Let me at them, perhaps makes his advantage of them. fall asleep in the bosom of my heavenly FaIf we are conscious of the influence of any ther, and I shall awake in perfect peace. very powerful propensity or aversion, it is a Happy, unspeakably happy, they, who in just ground of suspicion, that we may be reviewing life, and in the prospect of death, tempted to act unworthily; and it is a power- can with holy joy and confidence adopt these ful admonition to watch our hearts narrowly words of the apostle, and say, “ I am now on the side of that infirmity " which doth ready to be offered, and the time of my demore easily beset us.”

parture is at hand. I have fought the good We see in the dying struggles of Balaam's fight, I have finished my course, I have kept conscience, a deep, å rooted concern about the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me futurity: a concern which no one, let him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, say what he will, has been able to overcome. the righteous Judge, shall give me at that His ardent wish, “ Let me die the death of day: and not to me only but unto all thena the righteous,” is the involuntary homage also that love his appearing.”+ which vice pays to piety. Think what way, * Rom. xiv. 7, 8. 1 2 Tim. iv. 6-&



But I have a few things against thee, hecause thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who

talight Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, 1o eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.-REVELATION ii. 14.


The mystery of iniquity, which the human the same person could possibly be so much heart is daily bringing to light, is as strange changed, and by what steps the man was and incomprehensible as any thing in the gradually transformed into the devil. Scrip frame of nature, or in the conduct of Provi- ture represents to us a man shrinking with dence. In the first stages of a sinfuil career, horror from a prophetic display of his own a spectator could not conceive, the man him-character, and an anticipated view of his own self cannot believe the desperate wickedness conduct_“What, is thy servant a dog, that to which he may in time be brought. The he should do this great thing ?"* He vier latter end is so very unlike the beginning, ed it then, through the calm medium of yea that it becomes matter of astonishment how

2 Kings viii. 13.


son, humanity, and conscience; and justly re-, up of seven bullocks, and seven rams, upon probated, what passion and opportunity after- as many different altars; and the hardened wards prompted him to act, without pity or wretch has the impious boldness of retiring a

second time to meet God on this ungracious The progress of sin is like that of certain errand. An answer is now put into his mouth, diseases, whose first symptoms give no alarm; which levels a mortal blow at the hopes of to which a vigorous constitution bids a bold his wicked employer, and the wrath of man defiance, and treats with neglect; but which, serves but the more illustriously to praise through that neglect, silently fix upon some God. Who but must shudder to hear such of the nobler parts, prey unseen, unobserved words as these falling from such a tongue ? upon the vitals, and the man finds himself “Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, dying, before he apprehended any danger. It thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that was but a slight cold, a tickling cough, a he should lie: neither the son of man, that small difficulty of breathing; but it imper- he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he ceptibly becomes an intolerable oppression, not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he an universal weakness, an extenuating hec- not make it good? Behold, I have received tic, under which nature fails; the nails bend commandment to bless : and he hath blessed, inwards, the hairs fall off, the legs swell, the and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld eyes sink, and the cold hand of death stops iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perthe languid current at the fountain. Thus verseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with the giddy sallies of youth, the mistakes of him, and the shout of a king iw mong them. inconsideration, the errors of inexperience, God brought them out of Egypt, he hath as through neglect, presumption, and indul- it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely gence, become, before men are aware, habits there is no enchantment against Jacob, nei. of vice, constitutional maladies, by which ther is there any divination against Israel : manhood is dishonoured, old age becomes according to this time it shall be said of Japitiable, and death is rendered dreadful be- cob and of Israel, What hath God wrought ! yond expression. These considerations clear- Behold, the people shall rise up as a great ly justify and enforce the advice of the apos- lion; and lift up himself as a young lion: he tle: " Exhort one another daily while it is shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and called to-day; lest any of you be hardened drink the blood of the slain."* • Happy is through the deceitfulness of sin."*

that people that is in such a case: yea, happy If there be a history and a character, which, is that people whose God is the Lord.”+ more powerfully than another press this ex The time would fail to go into a particular hortation upon the conscience, it is the his- detail of the events which justify this noble tory and character of Balaam, the son of prediction. But we should do it infinite inBosor, “who taught Balak to cast a stumbling- justice to restrict its meaning to one particublock before the children of Israel, to eat lar nation, to transitory purposes, or to temthings sacrificed unto idols, and to commit poral events. It is gloriously descriptive of fornication.” We have traced his progress the unchangeable faithfulness, the undeviafrom Aram to Moab, and found him pertina- ting truth, the almighty protection, the imciously adhering to an impious purpose, with moveable love of God to his people. It speaks an understanding clearly informed as to his the blessedness of the man " whose transduty, and a conscience perfectly awake to his gression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. situation. It is unpleasant, but God grant it The blessedness of the man into whom the may not be unprofitable to attend him through Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spithe remainder of his wicked and abominable rit there is no guile."! It exposes the impo

tence of Satan, and of all the enemies of their Balak, chagrined and disappointed to hear salvation. It exhibits the signal triumph of the eulogy of Israel from those lips, which the church of God, through the great Captain he had hired to curse them, weakly hopes to of their salvation, who unites in his person, change the counsels of Heaven, by changing among other wonderful extremes, the chathe place of his own view: and Balaam wick- racter of “the Lamb slain, to take away the edly humours his fondness and credulity. sins of the world," and of the “Lion of the The Moabitish prince ascribes the rapturous tribe of Judah," the great Lion who lifteth up expressions of the prophet to the full and dis- himself, “and shall not lie down, until he eat tinct prospect which he had of the camp of of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.” Israel, and therefore proposes to view it from And, it prefigures their last joyful encampa new station, whence its extremity only was ment in the heavenly plains, where the shout visible, in the hope that a partial survey of of a king shall be for ever heard among them, that glory might encourage him to blast it and the glory of the Lord arise upon them, to with a curse. He conducts him accordingly set no more. into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, This decisive answer seems for a moment and another preparatory sacrifice is offered

| Psalm cxliv. 15. • Heb. iii. 13.

1 Psalm xxxii. 1. 2.


* Num. xxiii. 18_24.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »