Изображения страниц

to have quashed the hopes of Balak, and he is serve, first, that it behoved him now to be now disposed to compound with the prophet convinced by so many successive and corresfor total silence. * Neither curse them at ponding revelations, of the steady, determinall, nor bless them at all."* But 0, the ob- ed purpose of Heaven, in favour of Israel. In stinate perseverance of the carnal mind in a spite of all his subterfuges, after all his turnsinful course! After all he had seen and ings and windings, he finds himself still hearu, he returns a third time to the charge, brought back to the same point; a language and dreams of another station, a repeated sa- is forced upon his tongue which his heart recrifice, and an altered purpose. How morti- jected, a glory is spread before his eyes, fying to think that good men are so much which excited only envy and sorrow: and this sooner weary of well-doing, so much more renders his after conduct more unaccountaeasily discouraged from the pursuit of duty. ble, odious, and crimina! Indeed it is a comBut though Balaam gave directions for the plicated transgression, containing so many building of new altars, he can no longer be circumstances of aggravation, that we should the dupe of his own sinful wishes and magi- be tempted to doubt its existence, did not mecal arts, and therefore dares not to have re- lancholy experience too frequently confirm course to them again. Such is the awful, the possibility of it. such the glorious power of God! Magicians We observe, secondly, that truth is not inmay for a little while amuse themselves and jured by being conveyed through an impure deceive others, by their enchantments; but channel, and therefore ought not to be rejected Aaron's rod at length swallows up those of the on that account. Indeed it rather confers a Egyptian wizards; and Balaam is at length higher lustre upon it, just as hypocrisy pays constrained to resign his fruitless arts, and to the most honourable compliment to true reliacknowledge the finger of God from the top of gion, by assuming its sacred habit and forn Peor, where Baal was worshipped. He again The word of God shall not fail of its effect, surveys the tents of Israel, where Jehovah though Balaam, or though Satan speak it. It resided, and charmed, by the prospect, from may do good to others, while he who bears it his malevolent design, seems to give cor- is injured, not benefited. And sur-ly, when dially in to the views of that Spirit who spake we hear such divine sentences coming from by his mouth. “And when Balaam saw that such unhallowed lips, a holy jealousy will be it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went kindled, a holy watchfulness inculcated on all not as at other times to seek for enchant- who bring the messages of God to others; as ments, but he set his face toward the wilder- the great apostle of the Gentiles felt and ex

And Balaam lift up his eyes, and he pressed, when he says, “I keep under my saw Israel abiding in his tents, according to body, and bring it into subjection : lest that their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon by any means, when I have preached to others, him. And he took up his parable, and said, I myself should be a cast away." Balaam the son of Beor, hath said: and the We are led, thirdly, to observe, and to laman whose eyes are opened hath said: he ment how rarely fine talents and ample hath said, which heard the words of God, means of doing good, are in the possession which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling of an honest, benevolent, and sanctified heart! into a trance, but having his eyes open: How The elevation of genius too seldom aims its goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy taber- flight to the feet of the Father of lights, "from nacles, O Israel! As the vallies are they whom cometh down every good gift and every spread forth, as gardens by the river side, as perfect;" and affluence is frequently abused, the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath to increase that misery which it was given planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. to relieve. But then, surely, men are likest He shall pour the water out of his buckets, God, when enlargement of understanding, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his and plenitude of power, obey the calls of king shall be higher than Agag, and his king- goodness, and strive to diffuse more widely dom shall be exalted. God brought him forth the gifts of an indulgent Providence; and out of Egypt, he hath as it were the strength that benevolence is the most exalted, which of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his aims at the highest good, and seeks to proenemies, and shall break their bones, and mote interests that are immortal. What pierce them through with his arrows. He then must be the malignity of that heart couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great which, in Balaam, perverted the soundest lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that understanding, disfigured and misled the blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth finest abilities? How dark and dismal that thee." +

unfeeling passion, which scrupled not to deOur chief object at present being to illus- vote a whole nation, for the sake of a little trate the character of Balaam, and to improve silver and gold! How greatly do men err in it, we are to consider his prophecy chiefly in the estimation which they make both of their that view, abstracted from the great and glo- own qualities and those of others! Those of rious truths which it contains. And we ob- the head are the objects of universal admiraNum. xiv. 1-9

* 1 Cor. il 27


. Num. xxiii, 23.

cion, the subject of universal praise; those of nations, but his latter end shall be that he the heart are lightly esteemed, and do not perish for ever. And he looked on the Kealways escape cer:sure. But apply the ba- nites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong lance of the sanctuary, and what a reverse: is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy A little humility outweighis a great deal of nest in a rock; nevertheless, the Kenite shall learning; faith, as a grain of mustard-seed, be wasted until Ashur shall carry thee away preponderates against a mountain of gold; captive. And he took up his parable and and charity, though with the simplicity of a said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth child, brings down the scale, against the wit this."* of men, and the eloquence of angels. By all The burden of this prophecy las evidentmeans covet earnestly the best gitts, thoughly a twofold object, the one improving upon, they full to the lot c' but a few: but rather rising above, and extending beyond the other. cultivate the more precious graces which Its primary and nearer object, David, God's God conferreth liberally on all that ask him. anointed king to crush the power of the eneWhatever you solicit, whatever you receive, my, and Moab in particular, and to perfect see that you have the blessing which the conquest of the promised and. Its sesweetens, which sanctifies, which ennobles, condary and more remote one, though first which improves it.

in point of importance, “ Jesus, the root and Finally, we may observe the dreadful mi- offspring of David.” În the one, Balak saw sery of that man whose heart and head are the death of all his earthly hopes, the apat variance; whom inclination drags one way, proaching dominion of a hated power, estaand conscience another; who lives with a blished on the ruins of his own country. In drawn sword continually hanging over his the other, Balaam beheld the ruin of all his head by a single hair; for ever doing what prospects beyond the grave; a Light that he is constrained for ever to condemn; and should shine but to conduct him to the place reluctantly ready to execute the judgment of punishmeat; a Star that should arise to of God upon himself. What dismal and un- shed the mildest influence on others, but pleasant progress must he make, who sees only to breathe pestilence and death upon an angel in arms opposing him at every step, himself; a Ruler who should exercise uniand whose way is hedged about on every versal dominion, but who, while he presided side by thorns of his own planting! over his willing and obedient subjects in

Balak can now refrain no longer, but smi- mercy and loving-kindness, should rule reting together his hands in a rage, exclaims, bels like him with a rod of iron. Indeed, if * I called thee to curse mine enemies, and Balaam had any presentiment of a Saviour behold thou hast altogether blessed them when he uttered this prophecy, as is highly these three times; therefore now flee thou probable, his character is the most detestato thy place: I thought to promote thee unto ble, and his condition the most deplorable great honour, but lo, the Lord hath kept thee that can be imagined. Unhappy man, with back from honour. "* An expostulation of one breath preaching the unsearchable riches no pleasant complexion ensues; for what is of Christ to a guilty world, and with the next, the friendship of bad men, but a commerce teaching the arts of seduction to ensnare the of interest, a confederacy that aims only at innocent. In words exulting in the greatest self, and it concludes on the part of Balaam blessing which God had to bestow upon manwith a prediction clearer, fuller, and more kind, but dreadfully conscious to himself that pointed than ever, of Israel's glory and he had wilfully rejected the counsel of God Moab's downfall: “ And he took up his pa- against himself. With all the weight and rable and said, Balaam, the son of Beor, hath importance of the soul and eternity before said, and the man whose eyes are open hath | his eyes, but this world steadfastly enthroned said: he hath said, which heard the words of in his heart; a prophet, yet a reprobate, deGol, and knew the knowledge of the Most scending to the grave with the blood of thouHigh, which saw the vision of the Almighty sands upon his head. The twenty-fifth chapfalling into a trance, but having his eves ter of Numbers contains the history of the open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall stumbling-block which “ Balaam taught Babehold him, but not nigh: there shall come a lak to cast before the children of Israel-to Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to comout of Israel, and shall smite the corners of mit fornication,"t and of its dreadful success. Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. As a prophet, he could not hurt Israel; but And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also as a politician, he unhappily prevails. He shall be a possession for his enemies, and Is- was well aware where their strength lay; rael shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall and unfortunately, it appears, he had likecome he that shall have dominion, and shall wise discovered their weak side. Their God destroy him that remaineth of the city. And could not be prevailed on to withdraw his when he looked on Amalek, he took up his protection; but may not they be persunded parable and said, Amalek was the first of the or allured to change their allegiance? This • Nuinb. xxiv. 10, 11

| Rev. ii. 14

* Numb. xxiv. 15-22

will do the work of Satan equally well. Is- while one iota or one tittle of this book of rael was now at ease, with the promised God remains. land under their eye, and part of it already We shall have attended, however, to the in their possession. They were flushed with history of this singular man in vain, unless recent victory, assured of divine protection, we learn from it the infinite danger of being and thereby confident of farther success. Á under the dominion of any one ungovernable situation full of dager; for then, when our passion; and unless we are persuaded to mountain seems to us to stand most strong, watch over, to resist, and to subdue, “the sin we are most easily liable to be moved, cast which doth so easily beset us." Of little down, destroyed. “Balaam accordingly, deep avail is it that our vice is not the vice which read as he was in the book of human nature, governed, ensnared, and ruined Balaam, if it suggests to Balak the diabolical counsel of alienate the heart from God, dissolve the obattempting to decoy the people into idolatry ligations of religion, disorder the understandby means of female insinuation and address. ing, and lull the conscience asleep. One disThe experiment is made, and fatally suc ease for another, one vice for another, is but ceeds. And it is this counsel which stamps a miserable exchange. If the patient must the character of Balaan with intamy indeli- die, it will not alleviate one pang, that he ble; as it exhibits a dissolution of moral prin- perishes by the fever rather than the hydropciple, to be equalled only by him who is a sy, the consumption, or any other distemper. murderer from the beginning.

The unrestrained dominion of any one sinThink what it is to advise a father to ex- ful appetite must become fatal at length. pose his daughter to prostitution : think what Covetousness, pride, lust, envy, malice, reit is to devise and to encompass the death of venge, are the mortal distempers of the soul, one fellow-creature, who has never offended which, perhaps insensibly, but most certainly, us: think of the malice which aims its deadly are impairing its beauty, and wasting its shaft, not at the body, but at the soul : think strength. Lust," whatever be its particuof the presumption which flies directly in the lar name," having conceived, bringeth forth face of the great and terrible Jehovah, and sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth defies his power: and then think of the vile forth death.” Instead, therefore, of amusing wretch, recommending the prostitution of a or perplexing himself with inquiries into the whole nation : in cold blood plotting the de- general symptoms of discase, it concerns struction of myriads; and what is worse, in- every man to study his own particular case ; to finitely worse than any temporal evil, re- watch against the sin which doth so easily morselessly involving them in guilt which beset him ;" to keep himself from his iniquithreatened eternal ruin: and all this under ty ; to discover, and to rectify the disorder of the character of a prophet, whose office bound his own constitution, “the plague of his own him to call the people away from their wick-heart.” That where he is naturally, or by edness, and to save perishing souls from habit, weak, he may become strong, “ through death; and all for what? “ For so much the grace that is in Christ." trash as may be grasped thus."-Base pas Let us be instructed to value qualities, sion, what canst thou not make us do ? “Sure- whether natural or acquired, not from their ly the heart is deceitful above all things, and currency and estimation in the world, but from desperately wicked; who can know it?" their appearance in the sight of God. “As

The history of Israel's seduction, in con- the heavens are higher than the earth, so are sequence of Balaam's horrid advice, falls not my ways higher than your ways, and my within our present design, and we are forbid thoughts than your thoughts."* “By him by decency to pursue it. The guilt of this actions are weighed.” By his judgment we fatal defection cost no less than twenty-four must stand or fall. Has Heaven blessed thee, thousand lives of them who died of the plague, O man, with extraordinary gifts ? Let it be besides those who suffered by the bands of jus- a motive to humility, not a source of pride. tice. So horrid are the sacrifices which It is a trust of which thou must render an acpride, ambition, and covetousness, are daily count; and to whom men have committed offering up! So dreadful the havoc which much, of him will they require the more." ungoverned pission makes amongst the works If he who buries his one talent in the ground of God !-But short is the triumph of the most be criminal, what shall become of that man successful villany: remorse embitters the who dissipates and destroys ten in riotous enjoyment of it, and justice hastens to bring living ? it to a period.

There is but one road to a happy end-a In the very first attack made upon Midian, holy life. There is but one ground of hope, we find Balaam in arms, supporting his per- in death, to a guilty creature-the mercy of nicious counsel by the sword; but it cannot God through a Redeemer. Abraham saw the prosper: Midian is discomfitted on the first Saviour's day afar off, believed and rejoiced. onset, and the hoary traitor falls unpitied in Balaam eaw it afir off, persisted in impenj. the field, leaving behind him a name to be tence and unbelief, and died without hope, detested and despised of all generations,

* Isaiah ly. 9.

the grave.

On the one, « the Star of Jacob" darted a | shine: for thy light is come, and the glory of mild and healthful influence, which cheered the Lord is risen upon thee.” “Beloved, the path of life, and dispelled the horrors of now are we the sons of God, and it doth not

On the other, it shot a baleful yet appear what we shall be: but we know fire which drunk up the spirits, blasted pre- that, when he shall appear, we shall be like sent enjoyment, and increased the gloom of him; for we shall see him as he is."* For ye futurity.-Arise, O Star of Jacob, arise upon are dead, and your life ishid with Christ in God. my head with healing in thy wings! Let When Christ, who is our life, shall appear me walk in thy light; let me " hasten to the then shall ye also appear with liim in glory."" brightness of thy rising!” Christian, "arise,

Col. iii. 3, 4.

* 1 John iii. 2.



And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fed

away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books wer: opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out oi those things which were written in the books according to their works. And the sea gare up the dead which were in it: and death and hell gave up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.-REVELATION XX. 11–13.

It is a solemn thing for a man to be judged, and whom the Spirit of God has condescendof his own conscience. How sweet is the ed to delineate in their true colours and just approving testimony of that bosom monitor proportions, that they may serve to us " for and witness! but more bitter than death its doctrine, and for reproof, and for correction, upbraiding and reproaches. To stand at a and for instruction in righteousness. We human tribunal, with life or reputation, death have plunged into ages beyond the flood, and or infamy, depending on the issue, can never contemplated human nature in its original appear a light matter to one who understands glory; "man,” as God made him, "perfect;" and feels the value of either. Even conscious and man, as he made himself, lost in the innocence and integrity, accompanied with multitude of his own inventions. good hope toward God, court not the eye of The “ first man, by whom came death-the public inquiry, but prefer the secret, silent figure of Him who should come, by whom is feast of inward peace, and of divine applause, the resurrection of the dead: Adam, in whom to the public banquet of innocence proved all die: Christ, in whom all shall be made and proclaimed by sound of trumpet. Serious alive." it is to reflect that your name, your words, We have attended “righteous Abel" to your conduct may become matter of record, the altar of God, and beheld the smoke of his and ages to come mention them with appro- |“ more excellent sacrifice" ascending with bation and esteem, or with indignation and acceptance to heaven: and " by which, he contempt. But every seeling of this sort is being dead yet speaketh.” lost in the certain and more awful prospect We have seen the hands of " wicked Cain" of judgment to come. It is a light thing to besmeared with a brother's blood; and the be judged of man, who can only kill the earth refusing to cover that blood, but calling body, and blight the reputation, and beyond to Heaven for vengeance on the murderer; that hath nothing more that he can do ; and the guilty wretch rendered a terror to but how formidable is the judgment of Him, himself. who knows the heart, who records in “the We have seen these, one after another, book of his remembrance" the actions of the dropping into the grave; and in that, the life, the words that fall from the tongue, the triumph of sin and death. But in Enoch we thoughts which arise in the heart; who will behold the triumph of faith and holiness, the bring every secret thing to light, and “render triumph of almighty grace over sin and 10 every man according to his works;" and death, and over him who has the power of who, “after he has killed, has power to destroy death. Our eyes follow “the holy man who body and soul in hell."

walked with God," not to the “ dreary house Aided by the light which sacred history appointed for all living," but, through the sheds on ages and generations past, we have higher regions of the air, toward the blesse ventured into the solem! mansions of the abories of immortality, till a cloud receives dead, and conversed with those silent instruc:- him out of our sight. ere who know not either to flatter or to fear; We sought shelter with Noah, and he


little saved remnant, from that deluge which his pontifical robes, resigning his charge, destroyed a world of ungodly men, in the ark closing his eyes in death; and heard Moses which God commanded; which that“preach- himself warned to prepare for his departure. er of righteousness prepared for the saving Not only by a display of worth and exof his house ;” and which Providence con- cellence, but by a delineation of vice, by the ducted and preserved amidst the wild uproar exhibition of a “heart deceitful above all of contending elements—and with him per- things, and desperately wicked,” has he conceived the wrathful storm spending its túry, veyed to us the means of instruction and and the dawning light of a day of mercy re- improvement; in presenting us with the turning.

portrait of Balaam, who “ loved the wages We have seen the renewed, restored world, of unrighteousness.” In the character of Again overspread with violence, ignorance, that bad man, we behold the humiliating impiety, and idolatry: and the hope of the union of great talents and a corrupted heart; human race ready to be extinguished in the prophetic gifts and moral depravity; knowperson of a wandering, aged, childless man; ledge of the truth, and wilful adherence to that in the decay of exhausted, expiring na- error; admiration of virtue, and fixed habits ture, the world might be made to see, and to of vice; an earnest wish to “die the death acknowledge the vigour, the infallibility, the of the righteous," with a deliberate determiunchangeableness of God's covenant of pro- nation to live the life of the wicked; and mise. We removed with that illustrious all this mystery of iniquity explained in one exile from place to place, and with joy beheld short sentence; his heart went out after its his faith crowned at length with the promised covetousness. seed, " in whom all the families of the earth All these have passed in review before us; should be blessed."

and their existence, in succession to one From that “tender plant,” that “root out another, occupies a space of two thousand of a dry ground,” we saw a succession of five hundred years. But the text collects fair and fruitful branches arise, while we them, and us, and all succeeding generations studied the noiseless, sequestered, contem- of men, into one great co-existent assembly, plative life of Isaac, and the active, varie- to undergo a judgment infinitely more solemn gated, chequered life of Jacob, his younger than ever was pronounced from human tri

bunal! a judgment infallible, final, irreversiIn the affliction of Joseph we felt ourselves ble; which shall bring to trial, and condemn afflicted, in his exaltation we rejoiced, and by all hasty, rash, erroneous judgments of men, his virtues and piety, in every variety of clear injured innocence, bring to light and human condition, we received at once in- reward hidden worth, abase insolence and struction and reproof.

pride, detect and expose hypocrisy. Let the The sweet historian, who had disclosed prospect of it direct all our inquiries, animate all these wonders of antiquity to our view, all our exertions, dictate all our decisions on opened to us all these stores of knowledge, the character and conduct of other men, and all these sources of delight, comes forward influence, form, and govern our own. Thus hiinself at last upon the scene, and continues the review of preceding personages and to minister to our pleasure and improvement, events, and the prospect of those to come by a faithful and affecting detail of his own shall be animated, improved, sanctified; thus eventful story, and a candid display of his shall we feel our interest in, and connexion own sentiments, character, and conduct. with the church of God universal, of every What heart so hard as not to melt at sight age, and converse with Moses and the proof yonder weeping babe, a deserted, exposed, phets as our contemporaries, countrymen, perishing Hebrew child, floating down the and friends, whom we shall shortly join, and streain! What heart does not glow to see be united to them in bonds of pure and everhin the pride and ornament of Pharaoh's lasting love. Recollecting times past, anticiimperial court, instructed in all the learning pating ages to come, let us draw near and of the Egyptians! What bosom catches not consider this great sight, and may God grant the hallowed ardour of patriotic fire from the us to feel and improve its influence. intrepid avenger of his country's wrongs ! The imagery of the scene is sublime and In whatever situation or character we view striking. "I saw a great white throne.” him, whithersoever we follow his steps, " A throne,” royal state, established empire, we feel ourselves attracted, delighted, in- acknowledged sway, the right and power of structed.

judgment united, universal, everlasting, unHe furnishes us with the history of his controllable dominion. A “great" throne. brother Aaron and his family, and of the The seat of kings is raised a little above the establishment of the Levitical priesthood, a people ; that of Solomon had six steps; ivory type of the everlasting and unchangeable and gold lent their combined aid to enrich priesthood of the Redeemer. We attended and adorn it. But what is the glory of Solothe venerable pair of brothers to the top of mon? his throne, once the seat of wisdom, the inountain, and beheld Aaron stript of to whuse oracular voice foreign potentates

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »