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quity, who can be guilty of none, but at a future day, to the confusion of all his blasphemers, will be fully “justified in his saying, and clear when he is “ judged.”
One cannot but bless oneself to see how ready these writers are, at every turn, to give sentence against the people of God, in favour of their enemies; as if they emulated the fame of a set of worthies in the fifth century, called Cainites ; who, having reprobated the Saviour of the world, bis prophets, and apostles, are said to have adopted into the catalogue of their saints, and paid especial honours to the memories of-Cain, Korah, Dathan, Esau, the Sodoinites, and Judas Iscariot.
As to their intimation, at page 17, that, because Egypt was a country intersected by canals, there never were any horses or chariots in it; they ought for this to take their part in the next general flogging at Westminster school. During the operation, perhaps, the captain of the school will be enjoined by the master to read aloud the following short passage from Rollin's Ancient History: “ Foot, Horse, “ and Chariot-races were performed in Egypt with " wonderful agility, and the world could not show “ better horseinen thay the Egyptians'.
In the next letter we shall proceed to the consideration of a topic entirely new-BALAAM's Ass.
i Vol. i.
LET TER XV.
The first difficulty here is, “Why God should bo angry
with Balaam for going, when he had given “hiin leave to go?"
To be sure, all circumstances continuing the same, it would be strange-it would be passing strange. But if circumstances varied, the divine conduct might vary too. Go,"
says God, “but” -observe" the word which I shall say unto thee, " that shalt thou dok.” Balaam seems to have set out with a resolution to obey; for like a man, and like an honest man, he had boldly and nobly said, “ If Balak would give me his house-full of silver " and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the “ Lord my God, to do less or more!.” However, it is possible that, upon the road, either by the persuasive arguments of the princes of Moab who accompanied him, or by the wicked suggestions of his own deceitful heart, an alteration had taken place in his mind, and interest had gained the ascendant over duty. I say, this is possible : considering his character, it is probable: but a passage in the history itself seems to make it certain.
out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse
" I went
k Numb. xxii. 20.
1 Ibid. xxii. 18.
" before me"." But what way? Not merely his journey, for he had leave to take it conditionally. Way must necessarily be understood in its moral acceptation. Something was wrong in the course of his thoughts, his imaginations, in his design and intention, now changed from what they were at setting out.
“ The foolishness (or wickedness) of man PERVERTETH his WAY"." Therefore God was angry, not, as it is in our translation, “ because “ he went”;” but “ as he was going-while he was
on the road P." Upon Balaam's humbling himself, and offering to return, leave of proceeding is again granted, but with a significant repetition of the original proviso: “Only the word that I shall “speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak”—“Go,
but remember, to me your heart is open, your “ desires are known. If you betray your trust, the “ drawn sword of the angel waits to punish your
duplicity as it ought to be punished.” This appears to be a fair and reasonable solution of the first difficulty.
As to the second, it is observed, page 17, that “ the ass exhibited a specimen of penetration and
prudence, of which the asses of modern times seem to be divested."
The observation brings to my mind one made upon the subject some years ago, by that father of the faithless, Dr. Tindal. “ What a number of ideas
In Numb. xxii. 32.
* Prov. xix. 3.
כי חולך *
must Balaam's ass have (says he) to be able to reason with her master, when she saw and knew
an angel'?" Will these gentlemen do me the favour to accept Dr. Waterland's answer?" Now, " as to the number of ideas which the ass must “ have; I believe she had as many as asses com
monly have: and he may please to count them at “his leisure, for his own amusement.." If they have ever an anatomist among them, I dare say
he could very easily demonstrate, from the configuration of its organs, the impossibility of the creature's speaking at all.
And bis demonstration would be just as much to the purpose, as Tindal's question. The plain truth is this : if it pleased God to take “ this particular method of rebuking the prophet's “ madness',” the severest philosophy cannot question his power to produce sounds articulate and significant, either with the organs of any animal, or without them. A voice proceeding from a dumb creature was made, upon this occasion, to teach a lesson similar to that deduced, upon another, from the example of the same creature: “ The ox knoweth his owner, "and the ass his master's crib; but man doth not “ know--- a prophet doth not consider".” If it be objected, that the occasion was not worthy; that it was not dignus vindice nodus ; we shall certainly take the liberty to think that God Almighty was' a much better judge of that matter than the infidels can possibly be, even were they ten times wiser than they are.
The whole transaction, in which Balaam Christianity as old, &c. p. 254. • Scripture Vindicated, 4. 42. 1 2 Pet. ii, 16.
u See Isa. i. 3.
bore so conspicuous a part, is of very great moment, and the history which relates it, full of deep instruction, as well as abounding in the beautiful and sublime*.
A predecessor of these gentlemen, Mr. Chubb, I. remember, called the Supreme Being to a very severe account for his conduct respecting the Canaanites; and they seem disposed to do the same, in a bitter, sarcastical, canting section, page 19, &c. the drift of which is to compare the Israelites in Canaan to the Spaniards in Mexico, and represent the former as the more detestable people of the two. The objection will perhaps be obviated, and its futility evinced, by proposing the few following queries:
1st. Has not the Almighty a sovereign right over the lives and fortunes of his creatures ?
2dly. May not the iniquity of nations become such, as to justify him in destroying those nations ?
3dly. Is he not free to choose the instruments by which he will effect such destruction ?
4thly. Is there more injustice or cruelty in his effecting it by the sword, than by famine, pestilence, whirlwind, deluge, or earthquake?
5thly. When these latter means are employed, do not women, children, and cattle, perish with the men?
6thly. Does not God take away thousands of children every day, and perhaps more than half the
species, under ten years
x" Nihil habet Poesis Hebræa in ullo genere limatius aut exquisitius.” Lowth de Sacra Poesi Heb. Præl, xx. ad fin,