Page images

sucn effect. To this inquiry he simply answers; Nay.”


Do you wonder, my young friend, at the dullness of moral perception on the part of Balaam? It was sin which produced it. What blindness of mind will not sin produce? He who is subject to its influence becomes more and more obscure in his views of truth and duty. His conscience, at length, sleeps. His passions impel and mislead him. Admonition loses its effect. Reproof is not heeded. The most striking warnings have no meaning. The word of God reaches not his ear. The hand of Providence arrests not his attention. The Spirit of Grace moves not his heart. He sees only the world, and in it the means of his own gratification. God and eternity; heaven and hell; and his endless career, beyond the grave, in bliss or wo unutterable,— are veiled in the thickest darkness. Not a ray of light beams from them to arouse, to alarm, to rescue him! Watch, strive, pray to be guarded against, and delivered from such a fearful state.

[blocks in formation]



Balaam. His blessing on the Israelites.

The eyes of Balaam were, at length, opened to behold the supernatural vision. He sees the angel in the way, standing to oppose his progress. A flaming sword is in his hand. There can be no doubt that he comes as the messenger of Jehovah. Balaam trembles in his presence, lest he comes, also, as the minister of divine vengeance; and bowing down his head, prostrates himself on the ground.

Wherefore hast

The angel addresses him. thou smitten thine ass these three times ? behold I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: and the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive."

God abhors cruelty to animals. Amid his other offences, the barbarous manner in which Balaam treated his ass, receives its merited reproof. What he considered her obstinacy, was the means of his preservation; and he is indebted for it to the very animal which he has so much abused, and Lese life in his anger; he would have taken, if

the means of doing it had been within his reach. Balaam's fears were aroused; and his conscience may have been in some degree awakened. "I have sinned," said he; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again."

[ocr errors]

What reluctance this worldly-minded and wicked man exhibits, promptly and thoroughly to do his duty! He clings to his idols. How express have been the several declarations of the Almighty against his going to see the king of Moab. Thou shalt not go. Thou shalt not curse. I went out to withstand thee. Thy way is perverse before me. But he cannot abandon the riches and the honors that glitter before his imagination, and inflame his selfish passions. He palliates his conduct, even while acknowledging that he did wrong, in showing such cruelty towards the poor animal which he rode. Yet he makes no confession of his greater guilt, in violating the positive commands of Jehovah. "If it displease thee, I will get me back again." If; if:-Had not the angel just told him that it did? Thy way is perverse before me." How can he doubt or hesitate? He will still go, if only he can be satisfied that his life will not be in danger, nor some terrible judgment overtake him, from that Being whose power he dreads, while to obey him he has no disposition.

[ocr errors]

"He that being often reproved hardeneth his


neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without
remedy." Balaam persists in his course. He is
again permitted to have his own way, and must
"Go," said the angel ;-
abide the consequences.
Go with the men: but only the word that I shall
speak unto thee that thou shalt speak."


Mysterious messenger! The angel of the Lord, and yet giving his injunctions with an underived and divine authority! It must have been a manifestation of Jehovah himself, such as had already appeared to the patriarchs of old, and the same, as we have reason to believe, which, in the land of Judea, was God manifest in the flesh, in the person of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Balaam pursued his journey, and Balak hearing of his approach, went out, quite to the borders of his kingdom, to meet him. It was an interview which both had strongly desired. The king of 'Did Moab had been so impatient for it, that he could not brook the delay which had taken place. I not earnestly send unto thee," said he, addressto call thee? wherefore camest ing Balaam, thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honor ?"

[ocr errors]

"Lo, I am come unto thee," was the reply. After all the restraints which have been imposed upon me, and the obstacles placed in my way, ad mire rather the inflexible perseverance which has lad me to overcome them; and let us rejoice toge

ther that thus far, at least, the object of our wishes is attained. But still, I have been permitted to come, subject to the will of that Almighty Being whose power is irresistible; who can do with me as he pleases; and before whose vengeance I shudder and tremble. "Have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak."

Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. Did not this mandate yet ring in the ears of Balaam? He knew how utterly irreconcileable it was with the object for which alone Balak had sent for him, and to accomplish which he was now treating him with such striking marks of respect. Did he hope to have this mandate repealed, or in some way to gratify the wishes of the king, at least so far as to retain his favor, and partake of his bounty?

Such hopes must have lurked in the breast of Balaam. He was a timid and cautious man; dreading indeed to meet the tremendous displeasure of the Almighty, by what he might conceive to be a direct violation of his command not to curse the Israelites. But he was, also, the abject slave of covetousness and ambition, and could not let go the prize that seemed to be so nearly within his grasp. He accompanied Balak to Kirjath-hazoth, the capital of his dominions. Immediate preparations were made for the offering up of a costly sacrifice

« PreviousContinue »