Page images

“ They truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them," Heb. vii. 23, 24, 25. “ He need not daily, as those high-priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men highpriests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore,” Heb. vii. 27, 28.



These are gone astray, following the way of Balaam,

the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass, speaking with man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet.2 Pet. ii. 15, 16.

OF all the evil propensities to which human nature is subject, there is no one so general, so insinuating, so corruptive and so obstinate, as the love of money. It begins to operate early, and it continues to the end of life. One of the first lessons which chil. dren learn, and one which old men never forget, is, the value of money. The covetous seek and guard it for its own sake, and the prodigal himself must first be avaricious, before he can be profuse. This, of all our passions, is best able to fortify itself by reason, and is the last to yield to the force of reason. It most unremittingly engages the attention, and calls into their fullest exertion all our powers of body and of mind. Ambition and pride, those powerful motives of human conduct, are but ministering servants to avarice. Reputation and power are pursued chiefly as the means of procuring wealth; and all the fierce contentions which have distracted the world, and deluged it with blood, may be traced up to an eager desire to obtain the territory, or the treasure of another. Age, which blunts all our other appetites, only whets this; and after the heart is dead to every other joy, it lives to the dear, the inextinguishable delight of sav. ing and hoarding

In exact proportion to their incapacity and disinclination to make use of money, is the violence of men's thirst to possess it; and on the threshold of eternity it cleaves to them, as if their life were just beginning. Philosophy combats, satire exposes, religion condemns it in vain: it yields neither to argument, nor ridicule, nor conscience. Like the lean kine in Pharaoh's dream, it devours all that comes near it, and yet continues as hungry and meagre as ever. If a representation of the odiousness, criminality and danger of this vile affection can be of any use, it must be to those whose hearts are not yet hardened, whose consciences are not yet blinded by habits of indulgence in it; for if it has once gotten possession of the mind, you might as easily reinvigorate feeble age by a discourse on the advantages and joys of youth, or restore a con. stitution wasted through consumption by an elaborate declamation on the blessing of health. Avarice, with the deaf adder, “will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely,” Psalm lviii. 5.

We have already had occasion, in the course of these exercises, to trace the character of a selfish man, and to observe the workings of the human mind, under the influence of this base and destructive passion, in the history of Laban the Syrian. There we saw every principle of generosity and gratitude, of truth and jus. tice, of humanity and natural affection, of piety and decency vilely sacrificed to this insatiate idol, which, like the grave, “never says it is enough.” We have in the history referred to by the apostle, in the words which I have now read, another striking and instructive instance of the dreadful operation of covetousness, ih a mind enlightened by wisdom, awake to all the

[ocr errors]

worthier feelings and propensities of nature, capable of forming the justest notions of right and wrong, and of conveying these notions in the clearest and strongest expressions; fully instructed and firmly persuaded respecting his duty; but actuated by this fatal passion, deliberately deviating from the right path, seducing those whom he durst not curse, degrading the dignity of the prophet, in the venality of the courtier, and shamefully bartering conscience for gain. We shall find, then, the words of Peter a perfect key to the relation of Moses; and whatever inconsistency shall appear in the conduct of Balaam, whatever fluctuation in opinion; whatever plausibility of language and sentiment, combined with whatever irresolution in virtue, all is explained by this one discovery of his real character, he “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” We come to illustrate this position by the history of itself.

Forty years almost have elapsed since the miraculous deliverance from Egypt; and the whole generation which partook of the joy of that deliverance because of their unbelief, is well nigh extinguished. Thousands and ten thousands have dropt into the grave. The individuals which formed the congregation of Israel are lost and forgotten; but Israel still lives, the care of Providence, the object of favour. The shafts of vengeance have spent themselves, and nothing can now stem that current of promise and destiny, which is carrying God's favoured people to victory, and the possession of Canaan. Their decampments and progress, therefore, are no longer the lingering and wanderings of a devoted people doomed to die in the wil. derness; but the bold, direct and successful progress of a warlike nation, from conquest to conquest.

A multitude so great, subsisting in a desart so long, in a manner so singular, could not but attract the notice of all the adjacent nations, who must have been anxiously solicitous which way their route was directed,

and where they were to attempt a settlement at length. Being arrived at the border of the wilderness, where it is contiguous to the country of the Amorites; not imagining that any part of their inheritance was to be allotted them on this side Jordan; they petition Sihon, the king of the country, to grant them leave to pass peaceably through his territories, to the place of their destination. This he roughly refuses, and, without waiting to see whether Israel meant to attempt a passage by force, he collects his whole strength, advances into the wilderness to attack them, and thereby hastens on his own fate; for his army is smitten with the edge of the sword, and his whole land falls an easy prey to the victor. Og, king of Bashan, is rash enough to follow his example, provokes his own destruction, is subdued in his turn, and the fertile plains over which he reigned swell the triumphs of Israel.

Advancing forward to Jordan, they pitch their camp in the plains of Moab. This nation was descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham, by an incestuous commerce with his elder daughter. They had long before this been reduced into a regular form of civil government, that of monarchy, and were living in the quiet possession of a fruitful country, secured to them. by the appointment of Providence, in consideration of their relation to their venerable ancestor: and Israel was expressly prohibited to disturb them, or their brethren and neighbours, the children of Ammon, the posterity of Lot by his younger daughter, in the possession of their inheritance. The report of their victories, however, over Og and Sihon, has roused the at tention and the jealousy of Balak king of Moab. Instead. of employing the rational policy, of courting alliance and friendship with a people so formidable, and who were neither disposed nor permitted to molest them; ør of adopting the manly policy of repelling bold invaders by open war, he has recource to the mean, timid and contemptible arts of necromancy or divination

3 H


« PreviousContinue »