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quently happens, a man made to say diametrically the reverse of what he did say, and what he intended.
Balak having received this answer as the prophet's, with great colour of reason, considers it as a mere artifice, employed with a view to raise his price and importance; and he hopes to conquer Balaam's reluctance, by assiduity, perseverance, presents and flattery: for both good and bad men judge of others by themselves: and apprized, it would appear, of Balaam's weak side, ambition and avarice, he despatches a second embassy, consisting of a greater number of persons, and of still higher rank, with this weighty and importunate address: “ Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people,” Verse 16 17. How flattering all this to a worldly, selfish mind! Balak puts a chart blanche into his hands; leaves him to name his own terms. All the honour which a king could bestow, all the wealth of Moab is before him; the very things which his soul lusted after. Blessed Jesus, thou chief of the prophets, even the prince of this world, the chief of tempters, when he came, found nothing in thee! found no weak side, no vulnerable part. The kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them, dazzled not thine eyes: to the loudest calls of nature thou turnedst a deaf ear. The applause of men thou didst despise; thou soughtest not thine own glory, but the glory of Him that sent thee: thy" meat and drink was to do the will of Him that sent thee.”
Balaam had now been at the summit of his wishes, but for a stern, pointed command of God; which, like a drawn sword, hung by a single hair over his head. Shocking dilemma! he is goaded on by desire as impetuous as ever took possession of a proud and covetous mind; he is bridled in by a prohibition, as deci
sive as words could make it. For a moment we are in hope that the good principle has got the ascendant, that the fear, if not the love of God, is shed abroad in his heart. Who could speak better? “ 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,” Verse 18. It is the very sentiment of chaste and virtuous Joseph, when solicited by temptation of a different sort. But here is the difference:-Joseph fled from temptation, and overcame: Balaam tampered with it, and fell. Even the worst of men feel them . selves under a necessity, for their interest's sake, to save appearances; and something must be said, at least, to still the clamours of conscience. Unhappy man! steady, himself, to his own base and wicked purpose,
he is weak enough to entertain the hope, that the great,
the unchangeable Jehovah may depart from his. Thus de. ceiving himself, it is no wonder to see him attempting to deceive the king of Moab's messengers into the expectation of a response more favourable to their united wishes. Accordingly, he courteously invites them to lodge with him that night also; if, peradventure, there might be obtained a reversal of the decree.
And now the sable curtain is drawn, and Balaam is left alone, and no eye sees him but the all-seeing eye of God. Without waiting to be consulted, and the prophet, without doubt, was both afraid and ashamed to venture on this second rencounter, God again prevents him, and tacitly, though not directly, charges him with having invited this second application, in ihe face of a positive and decided answer.
Balaam and Balak are both men of this world, and having one and the same spirit to govern them, they readily understand each other. Balaam evidently courts a second address; and Balak is not slow to pay it. Now, this is the very thing which gives so great and such just offence to a holy God—that two presumptuous, selfish wretches should presume to imagine, that the counsels
of Heaven could be shaken, in compliance with their humour or interest. 46 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do," Verse 20. The word might have been rendered, “ Seeing the men have come to call thee. Balaam, thou hast carried, thus far, thy point. A more honourable embassy attends thee. Thy desire is to go: thou art unable to withstand the allurements of riches and honour: thou knowest the better course, but will pursue the worse. Well then, fulfil thy desire. I have declared my will; but thou preferest thine own. I have said, Go not; curse not; but the demon of gain, Mammon, says, go and curse. Obey him.
Go, and take the consequence.” This is clearly the language of the permis. sion given him to accompany the messengers.
And can there be a clearer proof of the divine displeasure, than when God yields to men, and gives them their own way? My people,” says God, “would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own heart's lust: and they walked in their own counsels. O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries,” Psalm Ixxxi. 11-14, The wickedness of the old world at length overcame the patience of God; and he said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man:” and so they were left to eat and drink, to dance and to play; but when the waters of the deluge were at no great distance: and when God says, concerning a people, or an individual, Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone;” short of hell, it is the worst that can befal them.
Balaam flattered himself and the Moabites, with hearing more from God; but, as the punishment of abusing the light he had, he hears less than before;
and the vision is obscured to the man who had wilfully shut his own eyes. He was formerly forbidden either to go, or to curse. He is now, at his peril, allowed to go: but should he be so rash as to proceed on so slender a warrant, he is, at his peril, warned to walk by the instructions which should be given him. How casily men believe, how promptly they obey, when the doc. trine tallies with their prejudices; when the precept coincides with their inclinations or their interest. Balaam is weak, I ought to have said wicked enough, to imagine his way perfectly clear. Having carried, as he thought, one essential point, all the rest, he presumes, will follow of course. Who so quick-sighted as a covetous man pursuing his gain? And yet, who so stupid and dull
, as the man whose eyes the god of this world hath blinded? Balaam is up betimes in the morning, equipped for his journey, on his way for the land of Moab. “ For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, Luke xvi. 8. And there, for the present, we shall leave him, with this melancholy, mortifying reflection that a corrupted heart has infinitely greater power to pervert a sound understanding and a well-informed conscience, than an intelligent conscience and a clear head have to reform and purify a corrupted heart. If God permit, we shall continue the history next Lord's day. May grace and wisdom be granted us to make a proper use of it; and to God's holy name be praise. Amen.
HISTORY OF BALAAM.
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.
THE ordinary powers of nature, if we consider them attentively, are no less wonderful in themselves, and are not less a proof of the power and wisdom of God, than those extraordinary gifts which have been bestowed, and those preternatural powers which have been exercised at particular seasons, and for special purposes; and which have excited the admiration and astonishment of one part of mankind, and the incredulity of another. That a company of illiterate men should suddenly, and without instruction or study, be endowed with the gift of readily speaking various languages, justly raises our wonder, and conveys to our minds a very lofty idea of that divine intelligence which can communicate such power unto men: but we overlook the wonder equally great, because it is continually occurring, of the common gift of speech, and the conveyance of thought by it; and the acquisition of language by means of letters and memory. That a dumb ass should speak with man's voice, and the dull ass reason, fills us with surprise, because the