« PreviousContinue »
better trains of thought and feeling. If he had possessed the right spirit these would have changed the current of his purpose, and made him cease to disobey what he knew to be the will of Jehovah. And why should we ever regard it as beneath the dignity of the Almighty, who wields all instrumentalities with equal ease, to select if he pleases the most humble, to rouse us from the lethargy of sin, and to awaken within us the sentiments of what is right and dutiful? The strange conduct of the animal which was bearing Balaam forward in his guilty career, under the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed, may have been the fittest agency, short of a direct divine communication, to interrupt the flow of his evil thoughts; to rouse his conscience; and to test his willingness to listen to its mandates. Who knows the best modes of gaining access to our minds, so well as that Being who formed them, and who has given them their laws of thought and action ? God tries us in various ways,—by small incidents, as well as by the most important. He tried Balaam by the singular movement of the animal which he rode, and her strong apparent reluctance to go forward, to see if the salutary suggestions which such an occurrence would naturally produce, would be heeded by him.
This portion of the sacred narrative has been grossly misrepresented by some, and scoffed at by others. The author has been induced to carry out the foregoing remarks to some length, that such presumptuous fault-finding with the doings of God himself might be shown to be as irrational as it is impious.
Determined, in spite of what had happened, and of the warnings of his conscience, still to prosecute his journey, Balaam soon found his path lying through some vineyards, with a wall on each side. Here the angel, still invisible to the rider, again stood in the way; and the ass alarmed at the sight, thrust herself violently unto the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. The pain which he felt only roused his anger towards the animal, and he beat her again till she was forced to proceed. He thus slighted a second admonition, speaking to him in language still more impressive than the first; while the repetition of such strange conduct on the part of his beast, was fitted to awaken the most serious forebodings in the mind of one pursuing a guilty course, and less under the
strong selfish passions than was Balaam. He is tried again, and found bent on fulfilling his purpose.
The angel of the Lord next stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn, either to the right hand or to the left. The suddenness and brightness of the apparition, combined with the im. possibility of avoiding it, struck the ass with such terror, that she fell down on the earth. Balaam was more enraged than ever, and began beating her severely with his staff.
A miracle was now at hand. God would rouse the seared and death-struck conscience of the of fender, and startle it into life. The ass speaks. Words are given the animal for utterance. She addresses her master. "What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times ?"
" Because thou hast mocked me," was the reply of Balaam, “I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.” He is tried again. It appears, that to a perverse obstinacy in wickedly striving after wealth and distinction, in opposition to the will of God, is added the out-breaking of a malicious rage against the innocent animal which has so long served him. He ought to have considered, too, that her speaking was owing to a miraculous interposition of the Almighty; and, instead of giving way to his fury, he should have checked it, and seriously pondered on what such a prodigy could mean. But he is too stupid, or too wilful, to do this. He sees nothing, as yet, of the providence, or the power of God in all that has happened.
To his threat of vengeance, the poor plied; "Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day ? was I ever wont to do so unto thee ?" This latter inquiry ought to have set him a thinking on the strangeness of her conduct, and what might be the providential design of it. But it seems to have had no
sucn effect. To this inquiry he simply answers ; “Nay.”
Do you wonder, my young friend, at the dull. ness 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 sues only the world, and in it the means of his own gratification. God and eternity; heaven and hell; and his endless career, be yond 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.
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.
The angel addresses him. " Wherefore hast 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