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CHAPTER LVII.

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 thet, 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 whose 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."

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.

"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 abide the consequences.

'Go," said the angel ;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 Moab had been so impatient for it, that he could not brook the delay which had taken place. "Did I not earnestly send unto thee,” said he, addressing Balaam, to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me ? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honor ?"

"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 led 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 iny 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; dread. ing 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

on the part of the king. He hoped his own gods might have an influence in the weighty transactions which now engrossed his attention, and he was anxious to propitiate their favor. Balaam and the princes of Moab seem to have been present at the performance of these rites; and thus this miserable time-server, who professed to fear the true God, countenanced the worshipping of idols!

On the following day, the king took Balaam, in company with all the princes, to a lofty eminence, -"the high places of Baal,"—where this god of the Moabites was worshipped, that he might have a view of the Israelites, even to the furthest extremity of their encampment. It was done with the expectation that the fatal curse would now be pronounced upon this whole people, as they were spread out beneath the sight of Balaam. But he was not prepared thus to expose himself to the divine vengeance; though he was ready enough to see whether it were not possible to procure a change in the determinations of Jehovah.

He directed the king to build seven altars on the spot, and to prepare seven oxen and seven rams for the sacrifice. It was done, and Balak and Ba. laam made the offerings; as we have reason to think, to propitiate the favor of Jehovah, the God whom Balaam professed to worship. He then said he would retire, to ascertain what the Lord would have him to do; while Balak should remain by the

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