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Judas was one of the apostles, a miserly and unprincipled miscreant; and our Saviour speaks of those who prophesied in his name, and in bis name cast out devils and in his name did many wonderful works, of whom he will say in the day of judgment, “I never knew you : depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”—These remarks seemed to be necessary, to enable us the better to appreciate the character of this singular individual as we p roceed in the narrative.

His intended application for divine direction was anticipated. During the silence of the night, Jehovah in some way manifested, his presence, and inquired of Balaam who his guests were. He immediately answered, and stated the object of their errand. The mandate of Jehovah was clear and explicit. Thou shalt not go with them ; thou shalt not curse the people; for they are blessed.”

It may well be supposed; that the messengers of Balak were anxious to receive a speedy reply to their request. Early the next morning they were in attendance on Balaam. How great was surprise and disappointment, to hear him utter this peremptory denial : "Get

you

into your

their land, for What was his motive in doing this ? Did he dosire to lead the king of Moab to suppose that Balaam's personal wishes to gratify him were restrained only by not succeeding to obtain the permission of the Lord ? Did he intend to excite the hope, that possibly at some other time, not far distant, this permission might be obtained, and thus to leave the way open for further negociation on the part of this powerful and wealthy monarch?

It would seem that some such impressions were actually produced on the mind of Balak. The reply, in his estimation, did not shut up the matter to a final and irrevocable issue, which it might have done, if Balaam had so desired. For, on hearing the word which the messengers brought back,that Balaam refused to come with them,—the king of Moab lost no time in despatching others again on the same errand; more in number; distinguish ed men; princes; and of higher rank than the first.

CHAPTER LVI.

Account of Balaam.

and rank must have flattered his vanity. The splendid proposals which they were authorized to make, were well adapted to accomplish their object, if it could be effected by the gratification of an excessive covetousness and ambition.

" Thus saith Balak,” was the message, "the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will promote thee unto very great honor, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me : come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.”

Balaam replied, “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.” Was this reply made conscientiously, fearlessly, conclusively? It ought so to have been." The word of the Lordhad been given, and was unconditionally binding; Thou shalt not curse the people ; for they are blessed : and Balaam needed no direction, had he been an upright man, and disposed to obey implicitly the divine command.

But he faltered in his purpose. even if in

other

are at

either repealed or modified. At any rate, if he could only obtain permission to return with the messengers, some other way might be opened, than the exact utterance of the curse required of him, for the advancement of his worldly interests. "I pray you,” said he, most courteously addressing those who were sent to him, "tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more.” More ! a single word, that unlocks the secrets of his soul; as if all that was necessary for his guidance had not been already told him !

God knew what was in the breast of Balaam ; and left him to act in accordance with his inclinations. He is given up to his own heart's lust, that he may walk in his own counsels. Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone. What he would ask for is allowed; to see what use he will make of the permission, and to draw out a fuller de. velopement of his character, and prepare the way for the divine justice to overtake him. In his wakeful moments, unexpectedly, and to his great surprise, the voice of Jehovah addresses him. " If the men come to call thee, rise

up,
and

go

with

patient of any delay, he was in readiness to depart with the messengers the ensuing morning. Somewhere on the journey, while separated for a season from all his companions, excepting two servants who attended him, he met with a most singular

occurrence.

We are told that the divine indignation was kindled against him, because he went; and that the angel of the Lord stood in the way as an adversary, to oppose

his

progress. But he did not, as yet, make himself visible to Balaam. The ass on which he rode alone saw the angel standing in the way, a glorious object, with his sword drawn in his hand. Terrified at the sight, she turned aside from the direct path, and it was with difficulty, after repeated blows, that her master succeeded in forcing her back again to pursue the journey.

Such conduct without any apparent cause to produce it, in an animal probably before this remarkable for her docility and gentleness, must have appeared very strange to Balaam, and broken in upon his musings of the approaching honors and royal

which might yet

him

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