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pleased by others, tear the name of their be in league with us, while we are not in Maker in pieces? He that will judge, and league with God. can confound, is fetched into the quarrell These men, when the spies had told without cause: but if to strive with a them news of the giants of Canaan, a little mighty man be unwise, and unsafe, what before had wished, “ Would God we were shall it be to strive with the mighty God? | dead in this wilderness.” Now God hath
As an angry child casts away that which heard their prayers; what with the plague, is given him, because he hath not that he what with the serpents, many thousands of would, so do these foolish Israelites; their them died. The ill wishes of our impatience bread is light, and their water unsatisfying, are many times heard. As those good because their way displeased them. Was things are not granted us, which we pray erer people fed with such bread, or water? for, without care; so those evils, which we Twice hath the very rock yielded them pray for, and would not have, are often water, and every day the heaven affords granted. The ears of God are not only them bread. Did any one soul amongst open to the prayers of faithi, but to the them miscarry, either for hunger or thirst? imprecations of infidelity. It is dangerous But no bread will down with them, save wishing evil to ourselves, or ours; it is just that which the earth yields; no water but with God to take us at our word, and to from the natural wells or rivers. Unless effect that which our lips speak against our nature be allowed to be her own carver, heart. she is never contented.
Before, God had ever consulted with Manna had no fault, but that it was too | Moses, and threatened ere he punished: good, and too frequent: the pulse of Egypt now, he strikes and says nothing. The had been fitter for these coarse mouths. anger is so much more, by how much less This heavenly bread was unspeakably de- notified. When God is not heard before licious: it tasted like wafers of honey; and he is felt (as in the hewing of wood, the vet even this, angels' food, is contemned ! | blow is not heard till the axe be seen to He that is full, despiseth a honeycomb. have struck), it is a fearful sign of displeaHow sweet and delicate is the gospel! Not sure. It is with God, as with us men, that only the fathers of the old testament, but still revenges are ever most dangerous. Till the angels, desired to look into the glorious now, all was well enough with Israel, and mysteries of it; and yet we are cloyed. yet they grudged: those that will complain This supernatural food is too light: the without a cause, shall have cause to combread-corn of our human reason, and pro plain for something. Discontented humours found discourse, would better content us. seldom escape unpunished, but receive that
Moses will not revenge this wrong, God most justly, whereat they repined unjustly, will: yet will he not deal with them him I Now the people are glad to seek to Moses self, but he sends the fiery serpents to unbidden. Ever heretofore they have been answer for him. How fitly! They had wont to be sued to, and entreated for withcarried themselves like serpents to their out their own entreaty; now their misery governors. How often had they stung makes them importunate: there needs no Moses and Aaron near to death? If the solicitor where there is sense of smart. It serpent bite when he is not charmed, no were pity men should want affliction, since better is a slanderer. Now these venomousit sends them to their prayers and confes. adders revenge it, which are therefore called sions. All the persuasions of Moses could fiery, because their poison scaldeth to death. not do that which the serpents have done God hath a hand in the annoyance and for him. O God! thou seest how necessary hurt of the basest creature; how much less it is we should be stung sometimes, else we can the sting of an ill tongue, or the malice should run wild, and never come to a sound of an evil spirit, strike us without him? humiliation. We should never seek thee, While they were in Goshen, the frogs, lice, if thy hand did not find us out. Caterpillars, spared them, and plagued the They had spoken against God and Moses, Egyptians; now they are rebellious in the and now they humbly speak to Moses, that desert, the serpents find them out, and he would pray to God for them. He that sling them to death. He that brought the so oft prayed for them unbidden, cannot quails thither to feed them, fetches these but much more do it requested, and now serpents thither to punish them. While we obtains the means of their cure. It was are at wars with God, we can look for equally in the power of God to remove 19 peace with his creatures. Every thing the serpents, and to heal their stinging; to rejoices to execute the vengeance of its nave cured the Israelites by his word, and Saker. The stones of the field will not by his sign: but he finds it best for his people to exercise their faith) that the If he be, why do we not serve him? The serpents may bite, and their bitings may en- same hand which gives them victory, can venom, and that this venom may endanger give us protection. Carnal men that are the Israelites; and that they, thus affected, secure of the vengeance of God ere it do may seek to him for remedy; and seeking, come, are mastered with it when it doth may find it from such means as should have come ; and, not knowing which was to no power but in signification; that while turn them, run forth at the wrong door. their bodies were cured by the sign, their The Midianites join with the Moabites souls might be confirmed by the matter in consultation, in action, against Israel. signified. A serpent of brass could no more One would have thought they should have heal, than sting them. What remedy could | looked for favour from Moses for Jethro's their eyes give to their legs? or what could sake, which was both a prince of their a serpent of cold brass prevail against a country and father-in-law to Moses, and living and fiery serpent ? In this trouble either now, cr not long before, was with some desert, we are all stung by that fiery Israel in the wilderness. Neither is it like, and old serpent. O Saviour! it is to thee but that Moses, having found forty vears' we must look, and be cured: it is thou | harbour amongst them, would have been that wert their paschal lamb, their manna, (what he might) inclinable to favourable their rock, their serpent. To all purposes treaties with them ; but now they are so dost thou vary thyself to thy church, that fast linked to Moab, that they will either we may find thee everywhere. Thou art sink or swim together. Entireness with for our nourishment, refreshing, cure; as | wicked consorts is one of the strongest hereafter, so even now, all in all.
chains of hell, and binds us to a particiThis serpent, which was appointed for pation both of sin and punishment. An cure to Israel, at last stings them to death easy occasion will knit wicked hearts to by idolatrous abuse. What poison there gether in conspiracy against the church of is in idolatry, that makes even antidotes God. deadly! As Moses therefore raised this Their errand is devilish : “ Come, curse serpent, so Ezekias pulled it down. God | Israel." That which Satan could not do commanded the raising of it; God approved by the swords of Og and Sinon, he will the demolishing of it. Superstitious use now try to effect by the tongue of Balaam. can mar the very institutions of God: how | If either strength or policy would prevail much more the most wise and well-grounded against God's church, it could not stand. devices of men !
And why should not we be as industrious to promote the glory of God, and bend
both our hands and heads to the causes of CONTEMPLATION III. - OF BALAAM. the Almighty? When all helps fail Moab,
the magician is sought to. It is a sign of a Moab and Midian had been all this while ! desperate cause to make Satan either our standers by, and lookers on; if they had counsellor or our refuge. not seen the pattern of their own ruin in Why did they not send to Balaam to these neighbours, it had never troubled | bless themselves, rather than to curse Is. them to see the kings of the Amorites and rael? It had been more easy to be defendBashan to fall before Israel. Had not the ed from the hurt of their enemies, than Israelites camped in the plains of Moab, to have their enemies laid open to be hurt their victories had been no eye-sore to by them. Pride and malice did not care Balak. Wicked men never care to observe so much for safety as for conquest. It God's judgments, till themselves be touched. would not content them to escape Israel, The fire of a neighbour's house would not if Israel may escape them. It was not so affect us, if it were not with the danger | thank-worthy to save their own blood, if of our own. Secure minds never startle, they did not spill the blood of others; as till God come home to their very senses. if their own prosperity had been nothing, if
Balak and his Moabites had wit enough | Israel also prospered. If there be one to fear, not wit enough to prevent judg- project worse than another, a wicked heart ment. They see an enemy in their borders, will find it out. Nothing but destruction and yet take no right course for their safety. will content the malicious. Who would not have looked, that they I know not whether Balaam were more should have come to Israel with conditions famous, or Balak more confident. If the of peace? Or why did they not think, either king had not been persuaded of the strength Israel's God is stronger than ours, or he is of his charm, he had not sent so far, and not? If he be not, why are we afraid of him? | paid on dear for it: now he trusts more to
his enchantment, than to the forces of our sins to him that knows both better Moab and Midian; and, as if heaven and than our own hearts, because he will deal earth were in the power of a charmer's with us from our own mouths. tongue, he saith, “ He that thou blessest, The prevention of God forbids both his is blessed ; and he whom thou cursest, is journey and his curse. And what if he cursed.” Magic, through the permission had been suffered to go and curse? What of God, is powerful ; for whatsoever the corn had this wind shaken, when God devil can do, the magician may do ; but it meant to bless them? How many bulls is madness to think either of them omni- have bellowed out execrations against this potent. If either the curses of men, or church of God? What are we the worse? the endeavours of the powers of darkness, | Yet I doubt if we had been so much should be effectual, all would be hell. No, blessed, had not those Balaamitish curses Balak. So short is the power of thy Ba- been spent upon us. He that knows what laam, that neither thou, nor thy prophet waste wind the causeless curses of wicked himself, can avoid that curse, which thou men are, yet will not have Balaam curse wouldst have brought upon Israel. Had | Israel; because he will not allow Balak Balaam been a true prophet of God, this so much encouragement in his opposition, bold assurance had been but just. Both as the conceit of this help. Or, perhaps those ancient seers, and the prophets of | if Balak thought this sorcerer a true prothe gospel, have the ratification of God in phet, God would not have his name, so heaven to their sentences on earth. Why much as in the opinion of the heathen, have we less care of the blessings, and less scandalized, in usurping it to a purpose fear of the curses and censures of God's which he meant not should succeed. 'ministers? Who would not rather have The hand of God is in the restraint of Elisha's guard, than both the kings of Israel | many evils, which we never knew to be toand Assyria? He himself, as he had the wards us. The Israelites sat still in their angelical chariots and horsemen about him, tents : they little thought what mischief so was he the chariots and horsemen of was brewing against them; without ever Israel. Why should our faith be less strong making them of counsel, God crosses the than superstition? or why should God's designs of their enemies. He that keepeth agents have less virtue than Satan's ? Israel, is both a sure and a secret friend.
I should wonder to hear God speak with The reward of the divination had easily a false prophet, if I did not know it had commanded the journey and curse of the been no rare thing with him, as with men, covetous prophet, if God had not stayed to bestow words, even where he will not him. How oft are wicked men curbed by bestow favour. Pharaoh, Abimelech, Ne- a divine hand, even in those sins which buchadnezzar, receive visions from God; their heart stands to! It is no thank to neither can I think this strange, when I lewd men that their wickedness is not proshear God speaking to Satan, in a question perous. Whence is it that the world is no less familiar than this of Balaam : not overrun with evil, but from this, that " Whence comest thou," Satan? Not men cannot be so ill as they would ? the sound of the voice of God, but the The first entertainment of this message matter which he speaks, argues love. He would make a stranger think Balaam wise may speak to an enemy; he speaks peace and honest. He will not give a sudden to none but his own. It is a vain brag, answer, but craves leisure to consult with God hath spoken to me. So may he do God, and promises to return the answer to reprobates or devils. But what said he? he shall receive. Who would not say, Did he say to my soul, I am thy salvation ? | This man is free from rashness, from par Hath he indented with me that he will be tiality? Dissimulation is crafty, and able my God, and I shall be his? I cannot to deceive thousands. The words are hear this voice, and not live.
good: when he comes to action, the fraud God heard all the consultation and mes. | bewrays itself; for both he insinuates his sage of these Moabites; these messengers | own forwardness, and casts the blame of could not have moved their foot or their the prohibition upon God, and, which is tongue but in him; and yet he which asked worse, delivers but half his answer. He Adam where he was, asks Balaam, “ What says indeed,“ God refuses to give me leave men are these?” I have ever seen that to go." He says not, as it was, “ He God loves to take occasion of proceeding charges me not to curse them, for they are with us from ourselves, rather than from blessed." So did Balaam deny, as one his own immediate prescience. Hence it that wished to be sent for again. Perhaps is, that we lay open our wants, and confessa peremptory refusal had hindered his further solicitation. Concealment of some! Yet this importunity hath obtained a truths is sometimes as faulty as a denial. permission; but a permission worse than True fidelity is not niggardly in her rela- a denial. I heard God say before, “Go tions.
not, nor curse them:" now he says, “ Go, Where wickedness meets with power, but curse not." Anon he is angry that it thinks to command all the world, and he did go. Why did he permit that which takes great scorn of any repulse. So little he forbade, if he be angry for doing that is Balak discouraged with one refusal, that which he permitted? Some things God he sends so much the stronger message: permits with an indignation; not for that “ More princes, and more honourable." he gives leave to the act, but that he O that we could be so importunate for our gives a man over to his sin in the act. good, as wicked men are for the compass- | This sufferance implies not favour, but ing of their own designs! A denial doth judgment. So did God bid Balaam to go but whet the desires of vehement suitors. as Solomon bids the young man follow the Why are we faint in spiritual things, when ways of his own heart. It is one thing to we are not denied, but delayed ?
like, another thing to suffer. Moses never Those which are themselves transported approved those legal divorces, yet he towith vanity and ambition, think that no lerated them. God never liked Balaam's heart hath power to resist these offers. I journey, yet he displeasedly gives way to Balak's princes thought they had struck it it; as if he said, Well, since thou art so dead, when they had once mentioned pro-hot-set on this journey, begone. And motion to great honour. Self-love makes thus Balaam took it; else, when God after them think they cannot be slaves, whilst professed his displeasure for the journey, others may be free; and that all the world it had been a ready answer, “ Thou comwould be glad to run on madding after mandedst me." But herein his confession their bait. Nature thinks it impossible to argues his guilt. Balaam's suit, and Israel's contemn honour and wealth; and because quails, had both one fashion of grant - in too many souls are thus taken, cannot be- anger. How much better is it to have lieve that any would escape. But let carnal gracious denials, than angry yieldings? hearts know, there are those can spit the A small persuasion heartens the willing, world in the face, and say, “ Thy gold and It booted not to bid the covetous prophet silver perish with thee;" and that in compa- | hasten on his way. Now he makes himrison of a good conscience, can tread under self sure of success. His corrupt heart foot his best proffers like shadows, as they tells him, that as God had relented in his are : and that can do as Balaam said. licence to go, so he might perhaps in his
How near truth and falsehood can lodge | licence to curse; and he saw how this together! Here was piety in the lips, and curse might bless him with abundance of covetousness in the heart. Who can any wealth: he rose up early, therefore, and more regard good words, that hears Balaam saddled his ass. The night seemed long speak so like a saint? A house full of to his forwardness. Covetous men need gold and silver may not pervert his tongue; neither clock nor bell to awaken them: his heart is won with less : for if he had their desires make them restless. Othat not already swallowed the reward, and we could, with as much eagerness, seek the found it sweet, why did he again solicit true riches, which only can make us happy! God in that which was peremptorily de- We, that see only the outside of Balaam, nied him? If his mind had not been bribed may marvel why he that permitted him to already, why did he stay the messengers? go, afterward opposes his going : but God, Why did he expect a change in God? Why that saw his heart, perceived what corrupt was he willing to feed them with hope affections carried him; he saw that his of success, which had fed him with hope covetous desires and wicked hopes grew of recompense? One prohibition is enough the stronger, the nearer he came to his end. for a good man. While the delay of God An angel is therefore sent to withhold the loth but hold us in suspense, importunity | hasty sorcerer. Our inward disposition is is holy and seasonable: but when once he the life of our actions ; according to that gives a resolute denial, it is profane sauci- doth the God of spirits judge us, while men ness to solicit him. When we ask what censure according to our external motions, we are bidden, our suits are not more ve- To go at all, when God had commanded hement than welcome : but when we beg to stay, was presumptuous; but to go, with prohibited favours, our presumption is trou-a desire to curse, made the act doubly blesome and abominable. No good heart sinful, and fetched an angel to resist it. It will endure to be twice forbidden.
J is one of the worthy employments of good
angels, to make secret opposition to evil | his master, a professed prophet, is in the designs. Many a wicked act have they very height of miracles. Yet can no heart hindered, without the knowledge of the stick at these, that considers the dispensaagent. It is all one with the Almighty to tion of the Almighty in both. Our eye work by spirits and men. It is therefore could no more see a beast, than a beast can our glory to be thus set on work. To stop see an angel, if he had not given this power the course of evil, either by dissuasion or to it. How easy is it for him, that made violence, is an angelical service.
the eye of man and beast, to dim or en. In what danger are wicked men that lighten it at his pleasure! And if his power have God's angels their opposites ? The can make the very stones to speak, how devil moved bim to go; a good angel re- much more a creature of sense! That evil sists him. If a heavenly spirit stand in the spirit spake in the serpent to our first paway of a sorcerer's sin, how much more rents: why is it more, that a spirit should ready are all those spiritual powers to stop speak in the mouth of a beast? How ordithe miscarriages of God's dear children Inarily did the heathen receive their oracles How oft had we fallen yet more, if these out of stones and trees? Do not we our. guardians had not upheld us, whether by selves teach birds to speak those sentences removing occasions, or by casting in gond they understand not ? We may wonder, instincts? As our good endeavours are oft we cannot distrust, when we compare the hindered by Satan, so are our evil by good act with the author, which can as easily angels; else were not our protection equal create a voice without a body, as a body to our danger, and we could neither stand without a voice. Who now can hereafter nor rise.
plead his simplicity and dulness of appre. It had been as easy for the angel to hending spiritual things, when he sees how strike Balaam, as to stand in his way; and God exalts the eyes of a beast to see a to have followed him in his starting aside, | spirit? Who can be proud of seeing visions, as to stop him in a narrow path. But even since an angel appeared to a beast ? the good angels have their stints in their neither was his skin better after it than executions. God had somewhat more to others of his kind. Who can complain of do with the tongue of Balaam, and there. his own rudeness and inability to reply in fore he will not have him slain, but with a good cause, when the very beast is enabled stood; and so withstood, that he shall pass. by God to convince his master? There It is not so much glory to God to take away is no mouth into which God cannot put wicked men, as to use their evil to his own words; and how oft doth he choose the holy purposes. How soon could the com | weak and unwise, to confound the learned mander of heaven and earth rid the world and mighty! of bad members ! But so should he lose | What had it been better for the ass to the praise of working good by evil instru- see the angel, if he had rushed still upon ments. It sufficeth that the angels of God his sword ? Evils were as good not seen, as resist their actions, while their persons not avoided; but now he declines the way, continue.
and saves his burden. It were happy for That no man may marvel to see Balaam perverse sinners, if they could learn of this nave visions from God, and utter prophecies | beast to run away from foreseen judgment. from him, his very ass hath his eyes opened The revenging angel stands before us; and to see the angel, which his master could though we know we shall as sure die as not; and his mouth opened to speak more sin, yet we have not the wit or grace to reasonably than his master. There is no give back, though it be with the hurt of a beast deserves so much wonder as this of foot, to save the body; with the pain of Balaam, whose common sense is advanced the body, to save the soul. above the reason of his rider; so as for the I see what fury and stripes the impatient time the prophet is brutish, and the beast prophet bestows upon this poor beast, prophetical. Who can but stand amazed because he will not go on : yet if he had at the eye, at the tongue of this silly crea- gone on, himself had perished. How oft ture! For so dull a sight, it was much to do we wish those things, the not obtaining see a bodily object that were not too ap whereof is mercy! We grudge to be stayed parent; but to see that spirit, which his | in the way to death, and fly upon those rider discerned not, was far beyond nature. which oppose our perdition. To hear a voice come from that mouth, L I do not, as who would not expect, see Which was used only to bray, it was strange | Balaam's hair stand upright, nor himself and uncouth ; but to hear a beast, whose alighting, and appalled at this monster of nature is noted for incapacity, to outreason miracles; but as if no new thing had hapa