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She had respect to the commands of her lord, but she was unable to obey them j possibly too she was more than affrighted —the might be awed by the figure before her—slie, therefore, fell down; and Balaam, conGdering this third trespass as a still greater aggravation of obstinacy, smote the ass with his staff. Then it was that the. Power, who knew the innocence of the poor thing, took pity upon her sufferings, and, to put at once an end to the hard usage, her mouth was opened, that she might plead her own cause with the man, and enter into a pathetic remonstrance with him upon the subject of his barbarity. "And "she said unto Balaam, What have I done *' unto thee, that thou hast smitten me "these three times ?** But Balaam was now too violently angry to attend even to miracles, and, without regarding the circumstance, as being preternatural, he replied to it merely as an ordinary question, by wishing, in the vehemence of his heart, a sword was in his hand, that he might kill the offender upon the spot. And now
succeeds succeeds an answer which might melt the hardest heart, and soften the compassionate into tears. "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?" Imagination here unavoidably extends the commentary. How, Balaam, canst thou thus ill entreat thy servant? Have I at any time, save now, resisted thy designs, and have not thy, slightest wishes been to me in the nature of injunctions? Thrice hast thou lifted up thine arm in anger against me, and thrice have I borne the anguish without complaining. Ah, ungentle master—couldest thou not conceive that some peculiar occasion prevented my obedience ? if haply nothing struck. thine eye as an obstacle, surely, thou mightest have relied upon one, whose fidelity, both by day and by night, thou hast so often experienced. Am I not the old slave of your pleasure, contented with whatever food it is convenient for you to allot me—nothing loath to perform the labours to which I was born, and to earn the
herb of the field before I ate it! To this expostulation, which one would think might have force enough to restrain the iron hand of inhumanity itself, Balaam replied, by confessing that her arguments were true: "Was I ever want to do "so unto thee?" Nay, answered Balaam.
Soon after this dialogue, the angel convinced Balaam of his fault, and he then bowed his face to the earth—struck, probably, with a fense of double impropriety —Why hast thou smitten thine ass ?—If a man was to be fairly asked this question in the courts of moral equity, those courts where Conscience fits as judge, how would he be able to answer it? There is no need to run this fine narrative into the perplexities of subtle and latent meaning, it is sufficiently admirable as an address to the human heart. And, indeed, the scriptures are not more earnest and persuasive in the cause of compassion, than in the cause of salvation. There is scarce a chapter in which pity, that sweet emanation of Heaven, is not enjoined ; and that the
reader reader might not be fatigued with the sameness of sentiment, or tired with likeness of language, the style of the subject is varied, almost a thousand times: sometimes the lovely quality of mercy is recommended to us, (as in the present instance) by a tender and attracting narrative—sometimes by a beautiful allegory, or parable; and very often by a concise moral sentence, expressed in a, way so irresistibly striking, that we are led to the practice of the virtue, not only by a veneration for its intrinsic charms, but by the additional graces which it re-'. ceives from composition.
Even the sorest curses in the scriptures are, for the most part, against cruelty, and to recommend kindness: and in the beginning of the 22d chapter of Deuteronomy, I. e. from verse the first to verse the seventh, there are sentiments of the most humane and affectionate tendency^ that ever were read, conceived, inspired, or practised. Let every man who has a hearr, peruse them—-I will not add—attentively—because,
to peruse them negligently, where any degree of feeling is bestowed, is utterly impossible.
What must: have been the sensations of Balaam when he understood from the lip of a Divinity, that unless the ass had turned in the very manner he did, the master would have been slain, and the servant preserved alive? How extreme should be the caution, and how palpable the error before punishment is inflicted; for such is the infirmity of man, he may thrice smite his pre
ver for those very actions, which, ultimately, produce the most desirable and eminent blessings; and when once such a mistake happens, and the indignity is given, where is the man possessed of sufficient effrontery to meet the eye of his benefactor? Every stroke we have given returns invi-' gorated upon ourselves, and we feel the blows shamefully burning upon our cheeks.