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tribes ; but, engaged in the cause of God and truth, the myriads of offending Israelites shrink from their attack, or fall down before them. Mark how dreadful is the brow of justice roused to vengeance. “ Confecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother, that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day."*
What a night of horror and remorse must have succeeded a day of impiety, madness and slaughter! What an awful tomorrow, the day of reckoning, to follow that dismal night!
But the case, though dangerous, is not desperate, while there is a Moses to intercede. Has my offended Father so much tenderness left, as to upbraid, to reprove, to chastise me? His displeasure, though depreffing, is not intolerable; but silent anger, resentment that neglects, that shuns, that leaves me to myself, is a burthen too heavy for me to bear. If God vouchsafe to speak to me, though in thunder ; to answer me, though from the whirlwind ; there is hope concerning me: But if he say within himself, “ Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone,” then I am indeed loft and undone.
The interceffion of Moses, in behalf of the people, now assumes à tone peculiarly earnest and affecting. “ And Mofes returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have inade them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their fin: and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”+ It is hardly credible that, on this passage, a system of piety has been built fo refined as to issue in absurdity and contradiction. Moses is here supposed, by interpreters of a certain complexion, to express the utmost readiness to renounce his eternal falvation for what he
apprehended to be the greater glory of God, and if it could be the condition of procuring salvation to Israel. Refignation to the divine will, according to them, is im
* Verse 29.
+ Verses 31, 32.
perfect, till a man can cheerfully and deliberately prefer his own everlasting damnation to all the joys of heaven, if the higher interests of public good, and the glory of God can be thereby promoted. This, to fome visionary minds, may have a specious appearance of a more fublime piety: but it is both unnatur. al and unscriptural; and therefore is not piety at all. As it has fallen in my way, and as this text in Moses has been connected with a famous passage in the New Testament of similar import, I will take the liberty to fpeak at fome length, and with much plainness, upon the subject; it being a principal object in the plan of these Lectures, to unfold and recommend the religion of the Bible ; that is, the religion of good sense, to the neglect of all human systems, and all useless fpeculations, which have not an obvious foundation in scripture and reason, and which do not obviously tend to promote human virtue and happiness.
Now, we hesitate not a moment to affirm, that the doctrinę attempted to be built on the united texts of Mofes and of Paul, has not the foundation of the prophet and of the apostle to rest upon; and that it is not calculated to serve any one purpose of religion, wisdom or virtue. The passage in the New Testament alluded to, is that of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and runs thus, “ For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”* It is too well known to need any proof, that there are in every language, and among all nations of the world, certain modes of expression in common use, which it were unfair to interpret according to the literal import of the words, and which accordingly, if translated into a foreign language, and applied to the modes of thought and expression used in a different age and country, might convey a meaning very different from the original one, perhaps diametrically opposite to it. Is there a man in his fenfes, who will pretend to afE 2
sert * Rom. ix. 3.
sert that Mofes in the wilderness of Sinai, one thousand five hụndred and fifty years before Christ, affixed the fame idea to these words, “ Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written,"* which a dogmatical maker of systems in France or England in the eighteenth century thinks proper to affix to them? Is it a certain point that the apostle Paul and such an one, mean precisely the same thing, when the former writes “anathema," and the latter, in the phraseology of his own language, thinks fit to render ii by the word “accursed ?” In truth, both expreslions evidently are figurative, and can be fully un, derstood only by appealing to the genius of the original languages, the fpirit of the men who use them, and the occasion on which they are employed. Mofes, in a moment, explains what he understands by " the book which God had written." For what faith the answer of God to this expoftulation ? “ Whosoever hath finned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”+ And what faith the history? “ All that generation died in the wilderness," without being admitted into the land of promise, according to the original destination of Providence, or as it was « written in God's book.” Follow Moses to a similar situation on another occasion, and see how he expreffes himself; and let the one passage explain the other. The people became discontented with their food at Tabera, and lusted for the provision of Egypt; God was displeased, and threatened to consume them ; Mofes, grieved in fpirit, thus presumes to expostulate. « And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afficed thy servant ? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy fight, that thou layeft the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, (as a nursingfather beareth the sucking child) unto the land which thou sweareft unto their fathers? Whence
should + Verse.33.
* Verse 32.
should I have flesh to give unto all this people ? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh that we may
I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, 'out of hand, if I have found favour in thy light; and let me not fee my
wretchedness.”* The expression, out of hand,” is plainly equivalent to that used in Exodus, “ Blot me out of the book which thou hast written.” What then is the fair meaning and construction of the words of Mofes ? “ Lord, grant the pardon of this people to the prayers of thy servant ; who would rather submit to everlasting misery than fail to obtain his request?” Horrid, blasphemous, absurd! No, but nature, piety and patriotism unite in saying as he does, “ Lord, if thy decree against this people may not be reversed; if justice demand their utter extermination, let mine eyes be first closed in peace. Subject me not to the cruel mortification of surviving all my nation, and of enduring the insults and scorn of our enemies. In mercy take me first out of the world, where I should only lead a life of sorrow and regret, heavier than death itself.” The word anathema used by the apostle is of the fame import with the Hebrew word 277. They both denote a person or thing devoted!, separated by a vow or curse, one excommunicated and separated from society. And his meaning is this, “I 'most folemnly protelt; God and my own conscience are my witnesses, that I speak the truth as it is in my heart; the infidelity of my countrymen after the flesh, is a matter of the deepest concern and regret to me; to such a degree, that if it could be the means of curing their prejudices, and bringing them to Christ the Redeemer; I care not in what estimation I might be held in the church. Let me cease to be an apostle, let me be as one cut off from the society of the faithful, for some atrocious crime; let me be vile and conitemptible in the eyes of the world ; let but the Israel of God be gathered to the Redeemer, and brought within the bond of the covenant of grace.” Moreover, Paul does not directly form even this wilh ; but conditionally, “ I could wish,” were it lawful for me to form such a wish, and if the granting it could any way contribute to the accomplishment of a purpose fo desireable.
.66 Kill me
* of * Numb. xi. 11-15.
The sentiment, then, of those mystics, has no war, rant either in the language or in the spirit of any
of the persons whom God has proposed to us as patterns in scripture.
Besides their being unscriptural, what can be more extravagant and unnatural, than those ranting expresfons of one of that order ? * “Though I were sure of being condemned to hell, I would not cease from my penitențial acts, and from depriving myself of all comforts for the love of God, If I am to be cast into hell, O my God stay no longer, make haste, and since thou hast forsaken me, finish thy work, precipitate me into the bottomless pit.” Catharine of Sienna thinks fit to express herself thus on the same subject :
Though it were poffible to feel all the torments of devils and damned souls, yet should I never call them pains, so much pleasure would the pure love of God make me to find therein.” These are evidently the idle speculations of persons too much at their ease, whom one hour of exquisite torment would bring to their senses, and teach a founder divinity. What is the foundation of our love to God ? His love to us; the good which he has done to us, and that which we still expect from him. I feel it impossible for me to love one, whose interest or caprice require that I should be tormented everlastingly. I love the Lord because he hath delivered me from the curse of the law; be, cause he hath faved me from going down to the pit : because he hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”+
Moses * Angèle de Foligni. Evêque de Meaux Instruct. Pastor. Page 341,
+ Eph. ii. 6.