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adventure I shall make atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out thy book, which thou hast written.” In order to explain this difficult passage of scripture, it is proposed,
I. To inquire to what book Moses here refers ;
II. To inquire what was the true import of his request;
III. To inquire whether it was a proper one.
I. We are to inquire to what book Moses refers in the text. He says to God, “ Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book, which thou hast written.” Various opinions have been entertained concerning this book.--But passing over the opinions of others, I would observe, that Moses could not mean the book of God's remembrance. The prophet Malachi speaks of such a book. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another : and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him for them, that feared the Lord and that thought on bis
This is a figurative expression to denote, that God has as perfect knowledge of all the past actions of his people, as they have of those things, which they write down, to assist their recollection. It would indeed have been a great act of self-denial, had Moses desired to be blotted out of God's remembrance and denied all tokens of his favor through life. But Moses must have known that there was not only a moral, but a natural impossibility of God's blotting his name out of the book of his remembrance. God cannot cease to remember, any more than he can cease to exist. It was naturally impossible for God to forget Moses or any of his great and glorious deeds in teaching and guiding his people. We must therefore look for some other book, which God had written, in order to find that to which Moses refers. And there is another book of God, often mentioned in scripture, which is called the book of life and contains the names of all, whom he designs to save from the wrath to come and admit to heaven. David alludes to this book in the sixty-ninth psalm, where he says,
"Let them be blotted out of the book of the living and not be written with the righteous. The same book of life is mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Daniel " At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince, which standeth for the children of thy people : and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time : and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Taking this whole passage together, there can be no doubt but the prophet meant, by “every one written in the book,” every one writ. ten in the book of life. Our Savior evidently referred to the book of life, when he said to the seventy disciples, who rejoiced in the success of their ministry, “Notwithstanding, rejoice not in this, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Paul, in his epistle to the Philippians, speaks of his fellow-laborers, “whose names are in the book of life.” Christ says in the third chapter of Revelations, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will
not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” In the thirteenth chapter, speaking of the beast, that rose out of the sea, he says, “ All, that dwell upon the earth, shall worship him ; whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world.” And in the twentieth chapter, the apostle John says, “ I saw the dead, , small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which was the book of life : and the dead were judged out of those things, which were written in the books, according to their works.” In these passages God is represented as having written a book of life, in which he has inserted the names of all mankind, whom he has chosen, elected, or set apart for himself from the foundation of the world ; and whom he will finally admit into his kingdom of glory. To this book of life Moses might properly refer in the text. And it plainly appears, that he did refer to this book, by the an
gave to his request, in the words immediately following it. " And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” This was as much as to say, “Moses, I have indeed a book written as you suppose, which contains the names of those, whom I have chosen to life before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before me in love. Your name, therefore, I will not blot out of my book, but the names of those only, who have sinned and deserved to be blotted out.” No person, perhaps, would have thought, that Moses referred to any other book than the book of life, had it not been to avoid the lite
ral sense of his petition, which many are loth to believe and acknowledge. But it is safest and best to follow the general analogy of scripture, in explaining particular passages.
And according to this rule of interpreting the text under consideration, we are warranted to say, that Moses meant to refer to the book of life. Let us now inquire,
II. What was the import of his request, when he said to God, “ Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin : and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” Here are two things requested and both conditionally. Moses prays, if it were consistent with the will of God, that he would pardon the sin of his people in making the golden calf. « Now if thou wilt forgive their sin.” He prayed for the exercise of pardoning mercy towards the people conditionally, because God had intimated, as though he intended to destroy them, by saying, “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them.” Moses had reason to fear, that God would, at all events, deny his pardoning mercy.
And therefore to render his intercession more forcible and prevalent and to express his most ardent desire for their forgiveness, he prays again conditionally. “And if not, blot me, I pray thce, out of thy book, which thou hast written.” This was implicitly saying, “ O Lord, since thou hast proposed to spare me and destroy thy people. I pray that thou wouldst rather blot me out of the book of life, and
If thy glory require, that either they or I must be destroyed, I
them and destroy me. Their salvation is unspeakably more important than mine ; and I am willing to give up my salvation, if it might be a means, or occasion of pre
penting their final ruin. This seems to be the true import of Moses' conditional request, which directly met God's proposal to him. And no doubt God made such a proposal to him, for the very purpose of drawing out the ardent and benevolent feelings of the most benevolent heart, then in the world. God knew beforehand how Moses would feel and what he would say, if he proposed to spare him, and destroy his whole nation. He meant to exhibit the most striking contrast possible between the benevolent spirit of Moses, and the selfish spirit of his ungrateful and rebellious people.--And the sincere, though conditional prayer of Moses, under the existing circumstances, did set the superlative beauty and excellence of disinterested love, in the fairest and strongest light. As God expressed his peculiar love to Moses conditionally, so Moses expressed his love to God conditionally. But as God's love was as sincere, as if it had not been conditionally expressed ; so Moses' love was as sincere, as if it had been expressed unconditionally. Moses, therefore, expressed as true, real, sincere willingness to give up his eternal interests for the glory of God and the good of his nation, as if he had actually made the sacrifice, and God had actually destroyed him and saved his nation on his account. And such a willingness to give up all his own interests for the eternal happiness of his people, was the highest expression of pure,disinterested benevolence, that he, or any other man in his situation, could possibly feel and express. It now only remains to inquire,
III. Whether this petition of Moses, taken in the sense it has been explained, was a proper one.
It must be universally believed, that it was a proper pe tition taken in the sense Moses really meant ; but