« PreviousContinue »
Sins may be compared to debts which are written in the creditor's book. So our Lord compares them Matt. vi. 12. When these debts are forgiven they are represented as being blotted out. See Isaiah xliv. 22. Psalms li. 1. Acts jii. 19. When a debtor has paid a debt we readily understand him, if he requests to be crossed or blotted out of the creditor's book. And it would not be improper for one who wishes a debt forgiven to request the creditor to blot his name out of his book.
Though Moses had taken no part in this particular sin of Israel, he considered himself in the presence of the Holy God, who was jealous of his honour and he feared that he and his family might be involved in the calamities of the nation. He therefore prays that his sins, which might stand charged against him in God's book of rememberance, might be blotted out, that is, pardoned, however God might deal with Israel.
That this is the meaning of Moses' prayer is evident from the answer which was given to it. What reason can be assigned why the blotting out of God's book is not to be understood in the same sense in the prayer as in the answer? The latter will explain the former. The petition is, Oh this people have sinned—yet now if thou wilt forgive ; if not-if thou wilt not forgive their sin—blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book : Therefore now go lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee. Blotting out in the answer cannot mean destroying soul and body in hell, for if it did the prayer and answer would stand thus :--Prayer,--Forgive this people, I pray thee. Answer,- I will not hear thy prayer for them --no mercy shall be shown them, but utter and eternal destruction shall be their portion ;—Therefore,—now go lead them to the promised land.
Or if we suppose blotting out to mean destruction in the wilderness, then the prayer and answer must stand thus ;-PrayerForgive this people I pray thee: Answer,—They shall die in the wilderness-Therefore now go lead them to Canaan !
Thus it is evident that blotting out of God's book in this pasşage is quite a different thing from blotting out of the Lamb's book of life, or even being blotted out of the book of the living. And it is so far from being an imprecation of any evil whatever, that it is a petition for mercy; a petition which was answered in his own behalf, and in behalf of the multitudes of Israel. There
lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee, for I will blot out their sin.
There are other considerations beside those above named, which confirm this construction of this passage. Moses when recounting the dealings of God with Israel, reminds them of their sin on this occasion. Of God's anger against thein, and how he pleaded with God in their behalf, and the success which attended
fore, now go
his intercession. The Lord hearkened unto me at that time also. See Deut. ix. 19.
Although God heard the prayer of Moses in behalf of Israel, and did not immediately destroy them, he plagued them because they had made the golden calf. And this threatening accompanied the assurance which was given to Moses of their pardon. “Nevertheless when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.” The manner in which this is mentioned, shows that their sin in that affair was forgiven, and only some lighter corrections ordered in consequence of it.
NARRATIVE OF THE CONVERSION OF MIRZA MAHOMED ALI,
A LEARNED PERSIAN.
(From the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.) The following extracts from a letter dated Astrachan, April 28, 1823, and from some other Documents recently published, detailing the particulars of the conversion to the christian faith of a learned and accomplished Persian, by the instrumentality of the Missionaries connected with “The Scottish Missionary Society," will not be deemed too long by any of our readers.
« Mirza Mahomed Ali, aged twenty-one years, is the only surviving-son of Hagi KASEM "Bek, a venerable old man, who is descended from one of the chief families of Derbent, and who, until a few years ago, held the office of Chief Kazy or Judge in that city. For reasons which we do not well understand, the old man was accused and convicted of treason; and, by orders of the Governor-General of Georgia, had all his property confiscated, and along with some others, was sent prisoner to Astrachan. Some months after their arrival here, another order came from the Governor-General to send them all further up the country; but the old man having procured an order from one of the physicians, stating that from sickness it was impossible for him to travel, he was in consequence of this allowed still to remain, while the rest of his fellow-prisoners were moved to the distance of about three hundred versts from Astrachan. The old man feeling himself lonely, and having an only son at Derbent, wrote for him to come and be the companion of his exile, which the young man immediately did, and arrived at Astrachan about five or six
Soon after the Hagi came to Astrachan, the Missionaries became acquainted with him; and in the journals of Messrs. GLEN and M'PHERSON, formerly transmitted, you will frequently meet with his name. It was with him that the long dispute took place respecting the authenticity of MOHAMMED's alledged miracle of dividing the moon. The acquaintance of the son with the whole of the Missionaries was a matter of course,
the more particularly as Messrs. GLEN and Dickson had given him a New Testament, and had had frequent interviews with him during their residence in Derbent; and until the order from the Directors to Mr. Blyth to commence the study of Arabic arrived, he was in the habit of frequently visiting us. Then, being a good Arabic Scholar, we engaged hiin as MR. Blyth's Teacher; and Dr. Ross and Mr. M'PHERSON also agreed to take lessons from him,-the former both in Turkish and Arabic. Soon after this, the German Missionaries from Basle were led, in a manner which they had not anticipated, but which 'had been evidently directed for wise and gracious ends, to part with their former Turkish Teacher, and to engage MAHOMED Alı; and by this means he was necessitated to spend five hours every day in the employ, of them and us. Although, for reasons the propriety of which you will at once admit, we are not in the habit of entering into discussions with our Mohammedan Teachers, upon those points in which we differ, yet we seize opportunities, when they occur, of making remarks which may be calculated to shake their faith, and excite their inquiries after truth. But from the first, MAHOMED Ali was so free and open in his manner, that we ventured to use greater freedom with him than we otherwise would have done.Frequent discussions took place between him and those of us who were his pupils, as well as with some of the German Missionaries. At first, and indeed till within these few days, he firmly opposed all that was laid before him concerning the Christian religion. At times, when the truth was plainly stated to him, he got completely angry, and gave vent to his feelings in blasphemous expressions against that holy name by wbich we are called. But still there seemed to be something about him that differed from what was observed in most of the Mohammedans; and within a few days after such ebullitions, he would begin his inquiries again, and endeavour to provoke discussion. Once, while reading a Turkish manuscript with him, Dr. Ross pointed out some of its absurdities, particularly one sentence, which asserted that the world, angels, and men, were created for Mohammed, and that, had it not been for his sake, these would never have existed.Mahomed Ali maintained the truth of the assertion strenuously. • How,' said Dr. Ross, 'is it possible to conceive that all these were created for the sake of a sinful man?' 'Ha,' replied he, do you say MOHAMMED was a sinner?' 'Certainly,' it was answered, 'he was.' Here he broke out into a strain of reproachful language against Christ and against his religion, and maintained that neither Mohammed nor any of the prophets were sinners. Dr. Ross considered it proper to say nothing more to him at the time, and for several days never mentioned the subject of religion to him. He in future left it to MAHOMED ALI to introduce the matter, which he did pretty osten; and thus obtained a better opportunity of laying before him the truth, than if he himself had Vol. VII.
been the mover of it. In the course of the time that was thus spent by him among us, we were enabled to make him acquainted with many things of which he was formerly totally ignorant; such as the respective numbers of Idolaters, Christians, and Mohammedans in the world; the exertions made by Christians in all parts of the earth to save the souls of men; the success which bad attended their endeavours, both among idolaters and Mohammedans; and the certainty with which, trusting to prophecy, we expected the conversion of men of all ranks, climates, and religions, to the belief of the one God, and JESUS CHRIST whom he had sent. These various points of information made a deep impression upon his mind at the time they were mentioned to him, particularly the belief which we cherished that all the Mohammedans would one day be Christians. He said to Dr. Ross, 'Shall I too become a Christian?' It was answered, 'I do not know w; but if you
1 am sure your children or descendants will. He replied with force, 'I shall never become a Christian, and I will never marry.' That this affected his mind considerably, appears from the circumstance that he more than once referred to the subject, and asked how soon such a change would be, how many Mohammedans had been been already converted, &c.; and with regard to another of these points so communicated to him,that of there being Missionaries in every part of the world,-he has since confessed that this fact had made a deep impression upon his heart, that a religion which could lead men to do so much for their fellow-creatures, must be from God, and not from themselves; whilst among Mohammedans, none seemed to take any interest in the condition of others, whether they were in the way to heaven or not.
· These things, we hope, will be a sufficient introduction to the extracts from Mr. M.PHERSON's Journal which follow, and which contain a pretty full account of the most important circumstances that have taken place since he opened up his doubts, and resolved to embrace our religion. He is with MR. M'PHERSON and DR. Ross every day; and these two employ themselves, the one in building him up, and the other in pulling him down ;-the former in showing him the way of God more perfectly, and in endeavouring to bring the truth home to his conscience; the latter in pointing out the inconsistencies of the Koran, its contradictions, and its want of evidence, and in comparing the system of religion contained in the Koran with that contained in the New Testament. By this means he is not only strengthened in the faith himself, but he is furnished with arguments by which to withstand the arts of his countrymen; and the Journal points out, in many instances, with what ability he has used the weapons thus put into his hands, and improved upon the hints which were previously thrown out to him. We must say, likewise, that his own abilities are very considerable; that he has discovered much acute
ness in bringing forward most convincing arguments suggested by his own mind; and now that he has entered upon the true way of life, his perceptions are so quick, that he seizes, almost at a glance, the whole force of an argument or a doctrine which is once set before him. It is the subject of our frequent and fervent prayers, in which we have no doubt you will join us, that the good work which has been begun in bis heart may be carried on to perfection; and that he may be made a powerful instrument in the hands of the great Head of the Church, for bringing many of his countrymen to follow his example. He burns with a desire to tell to all, the great things God has done for his soul.”
Extracts from MR. M'Pherson's Journal. April 16th, 1823.—MAHOMED Ali, my Arabic Teacher, came at his usual hour this morning. After the customary salutations, I began to translate my lesson from Arabic into Persic.—The manuscript which I read was a Confession of Faith, agreeably to the opinions of the Mohammedan sect of the Shisaths, to the soundness of whose religious tenets the Teacher uniformly bore testimony. The chapters to which our attention was particularly directed this morning, contained the Mohammedan views of the Nous-o-Kouser, or the reservoir of nectar in Paradise, and the intercession of the prophets and imams. On offering a few remarks upon the absurdity of such a system of divinity, I was more than surprised to hear him reply, 'I no more believe what is contained in that book,' pointing to the Confession of Faith. Hearing this unexpected concession, I was the more encouraged to enter into serious conversation with him. He now told me, that his soul was in deep waters,—that he could not sleep at night from reflecting upon his perilous situation, in believing a religion which he was afraid was not the true one; and added, "I believe all that you have told me, but one thing does not yet appear plain to my mind, viz. how Christ can be both God and man.' "The subject,' I remarked, 'is a difficult one, but no less true on that account; you have not yet properly understood what we Christians believe in reference to that one point. There is a marked distinction betwen the human and divine natures of Christ,the former of which was necessary in order to suffer for our sins, and the latter that it might stamp an infinite efficacy upon the atone-, ment of the man Christ Jesus. Besides, your first grand inquiry ought to be, have 1 sufficient evidence to believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be really and truly a revelation from God? Having assured yourself of this, then it is your duty to receive all the doctrines contained in it, though there should be some things connected with them which you are not able to comprehend.' This answer apparently relieved his mind a little, for he had no hesitation in assenting to the soundness of the principles contained in it. I lifted up my heart to God that he would direct