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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 shall Michael 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 that the prophet meant, by "every one written in the book," every one written in the book of life. Our Saviour evidently referred to the book of life, when he said to the seventy disciples, who rejoiced in the success of their ministry, "Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, 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 Revelation, "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, it is said of the beast that rose out of the sea, "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 is 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 answer God 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 could have referred to any other book than the book of life, had it not been to avoid the literal sense of his petition, which many are loath 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. 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 seemed to intimate that 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, withhold 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 thee, 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 wouldest rather blot me out of the book of life, and spare them. If thy glory require that either they or I must be destroyed, I pray thee spare 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 preventing 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 in which it has been explained, was a proper one. It must be universally believed that it was a proper petition, taken in the sense which Moses intended; but many doubt whether it was proper, taken in the sense just given to it. They seem to think that it could not be proper for Moses, or for any other man, under any situation whatever, to be willing, and even to pray, that God would blot out his name from the book of life and devote him to endless misery, either to save a nation, or even the whole universe. They insist that self preservation is the first law of nature; and that no consideration ought to make any person willing to give up all his interests for ever, to prevent the misery, or promote the happiness of others. It is, therefore, a very serious and important inquiry, whether it could have been proper for Moses, for any reason whatever, to pray God to blot out his name from the book of life. But perhaps this petition, in the most literal, obvious and important sense, will appear to have been altogether proper and becoming in Moses, if we impartially consider the following things. And,
1. It appears to have been perfectly acceptable to God. He did not rebuke him for a rash request, but on the other hand, plainly intimated that he was highly pleased with his noble,
disinterested desire. Instead of saying, I will blot out thy name from the book of life, in answer to your rash and sinful request, he says, "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." This was virtually saying that he would not blot out Moses from the book of life, for he had not sinned in making the graven image, nor in requesting to be destroyed in the room of those who had deserved to be blotted out of the book of life. If God had not approved of his petition, he would undoubtedly have reproved him for it; because it was either a very good or a very bad petition, which ought to be highly approved or highly condemned. But no person in the world can discover any evil in such a pure, noble, benevolent desire. And since God did not condemn it, we may safely conclude that it was highly acceptable in his sight.
2. It was perfectly agreeable to the dictates of reason and conscience, that Moses should have been willing to give up all his own personal interests, to promote the glory of God and the future and eternal good of his nation. He supposed that the glory of God was greatly concerned in the preservation of his people from deserved destruction; and he plead this as the most powerful argument to move God to forgive and spare them. "And Moses besought the Lord his God and said, O Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and, saidst unto them, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of, will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever." Moses viewed the glory of God and the lasting good of Israel, as being at stake; and rather than these great interests should be given up, by the ruin of the chosen people of God, he chose that his own name and interests should be lost for ever. And could he hesitate as a conscientious and pious man, when God proposed the alternative of his giving up his own interests to preserve the lasting interests of a whole nation, and promote his glory through the earth, could he, I say, hesitate what to do? Suppose that, when God proposed to destroy Israel and make of him a great nation, he had said, I pray thee do as thou hast proposed, make of me a great nation, and blot out Israel from the book of life; would such a request have appeared amiable, or virtuous, or accordant with the pious character of Moses? Or would it have appeared agreeable to
the dictates of any other man's reason and conscience? But was there not something extremely noble, virtuous and honorable in the reply Moses made to God's proposal? "Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
3. The petition of Moses was agreeable to the very law of love. God requires all men to love him with all their heart, and their neighbor as themselves. That is, he requires all men to love him supremely, and to love all their fellow creatures in proportion to their worth and importance in the scale of being. This law required Moses to feel and speak as he did, in the situation God had placed him in, and in the view of the proposal he had made to him. God conditionally proposed to destroy his nation and spare him. In this view of his own and of his people's situation, the law of love required him, conditionally, to desire that God would spare his people and destroy him; because the glory of God and the good of his people were unspeakably more valuable than all his own personal good. Had he, therefore, preferred his own personal good to the glory of God and the good of his people, he would not have loved God supremely, nor his people according to their worth and importance, which would have been a violation of the law of love. For in that case he would have loved himself more than the glory of God and the good of his people to all eternity. The inference is irresistible, that he ought to have desired God to glorify himself, and to promote the everlasting good of his people, though at the expense of all his own interest for ever.
4. The request of Moses was perfectly agreeable to the spirit which Christ uniformly expressed through the whole course of his life on earth. He always gave up a less good of his own, for a greater good of others. He endured all the labors, pains, and reproaches of life, obeying his Father's will, and doing good to men. At length he came to the trying hour, when he must either give up his own life, or the life of the world and the glory of God. At that time he made a conditional request to his Father, and repeated it three times, saying, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." If one or the other must be given up, either his Father's glory and the salvation of sinners, or his own life, he desired to give up his own life, and did actually give it up. Now the prayer of Moses expressed the same spirit that the prayer of Christ expressed. If Christ's prayer was conditionally proper, then the prayer of Moses was conditionally proper. They neither of them desired to suffer, simply considered; but both were willing to suffer for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners. There is therefore, pre