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cisely the same reason to suppose that the prayer of Moses was proper, as to suppose the prayer of Christ was proper. God placed them both in a trying situation, in which they were obliged to pray either selfishly, or benevolently; and they both prayed benevolently and properly. They both expressed the purest love to God and man; and their example is worthy of universal imitation. For the apostle John says, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." I may add,
5. That the prayer of Moses was proper, because it was agreeable to the prayers and practice of other good men. Paul said, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." Yea, he did solemnly declare, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Moses did not express a greater willingness to be blotted out of the book of life, than Paul did when he said he was willing to be accursed from Christ, to answer the same purpose which Moses desired might be answered by his being blotted out of the book of life. Moses prayed as properly as Paul did; and they both prayed agreeably to the spirit of the primitive christians, who were willing to lay down their lives for the brethren. Paul says, "Great Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ; who have for my life laid down their own necks; unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles." In a word, the prayer of Moses appears to be proper, because it was agreeable to the character and law of God, to the character and conduct of Christ, to the character and conduct of the primitive christians, and to the nature of pure, disinterested love, which always prefers the glory of God and the good of the universe, to all personal considerations. There is every kind of evidence to believe that the request of Moses in the text was perfectly proper and highly pleasing to God.
1. If the prayer of Moses in the text was proper and acceptable to God, then true love to God and man is, strictly speaking, disinterested love. Moses expressed a love, which was not only without interest, but contrary to interest. He not only loved God more than himself, and his nation more than himself, but he loved both God and his nation in opposition to himself. He desired that the glory of God and the good of his nation might be promoted, not only in contrariety to part of his own good, but in contrariety to all his own good. This was,
strictly speaking, disinterested love. It was not merely supreme love, or universal love, or impartial love, but truly disinterested love. Many will allow that true love is impartial, universal and supreme, while they strenuously deny that it is properly disinterested. Some criticise upon the Greek preposition dis, and say it properly signifies twice, or double, rather than contrariety. This is a groundless assertion. No English writers use it in this sense, but always use it to signify contrariety; as in these words, disease, disorder, displeasure, disunion, discord, disobedience; and in a multitude of other words compounded of the preposition dis. No other adjective can fully express the peculiar nature of pure, virtuous, holy love to God, or man; and distinguish it essentially from selfishness. If a selfish man should believe that God loved him, and intended to employ all his perfections and all his creatures and works to promote his private separate happiness in time and eternity, he might exercise a species of supreme, impartial, and universal love. He certainly might exercise universal love; that is, love to God and to all his creatures. He might exercise supreme love; that is, love God more than all his creatures, except himself. And he might exercise impartial love; that is, love God and all his creatures in proportion to their worth and importance to promote his happiness. This is not a mere visionary supposition. There is reason to fear that there are many, who imagine they love God supremely, and all his creatures impartially, while they are under the reigning power of a carnal mind, or selfish heart. Those who love God merely because they suppose he loves them, naturally extend their selfish love to God and all his creatures; for while they view God and all his creatures as unitedly promoting their future and everlasting good, it is as natural to love them as to love themselves. There is a sense in which self love may be supreme, universal and impartial; but there is no sense in which it is disinterested. It is this disinterestedness of holy love, that most properly and fully distinguishes it from unholy, sinful love. It is just as necessary and important to maintain that true love to God and man is disinterested, as to maintain the distinction between virtue and vice, sin and holiness, saints and sinners. For take away the distinction between selfishness and disinterested benevolence, and it is impossible to prove that there is any such thing as either moral good, or evil, or any essential difference between the best and worst of men.
2. If the conditional prayer of Moses was proper, then it is impossible to carry the duty of disinterested benevolence too far. It is often supposed, by those who profess to believe that there is such a thing as disinterested benevolence required in
the gospel, that it may be carried too far. Though they allow that one man ought to love another as himself, yet they deny that he ought to love him more than himself. Though they allow that men ought to love God supremely, yet they deny that they ought to love him more than all their temporal and eternal interests. And they think that those who carry the duty of benevolence, or self denial, to such an extensive and high degree, carry it to an unreasonable and unscriptural height. They can bear to be told that man ought to give up his temporal interest, when it becomes absolutely necessary in order to secure his eternal interest, or to secure the eternal interests of others; but they cannot believe that a man ought to give up his eternal interests for the honor of God and the salvation of others. They do not presume to call in question the duty of the primitive christians in forsaking fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, for the sake of Christ and the salvation of their own souls. But they think that Paul and Moses carried disinterested benevolence too far, when they professed to be willing to give up their own eternal interests for the glory of God and the salvation of his people. They allow that a man may give up any or all of his temporal interests, if it be necessary, in order to secure his future and eternal interests. But they strenuously deny that it can ever be his duty to give up all his eternal interests, for the sake of the glory of God and the good of the universe. If such persons would only consider the nature and tendency of disinterested benevolence, they would clearly see that it cannot be carried too far. For it is the very nature of it to give up a less good of our own for the greater apparent good of others. The same disinterested benevolence which will dispose a man to give up a small good of his own for a greater good of another, will dispose him to give up a greater good of his own for a still greater good of another. The same disinterested benevolence which disposes a man to give up one part of his own interest to promote the interests of others, will dispose him to give up another part of his interests to promote the interests of others. And the same disinterested benevolence which disposes a man to give up any part of his own interests for the good of others, will dispose him to give up all his interests for the greater interests of others. There may be the same reason for a man's giving up all he has for the good of others, as for giving up any thing he has for the good of others. It is the same thing, according to the doctrine of benevolence and the doctrine of Christ, to give up all a man has for the good of others, as to give a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple. The spirit of the gospel is a spirit of disinterested benevolence, which knows no bounds and admits of
no limitations of self denial, in promoting the glory of God and the good of others. This is agreeable to Christ's express declaration to his followers. "Whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
3. If the prayer of Moses was proper, then none ought to be willing to be lost, only conditionally. He did not unconditionally desire that God would blot him out of the book of life, and banish him from his blissful presence for ever. He had seen God face to face, and conversed with him as a man converses with his friend. He had seen the moral excellence and glory of God, and sincerely desired to see more and more of it; for he humbly said to him, "I beseech thee show me thy glory." He esteemed the glory of God and the everlasting enjoyment of him as infinitely more desirable and valuable than all the treasures of Egypt, or than all the treasures of the world. He did not desire to be blotted out of the book of life, simply considered; but dreaded it above all other evils that could fall upon him. His desire was altogether conditional. It was only, if need be, that he was willing to be cast away for ever. If it was necessary that he should perish, to prevent the utter destruction of his nation, he was willing to sacrifice all his hopes and happiness for the glory of God and their eternal good. Just so, no person ought to be willing to be cast off for ever, simply considered, but only conditionally, if the glory of God and the good of the universe require it. But you may now ask, as has often been asked, what right has any person to make the supposition that the glory of God and the good of the universe may require that he should finally perish? The answer is plain and easy to be understood. It is because the glory of God and the good of the universe have required that Pharaoh, Judas and Balaam should be destroyed. And we know that the glory of God and the good of the universe will require that all the non-elect should be destroyed. No sinner, therefore, before he is regenerated, knows that it is consistent with the glory of God and the good of the universe, that he should be saved; and of course he has a right to make the supposition, that the glory of God and the good of the universe may require his destruction as well as that of any other sinner. And in this state of uncertainty, he is constrained to make the supposition that he may be finally cast off; and when he makes the supposition, he cannot help being willing or unwilling that God should cast him off. I scruple not to say that every sinner under genuine conviction is brought to this trial—whether he is willing or unwilling that God should cast him off; and that no such sinner is willing to be cast off, before he is made willing by the renovation of his heart. The doubting christian is
brought to the same trial as the convinced sinner. For he does not know that he is a real christian, or that he ever shall be. In this doubting situation, he is constrained to suppose that he may be lost. He must then be either willing or unwilling to be cast off. If he be unwilling, his unwillingness is an evidence against him; and he can find no evidence in his favor, until he feels willing that God should dispose of him as shall be most for his glory. Nothing short of this can give him good ground of hope and comfort. I know of no truth of more practical importance than this, that every person, in order to be saved, must be conditionally willing that God should dispose of him, for time and eternity, as shall be most for his glory and the good of the universe.
4. If the prayer of Moses was proper and sincere, then those who possess his spirit, are the best friends of sinners. The sinners in Israel had no better friend than Moses. He was the most desirous of their temporal and eternal good, and was willing to do the most to promote it. He was continually praying for them, which prevented them from suffering many evils to which they were greatly exposed, and drew down many great and distinguishing blessings upon them. And had it been necessary, he was ready to give up all his own interests, to promote their future and eternal interests. And what more could he desire or do for them. Though christians in general have not so large a portion of pure, impartial, disinterested and universal benevolence as Moses had, yet they all have some portion of it, which disposes them to desire and promote the temporal and eternal good of sinners. Though they have no disposition to take them out of the hands of God, yet it is their hearts' desire and prayer to him, that they may be saved. They not only pray for them, but they instruct them, advise them and admonish them, in regard to their duties and dangers. Nor do they neglect to exercise their proper power and influence, to restrain them from all the paths of the destroyer. But, alas! they too often misunderstand, misrepresent and abuse such benevolent conduct. Nevertheless, christians, like Moses and Samuel, do not cease to pray for them, but continue to say to God, as the leper said to Christ, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." They believe that they are within the reach of divine power and mercy, and that God may be wait. ing to be gracious to them, which animates them to persevere in their benevolent desires and exertions; though they know, if the glory of God and the interests of his kingdom require their destruction, that the intercessions of Noah, Job and Daniel cannot prevent it.
5. If the prayer of Moses was proper and sincere, then