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2. There is reason to believ that mankind are free, moral a gents from their birth. That the choose and will, from their earli est infancy, will not be disputed And as soon as they are capabl of making known the thoughts and feelings of their minds, they mani fest moral discernment. never acquire any new corporea power, after their birth; so there is no reason to think, that they acquire any new mental faculty They come into the world men and women in miniature, and commence free, moral agents, as soon as they commence their rational existence.
blame for his conduct, unless he is | science, they are not moral agents capable of distinguishing between nor deserving of either praise o moral good and evil. The differ- blame. ence between right and wrong, good and evil, does not depend upon the will of any being, but is founded in the nature of things. A capacity to discern this difference, is essential to moral obligation. No being, however free, can feel bound to do, what he is not capable of knowing to be right and good, or to refrain from doing, what he is not capable of knowing to be wrong and evil. Hence, what has been called the Moral Sense, is indispensable to moral agency. This moral sense is what the Scriptures call Conscience, and what they represent all men, the Heathens not excepted, as possessing: Rom. ii. 14, 15, "For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing one another."
The preceding observations lead to the following inferences:
3. The universal agency of God, is consistent with the free, moral agency of man. Both reason and scripture teach, that God worketh all things;" or, in other words, is the Efficient Cause of all that exists or takes place, in the moral, as well as in the natural world. But, some have thought it difficult to reconcile this doctrine with the free, moral agency of man. If, however, this doctrine be consistent with the free agency of man, it is presumed that few will think it inconsistent with his moral agency. And as free agency consists
can there be the least inconsistency between the universal agency of God, and the free agency
1. Brutes are not moral agents. That they are free agents, is unquestionable. They choose and refuse, and are evidently as volun-in choice and volition simply, how tary in their actions, as men. That they do not possess a degree of reason, it would, perhaps, be difficult to prove. But, they are entirely destitute of a moral sense, or conscience. Though they manifest fear, sympathy, pity and other natural affections, yet they never show any signs of remorse or guilt, or appear to have any sense of injury, how much soever abused. And, since they have no con
man? When God works in men to will, do they not will? When He causes them to choose, do they not choose? The universal agency of God, instead of destroying, produces the free, moral agency of all
I am gratified in perceiving, that your plan admits expositions of difficult paasages of Scripture. Scarcely any thing, in your work, is, in my estimation, more my estimation, more interesting and useful.
The following able exposition of a very difficult and much-disputed text, is extracted from a volume of Sermons, by Rev. ANDREW LEE. By inserting it, you will oblige one, at least, of your correspondents. LECTOR.
EXODUS xxxii. 31, 32. 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 of thy
book which thou hast written.
Moses' meaning, while praying for Israel, is obvious; but the petition offered up for himself is not equally so-blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book.
Four different constructions have been put on this prayer.
"Blot me" (saith Mr. Cruden) "out of the book of life-out of the catalogue, or number of those that shall be saved-wherein Moses does not express what he thought might be done, but rather wisheth, if it were possible, that God would accept of him as a sacrifice in their stead, and by his destruction and annihilation, prevent so great a mischief to them." Doctor S. Clark expresseth his sense of the passage to nearly the
Mr. Pool considers Moses as praying to be annihilated, that Israel might be pardoned!" Blot me out of the book of life-out of the catalogue, or number of those that shall be saved. I suppose Moses doth not wish his eternal damnation, because that state would imply both wickedness in himself and dishonour to God; but his annihilation, or utter loss of this life, and that to come, and
all the happiness of both of them. Nor doth Moses simply desire this, but only comparatively expresseth. his singular zeal for God's glory, and charity to his people; suggesting that the very thoughts of the destruction of God's people, and the reproach and blasphemy which would be cast upon God by means thereof, were so intolerable to him, that he rather wished, if it were possible, that God would accept him as a sacrifice in their stead, and by his utter destruction prevent so great a mischief."
Mr. Henry considers Moses as praying to die with Israel, if they must die in the wilderness-" If they must be cut off, let me be cut
off with them-let not the land of
promise be mine by survivorship. God had told Moses, that if he would not interpose, He would make him a great nation-No, said Moses, I am so far from desiring to see my name and family built on the ruins of Israel, that I choose rather to die with them."
Doctor Hunter understands him as praying to die himself, before sentence should be executed on his people, if they were not pardoned. And in the declaration, whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book, he discovers an intimation, that that offending people should die short of the pro
Mr. Firman considers Moses as
here praying to be blotted out of the page of history, if Israel were not pardoned; so that no record of his name, or the part which he had acted in the station assigned him, should be handed down to posterity.
Such are the constructions which have been put on this scripture.
It remains, to give our sense of the passage, and the grounds on which it rests.
As to our sense of the passage We conceive these puzzling words
of Moses to be no other than a prayer for himself-that his sins which might stand charged against him in the book of God, might be blotted out, however God might deal with Israel.
"Sins are compared to debts, which are written in the creditor's book, and crossed, or blotted out, when paid.*
Man's sins are written in the book of God's remembrance, or accounts, out of which all men shall be judged hereafter. And when sin is pardoned, it is said to be blotted out. And not to be found any more, though sought for. "S
When a debtor hath paid a debt, we are at no loss for his meaning, if he requests to be crossed, or blotted out of the creditor's book; nor would doubt arise should one to whom a debt was forgiven, prefer like petition. "You will please to blot me out of your book."
"Though Moses had taken no part in this sin of Israel, he knew himself a sinner; and when praying for others, it is not likely he would forget himself. The occasion would naturally suggest the value, yea the necessity of forgiveness, and dispose him to ask it of God. When others are punished, or but just escape punishment, we commonly look at home, and consider our own state; and if we see ourselves in danger, take measures to avoid it. To a sinner, the only way of safety is, repairing to divine mercy, and obtaining a pardon. That Moses would be excited to this by a view of Israel, at this time, is a reasonable expectation.
That such was the purport of Moses' prayer for himself, is clearly indicated by the answer which was given to it-for the blotting out of God's book, is doubtless to
* Matthew vi. 32. Revelations xix. 12. Isaiah xliv. 22. § Jeremiah 1. 20. Vid. Cruden's Concord. under BLOT.
be understood in the same sense in the prayer, and in the answer; and the latter explains the former.
Oh! this people have sinned a great sin-Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and 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.
The passage thus presented to our view, seems scarcely to need a comment; but such sad work hath been made of this text, and such strange conclusions been drawn from it, that it may be proper to subjoin a few remarks.
That God had threatened to "destroy that people, and blot out their name from under heaventhat Moses had prayed for them— and that "the Lord had repented of the evil which he thought to do unto them," we have seen above. And here Moses is ordered to resume his march, and carry up the tribes to the promised land, and the reason is assigned-"whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book: therefore, now go lead the people to the place of which I have spoken unto thee."
When we thus view the subject, can a doubt remain respecting the sense of this text? But (keeping in view the reason here assigned for the renewed order given to Moses to conduct the tribes to Canaan, namely, God's determination to blot out of his book whosoever had sinned against him, in this affair) let us try it in the different senses which have been put upon it.
I. We will suppose blotting out of God's book, to mean destroying soul and body in hell. The divine determination to shew no mercy
to Israel, is then the reason as-
II. Suppose blotting out of God's book to mean annihilation, and his answer to the prayer stands thusI will destroy this people; and blot them from among my works THEREFORE, go lead them to the place of which I have spoken unto
III. Suppose with Mr. Henry, and Doctor Hunter, that it is to be understood of destruction in the wilderness, and the answer stands thus-My wrath shall wax hot against Israel and consume them— they shall all die in the wilderness THEREFORE, Now go lead them to Canaan!
march, and lead them to the place of which I have spoken unto thee." The therefore go now, doth not surprise us. We see the order rise out of the Divine purpose; but on any of the other constructions of the text, thwarts and contradicts it; or cannot surely be assigned as the reason of it.
Several other considerations illustrate the subject, and confirm our construction of it.
When Moses returned to intercede for Israel, he certainly asked of God to pardon their sin. Oh! this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold-Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin. That he was heard and obtained his request, appears not only from the history contained in our context, but from Moses' rehearsal of it just before his death. He recounted the dealings of God with Israel, when taking his leave of them on the plains of Moab.-In that valedictory discourse he reminded them of their sin on this
The whole people, save Moses and Joshua, seem to have partici-occasion-of God's anger against pated in the revolt. We have no them-his threatening to destroy account of another exception; and them, and how he pleaded with whosoever had sinned, God would God in their behalf, and the sucblot out of his book. Surely had cess which attended his interceseither of these been the meaning sions for them-"I was afraid of of blotting out of God's book, it the anger and hot displeasure would not have been given as the wherewith the Lord was wroth reason for Moses' resuming his with you to destroy you, but the march and carrying up the tribes to Lord hearkened unto me at that the land of promise. Common time also.*
sense revolts at the idea.
But if we understand blotting out of God's book in the sense we have put upon it, we see at once the propriety of the order given to Moses, founded on this act of grace, God's having repented of the evil which he thought to do unto them." If this is the meaning of the words, the answer to Moses' prayer amounts to this-" I have heard and hearkened to your prayer, and pardoned the sin of this people; proceed therefore in your
Sentence of death in the wilderness was afterwards denounced against those sinners, and executed upon them, but not to punish this sin; but the rebellion which was occasioned by the report made by the spies which were sent to search out the land. On that occasion Moses prayed fervently for his people, and not wholly without effect. God had threatened to "smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them," but reced *Deuteronomy ix, 19.
ed from his threatening, through the prevalence of that intercessor in their behalf" the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word;" but at the same time denounced an irrevokable sentence of death in the wilderness against those rebels. Then Moses was not ordered to "lead the people to the place of which God had spoken," but commanded to go back into the wilderness which they had passed—" turn you, and get ye into the wilderness by the way of the red sea."*
There is therefore no doubt respecting the sin which shut that generation out of Canaan. Nor do we apprehend more occasion for doubt relative to the prayer of Moses, to be blotted out of God's book.
But though the sin of Israel on this occasion was pardoned, and Moses ordered to lead them to Canaan, some temporal chastisements were inflicted, to teach the evil of sin, and serve as a warning to others to keep themselves in the fear of God; of which Moses was notified when ordered to advance with the pardoned tribes.-- Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them. And the Lord plagued the people because they had made the calf which Aaron made." The manner in which this is mentioned,
At that time the exception from the general sentence, was not in favour of Moses and Joshua, who had been on the mount, and taken no part in Israel's sin in making the golden calf, but in favour of Caleb and Joshua, who dissented from the report made by the other spies; though no intimation is giv-shows that their sin in that affair en that Caleb was not with the people, and did not sin with them in the matter of the golden calf.
was forgiven, and only some lighter corrections ordered in consequence of it; which is common after sin is pardoned.
Extract of a letter from a Minis
a confirmed infidel, who avoided all religious meetings, and would not suffer his family to attend, who often spit on the bible, stamped it under his feet, and cursed it, and its author, after deep convictions, has obtained a hope of acceptance with God, and now esteems the bible his chief treasure. Another instance, still more evincive of the
ter in Worcester county. "In Douglas a good work commenced about two months since, which is very powerful; about one hundred have obtained hope, and the revival is as promising as at any former period. It has extended into the towns of Uxbridge, Sutton and Northbridge. Appear-efficacy of Divine grace, is that of ances promise a good work in each of them. It embraces persons of all ages, from the very child, to the man of gray hairs. Several instances are quite remarkable; one or two of them I will mention. A man of 60, who had been for years
eight or ten young men, from a neighbouring town, who went to Douglas, for the avowed purpose of breaking up the revival. They hired their board at a tavern, attended the numerous meetings held in various parts of the town, for