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3dly. There is no precept in the Scriptures enjoining this conduct.
It certainly must seem strange, that a duty so extraordinary, and so fitted to perplex the minds of mere men, should, if it be really a duty, be no where expressly enjoined. Certainly it is not likely to be easily embraced by any man. It can hardly be supposed, therefore, if it be really a part of the Evangelical system, to be left to inference, philosophy, and supposition. No precept, so far as we are able to judge, needs more to be clear, and express, than that which should require of us this singular mental effort. But such a precept cannot be found.
4thly. There is no example of such Resignation recorded in the Scriptures.
There are two examples, which are alleged in support of the Resignation in question. The first is in Ex. 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. The part of this text, which is alleged in support of the doctrine here contended against, is contained in these expressions : Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin: if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book, which thou hast written. It is supposed, that Moses prayed to God to make him miserable, on the condition specified throughout eternity.
Concerning this subject, I observe, first, that the expression blat me out of thy book which thou has written, is wholly figurative; and, like most other figurative language, is capable of being understood in various senses. To say the most, then, it is ambiguous and uncertain. I need not say, that such a doctrine as this, ought not to be founded on an ambiguous passage of Scripture, nor on any uncertainty whatever.
Secondly. It will be admitted, that Moses, although he prayed in a violent state of emotion, yet spoke in some accordance with common sense. But the interpretation given to his words by those who teach this doctrine, make him speak the most arrant nonsense. His words are, Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sins : and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast wrillen. Here, according to the abbettors of this doctrine, Moses prays, that God would forgive their sin, if he was willing; and if he was unwilling, that he would blot him out of the book of life. They say, that the benevolence of Moses was so great, that he chose rather to suffer endless misery, in order to obtain the forgiveness of his countrymen, than to be endlessly happy, and see them condemned. But they do not attend to the words of Moses. He himself says no such thing. On the contrary, he prays, that God would blot him out of his book, if he will not forgive their sin: choosing not to be happy himself, unless they may be happy with him; and choosing to be endlessly miserable, rather than to be endlessly happy, unless they
may be happy also. This, it must be acknowledged, if it be benevolence, is benevolence of a very extraordinary kind. Moses, according to this scheme, is desirous, if he cannot obtain all the good which he wishes, to have none; and, if his countrymen cannot be happy, to be miserable himself: to be endlessly miserable, without the least expectation of doing, without a possibility of doing, any good whatever to them: in plain language, to be endlessly miserable for the sake of being endlessly miserable.
It is also Resignation of an extraordinary kind. Instead of being Resignation to the will of God, it is resignation, directly opposed, and perfectly known by Moses himself to be directly opposed, to that will. Moses certainly knew, that he was destined to endless life; and therefore certainly knew, that this was the will of God. To this will, thus known, his prayer, interpreted according to this scheme, is directly contradictory. I hesitate not to say, that Moses never exercised Resignation of this nature.
Thirdly. The real meaning of this prayer is, that, on the condition specified, God would take away his life.
After the rebellion of the Israelites at the foot of the Mount, in which they made, and worshipped, the golden calf, God directed Moses to let him alone, that he mighi consume them; and promised to make of Moses himself a great nation. Alluring as this promise was, Moses loved Israel too well, to forsake them on this pressing occasion. He therefore besought God to forgive them, with great earnestness and anxiety; and prayed fervently also, that, if he would not forgive them, he would take away his own life; probably, that he might not witness the melancholy sight of the ruin of a people, for whom he had done, and suffered, so much, and in whose interests his heart was so entirely bound up. The book here called the book which God had written, is a figurative allusion to a register, in which were recorded the names of living persons ; and in the present case, is considered as a register, written by God, in which were enrolled the names of all living men.
To blot out the name is equivalent to taking away the life of the person, thus registered. That this was what was intended by Moses must, I think, be unanswerably evident from the observations, which have been already made.
A similar prayer of the same illustrious man is recorded in Numb. xi. 14, 15, I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And, if thou deal thus with me,
I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness. The only difference between the two cases seems to be, that in the former case, Moses prayed, that he might not live to see the ruin of his people ; and in the latter, requested to be released from life, because he was unable to bear the burden of superintending, and providing for them.
The other passage is Rom. ix. 1-3, I say the truth in Christ; I lie not; my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost';
that I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Here it is supposed, that St. Paul declares himself desirous, or at least capable of being desirous, to suffer final perdition for the sake of rescuing his brethren, the Israelites, from their ruinous condition. But, I apprehend, the Apostle says no such thing. For,
In the first place, the declaration in the Greek is not I could wish, but I wished : not nuxorem, in the optative mode, but nuxou nu, in the indicative. The Apostle, therefore, here declares a fact, which had taken place; not the state of his mind at the time present; nor a fact, which might take place at that, or any future time. do not deny, that the indicative is sometimes used for the optative, or, as it ought to be here understood, in the potential, sense; to denote what could be done, instead of what has been done. But no case of this kind is to be presumed: nor is such a meaning to be admitted, unless the general construction of a passage renders the admission necessary;
Secondly. The admission of it here ruins the meaning of the sage altogether. It is introduced in this manner: I say the truth in Christ ; I lie not; my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost. Now what is the assertion, to gain credit to which, these three declarations, two of them attended with all the solemnity of an oath, were made ? It is found in the following verse. I have great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart. Can it be imagined, that St. Paul would think it necessary, or proper, to preface this assertion in so solemn a manner? Was it a matter even of surprise, that a person, afflicted and persecuted as he was, should be the subject of such sorrow ? Could the Apostle need the aid of a triple declaration, and a double oath, to make this assertion believed? And, if these were not necessary, can he be supposed to have used them for such a purpose; or for any purpose whatever ?
As this cannot have been the Apostle's meaning of this passage; so, happily, that meaning is sufficiently obvious. St. Paul, it is well known, was considered by the Jews as their bitter enemy; as hating their temple, worship, and nation; and as conspiring with the Gentiles to subvert all those, which they esteemed their best interests. This prejudice of theirs against him was an immense evil : for it not only obstructed powerfully, and often fatally, the success of his evangelical labours among the Gentiles; but, in al. most all instances, prevented the Jews from receiving the Gospel. This evil the Apostle felt in its full force; as he teaches us on many occasions, by endeavouring earnestly to clear himself of the imputation. The present is one of those instances : and the meaning of the passage is rendered perfectly clear, and highly important, when it is considered in this manner; and the propriety of the solemn preface, with which it commences, fully evinced. The
words, rendered, For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, ought to be included, as they plainly were intended to be, in a parenthesis. The passage, truly translated in this manner, will run thus : I say the truth in Christ; I lie not; my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost; that I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in my heart, (for I also wished myself separated from Christ) for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh. That the Apostle had really this sorrow and heaviness for his nation he knew would be doubted by some, and disbelieved by others. He therefore naturally, and properly, appeals to God for the reality of his love to them, and for the truth of the declaration, in which it is asserted. To show his sympathy with them in their ruined state, he reminds them, that he was once the subject of the same violent unbelief, and alienation from Christ; and that then he earnestly chose to be what he here calls anathema, justly rendered in the margin separated, from Christ, just as they now chose it. A person, once in this condition, would naturally be believed to feel deeply the concerns of such, as were now in the same condition; and would, therefore, allege this consideration with the utmost force and propriety.
It will, I am aware, be here said, that this interpretation derogates exceedingly from the nobleness, and expansiveness, of the Apostle's benevolence, as exhibited in the construction which I am opposing. It seems to me, that St. Paul's own meaning is as really valuable, as any, which is devised for him by his commentators. There can be no more dangerous mode of interpreting the Scriptures, than to drop their obvious sense; and to substitute for it one, which happens to be more agreeable to ourselves. Were I to comment in this manner on the
passage before us, that the meaning, to which I object, is absurd and monstrous; and that, which I adopt, becoming the Apostle's character. At the same time, I would lay no stress on this remark. My concern is with the real sense of the words. St. Paul must be allowed to have spoken good sense : and this the obvious and grammatical construction, here given to his language, makes him speak. Whereas, the construction, which I oppose, makes him speak little less than absolute nonsense.
These two passages therefore, although relied on to support the doctrine which I oppose, do not affect the question at all; and the Scriptures are equally destitue of examples, as of precepts, to warrant the doctrine.
5thly. There is no motive to induce the Mind to this Resignation.
By this I do not intend, that no motive is alleged, but that there is none, by which the mind of a rational being can be supposed to be influenced. The motives, by which Christians are induced to be unwilling to suffer perdition, are : 1st, the loss of endless and perfect happiness in heaven; 2dly, the loss of endless and perfect virtue, or holiness ; 3dly, the suffering of endless and perfect sin; VOL. III.
I should say,
4thly, the sulicring of endless and perfect misery; and 5thly, the glory of God in the salvation of a sinner. The motive, which must produce the willingness, in question, must be of sufficient magnitude to overbalance all these : each of them infinite. Now what is the motive alleged? It is the delight experienced by the Christian in seeing the glory of his Maker promoted by his perdition. Without questioning the possibility of being influenced by this motive, as far as the nature of the case, merely, is concerned, I observe, that the willingness to glorify God in this manner, and the pleasure experienced in glorifying him, (which is the same thing) is to endure but for a moment: that is, during this transient life. The pain, through which this momentary pleasure is gained, is, on the contrary, infinite, or endless, in each of the methods, specified above. Will it be believed, that, if every volition of man is as the greatest apparent good, there can be in this case å volition, nay, a series of volitions, contrary to the greatest apparent good : a good, infinitely outweighing that, by which these volitions are supposed to be excited? I say this good is momentary, because the subjects of perdition, immediately after entering upon their sufferings, hate, and oppose, the glory of God throughout eternity. Whatever good, therefore, the Christian can enjoy in glorifying his Creator, he can enjoy only during the present life.
It ought to be observed, that the Resignation, here required of the Christian, extends infinitely beyond that, which was required of Christ himself. He was required to undergo only finite and temporary sufferings. The Christian is here required to be willing to undergo infinite sufferings. The sufferings of Christ were, and he knew they were, to be rewarded with infinite glory and happiness. Those of the Christian are only to terminate, daily, in increasing shame, sin, and wo, for ever. "Christ for the joy set before him, endured the cross and despised the shame. There is no joy set before the Christian.
As a rule of determining whether we are Christians, or not, it would seem, that hardly any supposable one could be more unhappy. If we should allow the doctrine to be sound, and scriptural; it will not be pretended, that any, unless very eminent, saints arrive at the possession of this spirit in such a degree, as to be satisfied, that they are thus resigned. None but these, therefore, will be able to avail themselves of the evidence derived from this source. To all others, the rule will be not only useless, but in a high degree perplexing, and filled with discouragement. To be thus resigned will, to say the least, demand a vigour and energy of piety, not often found. Rules of self-examination, incomparahly plainer, and more easy of application, are given us in the Scriptures, fitted for all persons, and for all cases. Why, with those in our possession, we should resort to this, especially when it is no where found in the Sacred Volume, it would be difficult to