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“The prayer of Moses on this occasion contains a threefold plea; (1.) That God would not reflect upon his own wisdom, by so soon destroying what he had employed so much power to preserve. (2.) That he would not give advantage to the Egyptians to glory over the ruin of a race whom they so much hated. (3.) That he would remember his covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The second of these arguments he prosecutes in the passage before

us, and in doing so shows that he had the glory of God quite as much at heart as the welfare of Israel. Aware that the eyes and the tongues of Egypt, and the surrounding nations, were intent on finding matter of malicious triumph over a people so signally delivered from bondage, so miraculously sustained, so wondrously conducted, he would at all hazards preclude every ground and occasion upon which the divine glory could be blemished in the estimate of his enemies. Should the chosen people now, after such illustrious displays of divine power in their behalf, perish under the stroke of deserved wrath, what would be more natural than that fickleness or impotence should be imputed to their covenant God, and thus his holy name be blasphemed on every side? All that had been thus far done would go for nothing, and to human appearance the Most High would “disgrace the throne of his glory.' But this was a consequence which the pious heart of Moses could not endure to contemplate, and therefore is he so emphatic in urging the question, what will the Egyptians say?'

But the great argument of all is the promise made to the fathers. “To the fulfillment of this promise the veracity of God would have been pledged, had it been given simply in the form of a plain declaration ; but there was more than this; it was a promise confirmed by an oath, and an oath sworn by himself, than whom he could swear by no greater. Consequently nothing could be conceived more binding by which the honor of divine truth could be engaged to the per

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formance of its stipulations. It is as if he had said, 'Lord, if thy people be now destroyed, shall not thy promise fail for evermore? And shall their unbelief be allowed to make thy truth of none effect? God forbid.'"

If there was ever a case in which prayer might have failed, was it not this? Who could expect the Lord to be propitiated towards a people so ungrateful; so insulting ; so rebellious! Yet Moses prevails. And we have the divine attestation to the prevalence of his prayer; for the Psalmist declares, "he would have destroyed them, had not Moses, his chosen, stood before him in the breach.”—Ps. 106. 23.

Wonderful the efficacy of prayer! And wonderful the forbearance and condescension of God!



And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have

sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. 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. 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: Behold, mine angel shall go before thee: Ex. xxxii. 30-34.

We have seen Moses prevail with God in the mount, to forego “ the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” His request being granted, he descends the mountain, and approaches the scene of mirth and idolatry. There stood the “molten calf,” the monument of folly and madness; and there was the festive dance of God's chosen people around it; the evidence of impiety and rebellion.

It was a sight for which, meek as the man of God was, and apprised as he had been of what was transpiring in the camp of Israel, he was ill prepared. There was such an

abuse of divine goodness; there was such an insult upon the divine majesty ; such a stain cast upon the divine glory, that we may well imagine that a holy indignation fired the bosom of Moses. The sequel proves the supposition true. He had borne from the mount “the tables of the testimony;" the workmanship of God; "hewn,” as Jewish tradition would have it,"out of the sapphire of the throne of his glory;" these, so sacred, considering their origin, and still more sacred, viewed as containing the imperative law of Jehovah; these, Moses dashes like a potter's vessel to the ground, in the sight of all Israel. It savored of rashness in appearance, but a divine impulse doubtless actuated him. It was a significant action, denoting that from the covenant, which his people had so sacrilegiously violated, God might justly consider himself released.

Hope, however, sprung to the bosom of Moses, and immediately he addresses himself to the emergency.

The idol god is reduced to powder, which is mingled with water, and the people compelled to drink it. Aaron is summoned to account for the weak and guilty part he had taken in the transaction, which he attempts rather to explain, than to justify. The Levites are called to vindicate the divine honor, by putting to the sword neighbor, friend, relative; whosoever is found in open defiance in the camp. They enter upon the painful commission, and before night-fall three thousand pallid corpses upon the field proclaim how fearful it is to give an idol the place of the living God.

Thus the sullied honor of God is vindicated; the reproach. ful idolatry of his people condemned. But so deeply is the heart of Moses affected, that he must bewail before the Lord the wickedness and ingratitude of the people, and again lay before him the subject of their forgiveness. Accordingly he retires to prostrate himself before the mercy-seat.

In tones of impassioned and pathetic eloquence he breaks forth: “Oh! this people have sinned a great sin!” He knew it; he felt it

in all its enormity, and his spirit is overwhelmed on account of it.

The heart which is broken for sin, never attempts to conceal its sense of its guilt and demerit. It is ready to confess; it must confess. So the Psalmist:

While I keep silence, and conceal

My heavy guilt, within my heart,
What torments doth my conscience feel!

What agonies of inward smart!

great sin.”

Moses, standing in the place of his people, and feeling all their turpitude, cannot ask the divine forgiveness, until he has made ample confession of their sin. Hence the language employed : “they have sinned

With this confession, he ventures to supplicate for their forgiveness. “If thou wilt forgive their sin ;" he pauses; what would he say? He leaves the sentence unfinished, adding," if thou wilt not forgive them, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book, which thou hast written;" if they must be destroyed, and that be thy determination, let me die with them, for I would not survive.

Through the grace of God, Moses is again successful. God replies by assuring him that, as a nation, the Israelites should not be destroyed; but that condign punishment should fall upon the guilty. And as a further token of his being accepted, God promises that his "angel” shall go before them to the land whither they were bound; meaning that either the "pillar of cloud," or his “special providence" shall accompany them, notwithstanding their recent Heaven-provoking revolt.

Thus we see the power of humble, yet importunate prayer. But what condescension in God, to listen to the voice of mortal man, in behalf of a people worshiping a senseless idol, while the glory of Jehovah was as devouring fire” on the mount! What honor is put upon Moses himself! Happy

the nation which has rulers who can throw themselves into the 5 breach," when national sins are inviting the wrath of God. But for Moses, Israel would have been blotted out, and the blessings of the covenant transferred to others.

O may the sons of men record,
The wondrous goodness of the Lord !
How great his works! how kind his ways !
Let ev'ry tongue pronounce his praise.

Yet the sequel may admonish those who are spared through the intercession of the righteous, that some of the consequences of their sins may remain, and still be suffered. From a condign and immediate punishment, the Israelites were exempted; but God assures them, that if he shall have occasion to visit them in judgment for future offences, he will remember this, and increase their punishment on account of it. Accordingly, a tradition exists among the Jews to this day, that whatever afflictions their nation has experienced, there has been mingled at least one ounce of the golden calf.

Happy is it if, when we have sinned, and have been forgiven, either through the supplications of our Christian friends, or at the instance of our own penitential cries, we do not again 6 turn to folly.” Let us remember, that, at length, we may so sin, that though“ Moses and Samuel should stand before the Lord for us,” God would not hear them.-

Jer. 15: 1.

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