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them perish. And let the priests also which come near unto the Lord sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon thee. Moses replied, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai; for thou chargedst, Set round about the mount, and sanctify it. And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down; and thou shalt come up, thou and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them. And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God: and he continued to deliver to them the whole Ten Commandments. Now you will remember, my child, that I mentioned to you the extreme iniquity of human nature, and that God foreknew that they had not the ability to keep his commandments; for as I have hitherto shewn you, without the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing that is acceptable to God. God, therefore, ordained certain ceremonial laws to atone for the sins which the failure of keeping these commandments incurred. The law, indeed, was so perfect and holy, that man's unholy nature could not comprehend its full meaning, and therefore often thought he kept it, when he indeed was actually breaking it; a proof, my love, of the hardened nature of man's heart. It was but shortly after the
Israelites had seen this glory of God, at whose voice they trembled, that they actually broke his first, his very first commandment, and even during the very time that they were before mount Sinai; for it so occurred, that God wrote the Ten Commandments with his own hand on tables of stone, and Moses was called up unto the mount to receive them, where he remained with God forty days and forty nights; during which absence of Moses, the people actually made a golden calf, and worshipped it as their own God, in defiance of the very first commandment, "Thou shalt have none other Gods but me, nor make to thyself any graven image," &c. and although forty days had not elapsed since they had seen, with their own eyes, the glory of the Lord like a devouring fire on the top of the mount, and had heard his awful voice, and the loud trumpet which sounded from his glory in heaven.
There never could have been people more wicked, Mamma.
Excepting, my child, the present generation, who have greater knowledge of God; for they behold daily the works of God and his glory. We see his lightnings, hear his thunders; witness famine, pestilence, and sudden death; and regard them with obstinacy, perverseness, and actual madness: we dare them by our enmity, in breaking God's first commandment; we retain every image graven in our hearts, saving that of God's. Had we his, my beloved child, how holy, how different should we be! —But to return to my subject. No sooner did God see this iniquity in the children of Israel, than he commanded Moses to go down to them; for it was God's determination to consume them.
O then, Mamma, what will God do to this generation?
"Now, therefore, let me alone," said the Lord, "that my wrath may wax hot against them." But Moses besought God to have mercy upon them. "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 swaredst by thine ownself, and saidest unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."
What, Mamma, did God do evil?
Not evil according to your meaning, my child. Evil, in the original language from which the Bible is translated, has many significations, such as sin, corruption, or misfortune, or calamity: the latter is the correct translation.
But, Mamma, why did God repent? You told me, Mamma, repentance meant a determination to forsake sins.
The acuteness of your enquiries, my child, surpasses your tender years; and I bless God that I am able to answer them. Repentance, my love, in the original language, signifies to change: so that, when .we repent, we change from evil to good. So that the literal meaning is, that Moses implored God to change or to alter his intentions, respecting this dreadful visitation.
But, Mamma, did not you say, to feel anger and wrath, is sin?
You are really, my dear child, a determined enquirer, and I rejoice at it. Malicious anger, my child, is wickedness; but it is proper to express our anger, or according to the literal translation, uneasiness, when evil is returned for good; which were God's feelings, my love; not the anger of malice and hatred: therefore it says, in the New Testament, "Be angry, but sin not:" that is, we are to express our uneasiness'or abhorrence Of sin. Wrath is a term which in the original expresses the same meaning, but translated by different words. Of course, my child, God could not sin, being just, as he, in his holiness, was passing sentence for disobedience of his greatest commandment; but the mediation of Moses was about to reconcile, in a manner, but not wholly absolve, the unrepenting from punishment; for they were all consumed, as you will hear, according to the first sentence.
But, my dear Mamma, why did God wish his "wrath to wax hot?"
That the offence given to his holiness, my child, might be justified; that the scales of justice might be equal; that the abhorrence his purity felt against sin might not be abated: but his longsuffering, tender mercy and remission seemed always to prevail by a mediatory atonement.
What is a mediatory atonement, Mamma?
The pleading of Moses,my love, was a type, in those days, of a beloved Son in ours, pleading with his Father,—a Son who offered to sacrifice his own self to save these wicked sinners, and which offer, my sweet child, was accepted; otherwise the world-must have been destroyed to satisfy the justice of God. God agreed, my dear child, to spare those who repented and sought this atonement for their sins; he agreed