« AnteriorContinuar »
early migrations, or mark their settlement. An effect so almost if not altogether universal, so continuous, so unvaried, so early manifest, and so deeply wrought into the customs of the generations of the world, must have had a corresponding and adequate cause. And it is in vain we look into the constitution of human nature, or abroad upon the mechanism and laws of the external universe, into the heights above or the depths beneath, for any principle or fact which might give birth to such an economy. It is evidently the offspring of the pure, sovereign, revealed will of Jehovah. The ordinance, in the early pages of Genesis, meets and satisfies, and this alone can, all the conditions of the problem. And to reject this, which constitutes a sufficient and the only sufficient solution of the question at issue, is to discard all the established and rational principles of historical evidence and deduction. [To be continued.] ARTICLE III. THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS. By John J. Owen, D. D., Professor in the Free Academy, New York. By this designation, we refer to those Psalms in which the writer devotes his enemies to destruction. The terms in which this is done, although of varied form and fulness, and relating to contexts of every shade of devotional sentiment, from humble penitential longings after holiness, to triumphal exclamations of confidence in God, evince the most intense and permanent hatred of the persons doomed, with not a single expression of sympathy or regret for their miserable end. There are no tears, such as were wept over Jerusalem, no yearnings, as were felt for Ephraim, no prayer like that of the Redeemer, " Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," but anthemas, which for depth and intensity of expresion, almost horrify the reader, and stagger his belief in their divine inspiration. The enemies of God's word have seized upon this, as a strong argument against the divinity of the Scriptures. Assuming that these are the denunciations of a malignant heart, and the outbursts of private hatred, they triumphantly ask, how such a spirit is to be reconciled with that, which directs us to love our enemies, and to pray for them which despitefully use us, and persecute us. "How," say they, "can the same spirit which gave this command, and insisted so strongly on its being kept, as an essential element of christian character, have inspired the Psalmist to utter such maledictions upon his enemies?" Chronological difficulties and discrepancies may be removed, harmonized, or attributed to careless copyists. There may be some semblance of apology for the inaccurate and conflicting statements of the sacred writers, their incorrect citations, and the other blunders which they have made. But that one should curse and anathematize his enemies, and yet be impulsively moved thereto by the Being who has commanded us to love our fellowmen as we would ourselves, is too absurd to obtain one grain of belief. If there is any inspiration in cursing one's enemies, it must be derived from the bottomless pit, and not from the Being who claims to be the God of love. Good men, too, have been troubled about these Imprecatory Psalms, and have resorted to various expedients to free the subject from the difficulties which invest it. Some consider these anathemas in the light of predictions; and for this they have some license in the use and form of the Hebrew future, which, serving the two-fold use of the future, and of the imperative for the first and third persons to express a command, wish, prohibition, renders some passages necessarily obscure, especially when the context does not clearly define the meaning. But the context, in most if not all the imprecatory Psalms, forbids these prayers for God's judgment upon the wicked to be interpreted as predictions. In Psalm 109: 6 seq. the imprecatory verses commence with a regular imperative: "Set thou a wicked man over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned, and let his prayer become sin; let his days be few, and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds and beg; let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places; let there be none to extend mercy to him, neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children," etc. Thus we see that all these imprecations commence with a regular imperative, and must, therefore, in accordance with the general laws of grammar, conform to the same construction. The reference made to one of these verses by Peter (Acts 1: 20) shows that he regarded them as imprecations, and not predictions. The words in the Psalm, "let his days be few, and let another take his office," Peter, probably from the Septuagint version, cites: "Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein; and his bishopric let another take." In Psalm lxix., we have an intermingling of the imperative of the second person, and the future, with an imperative sense, of the third person. "Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake (quoted by Paul in Romans 11: 9,10). Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. Add iniquity unto their iniquities; and let them not come into thy righteousness." So also in Psalm lix., " Consume them in wrath, consume them that they may not be; and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth." And again in Psalm lviii., " Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth; break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord. Let them melt away as waters which run continually; when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces." And once more in Psalm xxxv., " Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive against me; fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Let them be confounded and put to shame, that seek after my soul; let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Let them be as chaff before the wind; and let the angel of the Lord chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery; and let the angel of the Lord persecute them." Thus we see that there is no way of evading the difficulty, by turning these imprecations into predictions; and it is strange that any commentator, who has an eye to the grammatical construction of these sentences, and to the laws of Hebrew poetry, by which a correspondence is preserved in the members of each parallelism, should ever have dreamed that the Psalmist, in these passages, was simply foretelling the fate of his enemies. Others meet the allegation that the Psalmist must have possessed a revengeful, malignant spirit, to so devote his enemies, by adopting such a theory of inspiration as to leave a wide margin for the frailties and imperfections of the sacred writers. Thus Stephen, in his defence before the Sanhedrim, made historical mistakes, besides manifesting a very unamiable temper. Paul, Peter, and John, through ignorance of the laws of hermeneutics, often misconceived the true meaning of the Old Testament scriptures; or were so biased by their Jewish prejudices and superstitions, that they gave a false coloring to great truths, which we, with our superior learning and unprejudiced minds, may be supposed to see and explain in more strict conformity to the truth. The Psalmist, according to this theory, was not perfect . In his prayers he was left to imprecate the most fearful judgments upon his enemies, not as a thing to be imitated, but avoided by those who should come after him. His was the example of a good man, who, in brooding over his wrongs, and recalling the ingratitude with which his acts of kindness had been answered, was betrayed into the use of intemperate language, and was so carried away with his mental excitement, as to even devote his enemies to destruction. But we are not of those who can believe that holy men, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, could pass so abruptly from a state of mind, in which what they wrote or said, received the approval of the Spirit, to the very contrary mental state, in which they gave utterance to such sentiments, as, if viewed in the light of being spoken under the influence of a sense of private wrong, were the most malignant of which the human mind can conceive. Take the fifth Psalm for example: "But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear, will I worship toward thy holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. For there is no faithfulness in their mouths; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue. Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against thee." It certainly must be considered one of the strangest anomalies of the human mind, for David, in this Psalm, to have passed so suddenly from the enjoyment of the Spirit's influence, and from so humble and devotional a frame, to a state in which he was left to curse his enemies with all the rancor and bitterness of personal hatred. To argue against the plenary inspiration of the Bible, or to seek to remove any real or imagined difficulties, by adopting such low views of the character and qualifications of the sacred writers, is almost too absurd to merit a serious confutation of the error. There is no theory which falls below that of plenary inspiration, intelligently defined, and applied with discrimination to the various portions of the sacred volume, which will at all meet the objections advanced against the imprecatory Psalms. In our judgment, if there are any portions of God's word which have superior claims to being regarded as Seoirvevarot, and which, if not ^eoirvevaroi, must be considered as S<n(j.ovid>8ei<;, demon-like, devilish, such portions are these imprecatory Psalms. There is a conscious power and freedom, which the writer could only have possessed, on so awful a subject, from the assurance that he was giving utterance to the mind of the Spirit of inspiration.