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ON THE IMPRECATIONS IN THE SCRIPTURES.
When a passage, in the orig. apostle hath said, Bless them thar inal language of the Scripture, curse you. may be fairly translated two 2. To imprecate wrath against ways, it will hardly be denied, enemies does not appear to cointhat we ought to adopt that trans, cide with other parts of David's lation, which is attended with conduct. In Psal. xxxv. 12, &c. fewest difficulties.
the psalmist is represented as The writer of these remarks being very deeply afflicted, when pretends to no critical knowledge his enemies were in distress. of the Hebrew language, but be- Christ, on the cross, prayed, not lieves it to be generally conced- that his enemies might be dea ed, as it is by bishop Horne and stroyed, but forgiven. Stephen, Mr. Scott, that those passages in in the agonies of death, preferred Psalms, 69, 109, and 137, a similar request. which are rendered, by our trans- The language of imprecation lators, as imprecations of tem- and cursing does not seem to poral and spiritual judgments, on have been common to saints. the writer's enemies, are capable Jeremiah did, indeed, use it in of being translated, as if they the 20th chapter of his prophecy. were a prediction.
His words, at that time, as well The latter supposition is at. as those of Moses on a particular tended with no very important occasion, give humiliating proof difficulties. The greatest diffi- of the power of corruption, even culty, which presents itself, is, in God's children. They are that the psalmist should be sup- not to be imitated. posed certainly to know the des- But you imagine, perhaps, that tiny of his enemies. Once sup- benevolence may lead a man to pose him possessed of this knowl- imprecate present and eternal edge, and it is easy enough to misery on his enemies, on supconceive that he should commu- position that his enemies are the nicate it to others.
enemies of God. The difficulties attending the The crucifiers of Christ were opinion, that the psalmist prayed enemies to God by wicked works; for various temporal disasters to so were the murderers of Stedescend on his enemies and their phen, yet both were the objects connexions in this world, and for of intercession, and not of impre. their everlasting damnation, in cation. Those enemies of David, the world to come, are neither for whom great tenderness is few por trilling
expressed in the 35th psalm, 1. To pray for the destruction must have been of a similar of enemies appears not to savour character to those others, of of an evangelical temper. The whom he speaks in psalm 109. apostle's direction is, Bless, and Nay, there is an important sense curse not. A greater than the in which all unrenewed persons are enemies to God. Are we, offered, would not the Lord anon that account, to pray for their swer, Oughtest thou not to have eternal undoing?
compassion on thy fellow servant, But David's enemies deserved even as I have had pity ou thee? destruction. Ah, doubtless they Doubtless the saints will acdid. So does the writer of these knowledge the justice and holiremarks, and so do all his fellow ness of God in his treatment of sinners. Still he hopes, that reprobates. They now acknowlnone, through benevolence, de: edge his holiness in sending sire either his, or their reproba- dearths, earthquakes, tornadoes, tion.
and the pestilence, but they do But you proceed farther, and not pray for these judgments. say, the enemies of David were Who would not be surprised, incorrigible. Who knows this? should a pious believer, when emDavid himself could not know ployed in domestic worship, be it, saving from special revelation; heard to pray against his wicked and if such revelation were made neighbours, that the Almighty to bim, it removes the most would strike their houses with important objection against the lightning ; send sickness and opinion of Bishop Horne and Mr. want into their families ; bring Scott, who believe that the psalm- them all to an untimely grave, ist did not imprecate, but only and to the place appointed for foretel. If their destiny were the devil and his angels? revealed to him, it is not very
But it is said there are passa. surprising, that he should com: ges of Scripture, even in the New municate a knowledge of it to Testament, which would justify others.
such an intercession. Christ That the Scriptures do not said to the Scribes and Pharisees, commend impatience towards Fill up the measure of your the wicked, is very certain. God fathers. endures sinners with much long Is this a prayer? If it be, to suffering, and encourages his whom is it directed ? It is spokchildren to do the like. Many en ironically; and no persons, after enormous profliga- proves, that our blessed Lord, cy, have yet been the monuments who, in the last hours of his life, of grace. It would, indeed, be an prayed for his murderers, did extraordinary occurrence in the previously pray against them, Christian world, should any hum- than the words of Solomon, Reble saint, under a sense of his own joice, O young man, in thy youth, &c. unworthiness and the divine for- evince, in him, a design to pro. bearance towards himself, adopt mote rudeness and debauchery. the following language in relation To elucidate difficult passages to others," I have frequently pray, of sacred writ, by those which are ed that they might repent and plain, is safe and prudent; but to pitain salvation ; but as they still explain one obscure passage, by remain impenitent, and deserve others equally obscure, is by no wrath, I now pray, in opposition means satisfactory. to my former requests, that they
The 2d epistle to Timothy may not repeni, but be damned does, indeed, contain these words, forever.” Were such a prayer Alexander, the compersmith, did
me much evil. The Lord reward cations. If, therefore, they will, kim according to his worke. Is it as the learned observe, bear such so very certain, that St. Paul did, an interpretation, it can scarcely in these words, pray, that inis be a desirable object that they mechanic might experience the should not. But if they be, in eternal wrath of God, that this fact, imprecations, there is doubt. text will prove David to have im- less something relating to the precated such misery on his ens case, which we do not under emies? In the verse next but stand,
LEIGHTOX. one succeeding, the apostle informs Timothy, that, in his first defence, all men forsook him ; but subjoins, I pray God that it TNE PIETY OF ANCIENT PAGANS. may not be laid to their charge. It is an opinion of many emiz Did the apostle pray for the salt nent authors, that there is no na, vation of those, who forsook him, tion or race of men so barbarous and against the salvation of him and brutish, as to be utterly des; who withstood him? His own titute of all notions or impress tirulence against the gospel was sions respecting a supreme Beonce, it is probable, as great as ing. The accounts given of the Alexander's ; yet he obtained natives of New Holland, seem to mercy; and he was divinely contradict this opinion; for so taught to give this direction, far, as the English residents in In meekness instruct them who that country can discover, the oppose themselves, if God perada rude aboriginals of that seques; venture will give repentance to tered continent manifest the acknowledgment of the truth. ideas of a God. Without al
The seeming imprecation on tempting to prove or disprove Alexander is thus paraphrased by the justness of an opinion, the Dr. Doddridge : "I doubt not, precise theoretical correctness of but the Lord, who exercises a which it may not be easy to sets guardian care guy me as his tle, I would observe, that most faithful servant, will, sooner or savage nations have entertained later, reward him according to his some imperfect conceptions of a works. May it be an instructive supreme being or beings, who and merciful discipline to reform created the world, and continue rather than destroy him.”
to exercise some influence over “ All the ancients note,” says men and physical events. In, a learned commentator, “ that deed it is hard to believe that be. this is not an imprecation, but a ings, endowed with intellectual prediction becoming an apostle. powers, however feeble and uns Pseudo Justin, Chrysostom, cultivated, should see themselves, Theodoret, Ecumenius, Theo and every thing about them, un, phylact."
der the constant control of caus: Good people, it is thought, es beyond their reach, without a would find more pleasure and ed- strong impression, that there ification in reading such passa- must be a supreme, intelligent ges with a well grounded belief and all-powerful Agent, to which that they are predictions, than if the visible operations of nature they considered them as impre mast be ascribed.
• So much is certain, that most and to other gods, in fulfilment of the nations, of whom history of their vows. has preserved any correct ac- . In the Institution of Cyrus we counts, have believed in and see the sentiments of Xenophon worshipped some kind of gods, in regard to the worship of a suas the authors of creation and preme power. He represents the dispensers of good and evil. Cyrus, as declaring that he never Imperfect as have been the ideas undertook any enterprise, great of the pagan world, concerning or small, without performing his the being and attributes of God, duties to the gods. In addition most men have been so conscious to many instances mentioned, I of their own frailty, imbecility, cannot refrain from citing the and exposure to evils, which they passage, in which an entertaincould neither foresee nor resist, ment was concluded by an adas to acknowledge their depend- dress to the gods—sutch plevel tois ence on some superior being. Tsols to ugodepraying for prose Hence has originated, among perity ; an evidence that Xen. most pagan nations, that fear and ophon at least believed in the reverence of the supposed supe- propriety of giving thanks and rior or supreme agent, which is asking a blessing at table. denominated fiety. Of the prac- It was piety, which led the an. tice of piety among the ancient cients to the practice of vows ; pagans, many illustrious exam- or promises to perform certain ples are recorded, which, for acts to the gods, in case of sucsincerity, and the spirit of humil- cess in enterprises, or deliverity and submission to a superior ance froin danger. These vows power, which appear to have ac- were held sacred, like oaths. Becompanied them, would do hon- fore the battle of Marathon the our to a real Christian. Thus Athenians vowed to immolate to Herodotus relates that, when the Diana as many goats, as they Persians and Greeks were ar- should find Persians dead on the ranged for battle at Platea, both field of battle. armies offered sacrifices to the Extraordinary assemblies of gods; and in the midst of the the Athenians, holden in times battle, Pausanias, General of the of imminent danger, were introSpartans, looking earnestly to- duced with religious ceremonies. wards the temple of Juno, im- The place was lustrated with the plored the interposition of the blood of victims; a herald regoddess.
peated a formulary of vows and In the retreat of the ten thou- prayers, addressed to the gods sand Greeks under Xenophon, for the safety of the state. The sacrifices were offered to the Amphictyonic conncil also was gods, to procure their favour; opened by sacrifices, offered for and when the troops had arrived the public tranquillity ; and Ly. at Trebisond, on the Euxine, curguis commenced the work of which was considered as an ef- reforming the laws of Sparta by fectual escape from the dangers consulting the oracle of Delphi. of the march, sacrifices were of- The Romans, like the Greeks, fered to Jupiter, the preserver, reverenced the gods, and paid most sacred regard to the obli- testimonies of historians, the Rogations of an oath. In times of mans, in fidelity to their engagepublic calamity the senate direct- ments, have never been surpassed extraordinary ceremonies to ed by any Christian people
. be performed, to manifest their This is a remarkable fact, and one dependence on the superior pow. that should put modern Chrisers, to appease the wrath of the tians to shame, that the fear of gods, and implore their aid and pagan gods produced such improtection.
portant effects on the moral habIn the year of Rome 356, a its of a nation, when this effect • winter of unusual severity, fol- is contrasted with the disregard
lowed by a mortal pestilence, in- to oaths and promises, frequentduced the Senate to decree that ly observed in Christian counthe Sybilline books should be tries. In general, however, the consulted, and unusual ceremo- morals of the most refined panies of religion should be per- tions of antiquity were licentious, formed.
and their manners coarse, beyond The Dictator C. Cassus, in the what is observable in most Chrisyear 370, encamped before his tian nations. As they emerged enemies, and before commenc- slowly from barbarism, many of ing an attack, took the auspices, the rude customs, indecent and sacrificing a victim, and implor- inhuman practices of that state, ing the favour of the gods. were too firmly incorporated
l'abius, before he marched to into their habits, to be eradoppose Hannibal, offered sacri- icated by any thing short of fices to the gods; and before the a heavenly teacher and divine eventful battle at Cannæ, every commands. There are some ilmouth was repeating the oracles lustrious exceptions to this genof the sacred books; and vows, eral character of the ancients
. and prayers, and supplicatory - Religion," says Epictetus, " reofferings occupied the city of quires us to entertain correct Rome.
opinions concerning the immor In pursuance of this spirit of tal gods; to believe that they expiety, public thanks were gir- ist, and that they govern the en for remarkable deliverances world in the best manner, and from danger. The victories with rectitude ; that we should over the Samnites, in 459, were in all things, yield them oựr obefollowed by a thanksiving of dience, and acquiesce in their
ur days' continuance-quatri- dispensations, as proceeding from dui supplicatione publicum gau- a mind of supreme perfection. dium privatis studiis celebratum We ought to perform sacrifices est.
and offer libations to the gods, From the same principle of with first fruits, according to the reverence for the gods, sprung custom of our country, with pure the sacred regard, which the Ro- minds and sincere zeal, not with mans maintained for an oath ; serdid parsimony, nor yet with an effect, which extended its sai- useless prolusion, above our utary influence to innumerable means.” civil and military duties. In- * Our paths," says Xenopholi, deed, if we credit the concurring “ to which we have called the