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above mentioned are extremely few. I shall not undertake to reconcile a part of Ps. lxix., cix., and cxxxvii. with the spirit of the Jewish religion, and far less with the spirit of Him who said, “ Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven,” and who spent his last breath in prayer for his murderers, — "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
But is it strange that a human soul should be embittered by persecution so as occasionally to utter a sentiment inconsistent with the religion which it professes ; that one, who had even spared the life of his deadly enemy when entirely in his power, should, under circumstances of great provocation, express personal feelings inconsistent with his own general character, and with the spirit of his religion? Why should not the language of David, as well as his conduct, be sometimes inconsistent with what is right? It must be remembered, too, that, in the Jewish religion, the duty of forgiveness had been less insisted on, because the age was not prepared to comprehend it. The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. There are no imaginable circumstances in which Christians would be justifiable in using the language of the psalms above referred to, or similar language, in their addresses to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A writer in the Andover Bibliotheca Sacra * has undertaken, if we understand him, to maintain the absolute rectitude of all these imprecations, and their immediate inspiration by the Deity. But if this be so, then are Christian ministers in general very deficient in their duty, and there is far too little cursing in Christian pulpits. If the psalms in question are consistent with absolute rectitude, then our Saviour's precept, to “ bless them that curse us, and to pray for them that despitefully use us,” cannot be; unless, indeed, to pray for our enemies be to pray that “ iniquity may be added to their iniquity,” “ that they may be blotted out of the book of the living,” “ that there may be none to show them compassion, and none to pity their fatherless children,” and that “their little ones may be taken and dashed against the stones.'
* Vol. I., p. 102.
It was not, I suppose, a want of common sense or of Christian feeling, but adherence to an unfounded theory of inspiration, that led the writer in the Bibliotheca Sacra to maintain a view apparently so inconsistent, not only with the precepts and spirit of Christ, but with the general feelings of the Christian church. For the attempt to explain the imprecations of the Psalms as simple predictions, which has been made by interpreters from the time of Augustin * to the present day, shows the uncongeniality of such imprecations with the feelings of Christians. A recent Orthodox commentator on the Psalms, well known by some of his writings which have been translated in this country, adopts substantially the view which I have given of the subject. Having suggested every excuse for these imprecations of which the case admits, and, especially, having suggested whether some of them may not have been uttered as disinterested prayers for simple divine retribution, rather than as expressions of personal feeling and passion, he says :- “ If now the question be asked, whether in no case the unholy fire of personal anger mingled itself with the holy fire of the Psalmist, we dare not maintain such a thing even of the Apostles.f Whether in excited speech the anger be such as' worketh not the righteousness of God,' I or such as that with which Christ himself was animated,may generally be known from the nature of the case, namely, when there is an evident satisfaction in being permitted to be the instrument of divine retribution, or when particular kinds of retribution are prayed for with evident pleasure, or when it is manifest that the representation of them is connected with delight on the part of the speaker. Thus, Ps. cix. and lix. contain many expressions of a passionate character; Ps. cxlix. 7, 8, cxxxvii. 8, 9, lviii. 10, and xli. 10, may also have proceeded from a similar feeling. On other passages individual feeling may decide differently." ||
Opp., Vol. V., Serm. 22. So Luther on Ps. lv. † Acts xv. 39, xxiii. 3, Phil. iii. 2, Gal. v. 12. # James i. 20.
§ Mark iii. 5. || Tholuck's Uebersetzung und Auslegung der Psalmen, Halle, 1843, p. Ixiii.
For all that is pure and wholesome in religion and morality, and adapted to promote peace and good-will among men, one would be glad to adduce all possible authority. But the solicitude to obtain a divine sanction for hating and cursing even enemies would be truly marvellous, did we not know to what extremes good men are sometimes led by attachment to theory.
The following are the sentiments of Dr. Durell, an eminent divine and scholar of the English Episcopal church, and principal of one of the colleges in the University of Oxford, in the last century :-“ The common opinion is,” says he," that these imprecations are prophetic denunciations of God's judgments upon
impenitent sinners. This, in some cases, may be true; but surely it cannot be so in all those parts where they are denounced by the imperative ; where the author imprecates not against God's enemies, not against the enemies of the state, but against his own enemies. The most probable account of this matter in my humble opinion is this, that God Almighty (though in a particular sense the God of Abraham and his offspring) did not interpose by his grace, or act upon the minds of his peculiar people, not even of their prophets, in an extraordinary manner, except when he vouchsafed to suggest some future event, or any other circumstance that might be for the public benefit of mankind. In all other respects, I apprehend they were left to the full exercise of their free will, without control of the divine impulse. Now God had abundantly provided, in that code of moral and ceremonial institutes which he had given his people for their law, that the poor, the fatherless, the widow, and stranger, should be particularly regarded ; whence they ought to have learned to be merciful, as their Father in heaven is merciful; and it must be confessed that we sometimes find such behaviour and sentiments in the Jews, with respect to their enemies, as may be deemed truly Christian. See Ps. xxxv. 13, 14, &c. But in that very system of laws, it was also, for wise reasons, ordained, that they should have no intercourse with the seven nations of the Canaanites, but should absolutely exterminate them ; whence they unwarrantably drew this inference, that they ought to love their neighbours, but hate their enemies, as our Lord declares, Matt. v. 43. From these devoted nations they extended the precept to the rest of mankind that were not within the pale of their church ; nay, sometimes to their own domestic enemies, those of their own blood and communion with whom they were at variance. Hence, therefore, the horrid picture which is drawn of that nation by the Greek and Roman authors ; from whom I forbear to bring any instances, as they are well known, and so numerous that they might fill a volume.
“How far it may be proper to continue the reading of these psalms in the daily service of our church, I leave to the consideration of the legislature to determine. A Christian of erudition may consider these imprecations only as the natural sentiments of Jews, which the benign religion he professes abhors and condemns. But what are the illiterate to do, who know not where to draw the line between the law and the gospel ? They hear both read, one after the other, and I fear too often think them both of equal obligation, and even take shelter under Scripture to cover their curses. Though I am conscious I here tread upon slippery ground, I will take leave to hint, that, notwithstanding the high antiquity that sanctifies, as it were, this practice, it would, in the opinion of a number of wise and good men, be more for the credit of the Christian church to omit a few of those psalms, and to substitute some parts of the gospel in their stead.” *
II. AUTHORS OF THE PSALMS.
The opinion has long since been exploded, that David was the sole author of the Psalms. For the contents of some of them prove that they were written during the captivity at Babylon.
According to the Hebrew inscriptions, which are translated in the common English version of the Scriptures, and which form the Italic titles in the following translation, the authors of the Psalms are Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, Heman, Ethan, and the sons of Korah.
But great uncertainty rests on these inscriptions, because several of them are inconsistent with the contents of the psalms to which they are prefixed. It is, indeed, not improbable that the
* Durell's Critical Remarks, p. 179.
name of the author was originally prefixed to his composition by his own hand. This is said to have been the practice of the Oriental poets from a very remote age, as it certainly was of several of the Hebrew prophets. If this were the case with respect to the Psalms, it is probable that many of the titles were lost in consequence of the use made of them in public worship, and that their place was afterwards partially supplied by uncertain tradition or mere conjecture. What is certain is, that many of the inscriptions are at undeniable variance with the contents of the psalms to which they are prefixed; and this fact tends to throw discredit on those with which the tenor of the composition sufficiently agrees.
To David the Hebrew titles ascribe seventy-one psalms, – according to some editions, seventy-four. Of these, many contain positive internal evidence of the accuracy of their titles. From his fame, as a player upon the harp, when he was invited to play before Saul, from his appellation of the sweet psalmist of Israel, and from the tradition of antiquity, there can be no doubt that he was the author of most of those which are ascribed to him, and of some which have no title. But several of the psalms which bear David's name cannot be his, as they contain allusions to the Babylonian captivity, and similar events belonging to a later age, besides occasional Chaldaisms.
“ The inscriptions indicating the authorship of David," says Eichhorn, “ cannot be all right; not, however, on account of the greatness of the number ascribed to him. Who knows not, that, as a shepherd and in a private station, David knew no truer friend than his harp ; and that, when a king, he gloried in his songs more than in his crown? The whole course of his life, whether joyous or sorrowful, he introduced into his compositions. Who, then, can be surprised at the number of psalms of lamentation which come under his name? Who ever suffered more, or more variously, or more undeservedly, than David ? From the condition of a shepherd he raised himself to the throne. Through what hosts of enviers and enemies must he have pressed before he reached it! More than once was he obliged to flee from the jave