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may be understood in the following Verse as afsigning the particular Reason, why he thus prayed for them. “ Because they regard not the Work of the Lord, nor the Operation of his Hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up." He prayed for their Repentance, because he clearly faw, if they repented not, that Iniquity must be their Ruin.
We meet with a like Expression, and which daubtless will adınit of a similar Interpretation, in Psalm 5xxix. 12. “Render unto our Neighbours sevenfold into their Bofom of their Reproach wherewith they have reproached thee O Lord.”.
There are other Hebrew Phrases, not improper to be taken Notice of here, which
may have given Rife to an illiberal Way of Thinking upon this Subject, merely from not understanding the Genius of the Language. e. g. “ Do not I, O Lord, hate those, who hate thee? I hate them with perfect Hatred ; I count them mine Enemies." Psalm xxxix. 21, 22. To a mere English Reader these Words might seem to Express the greatest Hatred, though, in Reality, no Hatred at all is intended. Agreeably to a common and natural Idiom of the Hebrew, the Pfalmist meant no more than that he loved, or liked Wicked Men less than all other Men.
The same Form of Speech is made use of by our blessed Lord, where he says, “ If any Man come to me, and hate not his Father and Mother, &c. he cannot be my Disciple.” Luke xiv. 26. Every one readily perceives that our Saviour's Meaning here was only, that whoever would be his Disciple must love Father and Mother less than him; agreeably to his own Explanation in Mat. X. 37. “ He who loveth Father or Mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” The same Mode of Speaking we find in Rom. ix. 13. which is a Quotation from Malachi i. 23. “ Jacob have I loved, but Efau have I hated.” It is most obvious and certain, that God, the common Father of both, could have no more real hatred to Efau than to Jacob. Whoever will think otherwise, must entertain an Idea most highly unworthy of the Deity, and infinitely derogatory to his Character. The Words plainly fignify no more than that God proposed to favor in fome Particulars; the one above the other. That he had determined, according to his infinite and infallible Wisdom, before either of them was born, to distinguish Jacob with greater Privileges; or, as the Apoftle himself explains the Words, “ that the el. der should serve the younger.” Rom. ix. 12.
There are some other Texts, in the New Testament, which, with a View to the farther Elucidation of the Subject, it may be proper here to consider. I might first mention Acts i. 20. Which runs thus, “ Let his Habitation be desolate, and let no Man dwell therein, and his Office let another take.” The two first Clauses refer to Psalm lxix. 25. The last to Psalm cix. 8. The whole Verse has an imprecatory Form, not only in our Version, but also in the Greek, all the Verbs being in the imperative Mood, whence it might be naturally thought to give a Sanction to all those horrid and tremendous Curses to be found in both the Psalms referred to-to teach a Doctrine wholly unauthorized by the Original Hebrew, and directly repugnant to Christianity, as preached by our Saviour, the only Author and Finisher of our Faith, particularly in Mat. v. 43, 44.
But, notwithstanding any Appearances to the contrary, it will be clearly shewn, and satisfactorily proved at the Close of this Dissertation that no Kind of Malevolence whatever was intended, and that the several Verbs have the very fame Signification as when used according to the Hebrew Original in the future Tense. I shall therefore take no farther Notice of this
Text at present, and proceed to 2. Tim. iv. 14. Where the Apostle Paul speaks as follows; « Alexander the Copper Smith did me much Evil; the Lord reward him according to his Deeds.” This Text like the preceding has in the Original an imprecatory Form, as well as in our Translation, and ought doubtless to have the fame Interpretation; but were we to construe the Verb in the later Clause of it agreeably to the full Force of the Imperative Mood, it would be in no wise necessary to understand it, as proceeding, in any Degree, from a malevolent, vindictive Temper toward the Person mentioned, but as a Prayer, dictated by a Spirit of Prophecy, that some Temporal Evil might befal him, which would be the happy Means of bringing him to Repentance; of deterring others from following his Examples; and of contributing ultimately to the further Confirmation and Progress of the Truth as it was in Jesus. * So sensible was the Apostle Paul of the Neces
* Here it may not be inexpedient just to observe, that Ime precations even of this kind do not seem, in any Degree, fit for focial Worship, or the general Use of Christians, however law. fully or properly they might have been sometimes used by Perfons divinely inspired, and capable of foreseeing that the Evil prayed for would really be productive of fome Superior Good
Qty of universal and unlimitted Charity, that if deftitute of it, he would have deemed himself in Regard to all real Religion and Virtue, to be Nothing : 1. Cor. xiii. 2. «A malevolent vindictive Spirit could have no Place in his Breast, it being ever his Heart's Desire, and Prayer for his bittereft Enemies, and the Chief of Sinners, that they might be saved. Rom. x, i.
Doubtless he had effectually done, what he so earnestly exhorted all other Christians to do; he had put away far from him all Bitterness, and Wrath, and Anger, with all Malice.
'Tis indeed true from what he says in Gàl. v. 12. “I would they were cut off, who trouble you;” Meaning some judaizing Teachers, Persons, who are guided meerly by the Sound of Words, might think him capable, at least occasionally, of discovering some peculiar Bitterness and Severity of Temper; a Spirit differing widely, even toto Cælo, from that Charity def
ribed in the xiiith Chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians; and therefore that Circumstances may arise, which will justify them in doing the same. But there is no Foundation for such a Suppofition. The Apostle wished no real Evil to the Persons referred to, much less their utter Extirpation and final Ruin. He wilhed