That sounds like the ruling passion, strong in death, of the Son of Thunder; who in youth asked if he should call down fire from heaven upon a hamlet which did not welcome Jesus, and was well rebuked for his zeal by the gracious Master. It is part of the human weakness through which the voice of God speaks, taking its tone from the defects of the instrument. This imprecation had reference, in all probability, solely to the copyists, against whose carelessness the author sought to guard himself by an awful threat. It certainly had reference to this book alone. Not until long afterwards did the Church determine what books were to enter the canon of the New Testament, and in what order they were to stand. That order placed the Revelation as the last book in the canon, and thus made this threat appear to cover the whole Bible.
It is a wrong use of the Bible to accept its utterances indiscriminately as the words of God, to quote every saying of every speaker in its pages, or every deed of every actor in its histories as expressing to us the mind of God.
Such use of the Bible is thoughtlessly common. Some time ago before going into a church in whose service I was asked to participate, I ventured to show some slight hesitancy in using certain Psalms which were set down in the Psalter for the day. When asked, why, I mildly answered that I could not request a Christian congregation to join with me in singing, after the embittered Jews in Babylon:
Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem. How they said, “Down with It! down with it! even to the ground.” Oh, daughter of Babylon, who art to be wasted, Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh thy little ones and throweth them against the stones.
Nor could I ask the people to unite in praying:
Make their nobles like Oreb and
Zeeb; yea, all their princes as Zeba
I had in mind the fate of Oreb and Zeeb and of Zeba and Salmana, splendidly brave fellows even in their death, as told in the seventh and eighth chapters of Judges, where you can learn what sort of prayer was this of those savage Jews. Naturally, as I thought, I objected to voicing such heathen imprecations in the nineteenth century of the era of the Prince of Peace. My good friend, with a look of amazement, replied, “Why, these Psalms are in the Bible.” That ended the question for him.
This incident is typical of a vast quantity of wrong uses of the Bible. Thus our American slaveholder read that ‘precious’ word of the ancient tradition, “Cursed be Ham,” and smoothed his troubled conscience. He had the sanction of the Bible for the curse plainly upon Africa. He was fulfilling the Divine will in breeding black cattle for the auction block. Piety and profit were one, and godliness had great gain, and some contentment