17. Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
17. Ne sis mihi in terrorem; protectio mea tu in die mali.
18. Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.
18. Pudefiant qui persequuntur me, et non pudetiam ego; terreantur illi, et non terrear ego; inducas super eos diem mali, et duplici contritione contere eos.
Now the Prophet, having appealed to God as a witness to his integrity, prays him to show himself as his patron and defender. Thus he again implores God's aid, Be not thou, he says, a terror to me, that is, |Suffer me not while pleading thy cause to be terrified.| Thy the word, terror, he means such a dread as stupifies all the feelings. It would have indeed been wholly unreasonable for the Prophets to fail in constancy and firmness, for it belonged to God to rule them by his Spirit, and to support them by his grace, from the time he committed to them their office. Since then no one is of himself fit to discharge the duties of a faithful teacher, God must: necessarily succor and aid those whom he calls and sends to the work. This is now what the Prophet speaks of when he says, Be not to me a terror, that is, |Be not to me a cause of dread by depriving me of constancy and firmness, so as to render me an object of ridicule to all;| and why? because thou art my protection, or my hope, for the word means both.
Thou art then my protection (of this meaning I mostly approve) in the day of evil, that is, |I have chosen thee as my protector, as though thou were a shield to me; as then I have promised myself the favor of having thee as my help, see that I be not left destitute, since I have to right for thee and under thy banner.| Hence he adds, Ashamed let them be who persecute me, and let not me be ashamed; terrified let them be, and let not me be terrified
The Prophet, as we have seen, had a hard contest, not only with one man or with a few, but with the whole people, and then it is probable that there were many sects, for when he cried against the avaricious, there was a commotion instantly made by all those who lived on plunder, when he spoke against the indulgence of lust, there was a second conspiracy against him; when he condemned drunkenness and intemperance, there was a new combination formed to oppose him. We hence see how all the ungodly in all parts and for various reasons assailed the Prophet, he was therefore constrained to pray, as he now does, Ashamed let them be who persecute me, even because they now testified that they were evidently the enemies of God, for he had no private concern with them, but faithfully obeyed the command of God. As then he knew them to be God's avowed enemies, he hesitated not to ask God himself to oppose them.
We must yet notice what we have said in other places, that the Prophet was not only influenced by a holy and pious zeal, but was also governed by the wisdom of the Spirit. This I again repeat, for there are many foolish imitators, who always appeal to the vehemence which the Prophets shewed, while they themselves are carried away by a violent rather than by a vehement impulse. But we must first see whether the Holy Spirit guides us, lest we should utter imprecations against the very elect; and then we must beware of being influenced by the feelings of our flesh, and intemperate zeal is ever to be feared, for it is a rare gift so to burn with zeal as to join with it the moderation that is required. As then there is always something turbulent in our zeal, we must remember that the Prophets never uttered a word but as the Spirit guided their tongues, and then that they had no regard to themselves, and, thirdly, that they were so calm and composed in their ardor that they were not, guilty of excess.
The Prophet no doubt fully knew that all those were reprobate on whom he imprecated God's vengeance, but as it does not belong to us to distinguish between the elect and the reprobate, let us learn to suspend and check our zeal, so that it may not be too fervid, for we may often mistake, if we follow generally what the Prophet says here, Bring on them the day of evil, and with a double breach break them. Were we thus to speak indiscriminately of all, our zeal would often hit the very children of God. We must therefore bear in mind, that before the Prophet uttered this imprecation he was taught by the Spirit of God that he had to do with reprobate and irreclaimable men. Now a new discourse follows --