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nance. Therefore, we are not to refuse to join with those in singing the praises of God, whom we would not exclude from our society, if we were reading any of the Psalms of David in public.
(5.) We are now to consider the matter to be sung. There are very few who allow singing to be an ordinance, that will deny it to be our duty to sing the Psalms of David, and other spiritual songs, which we frequently meet with in scripture. Some, indeed, have contested the expediency of a Christian assembly's making use of several Old Testament-phrases, that are contained therein. And others have alleged, that the phrase ought to be altered in many instances, (especially in those which have a peculiar reference to the Psalmist's personal circumstances,) and others substituted in their room, which are matter of universal experience. But, if what has been said under the last head, be true, this argument will ap pear to have less weight in it; inasmuch as all the arguments that are brought in defence of making these alterations in the Psalms, as they are to be sung by us, will equally hold good, as applicable to the ordinance of reading them, and, it may be, will as much evince the necessity of altering the phrase of scripture, in several other parts thereof, as well as in these, if what has been said under the second head be allowed of. For it will follow from thence, that if some psalms are not to be sung by a Christian assembly, in the words in which they were at first delivered, and consequently are not to be read by them; because the phrase thereof is not agreeable to the state of the Christian church; and therefore it is to be altered, when ap plied to our present use; the same may be said concerning other parts of scripture; and then the word of God, as it was at first given to us, is no more to be read, than to be surg by us (a).
As to what is objected concerning the inexpediency of our making use of those words, and applying them to our case, in our devotions, that David used in his, with a peculiar view to his own condition. What has been said under the fourth head, relating to the frame of spirit with which the psalms are to be sung, will very much weaken the force of it; and this is what, in a great measure, determines my sentiments as to the ordinance of conjoint singing, as well as the matter of it; for, I am well persuaded, that if the words were to be considered as our own, (as they ought to be, when joining with another, who is our mouth, to God in prayer,) there are very few psalms, or hymns of human composure, that can be sung by a mixed assembly. But as a divine veneration ought to be paid to the psalms, and they are to be read with those acts of faith which are the main ingredients in our devotions; we are
(a) The first christians composed and set to music their by mns.
to sing them with the same view, only with this difference; as making use of the tone of the voice, as a farther help to the raising our affections therein, as has been before observed.
The next thing to be considered is, what version of the Psalms is to have the preference in our esteem, as it is subservient to the design of this ordinance. It is not my business, under this head, to criticise on the various versions of the Psalms; nor can it be supposed, that I have a regard to those poetical beauties in which one version exceeds another; for then I should be inclined to think some of them, which I do not make use of in the ordinance of singing, much preferable to others, for the exactness of their style and composure. But when I am singing the praises of God, in, or as near as I can to, the words of David, or any other inspired writer; that which I principally regard is, the agreeableness of the version to the original; and then they may be sung with the same frame of spirit with which they are to be read; and I am not obliged in singing, to consider the words as expressive of my own frame of spirit, any more than I am in reading them. But if the composure cannot properly be called a version, but an imitation of David's Psalms, then I make use of it in the ordinance of singing, with the same view as I would an hymn; of which, more hereafter (a).
The versions which, I think, come nearest to the original, are the New-England and the Scots; the latter of which, I think, much preferable to the former; inasmuch as the sentences are not so transposed in this, as in the other, and the lines are much more smooth and pleasant to be read. I should be very glad to see a version more perfect, that comes as near the sense of the original, and excels it in the beauty or elegancy of style. And it would be a very great advantage if some marginal notes were added, as a comment upon it; which would be a help to our right understanding thereof.
I shall now give my thoughts concerning the singing of hymns. These, according to the common acceptation of the word, are distinguished from psalms, and they generally denote a human composure, fitted for singing; the matter whereof, contains some divine subjects, in words agreeable to, or deduced from scripture. The arguments that are generally brought in defence thereof, are, that though scripture be a rule
(a) Grotius thought the first Gospel hymns were extemporary. Basnage from Tertullian says; "neither the prayers they made to God, nor the hymns "which they sung to his honour were reduced to rule; every one drew them "from the Holy Scriptures, or from his own treasure, according to his genius." A council of 70 bishops, A. D. 272. charged among other things against Paulus bishop of Antioch, that he abolished the Psalms, which were sung in gloriam Christi.-When the Ariam sang the doxology Glory be to the Father, the orthodox added, and to the Son and Spirit. Vide Dr. Latta, and Mr. Tod, on Psalmody.
of faith, from whence all the knowledge of divine things is primarily deduced; and therefore it has the preference, as to the excellency and authority thereof, to any other composure; yet it is not only lawful, but necessary to express our faith in the doctrines contained therein, in other words, as we do in prayer or preaching. Therefore, if it be a duty to praise God with the voice, it is not unlawful to praise him in words agreeable to scripture, as well as in the express words thereof; accordingly it is argued, that both may be proved to be a duty, viz. praising God in the words of David, and by other songs contained in scripture, and praising him in words agreeable thereunto, though of human composure. This is the best method of reasoning that I have met with in defence of the lawfulness of singing hymns, not as opposed to, or excluding David's Psalms, but as used occasionally, as providence directs us; that so our acknowledgments of benefits received, may be insisted on with greater enlargement than they are in the book of Psalms; wherein, though it may be, there is something adapted to every case, yet the particular occasion of our praise is not so largely contained in the same section or paragraph; and therefore an hymn may be composed on that occasion, in order to our praising God thereby. But, when on the other hand, persons seem to prefer hymns to David's Psalms, and substitute them in the room thereof, I cannot but disapprove of their practice.
A late writer speaks on this subject with a great deal of moderation; when, though he proves that scripture psalms should be preferred before all others, and more ordinarily sung; yet he thinks that hymns of human composure, ought not wholly to be excluded, provided they be exactly agreeable to, and as much as may be, the words of holy scripture. There are other writers whom I pay equal deference to, who have concisely, though with a considerable degree of judgment, proved singing to be a gospel-ordinance †, who argue against singing of hymns: and, indeed, what they say in opposition to those who defend the practice thereof from Eph. v. 19. and Col. iii. 16. wherein hymns are supposed to be distinct from psalms and spiritual songs; and, consequently, that we are to understand thereby human composures, agreeable to scripture, as by psalms and spiritual songs, we are to understand those which are contained in the very words of scripture, seems very just. And herein they speak agreeably to the mind of several
See Mr. Richard Allein's essay on singing, chap. iv. who seems, in my opinion, in the whole of his short performance, to argue with a considerable degree of candor and judgment.
See Sidenham's gospel ordinance concerning singing, &c. and Hitchen's scripture proof for singing, &c.
judicious and learned men, who assert that these three words signify nothing else but those psalms or songs that are contained in scripture *. The question in debate with me, is not whether the psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, that are contained in scripture, are designed to be a directory for gospelworship; for that, I think, all ought to allow; but, whether it be lawful to sing a human composure that is agreeable to scripture, either as to the words or sense thereof; especially when the subject-matter of our praise is not laid down so largely in one particular section of scripture, as we desire to express it. In this case, if we were to connect several parts of scripture together, so that the design of enlarging on a particular subject might be answered thereby; it would render it less necessary to compose an hymn in other words. But, inasmuch as the occasions of praise are very large and extensive, and therefore it may be thought expedient, to adore the divine perfections, in our own words in singing, in like manner as we do in prayer, considering the one to be a moral duty as well as the other; I will not pretend to maintain the unlawfulness of singing hymns of human composure, though some of much superior learning and judgment have done it.
I would, however, always pay the greatest deference to those divine composures, which are given as the principal rule for our procedure herein. Nevertheless, I cannot but express my dislike of several hymns that I have often heard sung; in some of which the heads of the sermon have been comprised; and others, which are printed, are so very mean and injudicious, and, it may be, in some respects, not very agreeable to the analogy of faith, that I cannot, in the least, approve of them. But if we have ground to conclude the composure, as to the matter thereof, and mode of expression, unexceptionable, and adapted to raise the affections, as well as excite suitable acts of faith in extolling the praises of God, it gives me no more disgust, though it be not in scripture-words, than praying or preaching do when the matter is agreeable thereYet, inasmuch as when we confess sin, acknowledge mercies received, or desire those blessings that are suited to our case, we always suppose, that the words, which he, who is the mouth of the congregation, uses, ought to be such, in
It cannot be denied that the Psalms of David are called indifferently by these three names, psalms, hymns, and songs, ip, nhan, taquòs, úuri, àdà, and sometimes the same psalm is called a song or psalm, as in the title of Psalm. Ixv. or a song of a psalm [as the LXX. render it, að farμë.] And in Psalm cv. 2. when it is
שירו לו זמרו לו ; Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him
the former word signifies to sing a spiritual song; the latter to sing a psalm; or, as the Septuagint render the same word, in 1 Chron. xvi. 9. an hymn ['Acala aula mai ournals.] See Sidenham's gospel-ordinance, &c. chap. ii. and Ainsworth on the title of Psalm liii. whom he therein refers to.
which all can join with him (and in this, the reading one of David's prayers, and putting up a prayer in the congregation, differ as to a very considerable circumstance in each of them) the same ought to be observed in hymns. But, if an hymn be so composed, as that all that sing it are represented as signifying their having experienced those things which belong not to them, or as blessing God for what they never received: this, I conceive, would be an unwarrantable method of singing hymns of human composure, as much as if the expressions were used in public prayer. There are, indeed, many hymns which have in them a great vein of piety and devotion, but are not adapted to the experience of the whole assembly that sings them; therefore, though they may join in signing some hymns, I do not think they can well join in singing all; notwithstanding the subject-matter of them may be agreeable to the analogy of faith; and this principally depends upon what we have before laid down, concerning the difference between making use of a divine and human composure, in the former of which, the words are not always to be considered as our own, or expressive of the frame of our own spirits; whereas this is universally true, with respect to the latter.
Thus concerning the ordinance of singing; which we cannot but think included among those whereby Christ communicates to his church, the benefits of his mediation. And this leads us to consider the other ordinances, which are particularly insisted on in the remaining part of this work. And that which next comes under our consideration, is the word read and preached.
QUEST. CLV. How is the word made effectual to salvation? ANSW. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners, of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ, of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will, of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions, of building them up in grace, and establishing their heart in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
AVING had an account, in the foregoing answer, of the
redemption to his church, and what they are; as also, that singing the praises of God is one of those ordinances. We are now to consider another ordinance that is made effectual to salvation, viz. the word read, or preached. We have, un