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where, I am counted with them that go down into the pit. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me. While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted, Psal. lxxxviii. 4, 7, 15. This cannot be applied to every particular person in a worshipping assembly; as denoting that frame of spirit in which he is, at present, any more than those expressions which we meet with elsewhere, which speak of a believer, as having full assurance of God's love to him, and his right and title to eternal life; as when it is said, Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory, Psal. Ixxiii, 24. can be applied to those who are in a dejected, despairing, or unbelieving frame of spirit.
And those psalms which contain an historical account of some particular dispensations of providence towards the church of old, cannot be applied to it in every age, or to the circumstances of every believer; as when it is said, By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered Žion, Psal. cxxxvii. 1. This is not to be considered as what is expressive of our own case, when we are, in the present day, singing that psalm, Or, when, on the other hand, the church is represented as praising God for particular deliverances, as in Psal. cvii. or expressing its triumphs in the victories obtained over its enemies, as in Psal. cxlix. these are not to be applied, by particular persons, to themselves; especially at all times. And when the Psalmist makes use of those phrases which are adapted to the ceremonial law, as when he speaks of binding the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar, Psal. cxviii. 27. or elsewhere, of their offering bullocks upon it, Psal. li. 19. this cannot be taken in a literal sense, when applied to the gospel-state. And when we are exhorted to praise God with the psaltery, &c. Psal. cl. we are to express those acts of faith which are agreeable to the present gospel-dispensation, which we are under; and the general rule, which is applicable to all psalms of the like nature, is, that with the same frame of spirit with which we read them, we ought to sing them. Sometimes we are to consider the subject-matter of them, as containing an account of those providences which we are liable to, rather than those which we are, at present, under; or what we desire, or fear, rather than experience; and improve them so as to excite those graces which ought to be exercised in like circumstances, when it shall please God to bring us under them. With this frame of spirit the psalms of David are to be sung, as well as read; otherwise we shall be obliged to exclude several of them as not fit to be used in gospel-worship, which I would assert nothing that should give the least countenance to, (a) any more
(a) The first hymns of Gospel churches, were neither rythm, nor metre; and there was no version of David's-psaims, that could be sung before Calvin's time.
than I would affirm that such-like psalms are not to be read in public assemblies.
Obj. 1. To what has been said concerning our using David's psalms in singing the praises of God, it is objected, that some of them contain such imprecation, or desires, that God would destroy his enemies, Psal. lv. 15. and lix. 13-15. and Ixix. 22-25, 27, 28. as are inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, or that love which we are, therein, obliged to express towards our enemies, agreeably to the command and practice of the holy Jesus, Matt. v. 44, 46. Luke xxiii. 34.
Before I proceed to a direct answer to this objection, it may be observed, that this is generally alleged, by the Deists,, with a design to cast a reproach on divine revelation; and from hence they take occasion, outrageously to inveigh against David, as though he was of a malicious and implacable spirit; upon which account they will hardly allow him to have been a good man, since these, and such-like imprecations of the wrath of God on the church's enemies, are reckoned by them no other than the effects of his passion and hatred of them; and therefore it is a preposterous thing to suppose, that his psalms were given by divine inspiration.
And there are others, to wit, some among the Socinians, who give a different turn to such-like expressions; and pretend, that under the Old Testament dispensation, it was not unlawful for persons to hate their enemies, or curse, or imprecate the wrath of God upon them, whereas, our Saviour thought fit, under the New Testament-dispensation, to com-" mand what was directly contrary thereunto. That it was formerly lawful, they argue from what is said in Matt. v. 43. Te have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. And the new Commandment which he substituted in the room thereof, is contained in the following words, in which he obliges them, to love their enemies, &c. But this is a gross mistake of the sense of that scripture, which speaks of hating their enemies, since our Saviour does not, in mentioning it, design to refer to any thing said in the Old Testament, but only to expose the corrupt. gloss of the Scribes and Pharisees, given on some passages contained therein. Therefore, we must conclude, that it was equally unlawful to hate our enemies before, as it is now, der the gospel-dispensation. These things I could not but premise, before we come to a direct answer to this objection; and, if what is contained therein were true, it would certainly be unlawful to sing David's psalms; yet, at the same time, it would be a very difficult matter, to substitute any hymns and songs in their room, which would be altogether unexceptionable; and then the ordinance of signing would be effectually overthrown.
Answ. But to this it may be replied; that the words being spoken by David, under divine inspiration, some of those scriptures referred to, may, agreeably to the rules of grammar, be understood as a prediction of those judgments which God would execute on his implacable enemies; especially when the word, that is supposed in the objection, to contain the form of an imprecation, is put in the future tense, as it often is. And if it be put in the imperative mood, as in other places, in which it is said, Let death seize on them; let them go down quick into hell; let them be blotted out of the book of the living; this mode of speaking, especially when applied to God, contains an intimation of what he would do, or the wrath which he would pour forth, as a punishment of sin, committed, persisted in, and not repented of. And, indeed, in one of these psalms, viz. Psal. Ixix. in which the righteous judgments of God are denounced against sinners, the Psalmist plainly speaks in the person of our Saviour, to whom the 9th and 21st verses are expressly applied in the New Testament, John ii. 17. Matt. xxvii. 34. Therefore, when he says, ver. 22. Let their table become a snare, the meaning is, that God would deny some of his furious and implacable enemies, that grace, which alone could prevent their waxing worse and worse under out." ward prosperity. And when he says, ver. 23. Let their eyes be darkened; the meaning is, they shall be given up to judicial blindness, as the Jews were; the providence of God permit ting, though not effecting it. And when it is said, ver. 23. Pour out thine indignation upon them, it is an intimation that this should come to pass. And, in ver. 25. Let their habitation be desolate, the meaning is, that the land, in which they dwelt, should be destitute of its former inhabitants, and so contains a prediction of the desolate state of the Jewish nation, after they were destroyed, and driven out of their country by the Romans. And when he farther says, Add iniquity to their iniquity; this may be accounted for consistently with the divine perfections, and the sense thereof is not liable to any just exception; as has been observed elsewhere. This I only mention, to shew that it is not necessary to suppose that these imprecations are always to be understood as what will warrant, or give countenance to private persons to wish, or pray for the destruction of their enemies.
Moreover, if the evil denounced be of a temporal nature; as when the Psalmist is represented as desiring that his enemies may be consumed as the stubble before the wind, or as the wood that fire burneth, Psal. lxxxiii, 13, 14. these are not the .desires of one who meditates private revenge, or wishes to see the ruin of those whom he hates. But they contain the language of the church of God in general, as acquiescing in
his righteous judgments, which should be poured forth on those that hate him, and persecute his people; and, if either the church must be ruined, or those that set themselves against it, removed out of the way, they cannot but desire the latter, rather than the former. If such expressions be thus understood, there would be no sufficient reason for that exception. that is taken against the book of the psalms; nor will any one have just occasion to lay aside a part of them, as what cannot be sung by a Christian congregation.
Object. 2. It is farther objected, that if singing could be proved to be an ordinance, to be used by particular persons; it will not follow from thence, that the whole congregation ought to join with their voices together. It is sufficient if one person sings, and others make melody in their hearts; whereas, united voices in signing, will occasion confusion in the worship of God; and, when a mixed multitude join in this ordinance, it can hardly be supposed that they, all of them, sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also. There fore, if one should sing, it is sufficient for them who are qualified to join in this ordinance, to say, Amen; or, to have their hearts engaged therein; as they have who join in public prayer, in which, one is the mouth of the whole assembly.
Answ. To this it may be replied;
[1.] That to insinuate that singing with united voices, is confusion, is to cast a great reproach on that worship which we often read of in scripture, which was performed in this manner. Thus Moses and the children of Israel sang the praises of God upon the occasion of their deliverance from the Egyptians, in Exod. xvi. 1. which was certainly an act of public worship, not performed by Moses alone, but by the whole congregation.
And, in the New Testament, there is a very remarkable axample of singing with united voices, our Saviour himself being present, Mark xiv. 26. thus it is said, that he and his disciples sang an hymn. The word is in the plural number *; therefore they all joined with their voices in singing; and some observe, that it is not without design that it is said, He, that is, Christ, blessed the bread, and He gave thanks, Mat. xxvi. 26, 27. they only joining with him in their hearts, as the congregation joins with the minister, who is their mouth in public prayer. But when he speaks of the ordinance of singing, they all join with their voices therein; and therefore, the word, as was but now observed, is in the plural number, ver. 30. [2.] As to that part of the objection, which respects the congregation's joining in the heart, with one that sings with the voice, in like manner as we do in prayer; let it be considered, that though he that joins with the heart, with another thật
prays, may be said to perform the duty of prayer, though he does not express his desires with his own voice; yet joining with the heart, while one only sings, cannot properly speaking, be called singing; much less singing with the voice, or singing with a loud voice, as it is often expressed in scripture. The apostle, indeed, speaks of singing and making melody in our hearts, to the Lord, Eph. v. 19. which, in some measure, seems to favour the objection. And it is inferred from hence, that, if one sings with the voice, others may make melody in the heart. But I take the meaning of that scripture to be this; the apostle is pressing the church to sing, that is, to make melody to the Lord; and, that this ordinance may be performed in a right manner, the heart ought to go along with the voice; hereby intimating, that there ought not only to be a melodious sound, by which the praises of God are sung, but, together with this, suitable acts of faith ought to be put forth, whereby we worship him with our hearts, as well as our voices. This does not therefore prove, that the melody here spoken of, only respects the frame of spirit, as excluding the use of the voice in singing.
[3.] As to what is objected against the inexpediency of joining in singing, with a mixed multitude, in which, some must be supposed to want two necessary qualifications for singing, namely, the Spirit and understanding; this is to join in the external ordinance, where there is no harmony, as to the internal frame of spirit, or the exercise of faith, which alone makes it pleasing to God.
To this it may be replied; that, if a mixed multitude may join together in prayer, and particularly the Psalms of David, may be read in the public congregation; though, perhaps, there are many present who do not understand the meaning of every particular phrase used therein: yet it does not follow, that because we do not fully understand the Psalms of David, We have before therefore they ought not to be sung by us. observed, that there is no essential difference, especially as to what concerns the frame of our spirit, between singing and reading (a). Therefore it follows, that whatever psalm may be read, may be sung. He that is not qualified for the latter is not qualified for the former. The apostle, indeed, speaks of his praying and singing with the Spirit, as well as with the understanding; but the meaning of that is, that we ought to desire the efficacious influences of the Spirit, and press after the knowledge of the meaning of the words we use, either in prayer or singing; yet the defect of our understanding, or having a less degree thereof than others, or, than we ought to have, does not exempt us from a right to engage in this ordi
(a) There is a difference between praising God, and instructing men.