OR A TREATISE, WHEREIN Are handled these Particulars:
1. Touching the Duty it self.
2. Touching the Matter to be Sung.
3. Touching the Singers.
4. Touching the manner of Singing.
By JOHN COTTON, Teacher of the Church at Boston in New-England.
LONDON, Printed for J. R. at the Sunne and Fountaine in Pauls-Church-yard: and H. A. at the Crowne in Popes-Head-Alley. 1650.
CHAP. V. [Clearing the Objections.]
CHAP. VIII. Whether Women may sing as well as Men.
CHAP. X. Of the manner of Singing.
OF THE SINGING OF PSALMS.
CHAP. I. Propounding the several Questions about it; and handling the First.
TO prevent the godly-minded from making melody to the Lord in Singing his Praises with one accord (I mean with one heart, and one voice) Satan hath mightily bestirred himself, to breed a discord in the hearts of some, by filling their heads with four heads of scruples about the Duty.
1. Touching the Duty it self of singing Psalms with lively voice, whether there be any such Worship at all now to be allowed and practiced in the days of the New Testament?
2. Touching the matter to be sung, whether Scripture Psalms penned by David, Asaph, Moses, Solomon, Hezekiah, Habakkuk, Zachary, Simeon, Deborah, Mary, Elizabeth, or the like: Or songs immediately indited [written] by some personal spiritual gift of some Officer, or Member of the Church?
3. Touching the Singers, If vocal singing may be allowed.
Who must Sing?
1. Whether one for all the rest, the rest only saying Amen? or the whole Congregation?
2. Whether women as well as men, or men alone?
3. Whether carnal men and Pagans, as well as Church-members and Christians?
4. Touching the manner of singing; Whether the Psalm may be sung, either
1. In Meter Devised?
2. In Tunes Invented?
3. In Order, after the Reading of it?
For the first Question, we lay down this Conclusion for a Doctrine of Truth; That singing of Psalms with a lively voice, is an holy Duty of God’s Worship now in the days of the New Testament. When we say, singing with lively voice, we suppose none will so far misconstrue us, as to think we exclude singing with the heart; For God is a Spirit: and to worship him with the voice without the Spirit, were but lip-labour: which (being rested in) is but lost labour (Isa. 29.13.) or at most, profiteth but little, 1 Tim. 4.8. But this we say, As we are to make melody in our hearts, so with our voices also. In opposition to this, there be some Anti-psalmists, who do not acknowledge any singing at all with the voice in the New Testament, but only spiritual songs of joy and comfort of the heart in the word of Christ.
¶1. Proof for the Truth.
The first proof for the truth is taken from the Commandment of the Lord by Paul, who instructeth and exhorteth the Ephesians, To speak one to another in Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς ψαλμοῖς, &c. Ephes. 5.19. And so in Col. 3.16. Teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms, Hymns, &c. which cannot be done without lively voice. And so in 1 Cor. 14.15, 16. The Apostle commandeth the Church of Corinth, that such as sing in the Church, should not only sing in the Spirit, but with understanding also: that is, not only with their own understanding (for all that sung with the Spirit did so) but with the understanding of the hearers, that so he that occupied the place of the unlearned, might be edified, and say, Amen, at such giving of thanks. Whence it followeth unavoidably, That singing of Psalms is not only a making of melody to the Lord with inward grace in the heart, but also with lively and audible voice, which is the point in Question.
Object. 1. “This place in the Corinths maketh nothing to the cause in hand; For these Corinthian Psalms, were not the Psalms of David, nor sung by the whole Congregation, much less in Meter and Tunes devised by men, as ours be; but they were spiritual songs, immediately inspired and endited [written] by the Holy Ghost, and sung only by him that received that gift, as the Spirit gave him utterance.”
Answ. Neither did we allege the place, to prove the singing of David’s Psalms, by the whole Congregation in such like Meter and Tunes as ours be. These points do all of them belong to the other Questions, which follow to be handled (God willing) in their place. But to this purpose we allege the place, That singing of Psalms in the New Testament, is to be dispensed in Christian Churches, not only with inward grace in the heart, making melody to the Lord; but also with outward audible lively voice: which is the very point in hand, and which this commandment of the Apostle doth clearly demonstrate.
2. Object. “The Apostle to the Ephesians and Colossians, doth not say, Sing one to another in Psalms, but speak or preach one to another; or in other words, Teach and admonish one another, The Psalms dwelling in their hearts, they were to dispense them in a way of Teaching and Admonishing. But as for singing he maketh no mention of that, until he came to teach them the manner of dispensing the words of Christ unto God in the end of the verse. And then indeed he teacheth them to sing in the Spirit, making melody with grace in the heart unto God.”
Answ. Such as tremble at the word (as the framer of this objection professeth himself to do,) they should rather bow their judgments and practice to Scripture and language, then bow the sense of Scripture to their own conceptions against the language of Scripture. It is one thing, to speak one to another in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual songs, as is done in singing, another thing to preach and teach one another, out of Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs. It is true, they were to Teach and admonish one another out of the Psalms, and the scope of Paul will reach that. But if Paul had only meant that, to wit, That they should teach and preach one to another out of the Psalms, he would not have said, Speake ye one to another in Psalms, or with Psalms: but out of the Psalms or from the Psalms; for such is the language of the Holy Ghost in expressing such a duty. Paul is said to have expounded, and testified, and persuaded the Jews out of the Law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, Acts 28.23. So Philip is said to begin to Preach Jesus to the Eunuch, ἀπὸ τῆς γραφῆς ταύτης, from that Scripture in Isaiah, or at that Scripture, Act. 8.35. He did not Preach Jesus to him in speaking that Scripture.
Object. “If that speaking of the Ephesians one to another in Psalms, did not hold forth their expounding and preaching in Psalms one to another, but only the bare reading or singing the letter of the Psalms, This were such a service wherein there in nothing of Christ held forth externally. I speak not of the matter of the Psalms, (which is full of Christ, as other Scriptures:) but of the outward manner of dispensing it. There is nothing held forth in the singing of it after the usual manner, but what nature and art may attain unto. There is no exercise of any spiritual gift held forth in it, as is in all other administrations, which Christ hath ordained.
2. Besides, as such a singing is not a gift of Christ, so neither doth it tend to the glory of Christ. The Church not edified by it: else a Pagan singing with us, might edify the Church.
3. From both these, it appeareth, That such singing of Psalms tendeth to the dishonour of Christ: seeing it holdeth forth externally no more, then what a carnal man (a man out of Christ) yea a Pagan might express.”
Answ. 1. Singing of Psalms holdeth forth as much of Christ externally, as reading of the Word, or as the hearing of it read or preached, or as the falling down upon our knees in prayer, and saying, Amen, in the end of it. For though the Word, when it is publicly read, ought also to be opened after the reading: yet the very reading of it, is it self an Ordinance, and is not without a blessing to the faithful reader or hearer of it, no more than other Ordinances. Or else there would be some Ordinances of God like unto human Ceremonies, empty and beggarly.
Answ. 2. Moral duties, even in Pagans, may edify the Church, as Abimelech’s reproof of Abraham and Sarah, Gen. 20. Pro. 9, 10.
Answ. 3. Singing of Psalms is accompanied and blessed of God (by his grace) with many gracious effects, above nature or art; As 1. It allayeth the passions of melancholy and choler, yea and scattereth the furious temptations of evil spirits, 1 Sam. 16.23. Whence also is helpeth to assuage enmity, and to restore friendship and favour, as in Saul to David. It was not the sound of David’s Harp that could have this power, either over the evil spirit, or over the sinful passions of Saul himself, if the sound of the Harp had not been quickened and enlivened, as it were by a spiritual song, and by the Spirit of God breathing therein.
2. Singing of a spiritual song, prepareth to prophecy, by ministering the Spirit, 2 King. 3.15. Whilst the Minstrel played, the hand of the Lord (that is, his Spirit) came upon Elisha: The Minstrel’s playing, if it had not been accompanied with a spiritual song, it could not have conveyed such a spiritual blessing. In 1 Sam. 10.5, 6. they could not be said (as there they be) to have prophesied with Harps and Viols, unless they had sung some holy songs, together with their playing on Instruments. For Prophecy is an utterance only of the word of God, and of the things of God contained in it; which Instruments without voice cannot do. Nor had their playing with Instruments been a means of conveying the Spirit to Saul, had not their voices concurred and sung with their Instruments.
3. Singing of Psalms honoureth God with our glory, Psal. 108.1. & Psal. 57.7, 8. Where David’s glory being distinguished not only from his Harp, but from his heart, it cannot fitly be understood of any other member, but his tongue, by which he was wont in singing to glorify God.”
Object. “These gracious effects and fruits of singing Psalms do plead as much for singing and playing with instruments, as for singing with voices.”
Answ. 1. This last effect of singing to the glory of God with our glory, is peculiar only to singing with our tongues.
Answ. 2. Suppose it were true, that these effects of singing Psalms did plead as much for singing and playing with Instruments, as singing with voices; yet evident it is, that singing with voices had the preeminence, as that which uttering the word of God, did chiefly utter the Spirit of God breathing in it. And withal evident likewise it is, that it is no impeachment to an Ordinance, that the outward dispensing of it may be performed by nature and art: but notwithstanding that, it may be accompanied of God with a spiritual blessing.
Answ. 3. Singing with Instruments was typical, and so a ceremonial worship, and therefore is ceased. But singing with heart and voice is a moral worship, such as is written in the hearts of all men by nature: As to pray in distress, so when we are mercy, and have cause of solemn thanksgiving unto God, then to sing Psalms, which the Holy Ghost by the Apostle James approveth and sanctifieth, Jam. 5.13. Or suppose singing with Instruments were not typical, but only an external solemnity of worship, fitted to the solace of the outward senses of children under age, (such as the Israelites were under the Old Testament, Gal. 4.1, 2, 3.) yet now in the grown age of the heirs of the New Testament, such external pompous solemnities are ceased, and no external worship reserved, but such as holdeth forth simplicity, and gravity; nor is any voice now to be heard in the Church of Christ, but such as is significant and edifying by signification, (1 Cor. 14.10, 11, 26.) which the voice of Instruments is not.
Answ. 4. It is an honour to Christ, and to his grace, not only when we hold forth spiritual gifts, but also when we perform Christian duties. And duties performed in Faith (without which prayer it self is not accepted) they go not without a spiritual blessing, though Nature and Art might perform the same for the outward work. The Trailing of the weapons of the Israelites, and their Military March, both in silence and shouting, about the walls of Jericho, was no greater work externally, then carnal men and Pagans might have performed as well as Israelites; but this being done by Israelites in faith and obedience to God’s command, it was mighty through God to cast down the high and strong walls of Jericho, Josh. 6.13.14, 15, 16, 20. And the Apostle looking at this and the like Precedents, setteth forth Faith as that which is prevalent and effectual in both Testaments, howsoever the work or worship be external, Heb. 11.30. In like manner is it with the reading of the Word, and the hearing of it, as also the silent joining in Prayer, and concluding it with Amen, though all these be such duties as Nature and Art may perform the outward work of them: yet when the people of God do perform the same in the faith of Christ, and in the obedience of God’s command, they find a gracious blessing of God. Yea carnal and profane persons and Pagans, though they cannot expect the like blessing from their empty outside performances; yet they sometimes taste more sweetness and enlargement therein, then flesh and blood could imagine, 1 Sam. 10.5, 6. Saul joining with the Prophets in their holy melody found another Spirit coming on him, which also argueth (by the way) that the joining of profane and carnal hypocrites in such spiritual songs, doth not evacuate the blessing of God to his people, but rather reach forth some spiritual blessing, (though common) to such carnal hypocrites.
Object. “It may be in the old Testament, such an outward worship as Nature and Art could accomplish, might be allowed and blessed of God: But now in the New Testament, as God is a Spirit, so he alloweth and blesseth no worship, but what is dispensed in Spirit and Truth.”
Answ. God was a Spirit in the old Testament, as well as in the New; nor did he then allow and blesse any worship, but what either was performed in Spirit and Truth, or did convey Spirit and Truth. Albeit more external rites in worship were then appointed; then in the New Testament are now continued; for which end Christ allegeth those words in the place in John, to which you allude: But nevertheless, though Christ have not limited his worship to any certain place now, as then (which was the point Christ there speaketh to;) nor doth he rest in external performance; yet evident it is, God hath appointed in these days of the Gospel sundry external worships now as well as then, (and the same in both Testaments to be performed in Spirit and Truth;) as hearing and reading the Word, kneeling in Prayer, and saying, Amen; All which Nature and Art may perform as well as the singing of Psalms with vocal melody.
CHAP. II. Propounding and clearing the second Proof for singing Psalms with lively voice.
THE second Proof is taken from the examples of Christ himself, and of his Saints and Disciples in the New Testament. Christ himself with his Disciples sung a Psalm or an Hymn together in the end of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, Math. 26.30. And Paul and Silas are said to have sing a Psalm in the Prison, so as the Prisoners heard them, Acts 16.25. Now if in singing they had only spiritually rejoiced, and not expressed their joy and their song in audible and lively voice, the Prisoners could not have heard them. The stranger doth not know nor meddle with the spiritual joy of the heart, Pro. 14.10.
Object. 1. “The place in Math. 26.30. may as well be translated They praised God, as they sung an Hymn.”
Answ. Though the meaning be, they praised God, yet the word implieth, they praised God with an Hymn; for it is improper in that language to translate the word to Praise (whether God or man) but either with a Song, or with a Poem. It is more probable, then any reason can wave, that Christ and his Disciples did shut up the Lord’s Supper with singing one of their Hebrew Psalms, as the Jews were wont to shut up their Celebration of the Passover (as their own Records tell us) with singing Psalm 111. with the five other Psalms next following together. But all that I now intend, is to shew that Christ and his Disciples sang together, and therefore with the voice as well as the heart.
Object. 2. “They might be said to sing together, if one alone sing and the rest said Amen, in the close: as men may be said to pray together, where one alone speaketh, and the rest consent.”
Answ. 1. True: but then one at least speaketh with an audible and lively voice, though the rest do not. And that’s enough to clear the point in hand, that singing in the New Testament, consisteth not only in making melody with grace in the heart, but also in singing to the Lord with lively voice.
Answ. 2. If the Disciples did not join in singing that Hymn, but only by silent consent, they might as well be said. To have taken the bread, and blessed it, and broken it, and distributed it, (and so the wine;) for all this Christ did with their silent consent. But what Christ did alone is expressly recorded, as done by himself: when it cometh to the singing of the Psalm, that is recorded as done by them in the Plural number, When they had sung an Hymn, they departed into the Mount of Olives: They that departed into the Mount of Olives, they sung the Psalm. Now it was not Christ alone, but the whole eleven Disciples with him that departed into the Mount of Olives. And therefore it was Christ with his Disciples that sung the Psalm together.
Object. 3. “Against the proof from Acts 16.25. It is not said (say some) that Paul and Silas sung the Psalms of David or Asaph, much less with Meter and Tunes devised by men. Had they so done, the Prisoners that heard them might have sung for the outward dispensation such a song of praise to God, as well as they.”
Answ. We do not allege this Example of theirs (as hath been often said in like case before) to prove they sang any Psalm of David, though it stand with good reason, that they joining together in singing, did rather sing a Psalm (or Hymn) known to them both, then any new Song devised by either of them; But what Psalms are to be sung is another Question, which (by the help of Christ) we shall speak to in the sequel. Neither do we allege their Example to prove, they sang in a devised Meter or Tune. For themselves being Hebrews, it is likely they sang the Hebrew Songs in the tunes of the Sanctuary, but that also is another Question, of which we are to speak in his place, when we come to it. All that we gather from this place now, is, no more than the words do plainly hold forth, that they sung an Hymn to God, not only with inward melody of grace in their hearts, but also with outward melody of the voice; for else the Prisoners could not have heard them.
Against this; it is of no force to object (as some do) that if they had sung any of the Psalms of David or Asaph with an audible voice, then the other Prisoners also might have joined with them, and have worshipped (externally at least) as well as they.
For the answer is plain and ready: First, the Prison was in Philippi, a City of Macedonia, consisting partly of a Colony of the Romans, partly of the Grecians: no Jews at all are mentioned to be Inhabitants there, much less Prisoners at that time. And for Pagans to join in singing Hebrew Songs, in Hebrew verses and tunes, it seemeth to be far beyond either their skill, or devotion.
Secondly, suppose the Prisoners had been Jews (of which there is to hint at all in the Text) and suppose those Prisoners hearing the melody of Paul and Silas, and knowing the Song, had joined in the outward singing of it, and that without any grace in their hearts (none of all which things appear in the story) yet suppose all this; shall the unbelief of those Jews make the holy worship of these Apostles, and their faith to God, or the faith of God to them, of none effect? Paul renounceth and abhorreth such carnal reasonings, Rom. 3.3.
CHAP. III. Propounding, and clearing the third Proof, for singing Psalms with a lively voice.
A Third proof of this truth, is taken from the Prophecies of the old Testament, foretelling and persuading such a duty in the New, Isa. 52.8. with the voice together shall they sing. And that is foretold of the times, when the feet of the Messengers of glad tidings shall be beautiful, who shall say unto Zion, Thy God reigneth. Which Paul explaineth of the times of the Gospel, Rom. 10.14. Psal. 100.1. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye Lands: and vers. 2. Come before his presence with singing. All ye lands, implieth the Nations of the Gentiles, as well as of the Jews; which pertaineth to the times of the New Testament; So that now all are exhorted to sing before the presence of God, with a loud noise or voice.
So Psal. 95.1. O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. And ver. 2. Let us make a joyful noise unto him with Psalms. Which Psalm the Apostle himself interpreteth to be meant of the times of the Gospel. Which is the more to be observed, because the Psalmist, exhorting to the holy and reverent performance of the ordinary duties of the Sabbath, he mentioneth first thanksgiving in singing of Psalms with a loud voice, and the Reasons thereof, vers. 1. to 5. And then solemn Prayer with the reasons thereof, vers. 6, 7. and then faithful attention to the preaching of the Word on that day, not hardening their hearts against it, through unbelief, in the end of ver. 7. and vers. 8. to 11. To day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts. And this day, the Apostle interpreteth to be meant not of the 7.th day of rest from the Creation; nor of the day of rest, wherein Joshua gave the people inheritance and rest in Canaan; but of the day of rest in the New Testament, Heb. 4.3, to 9. Whence the Apostle inferreth, That there is remaining to us another Sabbatism, or day of rest, now in the days of the Gospel, different from the seventh day of rest, kept in regard of Gods rest from the Creation, and different from the day of rest in Joshua’s time: but the day of rest remaining to us, he declareth to be that day wherein the Lord Jesus entered into his rest. And that was our Lord’s day, which David (so long before) foretold should be celebrated with solemn Prayer, preaching and hearing the Word, and singing of Psalms, and that with a joyful noise.
Object. 1. “Though David exhorteth all Lands to sing to the Lord with a loud noise, it doth not appear we should make such a manner of loud noise, as our formed of singing is, no more than such a loud noise, as was made in David’s days, with ten stringed Instruments; for so the Lord was to be praised. I do acknowledge from these Texts, That it is the duty of all those who are called to the knowledge of the Truth, when they do come before the Lord, not to come before him with sorrow and sadness, and with a dejected spirit, but with a singing; or else, they dishonour the Lord Jesus, the spiritual chief singer, author of their new Song. But although this prophecy doth foretell of the joyful approaching of the spiritual worshippers before the Lord; yet it bindeth them no more to make such a noise, as the singing book teacheth, then the trees are to clap their hands, as Isaiah prophesieth; or as the new Converts are bound to come with external singing, when they come to join themselves with the Church, Isai. 51.11. And as for such a manner of noise, as is made in our mixed Assemblies, the Psalm speaketh nothing to it.”
Answ. The manner of noise which is made by singing in our Assemblies, it pertaineth not to the present Question in hand: and therefore we refer it to the sequel. The Question now is, whether in the days of the New Testament, we are to sing the praises of God, with a loud voice, or noise. And for this we allege, beside the Text in Isaiah, the Prophecies of David, who foretelleth, and exhorteth all Lands (at least the Churches and people of God in all lands) To make a joyful noise unto the Lord, to make a joyful noise unto him with Psalms, to come before his presence with singing, Psal. 100.1, 2. & Psal. 95.1, 2.
“Yea but this bindeth us no more to make such a manner of loud noise, as our form of singing is, then to make such a loud noise, as was made in David’s days, with ten stringed Instruments; for so the Lord was to be praised.”
Answ. So the Lord was to be praised? Praised with ten stringed Instruments: When was he so to be praised? In David’s days? True: And therefore it was the duty of all the people in any land, that became Proselytes to the Church of Israel in the days of David, and during all the time of the Temple worship, to come before the Lord, not only with the loud noise of singing Psalms, but of playing with Instruments. But after the days, not only of David, but of the Temple, and that worship be past, in the day when our Jehovah (the Lord Jesus) hath entered into his rest, in the day of our Lord, when he commandeth us not to harden our hearts, but to hear his voice, to fall down and worship before him in prayer, (both which are to be performed every Lords day) he then commandeth us to come and sing unto the Lord, to make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation, and to make a joyful noise unto him with Psalms, Psal. 95.1, 2. Here is now no mention of making a joyful noise with Instruments, but with Psalms. And therefore the making a joyful noise with Psalms doth still continue, even on our Lord’s days: when making a joyful noise with Instruments continueth not, but is laid down in silence: save only so far as it is kept alive in the antitype, the affections of our hearts (our Praecordia) making melody with the songs and professions of our lips, and with the gracious and peaceable conversation of our lives.
“When you acknowledge it to be the duty of such as are called to the knowledge of the Truth, to come before the Lord, not with sorrow and sadness, and with a dejected spirit, but with singing.”
What singing do you mean? If you mean only the gracious rejoicing of the heart, that indeed, though it be requisite to avoid hypocrisy, yet it is not complete to reach the full extent of the duty, the duty of making a joyful noise with Psalms. Our chief Singer (of whom you speak,) when he set the Lord, and his own death and resurrection before his, face, (which he was to undergo for our sakes) he was not only glad in his heart, but his glory also (that is, his tongue) rejoiced in singing a Psalm at his last Supper, Psal. 16.8, 9. with Math. 26.30. And therefore it will be a discord from the practice of our chief Singer, and so a dishonour to him, if our hearts sing with joy, but our glory (to wit, our tongues) be mute with silence. Say not then, as you do;
“We are no more bound to make a loud noise with our voices, then the trees are to clap their hands, (as Isaiah prophesieth) or then the new Converts were to come with external singing of Psalms Isai. 51.11.”
For in so saying, you will not avoid the authority of the Commandment, nor the necessity of that duty of singing. For when God redeemed his people out of the Captivity of Babel, not only their hearts (the hearts of them who were returning to Zion) were filled with rejoicing, but even their tongues also with singing, Psal. 126.1, 2. And though the Trees cannot be said in proper speech to clap their hands, (for they have no hands to clap) yet common sense will easily tell you, that there is a Metaphor either in clapping of hands, or in the trees. If trees be taken properly, then clapping of hands is put (by a Metaphor) for the flourishing fruitfulness of the trees of the field, which (by the blessing of God) is wont to follow the prosperity of the Church, in such abundance, that their boughs and branches shall clap and dash themselves and their fruit one upon another, whereby (as by hands) they reach forth refreshing and food to the children of the Church. But if Trees be put by a Metaphor for trees of righteousness, (as the Saints are so called, Isa. 61, 3.) then they shall clap their hands, and shout for joy, and sing aloud, (expressing external signs of comfort) to behold and consider the wonderful goodness of the Lord, to themselves and their brethren. And so in the same verse, Isai. 55.12. when the Mountains and hills are said to break forth before the Saints into singing, if there be not a Metaphor in singing then Mountains and hills are put (by a Metaphor) for Princes and men of high degree, (as Psal. 72.3.) which shall give example to others in holy rejoicing, and particularly in singing praises to the Lord. So that these Texts in Isaiah, which you thought might excuse you from singing with the voice, (which David exhorted to be done with a loud voice) they will not exempt you at all from this duty, but rather bind you the stronger to it. And therefore look as when David saith; I cried to the Lord with my voice, (Psal. 3, 4. & 77.1.) a man shall detract from his meaning, that shall say, he cried only to God with his heart: So when David exhorteth the Gentile Churches to make a joyful noise unto God with Psalms; you do detract in like sort from his meaning, when you make his meaning to be, not that we should sing unto God with our voices, but that we should only make melody to him, with grace in our hearts. Such detracting from the Word is alike disallowed, and accursed of God, as is adding to the Word.
Object. 2. “Singing of Psalms with the voice, is but a type of singing Psalms with grace in the heart.”
Answ. 1. No Scripture speaketh of it as a type: nor doth any evidence of reason so declare it.
2. You might as well say, that Praying with the voice was a type of praying with the heart, and so is now abolished.
3, If singing of Psalms with a loud noise, had been a typical worship, David would not have exhorted us to the practice of it on the Lords day of the New Testament, Psal. 95.1, 2.7.
4. Christ and his Apostles would not have used it in the Lord’s Supper, which is a feast of the New Testament, Mat. 26.30. nor would Paul and Silas have used it in prison among the Gentiles, Acts 16.25.
5. The light of Nature, which is never wont to teach us types and shadows, doth as well teach us to praise God in singing with our tongues, in times of our rejoicing, as to cry to God with our voices in times of our distresses.
CHAP. IV. Propounding the second Question, Stating it, and Proving it.
THE second Question about singing of Psalms, concerneth the matter of the Psalms to be sung; for there be some who do not scruple singing with the voice (as the former sort did) but singing of the Psalms of David now in these days of the New Testament. As conceiving David’s Psalms were penned for Temple worship, during the Pedagogy of the old Testament. But now in the days of the New Testament, when God hath promised to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, now the whole worship of God should be carried on, not by set forms of Psalms, (no more then by set forms of Prayer) but by personal spiritual gifts, whereby some one or other of the members of the Church, having received a Psalm by the enditement [inspiration] of the Spirit, he singeth it openly in the public Assembly of the Church, and the rest of the Brethren say Amen to it in the close.
But touching the persons of those who should sing it pertaineth to the third Question. This second Question chiefly concerneth the matter to be sung, whether the Psalms of David, or some Psalm or Hymn, endited [written] by the personal gift of this or that member of the Church. Wherein we hold and believe;
1. That not only the Psalms of David, but any other spiritual Songs recorded in Scripture, may lawfully be sung in Christian Churches, as the song of Moses, and Asaph, Heman and Ethan, Solomon and Hezekiah, Habakkuk and Zachary, Hannah and Deborah, Mary and Elizabeth, and the like.
2. We grant also, that any private Christian, who hath a gift to frame a spiritual Song, may both frame it, and sing it privately, for his own private comfort, and remembrance of some special benefit, or deliverance: Nor do we forbid the private use of an Instrument of Music therewithal; So that attention to the Instrument, do not divert the heart from attention to the matter of the Song.
Neither do we deny, but that in the public thanksgivings of the Church, if the Lord should furnish any of the members of the Church with a Spiritual gift to compose a Psalm upon any special occasion, he may lawfully be allowed to sing it before the Church, and the rest hearing it, and approving it, may go along with him in Spirit, and say Amen to it. When Christ ascended up on high, to sit upon his throne of glory, look as Princes are wont to do in the day of their Coronation, [Spargere Missilia & Donaria] so did he pour out his gifts abundantly on all sorts, gifts of Miracles, Healing, Tongues, Psalms. And the Churches were willing, when they saw such special gifts of the Spirit poured out to make use of them, as occasion served. Whence it was, that sundry of the members of the Church of Corinth, as they had received a gift of Psalms and tongues from the Lord Jesus, so they had allowance from the Church to employ their gifts to the public edification of the Church. But as such gifts now are not ordinarily bestowed, (which were at first given chiefly for admiration and conviction of Infidels, 1 Cor. 14.22.) so we would not call upon men now, to prefer their ordinary common gift, as more fit for the public edifying of the Church, before the extraordinary gifts of the holy men of God in Scripture, who by the Spirit were guided to prepare spiritual songs, suitable to all the conditions and affections and temptations of the Church and people of God in all ages. So then the Question is, whether the Psalms of David, and Asaph, and such other Hymns and spiritual Songs endited [written] by the Prophets, and recorded in Scripture, be appointed by God, to be ordinarily sung in Christian Churches, or whether laying aside Scripture-Songs, we are to sing only such spiritual Songs, as shall be endited [written] by the personal (but ordinary) gifts of any ordinary Officer or member of the Church? The former we hold to be the Truth, others the latter.
The Reasons of our Faith and Practice, are these:
1. Taken from the Commandment, or exhortation of the Apostle, Ephes. 5.19. Be you filled with the Spirit (saith he) speaking to your selves (that is, one to another) in Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, singing and making melody in your harts to the Lord. To the like purpose is his Commandment and exhortation to the Colossian, Chap. 3. ver. 16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another, in Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. In both which places, as the Apostle exhorteth us to singing so he instructeth us what the matter of our Song should be, to wit, Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual Songs; Now those three be the very Titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himself: some of them are called מזמורים, that is Psalms; some תהללים, that is, Hymns; some שירים, that is, Songs spiritual Songs. Now what reason can be given why the Apostle should direct us in our singing to the very titles of David’s Psalms, if it were not his meaning that we should sing them? Yea, either we must exclude the Psalms of David, from the name of Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs; or else we must be forced to acknowledge, that we are exhorted to sing them, as well as any other.
CHAP. V. [Clearing the Objections.]
BEFORE we proceed to any further Reasons of the point, let us first (by the help of Christ) clear the Objections against this. The Objections are many, and some of them seem more weighty, and some more light: let us unpartially and evenly (by the Lord’s guidance) weigh them all in the Balance of the Sanctuary.
Object. 1. “If Paul had meant David’s Psalms, or Scripture-songs, it had been an easy matter to have named David’s Psalms, or Scripture-songs, as David himself named his songs, the Psalms or Songs of David, when he delivered them to the chief Musician, and to his company to be sung.”
Answ. 1. It may as justly be said, if Paul had meant to exclude David’s Psalms, or Scripture-songs, it had been as easy to have excluded them by name, and to have limited them only to such Psalms and Songs, as the Spirit should suggest unto their hearts.
Answ. 2. The Apostle expressly nameth Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs, and they three are the very express Titles of the Psalms in the Psalm-Book. Now why he should direct them to the very Titles of David’s Psalms & yet not mean the Psalms, that bear those Titles, can a good conscience give a good reason for it?
Answ. 3. When David gave his Psalms and Songs to the Musicians in Israel, it was meet he should set his name to them, or by some other mark make it appear, that the Psalms were inspired and delivered by a Prophet of God. But after the Book of Psalms was generally known and received to be of divine inspiration, (as other Oracles of God) the Psalms are as usually alleged in the New Testament, without the name of David, as with it, Luk. 24 44. Asts 13.33.
Object. 2. “The Psalms here committed to the spiritual Singers to be sung, are the words of Christ, which are to dwell richly in us, Col. 3.16. But the Psalms dedicated to the sons of Corah, were the words of David and Asaph. And so the Holy Ghost calleth them. Not but that the words spoken by the mouth of David and Asaph, where the words of Christ, but that the words which are to be the spiritual songs of the Saints, wherein they are to teach one another, and to sing unto God, they are words spoken to the heart, by the voice of the Spirit of Christ. Besides, the word of Christ, is properly the Gospel, by way of eminency, in way of opposition to the Law, given by Moses.”
Answ. 1. The words of David and Asaph, as they were the words of Christ in the mouth of David and Asaph: so they were the words of Christ also in the mouths of the sons of Corah, or any other Singers in the Temple. If any of them did not sing them with the Spirit of Christ as well as David and Asaph spake, and penned them by the Spirit of Christ, it was a sinful defect in them, but not in the word it self, nor in the godly Singers of the Temple, (such as Heman, and Jeduthun, and others) who were spiritual, and holy men, and sang them with melody in their hearts, as well as in their voices. And it will be alike sinful defect in the New Testament, in such as sing the Psalms of David, to sing them without some measure of the Spirit of David. For the Apostle expressly requireth, that we should sing with grace in our hearts. But if the words of David and Asaph, be the words of Christ, and be sung of the Church, with grace in the heart, we demand whether this act of the Church be not an act of Faith, and of the obedience of Faith to the word of Christ, in that Text of the Apostle?
Answ. 2. It is an unsafe and unsavoury expression, to speak of the words of David and Asaph, as if they were only the words of Christ in the mouths of spiritual Singers. For if they were not the words of Christ in the mouths of carnal Singers also, then the holy Scriptures were not the word of Christ, if they be read by a carnal reader. So the unbelief of man shall make the faith of God of none effect; yea the word of God, not to be the word of God.
Answ. 3. Let it be considered in the fear of God, whether the words of David and Asaph, sung with grace in the heart unto God, be not as truly and properly (in the Apostles sense) the word of Christ, as any Song endited [written] by the private gift of any Saint of God now living? If so, then the Apostle encourageth us to sing the Psalms of David and Asaph with their Spirit: If not, then there be Christians now, that are carried by a more infallible Spirit, then the Prophets were in old time. And yet Paul speaketh of the Saints now, as led by the Spirt of God, Rom. 8.14. But Peter speaketh of the Prophets then, as carried (φερόμενοι) by the Holy Ghost, 2 Pet. 1.21. Which putteth this difference, that such as are led by the Spirit may err; but such as are carried by the Spirit, are carried and lifted above themselves by the Holy Ghost, and cannot err: and so was David and Asaph.
4. Though the words of Christ be the Gospel, yet the words of David are not to be shut out of the Gospel; for the Gospel was preached to Israel, when David and the other Prophets were preached, yea and some parts of Moses also, Heb. 4.2. Joh. 5.46.
Object. 3. “But if the Apostle had intended to commend to the Churches the singing of the Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs of David and Asaph, what need was there for him to exhort either the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit, or the Colossians, to have the word of Christ dwell richly in them, for such a service? For any small measure of the Spirit, and of the Word, will suffice to sing the Psalms of David and Asaph, in their words, and in the meter and tunes accustomed. But to invent new spiritual Songs, fit to teach and admonish the Church, would require a full measure of the Spirit, and a rich treasure of the word to dwell in us. And therefore Paul biddeth the Ephesians, to be filled with the Spirit, in singing the spiritual songs of the New Testament, as drunkards are filled with wine, and in the strength and spirits of their wine, invent and sing their wanton Sonnets.”
Answ. 1. Paul did exhort them to be filled with the Spirit, as drunkards be with wine, not that they might invent, and sing spiritual Songs, as drunkards do wanton Sonnets; for neither do drunkards filled with wine, usually invent Sonnets, but sing such as they learned before, when they were sober; nor doth the Apostle speak of inventing Songs at all, either wanton Songs by drunkards, or spiritual Songs by the faithful; but only to be filled with the Spirit, as drunkards be with wine, that so they might avoid the riotous and excessive mirth of Drunkards, and employ and improve their holy mirth and joy, to the singing Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, for their own mutual edification and consolation, and for holy thanksgiving and praise unto the Lord.
Answ. 2. Though it do not require such a full measure of the Spirit, nor rich portion of the Word dwelling in us, to sing a Psalm invented and penned to our hands: yet a full and rich measure of the Word and Spirit will be needful to perform all those duties, which the Apostle in those Texts calleth for. For the Apostle calleth to the improvement, as of the whole word of Christ, unto the teaching and admonishing of one another, so of the Psalms, not only unto those two heads, but also besides those, unto a further third end, to wit, unto the singing of them unto Gods praise. Now to be able to improve the whole word of God to these two spiritual ends, and the Psalms to all those three spiritual ends doth require a full and rich measure both of Spirit and Word to dwell in us.
Answ. 3. It will require a full and rich measure both of Word and Spirit to dwell in us, to direct and appoint a fit Psalm, (out of the Book of Psalms) suitable to the present occasions of singing to Gods praise, and to the instruction and admonition of the Church, according to the present estate of their affections, or afflictions, their consolation, or conversation in hand.
Answ. 4. It will require a fuller and richer measure of the Word and Spirit to dwell in us, then a carnal heart would imagine even to utter a Song with such grace in the heart, as might make melody to the Lord; It requires a good measure of the indwelling Spirit, and word of God to pray in the Spirit; but much more to sing in the Spirit, wherein our senses delighted with the melody are apt to steal away our hearts from spiritual fervency. Deborah found her heart dull to be awakened, so much as to utter the song, which she had prepared by the Spirit for her and Barak to sing together, Judg. 5.12. Awake, Awake, (saith she) Awake, Awake Deborah, utter a song, that fourfold ingemination, Awake, Awake, Awake, Awake, utter a song, argueth in the best of God’s servants, a deep drowsiness of spirit, when we should come to utter a spiritual Song spiritually: like as that fourfold ingemination to the Church of Jerusalem, to Return, Return, Return, Return, Cant. 6.13. argueth a deep and strong averseness of the Spirit of the Jews unto Conversion, and returning to the Lord.
Object. 4. “The Apostle calleth the whole word of Christ dwelling in us, Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, neither doth he limit us to one Prophet more then to another, unless you will say, that the words of Christ in the Gospel, or which was prophesied by the rest of the Prophets, were not spiritual songs; But the Apostle calleth them all Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, as well as David’s, if they dwell in the heart. For the words of Christ there, (to wit, in the heart) are songs for the Spirit, or else they are no songs to any man. Therefore as yet, to sing the Prophecies of David after our common manner, is no worship commanded or taught us in holy Writ.”
Answ. 1. It is a groundless Assertion to say, that Paul calleth the whole word of God dwelling in us, Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs. For why then should the Holy Ghost give that style and Title of Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs only to the Book of Psalms, and to none else of all of the Books of the Prophets or Apostles. Again, if Paul called the words of all the Prophets, Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, why then did not the Prophets in their own language pen them with musical accents, as well as the Psalms of David and Asaph?
Besides, if the words of all the Prophets were spiritual Songs, why then did the Prophets themselves find the Books of their own Prophecies bitter in their bellies? Rev. 10.10. There be many words of the Prophets, that are more fit matter for humiliation and mourning before the Lord, then fit to be sung as spiritual songs unto the Lord. But suppose there be many words of Christ, and of his Prophets, that are fit matter for spiritual rejoicing (as indeed all the Doctrines and promises of Grace be) yet what warrant have we to sing them, as in some Cathedral Churches and Colleges, the Bible-Clerks do sing their Chapters out of the old and New Testament?
Answ. 2. Whether the words of Christ in the Gospel, or in the Prophets, be spiritual Songs or no, yet if the Psalms of David be also the words of Christ, if they likewise dwell in our hearts, and if they be spiritual Songs too, then it will unavoidably follow, That the same word of the Apostle that commandeth us to sing Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, commandeth us also to sing the Psalms of David and Asaph unto the Lord, unless you will say that the Psalms of David and Asaph, (though dwelling in the heart,) are neither Psalms, nor Hymns, nor spiritual Songs, howsoever the Holy Ghost entitle them by such names.
How then can you say, “that to sing the Prophecies of David, doth not yet appear to be a worship of God commanded or taught in holy writ?”
As for our common manner of singing of them, we shall have occasion to speak to that hereafter.
Object. 5. “David’s Psalms considered, not as Scriptures divinely inspired, but as spiritual Songs seem to be appropriated to the Temple-worship. 1. Because they are appointed to be sung by proper Officers and Musical Instruments, belonging to the Temple, as appeareth by the Titles of several Psalms. 2. Because neither Christ, nor the Apostles in their writings used them at all, otherwise then as the other writings of Moses, and the Prophets, for instruction and illustration, teaching us how to use the same. Those Psalms therefore as Songs, being proper to that service of the Temple, are abolished with the Temple worship.”
Answ. 1. Both these Reasons are too slender to confine David’s Psalms to Temple-worship. For 1. Though some of David’s Psalms were appointed to be sung by the Officers and Musical Instruments of the Temple, yet not above one part of three, considering the length of the 119. Psalm. There be an hundred and fifty Psalms in all, and of all these not above 57. are appointed to be sung by the Officers and Instruments of the Temple: and Psalm 119. is none of them; so that two parts of three are free from any express reference to the Temple.
2. The matter of some Psalms doth evidently argue, they were not appointed to be sung always in the Temple; or at least did agree more properly to other times then those, wherein the Temple stood. The 74th Psalm (which was a Psalm of Asaph, but joined with the Psalms of David) complained that the enemies had sent Gods Sanctuary into the fire, (as the Hebrew words be) and had defiled by casting down the dwelling place of his Name to the ground, ver. 7. The 44th Psalm, though it was committed to the sons of Corah, yet surely it was chiefly intended (as Paul applieth part of it) to the times of the New Testament; For I suppose it could never be verified of any times of the Jewish Temple, (first, or second) that ever God gave up the people of Israel as sheep for meat, to be killed all the day, to be appointed for the slaughter to be sore broken in the place of Dragons, and covered with the shadow of death, when as yet though all this evil was come upon them, they had not forgotten their God, nor dealt falsely in his Covenant; nor their hearts turned back, nor their steps declined from his way, ver. 17. to 23. Paul indeed acknowledgeth this very word to be accomplished in the Saints of the Primitive Churches in the Apostles times, (Rom. 8.36.) but where shall we find the like innocency, with the like calamity met together in the children of Israel, whilst the Temple was standing? And is it credible, the Psalm was confined to be sung in the Temple, where they could not sing it, but with a sad reproof to themselves for their discord in practice, and yet forbidden to be sung in the Churches of the New Testament, where (in some ages at least) they might sing it, both with heart, and voice, and practice, all of them keeping holy consent and harmony together?
3. It appeareth by the Titles of such Psalms as are directed to the Officers and Instruments of the Temple-Music, That there was something typical or rudimental in the manner of singing some of the Psalms of David and Asaph in the Temple-worship. But this doth no more argue, that the whole service of God in singing David’s Psalms was typical or rudimental, then it will argue prayer to be a typical and Temple worship, because prayer in the Temple was offered with Incense, and so with the Temple and with the Incense to be abolished. He that will make the Psalms of David (as they are songs) to be types of the spiritual songs of the New Testament, and therefore now the singing of them to be abolished. He might as well say (with Mr. Smith) that the Letters in the Scriptures of the old Testament, were typical, (typing out the Law written in our hearts) and so abolish all reading of the holy Scriptures now in the days of the New Testament.
4. As it hath been shewed above, that singing of Psalms with lively voice, is not a ceremonial but a moral duty, and so continueth now in the days of the New Testament; so it may be as truly said, that the singing of David’s Psalms, and other Scripture-songs, is in like sort not a ceremonial but a moral duty; and so of like continuance in the New Testament. The Psalms of David, and Asaph, and the rest, are as full of holy and lively, spiritual, and evangelical meditations, and affections, Instruments, prayers, and praises, as any that we can expect to be endited [written] by any Officer or member of the Christian Churches now. Yea it is to be feared that the Psalms compiled by the devoutest Christians now, would fall short of those of David and Asaph, in spirit and life. How then can we make the Psalms of David and Asaph ceremonial types of the spiritual songs of the faithful in the New Testament, when as types are wont to be more carnal, and worldly, and literal, and less spiritual and lively, then the antitypes? But here the antitypes are less spiritual and lively then the types.
5. As for that other Reason taken from the practice of Christ, and his Apostles, who in their writings never used the Psalms of David for spiritual songs as the writings of Moses & other Prophets for instruction and illustration; this is of as small force as the former.
For 1. Writings are not a place or season for the use of spiritual songs. Psalms are to be used for songs in Church Assemblies, and private Soliloquies and Conferences, not in Writings: And yet so far as Psalms may be used for songs in writing, Paul so used them in his Epistles written to the Ephesians and Colossians, where he instructeth both Churches, and in them all others to sing these Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs. Amongst which these Psalms of David and Asaph, if they be not principally intended, yet surely they are plainly included, or else they are neither the word of Christ, nor are they Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs.
2. It is not credible, that Christ never used the Psalms of David and Asaph for spiritual Songs. For the use of those Psalms for Songs, was doubtless a part of God’s worship whilst the Temple stood. And if Christ had neglected any part of that worship, which was then in force, how then did himself say, That it became him to fulfill all righteousness? Mat. 3.15.
Besides, many things Jesus did and said (and so did the Apostles) which are not written in the Gospel nor Acts nor Epistles, Joh. 21.25. And yet this is said, that he with his Disciples sung an Hymn, Mat. 26.30. And Hymns is the general title for the whole Book of Psalms; For though it be translated, The Book of Psalms, yet every one that knoweth that language, knoweth the word is, The Book of Hymns: So that look, as when in ordinary speech we say, They sung a Psalm, we mean one of the Psalms of David or Asaph, (unless some other be named) because such are wont to be sung in ordinary use; So when the Evangelists say, Christ and his Disciples sung an Hymn, the people of God would not easily understand any other but one or more of David’s Hymns, because such were wont to be the ordinary songs used in the worship of God. And surely if Christ and his Disciples had sung any other Hymn, then one of these Psalms of David and Asaph, which were wont to be sung in their Temples and Synagogues, the Evangelists who are wont to record far less matters in things which pertain to God’s worship, they would not have omitted the substituting of an Hymn endited [written] for this special occasion, in stead of the Hymns wont to be sung in the end of the Passover.
The like may be said of Paul and Silas, who are recorded (Acts 16.25.) to have sung an Hymn to God, (for so is the word;) where common understanding would take it for one or more of the Hymns of David or Asaph, and not any other new invented spiritual song, unless some hint in the Text might carry us from the ordinary meaning and use of the word amongst the people of God.
Object. 6. “We are called upon by David himself to sing New Songs, Psal. 96.1. and oft elsewhere, and such as had gifts then used them for enditing [writing] and singing new songs, as Asaph, Heman, Ethan &c. The four Beasts, Rev. 5.9. and the 144000 followers of the Lamb did sing a new Song; as did they also, who had gotten victory over the beast, Rev. 15.3.4.”
Answ. 1. There is no estate and condition that ever befell the Church and people of God, or can befall them but the Holy Ghost, as he did fore-see the same, so he hath provided and recorded some Scripture-Psalm, suitable thereunto. And these Psalms being chosen out suitably to the new occasions and new conditions of God’s people, and sung by them with new hearts and renewed affections, will ever be found new songs. Words of eternal truth and grace, are ever old (as the Gospel is an eternal Gospel) and ever new; as the commandment of love is a new commandment as well as old. As to the new Creature all things are become new, 2 Cor. 5.17, 18. Daily mercies are to him new mercies, Lam. 3.23. &c. Duties of Humiliation, which have been of ancient practice in the Church, are to him, as New wine. But to an old and carnal heart, that lieth under the state of vanity and corruption of nature, there is nothing new, no new thing under the Sun, Eccles. 1.9.
2. David’s exhortation to sing a New Song, pertained to them in the old Testament, as well as to us in the New. And yet they upon new occasions sang the old Songs of David, and that with, acceptance, 2 Chron. 5.13. 2 Chron. 20.21. Ezra 3.11.
3. Asaph, Heman, and Ethan, were men endued with an infallible measure of a Spirit of Prophecy, in enditing [writing] those Psalms, which the Church of Israel received from them. Give us the like men with the like gifts, and we shall receive and sing their Psalms, as the Church of Israel did the other.
4. The places objected out of the Revelation, admit a further answer, though the former might serve; the new Song mentioned Rev. 5.9, 10. may either be understood metonymically for a Doxology or Thanksgiving, which the Saints in the Church should give to Christ upon occasion of his revealing a clear exposition of the Revelation; or else, if it be understood literally, that they sang that very song, as it is there penned by the Holy Ghost, then it appeareth, that at such a time that Song shall be translated into Number & Meter, fit to be sung, and shall be sung by the Church, when they shall see such a clear exposition of the Revelation come to light, as shall provoke them to give glory to Christ, who hath received power to open the book, and by the same Power hath redeemed his people, and called them to be Kings and Priests unto God his Father. And thus, this place only sheweth, that it will be lawful to sing other Songs, besides those of David and Asaph: but yet such only, as are penned by an infallible Spirit; or else upon special occasion, by men of spiritual gifts, which we deny not.
The Song of the 144000. followers of the Lamb, it is not expressly said to be a New Song, but as it were a New Song, Rev. 14.3. New to them who had been wont to hear the worshippers of the Beast to sing and rejoice in their own merits, and superstitious devotions: And new also in respect of the renewed affections, wherewith they sang it: But yet the same ancient Song which the sheep and Saints of Christ, were wont to sing, even in David’s time, of the righteousness of Christ, even of his only, and of their own blessedness in his not imputing their sins to them. Thus David’s Psalms in the spiritual use and sense of them are new Songs, or as it were New Songs, to this day, unto all that are renewed by grace, to look for their righteousness in Christ, and not in the works of the Law; for which David was wont to sing, no flesh living could be justified by them. And though it be said, That no man could learn that Song, but the 144000. who were redeemed from the earth; yet it is not meant of the words and sentences of the Song, but of the spiritual sense and use of the Song, which no man indeed can learn, but they that have felt the grace and power of their Redemption by the Lord Jesus. As no man knoweth the new Name, but they that have received it, Revel. 2.17.
The Song of those who had gotten victory over the beast, (Rev. 15.) is said to be the Song of Moses and of the Lamb, ver. 3. And surely the matter of Moses Song, (Exod. 15.) might justly yield fit matter for the like Doxology (or thanksgiving) upon the like occasion: As the like did fall out in the year 88. Rome being spiritual Ægypt, Rev. 11.8. And the Pope with his Prelates resembling Pharaoh with his Task-masters, and the Spanish Armado marching forth with the like pride and fury, to bring us back to the Ægyptian bondage; and the Redemption from them all being alike miraculous; upon which miraculous deliverance, not only the matter of Moses’ Song, but the very words also were then fitly used, and still may be for a spiritual Song of thanksgiving unto the Lord, both for that and the like deliverances.
And as for the Song of the Lamb, which those that had victory over the Beast did sing surely all those Songs of David, which celebrate either his own deliverances from Saul, or the deliverance of the Church from Ægypt, or Babylon, or from other enemies, may justly own and bear that Title. For when David acknowledgeth and professeth, that in his Songs, the Spirit of the Lord spake by him, and that his word was in his tongue, (2 Sam. 23.2.) What Spirit of the Lord was that, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus? And what are then such Songs, but the Songs of the Lamb, through whose Redemption the Church and Saints enjoy all their deliverances? And surely, the Song of the Lamb, recorded (in Revel. 15.3, 4.) seemeth evidently to point at sundry Psalms of David, out of which it was compiled and collected, and which therefore were suitable and fit to be sung upon occasion of their victory over the Beast, especially with respect and reference to those special sentences, which were fetched from thence, though with some small variation, such as is wont to be found in all the Scriptures of the New Testament, quoted out of the old.
Thou art great, and doest wondrous things, thou art God alone.
Ver. 8. Among the Gods, there is none like unto thee, nor any works like thy works.
Psal. 111.2. The works of the Lord are great.
Ver. 4. And Wonderful.
Ver. 7. The works of his hand are truth and judgment.
Psal. 71.22. O thou Holy One of Israel.
Psal. 86.9. All Nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name.
Psal. 9.16. The Lord is known by the Judgment which he executeth.
Psal. 64.9. All men shall fear and shall declare the work of God; For they shall wisely consider of his doings.
Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are thy ways, Thou King of Saints.
And ver. 4. Thou only art Holy. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name? For all Nations shall come and worship before thee.
For thy Judgments are made manifest.
In as much therefore as these who got the victory over the Beast, are said to have sang the Song of the Lamb, and this Song of the Lamb is expressly fetched from several words of praise to the Lamb, in several Psalms of David; One of these two things (if not both) will from hence justly be deduced.
1. Either this, That any of those Psalms of David may be sung to the praise of the Lamb, out of which those words of praise are fetched (as when the people of God are said to have praised God with such a word in a Psalm, it is meant they sung the whole Psalm; as, 2 Chron. 5.13. & 20.21. Ezra. 3.11.) all of them pointing at Psalm 136.
Or else secondly, That it may be lawful upon special and extraordinary occasions, to compile a spiritual Song out of David’s words of praise dispersed in several Psalms of David, and other Psalmists in Scripture, and to sing them, composed together as a Psalm of praise unto the Lord. And both these willingly admit: For these are still the divine Meditations, and spiritual expressions of the holy men of God in Scripture, which God hath prepared for the setting forth of his own glory.
Object. 7. “As the Apostle writing to Timothy about Prayer in general, and prescribing no form of prayer, it is therefore justly argued, that we are to use no set forms of Prayer at all: So the same Apostle exhorting the Churches to sing, and not prescribing any forms of Psalms, hence it followeth, that he alloweth not the singing of David’s Psalms. And whatsoever Arguments, strike against stinted forms of Prayer, strike against all forms of Psalms also, as stinting and quenching the Spirit, &c.”
Answ. 1. It is not true, that the Apostle exhorting to Sing, doth not prescribe any forms of Psalms. For in the same Texts where he doth exhort the Churches and people of God to sing, he doth direct them also to sing Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs: which are the express titles of the very forms of Psalms endited [written] by David and Asaph as hath been shewed above. Neither can it be truly said, that he alloweth not the singing of David’s Psalms. Unless it might be truly said, that the Psalms of David, are neither Psalms, nor Hymns, nor spiritual Songs.
Answ. 2. The Scripture putteth a manifest difference between these two, set forms of Prayer, and set forms of Psalms; also between set forms devised and prescribed by men, and set forms appointed by God. Set forms of Prayer the Lord did never ordinarily prescribe unto his people, neither in the old Testament, nor in the New: but set forms of Psalms no man doubteth, were ordinarily prescribed in the old Testament, and we suppose in the New also, in the Texts alleged.
Again, set forms devised and appointed by men, I will not deny to be justly rejected by the true meaning of the second Commandment: but God that forbad us to make to our selves any Images or imaginations and inventions for worship, did never forbid himself to devise and appoint for us what form of worship himself pleased, either in the old Testament, or in the New. And therefore what ever Arguments strike against set forms of Prayer invented and prescribed by men, there is none of them strike against set forms of Psalms appointed by God. Neither can it with any colour be pretended, that the Psalms of David being devised and appointed by the Holy Ghost himself, should either stint or quench the Spirit, unless it might be thought, that Gods own Ordinance to convey, and quicken, and enlarge the Spirit, should become an impediment and restraint to the Spirit.
Object. 8. “The edification of the Church and body of Christ under the New Testament, ought to be carried on by the personal and proper gifts of Gods Spirit, Eph. 4.7, 8.11, 16. 1 Pet. 4.10, 11. Rom. 12.4.6. 1 Cor. 12. But in singing of Psalms of David, there is no more personal gift manifested, then there is in reading a stinted form of Prayer.”
Answ. These Scriptures prove that God hath given the gifts of the Spirit for the edification of his Church: and that they who have received the gifts of the Spirit, should employ them to the edification of the Church. And some of those Scriptures prove also, that they who have received any gifts, though outward gifts of wealth and honour, should improve and employ them to the good of the Church. But none of them prove, that all the edification of the Church should be carried on by the personal and proper gifts of the present members of the Church. For then the Church should not be edified now in these days by the gifts of the pen-men of Scripture, whether Apostles, Prophets, or Evangelists, which is expressly repugnant to some of the Scriptures alleged by you. For in Eph. 4.8. to 13. and in 1 Cor. 12. it is expressly said, that God gave Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, for the edifying of the Church, till the whole body of Christ be perfected at the day of his coming. And least you should dream of new Apostles to be raised up in every age, the Holy Ghost telleth us, the Church of the Jews at their last conversion shall be built upon the foundation of the Lamb’s twelve Apostles, Rev. 21.14. The twelve Apostles of the Lamb shall have a fundamental influence in the rearing and building of the Church of the Jews, not by their resurrection to life again in those days, but by the power of the Spirit breathing in their gifts and writings. And as Abel being dead yet speaketh, Heb. 11.4. and that to edification: So the Apostles though dead speak also; and David being dead speaketh, and singeth likewise to the edification of the body of Christ, till we come to sing Hallelujahs in heavenly glory.
Say not these writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, of David and the Prophets, do not speak to the edification of the Church, but as they are expounded and applied by the spiritual gifts of the Ministers and people of God in each age. For the very reading of them is an Ordinance of God, and no Ordinance of God is empty and beggarly, and destitute of the Spirit: which is the vanity of men’s traditions, and may not be imputed to any of God’s Ordinances.
Neither ought you to say, That in singing the Psalms of David, there is no more personal gift manifested, then there is in reading a stinted form of Prayer.
For 1. in reading a stinted form of prayer, there is no gift of the Spirit at all manifested, but rather (as I conceive) a manifest breach of the second Commandment of God, which is a grieving of the Spirit. But in singing of the Psalms of David, there is a gift of the Spirit manifested, even the gift of obedience to the command of the Apostle. And that is the personal gift of him that singeth.
And secondly, all the treasures of the gifts of the Spirit breathing in the Psalms of David are likewise manifested in the reverent and holy singing of them. You might more truly have said, there is no more personal gift of the Spirit manifested in singing the Psalms of David then in reading the Psalms of David; because either of both those duties are alike acts of obedience to Gods Commandment. But if you had so said, your objection had answered it self.
Object. 9. Many of God’s people now have gifts to compose spiritual Songs, as well as carnal Poets to make carnal Sonnets, or as drunkards that make Songs of Gods people. Now every one that hath a gift is to administer it by Christs Command, 1 Pet. 4.10. And if any for want of experience of such a gift in themselves, should question it, they may consider the promise of pouring out the Spirit in a more plentiful measure, now in the days of the New Testament, then in the old.
Answ. 1. Though many of Gods people have gifts to compose spiritual Songs, as well as carnal Poets carnal Sonnets, and Drunkards profane Sonnets; yet that will not argue, that the spiritual Songs, which many of God’s people have gifts to compose, are fit to be sung in the public holy Assemblies of the Saints, no more than the carnal and profane Sonnets of drunken Poets are fit to be sung in civil Assemblies. Let drunken carnal Poets sing their carnal Sonnets in their Taverns and Alehouses, and such of Gods people as have received a gift to compose a spiritual Song fit for their private solace, sing it in their private houses. But every spiritual Song, fit for private solace, is not fit to be sung in the solemn Assemblies of the Church for public edification: no more than it is fit for every private Christian who hath a gift to compose a spiritual prayer to utter and pour forth the same in the public Congregation of the Church.
Answ. 2. It is more than probable, that many of the people of God in the old Testament had gifts to compose spiritual Songs, besides David and Asaph: and yet unless their gift were carried along by an infallible Spirit, they were not received among the Songs of the Temple.
Answ. 3. Suppose that spiritual Songs composed by an ordinary gift, might be received among the public Songs of the Congregation, yet will it thence follow, that the Church shall be bound to sing only such Songs, and deprive themselves of the Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs of David and Asaph, which were composed with a far larger measure and power of the Holy Ghost?
Answ. 4. It is readily granted, that as every man hath received a gift, so let him administer and dispense it, according to the Text alleged, 1 Pet. 4.10. But yet in Christ’s way, every private gift is not fit for public Administration; nor every public gift fit to be administered to the shouldering out of a greater gift then it self.
Answ. 5. If such as want the experience of such a gift of spiritual Poetry in themselves, should be encouraged to expect it from the promise of pouring out the Spirit on all flesh in the days of the Gospel, (Acts 2.17.) they might as well look for the gifts of tongues, and healing, and miracles. For it is the same Spirit (though not the same measure) which is there promised to be poured out upon all flesh; Let every man administer the gifts of the Spirit, according to the measure which he hath received within his own line.
Object. 10. “But the Lord is as full of the Spirit now to help us to endite [write] Psalms, as in the days of David and Asaph. And it seemeth a dishonour to Christ, to dispense his word by reading and singing, without the exercise of the glorious and various Administrations of the spiritual gifts of the New Testament.”
Answ. 1. The Lord is as full of the Spirit now, and as able to furnish us with a Prophetical Spirit now to endite [write] Prophetical Scriptures, as he did furnish the Prophets in the old Testament. But yet God thought it no dishonour to Christ to leave us the Scriptures of the old Prophets for our edification in the New Testament, as well as in the old. It is the same Spirit of the same Christ that spake by the Prophets of the old Testament, and speaketh in the Saints of the New. And it is no dishonour to Christ to dispense his word, and to guide the body of his Church, as well by the unity of the same Spirit, as by the variety of the divers gifts of the Spirit now. And though we do not exercise the glorious and various Administrations of the spiritual gifts of the New Testament, in the enditing [writing] of New Psalms, no more than in the enditing [writing] of new Scriptures. Yet we can neither sing the old Psalms of David, nor read the old Scriptures of the Prophets acceptably to God, nor comfortably to our selves without the exercise of the gracious and various spiritual gifts of the New Testament.
Object. 11. We have examples in the New Testament, of exercising personal gifts, as well in singing, as in praying and Prophesying, 1 Cor. 14. Which Epistle is directed to all the Saints, 1 Cor. 1.2. in all places. And consequently, that Church is to be Precedential in dispensing personal gifts in this Ordinance of Singing, as well as in any other.
Answ. 1. The Directions given in that Epistle to the Church of Corinth, we willingly grant are Precedential to all the Churches, as well as the Directions given in other Epistles to other Churches. And the Directions there given be, that in dispensing spiritual gifts, Prophecy be preferred before Tongues, nor any Tongues dispensed without interpretation; That order be observed without confusion; That divers may speak without interruption; That no man may speak without subjection; That women be not permitted to speak unto usurpation; That all things be done to edification. And all these Directions are Precedential to all such Churches as have received the like gifts. But there is no direction given to the Church of Corinth, or any other, that every man should have a gift of tongues, or a gift of compiling a Psalm; or if he have a gift of compiling a Psalm for his private use by an ordinary Spirit, that then he should present it to be sung before the whole Church, and the Church to say Amen to his Psalm. For the gift of Psalms, which the Apostle there speaketh of, was not an ordinary gift to compile some spiritual Ditty in verse, but extraordinary, as joined with the gift of strange Tongues. For it appeareth by the Context, that the gift of Tongues was used by the Members of the Church of Corinth, four ways: 1. In speaking mysteries, ver. 2. 2. In prayer, ver. 14. 3. In singing, ver. 15. 4. In thanksgiving, ver. 17. So that the singing there mentioned, was by an extraordinary gift, as the Tongues were, in which it was dispensed.
Object. “Indeed the gift of Tongues, wherein these Psalms seem to be uttered, was extraordinary, but it doth not follow that the gift of composing those Psalms was an extraordinary gift, no more than prayer wherewith it was joined, ver. 15. or Prophecy, ver. 26. Singing Psalms and Prophecy differing no otherwise then Poetry and Prose; and if it was extraordinary in the Corinthians, we have no warrant for public ordinary singing in the New Testament from any example.”
Answ. 1. As the gift of Tongues was extraordinary, so was every Ordinance dispensed in it, whether Prayer, or Psalm. or Prophecy, all of them extraordinary, both for sublimity of matter, (in the Spirit he speaketh Mysteries, ver. 2.) and for power and demonstration of the Spirit, and for suddenness and dexterity of utterance without previous study, or meditation, as Acts 2.4.11. What though there be an ordinary gift of Prayer and Prophesying, as well as of singing? Yet nevertheless the Apostles and Prophets had an extraordinary gift of Prayer and Prophesying: and so had those Corinthians also an extraordinary gift (though in less measure) of Praying and Prophesying and Singing also.
It is not credible that he who would have new wine put into new Bottles, would pour forth ordinary and common matters in new Tongues, and so raise extraordinary expectation of ordinary things.
Answ. 2. It is an uncouth comparison, to make no more difference between singing Psalms and Prophecy, then between Poetry and Prose. In Prophecy we open the Scriptures and Counsels of God: in Psalms we open the Counsels and thanksgivings of our own hearts; In Psalms we sing to glorify God; in Prophecy we speak to edify men; you might with far more reason and congruity have said, That Prayer and singing Psalms differ no otherwise then Poetry and Prose. And yet there is more difference even between them, then so, as the Apostle James noteth, James 5.13.
Answ. 3. When you say, that if the singing in the Church of Corinth was extraordinary, then we have no warrant for our public ordinary singing in the New Testament from any example: Neither doth the Argument follow, nor if it did, is it of any force.
For though this example of singing in the Church of Corinth was extraordinary: yet that singing of Christ and his Disciples at the last Supper was ordinary, Mat. 26.30. And though there were no example of public ordinary Singing in the New Testament, yet it is enough that there is a precept of public ordinary Singing given to the Churches, both of the Ephesians, and of the Colossians, Eph. 5.19. Colos. 3.16. And what the Spirit speaketh to those Churches, it speaketh to all.
CHAP. VI. Propounding a second and third Argument, for the singing of David’s Psalms.
HAVING thus (by the help of Christ) cleared the first Argument, for the Singing of David’s Psalms, and such like Scripture-Psalms; Let us now proceed to a second Argument, taken from the end and use of the Psalms of David. The Psalms of David and Asaph, and the like, were written for a threefold end, as we see expressed by the Apostle, Col. 3 16. to wit,
1. For Instruction, or Teaching.
2. For Admonition.
3. For singing Praise and Thanksgiving to the Lord.
Now if the Psalms of David, and the like, were written (as doubtless they were) in the Old Testament for this three-fold end, and each of them of moral (that is, of general and perpetual use) and none of them abrogated in the New Testament, look then as it would be a sacrilegious sin, to take away from the Psalms either of the two former uses (the use of Instruction, or Admonition;) so it will be alike Sacrilege to deprive them of the three-fold use, by forbidding them to be sung for praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Whereto a third Argument may be added, taken from the duty of singing of Psalms every Sabbath, and the defect of provision of other Psalms, if the Psalms of David, and other Scripture-Psalms be refused. It appeareth from Psalm 95.1, 2, 7, &c. That when we present our selves before the Lord, to hear the voice of his word (as we do every Lord’s day) we should come before his presence with singing of Psalms. If so, then some must have a gift, either to prepare set forms of Psalms aforehand for every Sabbath day; or at least a gift, upon the present occasion, suddenly to invent and utter a Psalm fit for the present Sabbath from week to week: Neither of both which are easy to be believed. For if it were so, then doubtless Christ would have appointed some or other Officer to attend to this duty of compiling Psalms, as he hath appointed Elders to attend to the Minister of the Word, and Prayer, Acts 6.4. Or else he would inspire some or other Member of the Church with such a Gift and Spirit of Psalmistry, as might suite the occasions of the Church from Sabbath to Sabbath. But neither of both these do we find, either in the Scriptures of the New Testament, or in experience; we find neither Ordinance appointing it, nor Providence granting it. And yet evident it is, that the gracious providence of God, is not wanting in supplying well ordered Churches, with all such gifts of Preaching, and Prayer, and Rule, and the like, as God hath required for the edification of the Church to the end of the world. Neither is it credible, that Christ would take us off from singing the Psalms of David and Asaph, which were of divine and infallible inspiration, and leave us to an uncertain and common gift of private brethren.
If it be said, the Church of Corinth wanted not such gifts of Psalms, nor such members as did compile, 1 Cor. 14.26.
Answ. It is true, neither did they want gifts of tongues, and of Revelation in the same Text. But these were extraordinary gifts, fit to glorify Christ in his first ascension into Glory, and fit to commend and confirm the Gospel to Pagans, but no where promised to be continued to Churches in after ages, nor no where commanded to be imitated: much less our common gifts, and the Psalms endited [written] by the same to be substituted in their rooms, and David’s Psalms to be silenced, that our Psalms might be attended.
CHAP. VII. Concerning the Singers: and first, whether one alone to sing, or the whole Church.
THE third Question about Singing of Psalms, concerneth the Singers. For though vocal Singing be approved, and also the Singing of David’s Psalms, yet still it remaineth to some a Question, who must sing them. And here a threefold scruple ariseth. 1. Whether one be to sing for all the rest, the rest joining only in spirit, and saying, Amen; or the whole Congregation? 2. Whether women, as well as men; or men alone? 3. Whether carnal men and Pagans may be permitted to sing with us, or Christians alone, and Church-Members?
Touching the first of these Scruples; It is out of doubt. 1. That a Christian man for his own private solace and edification, may sing a Psalm alone by himself; as Asaph had his Songs by night, Psal. 77.6.2. It is granted, that he who had a spiritual and extraordinary Gift of enditing [writing] a Psalm, might sing it himself, and the rest of the Church join with him in Spirit, saying Amen: though in the old Testament, he that endited [wrote] the Psalm, gave it to the Master of Song, to be sung publicly, by others as well as himself. But the Question is of Singing the Psalms of David and other Scripture Psalms, whether they are to be sung by the whole Congregation, or by one alone for all the rest, (the rest joining only in the Spirit, and in the close) saying, Amen; And to make good this latter way,
Object. 1. “It is alleged, In the Church of Corinth, one had a Psalm, 1 Cor. 14.26. And he that had a Psalm sung in the Spirit, and was directed to sing with understanding also, (that is, in a tongue understood by the whole Church) that they might join with him in Spirit, and say Amen, ver. 15, 16.”
Answ. This only concerned the extraordinary Psalms, endited [written] by such as had also a gift of Tongues as well as of Psalms. For therefore it is, that such are directed, as they sing in the Spirit, that is, by a spiritual gift, so to sing with understanding also, to wit, with the understanding of the Church. But this concerneth not the Singing of the Psalms of David, which now are not given by any peculiar gift to any one man.
Object. 2. “It is also alleged, That Singing of Psalms is an act of Prophecy. And the Prophets were to speak one after another, and if any thing were revealed to another that sate by, the first was to hold his peace, 1 Cor. 14.30, 31.”
Answ. Prophecy is taken two ways in Scriptures, to omit other acceptions of the word, not pertinent to the point in hand. 1. Sometimes more strictly and properly, for Preaching, that is, for expounding and applying Scripture to edification. 2. Sometimes more largely, for the publishing of spiritual things to the glory of God, and edification of our selves or others. And in this sense Master [William] Perkins (in his Propheticâ) maketh two parts of it,
1. Preaching of the Word.
2. Prayer; for which he quoteth, Gen. 20.7. Abraham is a Prophet, and he shall pray for thee; he quoteth also, 1 Chron. 25.1. where the Sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, who were Singers, are said to Prophecy with Harps. Which argueth that singing of Psalms as well as Prayer, may in some sense, (to wit, in this large sense) be called an act of Prophecy. But in this sense Paul doth not speak of Prophecy; for he doth expressly distinguish it from Prayer, and much more from singing, 1 Cor. 11.4, 5. And in this 14 Chapter to the Corinthians, he doth plainly distinguish prophecy from singing Psalms; for when he exhorteth them to covet after spiritual gifts, chiefly, that they might Prophecy, (1 Cor. 14.1.) it is not his meaning, they should chiefly covet after the gift of enditing [writing] or singing of Psalms, but rather after the gift of Preaching, to wit, of expounding and applying Scripture to edification. When therefore Paul directeth the Prophets to speak one by one, ver. 30, 31. He speaketh not of that kind of Prophecy, whereby many may sing one and the same Psalm together, but of the other kind of Prophecy, which is Preaching. Howbeit, true it is also, that if many shall sing several Psalms at one and the same time together in one and the same Congregation, it would breed the like confusion in the Church, as if the Prophets should speak two or three, or more of them at once.
If it be said, “Why, is it not a confusion for so many voices to join together in singing a Psalm, though it be one and the same Psalm?”
Answ. No more now in the New Testament, then it was in the Old, when the Trumpeters and Singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising the Lord, and when they lift up their voice, with the Trumpeters, & Cymbals, and Instruments of Music, and praised the Lord, saying, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever, 2 Chron. 5.13. For then God shewed his approbation and acceptance of that concourse and consent of so many voices together, by filling the house of the Lord with a Cloud, which was a gracious sign of his visible presence with them, and acceptance of them, and of their worship. And surely, If the concourse and consent of so many voices had been a confusion, doubtless it would have been as much displeasing to God in the old Testament, as in the New. For God is not a God of confusion in the Churches of the Saints, whether of the New Testament, or of the old, 1 Cor. 14.33. And if our desire be, the will of God may be done on earth as it is done by the Angels in Heaven, we read of a multitude of an heavenly host of Angels, praising God, and saying, Glory be to God on High, &c. without any confusion.
Object. 3. “Scarce any example can be given of any entire Congregation, that sang together, mentioned in Scripture.”
Answ. 1. Though no example could be given, yet it is a sufficient warrant for the Duty, if any Precept have been given of it in Scripture, and the Precept is plain in Colos. 3.16. where the whole Church of Colosse is exhorted to have the word of Christ dwell richly in them, not only to Teach and Admonish one another, (as well in the Psalms, as other Scriptures) but also to sing the Psalms with holy melody to the Lord. If God had reserved this Duty to some select Choristers, he would have given some direction in the New Testament for their Qualification and Election: But since he speaketh nothing of any such select Musicians, he commendeth this Duty to the whole Church.
Answ. 2. It is not safely said, that scarce any example in Scripture can be given of any entire Congregation that sang together.
For 1. In Exod. 15.1. Moses and the children of Israel are said to sing a Song of Thanksgiving to the Lord. And the same, they, that sang this Song, the same are said soon to forget God’s works, and not to wait for his Counsel, but to fall a lusting, Psal. 106.12, 13, 14. which was the body of the people.
2. Christ and his Disciples when they administered and received the Lord’s Supper, (which was a Church Act) they were an entire Congregation. And they after Supper sung a Psalm or Hymn, Mat. 26.30. To say, that one sang it, and the other joined in Spirit, saying Amen, hath no foot-hold in the Text. It might as well be said, they all took the bread, they all blessed it, and brake it, and gave it, in that one did it, and all the rest joined in Spirit, and consented, and like enough to the blessing of it, said Amen.
3. It is no strain of wit, but a solid and judicious exposition of the fourth Chapter of the Revelation, to make it a description of a particular visible Church of Christ, according to the platform and pattern of the New Testament: where, as the four living Creatures, are the four sorts of Officers, so the twenty-four Elders set forth the brethren in the Church, who are as Elders (in respect of their ripe age, Gal. 4.1, 2, 3.) and twenty-four, in number, answering to the twenty-four Orders of Priests and Levites, 1 Chron. 25.9. &c. And these are all said to join together in singing a new Song unto the Lamb, Rev. 5.8, 9, 10.
Object. 4. “If the whole Church should sing together, then all the members were Teachers. For the Apostle biddeth us to Teach and Admonish one another in Psalms, Colos. 3.16. But the same Apostle denieth all to be Teachers, 1 Cor. 12.29.”
Answ. Though the Apostle bid us to Teach and Admonish one another in Psalms; yet he doth not say, that we should teach one another by singing Psalms together; But he there holdeth forth a twofold use and improvement of the whole word of God dwelling richly in us, and a threefold use and improvement of the Psalms. The whole word of God dwelling richly in us, is to be improved to the Teaching and admonishing of one another: but the Psalms are to be improved, not only to both these ends (as all the rest of the Word beside) but to a threefold end also, even to the Singing of Praises to the Lord. Now in this third end, all the Congregation may join, in improving the Psalms thereunto, though not in the Public teaching or Admonishing of the Church by them, yet in setting forth the Praises, the Counsels, the works of God declared in them.
Answ. 2. Though not every one that Singeth a Psalm, may be said forthwith to Teach or Admonish them that sing with him, yet he that appointeth the Psalm to be sung, may be said to teach and Admonish the whole Congregation that are to sing it, or hear it. Julian the Apostate, took himself to be admonished, yea and reproved when the Christians sang in his hearing the 115. and 97. Psalms; which declare the vanity of Idols, and the confusion of such as worship them, as is recorded in the Church-Story by Socrates, Theodoret, Nicephorus.
Answ. 3. Though the Apostle deny all to be Teachers, his meaning is only to deny, that they are all Teachers by public Office, to attend upon Expounding and applying Scripture to public edification: But it was no part of his meaning, either to forbid private Teaching, or Admonition of one another, (for then Aquila and Priscilla had gone too far in instructing Apollos, Acts 18.26.) or to forbid the quickening and edifying of the Spirit of one another, by singing together Psalms of Instruction, Admonition, Consolation to themselves, and Prayers and Praises to the Lord.
CHAP. VIII. Whether Women may sing as well as Men.
THE second scruple about Singers is, Whether women may sing as well as men. For in this point there be some that deal with us, as Pharaoh dealt with the Israelites, who though he was at first utterly unwilling that any of them should go to sacrifice to the Lord in the Wilderness, yet being at length convinced that they must go, then he was content the men should go, but not the Women, Exod. 10.11. So here, some that were altogether against singing of Psalms at all with lively voice, yet being convinced, that it is a moral worship of God warranted in Scripture, then if there must be a Singing, one alone must sing, not all, (or if all) the Men only, and not the Women.
And their Reason is. 1. Because it is not permitted to a woman to speak in the Church, 1 Cor. 14.34. how then shall they Sing? 2. Much less it is permitted to them to Prophecy in the Church, 1 Tim. 2.11, 12. And singing of Psalms is a kind of Prophesying.
One answer may at once remove both these scruples and withal clear the Truth, It is apparent by the scope and context of both those Scriptures, That a woman is not permitted to speak in the Church, in two cases. 1. By way of Teaching, whether in expounding, or applying Scripture. For this the Apostle accounteth an act of Authority, which is unlawful for a Woman to usurp over the man, 2 Tim. 2.13. And besides, the woman is more subject to Error then the man, ver. 14. And therefore might soon prove a Seducer, if she became a Teacher.
2. It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the Church, by way of propounding Questions, though under pretense of desire to learn for her own satisfaction; but rather it is required she should ask her husband at home, 1 Cor. 14.35.
For under pretense of Questioning, for learning sake, she might so propound her Question, as to Teach her Teachers; or if not so, yet to open a door to some of her own weak and erroneous apprehensions, or at least soon exceed the bounds of womanly modesty.
Nevertheless in two other cases, it is clear a woman is allowed to speak in the Church. 1. In way of subjection, when she is to give account of her offence. Thus Peter Questioned Saphyra before the Church touching the price of land sold by her and her husband, which her husband had concealed by his lye: And she accordingly spake in the Church to give answer to his Question, Acts 5.8. 2 In way of singing forth the Praises of the Lord, together with the rest of the Congregation. For it is evident the Apostle layeth no greater restraint upon the women for silence in the Church, then the Law had put upon them before. For so himself speaketh in the place alleged, 1 Cor. 14.34. It is not permitted to the women to speak, but to be under subjection, as also saith the Law. The Apostle then requireth the same subjection in the woman, which the Law had put upon them: no more. Now it is certain, the Law, yea the Lawgiver Moses did permit Miriam and the women that went out after her to sing forth the praises of the Lord, as well as the men, and to answer the men in their Song of thanksgiving; Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the Sea, Exod. 15.20, 21. Which may be a ground sufficient to justify the lawful practice of women in singing together with men the Praises of the Lord. And accordingly the ancient practice of women in the Primitive Churches to sing the public praises of the Lord; we read recorded in the Ecclesiastical History, Socrates 2. Book, Chapter 18. of the Greek Copy, and Chap. 16. of the Latin, Theodoret third Book, Chapter 17.
CHAP. IX. Whether carnal men may sing, as well as godly Christians?
THE third scruple about the Singers remaineth, Whether carnal men and Pagans may be permitted to sing with us, or Christians alone, and Church-members?
What we believe in this point, may be summed up in these three particulars.
1. That the Church and the members thereof are called to sing to the Praises of God, and to their mutual edification: For they were Churches of Christ, and members of Churches, whom the Apostle exhorteth to speak to themselves, and make melody to the Lord with Psalms and Hymns and spiritual songs, Eph. 5.19. Colos. 3.16.
2. That the Praising of God with Psalms is comely for all the upright, whether received into the Fellowship of any particular visible Church, or no. For so much the words of David hold forth, Praise is comely for the upright, Psal. 33.1.3.
3. Though spiritual gifts are necessary to make melody to the Lord in singing; yet spiritual gifts are neither the only, nor chief ground of singing; but the chief ground thereof is the moral duty lying upon all men by the Commandment of God; If any be merry to sing Psalms, Jam. 5.13. As in Prayer, though spiritual gifts be requisite to make it acceptable; yet the duty of Prayer lieth upon all men, by that Commandment which forbiddeth Atheism; it is the fool that saith in his heart, There is no God; of whom it is said, they call not upon the Lord, Psal. 14.1.4. Which also may serve for a just Argument and proof of the point.
1. If by the Commandment of God, and indeed by the light of Nature, if all men be bound to pray unto God in their distresses. (as even Jonah’s Mariners will confess in a storm, Jonah 1.6.) then all men are likewise bound to sing to the praise of God in their deliverances, and comforts; For the word runneth alike level, Is any afflicted, let him pray? Is any merry? let him sing Psalms, James, 5.13.
A second proof may be taken from the general Commandment to all men upon earth to sing to the Lord, Psal. 96.1. Sing unto the Lord all the earth, Psal. 100.1, 2. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye Lands, come before his presence with singing. Psal. 68.32. Sing unto the Lord all the Kingdoms of the earth, O sing Praises unto the Lord. And indeed the grounds and ends of Singing, though some of them do more peculiarly concern the Church and people of God (and therefore they of all others are most bound to abound in this Duty;) yet sundry of the grounds and end of Singing are common to all the sons of men, and therefore none of them to be exempted from this service. As, the sovereignty of God, The Lord is a great God, and a great King above all Gods, Psal. 95.3. And therefore make a joyful noise to him with Psalms, ver. 2. He is to be feared above all Gods, Psal. 96.4. And therefore sing unto him all the earth.
The greatness of God’s works of Creation and Providence, they are other grounds of Singing, and they concern all the sons of men in common, Psal, 145.6. to 10. The Lord giveth food to all flesh, ver. 15, 16. Therefore let all flesh blesse his holy Name, ver. 21. Let every thing that hath breath Praise the Lord for his mighty Acts, and for his excellent Greatness, Psal. 150.2. to 6. The end of singing is to praise the Lord for his goodness, and to stir up our selves and others to serve the Lord with cheerfulness & glad hearts. And therefore Travelers, Prisoners, Sickmen, Seamen, being saved from several distresses by the good hand of God, they are all of them commanded to praise the Lord for his goodness, and to declare his wonders before the sons of men, Psal. 107.6. to 32.
Object. 1. “Against the singing of all sorts of men in the Congregation, carnal as well as Christian, is taken from the examples of Song set forth in Scripture, which both in the old Testament, and in the New, were only performed by the Church and Church-members. As the Song of Moses at the red Sea was sung by Moses, and the children of Israel, Exod. 15.1. His other Song, Deut. 32. he was commanded to teach it to the children of Israel, Deut. 31.19. The Song of Deborah was sung by her and Barak, Judg. 5.1. Under the Kings of Judah, and after the return from Captivity, the Officers of the Church only sang for the more orderly carrying on of that Ordinance, 1 Chron. 6.31, 32. & 16.4. Neh. 11.22, 23.”
In the New Testament, Christ and his Apostles sang in a place apart from others, Mat. 26.30.
In the Church of Corinth, none but the brethren had liberty of Prophecy, in Teaching or Singing Psalms. In the Revelation the four Beasts, and the twenty-four Elders, and the 144000. who sung the praises of God and of the Lamb, were apparent representations of the Church her Officers and Members, Rev. 5.9. & 14.3. & 15.1, 2, 3, 4.
Answ. 1. All these examples prove no more, but what we willingly grant, and what in the former part of this discourse, we have been occasioned to maintain and prove, to wit, that it is lawful, not only for one man alone, but for a whole Church, Officers and Members, to sing the praises of the Lord in heart and voice together with one accord, and so much all these places do evince.
2. We live not by examples only, but by precepts also. And evident precepts have been alleged already, for the general practice of Singing by all the sons of men upon the face of the earth.
3. Some of these examples do allow even wicked men and Apostates to sing, though it be to upbraid and convince their wickedness. As that Song of Moses, Deut. 32. was appointed to be sung by the children of Israel, not only in Canaan, but in their State of Apostasy, and calamity, When evil should befall them in the latter days, Deut. 31.19.21, 22.29.
Object. 2. “It is one of the peculiar privileges of the Church, that the public dispensation of the Word is committed only to them, Rom. 3.2. & 9.4. But singing for the matter of it, is nothing else, but the word, Col. 3.16. And the act of singing in public, is the public dispensation of it.”
Answ. 1. The public dispensation of the Word, to wit, by Preaching, that is, by exposition and application of the word, and that in way of office, is committed only to the Church, and to some select members of the Church, chiefly for the Churches sake, though the benefit thereof may redound also to men without. But the public dispensation of the word is not so confined to the Church, but that occasionally men without may publicly as well as privately, dispense the counsel and will of God both to the Church, and to men out of the Church. And it may be a sin both in God’s people and in others, not to hearken to it. Pharaoh Necho (though neither Israelite nor Proselyte) yet by his Ambassadors did publicly declare the counsel of God to Josiah: and it was a dangerous sin in Josiah, that he did not hearken to the words of Necho, which the Text saith, were from the mouth of God, 2 Chron. 35.21, 22. Balaam publicly dispensed the counsel and word of God throughout the 23. and 24th Chapters of Numbers, to Balack and the Princes of Moab: and it was a desolating sin in Balack and the Princes of Moab, that they did not hearken to him: and it would have been a sin in the Church of Israel also, if they hearing of the same, had not received his Prophecies (which God put into his mouth) as the word of God. The King of the Philistims reproved both Abraham and Sarah from the word of the Lord Gen. 20.9, 10.16. and it had been a sin in them both, to have neglected his reproof.
Answ. 2. It is one thing publicly to dispense any Ordinance or worship of God, which is peculiar unto the Church, (as the Seals, and Censures, and the like:) another thing to join with the Church in such parts of the public worship of God, which are not peculiar to the Church, but common to all the sons of men. Of which sort the public prayers and praises of God be, and to the Psalms also; which though they be dispensed and offered up in the very words of God, yet due praises are not therefore the more undue, because they are offered up in due words.
Object. 3. “It is confusion for the Church and the world to sing together, in a mixt Assembly.”
Answ. 1. All that are out of the Church, are not forthwith the world, many are called out of the world (and so indeed all ought to be, except the children of the faithful) before they be received into the Church. And such though they do sing with the Church, yet it is not a singing of the Church and world together; because they are not of the world, but Christ hath called them out of the world, and the world hateth them.
Answ. 2. It is no confusion, but lawful communion, for Church and world to join together in a mixt Assembly, to perform such duties, as God requireth of them in common: as to hear the word of God, and the like. In Antioch in Pisidia, the whole City almost (the greatest part whereof were Pagans) came together to hear the word of God, Acts 13.44. Was this a confusion? And what if the Apostles had prayed in that mixt Assembly, and all the faithful had said Amen to their prayers, and what if Pagans also understanding what they prayed, had said Amen with them, had it been a confusion? Yea what if in such an Assembly, they should not depart without the public praises of God in a Psalm, and that whole mixt Assembly should join together in the singing of it, would it be a confusion? If it be no confusion for all sorts of men to join together in a mixt Assembly to hear the word of God, because it is a duty required of them all; then neither is it a confusion, but a lawful communion to join together in singing the praises of God in a Psalm, because it is a duty required of them all. David foretelleth, that all the Kings of the earth (and why not their people as well?) shall praise the Lord, when they hear the words of his mouth. Yea they shall sing in the ways of the Lord, that great is the glory of the Lord, Psal. 138.4, 5.
Object. 4. “The end of singing is to instruct, admonish, and comfort the Church: but the world must not instruct the Church, the Church having received sufficient gifts by Christ’s ascension to edify it self, Eph. 4.7. to 12. This were to borrow Jewels of the Ægyptians to make a golden calf, and to put the Ark into a Cart, to be drawn by oxen, that should be carried by Levites.
Answ. 1. The end of singing is not only to instruct, admonish, and comfort the Church, but such also as are godly, though out of the Church. Praise is comely for the upright, whether in the Church, or out of it. Nay further, the end of singing is not only to instruct, and admonish, and comfort the upright, but also to instruct, and convince, and reprove wicked, as hath been shewed, Deut. 31.19.
Answ. 2. The end of singing, is not only to instruct, and convince, and edify men but also to praise and glorify God, Psal. 96.1, 2. Though the Church might be sufficient to edify it self: yet is it not sufficient to glorify God alone: which is a duty lying upon all the sons of men, yea in their kind, upon all the creatures.
Answ. 3. Though the Church have received from Christs ascension sufficient helps within it self, to edify it self: yet if his Providence also cast in other helps from without to edify it, it is from the virtue of the same ascension of Christ sitting at God’s right hand; and such helps are not to be rejected. Josiah did not well to reject the admonition of Pharaoh Necho: Abraham and Sarah did well to receive the admonition of Abimelech. And yet neither Pharaoh nor Abimelech were of the Church.
Answ. 4. The admonition and instruction given in the singing of a Psalm, is rather given by him that penned the Psalm, and by him that appointeth the Psalm to be sung, then by every Singer, unless the admonition and instruction be to himself by the words: and unless there be a stirring up of affection to himself and others, by the blessing of God upon the harmony.
Answ. 5. Though it was an abuse of the Ægyptian Jewells, to borrow them to make a golden calf; yet it was no abuse of them to offer them to God for the building and furnishing of the work of the Tabernacle. God forbid any Christian soul should please it self in comparing the Praises of the holy and glorious God to the golden calf; for though the Singing of the praises of God by carnal men, may be compared to the employment of Ægyptian Jewells to that end for which they are used: yet that end being the praising of God, and in such a way as God hath enjoined to all men, it is not an employment of Ægyptian Jewels to the making of a golden calf, but to the Praises of the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of all them that believe.
Nor is there any resemblance between putting the Ark upon a Cart to be carried by Oxen, which should have been carried by Levites, and the permitting of men out of the Church to join in singing the Praises of the Lord. For neither do the members of the Church (to whom the Lord hath chiefly committed the singing forth of his praises) lay aside this duty, and leave it to Non-Members, (as the Levites laid aside the carrying of the Ark, and left in the Cart and Oxen:) neither are Non-Members as a Cart and Oxen, upon whom this duty was never laid: But are all of them enjoined, as to hear his Word, and to call upon his Name, so to sing forth the praises due unto his Name from all his creatures. There is much more just cause of fear, lest this new opinion of Rejecting of singing of David’s Psalms, and disallowing any Psalms to be sung, but such as are invented by ordinary common gifts, and the same to be sung only by them that invent them, least this new Opinion, I say, be worse than the new Cart of the Philistims; for that was to carry the Ark of God to his place; but this new Opinion tendeth to carry this Ordinance of singing Psalms out of the Country. And there is the like cause of fear least this over-prizing our personal spiritual common gifts, and the Psalms endited [written] by them, above the Psalms of David, be not indeed the erecting of a golden calf, in stead of the Cherubims of the Tabernacle.
Object. 5. “If Pagans and profane persons may sing, they may prophecy also in Christs spiritual Temple.”
Answ. It hath been shewed above, that Prophecy is taken two ways in Scripture. 1. More properly for preaching the Word, that is expounding and applying Scripture to edification. 2. More generally for speaking or publishing the holy things of God, to the glory of God. In the former of these ways, it is not for Pagans, or profane persons, ordinarily and allowably to Prophecy in Christs spiritual Temple, which is his Church. But in the latter way, it is not unlawful as to say Amen, to the public prayers of the Church, and thereby to express their joining in prayer, (which is one act of Prophecy;) so to join with them in singing Psalms; which it hath been shewed above, is a duty common to them with the Church, as well to join with them in hearing the Word. Wherein whether they edify the Church or no, certain it is, it tendeth to the glory of God, that Gods praises should be set forth by all the sons of men. And it is a further glory to God, that such Pagans and profane persons should sing the word of God to their own conviction and confusion of face: And from both, some edification and comfort redoundeth to the Church, to see the wicked convinced, and God’s Name to be glorified. For it is an honour to God, and a comfort to his Church, that our God is not as their God, our enemies being judges and witnesses.
Object. 6. “The godly Jews would not suffer the Samaritans to build the Temple with them, though they offered themselves, Ezra 4.2, 3. And if singing be Prophesying in any sense, and any way tending to the comfort or edification of the Church, why should we suffer profane persons to sing with us?”
Answ. That the godly Jews did reject the Samaritans from building with them, it was not out of moral consideration, as if it were unlawful for Heathens to contribute their assistance to the worship or Ordinances of God; but out of a ceremonial respect, because no Heathens or unclean persons might be allowed to come into the Temple of the Lord, Act. 21.28. 2 Chron. 23.19. But by the death of Christ the Partition wall of Ceremonies is broken down: and we may allow Heathens and profane persons to come into our holy Assemblies, 1 Cor. 14.24. which they would not admit. Certain it is, the godly Jews themselves did receive liberal contributions and oblations from the Kings of Persia, towards the building and maintenance of the Temple, Ezra 7.21. to 24. and Chap. 8.24. to 30. which was a moral acknowledgement of the honor due to the God of Israel, as well by Gentiles as Jews. If therefore the Jews would accept acknowledgment of moral homage and service from Heathens and profane persons to the God of Israel; why may not Christians accept from Pagans and profane persons, their acknowledgement of moral homage and service to our God, in singing forth his praises amongst us?
Object. 7. “Such carnal and profane people, are not worthy to take the Name and Praises of God in their mouths; nor are they able to make melody to the Lord; by singing to him with grace in their hearts, as is required, Col. 3.16.”
Answ. 1. If we speak of the worthiness of desert, John Baptist was not worthy to loose the latchet of Christ’s shoe, much less to sing forth his glorious praise. But if we speak of the worthiness of fitness, though it be true, their unclean lips are not fit to take the holy word of God into their mouths; yet the holy word of God is fit to come into their minds and mouths also, to convince and reprove them of their Apostasy from God, and rebellion against him, Deut. 31.19. And howsoever they be unfit and unworthy to take God’s Name and Praise into their mouths; yet surely the Lord is worthy of all Praise and Glory, Blessing and Thanksgiving from them, and all the Creatures which he hath made.
Answ. 2. It is true, carnal and profane persons are not able to make melody, and sing to the Lord with grace in their hearts; yet that defect doth no more excuse carnal persons from singing, then it doth excuse them from Prayer, which they cannot perform acceptably to God, without a Spirit of grace and faith. To Pray (and so to Sing) without Faith is a sin; but not pray at all is a greater sin: the one is Hypocrisy, the other Atheism.
Object. 8. “Though the Scribes and Pharisees joined in the Temple-Songs upon the words of David in the worldly Sanctuary: yet the melody made by such carnal and clean mouths, was far more beautiful and glorious, then ours in the Assemblies made with a multitude of all manner of Singers, upon the same words of David and Asaph. For although they that sang in the Temple in those days were carnal, yet they were appointed to sing, and were choice Singers, endued with choice (though common) singing gifts, which made the service most beautiful, as men call beauty. But the melody of our Assembly compared with theirs, hath no outward beauty in it. So that if their melody were a Type of ours, then the Type is more glorious then the Antitype, which is a dishonour to Christ.”
Answ. 1. It is no dishonour at all to Christ, that the Type should be far more beautiful and glorious to the outward man, then the Antitype. Solomon was a type of Christ, and the Temple of Solomon was a type of his body; and both Solomon himself and his Temple were far more beautiful and glorious then Christ himself to the outward man, Isa. 53.2. Yet this was no dishonour to Christ, whose beauty and glory was so divine and heavenly in the inner man, that all their outward beauty and glory, were but dim and dark shadows to it.
Answ. 2. We do not say, that their melody in the Temple, which was made with voices, was a type of our melody made with our voices, and singing the same Psalms of David and Asaph. For though their Choristers were types of the whole Church, and their instruments of Music were types of the inward affections of our hearts, in singing forth the Praises of the Lord, to the honour of his name, to their own edification.
Answ. 3. Though their melody might be more beautiful and glorious to the outward appearance, as being more artificial and more musical: yet seeing the Spirit of Grace is more abundantly poured out in the New Testament, then in the old, if the holy Singers sing with more life and grace of the Spirit, our melody is the more beautiful and glorious before the Lord, and his spiritual Saints, though theirs was more beautiful and glorious in the outward sense.
Answ. 4. Whether the Scribes and the Pharisees were any of them Musicians of the Temple, endued with choice gifts, and appointed to that office, (as you say) though we do not know it, yet neither will we deny it. But this we dare say, That if they were appointed to sing, so now not any choice order of men, but all the sons of men are commanded to Sing, as well as to Pray, as hath been shewed above.
Object. 9. “Where many sing together, (as in a great mixt Assembly) many sing they know not what: and they that do know what they sing, cannot but see, that many of the Psalms, which they do sing, are not suitable to their own condition. And how then can they sing such Psalms, as Songs of their own?”
Answ. 1. The ignorance of men in discerning the true matter, or the right manner of a Duty, doth not excuse them from performance of the Duty: we speak of such moral Duties, as the moral Law of God and the Law of Nature requireth to be done. What if a man know not what nor how to pray? Yet that will not excuse him either from praying himself, or from joining with others that are better acquainted with prayer, then himself. So it is here, what if many a man know not what, nor how to sing to Gods Praise? yet that will not excuse him, either from singing himself, or joining with others, that have more spiritual skill in that kind than himself.
Answ. 2. It is an ignorance of a man’s self, and of the ways of God, to think that any Psalm is unsuitable to his own condition. For every Psalm setteth forth either the attributes and works of God and his Christ, and this yieldeth me matter of holy reverence, Blessing, and Praise: Or else it describeth the estate and ways of the Church and People of God, and this affecteth me with compassion, instruction, or imitation: Or else it deciphereth the estate and ways of the wicked, and this holdeth forth to me a word of admonition: Or else it doth lively express mine own affections and afflictions, temptations and comforts, and then it furnisheth me with fit matter and words to present mine own condition before the Lord. But whatsoever the matter of the Psalm concerning God or his Christ, the godly, or the wicked, my self, or others, the good or evil estate of one, or other. It ever ministereth fit matter and occasion to me of singing forth the Praises of the Lord, since the Name of God is to be blessed in all, whether it go well or ill with our selves or others.
CHAP. X. Of the manner of Singing.
THE fourth and last head of Scruples remaineth, touching the manner of Singing: concerning which a threefold Scruple ariseth.
1. Whether it be lawful to sing Psalms in Meter devised by men?
2. Whether in Tunes invented?
3. Whether it be lawful in Order unto Singing, to read the Psalm?
The two former of these Scruples, because they stand upon one and the same ground, may fitly be handled together.
The judgment of the Churches of Christ in these Points, is doubtless suitable to their Practice, That it is lawful to sing Psalms in English verses (which run in number, measure, and meter) and in such grave and melodious tunes, as do well befit both the holiness and gravity of the matter, and the capacity of the Singers.
A double ground or reason may be given hereof: The former is this; If it be lawful to translate and turn the Hebrew Bible into English Prose in order to reading, then it is lawful also to translate and turn David’s Hebrew Psalms, and verse into our English Psalms and Verse, in order to Singing.
But the former of these, is a confessed Truth, and generally received amongst Protestants; except only Mr. Smith, who had a singular conceit in this Point, “That all Letters in the writings of the old Testament were typical (typing out the Law written in our hearts:) and therefore would have all reading of the holy Scripture to be abolished under the New Testament. But Christ himself commanded his Disciples to search the Scriptures, Joh. 5.39. And how shall they search them, except they read them? And the noble Beræans are commanded for searching the Scriptures, in the examining of Paul’s Doctrine, Acts 17.11, 12. which how could they have done without reading? And wherefore did all the Apostles and Evangelists write the New Testament in Greek? a language of all more generally known then the Latin, and therefore much more than any other in the world, as Tully himself testifieth Pro Archiâ Poetâ: was it not for this end, that the New Testament might be read, and generally understood of all Nations? And where it was not understood, there it might most easily be translated out of a language well known unto the several language of every Nation? And as for the old Testament, it was translated to their hands out of the Hebrew into Greek almost three hundred years before the Apostles times. Yea wherefore did God commit the whole Counsel of his will and word to writing, for the edification and salvation of all his people, but that it might be read and understood of them all? If then it be the holy will of God, that the Hebrew Scriptures should be translated into English Prose in order unto reading, then it is in like sort his holy will, that the Hebrew Psalms (which are Poems and Verses) should be translated into English Poems and Verses in order to Singing.
The Consequence is evident and undeniable. For presupposing that God would have the Scriptures read of English men as well as of other Nations, then as a necessary means to that end, he would have the Scriptures translated into the English Tongue, that English People might be able to read them. In like sort, presupposing that God would have the Psalms of David, and other Scripture-Psalms to be sung of English men, (as hath been evinced above in the second Point) then as a necessary means to that end, he would have Scripture-Psalms (which are Poems and Verses) to be translated into English-Psalms (which are in like sort Poems and Verses) that English People might be able to sing them. Now as all Verses in all Poems do consist of a certain number, and measure of Syllables; so do our English Verses (as they do in some other Nations) run in meter also, which make the Verses more easy for memory, and fit for melody.
A second ground of this Point is this: If it be not lawful to translate Hebrew Psalms (which are Verses) into English Verses, which run in number, measure, and meter of syllables:) then it is not lawful to express the elegancy of the Original language in a translation; for it is an artificial elegancy which the holy Pen-men of Scripture used that they penned the Psalms, and such like Poetical books of Scriptures not in prose, (which men use in common speech) but in verses, which observe a certain number and measure of syllables, and some of them run in meter also, as those know that know the Hebrew, and as Buxtorf. sheweth in his Thesaur. pag. 629. Now surely then it were a sacrilegious niceness, to think it unlawful lively to express all the artificial elegancies of the Hebrew Text, so far as we are able to imitate the same in a translation. Yea doubtless it were a part of due Faithfulness in a Translator, as to declare the whole Counsel of God, word for word; so to express lively every elegancy of the Holy Ghost, (as much as the vulgar language can reach) that so the People of God may be kindly affected, as well with the manner, as with the matter of the holy Scriptures.
And for the English Tunes that we use in singing of Psalms, take this for a ground; Since God hath commanded us to sing Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, and amongst others, those of David: and yet withal hath hid from us the Hebrew Tunes, and the musical Accents wherewith the Psalms of David were wont to be sung. It must needs be that the Lord alloweth us to sing them in any such grave, and solemn, and plain Tunes, as do fitly suit the gravity of the matter, the solemnity of God’s worship, and the capacity of a plain People. As, to instance in a like case, when the Lord instituted the Paschal Supper, and therein a whole Lamb to be eaten, the head, feet, and purtenances, and made no mention what drink they should use in it, whether wine, or water, or beer, or other liquor; It was therefore left to their liberty, to use any such liquor as they were wont to drink fit for such meat as was to be eaten, and for such stomachs as were to feed upon it: So here when the Lord appointed us to sing David’s Psalms, and doth not appoint us in what Tunes, He therefore plainly leaveth us to our liberty, to make use of such Tunes as are suitable to such an Ordinance, and to them that partake in it.
Object. 1. “It will not follow, that because the word is to be dispensed in a known tongue, and so translated into it, therefore Hebrew Songs into English Song. For the former, we have the warrant of the Word to dispense it for edification, exhortation and comfort; but no word for the other, nor no gifts of that kind given for the Churches’ profit, to dispense the word this way. Such Songs therefore, and such Tunes (which are called grave Church-Tunes) are not of God. Nor do I believe that the Levites invented any New Tunes, I have no faith to believe that ever God betrusted [trusted] man’s corrupt nature, to frame any thing in God’s worship to his praise. But suppose God had so far honoured the worldly Singers then; yet it will not follow, that the Lord Jesus alloweth us the like liberty now. He will not now allow any flesh to boast in his presence, who is not able to bring to pass so much as a good thought.”
Answ. To weaken the argument for translating Hebrew Songs into English Songs and Tunes, taken from the like warrant of translating Hebrew Scriptures into English Scriptures; This objection denieth, that we have either the like word, or the like gift, or the like liberty. Whereto our answer is, we have all alike equally.
For 1. that we have the like word for singing Hebrew Songs, hath been proved above, out of Colos. 3.16. & Eph. 5.19. And the same word that commandeth us to sing them, commandeth us also the translation of Hebrew Songs into English Songs, as a necessary means to the acceptable singing of them. For if we should sing Hebrew Songs in the Hebrew tongue, the People (the body of the Church) should sing without understanding, which were directly contrary to the Apostles Direction, 1 Cor. 14.15.
2. That we have also the like gift of translating Hebrew Songs into English Songs, as well as Hebrew Prose into English Prose, is evident by the event. For we have not only as many but more Translations of the Hebrew Psalms into English Psalms, then of the Hebrew Bible into the English Bible.
If it be said, “such a gift of translating Hebrew Songs into English Songs, is but a Poetical gift, not a spiritual gift.”
Answ. It might as well be said, the translating of the Hebrew Scriptures into English, is not a spiritual gift, but a Grammatical, or Rhetorical gift. Whatsoever the art or skill be, Grammatical, Rhetorical, Poetical, they are all of them gifts of God (though common) and given chiefly for the service and edification of the Church of God.
3. That we have also the like liberty of inventing Tunes, appeareth from what hath been said already; For if God have given us liberty and warrant to sing Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs, then we must sing them in some Tunes. Now the Tunes of the Temple are lost and hidden from us, so that we cannot sing them at all; and therefore we must sing such other Tunes, as are suitable to the matter, though invented by men.
But you do not believe that the Levites ever invented any New Tune.
Answ. Either the Levites invented New Tunes, or the Psalmists delivered musical Accents, and Notes together with the Psalms: which seeing we understand not, either we must not sing at all, or we must make use of such Tunes, as are invented by others.
But you cannot believe, that ever God betrusted [trusted] man’s corrupt nature, to frame any thing in God’s worship to his Praise.
Answ. Then you cannot believe, that ever God betrusted [trusted] the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, to be read in the Christian Churches in English words; for all English words are framed by English men, in corrupt nature, to wit, without the immediate assistance of the Holy Ghost in the framing of them. And if we may not make use of Tunes invented by men for the singing of the Psalms, then neither may we make use of words invented by men for the Reading of the Psalms, and other Scriptures. The one is as much a worship of God as the other: And English words are as much an invention of man as English Tunes. But least you should begin hereupon to take up a scruple against the Reading also of Scriptures in English words, as well as against the singing of Psalms in English Tunes, and both upon this pretense of the inventions of men in the worship of God, be not ignorant, that such godly men as have been desirous of Reformation, and most zealous against humane inventions in the worship of God, they always intended such human inventions in the worship of God, as had no warrant but the wit and will of man, not such as had warrant either from consequence of Scripture, or light of Nature, or civil custom. For a woman to cover her head in time of public Prayer, or Prophesying, and for a man to uncover his head, the Apostle warranteth both from the light of Nature, and the custom of the Churches, 1 Cor. 11.4. to 16.
The Kiss of love in holy Assemblies was warranted, not by divine institution, (for then it were a sin in us to neglect it now;) but by occasion of civil custom in those Nations; where, it being usual in their Civil Assemblies to greet one another with a kiss of love, The Apostles do not disallow the use of it in holy Assemblies, but only require the sincerity and holiness of the love expressed in such kisses, 1 Cor. 16.20. 1 Thes. 5.26. 1 Pet. 5.14. These Apostles did not believe in this Point, as you do, that God never betrusted [trusted] corrupt Nature, to frame any thing in God’s worship to his Praise.
It is true, man’s corrupt Nature cannot bring forth a good thought, to wit, a gracious thought, and that of it self, but yet by the help of Christ, it may bring forth both knowledge by Tongues, and Tunes by Music; and that with as good allowance in the New Testament as in the Old. God did as much disallow any flesh to boast in his presence in the old Testament, as in the New, Jer. 9.23, 24. But what cause hath any flesh to boast, either of his spiritual, or common gifts? Seeing both are gifts, and received of God: and if received, why should men boast, as if they had not received them? 1 Cor. 4.7.
Object. 2. “To sing with man’s melody and meter, doth not hold forth any spiritual gift of Christ, but only the art and nature of man: whereas Prayer and Preaching do hold forth spiritual gifts. And the tuning of Scripture by man’s art, it is no gift of Grace, neither doth it redound to the praise of Grace.
Answ. Though Prayer and Preaching do hold forth spiritual gifts, yet all the Duties that tend to edification, do not hold forth spiritual gifts, but some of them common gifts only. The reading of the Scriptures tendeth to edification, as being it self an Ordinance of God, though exposition afterwards be added also, which is another Ordinance, Deut, 31.11, 12, 13. And yet reading of the Scriptures is no spiritual gift. Aquila, and Symmachus, and Theodotian, translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, and yet none of them were endued with spiritual gifts, or at best but common. To say Amen at the end of a public Prayer, tendeth to edification; and yet Amen may be said without holding forth any spiritual gift.
But that which is ground of your scruple seemeth to be this, that that which is no gift of Grace, how can it redound to the Praise of Grace?
But the Answer is ready, that such things as help either the understanding, or the affection, and are appointed of God for his worship; they do tend to edification, and so to the praise of grace, though they may be performed by a gift of God in Nature or art, without any spiritual gift of Grace: Translation of the Scriptures into the Mother-Tongue, and the reading of them in a known tongue, do both of them help the understanding: and being appointed of God, they tend to the edification of the people in the Grace of Christ. The translating of the Psalms into verse, in number, measure, and meter, and suiting the Ditty with apt Tunes, do help to stir up the affection: And the singing of Psalms being appointed of God, they tend to make a gracious melody to the Praise of God and edification of his People. The sound of Aaron’s Bells, and the blast of the silver Trumpets, and the workmanship of Hiram the Tyrian in Solomon’s Temple, did none of them hold forth any spiritual gift of grace: The gift of God in Nature and Art might reach them all. Yet all these being appointed by God, the putting forth of these gifts did tend to the edification of the Church of God in the Grace of Christ.
Object. 3. “The Meter of the late Translators, though it come nearer to the Original, then the former Meters, yet not so near as the Prose. They frame their words and sentences more to the Meter, then the Prose. Yea they sometimes break the Attributes of God, and for the verse sake put Jah for Jehovah: which is a mangling of the word.”
Answ. The meter and verse of the late Translators, cometh as near to the words and sense of the Original, as doth the Prose; especially considering they do withal express the holy Art of the Original Hebrew Poetry, which the Prose doth not attend unto. Neither do the Translators break the Attributes of God, when for the verse sake, they put Jah for Jehovah; For both Jah and Jehovah do hold forth one and the same Attribute of God, even his eternal being. The Evangelists and Apostles give us a pattern of greater changes of the Attributes of God, then that; any yet without breaking of the Attributes of God, and much more without mangling of the word of God. It is an usual thing with them to translate Jehovah the Lord, Mat. 22.44. with Psal. 110.1. And yet Jehovah holdeth forth his eternal essence, the Lord his Sovereign Dominion. It were sacrilegious Blasphemy to call this changing either the breaking of Gods Attributes, or the mangling of his word. Besides, its very rare when the Translators do make any such change of Jah for Jehovah: and to prevent all stumbling, either of your self, or others at it, I suppose they will help it in the next Edition of the Psalms.
Object. 4. “What delight can the Lord take in such Praises of himself, where sinful men, or the Man of sin hath an hand in making the melody?”
Answ. God delighteth that his will should be obeyed: at least he abhorreth that his will should be disobeyed, though by sinful men, 1 Sam. 15.22, 23. Since God commandeth all men in distress to call upon him, and all men in their mirth, to sing his Praise, what is mortal sinful man, (Dust and Ashes) that he should forbid, what God hath commanded? God knoweth how to allow, yea and to reward what is his own: when yet he taketh no pleasure in the sinful manner of performance of any Duty. God took notice of Ahab’s humiliation, and rewarded it with respite of temporal judgments, though he took no pleasure in his sinful hypocrisy, 1 Kings 21.27, 28, 29. And yet they that had an hand in making the Melody of the English Psalms, (whether in old England or New) were men of a better spirit then Ahab. But I can but marvel, why you should put in the man of sin, as having any hand at all, in making this Melody. For neither the man of sin (by whom I suppose you mean Antichrist) nor any Antichristian Church have had any hand in turning David’s Psalms into English Songs and Tunes, or are wont to make any Melody in the Singing of them, yea they reject them as Genevah Gigs [jigs]; And they be Cathedral Priests of an Antichristian spirit, that have scoffed at Puritan-Ministers, as calling the People to sing one of Hopkins Jiggs, and so hop into the Pulpit. God keep all Anti-Psalmists from the like Antichristian Spirit. They that have been in Antichristian Churches can tell you, that Popish Churches are not wont to sing David’s Psalms translated into verse in their own Country Meter, but they only sing the Prose of David’s Psalms in Cathedral Notes. Which how far your self close withal, I leave to your self to consider.
CHAP. XI. Of Reading the Psalms in order to Singing.
THE last scruple remaining in the manner of singing, Concerneth the order of singing after the Reading of the Psalms. For it is doubted by some, and concluded by others that reading of the Psalms is not to be allowed in order to singing. We for our parts easily grant, that where all have books and can read, or else can say the Psalm by heart, it were needless there to read each line of the Psalm before hand in order to singing. But if it be granted, which is already proved, that the Psalms to be ordinarily sung in Public, are Scripture-Psalms, and those to be sung by the body of the Congregation. Then to this end it will be a necessary help, that the words of the Psalm be openly read before hand, line after line, or two lines together, that so they who want either books or skill to read, may know what is to be sung, and join with the rest in the duty of singing; It is no unwarrantable invention of man, brought into the worship of God, to make use of such means, which the light of Nature teacheth us, to be either necessary or convenient helps, either to the hearing or understanding of what it said in the worship of God. Scaffolds erected in Meeting houses are inventions of men; no express precept, nor example in Scripture calleth for them; and yet the light of Nature easily suggesteth it, that they help to hearing, and so to edification, in as much as they draw multitudes of people to sit within the Ministers voice; That which helpeth the very outward sense of hearing, helpeth also knowledge and understanding, and so edification. And therefore no man taketh exceptions at Scaffolds as inventions of men, though they be used to help forward Gods worship, and spiritual edification; because they are not brought in, nor used for spiritual means immediately, but remotely, so far as they are fit to help the outward sense of hearing and so understanding. Of like use is reading in order to Singing. It giveth the People to hear, and so to understand, what is to be sung, that so they may join with the rest in singing of the Psalm: and by Singing be stirred up to use holy Harmony, both with the Lord and his People.
Object, 1. “The Scripture mentioneth no ordinary reading in any Church, but that which is joined with interpretation.”
Answ. 1. The Scripture doth expressly mention Baruch to have read the word in a Church Assembly, without adjoining any interpretation to it, Jer. 36.6, 7.
Answ. 2. As Preaching, of the word is an Ordinance, so reading the word in order to Preaching, is an Ordinance also. In like sort, as singing of Psalms is an Ordinance, so reading the Psalms in order to singing, is allowable also.
Answ. 3. It is mentioned in Scripture, that the children of Israel did all join in singing the Song of Moses at the Red Sea, Exod. 15.1. Now it is not credible, that they who were bred and brought up in bondage, were brought up to read. It were much if one of a thousand of them could read. If most of them could not read, how could they join in singing that Psalm, unless some or other read, or pronounced the Psalm to them?
Answ. 4. Though it be true, that the Church of Israel had such an Ordinance amongst them, that after the reading of the Law, or the Prophets, some or other of the Priests or Levites, or Prophets, were wont to expound the same to the people, (Acts 13.15. & 15.21. Neh. 8.7, 8.) yet the very reading of the word it self was also an Ordinance, though no Exposition followed, Deut. 31.11, 12, 13. Deut. 27.14. to 26.
Object. 2. “The Scripture prescribeth not what Officer shall perform this act, to read the Psalm in order to singing.”
Answ. The Scripture prescribeth this, as it doth many other matters of ordering Gods house, to wit, under general Rules. It is no where expressly prescribed in Scripture, who shall be the Mouth of the rest in the public Admonition, or Excommunication of an Offender; yet by general Rules, it may easily be collected, That public dispensations of the Church, do ordinarily pertain to the public Officers of the Church. Any of the preaching or ruling Elders may warrantably go before the people, in putting the words of the Psalm into their mouths.
Object. 3. “This reading of the Psalm doth hinder the melody, the understanding, the affection in singing.”
Answ. If a man’s prejudice against reading do not hinder himself, Reading hindreth none of these; not melody, for the Reading is not in the art of singing, but in the pause; nor the understanding, for it helpeth such as cannot read, or want Books to understand what is to be sung, which otherwise they could hardly perceive; nor the affection, for when the melody is not interrupted, and the understanding furthered, the affection is rather helped then hindered; or if it be hindered, lay the fault where it is, rather in a coy, or cold heart, then in a distinct and intelligent Reading.
CHAP. XII. Answering the Objections brought from the ancient Practice of the Primitive Churches.
OBJECT. 1. “That practice which was anciently used in the Churches immediately after the Apostles times, is most probable to be nearest the constitution of the Apostles; and that practice which followed a great while after it, is most probable to be furthest off; as the water is purest and clearest, nearest the fountain, and runneth more troubled, and muddy afterwards. Now the practice of singing Psalms, which were made by the faithful, was first in use: For those Psalms which the Primitive Christians used before day in the time of Persecution, wherein they sang Praises to Christ their God (as Pliny writeth to Trajan) they are said to be made of the faithful.
These were in use, even in John’s time, after he was called from Banishment (after Domitian’s death) to order the Churches; which practice also continued about three hundred years; wherein there was more purity in Doctrine and Discipline, (as useth to be under Persecution) then afterwards.”
Answ. 1. This Syllogism falleth short of Truth in both the Propositions: For it is not always true, that the practice which was used in the Churches immediately after the purest times, is nearest to their constitution, (as the water is purest and clearest next the fountain;) and that which followeth a great while after it, is furthest off. As water near the fountain may fall out to be troubled, and so become less clear and pure, then in his running course further off. The night following the day, though it be nearest to the day, yet it is more dark, then the day following after, though it be further off from the day before. The Elders and People that lived in the days of Joshuah, they served the Lord: but when that Generation were gathered to their Fathers, there arose another Generation after them, which knew not the Lord, and they did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, Judg. 3.7. to 11. Paul forewarneth the Elders of Ephesus; He knew that after his departure grievous Wolves should come in amongst them, not sparing the flock, Acts 20.29, 30. And Eusebius complaineth out of Hesesippus, That after the Apostles times, the Church did not long remain a chaste and undefiled Virgin, Histor. Eccles. lib. 3. cap. 26.
2. Neither is it true, that the practice of singing Scripture-Psalms followed a great while after the Apostles times, as if the faithful had only made use of their own personal gifts in compiling Psalms for the first three hundred years. For it is evident that in the next Century after the Apostles times, the Church did (as Tertullian testifieth, Apologet, Chap. 39.) Deo canere, either de Scripturis Sanctis, or de proprio ingenio, that is, either out of the holy Scriptures, or out of their own gift. Yea and Pliny himself, (which is all the Testimony you allege of the Churches practice for three hundred years) he doth not express what Psalms they sang, whether out of the holy Scriptures, or out of their own gift, or that any one alone did sing, but that they did Carmen Christo quasi Deo dicere suo invicem, Plin. Epist. lib. 10. Epist. 97. Which Tertullian and others express, they did Caetus antelucanos habere ad canendum Deo & Christo, Apologet. cap. 2. They met before day to sing Praises to God and Christ, and to confederate Discipline.
3. Though they had made use of their personal gifts, more than they did in the times of the Primitive Persecutions, during the first three hundred years, yet that would not argue they neglected the use of David’s Psalms; much less would it encourage us to neglect the use of David’s Psalms now. During the times of those bloody Persecutions, as the sufferings of the Saints abounded, so did their Consolations (through Christ) abound also. As God honoured sundry of them with miraculous gifts, so especially with a large measure of spiritual joy in the Lord, which might furnish them with more enlargement of heart, to compile Psalms to set forth his Praise, then God is wont to bestow in more peaceable times.
4. Though sometimes they sang Scripture-Psalms, and sometimes spiritual Songs by personal Gifts: yet both sorts evidence the judgment and practice of those times, touching vocal Singing. They did not only make melody to the Lord with Grace in their hearts, but with Songs also in their mouths.
Yea Justin Martyr, (who flourished within fifty years after the Apostles time) or whosoever was the Author of those Questions and Answers ad Orthodoxos amongst his works, though he speak of Musical Instruments, as utterly unfit for Church Assemblies, “yet simple singing with the voice he much magnifieth; as that which stirreth up the heart to spiritual joy, and holy desires; as that which subdueth the passions and concupiscences of the flesh; as that which scattereth the evil suggestions of spiritual enemies; as that which watereth, and refresheth the soul to fruitfulness in good Duties; as that which stirreth up courage and constancy in wrestlings for the Truth; and as that which giveth some medicine to all the griefs, which befall a man through sad and sorrowful Accidents in this life,” Justin in Answ. to Q. 107.
5. After the three hundred years after Christ were expired, yet not long after the times of Persecution returned in the days of Julian the Apostate, when the Christians of Antioch, together with the women and children, sang such Psalms of David as cursed and reproached Heathen Idols and Idolaters, Socrates Eccles. Histor. lib. 2. cap. 16. in Gn. cap. 18. Theodoret expresseth by name. Psal. 115. & Psal. 68. Histor. Eccles. lib. 3. cap. 17.
6. Although before the three hundred years were expired, we read in Eusebius, that one Nepos (though a Millenary) was well respected, as for other good gifts and works, so for divers Psalms and Hymns composed by him, (which some brethren did willingly use a long time after;) yet we suppose, that was such a practice, as your self would not allow, to sing set forms of Psalms invented by men, and to continue to sing them after their departure, and in the mean time, to refuse set forms of Psalms endited [inspired] by the Holy Ghost; as if the Psalms endited [written] by an extraordinary measure of the Spirit, were more unclean, then the Psalms endited [written] by the common gift of an Ordinary Elder or Brother.
Object. 2. “Samosatenus the Heretick, (who denied the Deity of the Lord Jesus) was the first that within those first three hundred years, opposed this singing by personal gifts.”
Answ. Not out of respect to David’s Psalms, but to avoid the Hymns which did set forth the Glory and Godhead of Christ, and to bring in Psalms, which did set forth his own Heresy, and therewith his own Praises, as Eusebius testifieth, Eccles. Hist. lib. 7. cap. 24. in lat. cap. 30. in gr.
Object. 3. “The practice of singing David’s Psalms was a later invention, brought into the Church of Antioch by Flavianus and Diodorus. And hence this custom was taken up by Ambrose and Augustine: but vehemently opposed by one Hilary a Ruler there, because they sang out of a Book. Hence Augustine turned a Patron for it, forced thereto rather by the importunity of the people, then of his own accord: as being destitute of weapons out of the word of God for it: and therefore afterwards repented of it, and wished the Custom removed.”
Answ. 1. Tertullian’s testimony alleged above, doth evidently evince, that the singing of Scripture-Psalms (and so of David’s was in use in the Church, before Flavianus and Theodorus were borne, Apologet. cap. 39. For Tertullian was about 140. years before them.
2. The practice brought in by Flavianus and Diodorus, was rather some new fashion of singing David’s Psalms, then the singing of them. For as Theodoret reporteth it, they were the first that divided the Quire of Singers into two sides, and appointed one side of them to answer the other in the singing of them: and used the same at the Monuments of the dead, and that sometimes all the night long. But these inventions savoured rather of superstition, then of pure Primitive Devotion: though they wrought a good effect upon Theodosius, when Flavianus sent those Songs to be sung at his Table, to moderate his wrath against the Citizens of Antioch; see Theodoret, Hist. Eccles. lib. 2. cap. 24. Zozomen, Hist. Eccles. lib. 7. cap. 23.
3. It is spoken without warrant of Antiquity, that Ambrose and Augustine took up the practice of singing David’s Psalms from Flavianus and Diodorus. For neither did they bring it in, (as was shown out of Tertullian;) nor is the slackness of some Churches in receiving an Ordinance, a just exception against the Ordinance, but rather a just reprehension of their negligence. And so much doth Augustine confess in his 119 Epistle, chap. 18.
“Where speaking of this practice of singing of Psalms, though it be, saith he, so useful to the stirring up of the heart in godliness, and to kindle the affection of divine reading: yet the custom of Churches is divers about it, and the most members of the African Churches, Pigriora sunt, have been more slothful in receiving it. In somuch that the Donatists do reprehend us, that we sing soberly the divine Songs of the Prophets, whereas they inflame their drunkenness (as it were) by a Trumpet of exhortation to the singing of Psalms, composed by their own human wit.”
By which reproof of the Donatists, it may appear that the custom of singing David’s Psalms was in use in the African Churches, and in Millain also of former times; and that the Custome brought into the Church of Millain to keepe the people awake in their night Watches against the Arrian violence, was the singing of Psalmes after the Easterne manner, with more curiosity of Musicke, and one side of the Singers answering another. And of this is Augustine to bee understood in the ninth booke of his Confessions, chap. 7.
4. It is not true, That Augustine became a Patron of singing David’s Psalms, rather forced to it by the importunity of the people, then of his own accord.
“For he saith expressly in the same Chapter of the same Epistle; That the practice of singing Psalms and Hymns is to be done without doubting, seeing it may be defended out of the Scriptures, in which we find both the Doctrines, and Examples, and Precepts of Christ, and of his Apostles for it. And the same Augustine in his first Tome and third Rule, (as it is titled) Nolite (saith he) cantare, nisi quod legitis esse cantandum. Quod autem non ita Scriptum est ut cantetur, non cantetur; that is, do not sing but what you read is to be sung, but that which is not written that it should be sung, let it not be sung. Nor is it true, that Augustine repented, that the custom of singing David’s Psalms was brought into the Church, or that he wished rather it were taken away.”
For though when he saw his heart more taken up with the melody of the Tune, then with the sweetness of the matter, he could have wished the sweetness of the melody removed from his own ears, and from the Church: yet still he would have them sung after the manner of the Church of Alexandria, and Athanasius: And then correcting himself;
“But when I remember, saith he, my Tears which I poured out at the singing of thy Church, in the first restoring of my Faith, and how J am still moved, not with the Song, but with the matter sung, when it is sung with a clear voice, and convenient tune or modulation, I do again acknowledge the great utility of this Institution.”
And though he do waver between the peril of delight to the sense, and experiment of wholesomeness to the soul: yet his scruple was not of the lawfulness of singing David’s Psalms, but partly of the pleasantness of the Tunes (which might be more artificial, then the gravity of the Ordinance required) partly of the expediency thereof to himself, till his heart were more spiritual. His writing against Hillarius jubentibus fratribus, doth not argue, he wrote against his will, but by a good call, in defense of singing David’s Psalms against a man that took up any occasion to carp at Gods Ministers, August. Retract. lib. 2. cap. 11.
Object. 4. “Besides it is to be noted, that Forms of divine Service and Litanies begun to be used at the same time, in many places. In the French Churches, and in Constantine’s Court and Camp, both himself and his Soldiers using a Form of Prayer, the Churches (as is wont under Christian Magistrates) growing proud and lazy. At which time they had also their Regular and Canonical Singers appointed hereunto by Office: The Psalms composed by private Christians (whom they call Idiots) being interdicted in one and the same Counsel of Laodicea, till at length all was turned into a Pageant in the year 666. the fatal figure of Antichrist: it being impossible (as it seemeth) that the lively gifts of God’s Spirit in his people, should breath any longer when Forms are once set up in the Church, &c.”
Answ. Though Constantine appointed a form of Prayer to his Soldiers, (Euseb. lib. 4. de vit. Constantin. cap. 20.) yet we do not read that he limited them to the use of it; much less that forms of divine Service and Litanies were brought into the Church in his time, nor scarce of an hundred years after. Neither were Regular and Canonical Singers brought into the Church in his time. The Council of Laodicea which allowed them, and interdicted Psalms composed by divers Christians, was near about sixty years after him.
2. Their forbidding any to sing, but such as were appointed to sing, (Concil. Laodic. Can. 15.) though they did it to abuse the Peoples abuse of the Psalms by singing out of Tune; yet their care might better have been bestowed in learning the people to know and keep the Tune, and in advising such as had loud and strong voices, and were skillful of Song, to have led and kept the people in a decent melody. But otherwise for their prohibiting of singing of Psalms composed by private men, and the reading of any books in the Church, but the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, as they do in Canon 59. that so they might establish the reading of Scripture-books, and the singing of Scripture-Psalms. It is so far from superstition, that it tendeth rather to prefer divine Institutions, above humane Inventions. When they interdicted the Psalms composed by private Christians, whom they called Idiots, or as we call them in our language, simple fools. You are not ignorant that an Idol in their language signifieth no more but a private man; and in the same sense the Apostle himself useth it, 1 Cor. 14.16. though the Translators turn it unlearned.
Neither do Forms of God’s Praise stop the breathing of the lively Gifts of God’s Spirit, when the Forms are no other, but such as were indited [written] by the immediate Inspiration of the Holy Ghost; For when the Psalms of David, and of other holy men of God, were commended to the Church of Israel, and by them were ordinarily sung in the Temple and elsewhere, would you say it did hinder the free passage of the breathing of the lively gifts of God’s Spirit, either in the Ministry of the Priests, or in the writings and Sermons of the Prophets? Surely Elisha found it otherwise, 2 Kings 3.15. and the whole Church of Judah. As for 666 (which you call the fatal figure of Antichrist) judge you in your own soul before the Lord, whether it do more savour of an Antichristian spirit, for the whole Church to sing the Psalms of David with one accord, or to sing Te Deum, or some other Anthem devised by a private spirit, one man alone? Sure it is (as we said before) Antichristian Churches do utterly reject the singing of David’s Psalms in the Meter of each Nation in their Mother Tongue, yea and do reproach such Psalms as Genevah jiggs; so fare are they off from closing with singing of them as an Invention of their own.
Object. 5. “Let no man think, that the singing of David’s Psalms is an Ordinance of God, because many Christians have found their affections stirred (as Augustine also did) in the singing of them. This doth not justify this practice, no more than it doth Preaching by a false calling, because some have found conversion by it: no more than it doth the receiving the seal of the Supper in a false Church, and that with the Idolatrous gesture of kneeling, because some have found quickening and strengthening Grace therein. For Gods goodness many times goeth beyond his Truth.”
Answ. We cannot say, That God’s goodness goeth beyond his Truth, though sometime he shew a man mercy out of his way. For we have the truth of God’s word to testify, that so sometime he doth as Saul found converting grace in going to Damascus to persecute the Saints. But this we say, that when God doth thus, he either convinceth a man of the error of his way, before he shew him favour in it, (as he did Saul;) or else the way it self, or Duty is of God, though there be some falling in the circumstance of it. Many of Israel that came to the Passover in Hezekiah’s time in their uncleanness, yet they found mercy with the Lord. But it was because the Ordinance and Duty was of God, the failing was only in the manner of Preparation to it, 2 Chron. 30.18, 19, 20. But if Micah set up an invention of his own in his house, though he may promise himself a blessing in some orderly circumstance of it, (as he did Judg. 17.13.) yet let him be sure he shall find a curse in stead of a blessing, according as God hath expressed it, Deut. 7.26. It is granted and bewailed, that there hath been found some sinful failings in sundry circumstances of some Ministers callings: And yet because the substance of the calling was of God; many have found saving blessings in attending on their Ministry. And the Lord’s Supper administered by them being of God, though the gesture in which it was received was corrupt, the Lord was pleased to accept and blesse what was his own, and to pass by sins of ignorance in his people. But can it ever be proved that when any practice of Gods worship hath been but an humane and Antichristian invention, that it hath been nevertheless blessed with the communication of spiritual affections, and that not seldom and rarely, but frequently and usually; not to one or two Saints, but generally; not to the weakest, but to the strongest Christians? We are verily persuaded no such instance can be given since the world began. God is not wont to honour and bless the ways of superstition, with the reward of sincere devotion. But surely God hath delighted to bless the singing of his holy Psalms, with gracious and spiritual affections, not only in Augustine’s time, & in Justine Martyr’s before him, but from age to age to his Saints, usually, generally, and abundantly: so that doubtless the servants of God defraud their souls of much spiritual good, and comfort, who defraud themselves of the Fellowship of this Ordinance.
But here is the misery of the present age, that those Ordinances that men have practiced, either without the knowledge of the true grounds thereof, or without the life and sense of the comfort of them, or without the sincere love of them, they have therefore afterwards in the hour and power of Temptation cast them aside, and so forsaken the holy Institutions of God, to embrace & please themselves in their own imaginations. How much more safe were it, for humble and sincere Christians, to walk in God’s holy fear, and in sense of their own ignorance, infirmities, and temptations, to suspect their own private apprehensions, and humbly to beg a Spirit of Light and Truth, to lead them into all Truth, and meekly to consult with Brethren without setting up any Idol or forestalled Imagination in their hearts, before they resolve to run a by-way, to the grief and scandal of their Brethren. It is a Palsy distemper in a member to be carried with a different motion from the rest of the body: The Lord heal our swervings, and stablish us with a Spirit of Truth and Grace in Christ Jesus.