Directory For The Publick Worship Of God
Of Singing of Psalms.
Question 1.—Is it the duty of Christians to praise God publicly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation?
Answer.—Yes. Ps. 98:5. That the Book of Psalms ought to be used to the exclusion of all other songs appears in the following: 1.) Songs, to be suitable for the celebration of God’s praise, must be descriptive, not of anything human, but of the divine glory; for this is the very nature of the ordinance of praise, Ps. 107:15; 150:2. Men, however gifted, learned and godly, can never prepare songs to convey any adequate description of the divine glory, 1 Cor. 2:11. Only the superintending inspiration of God could fit one to author the songs of Zion, as in David’s case, 2 Sam. 23:1, 2. 2.) All songs composed apart from such inspiration may have errors, and must have defects; but the psalms of the Bible cannot. But, it is sinful to offer to God a sacrifice which we know to be defective, Mal. 1:14. 3.) There is in the word of God plain warrant for using the Book of Psalms in singing God’s praise, 2 Chron. 29:30, 35; Ps. 105:2; James 5:13. However, we are warned against worshiping God according to the traditions of men, Matt. 15:9.
The admission of a song into the Scripture may, or may not, infer its inspiration; but its admission into the Book of Psalms proves at once its inspiration and adaptation, according to the mind of the Spirit, to the services of the sanctuary, cf. 2 Sam. 22:1-4 w/ Ps. 18 title, vv. 1-3. The exclusion of one from the general collection, whilst it does not invalidate its claim to inspiration, seems to show that its use as a praise song was private and temporary, 2 Sam. 23:1-7. As Athanasius once said, the Psalms are unique in the Bible; most of Scripture speaks to us, but the Psalms speak for us.
Question 2.—Should the psalms also be used privately in the family?
Answer.—Yes. Ps. 118:15; Jer. 10:25. Christian families should conscientiously serve God in this exercise. They are called upon to separate themselves to this service of praise, as well as of prayer. It is most reasonable that a church should be in each of their houses, Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15.
Question 3.—Should the voice be tunably and gravely ordered in the singing of psalms?
Answer.—Yes. James 5:13. Singing is only speaking with a tuned voice; or, it is lengthening the sound of words by a tuneful and melodious pronunciation. To sing God’s praise, is to speak it out musically. It supposes the exercise of the soul; for we should sing and make melody in our hearts, Col. 3:16. But it does not consist wholly of the mind, but employs also the voice, Isa. 52:8. As it is also to be done socially, in concert, Ps. 95:1; it requires the proper ordering of the voice itself so that it can tunably praise God in unison, 1 Cor. 14:40; 2 Chron. 5:13. Additionally, Scripture informs us that our Lord sung an hymn with his disciples, Matt. 26:30; the word used in the original language ὑμνήσαντες always denotes a grave song of vocal praise.
Question 4.—Is the chiefest care to be had to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord?
Answer.—Yes. Eph. 5:19. All the powers of the soul should be summoned to a vigorous exertion in this delightful employment, Ps. 57:8. Care is to be taken that we sing praises with understanding, as is commanded, Ps. 47:7. Blind devotion cannot please Him who inhabits the praises of Israel, Ps. 22:3. Likewise, we must sing with the Spirit—grace in the heart—as well as with the understanding, 1 Cor. 14:15; John 4:24. Exalted joy in divine praise is a fruit produced only by the Holy Ghost blowing upon the church, Song 4:16. Understanding, affection, and earnestness should mix in performing this heavenly work, Rom. 12:1, 2.
Question 5.—Is the whole congregation to join in the public praise of God?
Answer.—Yes. Heb. 2:12. God’s praises are to be conducted in the assembly, Ps. 107:32; 111:1; and it is the duty of all God’s people to sing praises unto Him, Ps. 148:11, 12; 150:6. Choirs and worship by proxy have no place since the abolition of the Temple worship, 1 Chron. 9:33; Neh. 12:46.
Question 6.—Should everyone that can read have a psalm book and should those who cannot read, not disabled by age or otherwise, be exhorted to learn to read?
Answer.—Yes. Isa. 29:12; 1 Cor. 14:15, 16. Of those otherwise disabled from reading, no doubt God would have mercy and the communication of the divine knowledge, instead of a service they could not render, Hos. 6:6. However, such literacy as would allow one to read the Psalm book is commended as ennobling those who utilize it, Acts 17:11.
Question 7.—Is it still convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof, that all may participate in the praise of God?
Answer.—Yes. Ex. 15:20, 21. Paul joins with the spirituality (πνεύματι) required in all acceptable worship, Jude 20; intelligence (νοΐ) in the praising of God, 1 Cor. 14:15. When the whole congregation, following the apostolic example and obeying the divine command, harmonize in praising God, it is obvious that all must be acquainted with the matter of the song, Ps. 47:7. Not only men and women, church members of adult years, are to hear the word of God read and expounded, Neh. 8:2-8; but all ranks and ages and both sexes are called upon to praise the Lord, Ps. 148:12. That all who are thus required to join in celebrating the praise of God may have it in their power to obey, there must be some means used that intelligence and harmony may exist among the worshippers, Ps. 12; 18 titles. Most importantly, the law of charity, in its bearing upon social and especially public worship, forbids whatsoever hinders the edification, not only of a fellow Christian, but of a fellow creature; yes, even one, 1 Cor. 14:24. To this end, we are directed to line out the psalms, even as was done before the advent of psalm books, 1 Chron. 16:7.