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Letter III.


Letter III.

James Dodson



DEAR BRETHREN:—It appears from the records of the early periods of the church, that Christians, in their public assemblies, praised God in the language of scripture songs. It also appears, that the term hymn was applied to David’s Psalms. We have also seen, that though Psalmody was universal in the Eastern churches, from the beginning; yet it was not general in those of the West before the fourth century. In that age, it likewise appears to have been the practice of certain heretics, to reproach the orthodox, for singing with sobriety the divine songs of inspiration, preferring to them the inflammatory compositions of their own invention. We now turn to the history of psalmody in later times.

In the middle ages, the ages too of moral gloom and terrible superstition, the purest section of the church of God was found in the valleys of Piedmont. Among the Waldenses were found the simplicity of the apostolic order, and the purity of evangelical worship. They sung, “mid Alpine cliffs,” the Psalms of Scripture. And long before the Reformation dawned on Europe, they sung them in metre. “The Albigenses, in 1210, were metre psalm-singers.” The morning-star of the Reformation used them. Wickliffe is blamed by some for singing metre psalms. John Huss, in the fifteenth, as Wickliffe had done in the fourteenth century,[1] sung the psalms in verse. These were not friends, either to Papal domination, or to Arian heresy.[2]

But what was the course pursued at the Reformation; that period when God: in remarkable providences, descended to free the human mind from chains, and his church from bondage? The reformers celebrated the praise of their Redeemer; and they did so in the use of scripture songs. Luther, as early as the year 1525, published a metre version of the Psalms. In the same year, at Augsburg, was published a poetic translation, of the whole book, by another hand.

In the year 1543, under the auspices of Calvin, fifty of the Psalms, translated into verse by Marmot, a refugee from papal persecution, were printed at Geneva. Marmot died shortly after this, and Beza, the devout, learned and polished companion of Calvin, versified the remainder. The whole book, thus versified, was in a few years published. Such was the demand then for the book of Psalms, that the press was unable to meet it. In A.D. 1553, the use of it was interdicted by a bull from Rome. The Protestants of that day did not perceive that it dulled their worship; nor did the perverters of the church’s faith hope to derive any benefit to their cause from its use. It was devoutly sung by the reformers, and burlesqued by the papists.

In England the friends of reform were also the friends of the Bible Psalms. For their use, several of them were turned into metre by Wyatt and others; but a full version was not obtained till after the accession of Elizabeth. The year 1562 presented that by Sternhold, Hopkins, Cox, Norton, &c. This was used in the Church of England till superseded by the more imperfect version of Tate and Brady,[3] in A.D. 1696. The Puritans of England, in A.D. 1562, contended, among other things, for reform in the Psalmody of the church. They proposed “That the Psalms should be sung distinctly by the whole congregation.” Some of the reformers in that kingdom, amidst the commotions of the times, it seems, for a little, hesitated, as to the propriety of Psalmody in the church: this appears from one of Latimer’s orders, in A.D. 1537, when bishop of Worcester. The same thing is intimated in a protestation of some of the clergy, in the previous year, within the province of Canterbury.[4] But none who admitted the propriety of singing, ever doubted the evangelical character of inspired songs, or refused to employ them in sacred praise. This is a refinement of modern evangelizers.

In the Scottish Church the reformers, from the first, practised Psalmody. It is said they sung the book of Psalms in prose; the form, perhaps, in which it should still be used. Before A.D. 1546, there is no authentic account of any use of metred Psalms in that church; but both before and after that period, in one form or another, the book of Psalms was uniformly employed in their congregations.[5]

In 1649, the General Assembly at Edinburgh, adopted the version which she still uses. The ground-work of this was laid by Mr. Francis Rouse, who is represented as a man of piety and learning. It was recommended to the attention of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. Under their correcting hand, in the course of several years, it was improved. It was then forwarded to the North, and was, by the supreme judicatory of the Scottish Church, committed to committees for revision. Years were by them employed in comparing it with the original Hebrew, and in attempting to carry as much as possible of the spirit of the primitive composition into the translation.[6] And the man of literature and taste, who shall carefully examine the subject, it is believed, will admit, that they admirably succeeded. Like the version of the Bible, this of the Psalms, is not remarkable for modern elegance of diction; but it is remarkably literal. To present the book of Psalms in its native simplicity, beauties, and force, was the aim of the Westminster divines, as well as of the Assembly at Edinburgh. To the man of God, to the child of grace, and the man of legitimate taste, these characteristics must be a recommendation.[7] In the American churches, this version was extensively used; and in all the Presbyterian churches of the southern and middle states, till a recent period, none other was admitted.

Early in the last century Dr. Watts, in England, published his Imitation of some of David’s Psalms, accompanied with other hymns. These he introduced to public notice by prefaces, containing bitter libels against the original songs of Zion. The days of Puritanic zeal had then passed away. The licentious and unprincipled reigns of the second Charles and James, had given a shock to the morals and to the piety of the nation, under the influence of which they languished, and were ready to expire. The principles of infidelity had extended to every department of the social body, and were, in both church and state, more extensively embraced than is generally admitted. Comparatively few of Zion’s most conspicuous sons escaped the contagion of a maddening philosophy, which, in its phrensy, more openly, at a succeeding period, expressed the idle hope of universally desolating the heritage of God. At such a time it is not strange that an indulgent ear should be given to unhallowed suggestions against any portion of the word of God; and especially when recommended by the imposing pretensions to superior liberality and light. In the days of martyrdom for reading the word of God, it was not deemed unsuitable in songs of praise to employ the language of the Holy Ghost. But other times succeeded, when religious sentiments of another cast, and piety of another tone, were countenanced.[8] It was found that the use of scripture songs “flattened devotion, awakened regret, and touched all the springs of uneasiness in the worshipper’s breast.”[9] Such were the sentiments, and such was the language of Dr. Watts.

The Imitation of the Psalms of Dr. Watts, and his hymns, recommended by the sentiments of his prefaces, found their way across the Atlantic, and gradually obtained footing in the Congregational churches of New England. As these advanced, the scripture songs retired, and, with them, no small share of the orthodox principles, the theological intelligence and the holy practice, that had previously distinguished the Puritans of our country, the descendants of the Pilgrims.

The Synod of New York and Philadelphia, now the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, had continued to employ the scripture psalms, and in that version used in the Church of Scotland. But the Imitation of Watts began to agitate their congregations. “Questions connected with the subject of Psalmody were repeatedly presented to Synod.”[10] Sundry members and congregations within their bounds expressed a preference for Watts’ to the Bible Psalms, as “most for edification,” and in 1763 made inquiry whether the use of the Imitation would be allowed. An answer to the inquiry was declined. Want of acquaintance with the production of Watts prevented, for the time, either a permission or prohibition, farther than the making of no objection to its use by those who preferred it, till the farther consideration of the subject.

In 1764 the subject was again before them, and was postponed. Next year, 1765, it was again discussed. A committee, composed of Dr. Finley, and Mr. M’Dowell, to whom the subject had been committed, made their report, which was adopted, and which indicates the leaning of their supreme judicatory at that time. The report is in these words: “The Synod judge it best, in present circumstances, only to declare that they look on the inspired Psalms in scripture to be proper matter to be sung in divine worship, according to their original design, and the practice of the Christian churches; yet will not forbid those to use the imitation of them, whose judgment and inclination lead them to do so.” This action was sufficiently cautious: yet it very distinctly asserts the fitness of the matter of the Psalms for divine worship, their original design to be sung in the Christian church, and that they are inspired. It will be recollected that the version of which they thus speak, was the Scottish or Westminster, incorrectly, by many, called Rouse’s.

The Imitation continued to agitate the church. By appeal the subject was, in 1773, again brought up. The report of a committee on it was adopted. This report advised to abstain from judging “the merits of the appeal, and there not being time to consider the several versions of the Psalms in question, as congregations had been allowed to settle this matter according to their own choice, with this allowance there should be no interference.” The parties are advised to moderation and peace. The matter was still agitated. In 1785 an overture was presented, complaining that “the using different books of Psalmody is matter of offence not only to presbyterians of different denominations, but also to many congregations under our own care”—the care of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia. The proposal was made of composing a version with the assistance “of all the versions” to which they had access, more suitable to their “circumstances and taste” than any which they yet had. The committee appointed to this laudable work, next year, 1786, reported progress; but the whole affair was superseded by the action of next year, 1787, in the adoption of the following resolution: “The synod did allow, and do hereby allow that Dr. Watts’ imitation of David’s Psalms, as revised by Mr. Barlow, be used in the churches and families under their care.”[11] Thus the affair was left, and so it remains.

It is curious, if not instructive, to see the progressive steps in this movement. The influence of a limited popular inclination upon judicative proceedings; the prudence of the first steps; the fact, that till very lately, if at all, the imitation of Dr. Watts has a place in the Psalmody of the church by a mere allowance—an act of toleration, at most, a timid semi-official permission—and not an authoritative decision, upon a thorough examination; and it is not unworthy of notice that thus Isaac Watts, D.D., and Joel Barlow, Esq, became the sweet Psalmists of the church? Watts and Barlow! Probably Mr. Barlow, whose religious creed is not our subject of inquiry, was appropriately the reviser of Dr. Watts. This semi-official decision, by many of the church, was not cordially received. Violent animosities, bitterness of spirit, schisms and divisions, were, for a time, the most prominent consequences of the measure. The result, however, has been practically an extensive banishment from the church’s Psalmody of a version of inspired songs, and the substitution of a very lame imitation of a part of them, accompanied with successions of hymns of more than doubtful character.

The above statement is amply sustained by the sober judgment of very distinguished presbyterians of the present day. We give the following as examples: President Junkin remarks, “Dr. Watts has attempted, professedly, to improve upon the sentiment, the very matter, and the order, and by various omissions and additions, to fit the Psalms for Christian worship. This is unfair. If Pope had taken the same license with the poems of Homer, all the amateurs of Greek poetry in the world would have cried—Shame on the presumptuous intruder! But it is a pious and zealous Christian divine [?] who has taken this liberty with the songs of Zion, and almost the whole church acquiesces in it. What would we think of the French poet who, proposing to enrich French literature with a versification of the masterpiece of the English muse, should mangle and transpose the torn limbs of the Paradise Lost, until Milton himself might meet his first-born on the highway and not recognise it? And must this literary butchery be tolerated, because forsooth the victim is the inspired Psalmist? Why should the Heaven-taught bard be misrepresented thus? Let us rather have the songs of inspiration as God inspired them, and as nearly as is possible, and consistent with the laws of English versification. God’s order of thought is doubtless the best for his church. If any one think he can write better spiritual songs than the sweet singer of Israel, let him do it; but let him not dress the savoury meat which God hath prepared, until all the substance and savour are gone, and then present it to us as an imitation of David’s psalms.”[12]

This insipid thing, the result of the mangling butchery and unskilful cookery of what is thus torn, is the proposed improvement of the sentiment, matter and order of what God, by the Spirit of inspiration, provided for the refreshing and nourishing the immortal souls of his people!

The judgment of another [13] whose competence, from his known talents, learning, and enlightened intrepidity in favour of sound doctrine, and moral order, few will venture to dispute, has a claim upon the public regard. Of the imitation he says, “We freely confess that, for ourselves, we consider the Paraphrase of the Psalms, by Dr. Watts, the most defective part of our Psalmody; and only more and more marvel that such a miserable attempt should have acquired so much reputation.”[14] Such, it is believed, is the persuasion upon the subject of every one qualified to judge in the case.

But what of the successive streams of hymns with which the church is deluged? It will be remembered that the abstract question of the use of a modern hymn is not now before us. That will be noticed in its own place. And allowing for the moment its admissibility, the great difficulty and labour of furnishing a safe and approvable selection is readily granted. The dissatisfaction repeatedly expressed by the Presbyterian church, in the course of the past fifty years, in respect of their matter of Psalmody, and the repeated attempts to correct it, speak an instructive lesson to all concerned. Some thirty years ago a very respectable committee was raised to take it in hand. One great object of that appointment was, like that of 1785, to have a version of the Book of Psalms. Years passed by, and the best and most competent members of the committee were called from their earthly labours. The work fell into unfit hands, and the result was a multiplication of hymns, and a new book. This book contained the hymns devoutly sung by the church for many years. What was the character of that book? The action of the able committee of 1838—1843 answers this question. Twenty-five per cent.—one fourth part, if not more—that committee expunged as unfit for Christian worship! And why expunge so many, or any of them? They had reason for the expurgation or excision. This is the reply—”On a critical examination they found many hymns deficient in literary merit, some incorrect in doctrine, and many altogether unsuitable for the sanctuary as songs of praise, for want of suitable sentiments, although not incorrect in doctrine or deficient in literary merit.”[15] The reflection is one of sadness, that a Christian people, during fifteen or sixteen years, should have, as the matter of their divine praise, a book, the one-fourth of its hundreds of hymns being of such a character—not only defective in literary merit, but marked by unsuitable sentiments and erroneous doctrine! For this what can be a compensation? Certainly not the liquid softness of the verse’s flow.

And does the result of the years of labour of the able men of the committee of 1838—1843, give satisfaction? Hear the decision of the Princeton Review, the ablest journal of the Presbyterian church, and one of the first in our country. “We are free to confess that there are many things in the book laid before the Assembly which we think ought not to be there; hymns which we consider unsuitable for the worship of God. Some of them are mere sentimental effusions; some objectionable from the lightness of their measure, and others for their want of all poetic excellence.”[16]

We enter not into the inquiry as to the merits of these compositions, as hymns of human structure. The succession of hymn book to hymn book, their doubtful character, and the great evils of a fluctuating state of the religious mind, by an unsettled Psalmody, in this part of sacred worship, are the subjects before us. The evils are felt by every serious and reflecting person. Adherence to a confessedly faithful version of inspired Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, saves from those misgivings and agitations.

Other denominations of Christians, when they saw the most numerous, and most influential body of professors in the United States, abandon the songs of inspiration, practically declaring them unfit for Christian lips, took the alarm. They considered the language of Dr. Watts, on this subject, to be impious. His arguments in favour of his own compositions were viewed as invectives against an important portion of the word of God. Hence, in their public ministrations, they testified against the ground he had taken, and the very unhappy language he had used, as well as against those who had entered into his views, by the adoption of his productions, in place of the Book of Psalms; while they vindicated the integrity of the oracles of truth, holding them all to be profitable for “instruction in righteousness.”—The press, too, was enlisted in the contest, and judicial deeds, warning against, and forbidding the use of those innovations, were passed. The Associate, the Associate Reformed, and Reformed Presbyterian churches, were all conspicuous in defence of inspired psalms and hymns, as suitable to the worship of the church of God.

It is profitable, though not always pleasant, to mark the origin, progress, and change of opinions, and their correspondent practices. How often, alas! is the declaration of principles and order the offspring, not of deep-laid conviction, but of transient circumstances. The professions of public bodies afford but little security for the course the individuals composing them will pursue. We well remember the time when one of these churches, the Associate Reformed, zealously declared, and repeatedly sanctioned deeds in opposition to the introduction of human composures in the worship of God. Watts’ Imitation and hymns were in view, when, in a judicial act, this church, after a panegyric on the Book of Psalms, declared—”Nor shall any composures, merely human, be sung in any of the Associate Reformed churches.” It was, indeed, by some of the members of that church, as well as by others, suspected that the words, merely human, were calculated, if not intended, to cover a retreat from this ground at some convenient time. But the suspicion was deemed ungenerous, and the expression of it was branded with the charge of slander. The dubious terms were explained, so as to mitigate the fears of the scrupulous. The amiable Mr. Hemphill, in his explanation of what is merely human composure, fully takes in all such as the poetic works of Dr. Watts. He concludes his remarks in these words: “We prefer a translation of these divine songs, (the scripture psalms) to human composures, however excellent.” In this, there is no doubt Mr. Hemphill was sincere. Suspicions existed, however, that all of his brethren were not equally so. Whether these suspicions were well or ill founded, is not for us to say. Subsequent events will not, perhaps, justify them. Human conduct is much influenced by circumstances! and purity of intention may be consistent with contradictory acts.

In the neighbourhood of those churches where the compositions of Dr. Watts were adopted, and produced dissatisfaction, the Associate Reformed ministers were not scrupulous in keeping alive the discontents that existed. It is no impeachment of their motives, when it is stated as a fact that they profited by these discontents. Separation from former connexions on the ground of Psalmody, was encouraged; and, by such as separated, their churches, in various parts of the continent, were enlarged, and some almost wholly formed. The accession of the Rev. Mr. Rankin, and multitudes of private members from the Presbyterian church, is still fresh in our recollection. But in the mean time, some of the brethren, when occasional]y called to direct the public worship in the congregations of another connexion, used, without hesitation, the Imitation of the Psalms.

This was thought, by many, not to comport with that candour, and regard to consistency, which should characterize the movements of that ministry which had, by so many pledges, invited public confidence to repose in its stability. To denounce, in public deeds, as will-worship, the use of all such composures as the hymns of Dr. Watts; to employ this as an instrument of rending churches, and of breaking up former connexions; while, in other places they practised what had been publicly denounced as a corruption of religious worship, and acted upon as a sufficient ground of separation in ecclesiastical communion, was deemed by not a few, who probably did not sufficiently qualify the severity of their conclusions by the mitigations of charity, not easily reconcilable with candour.

In their session of May, 1816, their General Synod passed an act, admitting into their churches the psalm book of the Reformed Dutch Church, according to its last revision. This measure set aside their former act on this subject. Their resolution runs in the following terms: “Resolved, That the version of the Book of Psalms, in the Old Testament, recently prepared for the use of the Reformed Dutch Church in America, be permitted to be used,” &c. Now to a person unacquainted with the real matter of fact, it would appear from this, that the Reformed Dutch Church had recently prepared a version of the Book of Psalms. Nothing, however, can be farther from the truth. All that the committee of that church was authorized to do in the matter, was, to make an “improved and enlarged” selection of psalms and hymns. The committee fulfilled their appointment, by giving their psalm book a character more remote from the “Book of Psalms, in the Old Testament,” than was the one which they formerly used. The truth is it is a selection chiefly from Watts, and embraces a practical recognition of the very unwarrantable sentiments of the Doctor, respecting the Book of Psalms. For instance, to his twenty-four lines, in place of the whole 109th Psalm, as well as to other changes and omissions, a sanction is thus given. To go thus far, these sons of the venerable Church of Holland, had to violate the principles of her constitution.[17] The Associate Reformed brethren have adopted this selection, and shall we say unwittingly presented it to their people as a recent version of the Book of Psalms, in the Old Testament? Since these brethren are now persuaded that they were, on this subject, formerly in the wrong; and being now satisfied that their congregations would be more edified by using a mutilated imitation of the Psalms, than by the Psalms themselves; and seeing they act upon this, would it not have been more manly, at once, to have declared in favour of the compositions of Dr. Watts? If the rejection of inspired songs was the price of extended union, and the adoption of their rivals its destined bond, we would suppose this course of openness more eligible than that which is pursued. That they, in this business, a business which will long be deplored, aimed at the extension of fraternal communion, and the edification of Zion, charity induces us to suppose; for the hypothesis of playing a double game with the scrupulosity of their own people, and the immobility of the Holland Church, is refuted, we would hope, not only by a liberal construction of conduct, but also by the character of those whose agency carried the measure.

It is nevertheless painful to have confidence met by disappointment. The course pursued by the Associate Reformed Church has not been marked by any great degree of consistency. Her decisions and her counter decisions, her constitution and discordant administration, do not authorize that confidence, which the personal respectability of her ministry would seem to invite. I would not impeach her motives of action; because, in a future expose, she may vindicate them as correct. I will not therefore assert, that she, as a distinct Christian society, was formed on the principle of expediency; nor will I say, that in her various changes she has acted merely on this principle, for by itself, it is a paltry one. Charity forbids severity of animadversion, and whatever may be the result, candour and liberality instruct us to hope, that it will not only be overruled for general good, but will also develop the purest motives to have actuated those gentlemen who have appeared conspicuous in the origin and progress of these measures. But, however well meant, the measure respecting Psalmody is a bad one. It is at once an abandonment of a divine institution, a desertion of those who plead for it, and the violation of a solemn pledge to the contrary. For this we should weep in secret.[18]

From an impartial review of the church’s history, ancient and modern, we are authorized to infer, that in every age her Psalmody embraced the book of Psalms. Without any prejudice to their cause, who are the advocates of Zion’s songs, it may be, and is admitted, that human composures existed, and in some sections of the Christian commonwealth had a place beside inspired composures. But their existence and use neither prove, nor disprove, a divine appointment, That fact must be settled by other evidence than the practice of either ancient or modern days.

That the book of Psalms, in whole or in part, was unfit for Christian praise, was a discovery left to be made, in the light of contending systems, political, moral, and religious, in the eighteenth century. Ancient piety, I think, would not have listened with patience to be told, that the words of inspiration “darkened our views of God the Saviour, tended to make heresy triumphant,” and that David was unfit to appear in the sanctuary, till converted into a Christian by such a man as Dr. Watts. Had we no information on the subject but what the Doctor’s prefaces supply, we should be tempted to inquire whether he was indeed friendly to our religion, or whether he was an enemy in disguise. We have read “Christianity as old as the Creation;” an imposing title, covering a bold attack upon divine revelation. An Imitation of a portion of David’s Psalms, accompanied by a libel against the rest, by Dr. Watts, promises little more than the insidious publication of Mr. Tindal. And certainly if there be, as is more than intimated by the Doctor and his friends, a contradiction between the word of God in the Old Testament, and the word of God in the New Testament, both must fall. The force on the one side would then be equal to that on the other. Forces equal and contrary, effect their mutual destruction. At this rate, we have no divine revelation. So the deist has said; and, as often as he has said it, his assertion has been refuted. And though the imitator of the Psalms has furnished premises for a similar conclusion, we will not believe him; for we know his premises are untrue, and the conclusions, we trust, he did not himself believe. Nay, though he asserted the existence of a contradiction,[19] it was not, we wish to believe, a settled article of his creed.

The imitator proposed to convert David, the sweet singer of Israel, into a Christian.[20] That is, the Psalms, such of them at least as he thought worthy of imitation, must be made to speak a language, which, according to the reformer of David, the Holy Ghost did not intend they should speak. Still, however, reformed as David was, he was unfit for the sanctuaries of America. The Imitation and hymns of Dr. Watts were adapted to the British monarchy; America had happily become both independent and republican. The reformer must be reformed. Those compositions which superseded the hymns of inspiration, must, after our revolution, be “adapted to the Christian worship in the United States,” and Joel Barlow, Esq. performs the important work!

In these days of tumult and commotion, there is nothing wonderful. Astonishing events pass in succession so close, that time is not given them to impress the mind. The commotion will, however, subside, and the tumult will be stilled. What is now permitted to pass by, without remark, will fill the men of a future age with surprise. When they shall have admitted, in its full bearing, the truth, that God is not affected by political changes, and that the revolutions of empires do not authorize a change in the appointments of Christ; it may perhaps seem strange to them, that many pious men deemed that the Christian worship, on the other side of the Atlantic, might be something different from what it was in the United States; or that our worship, when independent States, ought to be changed from what it was when we were dependent colonies, or that the bitterness of party political feeling must mingle itself with our stated Psalmody. They will readily perceive, that, on the principle which would justify the hypothesis, no two individuals could ever unite in the use of the same psalm; because it is not likely that their circumstances would ever be precisely the same. But in human life there are moments of inexplicable infatuation. How else account for the strange course pursued, in reference to Psalmody, by men of such elevated standing as the American churches can claim as their own? Such events, with a distinct and solemn voice, urge upon our attention the divine injunctions—“Be not high-minded, but fear”—and “lean not unto thine own understanding.”

[go to LETTER IV.]


[1] Smith’s Prim. Psal. p. 270.

[2] When the dark and cruel reign of Antichrist commenced, those who held the faith, worship, and order of the gospel, were found in the valleys of Piedmont. In the middle ages, as at this day, they suffered indescribable persecutions from the hands of “the son of perdition.” No history is more interesting than theirs. In those ages when darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness all other people, the Vaudois, as Thuanus, who was their enemy, relates, “could all read and write. They were acquainted with French so far as was needful for understanding the Bible, and the singing of Psalms.”[a] It was required of those who were to be ordained to the ministry, along with other scriptures, to commit to memory “the writings of David.”[a] Numbers of those, who, under the persecution of the Duke of Savoy, A.D. 1686, sought a refuge in the Swiss cantons, three years after, returned under their pastor, Arnaud, who was also their martial chief. Having overcome their enemies, and regained their native valleys, “at the church of Guigon they engaged in worship, sang the 74th Psalm, and their colonel and pastor, Arnaud, preached on the 129th Psalm.”[b] Thus we see the Psalms of David were sung, by the best of men, in every age.

[3] This innovation was not effected without a struggle. Hear on this the testimony of a man, who, in taste and criticism, had no superior—”It was a change much for the worse, when the pedantry of pretenders to taste in literary composition, thrust out this excellent translation (Sternhold and Hopkins’) from many of our churches, to make room for what still goes by the name of the new version, that of Tate and Brady. The innovation, when it was first attempted, was opposed, though in the end unsuccessfully, by the soundest divines, the most accomplished scholars, and the men of the truest taste, at that time in the seat of authority in the Church of England. It will be an alteration still more for the worse, if both these versions should be made to give place to another of later date, departing still farther from the strict letter of the text, and compensating its want of accuracy by nothing more than the meretricious ornaments of modern poetry.”—Bp. Horsley’s Pref. to his version.

[4] Prim. Psal.

[5] In A.D. 1556, versified psalms were commonly sung in their assemblies. The whole book of Psalms, however, was not put into measure before 1559; [c] from which period, a version, first published at Geneva, was authorized, till superseded by that still used in the Church of Scotland.

[6] Acts of Assembly, pp. 353, 428, 479.

[7] The testimony of Dr. Ridgely, in his system of divinity, is not only decidedly in favour of the Book of Psalms being suitable for the praises of the New Testament church, but also for the use of the Scottish version. He gives it the preference above every other.

The justly celebrated Rev. William Romaine, likewise, gives his testimony to the excellence of this version. I shall gratify my reader with a few extracts from his Essay on Psalmody, a work which very lately came to my hand. “Sternhold and Hopkins,” he observes, “had a scrupulous regard for the very words of Scripture—the versification is not always smooth—but what is a thousand times more valuable, it is generally the sentiment of the Holy Spirit. This should silence every objection—it is the word of God. This version comes nearer the original than any I have seen, except the Scotch, which I have made use of when it appeared to me better expressed than the English. Here is every thing great, and noble, and divine, although not in Dr. Watts’ way or style. It is not—as good old Mr. Hall used to call it, Watts’ jingle.” Romaine’s Work’s, vol. 8, p. 339. Or, as Mr. Bradbury,—a high name—contemptuously designated his hymns—Watts’ Whymes.

[8] “Human compositions are preferred to divine. Man’s poetry is exalted above the poetry of the Holy Ghost.—The word of man has got a preference in the church above the word of God. It is not difficult to account for this strange practice. Our people had lost sight of the meaning of the Psalms. They did not see their relation to Jesus Christ. This happened when vital religion began to decay among us, more than a century ago.”—Romaine’s Works, vol. 8. p. 321.

[9] Dr. Watts.

[10] History of the Presbyterian Church, vol. ii. p. 407-409.

[11] History of the Presbyterian Church, vol. ii. p. 409.

[12] Lectures on the Prophecies, by George Junkin, D.D., pp. 231, 233.

[13] Rev. R.J. Breckinridge, D.D.

[14] Spirit of the Nineteenth Century, vol. ii. 586.

[15] Spirit of the Nineteenth Century, vol. ii. 58.

[16] Princeton Review, vol. xv. 522.

[17] See Constit. of the Reformed Dutch Church, Art. 69.

[18] The Associate Reformed Church subsequently divided on the subjects of Psalmody, Occasional Communion, and Slavery. The brethren under that name are now found in three distinct bodies, no longer under one organization. It is believed that, in their own churches, the Bible Psalms are used; and for their continued use, it is understood, that the Synods of the West and the South are decidedly zealous.

[19] “Psal. 69:26-28 is so CONTRARY to the new commandment of loving our enemies,” &c. Watts,’ Pref. p. 5.

[20] Watts’ Pref. p. 10.

[a] Milner.

[b] Mem. of Waldenses, by a Clergyman of the Church of England.

[c] M’Crie’s Life of Knox, p. 415.