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CHAPTER II.  The Author’s examination of "Rouse’s Psalms."


CHAPTER II. The Author’s examination of "Rouse’s Psalms."

James Dodson

‘Rouse’s Psalms!’ methinks I hear the reader exclaim; ‘why, I never heard of such Psalms before.’ But reader, you are in probability not so ignorant as you imagine. It is very likely you have seen the book. Did you never see a little book entitled


And sometimes for brevity’s sake, simply


That is the book of which Mr. Morton is speaking when he says, (p. 15,) "It is well known that the Psalms used by Dr. Pressly in the worship of God, are those called the ‘Psalms of Rouse.’"

But who calls them the ‘Psalms of Rouse?’ Is this the name given to them in common parlance, in those places where they are known, and the English language is spoken? Are they commonly called the Psalms of Rouse by the booksellers? Are they called the Psalms of Rouse in the license granted by Her Brittanic Majesty to Scottish publishers? And, (which is still more to the purpose,) are they, in the title prefixed to them, styled the Psalms of Rouse? Did Mr. M. ever see, either an old Psalm book or a new one, from either the British or American press, which bore on its title page "The Psalms of Rouse?" To every one of these questions, Mr. M., if he wishes to tell the truth, must answer ‘no.’ By whom, then, are they called the Psalms of Rouse?

By Rev. George Morton, Dr. Pressly’s most learned Reviewer. He undertakes to prove that they are not the Psalms of inspiration, and very prudently, before he begins, takes for granted the thing which he proposes to prove; and in order to reconcile his readers to his assumption, he intimates that these Psalms are called the Psalms of Rouse. In order that the reader may see honesty of this policy, I will suppose a parallel case. I sit down to write a review of Morton on Psalmody. If about the commencement of such a work, I announce to my readers, that the work on which I intend to make a few strictures is that which is called "An impious attack on the Book of Psalms," am I, in the use of such language, doing justice to Mr. Morton, or am I not? I submit this question to the decision of the candid reader.—By the way, Mr. M., a question just occurs to me; did you ever read of Ananias and Sapphira? There will probably arise no occasion more favorable than the present, for the examination of the argument which Mr. M. draws from the phraseology used with reference to this version, by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1649. He says, p. 62: "But we find from the Record, that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in this case, did not call Rouse’s Psalms a version, as the Doctor represents; but uniformly called them a paraphrase." By the way, it is not true, that Dr. Pressly represents the General Assembly as have called this translation of the Psalms, a version: he calls them a version himself, as Neal, Hetherington and sundry other writers of considerable note have done, and says that the General Assembly ‘adopted them as being more agreeable to the text than any heretofore prepared.’ Nor is the Dr.’s argument at all taken from the phraseology employed by that Assembly, as Mr. M. insinuates. But to proceed with our author; "there are several acts, and in all they are called a paraphrase. One is an act for revising the paraphrase of the psalms brought from England, &c." But do you forget Mr. M., that this same ‘Paraphrase’ was published by the authority, and under the supervision of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, bearing the following title,—‘The psalms of David in Metre, Translated, and diligently compared with the original text, &c.?’ The phraseology used by the General Assembly, taken in connection with the notorious fact to which I have adverted, only proves, that two hundred years ago, the word ‘paraphrase’ was used in a sense different from that in which it is now understood. And this is the less matter of surprise, since many other words have, in the same time, undergone a much greater change in their signification.

But I freely grant that the title-page of a book is no infallible index to its real character. It must be admitted too, that the fact that our Psalm-book was published by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, under the title of ‘the Psalms of David in Metre,’ and that it has borne the title, before the world, with impunity, for the last two hundred years, only proves that its claims as version of the Book of Psalms have been sanctioned by the highest human authority. And hence, Mr. M. has an undoubted right to examine into its pretentions, and decide for himself, whether or not it, be in reality what it purports to be,—‘The Psalms of David in Metre.’ When our author sat in judgment upon our metrical version of the Psalms, he would have done himself a kindness by procuring a correct copy. He would not then have been so unfortunate as to say, (p. 36,) "Rouse says,

‘For that they were but fading flesh,
To mind they did recall.’

The Psalm says, ‘It was God who remembered they were but flesh;’ but Rouse says, ‘It was the people who remembered it.’"—A mere typographical error, Mr. Morton; as you will see by examining other editions of the Psalms. The passage is in Ps. 78:39. The reader will find, by comparing different editions, that the true reading is, ‘to mind he did recall,’ and, of course, that the mistake originated not with Rouse, but with the printer. Nor is this the only place where our author founds his charge against Rouse, upon an error of the press. This serves to show the care with which he has examined the Psalms, which he handles so unmercifully, and upon which he pronounces so confidently.

He seems also to have, as every minister ought to have, a most extensive and minute acquaintance with his Bible; as is evident from his judicious observations, upon Psalm 2:1, p. 19. "He," viz: Rouse, "says, ‘why do the people mind vain things?’ But this does not convey the idea contained in the Psalm at all. The Psalm says, ‘why do the people imagine a vain thing?’ One specific thing; and then goes on to explain what that one thing is. And it is the vain design of preventing the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom. But according to Rouse, it would be, ‘why do the people mind the vain trifles and follies of the world?’ The spirit did not design to have such a thing in the second Psalm; and a Psalm that has it, is not the Psalm of inspiration."—It is a great pity that the apostles and their company did not think of this, when they had occasion to quote this verse, Acts 4:25. But by way of apology for them, it must be observed that they had no opportunity of comparing their Greek translation of the Bible, with our English version, and were consequently obliged to use such Scripture as was accessible to them; if indeed they did not, like Dr. Pressly, quote scripture at second hand. Whether this plea will excuse them or not, it is a matter of fact that they declare that God has said, by his servant David, ‘why do the——people imagine vain things?’ Whereas Mr. M. affirms, that ‘the Spirit did not design to have such a thing in the second Psalm. And a Psalm which has it is not the Psalm of inspiration.’ Perhaps they thought that ‘one specific thing’ might comprehend in it, as details, many things; as for example, that the ‘vain design of preventing the establishment of the Messiah’s Kingdom,’ might include the subordinate designs, of crucifying the Saviour, robbing him of his headship over the church, withholding from him submission in civil affairs, supplanting his psalms by introducing those of men, &c.; and that consequently, either ‘thing’ or ‘things’ might very well express the meaning of the Spirit in the place. But whatever may have been their views in admitting the word ‘things,’ into the first verse of second Psalm, the Christian world will not look with indifference upon the zeal and magnanimity of our author, in confronting them boldly, and rebuking them sharply, for thus corrupting the sacred [1.] text. Besides, from what our author has said on this subject, we call see by what a depth of research he is qualified for deciding upon the claims of Rouse’s version of the Psalms.

He makes a rare display of wisdom, learning and justice, in trying the merits of our metrical version of the Psalms, by that which we have in the common English translation of the Bible. This will doubtless strike most people, as exceedingly unfair. But perhaps it is to be attributed to an unwillingness to make any parade of his skill in the Hebrew language, arising from his extreme modesty. Or perhaps it has its true cause in a benevolent desire to leave the minds of his readers under a pleasing impression, that they are all every whit as competent to judge of the correctness of a translation of the Psalms as he is; and indeed, it is my candid opinion that they are. At all events, it is certain that he very rarely appeals for the truth of his criticisms, to the original Hebrew; but almost uniformly to the common prose version; and this version he ordinarily styles, ‘The Psalms,’ in contradistinction to the Scotch Metrical translation.

It is on this principle that he says, (p. 34,) "Rouse says:—

‘And by his power he let out,
The Southern wind to go.’

But the Psalm says, ‘by his power he brought in the south wind.’ Thus the one flatly contradicts the other." Now, it is easy to see, that if I were sitting in judgment upon the prose version, with the determination to condemn it, I might as well say, ‘King James’ Translators say,’ ‘By his power he brought in the south wind;’ but the Psalm says, ‘And by his power he let out the southern wind to go.’ Thus the one flatly contradicts the other. Indeed it is no more true that the Psalm says, ‘By his power he brought in the south wind,’ than it is that the Psalm says, ‘And by his power he let out the southern wind to go.’ The prose translation of the Psalm says the one, and the metrical translation of the Psalm says the other; but the Psalm, in the form in which it was originally given by the Spirit, says neither the one nor the other; for as our learned author sagely remarks: ‘No inspired man ever wrote in English.’ The Psalm in the original says: vayenaheg beuzzo theman;’ which is rendered into English in one form, by the translators appointed by King James, and in another form by Sir Francis Rouse, with the concurrence of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. I leave it altogether with the intelligent reader, to determine which of these authorities has given us the true meaning of the Hebrew Text, or whether it has been given by either of them; and to decide whether or not there is, in reality, any very great difference between ‘letting out the south wind,’ and ‘bringing in the south wind.’—By the way, I would take it as a special favour, if Mr. Morton, who seems to be a man of learning, would condescend to resolve a question in Meteorology, which for some time has weighed upon my mind. It is this: Does the south wind blow in different directions, according as it is ‘let out,’ or ‘brought in?’ On the same page he says: ‘The Psalm says, Feathered fowls as the sand of the sea;’ but Rouse says, ‘like as the sand which lieth the shore along.’" On p. 37, "the Psalm says, ‘they remembered not his hand;’ but Rouse says, ‘they remembered not his power.’" On p. 25, "Rouse says, ‘Thickest clouds were under his feet.’"—By the way, ‘Rouse’ says, ‘Thickest clouds of darkness were under his feet.’—And on p. 20, "Rouse says, ‘He destroys all liars;’ but the Psalm says, ‘He shall destroy them.’" In all these places, and in numberless others which might be adduced, he quotes, not the Original Hebrew, but the prose translation, in order to set aside the authority of Rouse’s version. Indeed he never quotes from the Hebrew at all.

What would Mr. M. think of any one, who would set up the metrical version of the Psalms, as a criterion by which to try the correctness of the version which we have in prose, in our English Bibles? And vet this is the very thing which he has done himself;—with this difference, that instead of trying the prose version by the Metre one, he tries the metre one by the one in prose. If both these translations had been prepared at the same time, no sane man would have perpetrated the sublime folly of testing the one by the other; and it is impossible to see why a few years of priority in its execution, should give the one an authority not possessed by the other. But all this serves to show how high is the authority on which our author has condemned the Scottish version of the Psalms.

For the most part, however, he disdains to make any reference to either the original Hebrew or the prose version in support of his criticisms; or to bring forward the authority of any translator, critic, or lexicographer, ancient or modern. For example; p. 26: "This is not what the Spirit of inspiration has said; and how then can it be inspired?"—"There is no such thing in the Psalm at all."—"‘Cleanness of my hands appending in his eye;’—this is not what is in the Psalm." And p. 27, "‘But will bring down the countenance of them whose looks are high.’ What authority has he, (Dr. Pressly)for using this? And what authority for the following: ‘The Lord will light my candle so, that it shall shine full bright?’" But his readers will find this method of reasoning copiously exemplified on almost every page from the 15th to the fifty eighth. Throughout his whole second Chapter, his argument against Rouse’s version is, ‘Rouse says so and so, but the Psalm says no such thing.’ Why the man speaks like one pronouncing oracles. The Rev. George Morton

"Doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus! and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves."

And who is this George Morton? The great Don Quixotte of religious Chivalry; the invincible champion of ‘Neodism.’ He is the man who rebukes Sir Francis Rouse for admitting into his translation of the first verse of the second Psalm, the word ‘things,’ which occurs in the same verse as quoted by inspired men; and chastises him for mistakes committed by careless printers. The man who has, for his own use, invented the expedient, (so happy for smatterers,) of comparing one translation of the Psalms with another, in order to test its claims. He it is, who, in his single might attacks that version of the Psalms, prepared by Sir Francis Rouse, Provost of Eton College,—revised by the Westminster Assembly and General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,—and recognized as a translation, by the Christian church, for the last two hundred years; and gives his readers his unsupported word for it, that it is not a translation of the Psalms at all.

When our author makes statements with respect to what is and what is not, in Rouse’s version of the Psalms, his readers would do well to open a psalm-book, and examine for themselves the places to which he refers; for it has been his misfortune to make a very great number of exceedingly gross misrepresentations. And this is much to be regretted, for he is, probably, a man of some veracity. I will present my readers with merely a sample of our author’s misstatements.

Speaking (p. 7,) of Ps. 2;9, he says, "the Psalm says ‘thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;’ but Rouse leaves this out." It is not necessary, in this instance, for the reader to refer to his psalm-book; for Mr. M. immediately adds that Rouse says "thou shalt break them as with a weighty rod of iron." So that, by our author’s own account, Rouse not only has not left out the sentence in question, but has inserted two additional words. On Psalm 78:41, he observes, (pp. 36, 37,) "The Psalm says, ‘They limited the Holy one of Israel;’ this peculiar and important phrase, ‘Holy one of Israel,’ Rouse leaves out, and consequently dues not give the sense." Here too, he corrects his misrepresentation, by contradicting his own statement; for he immediately adds, "He, (i.e., Rouse,) has jumbled it together thus;

‘And limits set upon
Him, who, in midst of Israel, is
the only holy one.’"

He has ‘left it out,’ and yet he has ‘jumbled it together!’ Bravo! I hope Mr. M. will enlighten us respecting the possibility of such a thing, when he next ventures before the world in duodecimo. Surely, if, when he was preparing his work on Psalmody, he had kept it steadily before his mind, that he was writing for ‘the plainest people,’ he would have left out much of what he has jumbled together; as they would thereby have been saved a world of perplexity.

But he does not often set himself right by contradicting his misstatements Respecting the 31st verse of Ps. 78, he says, (p. 36,) "The Psalm says, ‘the wrath of God smote down the chosen men of Israel;’ but Rouse says ‘Death overwhelmed them.’" But his readers can see, by looking into their Psalm. books, that Rouse’s version does not say Death overwhelmed them. In comparing our two metrical versions of Psalm 25, alluding to the 5th verse, he observes, "The one says ‘I wait;’ and the other, ‘I wait expecting;’ but it will be seen by reference to the place, that it is not true that either of them says ‘I wait expecting.’—(p. 55.) The following statement, (p. 23,) respecting Rouse’s translation of Ps. 10:8, contains the same amount of truth; "The Psalm says ‘he sitteth in the lurking places;’ but Rouse’s inspiration falls short," (Reader—do you see the sneer on our author’s face?) "and he leaves out lurking places." Whoever takes the trouble to examine, will find that Rouse does not, leave out lurking places, but that he expresses the same idea by the word closely; which, for aught that Mr. M. has shewn to the contrary, may express the meaning of the Hebrew text more accurately than lurking places does. Again, on p. 25, he remarks, "The Psalm, (Ps. 18:6,) says, ‘my cry came before him;’ but Rouse leaves this out also." Now, by reference to the metre version of this Psalm, it will be seen that only the words ‘before him’ are left out; and I am willing to submit it to any competent Hebrew Scholar—provided he be an honest man—whether it be not better to leave them out, than to insert them in the place which they occupy in our common prose translation. There, it is—"my cry came before him, even into his ears." The literal rendering of the Hebrew is, "my cry before him, came into his ears:" The learned reader will perceive the truth of this observation; and the unlearned may as well take my word for it as that of Mr. M.; especially as I am supported in it by the Greek of the LXX, where it is,—"my cry before him, entered into his ears;" and by the French of Martin, who has it,—"the cry which I uttered before him, came into his ears," The leaving out of the words ‘before him,’ I freely grant to be a slight blemish in the Scottish version, in which it is,—"to his ears came my cry;" but this has nothing to do with the truth of our author’s statement. He declares that—"my cry came before him," is left out, while it is all there but two words; he might as well have said that the whole Psalm is left out. On the same unfortunate page he observes, "The Psalm says, ‘the foundation of the hills were shaken;’ this too, is omitted by Rouse." The common prose translation says "the foundations also of the hills were moved, and were shaken;" Rouse’s translation says, "the hill’s foundations moved were;" so that, with the exception of one word, Rouse gives all of what Mr. M. says he has omitted. How Mr. M. could be either so reckless or so careless, as to make statements like this, the falsehood of which, may be detected by every child who has a psalm-book, and is able to read it, is one of the unfathomable mysteries. Such misrepresentations he has scattered with a liberal hand over the whole 44 pages of his second chapter. There is quite a group of them a little farther down the same page, from which the last two passages have been cited. He did fly on a cherub—swift wings—his flight was from on high—thickest clouds of the airy firmament—brightness of light before his eye—his thick clouds passed away—hailstones and coals of fire did fly—the Lord God thundered in his ire—and the highest gave his voice there—he sent abroad his arrows—he shot out his lightnings—vast foundations of the world. The ideas conveyed by this language are all from Rouse." Now, I think this is the boldest assertion that has ever been made, since the time that Cain said he didn’t know where his brother was. Mr. Morton, your Reverence’s pen must have been very bad when you wrote that passage; for it is utterly untrue. Those who can, may consult their Hebrew Bibles, and those who cannot do that, may examine, in their English Bibles, King James’ translation of Psalms 18, v. 10, 14, and determine for themselves, whether or not the ideas contained in the language quoted by our author, ‘are all from Rouse.’ But enough has been said, (and proved,) to shew how much credit is due to our author’s word. It is well for him that he writes for the ‘plainest people;’ for no others would believe his statements about what he is pleased to style ‘Rouse’ Psalms.’

His inventive powers are surpassed only by his talent for discrimination. In the comparison which he institutes, between the short metre, and the common metre version of Psalm 25th, he edifies his readers with a great number of very nice distinctions; I wait to notice but a few. The first two verses in the short metre version are:

"To thee I lift my soul,
O Lord I trust in thee.
My God let me not be ashamed,
Nor foes triumph o’er me."

In the common metre they read thus:

"To thee I lift my soul, O Lord.
My God, I trust in thee;
Let me not be ashamed; let not
My foes triumph o’er me."

To most readers, these two stanzas would, undoubtedly, both convey precisely the same meaning; But Mr. M., who has probably looked at them through a microscope, asserts that ‘the inspired Psalm cannot be both of these.’ (p. 55.) Again, same page, he remarks, "The one says, ‘Show thy, ways, Lord;’ the other, ‘O Lord show me thy ways.’ The one, ‘Teach me;’ the other, ‘O teach thou me.’ It is very plain that these cannot both be the Psalm given by inspiration." Let the reader put these fragments together, and weigh the difference. In the one it is,

"Show me thy ways, O Lord.
Thy paths O teach thou me;"

in the other:

"Thy ways, Lord show;
Teach me thy paths."

Why may not both of these have been translated from the same Hebrew text? The one says, ‘teach me;’ and the other, ‘O teach thou me.’ It is VERY PLAIN (!!!) that these cannot both be versions of the Psalm given by inspiration." Well done, Mr. Morton. You can certainly split a hair into more pieces, than any other man of the age.—It is no wonder that a man whose glance is so penetrating as to enable him to see a wide difference between one thing and the same thing, should discover a vast discrepancy between ‘Rouse’ and ‘the Psalms.’ It is unnecessary to multiply examples of the closeness with which our author marks distinctions; those given above, will suffice to show how important, in general, are those points in which he professes to have found a difference between Rouse’ version, and the ‘Psalms of inspiration.’

It would surely he instructive, to hear our discriminating author compare Hebrews 1:10-12, with Psalm 102:25, 27; From the Septuagint version of which passage, the apostle’s words are quoted. If he were to compare them in the same style in which he has compared the short and common metre versions of the 26th Psalm, he would proceed as follows:—"The one says, ‘Of old thou hast laid;’ the other, ‘Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid.’ The one, ‘the work of thy hands;’ the other, ‘the works of thy hands.’ The one, ‘thou shalt endure;’ the other, ‘thou remainest.’ The one, ‘like a garment:’ the other, ‘as doth a garment.’ The one, ‘as a vesture thou shalt change them;’ the other, ‘as a vesture, thou shalt fold them up.’ It is very plain that these cannot both be the Psalm of inspiration. Why, Paul does not quote scripture at all."—Far be it from me to represent Mr. M. as having said this; but I think the reader will agree with me, that he might as well have said this, as what he has said.

After all that we have seen, of the research, Biblical learning, judgment, honesty, modesty and wisdom of this most accomplished critic, it will not be difficult to form a correct estimate of the weight which is to be attached to the following pithy paragraph, p. 31. "I have compared Rouse’s 22d Psalm with that of inspiration, and I have noted in it more than thirty variations from the original. (?) And hence, it and the inspired Psalm are two things very different from each other. Any man, by comparing them, can easily see, that Rouse’s paraphrase of the22d, is no more inspired, than his paraphrase of the 18th. Indeed, I have examined (?!) a great many and I cannot find one of Rouse’s, which agrees with the Psalm of inspiration. Even the shortest Psalm, the 117th, has in it a discrepancy for every line it contains."

I have no disposition to call in question Mr. Morton’s right to dissent from the unanimous vote of the Westminster Assembly, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the scholars and divines of the last two hundred years; or from any human authority however great. But when he contradicts so great a ‘cloud of witnesses,’ as have given their testimony to the excellence of Rouse’s version of the Psalms of David, and expects others to accompany him in the stand which he has taken, would it be too much to desire him to assign some reason for assuming the position he is pleased to occupy? Could he not, for example, have pointed out to us, "the more than thirty variations from the original," which he thinks he has descried in the Scotch version of the 22d Psalm? Informing us, at the same time, what Hebrew words have been translated amiss, upon what authority he can assure us that they are incorrectly translated, whether the error in the translation is trivial or important, and whether or not there are any critics, translators, or lexicographers, who at all countenance the rendering given by Rouse. What Hebrew words, if any, have been omitted by the translator; what words, phrases, or sentences, if any, not contained in the original, either expressly or implicitly, have been introduced into the translation; and how far, words so introduced, change the meaning of the text, &c. But perhaps this would have been too great a compromission of our author’s dignity.

Even if Mr. M., in the most candid, thorough and skillful examination of the book entitled the Psalms of David in metre, had discovered in it many variations from the exact import of the Hebrew original of the book of Psalms, this would not prove that it is not a translation of that book; but only that it is not a perfect translation; and he might prove the same thing respecting every translation of the Psalms or of the Bible. There never has been a perfect translation of the Bible, or of any part of it, into English or any other language; nor will there ever be, until it is produced by an inspired translator; for, 1. Many expressions in the Greek and Hebrew originals of the holy scriptures, are elliptical; while in many instances we can neither be infallibly certain how the ellipsis ought to be supplied, nor make sense in the translation without supplying it in some way. 2. There are many words and forms of speech in every language, the exact and full import of which cannot be expressed by any words or forms of speech, existing in any other language. 3. The originals of the old and New Testaments were not, in the days of inspiration, divided into sentences by periods, colons, &c., nor marked with parentheses, notes of interrogation and the like. 4. There are some Hebrew, and perhaps some Greek words, the precise meaning of which it is not certain that any man "knoweth till this day." 5. There are, in the Hebrew Bible and Greek Testament, many words respecting the meaning of which there is a difference of opinion among those most deeply versed in sacred literature. And, 6. There are, in originals of the Old and New testaments, many words winch have more meanings than one; and without inspiration, the most learned will often fail, infallibly to determine in which sense they are used, in this or that particular place.

Hence, no translation of the Psalms, or of any other part of the Bible, can be perfect. Different translations may express the meaning of the original with more or less accuracy, and yet all be translations. Two translations may, in many instances, differ much from one another, and both from the original, and both still be translations. Let the reader look at Psalm 40, vv. 6-8, and compare it with the same passage as quoted from the Septuagint version by the Apostle Paul, (Heb. 10, vv. 5-7,) and he will see how far two versions of the Psalms may vary from one another, and still both be versions of the Psalms of inspiration.

It is easy, then, to see to what extent there is truth in that maxim of our author, which lies at the foundation of all his criticisms upon Rouse’s versions of the Psalms. It is as follows (p. 16). "The Psalms of inspiration have in them just what the Spirit of God designed should be in them; no more, and no less." This, as a matter of course, is true of the Psalms in the original Hebrew; but as we have already seen, it is not true of any translation of them, ancient or modern, in prose or in verse, in English or in any other language. Hence, all such arguments as the following involve all the essential elements of nonsense. "Now, we know from the first Psalm that the Spirit did not design to have any thing in it about perfect blessedness: but Rouse’s Psalm has, and this is contrary to the design of the Spirit; and therefore it cannot be inspired. The Spirit of God designed that the Psalm should be one way, and Rouse has it another way. Rouse’s way is contrary to what the Spirit intended it should be; and can it, then, be any thing less than impious folly to say that this psalm of Rouse’s is the psalm of inspiration?"—(p. 18.) It would be easy to prove, if it were in place to do so, that Rouse’s rendering of this verse is more faithful to the Hebrew than that of King James’ translators is;[2.] but be it so, that Rouse has inserted the word ‘perfect’ without any authority from the original: it by no means follows that what Rouse has given us is not a translation of the Psalm of inspiration. One gratuitous word in a translation of a psalm, does not so vitiate it that it ceases to be a translation. And if it were true, according to Mr. M’s. representation, that there is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding to the word astray in the first verse of the metre version of this Psalm,—to the phrase that grows, to the word well in the third verse,—or to the word appear in the fifth verse; and that For why? in the sixth verse does not express the meaning of the original; it by no means follows from all this, that that which has all these blemishes in it, cannot be a version of the first psalm of inspiration. Nay, it might have more deviations from the exact sense of the original, than Mr. M. represents it to have—and greater ones too, and still, be not only a version, but an excellent version of the first inspired Psalm.

We might well be excused from entering into any more particular examination of any part of Mr. M.’s critical review of Rouse’s Psalms, but lest he should be offended at the brevity of the notice taken of him, let us look into the force, justice and truth of his observations on one of them;—for example, the second, on which he makes himself as merry as on any of the rest. He treats upon this Psalm, pp. 18-20.

He begins with the first verse; "He" (viz. Rouse) "says, ‘why do the people mind vain things.’ The Psalm says, ‘why do the people imagine a vain thing.’ One specific thing," &c. Observe here, he tries the metre by the prose. His chief objection to Rouse’s translation of this verse, is, that in it the word things is used in the plural number.

We have already seen that the apostles and their companions, (Acts 4:25) commit the same mistake; not, indeed, in the way of translating—for they merely quote from the Septuagint version—but by way of recognizing as a translation that which in place of the word ‘thing,’ psalm 2:1, has the word ‘things,’ and consequently "does not convey the meaning of the psalm at all," and therefore is not the word of God. Although he says nothing against the word mind, in the same verse, he shows, by printing it in italics, that it does not meet his approbation. The word used in the same place in the prose "imagine." The word in the original Hebrew is yehgu; and the Greek word answering to it, where the passage is quoted, Acts 4:2, is emeletesan. It will be seen, by reference to Hebrew and Greek lexicons, that the meaning of these words is not expressed by either mind or imagine according to modern usage. According to modern usage, I say; for the time may have been when either mind or imagine conveyed the same idea in English, that yehgu does in Hebrew, or emeletesan in Greek. But the Hebrew word in the original of the psalm, and the Greek word in the original of Acts, 4:25, means to meditate, or study.—See Prov. 24:22, Isa. 33:18, Mark 13:11, and the lexicons of Parkhurst, Gesenius, Schrevelius, &c.

Yet I am far from being disposed to deny either the prose or metre to be a version of the inspired Psalm; for, at a former, period of our language, both imagine and mind may have conveyed to an English reader the meaning and force of the original; imagine comes near to it yet, and mind still nearer; and the context renders it utterly impossible for any child, who is able to read, to misunderstand either the one or the other.

But we have dwelt too long on this silly cavil of our author; let us proceed to his second objection to Rouse’s version of this psalm. It is as follows; "Rouse says, ‘princes are combined to plot against the Lord;’ but the psalm does not say so. It says, ‘they take counsel together’ against the Lord." Here, too, the authority upon which he condemns Rouse, is that of the prose version. The prose says "princes take counsel together against the Lord;" the metre says "princes are combined to plot against the Lord." And it may be added, the Septuagint, as quoted, Acts 4:25, says, "rulers were gathered together against the Lord." By Mr. M.’s logic, the first of these is the Psalm; and neither of the others can be so much as a version of the psalm. It would require the man who has discovered that ‘teach me,’ and, ‘O teach thou me,’ cannot both be translations of the same Hebrew sentence, to discover very much difference between ‘taking counsel together,’ and ‘being combined to plot,’ against the Lord.

However, the slight difference which does exist between them, is altogether in favor of the metre version. The Hebrew word rendered into English by these different forms of expression, is nosedu; which in its primary signification means to found or lay a foundation; and perhaps the most literal rendering of the passage in question would be, "counsellors are founded against the Lord;" that is, firmly settled, in their opposition to him. Parkhurst, (Heb. Lexicon,) in explanation of the Hebrew word under consideration, says, "To be founded, firmly fixed, or resolved; occ. Ps. 2:2, 31; 14."

The prose translation only gives the idea of consultation, which is not contained in the Hebrew at all, only as it is implied in the word rozenim, which is differently translated, counsellors, princes, rulers; and leaves out the idea of combination, or settled compact, which, according to the best authorities—and among the rest Acts 4:25—is the chief thing pointed at in the Hebrew text. The metre gives the idea both of consultation and of combination; and must, therefore, I think, by every good scholar, be allowed to be, in this instance, incomparably better than the prose.

After having annihilated v. 2, he proceeds to demolish v. 4, of the metre version of this Psalm. "Rouse says, ‘the Lord shall scorn them all;’ but this is not in the inspired psalm." Here he gives his readers only his own authority for the soundness of his criticism.

Could you not afford to be a little more explicit, Mr. Morton? Do you mean that the line which you have quoted is all an addition to the psalm, or that only one word of it is such? By the "inspired psalm" do you mean the original Hebrew, or the prose translation? Our author will not dare deny that "the Lord shall scorn them" is in the Hebrew psalm; and he cannot prove that lemo is not an emphatic form of the Hebrew pronoun, and that it does not carry nearly the force of "them all." And if the word all, in the translation, were not either in whole or in part warranted by the original, still, the alteration which it makes on the sense is so slight, that Rouse’s version of this psalm might have three or four such blemishes, and still be a most excellent translation.

On verse 6, he has the following: "Rouse says,

‘Yet, notwithstanding, I have him
to be my king appointed;
And o’er Zion my holy hill,
I have him king anointed.’

Just compare this with what the Psalm says: ‘Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion;’ the psalm speaks about a king, but Rouse speaks about a him. This pronoun him has no antecedent—it does not stand for any noun—it represents nothing nor nobody! nor does it at all convey the meaning of the psalm. God, the Father, is represented as speaking; and he says, Notwithstanding the opposition of the wicked, I have set, or anointed my king, upon my holy hill of Zion. But Rouse says, ‘I have appointed him.’ Who? And I have anointed him! Why, this verse of Rouse’s is hardly like the psalm at all; it is not even a good imitation." It will be seen from this that Mr. M. can not only tell us what the Psalm says, but give us an infallible explanation of its meaning. Let us, at his suggestion, compare Rouse’s translation with what the Psalm says; not with the prose translation merely, as he does, but with the original Hebrew. The words are veani nasachti malchi al Tzion har-kodshi. Our author decides upon the meaning of this sentence as promptly, positively and authoritatively, as if it had not been differently explained by the ablest Hebraists. In the Septuagint and Vulgate, it is rendered "I am appointed king by him," &c. In the common English translation, "I have set (margin, anointed) my king," &c. And in the German of Luther, "I have set or appointed," &c. Parkhurst, in his lexicon, translates it, "I am anointed for king," &c. It appears, then, that some authorities explain nasachti to mean I have set, or appointed, and others, I am set or appointed; while some explain it, I have anointed, and others, I am anointed. Rouse, and the Church of Scotland, like king James’ translators, have seen fit to render the verb, not passively—I was, &c. but actively, I have, &c. and with this our author cannot, consistently, find fault; for he has declared this to be the language of the Psalm. Again, Rouse, and the Church of Scotland, conceiving that the idea of appointing to the regal office, and that of anointing may both be contained in the Hebrew word, have given both in the translation, thus;

"—— I have him
to be my king appointed;
And * * *
I have him king anointed,"

so reconciling the views of other translators. And in this point too, they must meet Mr. Morton’s approbation; for he says, "God, the Father, is represented as speaking; and he says, ‘I have set or anointed my king,’ &c." The Sept[uagint], the Vulg[ate] and Parkhurst, as quoted above, by making Christ the speaker, and rendering the verb passively, tell us who it is that is anointed or set up for king. Our metre version, although (like the prose,) it makes God the Father, the speaker, renders the announcement equally definite, by supplying the word him; a liberty which is often taken by translators, and is the more warrantable in this instance, as the pronoun has a very good antecedent in the word ‘Anointed, Messiah, or Christ,’ in the second verse.

The only remaining difference between the prose and metre translations of this verse, is, that in the former the word al is rendered ‘upon,’ and in the latter, ‘over.’—Every Hebrew scholar knows that the word is equally capable of both these translations; and so far as it concerns the case in hand, the only question is, which of these two meanings was it designed to convey in this place? As a matter of fact, it is well known, that David was not anointed king upon Zion, but at Bethlehem and in Hebron; whereas it is not only true, but,—if we understand Zion to be put, by a figure, for Israel,—a truth very much place in this connection, that he was anointed king over Zion. And then, applying the whole to Christ as typified by David, we may read in this verse an announcement of Christ’s headship over the church; as his Mediatorial headship over the nations is distinctly announced in the verses which follow. The prose translation of this verse, is certainly somewhat imperfect; for it does not distinctly convey the idea of setting up a king, or elevating office at all; which all agree to be the general import of the Hebrew word nasachti in this verse. The only idea that it distinctly conveys, is that of putting a king in a particular place. The metre is incomparably better.

His first observation on v. 7, is, "Rouse has a sure decree; but the Psalm says nothing about a sure decree."—This is very short and comprehensive. But, Mr. M., can you prove that ‘el hok’ does not mean a sure decree? One thing is certain; ‘the Psalm’ does not speak of a decree that is not sure. So that if there is a blemish here, in Rouse’s version, it is a very slight one. He remarks in the second place,—"Rouse (says,) ‘Thou art my only Son;’ but the Psalm does not speak of an only Son." It is freely granted that the translation would have been better without the word ‘only;’ but those who reflect that it is certain, from Heb. 1:5, that the word Son is here used in that high sense in which none but Christ is the son of God, will see that this is a very small imperfection in the translation. And it may here be observed that when a man is preparing a versified translation, for the purpose of being sung in divine worship, he takes no more liberty, in supplying, to fill the measure, a word which does not really alter the meaning of the text, than is taken by a man preparing a prose translation, when he supplies a word to make smooth English.

In treating of verse 9, our author displays a peculiar zeal for the purity of the sacred Scriptures. He says, "The Psalm says ‘thou shalt break them as with a weighty rod of iron;’ Rouse says, ‘Thou shalt break them as with weighty iron rod’—but does not say with what." It will be observed that here, as elsewhere, he makes one version a criterion for the trial of the other. That which he declares Rouse leaves out, he tells us in the same breath, Rouse has given us in full, with two additional words. The insertion of the word weighty, I am not disposed to vindicate; Yet it must be allowed to be beautifully explanatory of the word iron, as used in the text; and the reader can judge how far it impairs the force of the passage. "Rouse says ‘thou shalt break them as with a weighty rod of iron;’ but does not say with what." And does Mr. Morton think that the heathen will be literally broken ‘with a rod of iron?’ If he does, he has good reason to find fault with Rouse for inserting the word as in this sentence. But those who understand the passage in a figurative sense, and view this sentence as merely a comparison, as I am sure most of his readers do, will consider the supplement a most excellent one, and the metrical version in this sentence superior to the prose. It is no very uncommon thing to supply the word as in translating the bible;—see Prov. 25:12, 20, &c., &c. Again; "Rouse says, ‘break them all;’ but not so the psalm." Well; what does the psalm say? Would it not be little enough to inform us of that, Mr. Morton, before you require us to believe that Rouse has committed a serious error in saying ‘break them all?’ However, it will not be denied that break them is a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew, than break them all. Still, I confess myself unable to discover any real difference between the two.

But our author has something more to say about this verse; "Rouse says, ‘like a potter’s sherd;’ but the psalm, ‘potter’s vessel.’ There is a great difference between a vessel and a fragment of one." That depends somewhat upon circumstances, brother Morton; for the purpose of carrying water, there is, undoubtedly, ‘a great difference between a vessel and a fragment of one;’ especially if the fragment be of such form and dimensions as to be unfit to contain anything; but if you merely wish to make a trial of your strength in shattering it, you will find that a good heavy blow will have about the same effect on the one, as on the other. Of course, in such a simile as that in the text, the one conveys precisely the same meaning and force that the other does. And I will venture, to predict that when "the great day of Christ’s wrath is come," it will make but little difference to infidel and anti-christian nations, whether they are broken ‘like a potter’s vessel,’ or ‘like a fragment of one.’ Our Saviour, making allusion to this passage, says, Rev. 2:27, "as the vessels of a potter, shall they be broken to shivers." Do you not think, Mr. Morton, that there is a great difference between a single vessel and a plurality of them? Indeed, it is by no means certain that the Hebrew word cheli, in this verse of the psalm, means, specifically, either a sherd, or vessel; for the learned reader knows that there is nothing in the Hebrew language, which imposes on the noun the same restrictions that the article a does in English; extending it to an entire object of the kind described, and limiting it to a single one; and the unlearned reader can judge whether the use of the more general form of expression, ‘potter’s ware’ or even as our author says, ‘crockery-ware,’ in the translation, would not give more force to the simile. It is certain such a rendering would not impair the sense; and it would seem to be countenanced by the verse in Rev. 2d, already cited. However, I do not insist upon this criticism; for, just or unjust, I deem it unimportant; since the intelligent reader must see that if either—the vessels of a potter—a potter’s vessel,—a potter’s sherd, or potter’s ware, conveys the exact and full meaning of the Hebrew phrase, kichli yotzer, the other three must, also, be good translations of the same phrase, in the connexion in which it stands in this verse. But our author adds, "What a sublime idea Rouse presents! the idea of dashing a weighty iron against a piece of crockery-ware!" For my part, I confess myself unable to perceive that there is anything at all puerile, low or vulgar in such an idea, if it be presented upon a proper occasion; and how could there be, since it originates with Mr. Morton, himself? for the reader has already seen that there is no such idea in Rouse’s version of the Psalm. His last objection to this verse is, that Rouse "says, ‘them dash in pieces small.’" Here he chuckles heartily over his own new idea of dashing a weighty iron rod against a piece of crockery-ware. "Of course," says he, "when the piece is dashed in pieces with a weighty iron rod, the pieces will be small! But there is no such small affair in the Psalms of inspiration. It is altogether original with Rouse." Wonder if Mr. M. laughed himself into fits at that very amusing threatening in the psalm? But the most of that which he here represents as being original with Rouse, is, in fact, original with Morton. And as for that obnoxious word small, did he take the pains to ascertain whether or not the Hebrew word tenappetzem signifies ‘thou shalt them dash in pieces small?’ What does Christ say, Rev. 2:27?—"Syntribetai—they shall be broken to shivers;" and the same verb is used in the active voice in the Septuagint translation of this verse of the psalm. Are ‘shivers’ small pieces or large?

And now, having followed Mr. Morton through his whole criticism on the Scotch version of the second psalm, I take pleasure in leaving it with the discerning reader, to decide with how much truth our critic says (p. 18), "We have seen then, that Rouse’s first psalm is not the first psalm of inspiration; and the claims of his second are no better." It is confidently believed that if he succeeds no better against any of them, than he does against the second, his readers will be utterly at a loss to know from what quarter he gathers assurance to say, (p. 54,) "The proof, then, is superabundant (!) to show that Rouse’s psalms are not the psalms of inspiration;" that is, that the book which is entitled The Psalms of David in Metre, is not really a version of the Book of Psalms. However, it must not be forgotten that he writes for the ‘plainest people.’

Since our author is so great a linguist, he is, doubtless, able to give a literal translation of the following sentence of plain Latin:

"Parturiunt montes; seal nascitur ridiculus mus."

He will be able, also, to inform us whether or not the following, from an excellent author, is well translated. "The end of the commandment is love;—from which some having swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."

If I have thus entered into a minute examination of Mr. Morton’s observations on the second psalm, it is not because I thought that he had, by his criticisms, placed in jeopardy the authority or credit of Rouse’s version of the second or any other psalm; but because I thought this a favorable opportunity for throwing out a few hints, tending to show what an excellent metrical version of the Psalms we have. Its excellence consists, not in smoothness of versification,—for it is granted that it has many rough verses, and awkward rhymes;—but in that which is infinitely better,—fidelity to the original Hebrew.

It may be asserted without fear of successful contradiction, that, take it all in all, it retains the meaning, spirit, life, energy, majesty and sublimity of the Hebrew Psalms, as little impaired as does the prose translation. And even if the singing of the psalms in Divine worship, were left out of view, it would be difficult to tell whether the world would sustain more injury, in the loss of the Scotch metrical version, or in the loss of the prose translation. Indeed, if the former were treated according to its merits, it would be inserted side by side with the latter, in every English Bible. It is freely granted that the Scotch version of the Psalms is not perfect; but the same thing is true of our most admirable English translations of the Bible: both may be corrected and amended and even superseded by translations still more excellent.

But no argument is needed to prove that the Book of Psalms, in Rouse’s version, is the word of God; it presents to every reader the same internal evidence of its divine origin, as the Bible does in the common English translation; any man of sound mind can see it, and it would not be too much to assert that any man, who has any grace at all, will, upon inspection of the Psalms of David in Metre, discern them to be the language of the Holy Ghost, as readily and as certainly as a man of healthy palate will ascertain by tasting an apple whether it be sweet or sour.

After all, this whole dispute about Rouse’s version of the Psalms, has nothing to do with the great question in dispute, for the question is not—should we sing Rouse’s version? but, should we sing only the Book of Psalms? If we have no good metrical version of the Psalms composed by the Spirit, or no version of them at all, that is no reason why we should sing Psalms composed by men, If Mr. M. thinks that ‘Rouse,’ as he contemptuously styles it, is no translation of the psalms, let him prepare a translation of them; if he thinks it is a bad translation, let him improve it, or make a better one.

If it should, after all, be true that what purports to be the Psalms of David in metre, sung by the Psalmonistic churches, is the Word of God, how do you propose, Mr. Morton, to answer at the day of judgment for all the smart things you have said about them, throughout the 44 pages of your second chapter? This, of course, is your own business, and not mine; only I thought it but brotherly to remind you of it, knowing well that you will not be able to impair the authority of the Book of God’s remembrance, or sneer away the force of the final sentence of the Great Judge.


[1.] "‘It is now clear that the Parson, as I thought at first, never insulted St. Paul in the least;—nor has there been, brother, the least difference between them.’—‘A great matter, if they had differed, replied my uncle Toby;—the best friends in the world may differ sometimes."—Tris. Shan.

[2.] Some, (and our author among the rest,) have alleged that the sentiment here expressed by Rouse’s version is not true. But see John 6:47, "He that believeth on me hath" (not shall have) "everlasting life." If "everlasting life" be not "perfect blessedness," what is perfect blessedness?