Our author, having by his critical review of Rouse’s Psalms, and his lucid definition of human composure, prepared the way for an advantageous statement of the question at issue, says, p. 85, "having no sacred songs, then, but those composed by uninspired men, the question arises, is it proper to use these in the worship of God?" Do you mean, Mr. Morton, to affirm that the 150 songs of the Book of Psalms are not sacred songs? Or would you be understood to assert that they are "composed by uninspired men?" Please choose your alternative.
After the very fair and honest statement of the question, to which we have just adverted, he proceeds to present a number of arguments for the lawfulness of singing in divine worship, songs composed by uninspired men. Of each of these arguments we will take a passing notice.
His first argument is taken from Col. 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Or rather, his argument is taken from his own interpretation of this text.
Strange as it may seem to the reader, some have argued for a human psalmody, from the three terms here used by the apostle—psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I notice this argument, not because it is Mr. Morton’s—for he wisely forbears to use it—but because it is a popular one, and one very likely to have weight with those who are guided by sound rather than sense.
It is no uncommon thing to apply to one thing two or three different names; for example, Ex. 34:7. "forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin." There is, then, no reason, so far as the mere use of the terms is concerned, why any one of the Psalms of David may not, under different aspects be viewed as a psalm, a hymn, and a spiritual song.
Again: if it were certain that these three terms are used by the Apostle to point out three several kinds of sacred songs, possessing, respectively, their distinctive properties, it remains to be proved that songs of these three different kinds are not contained in the Book of Psalms. And, in this connection, it may be remarked, that in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Psalms, is entitled tehillim, which, according to the best authorities, signifies hymns; some of the psalms are in their titles called mizmor—a psalm, while others are styled shir—a song. In the Greek translation used by the Apostles, some of the psalms bear the title of psalmos—a psalm; others, ode—a song; and others, which for the most part have no title in the Hebrew, have in this translation the title alleluia, which is a Hebrew word of the same derivation with tehillim, and is nearly, if not precisely equivalent to the Greek word, hymnos,—a hymn. To the word songs in the text before us, is prefixed the epithet spiritual, to distinguish the songs referred to from such songs as were profane, licentious, or even secular. The other two terms, psalm and hymn, did not need to be so qualified, since the terms themselves were not commonly understood by Jew, Christian, or Pagan, in a sense so comprehensive as to include any but songs used in religious worship.
Farther; when we consider that the first converts to christianity were from among the Jews; that most of the preachers of Paul’s time had been brought up in the Jewish religion; and that in order to bring even pagans to embrace the gospel, it was necessary to make large reference to Jewish history, worship and customs; we will be forced to conclude that Paul, in writing to the Colossians, respecting the Book of Psalms, would be well understood, in the use of Jewish phraseology. Now, we know that the Psalms of David are called hymns by Philo, the Jew; (De Mutat. Nom. p. 1062 et alibi:) that Josephus calls them songs and hymns; (Ant. lib. 7, Cap. 12, sec. 3:) and that they are styled songs by the son of Sirach.—(Ecclus. 47:8.) And we are sure that both Jews and Christians then, as now, called them psalms.
The reader, taking all these things into consideration, will decide for himself whether or not the use of the three terms, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, in this apostolic injunction, authorizes the use of an uninspired psalmody.
But to return to our author. His exposition of the passage is as follows, p. 95; "‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.’ And how shall this be done? By ‘teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’ Be constant and diligent in this practice of teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, and the result will be, that you will have the word of Christ dwelling in you richly in all wisdom. This, then, I take to be the correct exposition of the passage." He educes his argument from this exposition of the passage, by a most extraordinary feat of logic. He says p, 94, "We see that it authorized the Colossians, and that it authorizes us, to use psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, composed by uninspired men; because it enjoins the use of songs, drawn from the word of God the New Testament as well as the Old. And there being in the New Testament no songs ready for our use, those drawn from it must be the composition of uninspired men. But how does it enjoin the use of songs from the whole word of God? Because it says that by these songs we make ourselves familiar with the whole word of God. And if the use of them makes us familiar with the whole word, they must be drawn from the whole word." It will be seen from this, that his argument depends, 1st, on his explaining the phrase, "the word of Christ" to mean the Scriptures—the whole Scriptures, not merely in their spirit, but in their letter. This he assumes, but does not prove to be the import of the phrase. And this assumption is the less warrantable in him, as he asserts, p. 87, "my belief is, that by it, (‘the word of Christ,’) the Apostle meant the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ, as it was then preached to the christian church; and that he did not mean the Old or New Testament. Dr. Baird, in his work on Psalmody, makes this very clear to my mind." His argument from the passage rests, 2d, on the assumption that the use of psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, is enjoined as the sufficient means, and not as an evidence of compliance with the command, "let the word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom." All must see, that to give force to his argument, this must be proved, not assumed. His argument depends, 3d, upon the extravagant assumption that "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," means "make yourselves familiar with the whole word of God." According to this interpretation, if his first two assumptions be true, we must have embodied in our system of psalmody all the narratives, and all the genealogical tables in the Bible! for how else will the use of our psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs "make us familiar with the whole word of God?"
But which of the psalms, hymns or spiritual songs used by the church to which Mr. M. belongs, makes him familiar with the whole book of Esther? which of them makes him familiar with the first chapter of first Chronicles? And which of them, I may add, makes him familiar with the 109th Psalm?
It is obvious, that so long as any one of the three positions mentioned above, as assumed by Mr. M., remains unproved, his argument from the passage in question amounts to no more than his own assertion that we are authorized to use, in God’s worship, an uninspired psalmody. And yet he has not so much as attempted to prove any one of them. Even his remarkably clear dissertation upon clauses verbal and participial, and duties principal and subordinate, in so far as it has meaning and truth, applies as well to precepts enjoining one duty, as an evidence of having performed another, as to those enjoining one duty as a means to the performance of another. Still, strange as it may seem, he pursues (except when he turns aside to spit in Dr. Pressly’s face,) and enforces this baseless argument through 35 pages.
If asked what is the meaning of the verse, I might reply that an answer to such a question has nothing to do with the refutation of our author’s argument. However, I am not averse from expressing my views of the meaning of so plain a passage.
But before proceeding to do so, I must be allowed to observe that Dr. Adam Clark, who held the same opinion that Mr. M. does, on the subject of psalmody, alters the punctuation of the verse, so as to make it read thus; "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another; in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." And if this be the true reading of the text, it subverts at once, not only our author’s argument, but also all the arguments on the same side of the question, founded upon any particular explanation of the phrase, "the word of Christ."
For my own part, I see no necessity for adopting Dr. Clarke’s suggestion. There is a parallel passage, Eph. 5:18, 19, "be filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord." The text in dispute, Col. 3:16, is "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." The same duty seems to be enjoined in both places. Our Saviour says, John 6:63, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit." There is no difficulty, then, in supposing that the ‘spirit,’ spoken of, Eph. 5:18, is the same thing with the, word of Christ, mentioned Col. 3:16. By each of these expressions is evidently meant the gospel;—not in its letter, but in its spirit; the principles of the gospel in their living and life-giving energy. "Be filled with the spirit" in the former passage, and "let the word of Christ dwell in you," in the latter, evidently mean "be under the influence of the principles of the gospel."
Again: the word translated ‘one another,’ in the latter passage, is the same which is translated, ‘yourselves,’ in the former; and it is believed that no good reason can be assigned why it should not be so rendered here; thus, "teaching and admonishing yourselves," &c. Now, teaching and admonishing ourselves, in the psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, contained in the book of Psalms, may very well be enjoined as a means of bringing our hearts more and more under the power of the gospel; and also as an evidence of our having done so. If these observations he well founded, the plain import of the Apostolic injunction is this;—Cherish in your hearts the principles of the gospel, and as a means of obtaining this end, and at the same time as an evidence that you have this object before you, be much employed in singing God’s praise, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; always performing this duty in such a manner as to teach and admonish yourselves, i.e., promote your own growth in knowledge and holiness; singing, not with the voice only, but also with the heart; and making melody not only to man, but to the Lord.
And if this be the Apostle’s meaning, his injunction can certainly be as well obeyed in the use of the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs contained in the Bible, as in the use of those composed by men.
Our author’s next argument for the use of an uninspired psalmody, is from the assumed fact, that the specific end for which the songs, contained in the Book of Psalms, were given, was not that they should be employed in singing God’s praise.
We find in the bible a book of lyric poems, which is, in several places in the New Testament, styled "the Book of Psalms;"—that is, as Mr. M. explains it, p. 99, "songs sung to musical instruments." More than 50 of these songs are, in their titles inscribed "to the chief musician," and many of them begin and end with the word hallelujah,—praise ye the Lord. David is, on account of his having been the chief instrument, used by the spirit, in the preparation of these songs, called "the sweet psalmist Israel;" 2 Sam. 23:1. And these psalms were, during the times of inspiration, used in the stated services of the Temple, in the singing of Jehovah’s praise. Some of these songs are found else wherein the bible; and their insertion in the book of psalms, cannot be rationally accounted for, exception the supposition that this book was designed as a complete system of psalmody for the church; and that these songs were, by the spirit, judged necessary to such a system.
These facts are demonstrative proof, that the book of psalms was given for the specific end of being sung in God’s stated worship.
It is true, there are in the word of God other songs, which we know to have been sung to God on certain extraordinary occasions. But these songs are, for the most part presented to us only in connection with the record of certain historical facts, to which they have reference, in order to illustrate and complete the narrative; they were not, by the inspired compiler, introduced into the book of psalms, and were, in the days of inspiration, excluded from the stated services of the Temple. We have no evidence, then, that these songs were, like those contained in the book of psalms, given for the purpose of being used in the stated worship of God. And, as far as it regards the introducing of anything into the worship of God, the absence of divine appointment, is equal to a prohibition.
From all this it might be justly inferred, that the psalms were given, not only for the specific end of being employed in singing God’s praise, but that they should be used for this end to the exclusion of all other songs.
Yet our author utterly denies that singing was at all the end for which the psalms were given. On p. 136, he says: "The principal object at which the Doctor aims throughout these two chapters, is to prove, that the purpose for which the psalms were given, was, that they might be used by the church in praising God. But I apprehend this is a very important mistake under which the Doctor labors. He cannot produce a single text which teaches, that the book of psalms was given for the specific end of being employed in singing God’s praise. All the proof he can find is inferential." Some men have a great dislike to inferential reasoning; especially when the inferential reasoning is conclusive, and goes against them. However, Mr. M. has a text for his notion of the matter; he says, p. 137, "the specific end for which the psalms were given was not, that they should be employed by us in singing God’s praise. This is directly contrary to the Doctor’s proposition, and to prove it, I appeal to the infallible word of God. Rom. 15:4: ‘For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.’ Here there is no fallacy, no inferring, no surmising as to the object for which the psalms were given. The unerring word of truth tells us that they were given for our learning, and not for our singing." What profound logic! The psalms were given for our learning, therefore, they were not given for our singing! And yet our author, when treating of Col. 3:16, points out singing as the most efficient means of learning, since, in his estimation, we are by singing to make ourselves familiar with the whole word of God. By the same method of reasoning, which he here uses, he might establish the equally plausible conclusion, that the Old Testament was not given for our reading. Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning. Here is no fallacy, no inferring, no surmising as to the object for which the Old Testament scriptures were given. The unerring word, of truth, tells us that they were given for our learning, and not for our reading!
If anything is wanting to shew that the book of psalms was given for the specific end of being employed in singing God’s praise, it may be found in the command given by Hezekiah to the Levites, 2 Chron. 29:30: "Moreover, Hezekiah the king, and the princes, commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord, with the word of David, and of Asaph the Seer." The phrase, "the words of David and of Asaph the seer," in this passage, evidently means the same thing which is commonly understood, in modern times, by the Psalms of David, viz: the book of psalms. And that the use of the book of psalms in singing God’s praise was a permanent part of that reformation, is plain from the fact that it is added, v. 35: "So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order."
I am aware that Mr. M. has made a criticism upon the translation of the passage quoted above; but it will be appreciated by those who have read his learned dissertation upon Rouse’s psalms. He infers too, from Isa. 38:20, that Hezekiah introduced into the worship of God, songs composed by himself, and asserts that he was not an inspired man. But it will be hard for him to prove that Hezekiah’s songs are not embodied in the book of psalms; and harder still, to prove that he was not an inspired man. See Isa. 38:9-20.
But he has still another subterfuge; that is, that if there ever was an appointment requiring the book of psalms to be used in the singing of God’s praise, it was made under the Old Testament dispensation; and, therefore, is not binding now. He says, p. 127. "And we have seen, that the practice of the Jewish church in her forms of worship is no rule for the Christian church." The doctrine that there have been two churches, the Jewish and the Christian, has not the shadow of a foundation in the word of God. The establishment of the order of God’s house, under the New Testament dispensation, is represented, Am. 9:11, and Acts 15:16, as the restoration, or rebuilding of the tabernacle of David which is fallen down,—not as the building of a new tabernacle for David. The one church is represented Eph. 2:20, as being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. And Christ declares, Song 6:9: "My dove, my undefiled is but one."—The church of Christ, then, retains her identity as a moral person, from the time of her organization in the Garden of Eden, till the remotest eternity. Hence, divine institutions, given to the church in one age, bind her in all successive ages, unless limited to a certain period in the terms of the appointment, divinely countermanded, or abrogated by the advent and sufferings of Christ. And even if these cases, whatever moral principle was involved in the institution, continues to bind the church continually.
Now, the terms of the appointment authorising the use of the book of psalms in God’s worship, do not limit to a definite period, the obligation which they impose. Or in other words, those circumstances which shew so unequivocally that God gave the book of psalms to be used in the celebration of his praise, do not shew that it was to be applied to that use only for a definite period of time. Nor has the appointment making the psalms of inspiration the psalmody of the church been countermanded. I defy any man to shew me the verse or chapter in the New Testament, where this is done, either expressly, or by just and necessary inference. No more has this divine institution been abrogated by the coming of Christ. The advent of our Lord, and his fulfilling of the law, did away only those typical ordinances which were but shadows of good things to come. But such was not the use of the book of psalms in the celebration of God’s praise; for this was not shadowy but, substantial,—not a carnal ordinance, but a constituent element of God’s spiritual worship. And whatever effect time may have upon human things, it can never wear out the binding authority of the commands and appointments of the Lord Jehovah.
Our author, having succeeded to his own satisfaction, in proving that the psalms of inspiration were not given to be sung, proceeds to present and enforce his third argument for an uninspired psalmody. This argument he founds on the supposed insufficiency of the psalms of David. The caption of his sixth chapter, p. 154, is, "The psalms of David not given to the New Testament church to constitute her psalmody, because they are not sufficient."
Now I think I do not undervalue Mr. Morton’s judgment, when I pronounce him utterly incompetent to determine, apart from divine institution, what should, and what should not be comprised in a system of psalmody. The praises of the church ought to be descriptive, of the deep things of God, which are known only to the spirit of God.
However, he brings forward several considerations in proof of the insufficiency of the book of psalms as a system of praise. His first proof is taken from 1 Cor. 14:26, or rather from a perversion of that passage. The text reads thus: "How is it then brethren? when ye come together every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." On this verse, Mr. M. observes, very judiciously, that the apostle does not here reprove them for having a psalm, &c., but for the unseasonable utterance of it. In this he is undoubtedly right. The disorder here reproved was similar to that which is so common in some assemblies, in certain churches, in modern times, where you may hear one or two exhorting, three or four praying, half a dozen singing, and no inconsiderable number shouting,—all at the same time.
But how does he raise from this passage, an argument for the insufficiency of the Psalms of inspiration? He does it by the happy expedient of taking for granted, that the psalms which the Christians had, were communicated to them, by the Spirit of inspiration, and not selected from the book of psalms. And if the Spirit gave them new psalms, it would follow, as a matter of course, that the psalms which they had in the Bible, were not sufficient. For my own part, I acknowledge my utter inability to see why the persons to whom Paul addressed this reproof, would not be as likely to break in upon the good order of their public meetings, by the unseasonable utterance of a psalm taken from the Old Testament collection, as by untimely reciting one, under a supernatural impulse of the Spirit. But Mr. M. insists that these psalms were given at the time, by tile Spirit. He says, p. 158: "It is worthy of especial notice, that these psalms composed by the Christians of Corinth were given by the Holy Ghost." It is very readily admitted, Mr. M., that they were given by the Holy Ghost; for they were undoubtedly selected from the Book of Psalms; but it is not so easily conceded that they were "composed by the Christians of Corinth." And how you can stand up before the world, and say (p. 159,) that in this verse, "we are told, that for the benefit of the church, the spirit gave to some doctrines; to others tongues; to others revelations; to others interpretations; and to others psalms." I am utterly unable to comprehend.
He next argues the insufficiency of the Book of Psalms, from those songs contained in the book of Revelation, chaps. 5:15, 19. He presses these passages into his service, by taking for granted two things which he ought to prove. 1st. That these songs are descriptive of Church’s Psalmody, at those periods of her history to which these prophecies refer. 2d. That the substance of these very songs, is not contained in the Book of Psalms. So long as either of these two points remains unproved, Mr. M’s. argument is worth no more than his assertion. But he draws inferences with extraordinary dexerity; it matters not at what conclusion he wishes to arrive, he can reach it from whatever premises he is pleased to lay down. It is worthy observation, that, in order the more to enforce the argument which he draws from these passages in Revelation, he ridicules Dr. Pressly not a little for saying that the passages in question "were given by the Spirit, and are apart of the sacred volume!"
His third proof of the insufficiency of the book of Psalms, as the Psalmody of the church, is, that "it is not sufficient!" p. 174. A most conclusive argument, truly, if the premises were but well established.
His fourth argument (p. 175,) is, that "the ritual of the New Testament church, is altogether different from that of the Old; and hence, her dialect must be different. The common dialect of the Old Testament church, was to speak of high-priests, and Levites, and altars and trumpets, &c.—But the New Testament church has in her ritual none of these things, and her language cannot be based upon them. She speaks of one great High-Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. And instead of speaking of the blood of bulls and of goats, etc., she constantly speaks of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth from all sin. And she has no priests; but she speaks of presbyters, or elders; and deacons; and ambassadors of Christ; and ministers of the churches. But there is no language in the Psalms corresponding to these."
This argument, if it had any force, would lie, not against the sufficiency, but against the suitableness of the Psalms for N. T. worship. And if it were skillfully presented, it would not be devoid of plausibility. Avery few observations, however, will serve to show that the premises on which it rests are true only to a very limited extent; and that so far as they are true, they do not contain the conclusion which Mr. M. attempts to draw from them.
If the terms "ambassadors of Christ," "ministers of the Churches," &c. do not occur in the Book of Psalms, it does not follow that there is not any language in the Psalms which the Spirit designed us to understand and apply in the same sense in which these terms are understood and applied. In singing the 16th verse of Psalm 132, "I will clothe her priests with salvation, &c." the New Testament worshiper knows very well that by the word priests, in this verse, the Spirit meant not only the priests, under the law, but also the ministers of the New Testament. The use of the word priests does not make the passage in the least obscure; for no person who has read the New Testament can fail to understand it as meaning the ministers of the gospel. If, then, the phraseology of the psalms does not render them in the least obscure, the mere fact of its being different from the phraseology commonly used, does not argue that it is in any degree inappropriate for the use of the christian worshipper.
But if it were true that there is "in the Psalms no language corresponding to ambassadors of Christ, elders, deacons, &c. it would by no means follow that the psalms are insufficient as a system of praise. The only rational conclusion would be that we ought not to speak of ambassadors of Christ, &c. in singing God’s praise. In singing psalms, we worship, act the officers of the church, but God.
Our author asserts that "there is no language in the psalms corresponding to ‘the blood of Jesus Christ;’" but surely he had not so low an opinion of the intelligence of his readers, as to imagine that any of them would believe him. If, indeed, he uses the word blood in the same sense in which a physiologist would use it, it is true enough, that there is no language in the Book of Psalms corresponding to the blood of Christ; nor is the absence of such language any serious defect in a system of Psalmody. But if, by ‘the blood of Christ,’ we understand his sufferings, there is certainly in book of Psalms language corresponding to it very closely. It may be affirmed without fear of successful contradiction, that the sufferings of Christ are more fully described in 22d and 88th Psalms, than in any part of the New Testament.
After all that has been said by Mr. Morton, and others, about typical allusions in the book of Psalms, the attentive reader of the Bible will be surprised to find how few of the types of the Old Testament dispensation, are mentioned in the psalms at all; how seldom any of them are mentioned, and how often, in comparison, many of them are brought to notice in the New Testament. And now, that the light of the New Testament is shed upon the psalms, every worshiper, (if he has read the Bible at all,) can see Christ in every one of those sacred songs, as easily as in any part of the New Testament.
And it may be observed, in passing, that modern hymn-books are far from being free from typical allusions; and it is not easy to conceive why such allusions cannot be understood as well in the inspired psalms, as in uninspired hymns. Why should
"On Jordan’s stormy brinks I stand, &c."
be easier of comprehension than
"Do thou with hyssop sprinkle me, &c."?
Mr. M’s next proof of the insufficiency of the psalms of inspiration, is taken from the "vocation" of the church. He says, p. 178, "The high calling of the christian church, then, is to convert the world to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if she use only the psalms in her songs of praise, to this high vocation she can never once allude."
Did Mr. M. ever read the 72d Psalm? But perhaps he will say that this psalm is descriptive, not of the church’s instrumentality, but of Christ’s agency, in the conversion of the world. Be it so. It is no part of the church’s duty to sing praise to herself. All the missionary psalms are in praise of the God of missions. And it is not too much assert that 72d Psalm, the latter part of the 22d Psalm, and the 96th Psalm, are not only better, but infinitely better missionary hymns than were ever composed by Heber or any other man.
His next argument for the insufficiency of the psalms eclipses the glory of all the rest. It is presented and enforced pp. 180-183, and the substance of it is, that the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper are not named in the book of Psalms; and we need a psalmody in which they are named.—By the same profound logic, these psalms were equally in adapted to Jewish worship, since they do not name circumcision, or the passover. This idea is certainly quite original;—that we cannot praise God in a suitable manner, upon the occasion of the administration of an ordinance, unless the ordinance be named in the song of praise!
But again: the insufficiency of the psalms, is argued from the fact that they do not contain the name Jesus. "Again, ‘thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins.’ But this sacred name of the Redeemer is not found once in the book of Psalms."—p. 183. I only wait to observe that it is in the elucidation of this argument that our author inculcates the worship of the word Jesus.
His last proof of the insufficiency of the psalms, is summed up in the following words, page 193:—"We say then, if the church be confined to, the book of Psalms, she can never in her songs of praise, confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. She may do it in other parts of her worship; but she never can in her psalmody." And why can we not in the psalms of divine inspiration, praise Christ in the faith that he has come in the flesh? If they pointed the O. T. worshipers to the Messiah then to come, does it follow that they point us to a Messiah yet to come? Does Mr. M. when he reads the psalms, read of that Saviour who has already come into the world, suffered and returned to heaven? or does he read of some Messiah yet to come? Is not the Christ of whom we sing in the book of Psalms, the same of whom we read in the New Testament, as having come in the flesh? Indeed the psalms are much better adapted to the singing of God’s praise, since the advent of Christ, than before that time. Take, as an example, Ps. 68:18.—
"Thou hast, O Lord, most glorious
ascended up on high,
And in triumph victorious, led
Thou hast received gifts for men, &c."
Having considered attentively, all the arguments against the sufficiency of the inspired psalms, as a system of psalmody, I must be allowed to express my opinion that the book of Psalms contains a much greater abundance and variety of matter than all the hymn-books that men have ever made. They describe the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; they lead us to the contemplation of the divine glory, as it is unfolded in the works, of creation, providence and redemption; they present to our view the glory of the person, offices and works of Christ Jesus, the great Mediator; they express the praises of our Redeemer’s humiliation and exaltation, of his sacrifice and his merits, of his grace and his vengeance, of his conflicts and his triumphs; and they shew us the divine glory from almost every possible point of view. At one time we behold it from the closet, at another from the sanctuary; at one time from the sphere of our worldly occupations, at another from the confines of Jehovah’s altar; at onetime from the depths of humiliation, sorrow and distress, at another from the heights of spiritual enjoyment, triumph and gladness.
Besides, it is too obvious to require any argument, that a collection of songs, which, in Old Testament times was adequate to the expression of the praise of God, cannot now be defective as a system of psalmody; since the glory of Jehovah is the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever. Let it be remembered, too, that since the completion of the book of Psalms, God has neither prepared for us, nor bidden us prepare for ourselves, additional songs at praise.
Mr. M.’s fourth argument for an uninspired psalmody, is stated in the caption of his seventh chapter p. 198; "Same authority for using our own language in praise as in prayer." And a little farther down, on the same page, he says, "It is granted that the people of God may use their own language in praying to Him; and that in their prayers they were to praise Him. And if it is proper for them to say His praises in their own language, why may they not sing His praises in their own language."
It will, doubtless, strike the reader as an important fact, that, to most christians, it is an utter impossibility to "sing God’s praises in their own words," since they are unable to compose poetry; and that, for this reason, when congregations or families wish to sing psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, they are under the necessity of selecting from among those already prepared. Accordingly, the all-wise God, unwilling to require of his worshipers the performance of an impossibility, or leave them at the mercy of men who, in composing hymns for the use of the church, might imbue them with the poison of error, has himself furnished his people with a copious and sufficient system of psalmody. On the other hand, all christians are capable of composing prayers; and accordingly, God has not, in the Bible, furnished us with a collection of prayers. It is true, there are in the Bible, many prayers, and more fragments of prayers; but while the book of psalms, as has already been shewn, bears indubitable marks of having been designed as a system of psalmody for the church, the prayers, and fragments of prayers contained in the word of God, do not bear the same, or any other marks of having been designed as a system of prayer, to be used by God’s people in expressing their wants; they have not even been collected into a separate book, as the psalms have, but are interspersed throughout the sacred volume, and found only in connection with the record of historical facts to which they have reference.
Besides, our prayers are descriptive of ourselves, our own sins, necessities and desires; while our praises are, or ought to be, descriptive of God,—his perfections, purposes, and works. Now, if we are able to give some description of ourselves, it does not follow that we are equally competent to describe "the invisible God;" or, in other words, that if we are capable of framing good prayers, we are equally capable of composing suitable songs of praise. It is true, we are to adore God, when we approach him in prayer; but this adoration is only secondary, incidental and auxiliary to the duty of prayer, which consists in describing to God our needy condition, and expressing to him our desires. And if a man, while bowed at the throne of grace, were to spend the whole time in adoration, he would not have prayed at all. Besides, this adoration with which our prayers should be accompanied, is altogether distinct from the ordinance of praise. It is true, also, that there are many prayers and complaints in the book of Psalms; but if we would sing these passages of the psalms aright, we must view the most of them as prayers and complaints of the Lord Jesus Christ, and sing them in praise of his humiliation; and those which are not to be viewed as the language of our suffering Saviour, we must sing to the praise of Jehovah, as the hearer of prayer, and God of all consolation. And when, in singing the psalms, we can appropriate to ourselves the language of confession, complaint and supplication, which they contain, as descriptive of our own experience,—the expressing of this, our experience, is secondary, incidental and auxiliary to the duty of praise, which consists in the describing of God’s glory;—and in this case, in the showing forth of the glory of his mercy, compassion and bounty.
Again, our condition,—which we are to describe in prayer,—is always changing; and, therefore, one set of prayers would net always express our necessities: but God is always the same; and therefore the same songs are always descriptive of his glory, and suitable for his praise.
Whether the above considerations do not argue such a dissimilarity and disparity, between the ordinances of praise and prayer, as to make it unreasonable, Go infer the lawfulness of using uninspired composition in singing God’s praise, from the allowed lawfulness of framing our own prayers, I leave to the judgment of the reflecting reader.
Our author, in applying this argument, uses the following remarkable words, p. 205: "Indeed, the idea, that the Psalmody of the Christian church was finished by a ‘sweet Psalmist of Israel,’ while nothing else appertaining to her, was finished without the labors of Christ and his Apostles, is, to say the least, entirely unreasonable: and it is unscriptural; and it is positively impossible; if her Psalmody is what it ought to be."—It is not only unreasonable and unscriptural, to suppose that the sweet Psalmist of Israel, who spake not of himself, but as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, could have finished, for the Christian church, a suitable system of Psalmody; but the thing is positively impossible! That is, it was positively impossible for the Holy Spirit, by the instrumentality of David, to prepare a complete system of Psalmody, for the use of New Testament christians! If Mr. M. had only thought of this at first, it might have saved him a great deal of labor. If he had but established at the outset, the position which he here assumes, he would have terminated forever this whole controversy on Psalmody.