Exposition of Col. 3:16, 17. Import of the phrase, The Word of Christ—meaning of the Exhortation, Teaching and admonishing one another.
“Let the word of Christ dwell m 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 whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Col. 3:16, 17.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Such is the language in which the enlightened believer describes the varied excellencies of the word of God, his high esteem of it, and the holy pleasure which he derived from meditation upon its precious truths. This blessed word gives light to the understanding, and it imparts joy to the heart. It directs the humble inquirer into wisdom's ways, and it fortifies him against the power of those temptations which would lead him into forbidden paths. It purities the affections and elevates them above those enjoyments of time and sense which cannot satisfy the desires of an immortal spirit. And, therefore, the soul which has once tasted the sweetness of those streams which issue from this fountain of living waters, will be prepared to say, “Thy word, O Lord, is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.” In the estimation of such an one, the injunction of the Apostle will be regarded as imposing an agreeable obligation; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.”
To the proper understanding of these words, it will be requisite to determine,
I. What is the meaning of the phrase, “the word of Christ?”
II. What is the nature of the duty here enjoined, “Teaching and admonishing one another?”
I. With regard to the phrase, “the word of Christ,” it may be remarked, that it is employed nowhere else in the sacred Scriptures. There is, however, another phrase, “the word of God,” which is of frequent occurrence; and these two forms of expression convey substantially the same idea. In the discharge of the duties of his ministry, our Lord preached the word of God. And, accordingly, it is said that, as he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee, the people pressed upon him to hear “the word of God.” Luke 5:1. A similar representation is given of the preaching of the Apostles,—“They spake the word of God with all boldness.” Acts 4: 31. The sacred historian informs us that “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” “And when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John.” That which was preached by our Lord and by his Apostles, must of course be regarded as the word of Christ. But it is represented as the word of God. And hence these two forms of expression, the word of Christ, and the word of God, are to be considered, as of the same general import.
In a general sense, these two phrases may be understood to comprehend the whole of divine revelation. Jesus Christ is the great Prophet of the church, who has revealed to man the will of God. And the whole of the divine revelation is “the word of Christ.”
In a sense somewhat restricted, the word of God, or the word of Christ, may be regarded as of the same import with the gospel, signifying more especially those doctrines relating to the way of man's salvation through Jesus Christ. But to limit this phrase, as here employed by the Apostle, so as to make it designate the writings of the New Testament, in contradistinction from those of the Old, is evidently unwarranted for two obvious reasons.
1. The prophets of the Old Testament were as truly inspired by the Spirit of Christ, as were the Apostles. And hence the Apostle Peter, speaking of the ancient prophets, says that they searched diligently, “what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them, did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow.” And the Church, which is composed of Jews and Gentiles, is said to be “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone.” Eph. 2:20. If, then, the ancient prophets spake as they were moved by the Spirit of Christ; and if, in the exercise of their ministry, they laid the same foundation as did the Apostles, then, to restrict the phrase, “the word of Christ,” to the writings of the New Testament, is wholly arbitrary and unauthorized. But,
2. The impropriety of restricting the phrase, “the word of Christ,” to the writings of the New Testament, appears conclusively from the fact, that only a small portion of these writings as yet existed. According to the most competent chronologers, not more than four or five of the epistles to particular churches were in existence at the time this epistle was sent to the Colossians. These few epistles had not yet been collected into a volume, nor had copies of them, at that time, been multiplied, the art of printing being yet unknown. And it is not probable that the Colossians had seen a page of the New Testament previous to their reception of this epistle. The translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language, which is called the Septuagint, was in the possession of the Jews in their dispersion, and was in common use. But the New Testament, which did not yet exist, they of course had never seen, and probably had no part of it in their possession, before they received from the Apostle this epistle. It would then be absurd to suppose, that in addressing this exhortation to the Colossians, the Apostle could have meant by the phrase, the word of Christ, the Scriptures of the New Testament exclusively, since the writings which compose this book were not as yet in existence.
In so far, therefore, as this exhortation relates immediately to the Colossians, it must be understood as enjoining upon them the exercise of diligence in the improvement of all the means within their reach, to make themselves well acquainted with the will of God as revealed to them. But these words of the Apostle contain instruction for the church in all subsequent ages, as well as for the Colossians. And the word of Christ, with which it is our duty to make ourselves well acquainted, which should dwell richly in us; which we should study to understand, and in the application of which we should endeavor to edify one another, is the whole word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
II. Our next inquiry is, What is the nature of the duty here enjoined: “Teaching and admonishing one another?” In reply to this inquiry, I remark generally, that these words are addressed, not to the ministry as such, whose business it is officially to instruct the church of God, but to the different members of the household of faith. The duty here specified is not, therefore, one which is peculiar to the public teachers of religion, but which is common to the disciples of Christ. It is supposed, that Ave have all an interest in each other, as members of one common family, and that we are bound to study the promotion of each other’s spiritual welfare. Exhortations of the same general character are of frequent occurrence in the sacred Scriptures. Accordingly, it is written, “Let us follow the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” “Exhort one another daily.” “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works.” And Paul says to his brethren of Rome, “I am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of all goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” From these and similar portions of Scripture, it is plain that it is the common duty of Christians to admonish and to edify one another. And that they may be properly qualified for the performance of this duty, a familiar and enlarged acquaintance with the word of God is requisite. Therefore, says the Apostle, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.” Let everyone be diligent in searching the Scriptures, and in laying up in his mind the precious truths of God's words, so that he may not only experience in his own soul the salutary influence of divine truth, but that he may also be qualified in his appropriate sphere, to contribute to the edification of others.
The import of this exhortation may appear more clearly by comparing it with the language employed in a parallel passage. “Be not drunk with wine,” says the Apostle to the Ephesians, “wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The Ephesian brethren, while in a state of pagan darkness, had been accustomed when celebrating the rites of Bacchus and other heathen deities, to indulge in drinking to excess, and singing lascivious and obscene songs. By these unhallowed exercises, they had formerly encouraged each other in sin. But now, being by the grace of God delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, it became them to walk as children of light. Instead of stimulating each other to the pursuit of sinful pleasures, it became their duty, as the followers of Christ, to provoke one another to love and good works. Instead of striving to inflame each other's passions by filthy communication, or by singing impure songs, they should study in their social intercourse to engage in such exercises as would tend to promote their mutual growth in grace, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The exhortation of the Apostle, with regard to singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, does not appear to refer, primarily at least, to the exercise of praise as a part of the instituted worship of God. It has particular respect to the conduct of the disciples of Christ in their social intercourse. Whenever they meet together, instead of indulging in idle conversation, or engaging in such recreations as might exert a corrupting influence over the mind, they should constantly keep in view mutual edification. Not merely when they assemble for the formal worship of God, but also when they meet to enjoy social intercourse and to cultivate the social affections, all communications of a demoralizing tendency should be carefully avoided; and their “speech should be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” And as music exerts a powerful influence over our nature in subduing the passions, in tranquillizing the mind, and in elevating and purifying the affections, when it is employed in connection with proper sentiments; let it be cultivated as a means of rendering our social intercourse as Christians more pleasant and profitable. “In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” It is indeed true, that in singing the praise of God in his instituted worship, our great concern should be to sing “with grace in our hearts to the Lord.” But we must not forget, that the Christian should have reference to the promotion of God’s glory in everything in which he engages; not merely when we are engaged in the formal acts of religious worship, but when pursuing our lawful avocations; when cultivating social intercourse, and enjoying Christian recreation, the glory of God and mutual edification should be kept steadily in view as the great objects at which we aim. “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Such is the Scriptural rule for the government of Christian conduct. And hence, when Christian friends engage in religious conversation, or when they read the Scriptures or some instructive author for mutual improvement, or when they unite in singing sacred songs for Christian recreation, they should study to have their affections rightly attuned, and to do all to the glory of God.
From the remarks which have been made, it is hoped that it will appear to the reader’s satisfaction that “the word of Christ,” cannot, by any correct principle of interpretation, be restricted to the writings of the New Testament, in contradistinction from those of the Old; and that, while the phrase is strictly applicable to the whole system of divine revelation, it may be regarded as having a more particular reference to the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ, as taught in the Oracles of truth.
It has also appeared that the exhortation of the Apostle, with regard to “teaching and admonishing one another,” is addressed not to the ministry as such, but to the different members of the household of faith generally; and that this exhortation consequently indicates a duty, which is not peculiar to any one class, but is common to all the followers of Christ, who in all their social intercourse are under obligations to study the promotion of their mutual edification.
And it has further been supposed, that the direction here given by the Apostle with regard to “singing,” does not relate primarily to the exercise of praise as a part of the instituted worship of God, but to the singing of sacred songs for mutual edification and for Christian recreation. And the conclusion to which this view of the subject would lead, is, that if Christians, when associated for mutual edification and Christian recreation, should sing such sacred songs as are adapted to excite in the mind just and reverential thoughts of God, and to produce and cherish holy affections, much more should they employ such when engaged in the formal exercise of singing praise to God.
But the question here arises,—To what does the Apostle refer when he employs the terms, “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?” Various attempts have been made by expositors to designate the distinction between the compositions indicated by these different terms. There seems, however, to be no means of arriving at any certain conclusion. And the probability is, that, while there is doubtless a shade of distinction between them, these different terms indicate sacred songs, which are substantially the same. Between them there is probably about the same difference as exists between the terms, laws and statutes and judgments, in application to the word of God.
But still the Apostle must have had some particular design in employing these different terms; and it is to be supposed that the Colossians would understand to what he referred. To what, then, may we suppose, did the Apostle refer, when he directed the Colossians to teach and admonish one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs?” In reply to this inquiry, I would say, that it is well known that there were in existence such sacred songs. There was at that time in the possession of the church, a book of divine songs, which constituted a part of the word of God, or the word of Christ. And in the Greek translation, called the Septuagint, which was then in common use, we find the very terms which are here employed. In some of the titles prefixed to the psalms, we find one of these terms; in others, two of them; and in the title of the 76th psalm, all three occur. And from the fact, that these different terms are applied to the same psalm, the opinion seems to be confirmed, that whatever shade of distinction may exist between them, they are substantially of the same import. But what the reader is particularly desired to notice is, that when this direction was given to the Colossians, they had in their possession such divine songs as are here mentioned. They are exhorted to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; and we know that they had such in their possession, which were the productions of the Spirit of inspiration. And if any songs are worthy of the epithet, “spiritual” surely it is appropriate to those which are the songs of the Spirit. Such sacred songs, we know, were in existence; such were then in the possession of the Colossians; and to such we believe the Apostle referred. If any choose to deny this, let them produce those to which the Apostle did refer. Until this is done, we must believe that the Apostle did refer to what we know was actually in existence.
It is well known that this passage of Scripture is regarded as having an important bearing on the controversy respecting psalmody, and has been produced as authority for the use of what men choose to call an “evangelical psalmody.” Having given what I believe to be a correct exposition of the words, I shall now state, and endeavor candidly to examine the argument in favor of an “evangelical psalmody,” in opposition to what I term an inspired psalmody. And to prevent any misconception, let me explain what I mean by an inspired psalmody. We have in the sacred volume, a collection of psalms, hymns and songs, in the book of Psalms. These divine songs, not merely as to their matter, but as divine songs, were given by inspiration of God, and in a correct translation are the word of God. These songs constitute an inspired system of psalmody. But in modern times, since the Spirit of inspiration has ceased in the church, various poets, among whom Dr. Watts occupies a prominent place, have composed hymns and songs on religious subjects. The matter of these compositions, their authors, in the exercise of their own powers, have collected from the sacred Scriptures, and arranged in such a manner as to express their own views of divine truth. These are uninspired hymns. Whether the sentiments which they express may be strictly conformable to Scripture or not, as hymns, they are not found in the word of God; as hymns they are not inspired, but are the compositions of uninspired men.
In a volume introduced to the Christian public by the recommendation of the Presbyterian Synod of Pittsburgh, and which may be supposed to speak the sentiments of that very respectable body, a four fold argument in favor of an uninspired system of psalmody, is founded upon these words of the Apostle. In the volume referred to, we find these words, “We have now produced an apostolic precept or command for a gospel psalmody in four distinct arguments, deduced from Col. 3:16, 17. 1. From the sixteenth verse, viewed in connection with 2 Tim. 3:16. 2. From the phrase, “the word of Christ.” 3. From the necessary meaning of the word teaching, in the sixteenth verse. 4. From the apostolic injunction, that whatsoever we do, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Let us now endeavor to weigh these arguments carefully, in the balances of the sanctuary.
1. The first argument is founded upon Col. 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly:” taken in connection with 2 Tim. 3:16. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The reader will keep distinctly in view the point to be proved. It is not, that it is our duty to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual song.” In relation to this matter there is no dispute. The point to be established is simply this, is there a divine precept authorizing and requiring uninspired men to compose psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, to be employed in the worship of God. It is argued that there is such a precept, and here we are told is the proof: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another.” But does not the reader see at once, that these words are perfectly silent in relation to the point in dispute? There is not a syllable uttered by the Apostle in relation to making psalms and hymns and songs; which is the point to be proved. It is the use of psalms and hymns and songs for mutual edification, of which the Apostle here speaks. And his exhortation supposes that they were already prepared, and consequently all that remained for the Colossians to do, was to use in a proper manner those sacred songs which were ready for their use. And that they might be qualified to employ for the purposes of mutual edification and comfort, the songs of inspiration which were then in existence, it was very important that their minds should be familiar with the sacred Oracles. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
But though this text (Col. 3:16) is utterly silent in relation to the precept after which we are inquiring, perhaps the other referred to, may supply the deficiency. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Is not the reader astonished to find this text of Scripture quoted for the purpose of proving that uninspired men have a precept for making songs to be employed in the worship of God? It is most certainly true, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” But who denies it? It is indubitably true, that all Scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness.” But this is not the point to be proved. We want a text of Scripture, as a precept for uninspired men to make songs to be employed in the worship of God, and the Presbyterian Synod of Pittsburgh refer us to texts which utter not one word on the subject of making songs. Having weighed in the balances the first argument, it is submitted to the reader, whether it is not found wanting?
2. A second argument is drawn from the phrase, “the word of Christ.” This argument, in favor of what is termed a “gospel psalmody,” proceeds upon the supposition, that the phrase, “the word of Christ, must be understood as referring to the New Testament Scriptures.” That this is entirely an arbitrary and unauthorized interpretation, has I trust been satisfactorily proven. A very small portion of the New Testament was in existence at the time this direction was given to the Colossians; and it is not probable that they had any part of it in their possession at the time when they received this epistle. But the book to which I have referred, in which the interpretation is given, may be quoted as authority to prove that the phrase, the word of Christ, is not to be restricted to the New Testament. Comparing the passage in Col. 3:16 with that in 2 Tim. 3:16, it is said, “These two passages are evidently parallels in their general scope and design; the words, all Scripture, answering to the word of Christ.” According to this wonderful book, then, which comes before the public with the recommendation of a reverend Synod, the phrase, the word of Christ, must be understood as referring to the “New Testament Scriptures,” and yet it is of the same general import with the words, “all Scripture!” The truth is, it matters not whether the phrase be taken in a restricted or more extended sense, in so far as the argument founded on it is concerned. It furnishes, in neither case, any support in favor of the point to be established. For, as has already been remarked, the direction of the Apostle has reference, not to the source whence we are to gather materials for making hymns and songs, but to the proper use of them.
3. The third argument is drawn “from the necessary meaning of the word teaching, in the sixteenth verse.” The reader is desired to keep distinctly before his mind, the point to be proved: it is, that uninspired men are authorized to compose psalms and hymns and songs, to be employed in the worship of God. And it is argued, that “the necessary meaning of the word teaching,” establishes this conclusion. The Apostle directs the Colossians to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And the conclusion drawn from this direction is, that “the necessary meaning of the word teaching,” indicates that it was the duty of the Colossians to compose hymns and songs for their mutual edification. To establish the fallacy of the reasoning, I refer to the volume itself, in which this argument is produced. In speaking of these different terms, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, the author says, “the Apostle Paul, in our opinion, by psalms, alludes to the book of Psalms.” If, then, by psalms, we are to understand the sacred songs contained in the book of Psalms, the word “teaching,” certainly cannot convey the idea of composing psalms; for they are already composed and given to us to be used. All then that can be meant by “teaching one another in psalms” is, that we should use and apply the psalms for mutual edification. If, then, this is “the necessary meaning of the word teaching,” in reference to psalms, it means the same thing- in relation to hymns and spiritual songs. As in the former case, it cannot signify composing psalms, it is altogether an arbitrary and unauthorized assumption to say that, in the latter case, it conveys the idea of composing hymns and spiritual songs. The reader will therefore perceive that these words of the Apostle are entirely silent in relation to the point to be proved. We want an argument to prove that uninspired men are commanded to compose psalms, hymns and songs. But we are referred to a passage in which the Apostle is giving directions with regard to the use of psalms for edification, but says nothing at all with regard to the duty of making psalms.
But, independent of this consideration, which shows conclusively the fallacy of the argument, I appeal to the reason and common sense of every reflecting man, while I say that the principle of interpretation on which it rests is perfectly unreasonable. If it is the duty of making or composing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, of which the Apostle here speaks, what then is the necessary conclusion? It is plainly this, that it is a duty obligatory upon all the followers of Christ to make psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, to be employed in the worship of God. If the reader will open his Bible and turn to the passage, he will see that the Apostle is here speaking, not of what may be done, but of what must be done as a matter of duty. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns.” And this exhortation is not addressed to particular individuals, but in common to all the followers of Christ. Those very persons who are addressed in the preceding verses as “the elect of God, holy and beloved,” and who are exhorted to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering and charity,” are addressed in the words under consideration. The duty here enjoined is therefore one which is obligatory upon all the followers of Christ. But can any man in the possession of sober reason believe that the Apostle commanded the Colossians as a matter of duty, to make psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? How few of them could possibly have complied with such a requisition? Suppose a command of this kind, addressed to one of the best informed congregations in the present day with all our superior advantages of education; does not every one see, that only an individual here and there could be found who has the requisite talents to comply with such an injunction? Very few, even of the ministry, have the requisite talents to compose a sacred hymn or song, much less are the people, generally, qualified to perform such a task.
In conclusion, then, I would say, that the argument, when weighed in the balances, is found wanting. The Apostle is speaking of the duty of using psalms and hymns and songs for edification, not of making them; and when we consider that the duty here enjoined is one which is obligatory upon all the followers of Christ, it is perfectly unreasonable to suppose that it is a duty of such a nature that few could possibly perform it.
4. “A fourth argument for a gospel psalmody,” and one to which great importance seems to be attached, is drawn from the words, “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” From the interpretation given of these words in the volume in which this argument is found, is drawn “the obvious inference, that the duty of praising God in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs cannot be discharged in the full meaning of the Apostle, by confining ourselves to the book of Psalms, but in songs recognizing Jesus as the Mediator of the new covenant, and “who hath purchased the church with his own blood.” It will thus appear that, according to this argument, it is not merely a thing which is allowable, to use other hymns and songs than those contained in the book of Psalms, but that it is a matter of imperative obligation. They who confine themselves to the book of Psalms, are defective in their duty. For we are told that “the duty of praising God in the full meaning of the Apostle cannot be discharged by confining ourselves to the book of Psalms.” The songs which we use must recognize “Jesus as the Mediator of the new covenant.”
Now, let us try this argument in its application to the book of psalms and hymns, which is at present used by the Synod of Pittsburgh. In this volume there are six hundred and eighty hymns. The subject of the first hymn is the “divine attributes.” But in this hymn the name of Jesus is not found; nor is there any reference to Him as the Mediator of the new covenant. The subject of the last hymn is “hell.” And here, again, the name of Jesus has no place, nor is there any reference to him as having purchased the church with his own blood.
Of how many more hymns in this collection the same remark may be made, I am not now prepared to say, nor is it necessary to determine. Here, then, are at least two hymns which, according- to the argument under consideration, ought not to be used; for they do not contain the name of Jesus, nor recognize him as the Mediator of the new covenant. If the argument proves anything in support of the principle in favor of which it is adduced, it proves not only that some of our songs must recognize Jesus as the Mediator of the new covenant, but that this must be true in relation to every one of them. The language of the Apostle is, “Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” If then this argument is worth anything, consistency requires that the Synod of Pittsburgh should have an expurgata [cleansed] edition of their own book of psalms and hymns.
But let us subject the argument to another test. The Apostle is not speaking of the duty of praise alone. The language is general: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed.” This will of course comprehend the duty of prayer. And to aid us in performing this important duty our Lord has given us a form of prayer. But in this form of prayer, which Christ taught his disciples, the name of Jesus does not occur, nor is there a recognition of him as the Mediator of the new covenant. Then, according to the argument we are now considering, the Lord's prayer is not suitable for the use of a Christian!
The truth is, the argument is entirely fallacious, and rests upon an erroneous interpretation of the phrase—“in the name of the Lord Jesus.” By a reference to the passage, the reader can at once see that the direction of the Apostle has no particular respect to the duty of praise, but that it is general and comprehends all the duties of the Christian life, incumbent upon us as the followers of Christ. It has respect both to our words and to our actions. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” To perform any particular duty in the name of the Lord Jesus, does not imply that in the performance of that duty we must make mention of his name. If we repeat the Lord's prayer with a proper spirit, it surely will not be denied that we pray in the name of the Lord Jesus. And yet his name is not found in that prayer, nor is there in it a recognition of Jesus Christ as having purchased the church with his own blood. What then is meant by performing any particular duty in the name of the Lord Jesus? In the answer to the 180th question in the Larger Catechism, we find these words, “To pray in the name of Christ, is in obedience to his command and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength and hope of acceptance in prayer from Christ and his mediation.” In so far as the direction of the Apostle may be regarded as having reference to the duty of praise, it relates not to the words or the sentiments of our songs of praise so much as to the spirit or frame of mind with which we should perform the duty. A song of praise may be sung in the name of the Lord Jesus, though the name of Jesus is not found in it. And, on the other hand, an individual may sing a song of praise in which the name of Jesus is often repeated, and yet he may not perform the duty of praise in the name of the Lord Jesus. To perform any duty of the Christian life in the name of Christ, supposes that there is a reference to his authority as the rule of duty and the exercise of dependence upon his grace for the acceptance of both our persons and services. The argument, then, which infers from the direction of the Apostle—“Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” that we must sing other songs than those contained in the book of Psalms, and songs which recognize Jesus as having purchased the church with his own blood, is entirely fallacious, being founded upon a misinterpretation of the Apostle’s language.
Thus, I have examined the fourfold argument in favor of what men are pleased to call a “gospel psalmody,” founded upon these words of the Apostle. And I confidently appeal to the impartial judgment of every reflecting reader, while I say that they utterly fail to establish the point to be proved. The duty of singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, is not questioned; the obligation to edify one another in the use of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, is admitted. But the point to be proved is, that uninspired men have divine authority to make psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to be employed in the worship of God. The arguments brought forward to establish this point have been weighed in the balances, and Tekel is their indelible brand.
In conclusion, let me say to all who love the truth as in Jesus, and particularly to those who love the songs of Zion above the songs of uninspired men, no matter what may be the piety of their authors, or the evangelical character of their sentiments,—“My beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”