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James Dodson

The reader has now before him, a condensed view of all that we think it necessary at present, to say on this subject. And it is hoped that he will have no difficulty in understanding the principle for which we plead. It is not for the exclusive use of any particular version of psalms or hymns that we plead, but for the use of those psalms and hymns and songs, which the great Prophet of the church has given us in his own Book. Different versions may be characterized by different degrees of excellence; and the use of that which is now the best, may be superseded in time by another of superior excellence. The Associate Reformed Church makes use of the version adopted by the church of Scotland, in the year 1649, on the principle, that when “diligently compared with the original text,” by men who were very competent to decide, it was found to be “more plain, smooth and agreeable to the text, than any heretofore;” and which is commonly called, “Rouse’s version.” But to call the divine songs in this version, “Rouse’s Psalms,” as some are pleased to do, is to evidence gross ignorance or something worse. There would be equal propriety in calling the Bible, in our common translation, the Bible of the translators, instead of the word of God. I repeat it then, the principle for which we plead, is, “The songs of inspiration contained in the book of Psalms in the most correct poetic translation we have.” And the great reason we do not feel at liberty to use what are called Watts' Psalms, is because they are not a version of the book of Psalms. As we have already remarked, their author himself has candidly informed the reader, that he has “entirely omitted some whole psalms, and large pieces of many others;” and that he has “chosen out of all of them, such parts only as might easily and naturally be accommodated to the various occasions of the christian life.” I desire the reader to observe particularly, that according to the candid avowal of the author himself, “Watts’ Psalms of David imitated in the language of the New Testament,” are not a version of the book of Psalms. It was the plainly avowed object of the author to modify them in such a manner, that he might teach David “to speak like a christian.” We reject the use of these psalms, not because the book containing them, is a version somewhat imperfect, but because it is not a version at all. These are properly denominated “Watts’ Psalms;” because they were composed by him, and contain, his views of divine truth. “I have not,” he says, “been so curious and exact in striving everywhere to express the ancient sense and meaning of David, but have rather expressed myself as I may suppose David would have done, had he lived in the days of Christianity.” The one system of songs, then, the reader will observe, we receive, because it was prepared and adopted on the principle of a translation of the songs of inspiration, and is the most correct poetical translation which has yet been prepared. The other system of songs we reject, not because it is in some degree an imperfect translation of the songs of inspiration, but because it is not a translation at all, but is an exhibition of what the author supposes David would have said, had he lived in the days of Christianity.

And as it respects the use of uninspired hymns, our principle is, that in the worship of God, we must be governed, not by human wisdom, not by man’s views of propriety, but by divine appointment. And as we find no appointment in the New Testament, authorizing any uninspired man to prepare psalms or hymns, to be employed in the worship of God, we do not consider ourselves at liberty to use those which have been prepared by men, to whom God never gave a commission to perform such a service.

Here then, christian reader, you are called to decide, as one who is accountable to God. He who has made it your duty to sing psalms to his praise, has given you in his word a book of Psalms. This book is the production of the ever-blessed Spirit, and bears upon it, in characters of light, the impress of his own infinite wisdom. It is the word of God. The most that can be said of any other system of psalms or hymns, is, that in the judgment of man, it is agreeable to and founded upon the word of God. Of no other collection of psalms or hymns, can it be said, without daring presumption, this is the word of God. Which of these systems then, christian reader, will you choose; the one which God has provided, or the one which man would give you in its stead?

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.—AMEN.”