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James Dodson

AMONG the numerous and highly interesting predictions with regard to the future glory of Zion, it is foretold, that her “watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again the captivity of Zion.” For the arrival of this period of joy and unanimity among the watchmen of Zion, the church has for ages been employed in making prayer and supplication before God. It still remains true, however, to some extent, that diversity of opinion prevails among the watchmen of Zion; and in some parts of religious worship, they cannot “lift up the voice together.” And in no part of religious worship does this diversity more unhappily appear, than in the delightful exercise of celebrating God’s praise. Some believe, that in this part of divine worship, we have no authority to use any other “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” than those which God has furnished in his word; while others maintain that we are at liberty to use those which have been composed by uninspired men, the matter of which they have collected out of the Scriptures. It is easy to see, that such a difference in principle must exert a powerful influence in perpetuating division, and in preventing union in the church of God. To endeavor, in the use of all proper means, to remove this cause of division among brethren, is a solemn duty incumbent on all the followers of Jesus. As all division among brethren supposes that there is a fault somewhere, it should be the concern of every one to ascertain Whether his principles and practice on this subject are conformable to the word of God. For on those who forsake, and not on those who hold fast the “law and the testimony,” must the fault of division lie.

My attention has recently been called to this subject, by a publication of the Rev. Dr. RALSTON, entitled, “An Inquiry into the Propriety of using an Evangelical Psalmody in the worship of God,” The age and deserved reputation of this venerable Father, both for learning and piety, demand for his book a careful and candid examination. After having read the work, as I hope with something of the proper spirit, I find myself utterly unable to adopt the conclusions of my worthy Father. And as the “Inquiry” seems to have been designed more especially for the benefit of the Associate Reformed Church, I propose to present to the christian public, in the form of a Review, my reasons for withholding my assent from the conclusions of the venerable author. For him, personally, I entertain profound respect. His argument, generally, seems to me to be utterly inconclusive; while some principles that he has advanced, I cannot but regard as of pernicious tendency. This I shall endeavor, with all plainness, to make appear; but at the same time, I trust that in the remarks which may be made, nothing—shall be manifested which is inconsistent with that respect which is due to a hoary head, which is a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness. That the reader may enjoy much of that spiritual illumination which is necessary to a proper understanding of the truth, is the prayer of