... for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?—Canticles 1.7.
SCRIPTURE PSALMODY IN PRAISING GOD;
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN PUBLIC WORSHIP:
PASTOR OF THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION,
EAST SALEM, WASHINGTON COUNTY, N.Y.
“Sing unto Him (Jehovah), sing psalms unto Him.”
1 CHRON 16.9.
THE COVENANTED REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
Discourses on Scripture Psalmody in Praising God; &
Against Instrumental Music in Public Worship.
Originally Published 1859, N.Y.
This edition: Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church — PA. 2002.
Reprinted with Corrections 2012.
Special Thanks to SUNY Adirondack and M— W—, Librarian, For providing a photocopy of the original, from which the text has been corrected.
TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.
MANY centuries ago, a famous preacher of the early church named John Chrysostom wrote, “All Christians employ themselves in David’s Psalms more frequently than in any other part of the Old or New Testament. The grace of the Holy Ghost hath so ordered it that they should be sung every night and day... Many who know not a letter can say David’s Psalms by heart.... where men converse with God, David is the first, the midst, and the last.” Was he exaggerating? A modern Christian’s experience will incline him to think so; but this is owing to the fact that, with rare exceptions, he does not sing the Psalms. Early Christians did. Protestant Christians at the time of the Reformation also worshipped the Lord by singing the Psalms of Scripture—often to the exclusion of all other song.
They sang the Psalms every Lord’s day at Church. They sang the Psalms every day at home. They taught the Psalms to their children. From their youth, the theology of the Psalms helped form their thoughts about God, the Law, Sin, Christ, Salvation, and the Church. They were a spiritual people of spiritual experience; and when they heard the Psalms sung, they heard the voice of God’s people throughout the ages, affected by the same spiritual experiences, proclaiming the same theology, and triumphing over Sin, Death, the World, and the Devil, by that same victorious Faith that is found first-hand in the same book of Psalms that the Lord Jesus himself sang, and which he inspired by his Holy Spirit for our use and instruction.
If John Chrysostom’s words above do not apply to Christians in our day, they should. The discourses enclosed are themselves now fairly old, but it is hoped they will prove helpful to modern Christians in the effort to recover the most effective collection of song for promoting faith, godliness, and unity in the Christian Church and Home; as well as explaining the importance—the necessity—of abandoning all instrumental music and worldly art in our Praise and Worship of the Living and True God.
This is what He seeks. John 4.21-24.
The following discourses were, by request, delivered in the congregation of East Salem, not however with the intention of ever being published. But at the earnest solicitations of many who heard them, they are now submitted to the serious and impartial consideration of an enlightened and christian public. Much has already been written on the subjects of which they treat, and the present object is to bring up the rereward, and, if possible, place the matter in a plainer and clearer light. Assistance has been obtained from those who have published on the same subjects, and some of their arguments and pithy expressions have been employed.
What others may think of the present work, I know not; but I sincerely hope and pray, that, it shall be owned by the Great Head of Zion, and be blessed of God for the defence of the purity and simplicity of the gospel worship of the New Testament church.
East Salem, 1859.
SCRIPTURE PSALMODY IN PRAISING GOD.
“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.”—Col. 3:16.
Singing the praises of God is a moral duty, and enjoined both by the precepts and examples of the Old and New Testaments. All men are dependent on God for life, and health, and all other things, and therefore it becomes them to feel the most lively gratitude to him for all his gracious benefits, and to render thanks unto him in their prayers, and songs of praises. Praise to Jehovah is both comely and pleasant, and persons of all classes, young men and maidens, old men and children, are called upon to unite in this delightful and heavenly exercise. [Psalm 147.1; 148.11-13.] Psalmody in its matter and form, has always claimed a large share of the church’s attention. Every faculty of man should be consecrated to the service of his great Creator. And all the principles of our nature, and intellectual powers should be called into requisition in the promotion of the divine glory. Psalmody, when used in the spirit of its institution, is eminently calculated to engage all the feelings of the soul, and to call into lively exercise the devotions of the heart. The celebration of God’s praise, in scripture songs, is one of his own institutions. It is his appointment, that his people “come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” [Psalm 95.2.] This practice we have given us for an example by Paul and Silas, two illustrious heralds of the cross, when at midnight and confined in the prison at Philippi, they sang the praises of God. [Acts 16:25.] This part of christian worship is confessedly important. Its importance is manifested by the care God has taken, to furnish his church with a book of spiritual songs; and songs indited by the Holy Ghost as suited to the condition of the subjects of his grace, in their pilgrimage through this vale of tears. In the psalmody of the church, the matter must be evangelical. Our spiritual songs must be such that God approves, and in this we must hearken attentively to the voice of the Lord. On this subject professing christians entertain different sentiments. One believes he may use in the public worship of God, the effusions of the muse, the songs composed by uninspired men. Another considers he is in conscience bound, to use exclusively, the psalms of the Divine word, which God has given by the inspiration of his spirit; which his church has used and which he believes was intended by the Almighty for the saints, in the public and social worship of the church. The question then at issue in reference to the psalmody of the church is this: are persons under the New Testament dispensation limited to inspired songs in the worship of God, or are they not? Now this question is evidently of vast importance, for if people are not to be limited to the inspired book of psalms, but if uninspired hymns may be made and sung in the worship of God; then the opposers of uninspired hymns are guilty of a great sin, in depriving the church, of a divinely appointed means of edification. But on the other hand, if people are limited to the inspired psalms of the scriptures in the worship of God, then those who use hymns of human composition are acting without divine authority, and may be said to resemble those of old who made use of strange fire in their censers before the Lord. [See Lev. 10:1-3.] Let us then in humble dependence on divine grace, seek to obtain the mind of the Spirit of God on the subject of psalmody, and for our information and edification we shall endeavor to do so in the following way:
In the First place we shall prove, that the inspired songs contained in the book of psalms are to be used exclusively in singing God’s praises in public and social worship.
And Second, We shall reply to the objections usually advanced against the exclusive use of inspired psalmody in the worship of God.
First then, The inspired songs contained in the book of psalms are to be used exclusively in singing God’s praises in public and social worship.
For proof of this we adduce the following arguments:
1st. The book of psalms was divinely inspired and given to the church to be employed in singing God’s praises, neither has it been set aside, or abrogated, by its divine author; but the continued use of it is still enjoined under the New Testament dispensation. Now, “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,” &c., 2 Tim. 3:16. But the book of psalms forms a part of the Holy Scriptures, and so is inspired of God, and hence “profitable for doctrine,” &c. And David the inspired penman of most of the psalms says in 2 Samuel 23:2. “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” Now these spiritual songs, or psalms were intended to be used in singing the praises of God, and they “are profitable for instruction in righteousness,” consequently those who exclude them from the psalmody of the church, and substitute in their stead hymns of human composition, are robbing the church of the Lord Jesus of the means which the God of Heaven has provided for her edification and instruction in righteousness. Besides, is it not just and reasonable that we should serve God with the best that we have and not with the worst; with the whole, the strong, the healthy, and the sound; and not with the polluted, the blind, the lame, and the sick? Hence Jehovah says in Malachi 1:7,8, “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil?” &c. Now we know in the language of Isaiah 64:6, that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Seeing then that “we are all as an unclean thing,” must not hymns of human composition be “unclean” also, for in Job 14:4, it is said, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” And therefore to use uninspired hymns in the worship of God is nothing less than “offering polluted bread upon Jehovah’s altar, and offering the blind, the lame and the sick, for sacrifice.” But this is not the case by singing exclusively the inspired songs of Zion. The praises which we then offer to the God of the whole earth are such as the Holy Ghost has inspired, and appointed to be employed in singing and making “a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.” The book of psalms was given to the church for the purpose of offering up praises to the God of Zion. These psalms were actually employed with the sanction and approbation of the God of Heaven, in the celebration and showing forth his praises. In the times of inspiration, and in the days of the prophets, these sacred songs of Zion were exclusively used in singing the glories of Jehovah. And their very structure, their matter, their name, and their compositions, all evidently intimate that they were designed by the Spirit of God for the use of the church militant on earth, under every dispensation of his grace.
But not only was the book of psalms divinely inspired, and given to the church to be employed exclusively in singing God’s praises; but it has never been set aside, or abrogated, by its divine Author. Since the singing of God’s praises is a part of religious worship, both under the old and new Testament dispensations, and since the book of psalms was divinely appointed to be used by the church as scripture psalmody, it follows, that if the inspired songs of the book of psalms be set aside, or abrogated, we must either have another book, or inspired set of sacred songs for the new Testament church, otherwise a divine warrant for singing hymns of human composition. But we have no inspired book of songs, in the whole canon of Scripture, either as a substitute for, or an addition to the book of psalms. Neither have we any divine warrant for singing hymns of human composition in the worship of God; and therefore it follows, that the inspired songs of Zion are not abrogated, and in the worship of our Maker we must either not sing at all, or else sing the inspired psalmody of the church. It is true, that at the commencement of the new Testament dispensation, whatever belonged to the judicial or ceremonial law was abrogated. But the singing the inspired songs of the book of psalms, belonged neither to the one, nor the other. That it did not belong to the judicial law is evident, for that merely prescribed the civil policy and government of the Jews, but referred not to religious worship. Neither did it belong to the ceremonial law, because that law, apart from what it typified, is said by the Apostle in Heb. 9:10, to consist of “carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” And again, in Acts 15:10, it is said to be “a yoke, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” As then, we have the authority of Christ Jesus for “searching the Scriptures,” John 5:39, so we have a divine warrant for singing the psalms given by inspiration of God; and when the one ceases, so will the other, but not before, and that is, never until the end of time.
Seeing then that the singing of the book of psalms by the church has not been set aside, or abrogated, by divine authority; so the continued use of it is enjoined by the Almighty, under the new Testament dispensation. The proof for this is of two kinds; 1st. There are several expressions in the book of psalms which prove that they were designed by the Spirit of God for the new Testament dispensation. Thus it is said in Ps. 79:13, “We will shew forth thy praise to all generations.” Also in Ps. 89:1, “With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” Again, in Ps. 102:18, “This shall be written for the generation to come, and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.”
But 2nd. The book of psalms is referred to in the new Testament, and commanded to be sung by the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour. Thus in Luke 20:42, the compilation of inspired songs in the old Testament, is called “the book of psalms,” “and David himself saith in the book of psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand.” And again, in Acts 1:20, the same collection of spiritual songs is called, “the book of psalms;” Peter says, “For it written in the book of psalms,” &c. But these divine songs are not only called “the book of psalms,” but by way of emphasis, the psalms. Thus in Luke 24:44, Christ Jesus calls them, “the psalms.” He says, “All things must he fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” And this is intended to teach us, that they are to be acknowledged by the new Testament church, as the psalms, that is, the inspired songs to be sung exclusively by the church in the solemn worship of Jehovah. But farther, we say that they are commanded to be used by the people of God in singing his praises under the present dispensation. Hence it is said in Eph. 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” And again we have the same thing in Col. 3:16. “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Some have supposed, but without any proof or authority, that by the terms hymns and spiritual songs, in the above passages, we are to understand hymns of human composition. But it has been satisfactorily proved by eminent Hebrew scholars, and the most learned expositors of scripture, both ancient and modern, that the names psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, answer to the three Hebrew terms, viz: MIZMORIM, TEHILLIM, and SHIRIM. And be it observed, that these are the Hebrew names by which the Scripture psalms are entitled and distinguished. The name of the book of psalms in the Hebrew is, SEPHER TEHILLIM, that is, the Book of hymns or Praises, because the praises of God is the chief subject matter. But the Septuagint version styles them, BIBLAOS PSALMON, that is, the Book of Psalms, from psallo to sing, because this book of Hymns was designed to be used by the church in singing God’s praises. And it is for this reason also, that the Apostle calls them spiritual songs, or songs of the Spirit, that is, songs inspired by the Holy Spirit for the church.
It takes then the three terms used by the Apostle to include or comprehend the whole book of psalms, because some are strictly speaking psalms, others are hymns, and others again are songs. Hence there was a necessity for the Apostle to designate the whole book of psalms by the three terms he employs. Suppose the Apostle had used but the one term, psalms, then he would not have meant the complete book of scripture psalms, because some, as for example, the 145th is called in the Hebrew Tehillah, which means not psalm, but hymn or praise. And if he had used but two terms, as psalms and hymns, then he would also have still excluded a part, for some are neither psalms nor hymns, but songs; thus psalm 46th is called in the Hebrew Shir, which means not psalm or hymn, but Song. And farther, the terms used by the Apostle prove so conclusively that he meant the whole book of scripture psalms and nothing less nor more, that often in the Hebrew two of the words are joined together. Thus for example seven of the psalms are called Mismor-Shir, which means, psalm-songs; viz: the 31st, 65th, 67th, 68th, 75th, 77th, and 112th. And on the other hand, some are called Shir-Mismor, or song-psalms; such as the 48th, 66th, 83rd, 88th, and 108th.
But since many use nothing but hymns of human composition, and never sing any of the inspired songs of scripture, suppose, for the present, we admit, that hymns and spiritual songs, mean human composition; it is manifest that the word psalms can mean no such thing. It must mean the same spiritual collection of songs given to the old Testament church, and here commanded to be used under the present dispensation in singing the praises of God. And it is also worthy of remark, that the Apostle, in the foregoing passages, is giving directions to the church about psalmody when the ceremonial observances had passed away with the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. And yet he enjoins on them to sing praises by using the inspired songs of the book of psalms. The duty then of exclusively singing Jehovah’s praises, in the language of scripture psalmody, remains obligatory upon the church, till the end of time.
2nd. The great Head of the church has given no other inspired songs in the place of the book of psalms, and therefore if singing the praises of God is to be continued in the church as a part of religious worship, the book of psalms must be exclusively used.
The Lord Jesus Christ had a perfect knowledge of all the wants of his church on earth, for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge; and, consequently, if another book of psalms had been requisite for the new Testament church, he must have known it. Is it possible that the church is “engraven on the palms of the Saviour’s hands, that her walls are continually before him;” that she is set as a seal upon his heart, and yet he has given her no new book of psalms? How then can this be accounted for? Under the old Testament he raised up David to be the “sweet Psalmist of Israel,” and surely, if the inspired book of psalms was to cease with the former dispensation, then the present has been overlooked by Christ and the church has not now the complete canon of scripture, the entire word of God. But the book of psalms, as given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was, and still is, absolutely complete and perfect in itself, and therefore the Head of the church in his infinite wisdom, did not see fit to change it, nor to appoint any other, it being intended to be used exclusively till the end of time. In addition to this, it may be observed, that the Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” and who is “the wisdom of God,” not only made no new psalms, but comforted himself in his greatest agony on the cross by using the very words of inspiration in the book of psalms. When he cried to his father with a loud voice, it was in the language of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And again, when sinking into the cold arms of death, he cried out in the language of Ps. 31:5, “Into thy hand I commit my spirit.” This then is authority of the very highest nature, and worthy of imitation by every professed follower of the meek and lowly Jesus. But farther, be it observed, that the apostles who were inspired to write the new Testament, and to complete the canon of the word of God, were not “moved by the Holy Ghost,” to write any more, nor any other “spiritual songs,” in addition to, or in the stead of the book of psalms. Jesus himself has declared, that “heaven and earth shall pass away, but that his words shall not pass.” [Matt. 24:35.] And so the book of psalms must continue to be used exclusively by the church in singing the praises of God till the end of time. But if they are not to be used by the church, and hymns of human composition substituted in their place, then the words of Jesus Christ are not true, for his words have passed away, and the church has been deprived of an important book of divine revelation. No man, nor body of men, has any more right or authority, to set aside the book of psalms from being used in singing God’s praises, than they have to set aside the gospel by John, or Paul’s epistle to the Romans from the New Testament Scriptures. And no man, nor body of men, has any more right or authority to add a new book of hymns, either as a substitute for, or in addition to, the inspired book of psalms, to be used in the worship of God, than they have to add Æsop’s fables, or the tales of the Arabian knights to the holy Bible, and then command them to be read as scripture in the congregation by the Ambassador of Jesus on the Lord’s day. If any is to be changed, or any new thing given, either for the promotion of God’s glory, or the edification of the church, it is God who must institute it and not man. Hence we find that when a change was to take place with regard to circumcision and the passover, as seals of the covenant of grace under the old Testament dispensation, it was the Head of the church who made the change; neither did he leave it to uninspired men to institute others in their places, but he did it himself. And so is it in the psalmody of the church. If a change had been necessary for the present dispensation, the Saviour in his wisdom and goodness would have furnished his church with a book of new scriptural songs. But no such having been given by the pen of inspiration, it is evident that the inspired book of psalms is alone to be used in singing the praises of God in public and social worship. It must ever be borne in mind, that the power of the church, and of church-rulers, is not a legislative, but only a judicial power. Even the high priest under the ceremonial economy had no authority to make any new laws for God’s house, nor ordain any other rites or modes of worship than what God himself had ordained. And if this was so under the old dispensation, it is doubly so under the new, now that we have the complete canon of scripture, the word of God, to which nothing is to be added, and from which nothing is to be taken.
3rd. The inspired songs contained in the book of psalms are suited to the present as well as the former dispensation, but they were exclusively used in the Old, and therefore are to be alone employed under the New Testament.
The book of psalms is “an epitome of the whole scriptures.” So spake Athanasius, that famous advocate of the Trinity against the Arians, in the 4th century. Basil also, surnamed the great, who lived in the same age, held similar views. “What I pray,” says he, “is it, which you cannot learn from the Psalms?” “Here is a perfect theology, or system of divine knowledge; there are treasures of all things brought into and laid up in the book of Psalms,” &c. [etc.] Luther called them “a little Bible,” and Melancthon, the most elegant writing in the world. Mastricht, an eminent Dutch divine, says: “The church may not permit anything to be sung publicly, which is not extant in the holy scriptures.” Manton, a member of the Westminster Assembly, says, “To question whether we may sing Scripture Psalms, the Psalms of David, to me seemeth to look like the cavil of a profane spirit.” The pious and judicious Hooker says, “What is there necessary for man to know, which the Psalms are not able to teach?” Bishop Horne speaking of the Psalms, says, “This little volume, like the paradise of Eden, affords us in perfection, everything that groweth elsewhere,” “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food, and above all, what was there lost, is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden.” And as Dr. Hammond justly observes, by our Saviour when in agony quoting from it, “no tongue of man or angel can convey an higher idea of any book, and of their felicity who use it aright.” We repeat it then, that the inspired songs contained in the book of Psalms, are suited to the present as well as the former dispensation. Would we sing of God, of his nature and attributes; of his perfections as displayed in the works of creation and providence, then see Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work,” &c. Also Psalm 33, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap; he layeth up the depth in store-houses.” &c. And see the illustrious descriptions of divine providence in the whole of Psalms 104th and 107th.
Would we sing of the person, states, and offices of Jesus Christ, where can we find such language as in the book of Psalms? Do the sufferings of the Saviour, by which he purchased his church, and his triumphs over the powers of darkness, occupy our attention? Where are they sung in strains so melting, or in notes of such elevated sentiment, as in the book of Psalms. See for example Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring. O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night-season, and am not silent,” &c. Then verse 12, “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion,” &c.
Would we sing of the blessings of covenant love? These are found in the book of Psalms. Here we have the grace of God in election, Psalm 65:4: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts,” &c. Here we have the grace of God in redemption, Psalm 130:7,8. “Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Here we have the grace of God in pardon, Psalm 32:1,2, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Also in Psalm 103, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Here is the grace of God in communion, Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” And here the saints find assurance of safety in the valley of death, of victory over the grave, and of eternal enjoyment. See Psalm 23:4,6, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” And in Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Are we in sorrow and distress? Then never were sentiments of deep distress couched in language so tender and emphatic as in Psalm 88, “My soul is full of troubles, and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves,” &c.
Are we in bondage, and strangers in a foreign land? Then sing Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof,” &c.
Would we sing the frailty and sorrows of man? Then see Psalm 90, at verse 10, it is said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow: for it is soon cut off and we fly away.” And also the whole of Psalm 103, at verses 15 and 16, it is said, “As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth: for the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
Would we sing the awful scenes at the close of time? Then see Psalm 50, at verse 3, it is said, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him; and it shall be very tempestuous round about him,” &c. Also Ps. 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” And in Ps. 11:6, “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.”
There is then no situation in life in which a believer, or the church at large, can be placed in, but something can be found suitable in the book of Psalms.
4th. The Scripture psalms are of such superior excellency, that none others can be of equal importance, or sufficient to answer the same purposes.
There is an authority, a majesty, a spiritual savour, and a richness in the words of the Holy Ghost, which is not and cannot be expected in any other. Claim for uninspired hymns all the respect that is justly due them, still they are but human; it is the work of fallible man, and must be imperfect. The effect cannot be more perfect than its cause. And hence, how contracted the views, how feeble the thoughts, and how childish the sentiments when compared with the word of the living God, in the inspired book of psalms.
No hymns of human composition, have the majesty of the scripture-songs of Zion. In Ps. 29:4, it is said, “The voice of the Lord is full of majesty,” and this is true of his voice in the word. This majesty and grandeur, and power of the word arises from the greatness, and sublimity, and eternal importance of the truths exhibited in the name of the God of Jacob, and in the words selected by the Holy Spirit to express these things. No uninspired hymns can justly be considered absolutely pure and holy, or absolutely faultless and free from the effects of human depravity, like the inspired songs of Zion. In Prov. 30:5, it is said, “every word of God is pure,” and in Ps. 12:6, “The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Now it is this purity of the songs of Zion which makes the people of God love and prefer them before hymns of human composure. Hence David said with regard to the book of Psalms, in Ps. 119:140. “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” The child of God then loves the sweet songs of Zion because they are the pure words of the God of heaven.
Again, no other songs can be compared to the inspired book of Psalms in point of efficacy. In Heb. 4:12, it is said, “The word of God is quick and powerful,” &c. The word of God in the book of psalms, seizes on the mind, arrests the understanding, rectifies the judgment, subjugates the will, purifies the conscience, spiritualizes the affections, and elevates and transforms the whole man, into its own pure and holy image. But who dare venture to assert such things of the very best human compositions, or uninspired hymns, in the world. Take any of the hymns now in use in any of the churches who do not sing exclusively the Scripture songs contained in the book of psalms, and see how far short they come when compared with the hymns of the Holy Ghost. Why, they are but as the feeble glimmering of the glow-worm to the full blaze of noon day splendor. How could it be otherwise?—think of the authors of some of these uninspired hymns, and the occasions on which they were composed. Several of them are the productions of Chapin, Furness, Pierpont, Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Tom Moore: &c. And when we think of the occasions on which some of them were composed, it should be sufficient to sicken any intelligent mind from using such effusions. Fancy a congregation praising God in that hymn composed by Tom Moore on occasion of being deceived by a sly female, and yet it is a favorite one with many, “Come ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,” &c. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” [Rev. 2.7; &c.]
5th. The fact that God has given a whole book of inspired songs to the church, called the book of Psalms, or the book of hymns, (Tehillim) is proof sufficient that they only are to be used in singing his praises.
Now the title itself clearly and plainly indicates that this book, or collection, of sacred songs, was designed by the Almighty and given for the express purpose to be used in the solemn service of praising God. But more than this, the idea of exclusion is certainly implied by the emphatic language, “the psalms,” or “the book of psalms.” But say some, we have prayers in the Bible, and why not confine ourselves to them as well as to the book of Psalms. We answer, there is a vast difference between prayer and praise. Prayer is the making known of our wants and circumstances to God; but praise is the ascribing that glory and honor which is due to him alone. When at the request of the disciples our Saviour taught them to pray, he merely gave them a form of pattern, saying “After this manner pray ye,” and even this pattern of prayer differs as any one may see by comparing Matt. 6:9-13. with Luke 11:2-4. But there is not in the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, one syllable to teach us that the book of psalms was given as a pattern, so that we were to compose other psalms or hymns like them for singing God’s praises. There is not in the sacred oracles a collection of prayers, called “the book of prayers,” but there is “the book of psalms.” And this collection of sacred songs coming directly from a Holy God must possess complete perfection. Hence the idea of adding to it more or other hymns to make it more complete, or better adapted to answer the purpose of singing God’s praises, is most revolting, and highly derogatory to the character and attributes of a holy, self-existent, unchangeable, and eternal God.
6th. To substitute hymns of human composition in the worship of God, instead of the divinely inspired book of Psalms, is productive of fatal consequences.
Many of the advocates of hymns of human composition profess that they have a great esteem and veneration for the book of psalms, and that all that they plead for is, the liberty of using other hymns in conjunction with them. But it is manifest that the use of such human compositions, when once introduced into the worship of God, very soon excludes the inspired book of songs altogether. The Syrian church at an early period, about the end of the 2nd century, admitted hymns of human composition, but she soon fell a victim to error. A certain Bardesanes of the Gnostic school adopted the plan of making hymns to propagate his erroneous opinions. These hymns, we are told, became very fashionable “by the charms of novelty and embellishments of oriental style.” After him, Harmonious, his son engaged in the same work; and one Ephraim, of orthodox faith, in order to counteract the evil tendency of the Gnostic hymns, set about composing hymns for himself and the church. Thus the way was opened and others soon followed in the same course, vainly attempting to fight the enemy with his own carnal weapons, and not with scripture psalmody, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I once attended worship in a place where human hymns were used, and after the services were ended, a gentleman enquired of me how I liked the singing. My reply was, “I did not like it, for the tunes seemed too much like play-house, or theatrical comic song-tunes.” But said he, “that’s the reason why we sing them, for it is not right that the devil should have all the nice tunes, and the church none.” And so is it in psalmody, many fancy that they see something nice in hymns of human composition that cannot be obtained by strict adherence to scripture psalmody. But the errors introduced by such hymns into the Syrian, and other churches, should be as beacons to avoid the quicksands. And every church that has followed the example of singing such hymns, has to a greater or less degree, departed from the truth as it is in Christ. Consequently we find that in the 5th century measures were adopted to prevent the use of uninspired hymns in the worship of God. And in the famous council of Ephesus, which condemned the Nestorian heresy, the use of hymns of human composition was prohibited “on account,” it is said, “of the errors and heresies which had been so extensively propagated in the churches by these attractive instruments.” [Bibl. Reper. 1829.]
Give then liberty for using in conjunction with the book of psalms, other hymns, and you at once open the flood-gates of error, idolatry, and superstition. Thus the worshipping of saints, having been once introduced into the church of Rome, very soon supplanted in a great measure the worship due to Jesus Christ. And now I suppose that for every prayer offered up to the Son of God, there are from forty to an hundred offered up to departed saints and angels. Now exactly so is it by introducing uninspired hymns into the worship of God; very soon the word of God in the book of psalms is laid aside, and look at those churches that use human hymns and you will see that this is the case. In some instances these uninspired hymn books have put the Bible nearly out of the church altogether. Yes, in many churches you will find almost no Bibles because hymns of human composition have supplanted them.
7th. The inspired book of psalms should be exclusively used by the church, because the arguments employed against it, are not only unsatisfactory; but frequently blasphemous; and take the same hostile attitude that Popery does against the reading of the scriptures.
It was about the rise of Popery, that the scripture Psalms were shorn of their beauty and vigor; and during the long night of gross darkness that succeeded, like its divine author when forced by Herod to flee into Egypt; it was banished into exile by the authority of the Romish hierarchy. It retired into solitude, and amid the Alpine hills, comforted and refreshed with its heavenly notes, that little band of God’s chosen remnant, the persecuted Waldenses, who were prophesying in sackcloth and followed the Lamb whithersoever he went.
But we would here remark, that scripture psalmody has been used in every period of the church from the days of Christ and his Apostles down to the present time. The most learned and orthodox commentators agree that the hymn sung by our Saviour and his Apostles at the institution of the Lord’s supper was the Hallel which, consisted of six inspired Psalms, from the 113th to the 118th inclusive. And that the book of Psalms was used exclusively in the apostolic period, we have indubitable evidence, but if hymns of human composition were then used by the church of Christ, we demand any to produce such, or give proof for it. After the death of the Apostles, and in the 2nd century, the church departed in several respects from its former purity. Still we find that scripture psalmody was used. Tertullian positively asserts, that in the 2nd century, the 133rd Psalm was regularly sung at the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Respecting the 3rd century, history says little on the subject of psalmody; but as Irenæus, Tertullian, and others of the 2nd century, flourished in the beginning of the 3rd, we have every reason to believe that the practice of the preceding was the same.
But that the book of Psalms was used by the church in the 4th century, we have incontrovertible evidence. Jerome of Palestine tells us that the 31st and 45th Psalms were sung at the celebration of the Lord’s supper; and Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the same age, affirms the same thing. Jerome likewise says, “You could not go into the fields but you might hear the ploughman at his hallelujahs, and the vine-dresser chanting the Psalms of David.” Augustine also testifies to the using the book of Psalms in the church, and in Sermon 10, he mentions singing the 65th Psalm. We also find him defending the use of the book of Psalms in worship from the aspersions of its enemies. He says, as we see in Calvin’s Institutes, book 3, chapter 20, “One Hilary took every opportunity of loading with censures the practice, that hymns from the book of Psalms, should be sung at the altar. But in obedience to the command of my brethren I answered him.” And again, we are told in Epistle 119, Tome 2, that “the Donatists reproached the orthodox, because they sung with sobriety the divine songs of the prophets, while they (the Donatists) influenced their minds with the poetic effusions of human genius.” Augustine also informs us, that Athanasius of Alexandria employed the Psalms of David in his church, and the same is affirmed of Ambrose. In the “Apostolic Constitution,” which appeared in the 4th century, it is said in Book 2, chapter 57, that “the women, the children, and humblest mechanics, could repeat all the Psalms of David; they chanted them at home and abroad.” Again we find Chrysostom, the orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, in Homily 6, saying; “All christians employ themselves in David’s Psalms more frequently than in any other part of the Old or New Testament. And collecting the servants of God into angelic troops, turns earth into heaven, and of men makes angels, chanting David’s Psalms.” Again, in the 5th century we find Cassian in Book 3, chapter 6, saying, “The elders have not changed the ancient custom of singing psalms. For the hymns which it has been the custom to sing at the end of the night-vigils, were the same hymns which they sing at this day, viz: the 148th, and following Psalms, the 50th, 62nd, and 89th.” This then is conclusive testimony, and from it we see three things: (1st.) That Scripture Psalms were sung in worship in the 5th century; (2nd.) That these Psalms were also used in the foregoing centuries, for it is called an “ancient custom,” and (3rd.) The term hymns in the writings of the Fathers mean the Psalms of David, or Scripture Psalmody. But farther, Suidas in his Lexicon on the word, chorus, tells us, that “The choirs of churches were, between the years 337 and 404, divided into parts, who, in the time of Flavian of Antioch, sung the Psalms of David alternately.” Also, the council of Laodicea in the year 364, decreed, that no unauthorized Psalms should be used in the church; and in the second at Braga, in Spain, in the beginning of the 7th century forbid the use of all hymns except those of divine inspiration.
With these historical facts before us we might rest satisfied that Scripture psalmody was used from the days of the Apostles in the Eastern churches, though not so general in the West, during the first five centuries. Before however concluding this part of our discourse, we would notice very briefly the practice of the church in the middle ages, and at the Reformation. The Waldenses long before the days of the Reformation, in the valleys of Piedmont, and amid the Alpine hills sung Scripture Psalms, and history informs us that, The Albigenses, in 1210, were metre psalm-singers. In Smith’s Prim. Psalms, p. 270, we are told, that in the 14th century, Wickliffe, who is styled, “the morning star of the Reformation,” sung the book of Psalms in metre; and the same is said of John Huss in the 15th century. Next look at the glorious era of the Reformation, and we find that the Reformers celebrated the praises of their God and Saviour in Scripture psalms. Luther, as early 1525, published a metrical version of the book of psalms; and another individual, in the same year, published at Augsburgh a verse translation of the same. In the year 1543, we find fifty of the psalms translated by Marmot into metre, and published at Geneva under the auspices of John Calvin. But Marmot dying before the whole was completed, Beza versified the remainder. In England, the reformers were the advocates of the book of Psalms, and in the year 1562 supplied the church with versions by Sternhold, Hopkins, and others. But especially in Scotland, from the first, the reformers used Scripture psalmody. At first, it is said, they sung the book of Psalms in prose. But in 1556, metrical versions of the psalms were sung in the congregations; and in McCrie’s life of Knox, we are informed that the whole book of psalms was not put into metre before 1559, but before that a version first published at Geneva was used. The version of the book of psalms in use in the churches of Scotland and Ireland, and in the American churches, where Scripture psalmody is exclusively used, is known by the name of the Scottish or Rouse’s version. The ground work of this version was laid by Francis Rous, or Rouse, and was intended both for the churches of England and Scotland. A committee of the church of Scotland having diligently compared it with the original Hebrew, sent it to the Presbyteries, and these with their observations to the original committee. This committee then sent it, with their observations on the remarks of the Presbyteries, to the commission of the General Assembly for public affairs. The whole having been carefully revised by the commission, was sent to the Provincial Synods, and through them again transmitted to the Presbyteries; and after being diligently considered, was at length sent up to the General Assembly. The version thus prepared was in the year 1649 received by the authority of the General Assembly, the highest ecclesiastical court in Scotland, and appointed by them to be sung in the public and social worship of God. See acts of Assembly, pp. 353,428,479, and Aiton’s life of Alexander Henderson. We would then conclude this historical sketch of psalms, by a quotation from Romaine’s works, vol. 8, p. 339. Speaking of Sternhold and Hopkins’ version, he says, “it is the word of God, and this version comes nearer the original than any I have seen, except the Scotch. Here is everything great, and noble, and divine, although not in Dr. Watts’ way or style. It is not, as good old Mr. Hall used to call it, Watts’ jingle.” And again, the same celebrated divine says, “I want [lack] a name for that man, who should pretend that he could make better hymns than the Holy Ghost. It is just the same as if he was to write a new Bible, not only better than the old, but so much better, that the old may be thrown aside.”
From all this then we would conclude, that the inspired songs contained in the book of psalms, are to be used exclusively in singing God’s praises in public and social worship.
In the Second place we shall reply to the objections usually advanced against the exclusive use of Scripture psalmody in the worship of God.
1st Objection. That the Scripture Psalms are typical, or speak of the typical services of the Old Testament dispensation, and were intended only for the worship of the temple.
Now surely no reader of the Bible will attempt to say, that the Psalms themselves were types; for neither the book of psalms, nor any other book of the Old Testament was a type of things to come although they frequently treat of typical things. If the book of Psalms was itself a type, then we say it would not be lawful to use it.
This objection is founded upon an erroneous supposition, viz: that what we sing in worship must be literally applied to ourselves personally. Now if this were true, then very few could have sung the psalms in Old Testament times, and yet all were required to sing them. Besides if this were true, the objection is equally against hymns of human composition; because none of these would state precisely the experiences of believers, or a whole congregation at exactly one and the same time.
The objection however, may mean, that the Psalms speak of the typical services of the Old Testament dispensation, and not that the Psalms themselves are types. But the objector, to be consistent, should not for the same reason, sing hymns founded upon the New Testament, because it frequently refers to the same types as the Old, such for instance as when Christ is called our Passover; a Lamb slain, &c. Also, it speaks of the hidden manna, the Ark of the Testament, &c. And farther, this objection, if it has any weight in it against singing the Psalms of the Holy Spirit, may also be brought against the Redeemed in heaven, for they are represented as “singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,” Rev 15:3. It may however be said, that the book of psalms was only intended for the worship of the temple. But this we deny, and we challenge the objector to prove it. None has ever proved this, and a good reason is, because it cannot be done. The Psalms not only ascribe to God what was, but also what is, and what will be his praise through all eternity. If the Psalms were only intended for the worship of the temple, why did they not perish with the temple; and why did not the apostles in writing to the Gentiles warn us against using the psalms of the Old Testament, as well as against circumcising our children, and against observing the rites and ceremonies of the law? Why the reason is obvious, that God designed the book of psalms for the New as well as for the Old Testament church, and to be used in singing his praises till the end of time.
2nd Objection. That the Psalms do not mention Christ Jesus. — If the objector means, that the psalms do not mention the second person of the Trinity, then we say that he greatly errs, not knowing the Scriptures. Christ Jesus often quoted the psalms and applied them to himself, thus in Luke 24:44, he says, “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” And also the writers of the New Testament apply them to him; thus in Acts. 2:25-28, Peter quotes Ps. 16:8-11, and refers it to Christ; he says, “For David speaketh concerning him, (Christ,) I foresaw the Lord always before my face,” &c.
But if the objection means, that the names Christ and Jesus, are not mentioned in the Hebrew of the psalms, we admit it, because these names are not Hebrew but Greek. Thus Jesus is, Jehovah saves, or Jehovah the Saviour, and this is the very thing that is predicated of Christ Jesus the Messiah. Also, the name Christ is in the corresponding Hebrew name given to the Lord Jesus in the 2nd Psalm, and is actually translated “Christ,” by Peter and John in Acts 4:26. “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ.” Consequently we have both Jesus and Christ in the Psalms. The book of psalms is full of Christ, and in the New Testament the inspired writers quote and apply it to Christ. Take a few examples, from Ps. 8:4-6, Paul in Heb. 2:6-9, proves his universal dominion; from Ps. 40:6-8, in Heb. 10:5-7, he proves the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices, and the perfection of Jesus; from Ps. 45:6,7, in Heb. 1:10-12, he proves the Deity of Christ; and from Ps. 110:1,4, in Heb. 1:13, and 5:6, he proves the kingly and priestly offices of the Redeemer, and so it is through the word of God, for no book of the Old Testament is quoted so often in the New as the book of psalms.
3rd Objection. That the psalms contain imprecations or curses against our enemies, and this is contrary to the spirit of the gospel.
Those who bring this objection will admit that the psalms are inspired, and therefore to bring it as an objection is to make it appear that one part of Scripture contradicts another. Is the objector prepared for this? and this is the same objection brought by Deists against the inspiration of the Scriptures in general.
But if the imprecations against enemies contained in the book of psalms be proof that they are at variance with the New Testament, then for the same reason the New Testament is at variance with itself. The Lord Jesus himself, who came to bless men in turning them from their iniquity, and into whose lips, David in Psalm 45:2, says, “grace is poured,” pronounced woes on his enemies, saying, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” &c., and “Woe to thee Chorazin, woe to thee, Bethsaida,” &c. Besides this, the most awful imprecation we have in the whole Bible is in the new Testament, where Paul says in 1 Cor. 16:22, respecting the enemies of Christ, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” Now Maranatha is a Syriac phrase and signifies, “the Lord cometh.” That is, let him be delivered up to final, irrevocable, and inexorable vengeance, when the Lord cometh. Also the spirits of the just are represented in Rev. 6:10, as calling for the judgments of God to descend on the enemies of Christ and the church: they say, “how long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Respecting however imprecations in the book of psalms, it may be remarked, that in the Hebrew language, as it wants the third person in the imperative mood, they may literally be translated as predictions.
But farther, the imprecations in the book of psalms are not the curses of David, as a private individual, against his private foes. They are those curses dictated by the Holy Spirit against the public enemies of God and his Anointed. Who does not pray to God for the downfall of Popery and Mahometan delusion? And yet when these systems of iniquity shall be overthrown should we not rejoice and praise God. Why the very redeemed in heaven are represented as singing God’s praises with gladness at the downfall of mystical Babylon: they are represented in Rev. 19:1-6, “Allelulia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God,” &c.
4th Objection. That the Psalms of Scripture are obscure and cannot be easily understood.
This is the same objection that Deists and Papists bring against the Scriptures, and for which reason the laity should not read them. The grand argument used by the church of Rome against reading the scriptures, even the New Testament, is the very one that is here used by some against singing the inspired songs of God. Even admitting, that there are some things obscure, or difficult to be understood in the book of psalms, let us see if such is a sufficient reason why they should not be used in praising God. Nay, my friends, but this is one reason why the psalms should be more frequently used. By reading, studying, and singing them, we would soon be brought to understand them better, and see more clearly and plainly, that they are the only psalmody, which has the authority of God to be used in his worship. The church of Rome quotes 2 Peter 3:16, for proof that the laity should not read the Scriptures, because Peter says that in Paul’s epistles, there are some things “hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” Now who we ask are they, who are here said to wrest the Scriptures? Why, they are those, Peter says, who are “unlearned,” that is unlearned in the Scriptures; and hence this objection against singing the psalms, is one strong reason for singing them more frequently.
Besides this, we ask what book there is in the New Testament that every christian clearly and fully comprehends? We venture to affirm, not one. But where is the individual so foolish as to argue that for this reason the books of the New Testament should be thrown aside, and others substituted in their place? Why this is a strong reason, why they should be more frequently read, and meditated upon, and prayed over. All admit, that there are difficulties and obscure things in the book of Revelation; but is it therefore to be erased from the canon of Scripture, and something of human composition substituted in its stead? No verily, but to be more read and meditated upon. Hence our Saviour says respecting it in Rev. 1:3, “Blessed is he that readeth,” &c. So also, instead of the objection having any weight against the use of the scripture psalms in singing the praises of God, it is an argument for the exclusive use of them.
But we deny the truth of the objection, viz: that the scripture Psalms are obscure, and not easily understood. The book of Psalms is one of the plainest in the Old Testament, and the Spirit of God speaking in the psalms affirms this. Thus in Psalm 19:7-11, it is said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple,” &c. Also in Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” and verse 130, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” The Scriptures themselves teach us, that they are perspicuous, and the scriptures of the New Testament tell us that this is one excellency of the Old Testament, and especially the book of psalms. Now for proof of this read in Rom. 15:3, “For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” But where is this written? Why in Psalm 69:9, “And the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” Then see what the Spirit of God says about this in Rom. 15:4, whether it be obscure or not; “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” Whether then we are to believe, God or man, judge ye. Man says, the scripture psalms are obscure, and therefore not fit to be used in singing the praises of God. But no, replies the Holy Ghost, they “were written aforetime for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” And again the same thing is taught us in 2 Peter 1:19. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.” Who then will dare to affirm, that the book of Psalms is obscure, and therefore should not be used in singing the praises of God, since the Almighty himself declares, that they were given expressly “for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures (the Scripture Psalms) might have hope.” That is, the psalms were given us that we might know, what to hope for from God, even life everlasting; also, upon what grounds to hope, even the merits of Jesus Christ: and in what way, even by faith in his blood.
5th Objection. That the Psalms are full of expressions only suited to the temple worship; such as organs, harps, sacrifices; &c.
Passing over the instruments named in the book of psalms as that will come in order in our next discourse, we observe, that this objection against the singing of Scripture Psalms, will be upon the very same ground, and for the same reason an objection against using the New Testament in divine worship. Although the shadows are now departed, and the substance come, still such expressions are retained in the new Testament. Thus for example in, Rom. 12:1, Paul beseeches us to “present our bodies a living sacrifice,” &c. Also it is said in Heb. 13:10, “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” And in Rev. 11:19, it is said, “And the temple of God was opened in Heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament,” &c. Now this last quoted passage refers to the new testament church, but what church of professed christians on earth, has in it literally “the ark of the Testimony.” If then the book of psalms is to be set aside because there are in it expressions which were used in reference to the temple worship, so for the same reason the new Testament must be laid aside, and another of human invention substituted in its place.
But farther we observe, that such terms in the book of psalms have a spiritual signification. Thus, Christ is our new Testament passover—the temple is the church of God—and the altar is the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is both the altar and the sacrifice, he sanctifies the gift. Hence, by the “temple of God opened in heaven,” we mean, that as during the power of Antichrist [the Pope of Rome], the church of God was shut up, but now that “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ,” it was again opened. And at its opening was seen “the ark of God’s testament.” Now this of old was in the holy of holies, and in this ark were kept the tables of the law. Before however Josiah’s time, the law of God had been lost, but was then found; so in the reign of Antichrist, God’s law was set aside by their decrees and traditions, and the scriptures locked up from the people; but now that Messiah “has taken his great power, and reigned,” they are again opened, and the command is “Search the Scriptures.” This was heaven’s unspeakable privilege, and like the ark of the testament, was a token of the presence of the God of Jacob returning to his Israel, and of less peculiar favor for them through Jesus Christ the true propitiation. Now exactly on the same principle is it that we are to understand the expressions objected against in the book of psalms. Thus for example, when the Apostle in Eph. 5:19, enjoins upon us to sing psalms, he says, we are to sing them “making melody in our heart to the Lord.” The meaning then of this simply is, that when the renewed heart is touched by the Holy Spirit its affections and desires are at once tuned for singing God’s praises, and the modulations of the voice giving utterance to the feelings of the soul, will produce “melody” as sweet to the ear of Jehovah, as that of old by either harp, organ, or stringed instruments. Instead then of the psalms not being suited for singing God’s praises because of such expressions, it is one of their spiritual beauties, and conveys most powerfully to the mind of the devout worshipper, that all the faculties and powers with which God has endowed us should be employed in worshipping him in spirit and in truth. [See John 4:19-24.]
6th Objection. We pray in our own words, and why not praise God in the same.
We might content ourselves in replying to this objection by simply remarking, that the mind of God as revealed in the Scripture of truth gives us no warrant to sing Jehovah’s praises in hymns of human composition. There is not in the whole volume of divine inspiration, a single command to make new psalms, nor a solitary instance where the Spirit of God is promised to aid us either in making psalms, or altering those already composed. But this is not the case with regard to prayer, or the preaching of the word. We have the promise of God that he will enable us to pray; thus in Zech. 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication,” &c. And again in Rom. 8:26, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us,” &c. The same also is the case respecting the preaching of the word, God promises us in it divine aid; thus in Matt. 28:19,20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, . . . . . . . and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” But there is no such promise given us to make hymns and sing them in public worship.
Besides this, the objection is based on a misunderstanding, it assumes that there is no difference between praying and praising. Now here is where the error lies; prayer belongs to man, and is the offering up of our desires to God, with confession of our sins; but praise belongs to God, and consists in ascribing to him every perfection and excellency which essentially belongs to him alone. To praise a man is to ascribe to him something which he really and truly possesses, and so to praise God is to extol, and glorify him for what he is in himself. Now God is unchangeable, infinite, and eternal, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” and therefore the church needs not to change her songs of praise to suit the different dispensations, or changes of the times, but that once given her by the Holy Spirit is to be used in singing the Redeemer’s praises till the end of time.
7th Objection. If the book of Psalms is only to be used in praising God, why did some others, as Mary and Zacharias praise God in a new and different song.
We answer that they are not called psalms, nor hymns, nor spiritual songs; and of Zacharias it is said in Luke 1:67, that he “was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied.” Hence if this is a divine warrant for making psalms or hymns, the person composing them must be able to prove that he was under the extraordinary influence of the Holy Spirit. But even suppose he did convince others that he was moved by the Holy Ghost, still that would not be sufficient authority for the church to use such hymns in praising God, because Mary and Zacharias only used them themselves, neither did both use the same expressions as we see from Luke 1:4-55, 68-79. There was no command for the church to use them in public worship, nor any others to sing them in praising God.
It is also to be observed, that neither Mary nor Zacharias composed any new matter of praise, but the promise of God by the prophets being now fulfilled, they praised Jehovah for his truth and faithfulness in the promises. Besides, the expressions employed by them could not be intended as an addition to the book of psalms, or substitute for them, because the like had never before happened to them, and never will to any other till the end of time.
8th Objection. We have what is sufficient for salvation in the New Testament, but if the book of psalms is to be exclusively used in praising to God, then we should observe the ceremonial and judicial laws.
This objection consists of two parts:
1st. That the new Testament is alone sufficient for salvation. Now if the expression “sufficient for salvation,” means a sufficient rule of faith and practice, which God has given us, and which we are bound to observe, then we deny that the New Testament is alone sufficient, without the Old. For example, many parts of the New Testament cannot be clearly and fully understood without referring to the Old. And farther, there are some matters of faith and practice which are not contained in any part of the New Testament, but are alone revealed in the Old. How for instance, with only the New Testament, can we know the degrees of consanguinity within which marriage is prohibited? I defy any to know it merely by the New. Or how could any tell merely by the New Testament alone, how the covenant of works was broken, unless the Old had told us in Gen. 3:6, that it was by “eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
But the 2nd part of the objection is, that if we are to use exclusively the book of Psalms in praising God, then we should also observe the ceremonial and judicial laws. Now this objection is based on a false supposition, viz: that the singing of Scripture psalms is a ceremonial institution. But this we most positively deny, and we challenge any to prove that they are a part of the ceremonial institution. This has never yet been done, and we confidently affirm never can nor will.
But farther, the ceremonial law was ended in the coming of the Messiah; it was only the shadow of which Christ was the substance. And the judicial law had merely respect to the government of the Jewish nation, and the genealogies of their families. Hence when David’s Lord was come, the judicial law, except whatever was of a moral nature, ceased, as well as the ceremonial.
9th Objection. The book of Psalms should not be exclusively used in divine worship, because none of the psalms directly apply to either baptism, or the Lord’s supper.
Now if this objection means, that the subject matter of baptism or the Lord’s supper is not contained in the book of psalms; then we deny such a statement. The subject matter of both baptism and the Lord’s supper is directly contained in the book of Psalms. Respecting baptism it is said in Psalm 51:5,7,9,10, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than the snow. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Here we find an acknowledgment of original sin, also the outward sign of baptism with water, and likewise the thing signified. Nay farther, so explicit is the psalms on the matter of baptism, that we have the very subjects of baptism referred to; thus in Ps. 8:2, it is said, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.” The same thing also is the case as regards the Lord’s supper. Are, for instance, the sufferings of Christ exhibited to us in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper? so are they in the book of Psalms; read Ps. 22:1-21, at verses 14,15, it is said, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax: it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws: and thou hast brought me unto the dust of death.” The same thing we have in Ps. 69:1-21, at verses 20,21, it is said, “Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Again, is Christ Jesus in the Lord’s supper set forth as suitable and abundant provision for our souls? So also is he in the book of Psalms; thus in Ps. 23:1,5, it is said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over:” And in Ps. 36:8, “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” Also in Ps 63:5, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,” &c. And in Ps. 116:12-19, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord;” &c. If then the objection means, that the subject matter, or substance, of baptism and the Lord’s supper, is not in the book of Psalms, it is without foundation.
But if the objection means, that none of the psalms give us an account of the institution of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper; then we say, that objection is absurd, and contrary to reason. What! because baptism and the Lord’s supper, are not directly and expressly mentioned in the book of psalms, therefore none of them are applicable to the subject matter of these ordinances, and consequently the book of psalms should not be exclusively used in public worship. Now upon this same principle, the psalms were not adapted to the use of the Old Testament church, because neither circumcision nor the passover is expressly mentioned in the whole book of psalms. The objector would be wise above that which is written; and it is another proof, that whatever objection is advanced, against the exclusive use of the book of psalms in singing God’s praises, will be equally an objection against the whole volume of divine inspiration. Had the objector lived in the days of the prophets and Old Testament saints, he would then have deprived the church of God of the book of Psalms, and consequently of psalmody altogether.
But it is a cheering fact, that there are indications of the book of psalms being used as scripture psalmody in singing the praises of God in the church. Thus in the meeting of the General Assembly (O[ld] S[chool]) of the Presbyterian church, which met in the city of New Orleans, on the 6th of May, 1858, an overture from the Presbytery of Knoxville was presented, “asking that the Psalms of David, in Rouse’s version, . . . be published in the front part of our present hymn books,” &c. And again the following resolution was unanimously adopted by said Assembly: “Resolved, 2. That it be recommended to all, and especially our ministers and churches in the South, to circulate, for examination and use, the Psalms in metre, according to the version used in the church of Scotland.”
10th Objection. The 1st Psalm in the Scottish version states a falsehood, for no man is “perfectly blessed in this life.” The prose translation is, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,” but the Scottish version is, “That man hath perfect blessedness who walketh not astray,” &c.
Now this objection, like most others, is founded either in ignorance or malice against the exclusive use of the Bible Psalms. Perhaps it is the offspring of both: 1st, From ignorance of the Hebrew and its true and proper translation; and 2nd, The poisoned arrow of malice is thus shot against the psalms, from what through ignorance is affirmed to be a falsehood.
We affirm, that the Scottish metrical version, is nearer the original, than the prose translation. The metrical is “That man hath perfect blessedness,” and these are really and truly the very words of the God of Heaven, as the penman wrote under the infallible direction and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The Hebrew word is, asherai, and means, beatitudines, a plural noun, and literally in English signifies; blessednesses, or perfect blessedness, the very words in the metrical translation. And remember, this is not our own translation of the Hebrew, but some of the most celebrated Lexicographers and Hebrew scholars that ever adorned the pages of the literary world, translate it so; for instance, Stockius. He says, that the word used by the Spirit of God, denotes all kinds of felicity, both bodily and mental, temporal and eternal. And here we cannot do better in conclusion, than transcribe the words of a celebrated divine when writing on this verse of the psalm. “It implies,” he says, “the certainty of the saints final perseverance, as well as their absolute and inalienable title to that blessedness, which from eternity, God, for Christ’s sake, covenanted to bestow upon them. The condition of the covenant, perfect obedience to the law, and full satisfaction to the justice of God has been performed by Christ:—the promissory part of the covenant, perfect blessedness to all for whom Jesus died, will not fail on the part of the Father. This perfect blessedness is secured to all the people of God, not because they persevere, but because Christ has atoned for their guilt, and now pleads for them, that their faith fail not: not because they are sinless, for then they would not need the intercession of the great High Priest; but because the blood of Christ has answered all the claims of justice against them for their sins. The Saviour is before the throne, and the sword of justice can never touch the Redeemed but through him. The law satisfied by his death, never can demand punishment again, for any of the sins of any of those for whom Christ died. God is not unjust, to forget His Beloved Son’s work, and labor of love, and agonizing death; to demand again a repayment of a debt already fully paid,—paid by a ransom, sufficient, had it been needed, and had God so willed it, for the rescue of ten thousand worlds. The believer then, may truly be said to be perfectly blessed. He has the assurance of God’s favor, the promise of supporting grace, and perseverance amid all the trials of earth, till death call him to glory. Inseparably united to the true vine, his leaf shall not wither. “Who then, shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Who dare say they are not perfectly blessed? The blood of Christ has purchased for all his people this perfect blessedness; who then, or what then can deprive them of this inestimable possession? God’s people may sometimes be cast down under a sense of sin; in difficulty and danger, in want and in sickness, they may sometimes deem themselves forsaken:—but God changes not; the inheritance is still theirs—Perfect blessedness,—made over to the believer in the Bible, sealed with the seal of heaven, and ratified by the oath of the living God, is his sure portion. In the darkest hour, he hears the voice of a covenant God proclaiming in mercy,—“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.” [Isa. 54:8.] Leaning on promises then, and trusting in the love of a covenant God; the believer, instead of being left comfortless, hath in possession and prospect, perfect blessedness; and thus peaceful and happy, is enabled to go on his way rejoicing. Till you stand triumphant in the temple of heaven, the God of grace will not turn away from you to do you good.
“Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency: The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”—Deut. 33:29,27.
“Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen. and amen.”—Psalm 72:18, 19.
Use of Instrumental Music in Public Worship.
“I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also.”—1 Cor. 14:15.
ALL subjects which relate to the peace of the church, the institutions of Jehovah, or the worship of his people, must be important and interesting to every lover of Zion. Psalmody, in its matter and form, has ever claimed, and deservedly obtained, a large share of christian attention. “God is a spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24.] Every faculty of man should be consecrated to the service of his great Creator; and it is God’s own appointment that his people “come before his presence with singing,” and that they “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” His people, from remotest ages, have celebrated his praises “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” and this is represented as “good, and pleasant, and comely.” In celebrating, however, Jehovah’s praises, we are commanded to sing “making melody in our heart to the Lord.” [Eph. 5.19.] And as in all the parts of divine worship, we are to follow the “pattern” given us in the word, so in singing, we are to do it not mechanically, but “with grace in our hearts,” for “to the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” [Col. 3.16; Isa. 8.20.]
Jehovah is a spiritual intelligence, and, therefore, incorporeal in his nature. As to his being, he is independent, self-existent, and eternal—as to space, his ubiquity filleth all things, for “whither shall we flee from his Spirit? or whither shall we flee from his presence?” [Psalm 139:7,]—as to knowledge, he is acquainted with all creatures and events, “for known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” [Acts 15:18,]—and as to power, he can do all things, for “he spake and it was done, he commanded and all things stood fast.” [Psalm 33:9.] He is holy, righteous, just and true; he is good, bountiful and gracious: merciful and compassionate. And in all his natural and moral attributes; in all his will, and mind, and ways, he is immutable. Seeing then that God is such in all his purposes, and ways and works; we must have respect to the divine will as the rule of our obedience, in singing his praises, and in showing forth his glory. It is not our fancies, or feelings, or impulses, or the conduct of others, that is to be our guide or standard in celebrating the praises of our great Redeemer, but the direct revelation of God. Indeed, on any other principle, the ministry would have been as needless, as it must have proved powerless. To render it availing, it was necessary that its appointment should be accompanied by a revelation from God, to which nothing was to be added, and from which nothing was to be taken, either as respects doctrine, worship, discipline, or government.
Mighty minds in successive ages, have roused all their gigantic powers to grapple with the system of divine worship contained in the Scriptures of truth. And no other part of public worship has been more tampered with than the celebrating in sacred songs the praises of a Triune God. This has been done both as regards the matter, and the manner of singing “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.” Some have supposed that it is their duty to celebrate God’s praises in hymns of human composition, and others have imagined that organs and other instruments of music should be introduced in the public worship of the New Testament church. But a third class of christians relying on the absolute sufficiency and completeness of the divine word, and imitating the example of Christ and his Apostles in the purity, simplicity, and spirituality of Gospel worship, adhere exclusively to scripture psalmody, and reject the use of instrumental music in praising God, believing that to worship aright in spirit and in truth, we must “sing with grace and melody in our hearts to the Lord.”
It is needless to say, that we claim to belong to the last class of christian worshippers, and while we are advocates for the exclusive use of the inspired book of psalms, or scripture psalmody in the church, we as strenuously reject the introduction of instrumental music in the worship of God. In giving then “a reason of the hope that is in us,” among many others, we would mention the following arguments against the use of instruments of music in singing God’s praises in the Assemblies of his saints.
And First, it is contrary to the covenanted and recognized standards of the Presbyterian church, both in the general principles, and spirit, as well as in the particular definitions and provisions thereof, to make any innovations and changes such as is practiced by using instruments of music in the public and stated worship of God.
Second, Those who attempt either publicly or secretly, to undermine and corrupt the purity of the church in faith or practice, by human inventions, or additions; such as the introduction of organs into the public and stated worship of God; ought to be able to prove that such innovations are not merely indifferent, but actually and indispensably necessary.
Third, The introduction of instrumental music into the public and stated worship of the church, for singing the praises of God, is in direct contradiction to the express will of Jehovah, as contained in his complete and positive institutions.
Fourth, The innovations of organs in the singing of God’s praises in public worship, is contrary to the fixed and settled principle of Christ and his Apostles in the New Testament, and to the customs and practices of the churches of the Reformation.
Fifth, Instrumental music formed no part of the Jewish ritual, nor was it used in the ordinary and stated worship of the Old Testament church.
Sixth, Consider the true and exact position occupied by instruments of music among the Jews in the days of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and other Kings in Judah and Jerusalem.
First then; It is contrary to the covenanted and recognized standards of the Presbyterian church, both in the general principles and spirit, as well as in the particular definitions and provisions thereof, to make any innovations and changes such as is practiced by using instruments of music in the public and stated worship of God.
In the Westminster Confession of Faith it is said in chapter 21 and section 1, “The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. Now show me that the use of instrumental music is “prescribed,” or ordered, in celebrating the praises of God in the public and stated worship of the church, and then, but not till then, can they be allowed in the Assemblies of his saints. And at section 5 of same chapter, it is said, that “singing of psalms with grace in the heart,” is a “part of the ordinary religious worship of God.” But no allowance to use organs in the church is given, but merely to “sing with grace in the heart.”
Also in the Larger Catechism, in answer to question 109th, “What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?” The answer is, “The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving any religious worship not instituted by God himself.” . . . . . . . and “corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever.” To Presbyterians then who are in the habit of using instrumental music in the worship of God, we would say, consider your ways, for unless you are able satisfactorily to prove, that God in his word has commanded organs to be employed in the singing his praises, you do thereby subject yourselves to the displeasure of a jealous God, “for if any man shall add unto the prophecy of this book, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” [Rev. 22:18.]
Again, in the Shorter Catechism, at question 51st, “What is forbidden in the second commandment?” The answer is, “The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.” Now prove to me, that instrumental music is “appointed” in the Scriptures, to be used in the public worship of the New Testament church; and if you do so, then you have authority for what you practice, but if you cannot show any such authority, and we are confident you cannot, then you are guilty of a breach of the second commandment, and Jehovah affirms, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.” [Exod. 20:5.]
And lastly here, in the directory for the public worship of God, it is said: “It is the duty of christians to praise God publicly, by singing of Psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family. And, in singing of Psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.” Anything here about organs and instruments of music in praising God? No, but the very expressions employed show distinctly the exclusion of such trumpery in public worship.
That this is the real purport and intention of the standards of the Presbyterian church is evident from an act passed by the long Parliament during the sessions of the Westminster Assembly who composed these standards, and by their advice. It was decreed that the use of organs in churches was a part of idolatrous worship; and a command was issued ordering every one to be removed. That organs were an abomination to our venerable forefathers, who aided in composing, and who sanctioned these ecclesiastical standards, is an historical fact, established by the most indisputable authorities. Thus, Baillie, in volume 1, letter 43, p. 421, dated 18th February, 1644, among other things, says, “Paul’s and Westminster are purged of their images, organs, and all which gave offence”; &c. Also all the Commissioners at London, in the same year, 1644, among other things, in their letter of 20th May, thus express themselves: “The great organs at Paul’s and of Peter’s Westminster, are taken down; images, and many other monuments of idolatry, are defaced and abolished,” &c. And likewise, the General Assembly, 1644, in their answer to the Right Rev. the Assembly of Divines in the church of England, thus say: “We were greatly refreshed to hear of the great good things the Lord hath wrought among you and for you. Many corruptions, as altars, images, and other monuments of idolatry and superstition, removed, defaced, and abolished; the service book in many places forsaken, and plain and powerful preaching set up; the great organs at Paul’s and Peter’s taken down; that the Royal chapel is purged and reformed; sacraments sincerely administered, and “according to the pattern on the mount.” The use then of instrumental music in the worship of God having been thus formally and finally settled; it is not the province of this or that particular congregation to introduce, and take upon themselves to determine what the standards of the church have decided against. Neither is it for Presbyteries, Synods, or Assemblies, by the mere casting of votes, to alter any part of the scriptural worship of the New Testament church, or to introduce any changes in either the matter or manner of singing God’s praises. The Confession of Faith as the standard of the Presbyterian church, is not in the nature of a civil constitution, which may be amended, or altered at the caprice or whim, of this or the other individual; but it is in the nature of a covenant bond or testimony, written, sworn, and filed in a court of justice. By its decisions and statutes then, as these are founded upon and agreeable to the word of God, the church is to be guided respecting the use of instrumental music in public and stated worship; and this is the most effectual method of securing peace, edification, and purity in the church, as well as uniformity in religion.
Second, Those who attempt either publicly or privately, to undermine and corrupt the purity of the church in faith or practice, by human inventions, or additions; such as the introduction of organs into the public and stated worship of God; ought to be able to prove that such innovations are not merely indifferent, but actually and indispensably necessary.
It is a fundamental principle in Protestantism, and in the christianity of the Bible to reject everything of human addition, to God’s word, God’s ordinances, and God’s worship. Now unless it can be shown that the use of organs in public worship is of positive institution, and sanctioned by the Almighty, it must follow that it is a thing of human invention, and that those who advocate the use thereof are “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” That any will be so fool-hardy as to affirm, that instrumental music is indispensably necessary in praising God in public worship, I presume not. This would be to say, that God has not been worshipped aright according to his own appointment for many centuries together. It would be one church un-churching another whilst in the bond of the same ecclesiastical communion. And it would be virtually to affirm, that God has left his church without a perfect pattern of worship, until the ingenuity of man discovered the flaw, and remedied the mistake. In other words, it would be to make God a liar, and say, “the wisdom of the world is wiser than the wisdom of God,” it has supplied the defect by the necessary adjunct of organs, and other musical instruments in the stated and public worship of the church upon earth.
Few however will venture to assert that the use of instrumental music in the worship of God is absolutely and indispensably necessary; all they will affirm in justification of organs in singing God’s praises is, that it is a thing of indifference, a non-essential, and that it merely assists the congregation in singing. If then it is a matter of so little indifference, surely the real, general, and long established principle, faith, and practice of the church against them, are reasons sufficient why innovations should not be made in the mode of worship, merely for the sake of bringing in things indifferent. By the introduction of organs, in the stated and public worship of God, a change takes place from the simple and spiritual exercise of “singing with the spirit, and with the understanding,” to a carnal and sensual service, and therefore it must be offensive and sinful in the sight of Heaven.
But still the advocates of instrumental music in the worship of God will reason thus; “Every thing which is non-essential may be tolerated: instrumental music is such, and therefore it may be justly, properly, and commendably used.” Now in reply to this plausible, but sophistical argument, we only deem it necessary to say, that for this principle we should not require our congregations to be Presbyterians, because Presbyterianism is not essential to salvation. Neither should any require their congregations to be Methodists, Independents, or Episcopalians; because Methodism, Independency, or Episcopacy, are not essential to salvation. And hence we have the non-essential element exploded in doctrine, worship, and government; and in its room the heterogeneous medley, that salvation is of grace, and yet that it is not of grace; that there is a parity among the ministers of the gospel, and at the same time there is no parity: and that the diocesan bishop is superior to an itinerant preacher, or grave-digger, and yet that he is not superior.
But it is said, organs are only used in public worship to assist the congregation in singing God’s praises. If then such be a reasonable and justifiable excuse for the introduction of instrumental music; on the same principle, and for the same reason, why not introduce crucifixes and images of departed saints and angels, to assist the worshippers in their worship. Any argument that will go to justify the use of instrumental music in public worship, will equally support the superstitions of the church of Rome; and prove that baptism should be administered with chrism and salt, and that instead of singing psalms “with grace and melody in the heart,” you may sing mass to a tune on the organ or fiddle.
Third, The introduction of instrumental music into the public and stated worship of the church, for singing the praises of Jehovah, is in direct contradiction to the express will of God, as contained in his complete and positive institutions.
In deciding this question we must be guided by the absolute sufficiency and completeness of the word of God. “The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture;” [Westminster] Confession of Faith, chapter 1, section 10. Now it is by this test, viz: the scriptures of truth, as the infallible rule of faith, practice, and obedience, that the doctrines of men are to be tried; and by this rule all controversies in religion and modes of worship must be determined. What we mean then is, that in deciding whether instrumental music should, or should not, be used in the stated and public worship of the New Testament church, the word of God is to be the absolute, infallible, and only rule. This is the peculiar property of the christian religion—its grand characteristic—that which distinguishes it from all other systems, and elevates it infinitely above human authority and resources. It is clothed in its own majesty; it travels on in its own strength: and it is independent alike of friends and of enemies.
In the Holy Scriptures we have the absolute, infallible, complete, and only rule respecting the doctrine, government, discipline, and worship of the church. And just as we are bound to believe the whole doctrine revealed in the word of God; so we are strictly to adhere to and obey the ordinance of God, which Christ Jesus has set up in the form and order of his worship, without any right to add to, or take from the same. [Deut 12:32; Mark 7:7-9.] And any attempt to do so, either by the introduction of organs into public worship, or any other way not appointed in his word, whether designedly, ignorantly, or perversely done, is an encroachment on the divine headship of the Son of God, and a daring usurpation of his royal prerogative over his own heritage.
I presume that all lovers of the word of God—all Bible readers, and enlightened christians—will admit that the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Head of Zion hath therein instituted a stated public worship for his church, to be observed by His professed disciples to the end of time. Now the several parts and particular modes and forms of said worship are as follows:—1st. The public reading of the scriptures with godly fear: Acts 15:21. Rev. 1:3. 2nd. the public preaching of the gospel, and hearing thereof, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; Matt. 13:19. Acts 10:33. 2 Tim. 4:2. Heb. 4:2. 3rd. Public prayer to God: Acts 3:1, 16:13. Eph. 6:18. 4th. The due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; Matt 28:19. Acts 2:42. 1 Cor. 11:20, 23-34. 5th. Public praise of God by singing, or singing of psalms with grace in the heart: Eph. 5:19. Col. 3:16. 6th. Public benediction of the congregation: Num. 5:22-26. 2 Cor. 13:14. Examine then the whole word of God, and you will find that there is no other ordinary, stated, and public part or particular, of the divinely instituted worship of the New Testament church, but the six aforementioned things, each and all of which are clearly defined, and held forth as of divine appointment. Since then this is the whole of the complete and positive institutions of God contained in the Scriptures of truth, respecting the public and stated worship of Christ’s church, to which nothing is to be added, and from which nothing is to be taken; we ask what authority has any man, or body of men, to alter any part of the matter, manner, or mode of said worship. Which of the particular parts of the divinely instituted worship of God has any man a right to add to, or take from? Not one, the word of God being our complete and infallible rule. As well may you join with the public reading of the scriptures, the Targum, and Talmuds of the Jews; the Koran of Mahomet, or the bible of the Mormons, as the introduction of organs, or other instruments of music in singing the praises of God. As well may you add to the public preaching of the gospel, or justification by faith through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, the necessity of penance, and a purgatory; as the adjunct of organs and bass-fiddles to celebrate the excellencies of a covenant God. With as good a grace you may as well in your public prayers to God, add prayers to departed saints and angels; or to the New Testament sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, add the five bastard sacraments of the Romish church; as in vain to worship God by the innovations of organs, or an other way not appointed in his word. Where is the difference, we ask, between corrupting the word of God by the appointment of mediators besides the Lord Jesus Christ: or the adding to the sacraments of the church; and the praising God with “artificial noise of machinery,” instead of singing “with the spirit, and the understanding, and making melody in our heart to the Lord.” There is no difference, and the one as well as the other involves rebellion against the divine authority of Almighty God, and subjects to the woes denounced in the scriptures of truth.
Of all innovations into the church of Christ, that of organs is the most dangerous and fatal for corrupting the worship of God. It is in the singing of divine praises, that every human being can take a public, direct, and active part. But by the introduction of organs, the worship of God is corrupted, the Lord Jesus Christ robbed of the public praises of his people, and the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty deprived of access to him in celebrating his glories. Besides this, we would observe that frequently things in themselves indifferent, or even commendable, become unlawful when they have been made instruments of dishonor to God, or grounds of temptation to men. Look for example to 2 Kings 18:4, where Hezekiah King of Judah gave orders to “break in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it. And he called it Nehushtan.” Now observe, this serpent was made according to divine appointment, by Moses in the wilderness, and the children of Israel brought it with them into the land of Canaan, and it was there kept as a memorial of the miracle wrought for them by looking to it. For this serpent they had a great veneration, both because it was made by Moses, and was a means in his time of healing the Israelites. Hence they imagined that it might be of some service to them in the worship of God; and Laniado says, that they were not guilty of idolatry in worshipping it, but merely used it in worship, supposing that what they did was for the honor of God. But good King Hezekiah perceiving that they were ensnared by it, “broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made,” and by way of contempt called it “Nehushtan,” which means brass. By this he taught them, that it was nothing but a mere piece of brass, and could therefore be of no service to them in divine things, or in worshipping God; and that it might no longer be a snare to them, or the worship of God be corrupted by it, he “broke it in pieces.”
Now exactly so is it, that of all instruments of music, the organ is the very one that should not be used in the church of Jesus Christ. Like the brazen serpent it is the great engine in corrupting the praises of God, and has been of the grand devices of the Romish Church for seducing mankind to attend upon their superstitious and idolatrous worship. Unless then it can be shown that organs are positively necessary in themselves, or that their use in public worship is absolutely required by Jehovah in his word, we are led to conclude that they foster idolatry, corrupt the simplicity and purity of divine worship, are dishonoring to the God of Heaven, and ruinous to the best interests of immortal beings. Away then with such from the service of the living God; they are at best but the work of men’s hands, dumb idols, and the use of them in the public and stated worship of God, is only “worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” [Rom. 1:25.]
Fourth, The innovations of organs in the singing of God’s praises in public worship, is contrary to the fixed and settled principle of Christ and his Apostles in the New Testament, and to the customs and practices of the churches of the Reformation.
In the New Testament we are told what we are to sing, and how to sing; but we do not find a single syllable about instrumental music being used in the worship of God. We are to sing “psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs,” and to sing them “with the spirit and with the understanding also.” No more should organs be used in singing God’s praises, than in praying to him. The Apostle in 1 Cor. 14:15, connects them together, and says, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” What use could an organ be to aid a man in prayer? and yet you may just as well sing prayers to God with musical instruments, as sing praises to him with them. The one would be as reasonable as the other, but God would be dissatisfied with both, and they would be an abomination unto him. And take notice, that although organs are highly prized and “esteemed” by some in the public worship of God, yet Jesus Christ declares in Luke 16:15. that, “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” And the Apostle Paul was of the same opinion when he affirmed that he would both pray and sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also. He would sing vocally, with his own spirit, that is, with his heart engaged in the work, with grace in it, and in the lively exercise of faith, hope, and love; with spiritual light, knowledge, experience, and judgment, which are necessary to the discharge of this duty. But he would also sing, with the aid of the Spirit of God, which is needful to excite attention, assist meditation, enlighten the understanding, raise the affections, strengthen faith, and make a comfortable application of what is sung.
In the New Testament we have many examples of Christ and his Apostles meeting together with others for public worship, and in these assemblies we find them reading the Scriptures—preaching the gospel—offering up prayer—administering the sacraments—and singing the praises of God; but never in one solitary instance do we read of organs, or any instruments of music being used by them. For proof of this read in Luke 4:16-22; 24:47. Acts 2:14-47; 3:12-26; 8:5; 13:14-52; 15:7. Eph. 3:8,9. Heb. 10:25.
The singing of psalms, without the use of instrumental music, was enjoined under the Old Testament, as a part of the ordinary worship of God, and it is distinguished from ceremonial worship. Thus in, Psalm 69:30,31, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.” Now the name of God is himself, his perfections and attributes, which are to be praised by all his creatures, and especially his saints. But here it may mean, by the Messiah, who sung the praise of God with his disciples at the sacramental supper, and this being said to be done by a song agrees with Heb. 2:12, where the apostle speaking of Christ says: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” These are the words of Christ Jesus addressed to his Father, whose name he promises to declare to his brethren, and he declares that it shall be done “in the midst of the church,” in the stated and public worship of God; but how? not with organs, for he adds, “I will sing praise unto thee,” and this he did at the institution of the supper; hence in Matt. 26:30, it is said, “and when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” This hymn was the Hallel which the Jews were obliged to sing on the night of the passover, and consisted of six psalms, viz: the 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118. Think you then if it was the will of God that organs should be used in the ordinary worship of the church, that Jesus Christ would not have strictly adhered to it, seeing he was privy to all the counsels of the Father, and declared that “one jot or tittle should in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Seeing then that Jesus Christ sung praises to God, and sung praises in psalms, or “hymns,” but never did make use of instrumental music in singing, how could he, if such had been used by the law or the prophets, say in Matt. 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
But further here we would observe, that the singing of psalms, is not only enjoined under the Old Testament, but it is confirmed under the New, and sanctioned by the example of the Apostles, as well as by Christ himself, but never in a single instance by using musical instruments. Thus in Eph. 5:19, “speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Here we see that “singing,” is praising God with the voice, and is rightly performed when the heart and voice agree, for “singing and making melody in the heart” is singing with, or from the heart, and heartily to the glory of God. There is then, but [only] the heart enjoined by the Holy Spirit, to accompany the voice in singing the praises of God, and not an organ, or musical instrument of any kind. The same thing also we have in Col. 3:16: “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.” Here we find that the first necessary qualification to enable us to sing acceptably the praises of God is, that “the word of Christ should dwell richly in us.” By the word of Christ here, we understand especially the gospel, of which Christ is the author as God, the preacher as man, and the subject-matter as God-man and Mediator. It is the word of Jesus Christ, concerning him as our God, Redeemer, Saviour, Husband, Head, and King; concerning his person, offices, fullness, freeness, and fitness: concerning reconciliation, peace, and pardon by his blood, justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation through his obedience, sufferings and death. But how can “this word of Christ,” thus dwell in a senseless, dumb organ? An organ has no heart for “the word of Christ to dwell in,” hence the heart is far from him; whereas to sing acceptably, it must be “with grace in our hearts.” That is, with the assistance of the Spirit and grace of God, and to spiritual profit and edification. Seeing then, that neither Christ, nor his Apostles made any mention or reference to instrumental music, their practice, in not using such music in worship, clearly and plainly proves, that it is not of divine authority in the gospel church, and that such was not in use in the days either of Christ, or the Apostles.
2nd. The introduction of organs in the singing of God’s praises in public worship is contrary to the customs and practices of the churches of the Reformation.
Respecting the use of instrumental music in public worship, we find no reference either in the apostolic or primitive churches. In fact, there was a total silence upon the subject for at least a period of 800 years. And Neander says, that it was not until the 8th century that the idea was first heard of. Instrumental music, in the worship of God, was not practised by the primitive christians, as is evident from church history. The organ was first introduced into the church service by Marianus Sanutus, in the year 1290; and the first that was known in the West, was one sent to Pepin, by Constantinus Copronymus, about the middle of the 8th century.
But that they were not used in the christian church in the primitive times, is attested by all the ancient writers with one consent. This I might easily show by a thousand testimonies, from Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, and many others; all of whom figuratively explain the passages of the Old Testament which speak of musical instruments.
The testimony of Clement is, that musical instruments in worship is fitter things for beasts than for men. Basil says, he thought musical instruments unprofitable and hurtful. He calls them, the inventions of Jubal of the race of Cain. [Gen. 4:21.] At page 955, he says, “In such vain arts, as the playing upon the harp, or pipe, as soon as the action ceases, the work itself vanishes. So that really, according to the Apostle’s expression, The end of those things is destruction.” And again, at page 957, he says, “Laban was a lover of the harp and of music, with which he would have sent away Jacob: if thou hadst told me, said he, I would have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp. But the Patriarch avoided that music, as being a thing that would hinder his regarding the work of the Lord, and his considering the works of his hands.” Isidore of Pelusium, who lived since Basil, held, that music was only allowed the Jews by the Almighty, in a way of condescension to their childishness; in book 2, and epistle 176, he says, “If God bore with the bloody sacrifices, because of men’s childishness at that time; why should you wonder, he bore with the music of an harp and a psaltery.” It is evident then, that no musical instruments were used in the pure and primitive times of the church. It first became antichristian, before they were received. Even Bellarmine [a Jesuit] does not deny, that they were late brought into the church. He says; “The second ceremony, are the musical instruments, which began to be used in the service of the church, in the time of Pope Vitalian, about the year 600 as Platina relates out of the Pontifical; or as Aimonius rather thinks in book iv. chapter 114, after the year 820, in the time of Lewis the Pious.” But farther we notice, that instruments of music were not used in public worship about the year 1250, as Thomas Aquinas is himself witness to. He says, “in the old law, God was praised both with musical instruments, and human voices. But the church does not use musical instruments to praise God, lest she should seem to judaize.” Again, he says, “pipes are not to be used for teaching, nor any artificial instruments, as the harp, or the like: but whatsoever will make the hearers good men,” &c. Also, Cardinal Cajectan in his voce musica says, “’Tis to be observed, the church did not use organs in Thomas’ time. Whence, even to this day, the church of Rome does not use them in the Pope’s presence. And truly it will appear, that musical instruments are not to be suffered in the ecclesiastical offices we meet to perform; and so much the rather are they to be excluded, because God’s internal discipline exceeds all human disciplines, which rejected these kind of instruments.”
But to return, in Justin Martyr’s works, at Quest. et Respons. ad Orthodox, Q. 107, we have this answer; “Plain singing is not childish, but only the singing with lifeless organs, with dancing, and cymbals, &c. Whence the use of such instruments, and other things fit for children, is laid aside and plain singing only retained.”
Chrysostom also, who flourished in the 4th century, expresses his dislike for organs in worship; and says, Psalm 149, and 143. “But now, instead of organs, Christians must use the body to praise God.” Again, Pareus in 1 Cor. 14:7, says, “In the christian church the mind must be incited to spiritual joy, not by pipes and trumpets, and timbrels, with which God formerly indulged his ancient people on account of the hardness of their hearts, but by psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.” Also Zepperus, de lege Mosaica, book 4, says, “Much less should that jarring, organic music, which produceth a gabbling of many voices, be allowed, with its pipes, and trumpets, and whistles, making our churches resound, nay bellow and roar.” Again, Beza in Colloq. Mompelg. parte 2, p. 26, says, “If the Apostle justly prohibits the use of unknown tongues in the church, much less would he have tolerated these artificial musical performances, which are addressed to the ear only, and seldom strike the understanding, even of the performers themselves.”
Likewise Calvin in Homily 66, in 1 Sam. 18:1-9. p. 570, says, “Instrumental music was only tolerated, on account of the times and of the people. But in gospel times, we must not have recourse to these, unless we wish to destroy the evangelical perfection, and to obscure the meridian light, which we enjoy in Christ our Lord.” And we find from Reform. Leg. de Div. offic, that the 32 commissioners appointed by Edward VI., the most eminent men then in England, complained of cathedral singing, and advised it to be laid aside.
Organs then, in the worship of God, are but of recent origin, and the church of England when the innovation was attempted, had such an abhorrence to the practice, that we thus find her saying in the Apostolical Constitutions, Book viii. chapter 32, “If any come to the mystery of godliness, being a player upon a pipe, a lute, or an harp; let him leave it off, or be rejected;” and also in the Homilies of the church of England, we find in part 2nd, page 131, of the place and time of prayer, that when that church was “scoured of such gay gazing sights,” and “the false religion banished,” some lamented and complained, saying, “Alas! gossip, what shall we now do at church, since all the saints are taken away; since all the goodly sights we were wont to have are gone; since we cannot hear the like piping, singing, chanting, and playing upon the organs as we could before? But, dearly beloved, we ought greatly to rejoice and give God thanks, that our churches are delivered from all those things which displeased God so sore, and filthily defiled his holy house, and his place of prayer.” To this we would also add, that a great number of the ministers of the church of England, in the first convocation of Queen Elizabeth in 1562, earnestly labored to have organs, and that pompous theatrical way of singing laid aside, and only by one vote missed the carrying of it. It is true, that organs are used by some foreign churches; but Hickman says, “They are laid aside by most of the Reformed churches; nor would they be retained among the Lutherans, unless they had forsaken their own Luther; and who by the confession of Eckard, “reckoned organs among the ensigns of Baal.”
Also we would notice, that in the National Synod at Middleburgh, in the year 1581, and in the Synod of Holland and Zealand, in the year 1594, it was resolved, “That they would endeavor to obtain of the magistrate the laying aside of organs, and the singing with them in the churches, even out of the time of worship, either before or after sermon.”
Such authorities then as the foregoing, with many others of a like kind that might be adduced, go to prove that organs, and other instruments of music in singing God’s praises in public worship, are contrary to the customs and practices of the churches of the Reformation. But before concluding this part of our discourse, we would take the liberty of adducing one or two testimonies from writings of Roman Catholics. For be it remembered, that just as some honest Papists in these days are shocked with the Pope’s impious and newly-invented doctrine of the Immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, so many well-meaning ecclesiastics of the Romish church were much opposed to the innovation of organs into public worship. On this, hear what Polydorus Virgilius says, in book vi, chapter 2, and page 379, “Now our singers make such a noise in our churches, that nothing can be heard, beside the sound of the voice; and they who come there are satisfied with the concert of music, which their ears itch for, and never mind the sense of the words. So that we are come to that pass, that the whole affair of religious worship is lodged in these singers; although, generally speaking, there is no sort of men more loose or wicked, and yet a good part of the people run to church, as to a theatre, to hear them bawl; they hire and encourage them; and look upon them as ornaments to the house of God.—Wherefore, without doubt, it would be for the interests of religion, to cast these jackdaws out of the church.”
Again, hear the opinion of Erasmus: “We have brought into our churches a certain operose and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of words, as I hardly think was ever heard in any of the Grecian or Roman theatres. The church sings with the voice of trumpets, pipes and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled. And to this end organ-makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time in learning these whining tones.”
By the foregoing quotations then, from the Fathers, the Schoolmen, the Reformers, and others, we have the authority to assert, that the history of the church gives no countenance for the introduction of instrumental music into the public worship of God. But we would here also add some recent decisions of several branches of the Presbyterian church respecting the use of organs, where it had been attempted to introduce them, into public worship.
An organ having been used in the Presbyterian church, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Scotland, in the year 1807, the Presbytery of Glasgow in connection with the church of Scotland, condemned the practice, and at a meeting of said Presbytery, Nov. 4th, 1807, passed the following resolution; “That the Presbytery are of opinion, that the use of organs in the public worship of God is contrary to the law of the land, and to the law and constitution of our established church, and therefore prohibit it in all the churches and chapels within their bounds.” Also, in the Synod of the Presbyterian church of Canada, in consequence of an organ having been introduced into the congregation in Brockville, the matter came up before Synod at its annual meetings in 1856, and 1857; and after long and mature consideration, Synod passed a resolution condemnatory of the use of organs in public worship, and ordered said one to be immediately removed. Again, at a meeting of the Synod of the United Presbyterian church of Canada, held in Hamilton, June 1st, 1858; the following resolution on Instrumental music, was adopted:—“That the use of musical instruments in conducting the public worship of God is highly inexpedient, and order the Presbytery of London to use due diligence to see that the congregation of London cease from the practice complained of.”
Also, the Synod of the United Presbyterian church of Scotland which met in Edinburgh, May 3rd, 1858, condemned the use of instrumental music, in their churches in a series of resolutions. And finally, the Presbyterian church in England which met in Synod, in Manchester, on April 19th, 1858, the subject of Instrumental music in churches, called forth a debate of several sessions, and a resolution condemning the use of organs was adopted.
Here then we have four or five different branches of the Presbyterian church, both in the Old and New Worlds, and all, of late, condemning the use of Instrumental music in public worship. We have the Presbytery of Glasgow, in connection with the church of Scotland, in 1807; then the Synod of the Presbyterian church of Canada, in 1857; next, the Synod of the United Presbyterian church of Canada, in 1858; also, the Synod of the United Presbyterian church of Scotland, in 1858; and lastly, the Synod of the Presbyterian church of England, in 1858.
Seeing then clearly from the history of the church, that musical instruments of all kinds were excluded from public worship in the days of our Saviour, and his Apostles, and also from all the churches founded by the Apostles, for at least six or eight centuries after Christ; we would notice by way of application, the following particulars:—
1st. The innovation of organs into the public worship of God has ever been accompanied with the gradual defection and corruption of the church, in other respects; and has ever been opposed and protested against by the wisest, the greatest, and the best of God’s people, in every period of the New Testament church.
2nd. The several denominations of professing christians, who, at the Reformation opposed, and who still continue to oppose the introduction of organs in the singing of God’s praises, will be found on examination to be the most orthodox, and most faithful, and who adhere most closely to the doctrine, purity, and simplicity of the gospel of Christ.
3rd. Whatever changes have taken place in any of the Protestant denominations, since the Reformation, by the use of organs in public worship, is uniformly attended by other injurious innovations, either in the rejection of some parts of divine truth, or by adding to the purity and plainness of the gospel; so that if such denomination be not on the way to shake hands with and bid Popery, “God speed,” at least it may be written upon them,—Ichabod—the glory is departed. [2 John 10,11; 1 Sam. 4:21.]
Fifth. Instrumental music formed no part of the Jewish ritual, nor was it used in the ordinary and stated worship of the Old Testament church.
In considering this proposition, we shall notice briefly the three following things:
1st. The Jewish church has long since ceased to be the church of God, and ours is the New Testament, or gospel church of Jesus Christ.
2nd. Many things which formed part of the Jewish worship, have long since ceased to be a part of divine worship under the gospel dispensation; and
3rd. There is no evidence that instrumental music formed any part of the Jewish ritual, or that it was used by the Jewish church, in the ordinary and stated public worship of God.
1st then, The Jewish church has long since ceased to be the church of God, and ours is the New Testament, or gospel church of Jesus Christ. Those who contend for the propriety of using organs in public worship, because they were used in the Jewish church by the Levites when the priests offered the sacrifices in the Temple, should read carefully the epistles to the Galatians, and Hebrews. In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul shows, that the design of God in giving the law, was not that it should be of permanent or lasting duration, but only as a temporary institution, showing the necessity of a better righteousness than that of the law, and so to lead convinced souls to Christ, that, being justified by faith in him, they might obtain the benefits of the promises. Such, being the end and design of the law, the Apostle infers from it, that now, under the gospel, we are freed from the law; and illustrates his inference by God’s treatment of the Jewish church, which he put under the law, as a father puts a minor under a guardian.
Then in the epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle shows, that we are under another and a better dispensation than the Jewish. That Jesus of Nazareth, was the Messiah, the Son of God, and far superior to the angels, to Moses, to the high-priest of the Old Testament, and to all other priests. That from his sufferings and death, much greater and more lasting benefits have resulted to the human family, than the Jews ever derived from their temple service, and from the numerous rites and ordinances of the Levitical law. The great object, then, of the Apostle is, to prevent the Hebrews or Jewish converts from relapsing into those rites and ceremonies which were now abolished; and to show the typical nature of the tabernacle and its furniture, and of the ordinances there observed.
The church, then, to which we now profess to belong, is not the Jewish church, but the gospel church of Jesus Christ, neither are we Jews, but Christians. And be it also observed, that God had a church in the world, long before there was ever a Jew in the world; and from the Scriptures we learn, that the Jewish system was but temporary and transient, and when compared with the christian dispensation is, “weak and beggarly;” Gal. 4:9. Admitting even, that the Jewish worship consisted of instrumental music, and that organs were used by them in public worship, still all that would not be sufficiently warrantable authority for us to use musical machinery in the spiritual worship of the gospel church.
But 2nd. Many things which formed part of the Jewish worship, have long since ceased to be a part of divine worship under the gospel dispensation. Has not the earthly tabernacle and temple, with its numerous priesthood, and bloody sacrifices, and the grandeur and pompous services of the Jewish dispensation long since passed away? And so with these has passed away the use of instrumental music in the stated and public worship of God, for these, like the sacrifices, were only typical of the spiritual sacrifices, viz: the bodies, souls, afflictions, prayers, praises, and other duties, which christians are to offer as “acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 2:5. What we mean is, that instrumental music under the Jewish dispensation, was merely a type [figurative symbol] of that spiritual joy which attends our praising God for the redemption purchased by Jesus Christ. “But Christ being come an high priest of good things,” and having “entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” therefore this type is abolished as well as the whole of the ceremonial law. [Heb. 9:11,12.]
But to this some may object and say, that if instrumental music under the Jewish dispensation was merely typical of that spiritual joy with which worshippers under the New Testament should sing the praises of God; and that the type, that is, the organ, the harp, and other musical instruments are now abolished; then the argument will go to overthrow the ordinance of singing altogether. In other words, since singing God’s praises accompanied by musical instruments, was of divine appointment under the Jewish dispensation, but that the instrumental part is abolished under the gospel, then it must equally follow that singing in public worship is also abolished. To this we reply, that as well might it be objected, that, because incense, which was used by divine appointment under the ceremonial law, together with prayer, in the temple, (see Luke 1:8-13), is not now commanded, nor required under the gospel; therefore prayer ought also to be laid aside. Those then who thus defend the use of organs in singing the praises of God, because allowed the church under the Jewish dispensation; must by parity of reasoning hold and affirm that God cannot and will not under the New Testament hear and answer prayer unless offered up with the burning of incense. Besides this, we would notice, that the ordinance of singing God’s praises is a duty, as founded on the moral law. Hence we find that the practice was recommended, not only to the Jews, but to all nations. Thus in Ps. 98:4, it is said, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth.” And again, in Ps. 100:1,2, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands; serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.” And also we find, that this exercise is preferred before some other parts of worship, which were merely ceremonial; thus in Ps. 69:30,31, “I will praise the name of God with a song; this also shall please the Lord better then an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoof.” And that which is also sufficient to determine the question of instrumental music in public worship is, that, we have no precept or precedent for it in the New Testament, either from the practice of Christ, or his Apostles; but we have sufficient warrant and authority for singing God’s praises “with the spirit, and with the understanding also.”
But 3rd. There is no evidence that instrumental music formed any part of the Jewish ritual, or that it was used by the Jewish church, in the ordinary and stated public worship of God.
In deciding this question, it will perhaps be necessary for us to take a cursory view of the several places of worship under the Jewish dispensation, and where the people were accustomed to meet for the ordinary and public worship of God. With the exception then of what were called “the high places,” where they sometimes met for worship, we find from the Old Testament, that the regular places for public worship were three:—1st. The Tabernacle; 2nd. The Temple; and 3rd. The Synagogue.
In noticing each of these as the places where the Israelites assembled for stated and public worship, we observe 1st, with respect to the Tabernacle; that it was a magnificent, and divine pavilion, built by Moses according to the express command of God; partly to be the place of Jehovah’s visible residence as King of Israel, and partly to be the centre and medium of that solemn worship which the people were to render to him. Now it is to be carefully observed that the pattern of the tabernacle, with all its furniture necessary for the worship of God, was not left to the invention of Moses, the fancy of the workmen, or the humour of the people; but the will of God must be religiously observed in every particular. “Look,” says he to Moses in Ex. 25:40, “that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” The ark with the mercy-seat, the altar of burnt-offering, and the altar of incense; the holy garments for the priests with the Urim and Thummim, the table for the shew-bread, and the candlestick of beaten gold, with his shaft, his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers; the ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, with the loops, the couplings, and the taches; the dishes, the spoons, the covers, the tongs, and the snuff-dishes, all was of divine appointment, and to be made according to the pattern God shewed Moses. But there is not one syllable in the whole about musical instruments of any kind, neither harps, timbrels, organs, or stringed instruments; and says God to Moses in Deut. 4:2, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” It is evident then, that instrumental music formed no part of public worship in the services of the tabernacle, as no instruments of music were made by divine appointment, and Moses was forbidden to add any thing to what was commanded by the Almighty.
This tabernacle was set up in the wilderness of Sinai, and carried along with the Israelites from place to place as they journeyed towards Canaan. In Canaan it was first set up at Gilgal, and here it continued for about seven years. Afterwards it was pitched in Shiloh, and here we find it in the days of Eli. The Philistines however prevailing against Israel, the ark of God was taken and carried to Ashdod, and placed in the temple of Dagon their idol god. And now the tabernacle and the ark were entirely, and forever, separated. However, the Lord having smote the men of Ashdod with a terrible disease, the ark was removed to Gath, thence to Ekron, and afterward the men of Bethshemesh, of the tribe of Judah, received it. For their curiosity in looking into it, many of them were slain, and at their request, it was taken away by the men of Kirjath-jearim, and here it remained 20 years. David in bringing it from this place, left it at the house of Obed-Edom for three months, after which it was brought with great solemnity into that part of Jerusalem called the city of David, where a place was prepared, and a tent pitched for it. Here it remained till it was put into the temple built by Solomon. From this it had been removed, for we find the pious King Josiah in 2 Chron. 35:3, ordering it to be replaced. But not many years after this, it is supposed to have been consumed in the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.
With regard however to the tabernacle and the other sacred things, we read that when the ark was placed in the temple of Dagon at Ashdod, in the days of Saul, it had been removed from Shiloh to Nob, near Jerusalem, where Abimelech and his son Abiathar were successively high priest. In the reign of David, it was at Gibeon in the tribe of Benjamin, and here it was, as we find from 2 Chron. 1:3, at the commencement of Solomon’s reign, after which time, the Scriptures are entirely silent concerning it.
From these remarks then respecting the tabernacle and its sacred utensils, as the appointed place of public worship for the Jews of old, we may notice two things:—1st. That Moses received no divine command to make any musical instruments for the tabernacle, neither were any used by the Jews in their stated and public worship. And 2nd. That when instruments of music were used in praising God, it was at national rejoicings, as we find in 2 Sam. 6:1-5, 1 Chron. 15:1-3,25-28, when David brought the ark from the house of Abinadab in Gibeah, and placed it in the house of Obed-Edom, and afterward in the tent pitched for it at Jerusalem.
But 2nd, having thus taken a survey of the tabernacle, we now proceed to notice the Temple, as the next place of public worship for the Israelites, and which succeeded the Tabernacle. The temple at Jerusalem was erected nearly upon the same plan as the Tabernacle, but in a more magnificent and costly manner; and of these there were two, the first erected by Solomon; and the second, by Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest.
The materials for the first temple were provided by David before his death, but the building was erected by his son Solomon. The plan and whole model of it were formed after that of the Tabernacle, but of much larger dimensions. The utensils also for the sacred service were exactly the same, only some of them were larger in proportion to the size of the building. It took seven years and six months to erect this magnificent temple, and after continuing for about 34 years, Shishak took Jerusalem and carried away its treasures 999 years before Christ. It was finally plundered and burnt by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar in the year of the world 3416, or before Christ 584.
The second Temple was built by Zerubbabel after the captivity; but was much inferior to the first in the grandeur of its structure. The second Temple was deficient in five remarkable things which constituted the glory of the first. It wanted the ark and mercy-seat, the Shechinah or symbol of the divine presence; the sacred fire on the altar, which had been first kindled from heaven; the urim and thummim; and the spirit of prophecy. But it surpassed the first in glory, in being honored by the presence of Jesus Christ. At last through the righteous judgment of God, it was utterly destroyed by the Romans, in the year of the world 4073.
From this survey of the first and second Temple, we have two remarks to make;—1st, That there were certain persons, Levites, appointed by David to praise God with instruments of music in the temple, but the true and exact position occupied by such, as well as the occasions when used, will be considered in our next and last proposition. And the 2nd remark is, that as none were allowed the use of musical instruments in praising God, in the temple, but Levites, and this only on particular occasions; therefore in the dispersion of the tribes, the loss of the priesthood, and the destruction of the temple, there can be now no direct, proper, and divine warrant for their use in the gospel church.
But a 3rd place for the public worship of God was the Synagogue. These were buildings in which the Jews assembled for prayer, reading & hearing the Scriptures, and other religious instructions. No fewer than 480 Synagogues are said to have been erected in Jerusalem before its destruction by the Romans. At length, they became so frequent, that they were to be found in almost every place in Judea; and wherever the Jews resided, they had one or more Synagogues, constructed after those at Jerusalem. The services performed in the Synagogue consisted of prayer, reading & expounding the Scriptures, and as the ordinance of singing Jehovah’s praise is a duty founded on the moral law, we also say singing. Now from this brief account of Synagogues, as a third place of public worship for the Jews, we have only one remark to make; viz: that as sacrifices could only be offered at the tabernacle or temple, and as it was in connection with the offering up of sacrifices, that musical instruments were to be employed, consequently they were not used in singing God’s praises in the public worship of the Synagogues.
From this cursory survey of the Tabernacle, Temple, and Synagogues, we would make the three following remarks:—And 1st. That every thing lawful to be used in the stated and public service of the Tabernacle, by every person connected with the worship of God, was made after the divine pattern given to Moses: and every thing else is forbidden to be used, or made; and yet, no musical instrument of any kind, is ever once mentioned, as being made, or in any way connected with it. Consequently, it is absolutely certain, that instruments of music formed no part of the divinely appointed furniture, or utensils of the tabernacle, and so could not have been used in the stated and public worship of the Jews.
But 2nd, seeing that the most minute as well as the most important things necessary for the stated and public worship of God in the tabernacle is fully described, but no allusion made to musical instruments of any kind; And as the whole of the divinely appointed utensils of the tabernacle were placed in the temple at Jerusalem to be used in the public worship of God, as appears from 2 Chron. 5:2-5; Therefore we would conclude, that there is no evidence whatever, that the use of instrumental music formed any part of the ordinary, public worship of the Jews in the Temple service.
And 3rd, With respect to the Synagogue worship among the Jews, it is evident that instrumental music formed no part of the religious services. There is not a solitary passage in either the Old or New Testament, which refers even in the remotest degree to the use of organs, or other musical instruments in the worship of the Synagogue.
The conclusion then from the whole is, that instrumental music formed no part of the Jewish ritual, nor was it used in the public stated worship of the Jews in either the Tabernacle, the Temple, or the Synagogue services.
But this brings us to consider in the sixth and last place, the true and exact position occupied by instruments of music among the Jews in the days of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and other Kings in Judah and Jerusalem.
And under this proposition we shall consider the three following things;—
1st. The ministers, or ecclesiastical persons employed the services of the temple, with the duties belonging to each.
2nd. The times and occasions when instruments of music were used by the Jews.
And 3rd, The reference to instruments of music in the book of psalms, and why the church should not now use them in the stated and public worship of God, although nothing but the book of psalms, or scripture psalmody should be used in singing God’s praises.
1st. Then, The ministers, or ecclesiastical persons employed in the services of the temple, with the duties belonging to each.
On the establishment of the Jewish republic, God himself was king and ruler in Israel; and the temple was the place appointed for offering up sacrifices and prayers. The tribe of Levi was especially devoted to the services of the temple, but the honor of the priesthood was reserved alone to the family of Aaron, and the rest of the tribe were employed in the interior offices of the temple. Levi had three sons and one daughter, viz: Gershon, Kohath, Merari, and Jochebed. From these three sons were descended the three orders of ministers, or ecclesiastical persons employed in the services of the temple, the which we shall now notice very briefly, with the duties belonging to each.
And 1st, The LEVITES. The principal business assigned this class of officers was to wait upon the priests, and to assist them in the services of the tabernacle and temple. But their duty was different in the time of Moses, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, from what it was in the days of David and Solomon. When Israel was journeying in the wilderness, their chief business was to take down the tabernacle, to carry it about when the camp was removed, to take care of all the instruments and sacred vessels belonging to it, and when Israel pitched their tents to set it up again. Such was the office of the Levites in the time of Moses. But when the Israelites were settled in the promised land, this employment of carrying the tabernacle and its utensils ceased, and therefore, David and Solomon assigned them new offices. They were, however, still employed about the service of the temple, and also in the service of the state as well as of the church, for David, as we find from 1 Chron. 23:4, made 6000 of them officers and judges. In the services of the temple, some of the Levites had charge of the treasures, others were to prepare the shew-bread, and unleavened cakes; 4000 were porters, and 4000 were for singers. Now in the service of the tabernacle, Moses did not appoint the use of musical instruments; he only made, as we are informed in Num. 10:10, some trumpets which were to be sounded, when the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings were upon the altar. But David first introduced instruments of music into the service of the temple, and these instruments were exclusively to be used by the Levites, and when the sacrifices were offered by the priests, for the Levites were then to sing praises to God with the musical instruments. For proof of this read in 1 Chron. 23:26,30,31, “and also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof… And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even; and to offer all burnt-sacrifices unto the Lord in the Sabbaths, in the new-moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded them, continually before the Lord.” And in 2 Chron. 29:25-28, “And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering upon the altar: and when the burnt-offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David, king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished.” And also in 2 Chron. 31:2, “and Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests, and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the Lord.”
But 2nd, Next to the Levites, and superior to them in dignity, were the ordinary PRIESTS who were chosen exclusively of the family of Aaron. These served at the altar, prepared the victims, and offered up the sacrifices. They also kept up a constant fire on the altar of burnt sacrifices, and in the lamps of the golden candlestick in the sanctuary. They likewise prepared the loaves of shew-bread, which they changed every Sabbath, and offered on the golden altar in the sanctuary. And every day, both morning and evening, a priest brought into the sanctuary, a smoking censer of incense, kindled with fire taken from the altar of burnt sacrifice, and set it upon the golden table. When engaged in the service of the altar, they were clothed with the sacerdotal garments; 1st with linen drawers; 2nd, a linen coat, or tunic down to the feet, and fitting closely to the body; 3rd, a girdle; and 4th, a tiara, or turban made of several rolls of linen twisted round the head.
But the 3rd ecclesiastical person among the Jews was, the HIGH PRIEST. He was higher in rank and influence than the other priests, and was placed over them. It was his duty alone to enter the Holy of Holies in the temple; to him also was committed the supreme government of sacred things, and he was the final arbiter of all controversies. At first the high priesthood was made hereditary in the family of Aaron, and he was the first invested with the sacred office. From Aaron it descended to Eleazar, his eldest son, and from him it descended in long and unbroken succession to Eli. From him, on account of the wickedness of his sons, it returned to the descendants of Ithamar, the second son of Aaron. In Solomon’s reign, it again returned into the family of Eleazar by Zadok, where it continued till the Babylonish captivity. After the return from the captivity, Joshua the son of Josedech, of the family of Eleazar, was high priest; but after him the succession passed into a private Levitical family. And at last in the time of our Saviour, and in the end of the Jewish polity, the right of succession was totally neglected, and thus the dignity, sanctity, and authority of the high priest became extinct.
When then the office of high priest ceased to exist in the church on earth, so also did the ordinary priesthood, and with them of necessity the Levites likewise. And as after the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Jewish sacrifice had their fulfillment, and ceased to be offered, so with the order of the 4000 Levites, the use of instrumental music ceased in the church, for it was with the temple services, and offering up of sacrifices that these were used.
This then brings us to notice in the 2nd place; The times and occasions when instruments of music were used by the Jews:
And 1st. They were used on occasions of national rejoicings; thus in Ex. 15:20, we have Moses and the Israelites praising God “with timbrels, and with dances,” on account of their deliverance from Egypt, and safe passage through the waters of the red sea.—And also in 2 Chron. 29:20-29, Hezekiah and the rulers of the city assembled together to rejoice and praise God when the temple was repaired, and when the house of God, and the vessels of the sanctuary which Ahaz “in his wickedness did cast away,” had been cleansed and prepared. And then the priests offered sacrifices, and “the Levites with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps,” stood and praised the Lord.
2nd. Instruments of music were used when the ark of God was brought up and placed in the tent which David had pitched for it at Jerusalem. Hence it is said in 2 Samuel 6:1-5, that when David, and all the chosen men of Israel brought up the ark of God, that “David, and all the house of Israel, played before the Lord, on all manner of instruments made of fir-wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.” Also in 1 Chron. 13:5-8, it is said, that when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, that “David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.” Also in 1 Chron. 15:25-28, it is said, that when David, and the elders of Israel, and the Levites brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord; “that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams.” And “thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the cornets, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.” And in 2 Chron. 5:2-5,11-14, it is said that when Solomon had brought the dedicated treasures into the house of the Lord, that “the Levites which were the singers, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals, and psalteries, and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets.”
3rd. Instruments of music were also used at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, and at the laying the foundation of the second temple. Thus in 2 Chron. 7:4-7, it is said, that at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, “The King and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. And the priests waited on their offices; the Levites also with instruments of music of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.” And also at the laying of the foundation of the second temple, it is said in Ezra 3:10-13. “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And see Neh. 12:27-30.
4th. Instruments of music were likewise used at the three great annual festivals, viz: the passover, the feast of pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles; and at which all the males of the twelve tribes were bound to be present. For the appointment of these feasts, read in Ex. 34:23, “Thrice in the year shall all your men-children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.” And in Deut. 16:16, “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty.” And see now how instruments of music were used at these feasts. Thus we read in 2 Chron. 30:21, “and the children of Israel, that were present at Jerusalem, kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord.” The same thing we have in 2 Chron. 35:1-19, where according to the commandment of good king Josiah, “the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel kept a passover unto the Lord in Jerusalem.”
5th. Instrumental music was sometimes used among the Jews in meetings of a private nature for mutual instruction, and also in meetings of others exclusively set apart for the services of the temple. Thus it is said in 1 Samuel 10:5, “after that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines; and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy.” The Targum is, “the hill in which was the ark of the Lord,” and that was in the house of Abinadab, on a hill in the city of Kirjath-jearim. By the “company of prophets,” the Targum, says ‘Scribes’, and these, as Kimchi remarks, were disciples. That is, they were the disciples, or the same as the sons of the prophets, and these were, at this time, Elkanah, Samuel, Gad, Nathan, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. Again, we find it thus written in 2 Chron. 8:14,15, “And he (Solomon) appointed, according to order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required;” &c. Now the courses of the priests to their service, we find recorded in 1 Chron. 24. And the courses of the Levites, to sing the praises of God when the priests sacrificed, with instruments of music we have in 1 Chron. 25.
The conclusion then we come to from the whole is, that instrumental music was not used in the stated, public, and ordinary worship of the Jews; still it was used by them at certain times and on particular occasions. Of these times and occasions we have instanced five, and which we believe includes all the occasions in which instruments of music were employed in praising God.
We come now to notice the 3rd and last place, the reference to instruments of music in the book of psalms; and why the church should not now use them [instruments of music] in the stated and public worship of God, although nothing but the book of psalms, or scripture psalmody should be employed in singing God’s praises. This divides itself into two parts, and as such we shall consider it.
And 1st, The reference to instruments of music in the book of psalms.
Now in entering upon a brief consideration of this part of our subject, it may be necessary to observe; that the style of the prophets was only the poetical, and highly figurative style of the eastern nations. This emblematic and highly colored form of expression which appears so strongly in the prophetic scriptures, and especially in the book of psalms; is owing partly to the genius of the oriental nations, particularly the Jews, and partly to the modes of their institutions and learning. For the truth of these remarks, we refer to Mede, More, Vitringa, Hurd and others. We must ever bear in mind, that the original language of all nations is very imperfect, and hence they were obliged at first to explain themselves very much by signs, or picture-writing; that is, the putting down the figures and shapes of such things, as were the objects of their contemplations. Then in process of time, this mode of picture-writing, was succeeded by that of symbols, or certain marks presenting to the eye the resemblance of a particular object, and thereby suggesting to the mind a general idea. Thus a horn was made to denote strength; an eye, omniscience; a sceptre majesty; and so a harp, or organ, or a psaltery, to signify praise and thanksgiving with spiritual joy and gladness. This kind of hieroglyphic was cultivated with peculiar diligence among the Egyptians, and hence it was, that the Israelites who dwelt in that country when this species of learning was at its height, carried this treasure into the land of Canaan. Is it then any wonder, that this peculiar style which was used in the theology of the East, and in its philosophy, but especially in its poetry, should be that in which the penmen of the sacred scriptures conveyed their highest and most important revelations to mankind. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that this hieroglyphic style of writing was predominant in Old Testament times, and especially in Judea, from the time of Moses to the coming of Christ. Thus, a mountain is the symbol of a kingdom or city; a star of a prince, or ecclesiastical ruler; a red horse, of persecution; and a white horse of peace and prosperity.
In addition to this we would make one other remark, and it is this, that in the prophetic style, we frequently find, the literal and figurative mixed. As an example of the literal under the figurative it is said in Nahum 1:8, “But with an over-running flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.” But for an example of the point before us, in which the literal must be understood figuratively, take an instance from the words of Christ, when in John 2:19, he said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Now it was natural enough for the Jews to understand by this expression, the temple at Jerusalem; but at verse 21, we are told, that Christ meant, “the temple of his body.” And so is it in the book of psalms, when called upon to praise God, “with the psaltery and harp, with the timbrel and dance.” We must in such expressions consider the symbolic character of the prophetic writings, and that the literal is to be understood figuratively, meaning, that God is to be praised with spiritual joy, or with the spirit and the understanding.
But to come more closely and directly to the point before us, in reference to instruments of music spoken of in the book of psalms in singing God’s praises, we would observe; that the writings of the Jews, more than any other people, abound with phrases and terms borrowed from the temple worship and sacrificial services. The prophetical writings, but in particular the psalms, may be adduced in proof of this remark. Thus it is said in Hosea 14:2, “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips.” Not surely calves, bullocks, and oxen, for sacrifices, as under the law; but the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving for pardoning grace, for a justifying righteousness, and for all good things. Again, in Ps. 51:7, David says, “purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Now this cannot mean ceremonial sprinklings and purifications, for then he would have applied to a priest. And yet it can mean nothing else on the principle of those who contend literally for the use of organs in public worship, simply because we read of instruments of music in the book of psalms. But it means, the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, typified thereby, and so he applied to God to purge his conscience with it. Also, in verse 19 of the same psalm, David says, “thou shalt be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness.” Now those cannot be the legal sacrifices, and yet they can be none other, if the interpretation of those be correct, viz: that because David in the psalms calls upon us to praise God “with the timbrel and harp,” therefore it is right to use organs in public worship. But that these cannot be legal sacrifices is manifest from what David says in verse 16, “thou desirest not sacrifice,” and consequently the reference to instruments of music in the book of psalms, is no proof that they should be literally used in singing God’s praises. The sacrifice spoken of by David means the sacrifice of Christ, and next the saints themselves, who present their bodies, a living and acceptable sacrifice; but especially the spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. We have the same thing in Ps. 116:17, where David says, “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” And in Psalm 141:2, it is said, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.” Now if organs are to be literally used in singing the praises of God, because David says, “I will praise thee with the psaltery, I will sing with the harp,” then for the very same season, an altar should be erected in the church and incense offered thereon night and morning, for says David, “let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.” But the incense here spoken of was merely an emblem of holy and fervent prayer offered up through Jesus Christ, and through whose blood and righteousness, and the sweet incense of his mediation and intercession, it becomes fragrant and a sweet odor to the Lord. And so the instruments of music spoken of by the same writer, and in the same book, must be understood in a similar sense, as typical of the spiritual melody made in the hearts of God’s people, when in the public worship of the New Testament church, they praise him in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.
It is also upon this principle of interpretation, that many passages in the New Testament can properly be understood. Thus for instance, in Rom. 12:1, the Apostle beseeches christians, by the mercies of God, “to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is their reasonable service.” Now the Apostle here uses phraseology in allusion to the national bloody sacrifices of the Jews under the law; but what Protestant will argue that from the command here given by the Apostle, we should really and literally offer up sacrifices now to God under the New Testament dispensation. And yet, there is just as much authority, and more so, (because no where in the New Testament are we called upon to praise God with organs or harps) for literally offering sacrifices to God, as there is for using instruments of music in singing his praises. And again, the same Apostle referring to his own death, makes use of similar sacrificial allusions. He says, in 2 Tim. 4:6, “I am now ready to be offered,” or literally, I am already poured out as a libation. And in Phil. 2:17, he says, “and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” Here the faith of the Philippians is represented as the sacrificial victim, and the blood of the Apostle “offered,” or poured out, as the libation or drink offering poured upon the sacrifice. But who for a moment would suppose, that from this, the congregation should procure a victim for sacrifice, and after pouring wine upon its head, then, lead it to the slaughter, and offer it up as a sacrifice to God. And yet there is just as much warrant for this in the New Testament, as there is for using instrumental music in praising God. And also in Heb. 13:16, the Apostle says, “but to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Now here the Apostle is referring to the oblation of the Jews, (see Lev. 3:1,) as a sacrifice of peace-offering; but who from this would say, that the church should now burn the fat of rams upon an altar, as an offering to the Lord, and then afterwards the minister and people sit down and eat the remainder thereof. And yet if you adhere to the letter of the peace-offerings, there is as good a reason still to observe them, as there is for the use of machinery in praising God.
The true and real exposition with respect to instruments of music spoken of in the book of psalms is, that the literal sense involves in it another, and that is, a mystical, a figurative, and a spiritual meaning. And this is not to be wondered at, as it is what we constantly meet with throughout the word of God. Thus in Ps. 89:3, it is said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant.” Now the term David here means Christ; and cannot literally refer to David, Jesse’s son, because in verse 27, he is said to be God’s “first-born.” But David literal was not the first-born, 1 Samuel 17:12-14, but Christ the Messiah is God’s “first-born,” or first begotten, Heb. 1:6. He is “the first-born of every creature,” Col. 1:15. He is “the first-born among many brethren,” Rom. 8:29. And he is “the first-begotten of the dead,” Rev. 1:5. So also, the term Jew, sometimes means a christian, Rom. 2:28,29; the incense of the temple-service, means the prayers of believers; and the temple means the church. Thus in 2 Thess. 2:4, it is said, that the “man of sin, the son of perdition, sitteth in the temple of God.” But this is not the temple at Jerusalem, but the church of Christ. Now agreeably to this analogical use of Jewish terms, in the style of the prophets, and especially in the book of psalms, the phrases harp, timbrel, psaltery, organs, and cymbals, must, in all reason, be interpreted in a typical, figurative, and spiritual sense, and cannot, in the prophetic language, be interpreted otherwise. To say, in prophetic language, that God’s praises are to be sung with organs, harps, and timbrels, and then in the gospel church literally to sing praises with such musical machinery, is absolutely nonsense, and inconsistent with the analogical use of Jewish idioms. It is as absurd, as to suppose, that because Zechariah speaks of “the four spirits of the heavens,” as “four chariots,” with red, black, white, grisled and bay horses; therefore there must be such chariots and horses in heaven. Or as John in the Apocalypse says, that when the Lamb in heaven had opened four of the seals, he saw horses of different colors with riders, therefore there are party-colored horses literally and actually in glory, and that heaven could not be heaven without them.
And farther, if we are to use organs literally in public worship, why should not the congregation get up and dance to the music, for in Ps. 150:4, it is said, “praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.”
But we would consider in the 2nd place, Why instruments of music should not be used in public worship, although nothing but this book of psalms, or scripture psalmody should be used in singing God’s praises. We have already explained the sense or meaning that is to be attached to instruments of music referred to in the book of psalms. We have also proved, that they belonged exclusively to the Levites, as the offering up of sacrifices did to the priests; and we have seen the times and occasions when they were used; but all these have ceased, and so has the temple and sacrifices where they were used. The worship of God established in the New Testament is divested of every local and national restriction, and is freed from burdensome rites and ceremonies. That religious system which required all the males to resort to one place three times in the year, to offer sacrifices in the temple, and to celebrate particular festivals which belonged exclusively to the Jewish nation, is totally incompatible with the spiritual worship of the Christian Church. Consequently we find, that when the gospel was preached, and the New Testament church organized, there was an entire silence about sacrificing priests, Levites, bloody sacrifices, organs, and ceremonies of any kind. At the same time the inspired writers of the New Testament retained the typical language of the Old, concerning a temple, a priesthood, and sacrifices. But that is no reason why the thing itself should still be observed; and so it is with respect to instruments of music spoken of in the book of psalms. Thus for example in Ps. 33:2, David says, “Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery, and an instrument of ten strings.” Now the meaning of this simply is, that when scripture psalmody, or the book of psalms, is used in public worship, these spiritual songs should be sung skillfully, both with the head and the heart, or with the spirit and the understanding also. That is, they should be sung intelligently, with a clear head; and affectionately, with a warm heart. Also in Ps. 71:22, “I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel,” is it not evident that the psaltery and harp are here to be understood typically of the spiritual melody in the heart, which believers make in praising God, the “Holy One of Israel,” when they sing the new song of the Lamb. Also in Ps. 81:2,3, “Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon.” &c. Now all this is expressive of holy joy, and sacred triumph. The pleasantness of the harp, and the awfulness of the trumpet, are intended to teach us, that God is to be worshipped with cheerfulness and holy joy, and at the same time with reverence and godly fear. And the same is the case in all the 14 psalms where instruments of music are referred to, or spoken of. But the mention of instruments of music in the book of psalms, is no more authority that organs should be used in public worship when singing these psalms, than the mention of sacrifices in the New Testament is a command that the church should now continue to offer rams, and lambs, and bullocks, in burnt offerings to God as an atonement for sins.
Besides this, what authority have those churches which use organs in public worship, to exclude the other instruments of music referred to in the book of psalms, and only use the organ. There are seven other instruments of music mentioned in the book of psalms, viz: the harp, psaltery, timbrel, cornet, cymbals, trumpet, and stringed-instruments. But the organ is only mentioned once in the whole book of psalms, and in the very psalm, and in the very verse where it is mentioned, viz: Psalm 150:4, we are also called upon to praise God “with the dance.” Why, if we are to have instrumental music in the worship of God, not use all the different pieces spoken of in the scriptures, and then finish the services of the day, with a dance. The whole of this is necessary if we are literally to use organs in public worship, otherwise we are serving God by proxy, and this cannot therefore be the way appointed in his word.
But say the advocates of instrumental music in public worship, if we are to use no psalmody in singing God’s praises, but scripture psalmody, or the book of psalms, then why not use organs seeing we are called upon to sing these psalms with the harp, psaltery, and timbrel. To this we might content ourselves by replying, since we are to use no New Testament, but the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and not the Koran of Mahomet, why not continue in the church the slaying of victims, and offering up of sacrifices. Besides, who are they who make this objection? Not the advocates of the book of psalms, or the exclusive use of scripture psalmody in singing the praises of God. I do not know of a single congregation who use exclusively the book of psalms in praising God, and who also use organs in public worship. Who then we ask are they who have recourse to the book of psalms to prove the use and lawfulness of instrumental music in public worship? Why, those very persons who refuse to use exclusively the book of psalms in the singing God’s praises. If the book of psalms, of all other parts of scripture, is as they suppose, proof positive of the lawfulness of using instrumental music in public worship; then to be consistent, why sing hymns of human composition, and not exclusively scripture psalmody? Does not this fact itself prove that the advocates of instrumental music know right well that they have no divine warrant, or authority for using organs in public worship. They bring forward for proof, what by their doings, their consciences must tell them is wrong, and then try to palm upon the religious community, sound for sense, the letter that killeth in the room of the spirit that maketh alive, and instead of “standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” [Gal. 5.1,] turn round “to the weak and beggarly elements” of this world. [Gal. 4.9.] Let then the advocates of instrumental music in public worship, first cast to the winds their hymns of human composition, and use exclusively the book of psalms in singing the praises of God, and then, but not till then, can they with any plea for honesty quote the book of psalms in support of their present practices. But if they are not willing to do this, then let them be for ever silent in referring to the book of psalms for proof of organ singing, and let “iniquity stop her mouth.”
We would then conclude in the language of the Apostle, Heb. 8:13, “Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Does not this prove that the old dispensation was shadowy, dark, and typical; and that the temple, the sacrifices, and Levitical priesthood were only types of another and better covenant. This dissolution began when the Chaldeans seized the land of Canaan; then it began to wax old, when the ark, an eminent type of Christ, was wanting in the second temple; next when John the Baptist proclaimed the near approach of the Messiah, and his kingdom; and lastly it completely vanished away when the city and temple at Jerusalem were destroyed. It was then that the Levitical priesthood, with the sacrifices and services of the Temple ceased for ever; and as the use of instrumental music formed no part of the regular and stated worship of the Jews, either in the Tabernacle, Temple, or Synagogue systems; but merely the production of David as King in Israel, and for the use of his own people, in connection with their great sacrifices, so when these vanished away, with them also ceased the use of organs, harps, and timbrels in the worship of God.
To the Levites belonged the use of instruments of music, but there could be no Levites except in connection with the priests, and the offering of sacrifices in the Temple. But there are no sacrificing priests under the New Testament dispensation, and consequently no Levites, and so no musical instruments in the spiritual worship of God. The name priest, as is justly observed by [John] Owen, is no where in Scripture attributed peculiarly and distinctly to the ministers of the gospel, as such. When Christ ascended up on high, “he gave,” as we find in Eph. 4:11, “some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”; but none as we find to be priests. Priests are a sort of church officers whom Christ never appointed. Since then, there are no priests properly so called under the gospel dispensation, so there are no Levites; and as there are neither priests nor Levites, so there cannot be burnt offerings, or sacrifices of beasts, nor instruments of music. Priests, Levites, sacrifices, and harps, with timbrels, cymbals, and other instruments of music were fitted to the then present, and imperfect state of the Old Testament church; but they were all to vanish with the imperfections of the church. When the end is once attained, then the means must of course be abolished. Under the Old Testament economy, the church was only in its state of infancy, and as children are allowed toys and childish things, which when they arrive at maturity, they throw away, so God as a Father allowed his children to use instruments of music, and other childish things, in the temple worship, but when the church grew up from childhood to a state of manhood; or when she arrived at her present New Testament state, then she put these childish things away. It is thus, the Apostle Paul reasons, and says in 1 Cor. 13:10,11, “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. For when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
In conclusion then from what I have said on this subject, I would now in the words of the Apostle, ask all organ singing churches, “am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” If you count me your enemy, can you give any other reason for it, than that I have told you the truth. Though however some may be offended with me, and this my feeble effort to defend the purity of gospel worship may draw down upon me their displeasure, still I cannot forbear to speak the truth. And I would say, that whether this may gain me friends or enemies, I am perfectly at ease in my own mind, conscious as I am to myself, that the Scriptures being my guide, I have told the truth.
“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 Saviour, be glory, and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever, Amen.” Jude 24, 25.
Die Iovis, 9 Maii. 1644.
An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons assembled
in Parliament, for the further demolishing of
Monuments of Idolatry and Superstition.
THE Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, the better to accomplish the blessed Reformation so happily begun, and to remove all offences and things illegal in the worship of God, do Ordain, That all representations, of any of the persons of the Trinity, or any Angel, or of Saint in or about any Cathedral, Collegiate, or Parish Church, or Chapel, or in any open place within this Kingdom, shall be taken away, defaced, and utterly demolished; And that no such shall hereafter be set up, And that the chancel-ground of every such Church or Chapel raised for any Altar, or Communion-table to stand upon, shall be laid down and leveled; And that no Copes, Surplices, superstitious Vestments, Roods, or Roodlofts, or holy water fonts, shall be, or be any more used in any Church, or Chapel within this Realm; And that no cross, crucifix, picture, or Representation of any of the persons of the Trinity, or of any Angel or Saint, shall be or continue upon any place or other thing used, or to be used in or about the worship of God; And that all Organs, and the frames or cases wherein they stand in all Churches and Chapels aforesaid, shall be taken away, and utterly defaced, and none other hereafter set up in their places; And that all Copes, Surplices, superstitious Vestments, Roods, and fonts aforesaid be likewise utterly defaced: whereunto all persons within this Kingdom whom it may concern, are hereby required at their peril, to yield due obedience.
Provided that this Ordinance, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend to any Image, Picture, or coat of Arms in Glass, Stone, or otherwise, in any Church, Chapel, Church-yard, or place of Public Prayer as aforesaid, set up or graven only for a monument of any King, Prince, or Nobleman, or other dead person which hath not been commonly reputed or taken for a Saint: But that all such Images, Pictures, and Coats of Arms may stand and continue in like manner and form, as if this Ordinance had never been made; And the several Church-Wardens or Overseers of the poor of the said several Churches and Chapels respectively, and the next adjoining Justice of the Peace, or Deputy-Lieutenant, are hereby required to see the due performance hereof. And that the repairing of the Walls, Windows, Grounds, and other places which shall be broken or impaired by any the means aforesaid, shall be done and performed by such person and persons as are for the same end and purpose nominated and appointed by a former Ordinance of Parliament of the eight and twentieth of August, 1643. For the utter demolishing of Monuments of superstition or Idolatry.
1. See Revelation 11. The Reference is to the proto-protestant Presbyterians known as the Waldenses, who lived in Italy and maintained the Doctrine of the Gospel and the Purity of God’s Worship during the long dark night of the Church’s defection which preceded the Reformation. They are mentioned again below.—JTKer.
2. The last of these Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is as follows:—
6. August, 1649. Antemeridiem,
Reference to the Commission for publick affaires, for re-examining the Paraphrase, of the Psalmes, and the emitting the same for publicke use.
THE General Assembly having taken some view of the new Paraphrase of the Psalms in meter with the corrections and animadversions thereupon sent from several Persons and Presbyteries, and finding that they cannot overtake the review and examination of the whole in this Assembly; Therefore now after so much time and so great pains about the correcting, and examining thereof from time to time some years bygone, that the work may come now to some conclusion, They do ordain the Brethren appointed for perusing the same during the meeting of this Assembly, viz. Masters James Hammilton, John Smith, Hew Mackail, Robert Traill, George Hutcheson, and Robert Lawrie, after the dissolving of this Assembly to go on in that work carefully, And to report their travails to the Commission of the General Assembly for publick affairs at their meeting at Edinburgh in November; And the said Commission after perusal and re-examination thereof, is hereby authorized with full power to conclude and establish the Paraphrase, and to publish and emit the same for publick use.
This being done, the Commission of the General Assembly adopted the following in November of 1649:—
EDINBURGH. 23 Nov, 1649. Postmeridian.
THE Commission of the General Assembly having with great diligence considered the Paraphrase of the Psalms in meter, sent from the Assembly of Divines in England, by our Commissioners, whilst they were there, as it is corrected by former General Assemblies, Committees from them, and now at last by the Brethren deputed by the late Assembly for that purpose: And having exactly examined the same, Do approve the said Paraphrase as it is now compiled: And therefore according to the power given them by the said Assembly, Do appoint it to be printed and published for publick use; Hereby authorizing the same to be the only Paraphrase of the Psalms of David to be sung in the Kirk of Scotland; and discharging the old Paraphrase and any other than this new Paraphrase to be made use of in any Congregation or Family after the first day of May in the year 1650. And for uniformity in this part of the worship of God, do seriously recommend to Presbyteries, to cause make publick intimation of this act, and take special care that the same be timeously put to execution, and duly observed.
Which was followed with the approval of the Committee of Estates not long thereafter:—
EDINBURGH. 8 Jan. 1650.
THE Committee of Estates having considered the English Paraphrase of the Psalms of David in Meter, presented this day unto them by the Commiss. of the Gen. Assembly, together with their Act, and the Act of the late Assembly, approving the said Paraphrase, and appointing the same to be sung throughout this Kirk. Therefore the Committee doth also approve the said Paraphrase, and interpone their authority for the publishing and practicing thereof: Hereby ordaining the same, and no other to be made use of, throughout this Kingdom according to the tenour of the said Acts of the General Assembly and their Commissioners.