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Thousands and tens of thousands of glorious spectators secure of happiness in the “land of pure delights,” are witnesses of your folly; your return would occasion universal joy to the inhabitants of the celestial world ; with rapture they would hail you welcome to the shores of bliss, and to the pleasures of their pure society. Jesus Christ the King of glory, “ the Light of the world,” the Sovereign of the universe, whose presence secures the felicity of heaven, waits to receive you, to give you eternal life and crowns of immortal glory.
FOR THE PRESBITERIAN MAGAZINE
Nothing is more common, than for writers on controversy to verge into extremes. This is so much the case, that when a subject has been long argued before the public, it may be calculated with almost absolute certainty, that the contending parties are further apart than when they commenced ; and in receding from one another, they have receded from the truth. The impartial inquirer, who would ascertain what is right, will find it on neither side ; but in something like a middle position. “Truth lies between.” I cannot help thinking this to be most decisively the case, in the controversy on the subject of Psalmody, which has for a considerable time disturbed the church in our country. The great question is, what ought to be the matter sung. One party insist that nothing but the Psalms of the Old Testament, ought to be used in the public worship of God. That to offer any thing of human composition, however evangelical, is will worship and unacceptable to the Deity; while an opposite party insist, that the Psalms of Scripture belong more properly to the Mosaic economy, are Jewish Psalms, and scarcely suitable for New Testament worship; and, though some of them may be sung, yet they are inferior for the purpose of edification, to what uninspired men, who have the full advantage of New Testament light, may produce. Both these opinions appear to me to be entirely extremes. Let us examine them coolly and impartially.—To begin with the last.
It is true, concerning the Psalms of Scripture, that they were given under the Mosaic economy, and were used in the service of the temple ; but it will not do to infer from this, that they are to be laid aside under the gospel. The whole Old Testament Scriptures were given under the Mosaic economy, and appointed to be read in the synagogue every Sabbath day. But are they abolished with the typical part of that economy, which was a shadow of good things to come, and to be read no more?
Nobody will pretend it-and that the book of Psalms is abolished, to be sung no more, is as little to be pretended. For the very same reason which would exclude them from being sung with profit, would exclude them from being read with profit. The duty of praising God has undergone no changein substance, it is the same now that it was when David and Asaph, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, delivered their psalms to the church. That which was praise then is certainly praise still ; and the very fact of the scripture psalms being the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, would seem to give them a superiority above every uninspired production ; and a superiority they unquestionably have, in all the great essentials of praise. What is praise ? Ascriptions to God of the glory that is due, expressions of love to him, of humble fear before him, of entire dependance on him, of desire towards him, of rejoicing in him, of devotedness unto him, &c. &c. Now I will venture to assert, without fear of contradiction, from any who would have a right to contradict, I mean those who have an intimate and experimental acquaintance with their Bibles, that all of those things which the heart can pour forth before God, abound in the book of Psalms, at least equal to any thing that is found in any other part of scripture, either of the Old or New Testament: and if so, where is the human production that will surpass them. It is true, there is much of the hidden mysteries of godliness, prophesy, and dark sayings, in the book of Psalms. Of this they partake in common with almost every other portion of God's word. But if this is any objection against the use of them, under the gospel dispensation, it was_unquestionably a much stronger objection under the law. Babes in Christ now can understand portions of the psalms, that were almost incomprehensible before the coming of Christ, to masters in Israel. Most evidently the psalms are designed to be studied as well as sung.
As for the opinion, that some portions of the psalms breathe a spirit of resentment and revenge against the personal enemies of the Psalmist, inconsistent with the forgiveness of the gospel, and tend to generate such a feeling in the bosoms of those who use them, it is surprising that any who believe in the inspiration of the psalms should allow themselves to entertain it. Does God's word contain contradictions ? Is it the minister of sin ? Certainly, before such a sentiment is hazarded, we ought to be sure we thoroughly understand those portions of God's word to which such a defect is attributed.
The want of a literal version of the book of Psalms, smooth and harmonious, such as the improved state of the English language calls for, is greatly to be regretted ; and to this want, is to be ascribed in part, the disrelish into which the psalms of scrip
ture have fallen with many pious persons. But it is humbly conceived it is not the chief reason. The very excellence of the psalms themselves has its effect. Their depth of matter, their spirituality, their sublimity, their transcendant elevation of devotion, raise them above the comprehension, and above the standard of devotional feeling of ordinary Christians. It is a fact, that Christians of deficient attainments, often find themselves more edified in reading other books than the Bible, and really relish them more. But the higher Christians rise in gracious experience, the higher is their esteem for the pure word of God, until at length, every human production becomes insipid in comparison therewith. As it certainly can have no good effect to promote in the public mind, a preference of other books to the Bible, so it is conceived there can no good effect arise from promoting in the public taste, a preference of other compositions to the psalms the Holy Spirit hath inspired.
Let us now consider the opposite extreme into which they have run, who, in their zeal for scripture psalmody, make the singing of any thing else, however true and evangelical, a species of idolatry, offensive to the Deity. It will be proper to remark here, in the first place, that the character of Dr. Watts, the value of his psalms, the offensive things said to be contained in the preface to his psalm book, as first published, have really nothing to do with the question, which is simply this, may we sing in public worship with edification to ourselves, and acceptance to the great object of worship, psalms and hymns, which express the truths and duties of divine revelation, though such psalms and hymns are no literal version of any part of scripture ? Surely, in the decision of this question, though it should be proven (which I am far from allowing,) that Dr. Watts was an heretic, and his psalms tinctured with heresy, it would amount to just nothing. Still we might use the psalms and hymns of another man, or we might use those of Dr. Watts that were free from the defilement of the rest.
In proceeding to a very brief examination of this question, it is of importance to remark, that we have no proof that even the Old Testament worshippers were confined by any divine authority to the exclusive use of the book of Psalms. The scriptures contain no command to this purpose. The only passage where any thing is said on the subject is 2 Chron. 29 and 30, where it is mentioned, “Moreover, Hezekiah the king, and the princes, commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David and Asaph.” It is surely too much to construe this into a divine command never, on any future occasion, to sing praise but in the words of David and Asaph. And, until it is shown that divine authority confined the Old Testament church to inspired psalms, it is too much to insist that the New Testament church shall never use any other. If it is granted that in later ages the Jewish church did confine themselves to the book of Psalms in their public praises, yet it is not granted that their usage merely is divine authority. But we have expressions of the mind of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, which, in my judgment, ought to settle the question for ever: for instance, Col. iii. 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.” Now granting that all the kinds of poetical composition here called psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, are found in the book of Psalms, it will only follow from this text, that they are allowed to be used with others that are edifying. The words are without limitation, and no more express
, the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs of scripture than any other; unless, indeed, there is something in the scope of the passage to limit the interpretation: but, instead of this, the scope of the passage forbids limitation; the direction is to teach and admonish one another.” This is the use of singing praise ; it is not to gratify God's ear with the music we make, but to instruct and edify ourselves. Now, if it is granted, (and who will deny it?) that wholesome instruction and sound admonition may be communicated in an uninspired psalm or hymn, it clearly follows that the text is a warrant to make use of such psalm or hymn.
There is one remark further worthy of very particular consideration: it is this, the music of the voice is not essential to praise. God may be, and is praised without singing, as acceptably as with it. In prayer we praise him, and in singing praise to him we pray to him: the two duties of prayer and praise run into one another. Now, we know most assuredly, that in the praises we offer without singing, we are accepted if there is grace in the heart, though the words in which the praise is expressed, are not the words of scripture. But the same words which are accepted in prayer, may be the words of a psalm or hymn, or though prose they may be set to music and sung in the same faith, and love, and gratitude, and joy as in prayer; and will they then be rejected because of the singing ? If they are simply said with grace in the heart, will the person who says them be blessed in the exercise ; but if they are sung with the same grace in the heart, will they who sing them meet with the frowning challenge, “who hath required this at your hands ?”
Upon the whole, is it not evident that in this controversy about psalmody, there are great extremes on both sides, and to these extremes are to be ascribed, chiefly, the offences and alienations which have most unhappily sprung out of it. It cannot be other than highly displeasing to those who are attached to the psalmody of scripture, to hear those sacred songs in which holy men of old, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, poured forth their whole souls, in faith, in love, in admiration, in hope and in joy before their Almighty Maker and Redeemer; those sacred songs which their fathers have gone to heaven singing, and which they themselves have sung from early infancy in God's sanctuary ; to hear them undervalued, as below the pious effusions of uninspired men, as Jewish psalıns, nay, cursing psalms, unfit, some of them, for gospel worship. On the other hand, it might be no less displeasing to those who have been accustomed to the sweet evangelical psalms and hymns of sainted, though uninspired men, which celebrate the glories of the Redeemer's person, his work, his love, his redeeming grace, which breathe forth the sincerity of faith in him, and the devotedness of love to him ; those sacred songs which their fathers too have gone to heaven singing, and which they themselves have sung in the sanctuary, with elevated feelings of faith and love that give them a foretaste of future bliss; to hear them denounced as abominable idolatries, and those who sing them declared to be worthy of excommunication from the fellowship of pure worshippers. Surely these things ought not to be: if there is any subject, about which they who love the Lord Jesus Christ ought to exercise forbearance, it is this subject. Angry contentions producing a disruption of that fellowship which the followers of Christ Jesus are bound to maintain, must be worse than any error which may exist on either side. When shall all who call Jesus, Master, feel in full force the binding obligation of his holy commandment, “ forbearing one another in love."
IS SABBATH EVENING, OR SATURDAY EVENING, A PART OF
THE SABBATH ?
(Continued from p. 278.) Here it becomes necessary to pay attention to the position of the Rev. Doctor, that after God had created the chaos, darkness rested upon it for a certain space, and thence infers that the first night must necessarily have preceded the day. Feeling all deference to so high authority, we nevertheless believe there is a material fallacy in this argument. We observe,
1. It is true there was darkness on the chaos before the light was created, but, is the Dr. or any one certain, that that darkness constituted any part of the first natural day, or that time had at all commenced? If so, how far back would you reckon to get a part of the first day? It was dark, it is true, and so it had been from eternity. Will you go back just twelve hours, into that eternal darkness, to get a night for the first day which was