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A SHORT ESSAY
THE IMPROVEMENT OF PSALMODY:
How the Psalms of David ought to be Translated into Christian
Songs, and how lawful and necessary it is to compose other Hymns according to the clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church.
OR, An Enquiry how the Psalms of David ought to be Translated
into Christian Songs, and how lawful and necessary it is to compose other Ilymns according to the clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church.
To speak the glories of God in a religious song, or to breathe out the joys of our own spirits to God with the melody of our voice, is an exalted part of divine worship.
But so many are the imperfections in the practice of this duty, that the greatest part of christians find but little edification or comfort in it. There are some churches that utterly disallow singing; and I am persuaded that the poor performance of it in the best societies, with the mistaken rules to which it is confined, is one great reason of their entire neglect ; for we are left at a loss, say they, what is the matter and manner of this duty; and therefore they utterly refuse: Whereas if this glorious pioce of worship were but seen in its original beauty, and one that believes not this ordinance, or is unlearned in this part of christianity should come into such an assembly," Ile would be convinced of all, he would be judged of all, he would fall down on his face, and report that God was in the midst of it of a trutb;" 1. Cor. xiv. 24, 25.
In order to trace out the matter or subject of religious singing, let us collect into one view the chief texts of the New Testament where this worship is mentioned, and afterwards see what arguments may be deduced from thence, to prove, that it is proper to use spiritual songs of human composure, as well as the psalms of David, or the words of other songs recorded in scripture.
The most considerable texts are these ;
Matt. xxvi. 30. and Mark xiv. 26. relate, That our blessed Lord and his disciples sung an liymm. Acts xvi. 25. “ Paul and Silas prayed and sung praises unto God."! | I Cor. xiv. 15. “I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”', ber, 26. “ Every one of you hath a psalm.o's. Eph. v. 19, 20. “ Speaking to yourselves in psalms and bynns, and spi.
ritual songs ; singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father, in the pame of our Lord Jesus Christ. Col. iii. 16, 17.
" 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: And whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. James v. 13. “Is any among you afflicted, let him pray: Is any merry, let him sing psalms.' Rev. v. 9. “ Andibey sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain, and last redeemed us to God by thy blood.” Rev. xiv. 3. “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne.” Rev. xv. 3. “ And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, great and marvellous are thy works, &c." To all these I might add-Acts iv. 24. &c. where it is supposed the disciples'met together and suog; for they lift up their voice to God with one accord, and said, “Lord! thou art our God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is : Who by the inoath of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus wbom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done, &c."
If we turn over the New Testament, and search all the songs
that are there written, we shall find the matter or subject of them as various as the occasions upon which they were sung or spoken': Such' are the søng of the Virgin Mary; Luke i. 46, &c. The song of Zecharias; ver. 67. The song of the angels ; Luke ii. 13. And of Simeon, ver. 29. Besides many others in the book of Revelation. The three chief words used to express the matter of singing, are farpos, upevobin xat daar': Psalms, hymns, and songs, as the three verbs from which these are derived are generally used to express the act of singing, faraw, wpusew, xas adw. Now if it were lawful after so many learned contentions about these words, I would give my sense of them thus :
1. I think no man bath better explained the original mean. ing of these words tban Zaneliy..: A psalm, vamos,) is such a song as usually is sung with other instruinents besides the tongue. Hymns, suyos, such as are made only to express the praises, and set out the excellencies of God. Songs, Qazı; such as contain not only praises, but exhortations, proptiecies, shanksgivings; and these only sung with the voice.