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and fears of Asaph and David ? Why must Christianis be forbid all other melody, bnt what arises from the victories and deliverances of the Jews ?David would have thought it very bard to have been confined to the words of Moses, and sung nothing else, on all his rejoicing-days, but the drowning of Pharoah in the fifteenth of Exodus. He might have supposed it a little uns reasonable, when he had peculiar occasions of mourntui music, if he had been forced to keep close to Moses's prayer in the ninetietb psalm, and always sung over the shortness of human life, especially if he were not permitted the liberty of a paraphrase : And yet the special concerns of David and Moses were much more a-kin to each other, than ours are to either of them ? and they were both of the same religion, but ours is very different.
It is true, that David has left us a richer variety of holy songs, than all that went before him: but, rich as it is, it is still tar short of the glorious things that we Christians have to sing before the Lord. We, and our churches have our own special affairs as well as they: Now if by a little turn of their words, or by the change of a short sentence, we may express our own meditations, joys, and desires in the verse of these ancient psalmists, why should we forbid this sweet privilege ? Why should we under the Christian dispensation be tied up to forms more then the Jews themselves were, and such as are much more improper for our age and state too: Let us remember, that the very power of singing was given to human nature chiefly for this purpose, that our own warmest affections of soul might break out into natural or divine melody, and that the tongue of the worshipper might express his own beart.
confess it is not unlawful, nor absurd for a person of knowledge and skill in divine things, to sing any part of the Jewish psalm book, and consider it merely as the word of God; from which, by wise meditation, he may draw some pious inferences for bis own use: For instruction is allowed to be one end of psalmody. But where the words are obseure bebraisms, or where the poet personates a Jew, a soldier, or a king, speaking to himself, or to God, this mode of instruction in a song seems not so natural or easy even to the most skilful Christian, and it is almost impracticable to the grealest part of mankiud: And both the wise and the weak must confess this, that it does by no means raise their own devotion so well, as if they were speaking in their own persons, and expressiog their owo sense: Besides that the weaker Christian is ready to chime in with the words he sings, and use them as his own, though they are never so foreign to bis purpose.
Now though it cannot be, that a large book of lively devotions should be so framned, as to bave every line perfectly suited to all the circumstances of every worshipper; but, atter the writer's utmost care, there will still be room for christian wisdom to exercise the thoughts aright in singing, when the words seem improper to our particular case : Yet, as far as possible, every difficulty of this kind should be removed, and such sentences should by no njeans be chosen, which can scarce be used, in their proper sense, by any that are present.
I could never persuade myself, that the best way to raise a devout frame in plain Christians, was to bring a king, or a captain, into their churches, and let him lead and dictate the worship in his own style of royalty, or in the language of a field of battle. Does every menial servant in the assembly know bow to use these words devoutly? pamely, When I recewe the congregation I will judge uprightly; Ps. Ixxv. 2. A bow of steel is broken by mine urms.- As soon us they hear of me, they shall ovey me; Psal. xviii. 34, 44. Would I encourage a parish clerk to stand up in the inidst of a country church, and bid all the people join with his words, and say, I will praise thre upon the psallery; or, I will open wy dark saying upon the harp: When even our cathedrals sing only to the sound of an organ, most of the meaner
ehurches can have no music but the voice, and others will have noue besides? Why then must all who will sing a psalm at church, use such words, as if they were to play apon harp and psaltery, when thousands never saw sunca instrument, and know nothing of the art ?'
You will tell me, perhaps, that when you take these expressions upon your lips, you mean oply, that you will worship God according to bis Apo-. pointment bow, even as David worshipped him in his day, according to God's appointment then. But wby will you confine yourselves to speak one thing, and mean another? Why must we bound up to such words, as can never be addressed to God in their own sense? And since the heart of a Christiana cannot joiu berein with his lips, why may not bis lips be led to speak bis heart? Experience itself has often shewn, that it interrupts the boly melody, aod spoils the devction of many a sincere good man or woman, when, in the midst of the song, some speeches of David have beeu almost imposed uponge their tongues, where he relates his own troubles, kis banishment, or peculiar deliverances; where be speaks like a Jewish prince, a musician, or a presa phet; or where the sense is so obscure, that it cannot be understood without a learned commentator.
Here I may with courage address myself to the heart and conscience of many pious and observing Christians, and ask them, whether they have eat found a most divine pleasure in singing, when the words of the psalm have happily expressed their frame of soul? Have you not felt a new joy spring within you, when you could speak your own desires and hopes, your own faith, love, and zeal in the language of the holy psalmist? Have not your spirits taken wing and mounted up near to God and glory, with the song of David on your tongue? But on a sudden the clerk has proposed the next line to your lips, with dark sayings and prophecies, with burnt-offerings or byssop, with new-moons, and trumpets, and timbrels in it, with confession of sins which you never committed, with complaints and sorrow such as you never felt, cursing such enemies as you never bad, giving thanks for suche victories as you never obtained, or leading you to speak, in your own persoins of things, places, and actions, that you never knew. And how have all your souls been discomposed at once, and the strings of harmony all untuned ! You could uot proceed in the song with your hearts, and your lips have sunla their joy, and faultered in the tune ; you have been balked and ashamed, and knew not whether it were better to be silent, or to follow on with the clerk and the multitude, and sing with cold devotion, and perhaps in darkness too, withoat thought or meaning.
Let it be replied bere, Tbat to prevent this inconvenience, such psalms and sentences may be always omitted by hien that leads the song, or may have a more aseful turn given in the mind of those that sing. But't Since such psalms and sentences are not to be sang, they may be as well omitted by the translator, or may have a more useful turn given in the verse than it is possible for all the singers to give on a sudden in their minds. And this is all that I contend for.
I come therefore to the third thing I proposed, and that is to explain my own design, wbich in short is this, pamely, to accommodate the book of psalms to christian worship. And in order to this, it is necessary to divest David and Asaph, &c. of every other character but that of a psalmist and a saint, and to make them always speak the common sense of a christian.
Attempting the work with this view, I bave entirely omitted some whole psalms, and large pieces of many others: and have chosen out of all of then, such parts only, as might easily and naturally be accommodated to the various occasions of the cbristian lite, or at least might afford us some beautiful allusion to christian affairs : These I have copied and explained in the general seşit of the gospel; nor have I confived my expressions to any particular party or opinion ; that in words, prepared for public worship, and for the lips of inui
titudes, there might not be a syllable offensive to sincere Christians, whose judgments may differ in the lesser matters of religion.
Where the psalmist uses slrarp invectives against his personal enemies, I have endeavoured to turn the edge of them against our spiritual adversaries, sin, satan, and temptation. Where the flights of his faith and love are sublime, i bave often sonk the expressions within the reach of an ordinary Christian : Where the words imply some peculiar wants or distresses, joys or blessings, I have used words of greater latitude aud comprehension, suited to the general circumstances of men.
Where the original runs in the form of prophecy concerning Christ and his salration, I have given an historical turn to the sense: There is no necessity that we should always sing in the obscure and doubtful style of prediction, when the things foretold are brought into open light by a full accomplishment. Where the writers of the New Testament have cited or alluded to any part of the psalms, I have often indulged the liberty of parapbrase, according to the words of Christ, or his apostles. And surely this may be esteemed the word of God still, though borrowed from several parts of the holy scripture. Where the psalmist describes religion by the fear of God, I have often joined faith and love to it: Where he speaks of the pardon of sin, through the mercies of God, I have added the blood or merits of a Saviour : Where he talks of sacrificing goats or bullocks, I rather choose to mention the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God: When he attends the ark with shouting into Zion, I sing the ascension of my Saviour into heaven, or his presence in bis church on earth ; where he promises abundance of wealth, honour, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brouglit to light by the gospel, and promised in the New Testament: And I am fully satisfied, that more honour is done to oar blessed Saviour, by speakiny his name, his graces, and actions, in his own language, according to the brighter discoveries he hath now made, than by going back again to the Jewish forms of worship, and the language of types and figures.
All men will confess this is just and necessary in preaching and praying; and I cannot find a reason why we should not sing praises also in a manner agreeable to the present and more glorious dispensation. No man can be persuaded, that to read a sermon of the royal preacher out of the book of Ecclesiastes, or a prayer out of Ezra or Daniel, is so edifying to a christian church, though they were inspired, as a well composed prayer or sermon delivered in the usual Janguage of the gospel of Christ. And why shonld the very words of the sweet-singer of Israel' be esteemed so necessary to christian psalmody, and the Jewish style so much preferable to the evangelical, in our religious songs of praise?
Now since it appears so plain, that the Hebrew psalter is very improper to be the precise matter and style of our songs in a christian church; and since there is very good reason to believe that it is left us, not only as a most valuable part of the word of God, for our faith and practice, but as an admirable and divine pattern of spiritual songs and hynns under the gospel ; I have chosen rather to imitate than to translate ; and thus to compose a psalm-book for Christians after the manner of the Jewish psalter.
If I could be persuaded, that nothing ought to be sung in worship, but what was of immediate inspiration from God, surely I would recommend anthems only ; namely, the psalms themselves, as we read them in the bible, set to music as they are sung by the choristers in our cathedral churches : for these are nearest to the words of'inspiration, and we must depart far from those words, il we turn them into rhyine and metre of any sort. Aud upon the foot of this argument, even the Scotch version, which has been so much commended for its approach to the original, would be unlawful, as well as others.
But since I believe that any divine septence, or christian verse, agreeable to seripture may be sung, though it be composed by men uninspired ; I hare not been so curious and exact in striving every where to express the ancient sense and meaning of David; but have rather expressed myself, as 1 may suppose David would have done, had be lived in the days of Christianity. And by this means, perhaps, 1 have sometimes hit upon the true intent of the Spirit of God in those verses, farther and clearer than David bimself could erer discover, as St. Peter encourages me to bope, 1 Pet. i. 11, 12. where be acknowledges that the ancient propbets who foretold of the grace that should come to us, were in some measure ignorant of this great salvation ; for though they testified of the sufferings of Christ and his glory, yet they were forced to search and enquire after the meaning of what they spake or wrote. In several other places I hope my reader will find a natural ex. position of many a dark and doubtful text, and some new beauties and conpections of thought discovered in the Jewish poet, though not in the language of a Jew. In all places I have kept my grand design in view, and that is, to teach my author to speak like a Christian. For why should I Bow address God my Saviour in a song, with burnt-sacrifices of fallings, and with the incense of rams ? Why should I pray to be sprinkled with hyssop, or recur to the blood of bullocks and goats? Why should I bind my sacrifice with cords to the borns of an altar, or sing the praises of God to highsounding cymbals, when the gospel has shewn me a nobler atonement for sin, and appointed a purer and more spiritual worship? Why must I join with David in his legal or prophetic language, to curse my enemies, when my Saviour, in his serions, has taught me to love and bless them? Why may pot a Cbristian omit all those passages of the Jewish psalmist, that tend to fill the mind with overwhelming 'sorrows, despairing thoughts, or bitter personal resentments, none of which are well suited to the spirit of Christianity, which is a dispensation of bope, and joy, and love? What need is there that I should wrap up the shining honnurs of my Redeemer in the dark and abadowy language of a religion that is now for ever abolished ; especially when Christians are so vehemently warned, in the epistles of St. Paul, against a jadaizing spirit, in their worship as well as doctrine ? And what fault can there be in enlarging a little on the more useful subjects in the style of the gospel, where the psalm gives any occasion, since ihe whole religion of the Jews is censured often in the New Testament as a defective and imperfect thing?
Though I have aimed to provide for a variety of affairs in the Christian life, by the different metres, parapbrases, and divisions of the psalms, of which I shall speak particularly; yet, after all
, there are a great many circumstances that attend common Christians, which cannot be agreeably, expressed by any paraphrase on the words of David; and for ibese I have endeavoured to provide in my book of hymns, that Christians might have something to sing in divide worship, answerable to most or all their occasions. la the preface to that book I have shewn the insuficiency of the common versions of the psalms, and given further reasons for my present attempt.
I am not so vain as to expect, that the few short bints I have mentioned in that preface, or in this, should be sufficient to justify my performances in the judgment of all men, nor to convince and satisfy those who have loog maintained different sentiments. All the favour therefore that I desire of my readers, is this, that they would not censure this work till they have read my discourse of psalmody, which I hope will shortly be published; but let them read it with serious attention, and bring wiih them a generous and sincere soul, ready to be convinced, and to receive truth wheresoever it can be found. In that treatise I have given a large and particular account how the psalms of Jewish composure ought to be translated for Christian worship, and justified the rules I lay down by such reasons, as seem to carry in them most plentiful evidence, and a fair conviction, VOL. IX.
If I might presume so much, I would intreat them also to forget their younger prejudices for a season, so far as to make a few experiments of these songs, and try whether they are not suited, through divine grace, to kindle in them a fire of zeal and love, and to esalt the willing soul to an evangelic lemper of joy and praise. And if they shall find, by sweet experience, any devout affections raised, and a holy frame of mind awakened within them by these attempts of Christian psalmistry; ! persuade myself, that I shall receive their thanks, and be assisted by their prayers towards the recovery of my bealth, and my public labours in the church of Christ. Whatsoever sen. timents they had formerly entertained, yet surely they will not suffer their old and doubtful opinions to prevail against their own inward sensations of piety and religious joy.
Before I conclude, I must add a few things concerning my division of the Psalms, and my manner of versifying.
Of the Division of the Psalms. In many of these sacred songs it is evident, that the psalmist had several distinct cases in view at the same time: As Psalm 1xv, the first four or five verses describe the temple worship of prayer and praise ; the following verses represent the providence of God in the seasons of the year. So in Psalm lxviii. the first six verses declare the majesty and mercy of God, and from the seventh verse to the sixteenth, Israel is brought from Egypt, to fix divine worship at Jerusalem. The seventeenth and eighteenth are a prophecy of the ascension of Christ. Verse 44, &c, describes a religious procession, &c. The like may be observed in many other psalms, especially such as represent some complicated sorrows, or joys of the psalmist. Now it is not to be supposed that Christians should have all the same distinct occasions of meditation, complaint or praise, much less all at the same time to be mentioned before God; therefore I have divided many psalms into several parts, and disposed them into distinct hymns on those various subjects that may be proper matter for christian psalmody,
Besides, that excessive long tone of voice, that stretches out every syllable in our public singing, allows us neither time nor spirits to sing above six or eight stanzas at once, and sometimes we make use of but three or four: Therefore I have reduced almost all the work into hymns of such a length, as may suit the usual custom of the churches ; that they may not sing broken fragments of sense, as is too often done, and spoil the beauty of this worship; but may finish a whole song and subject at once.
For this end I have been forced to transpose, or omit, some of the verses; and, by this means, some will object, that I have left out some useful and significant lines, Perhaps so: But if I had not, the clerk would have left them out, to save the time for other parts of worship ; and I desire but the same liberty which he has to choose which verses shall be sung. Yet I think it will be seldom found that I bave omitted any useful psalm, or verse, whose sense is not abundantly repeated in other parts of the book; and what I have left out in one metre I have often inserted in another.
When the occasion or subject are much the same throughout a long psalm, I have either abridged the verses, or divided the psalm by pauses, after the French manner, where the sense would admit an interruption, that the worship inay not be tiresome.
Of the Verse. I resign to Sir John Denham the honour of the best poet, if he had given his genius but a just liberty; yet his work will ever shine brightest among those that have confined themselves to a mere translation. But that close confinement has often forbid the freedom and glory of verse, and by cramping his sense, has ren. dered it sometimes too obscure for a plain reader and the public worship, even though we lived in the days of David and Judaism. These inconveniences he bimself suspects, and fears in the preface.