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A Catechism On Praise - by a Pastor of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

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A helpful theology of praise.

“Sing unto Jehovah; sing praises unto him”—1 Chron. 16:9.

“Behold, this is the law of the house”—Ezekiel 43:12.

“Is any merry? let him sing psalms”—James 5:13.


THE author of this Catechism does not publish it out of an unkind spirit towards those who differ from him about the matter which should be offered in praise to God, or the manner in which it ought to be celebrated; nor yet with the design of provoking controversy; but for the following reasons:—

1. Some portions of the Presbyterian denomination, both in Europe and America, use exclusively the Presbyterian metrical version of the Psalms; others add to these, what are called “paraphrases”, and five “hymns”; while others still, following the example of the modern Congregational order of churches, adopt “imitations” of the Psalter, and provide for themselves other human compositions;—

2. Believing to be false and unscriptural the opinion that this variety is sanctioned by God, and harmless, and that the matter of praise is not given to the Church by her living Head,—it is not enough for him simply to say so; but it becomes his duty to show to others, and especially to the rising generation, the “more excellent way” of divine appointment;—

3. And believing that the glory of God, the honour of Christ, the extension of his kingdom, and the edification of saints, are closely connected with obedience to the divine injunction, “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him,” he asks for the following pages a candid and prayerful examination.

BOSTON, May 1, 1849.

Praise: the Nature and Duty of it.

I. What is the praise of God?

It is the manifestation of his declarative glory by his creatures. Psa. 69:34; 150:6.

II. Do the Scriptures authorize or command that praise shall be given to God, as an act of worship?

Yes, both. All creatures, but especially Christians, are required to render it. Psa. 86:12,13; 138:1; 65:1; 89:5.

III. Has God given to us any directions how we are to praise him?

Yes, in his word. Psa. 9:1; 86:12; 109:30; Hos. 14:2; Heb. 13:15.

IV. For what are we to praise God?

For his great and wonderful excellencies; for what he in himself, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Author of salvation to his saints; for what he has done, and what he has promised to do.

V. For what are we to give thanks?

For all our comforts and hopes; especially for an interest in Christ, and the hope of eternal life. Eph. 5:20; Heb. 13:15.

VI. What, then, is the nature of praise?

It is a tribute of affection and esteem, which we give to the true God, that thus we may increase his declarative glory. Psa. 50:23.


The Matter of Praise.

I. Is it optional with us, whether we compose the matter of our praise?

No. God has prepared it for us in HIS WORD. This is regulated by divine appointment. Jehovah has provided it for his saints, and says, “Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” Jam. 5:13. Divine appointment reigns in the whole plan of redemption, and as completely in designating the matter and manner of our praise, as in the incarnation of his Son.

II. Do we not compose our prayers from his word, without any book especially appointed by God?

Yes. In prayer we are regulated by circumstances. It is the language of dependence, and is varied by our condition. While we are to “acknowledge God in all our ways,” and to “pray without ceasing,” he has, by one short and perfect form, said, “after this manner pray ye.” He has not given to us any book of prayers; and God has not said, “and thou, when thou prayest,” pray Job, or pray Proverbs, or pray Psalms.

III. Is it proper for the ministers of Christ to compose sermons, and give their own views of his truth to the people in his name?

It is. Christ has neither given to them any book of sermons, nor told them to preach Isaiah, Luke, or John; but “go and preach the gospel to every creature.” “Preach the word.” Without an inspired book of sermons, they must “not shun to declare the whole counsel of God.” 2 Cor. 2:15,16.

IV. Is there any thing in the nature of praise which makes it necessary, that God himself should record the matter which we are to use in this part of worship?

Yes. In prayer we can in some degree know our own wants, and in fulfilment of the divine promise Zech. 12:10, “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.” Rom. 8:26. In preaching, also, we may become able “rightly to divide the word of truth,” until we come to “the full assurance of understanding;” but in praise, God alone can determine what he will accept as “the fruit of our lips.” Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7; Psa. 105:2; 1 Chron. 16:9; Psa. 86:2.

V. When was praise first publicly given to God by the church?

We read of it first at the shores of the Red Sea, when “the church” Acts 7:38 was delivered from her enemies. Exod. 15:1.

VI. When did praise become a stated part of divine worship?

More particularly when the worship of Jehovah was established at Jerusalem, in the days of David, who spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost; and is called by God, “the sweet psalmist of Israel.” 2 Sam. 23:1,2; 1 Chron. 15:16,19,27.

VII. Was praise subsequently a part of divine worship?

Yes. Psa. 100:4; 84:4; 43:3,4; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19.

VIII. Did David, as the psalmist of Israel, write all the psalms?

No. He wrote probably more than one half of them. Yet they are called by his name (David, Heb. 4:7. Rom. 11:9) because he was employed more extensively than any other, in this part of the word of God, as the amanuensis of the Holy Ghost.

IX. What name was originally given to that part of the Holy Scriptures which is thus called David?

It was called “Tehillim,” that is, hymns or praises, because it was given as the matter of divine praise to the church of God in every future age. It is also called “Psalms,” because many of these “spiritual songs” were, at the temple worship, sung with the psaltery. Parts of the book have other names, as Mizmor, Shir (46, title), Tehillah (145, title), Tephilah (17,86,102, titles), Prayers, Shir-hammacholoth (120-134) – Odes of Ascension. They are also called, in the Septuagint, Psalmoi.

X. When were the Tehillim, or Psalms written and formed into a book?

They were written in a manner similar to the other parts of Scripture Heb. 1:1, during a period of nearly one thousand years, and were collected into one book, probably by “Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven.” They stood in their present numerical order in the days of the apostles. Acts 13:33.

XI. Were other songs, beside those contained in the Book of Psalms, composed during that period?

Yes, many. Such as the Song of Deborah Judg. 5:12, the song of the well Num. 21:17,18, the 1005 songs of Solomon, and others.

XII. Were not these then given as the matter of her praise, or are they not commanded to be sung by the church in all future ages?

No. As we read of different books in Scripture, such as the book of Gad, of Nathan, of Jehu, of Jasher, and the Epistle from Laodicea, which were not collected into the sacred canon, by the Holy Ghost, so we thus know, that by the same divine sovereignty, the songs thus noticed, or even recorded, were ephemeral as matter of praise; while the songs contained in the “Sepher Tehillim,” or Book of Psalms, and collected and placed in one book by the Spirit, are a part of “the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever,” selected by infinite wisdom, and given expressly as the matter of praise to the church until the end of time. The same principle applies to any isolated and occasional hymns or songs, which may be found in the New Testament.

XIII. Were any attempts made to add to the Book of Psalms, after it was completed?

Yes. The 151st psalm was fabricated, and attempted to be added to the then perfect book, nearly three hundred years before “the Christian era.” Septuagint, Psa. 151st.

XIV. Is such an attempt authorized by God?

No. It arises from the depravity of our nature, and the opposition of our wills to the divine will, and consequently forms a part of what the Holy Ghost calls “will worship,” which has a show of wisdom. Col. 2:23.

XV. Is, then, this book called the Book of Psalms, by the Holy Ghost?

It is so called, both by Jesus Christ and by the Spirit. Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20; Heb. 4:7.

XVI. Was it given to the Jewish church to be the matter of praise to God?

Yes. 1 Chron. 16:7; 25:1,5; Psa. 81:1,; . Neh. 12:8,46; Psa. 137:3,4; Ezra 3:10.

XVII. Was the Jewish church in reality different from the Christian?

No. They are the same church, under different dispensations. Acts 7:38; Heb. 4:2; Gal. 4:3,4.

XVIII. When Christ came “to fulfil all righteousness,” and by his evangelists and apostles to complete the oracles of God, did he, or they, praise Jehovah by singing psalms?

Yes, both did. Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Psa. 22:2; Heb. 2:13.

XIX. Did they deliver, by inspiration, any other “psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs,” than those contained “in David”?

Heb. 4:7. No. One such psalm or song would be a treasure for the edification of the saints, if “the Psalms” had been simply Jewish; and yet it would not afford a precedent or warrant for uninspired men to make human hymns, and sing them as praise to God. Isa. 1:12. Hos. 13:2.

XX. What is a human hymn, psalm, or spiritual song?

One, of which the arrangement and composition are made by uninspired men, and not by the authority and wisdom of God, even although the sentiment be taken from, and agree with, some portion of Scripture. It has “a show of wisdom;” yet it is only man’s opinion which will be opposed and contradicted by the opinion of some other man metrically expressed, in language, to his mind, equally scriptural. Consequent-ly, “of making many ‘hymn’ books there is no end.” We have now more than one for each Sabbath in the year, all supplanting “the Lord’s song,” (songs), and in their turn supplanted by the poetical skill and caprice of other men. Such compositions, as matter of praise, are, moreover, purely “will worship.” Isa. 1:12.

XXI. Are the psalms adapted to the condition of saints in New Testament times, as the matter of their praise?

Yes. They are “an epitome of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion.” (Bp. Horne). They are emphatically “the word of Christ,” portraying especially the work of the Spirit in the soul of man, in all its stages and conditions of being, from his “creation anew in Christ Jesus” to the enjoyment of eternal glory.

XXII. Do they not present the Messiah only as a Saviour to come?

No. They present his incarnation Psa. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5, his public teaching Psa. 40:9; Luke 4:16-22, his death Psa. 22:1;31:5; Luke 23:46, his ascension Psa. 68:18; Acts 1:2-9, sitting down at the right hand of God Psa. 110:1. Acts 2:34. Heb. 1:13; 10:12,13, and his whole mediatorial work, as far as it has been accomplished, as it really is Luke 24:44.

XXIII. Do they not contain curses and imprecations upon our enemies, contrary to the command, “Love your enemies”

Matt. 5:44? No. Not upon our enemies, but upon the enemies of Christ. Psa. 69:20-25; 109:8; Acts 1:16,20.

XXIV. Have they not grown old, and consequently become less adapted to praise?

No. A book can not be considered old while its author lives. He may, at any time, alter or remodel it; consequently, while God lives, the Psalms cannot and will not become obsolete; and for this reason they are a song ever new. Psa. 33:3; 96:1; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3.

XXV. But are not “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” mentioned in the New Testament, to be sung?

Yes. We are commanded to sing them. Eph. 5:19. Col. 3:16.

XXVI. Were they not something different from the Book of Psalms?

No. For the Colossians and Ephesians had already the Septuagint. “Moses was read in their synagogues every Sabbath day,” their first Christian assemblies Acts 13:15, and converts were Jews Acts 18:19; 19:1,19. Col. 2:14, and therefore, when they were thus directed, they would easily understand, that the psalmois, humnois and odais pneumatikais were obviously the Mitzmorim Shirim, and Tehillim previously given in the Book of Psalms, by the inspiration of God. Besides, in the Septuagint Psa. 72:20, and by Josephus Antiq. B. VII. chap. 12, the Tephiloth, or prayers of David, are called hymns.

XXVII. Do not these various terms indicate different kinds of hymns, from those found in the Book of Psalms, and authorize the composition of religious poetry as the matter of praise?

No. No more than the terms law, commandment, and statutes, in the 119th Psalm, denote any thing different from the word of God, and authorize, as the revealed will of Heaven, the, the writings of Josephus, the Koran, or the Book of Mormon.

XXVIII. When commanded to “let the word of Christ dwell in” them “richly,” if his “word” could not be found in the “hymns and spiritual songs” contained in the Book of Psalms, could the Colossians and Ephesians remain upon the earth, until modern hymnologists could supply its supposed defects?

No. Nor yet compose, without divine inspiration, hymns for themselves, of which God would assuredly accept, as the matter of his praise.

Objections. 1. The psalms are not adapted to the departure of missionaries. Ans. Missionaries departed probably without singing, according to scriptural example Acts 13:3,4; and for such solemn scenes, the psalms provide matter most suitable to the condition of every missionary, or to that of any of his friends, who “let the word of Christ dwell in them richly.” Psa. 46, 56, 72, 122, etc.

2. They are supposed to be not adapted to Sabbath schools. “You would not have the children learn the old psalms? Ans. The family circle is the Sabbath school of Scripture. Psa. 92:1,2; 118:15; Gen. 18:19; 1 Tim. 3:12; Deut. 6:7. And if for the benefit of those who have no pious parental instruction, this institution has been established, yet every teacher must be assuredly guilty, who does not teach his pupils, “the word of Christ” as the matter of their praise, that it may dwell in them richly. If human hymns had any divine authority, the varied contradictory compilations, which abound, could, even then, only train the early mind to contradictory doctrinal opinions, while none of them will enable the scholar to say, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psa. 119:11.

XXIX. What, then, are some of the reasons why Christians should sing only “the Book of Psalms” in praise to God?

1. The command of God Jam. 5:13, which ought to be sufficient for every saint.

2. He has given to us no additional hymns in the New Testament, for the Book of Psalms was previously perfect.

3. Because Christ, “in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” who is “the wisdom of God,” and in whom dwells all the “fulness of knowledge and of wisdom,” not only made no new ones, but consoled himself, on the cross, with the words of David. Psa. 22:1; 31:5. This is the highest possible authority to every Christian, for the use of the Psalms exclusively.

4. Because the apostles, although inspired to write the New Testament, and to complete the word of God, were not “moved by the Holy Ghost” to write any more “spiritual songs.” We have their Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, yet they leave us nothing with which to supplant the songs of Zion.

5. Because every human composition lacks divine appointment. The command is not, make “a psalm,” but “take” one. Psa. 81:2.

6. Because the Psalms are vitally adapted to our use. When we search the other scriptures, we learn how others served God; when we sing “the Lord’s song” aright, we worship him ourselves. Psa. 63:3-5.

7. Because, the psalms being given by the same Spirit who regenerates every Christian, they are precisely adapted to the growth of the soul in the divine life, being “the sincere milk of the word,” by which the believer grows 1 Pet. 2:2, when he “lets the word of Christ dwell in him richly.”

8. Again, when “all nations shall call Christ blessed,” his “watchmen shall sing together with the voice.” Isa. 52:8. “They shall lift up their voice, until from the uttermost parts of the earth shall be heard songs, even glory to the righteous.” Isa. 24:14-16. As they shall then see eye to eye, they will sing together, in the unity of the faith, “the song of Jehovah” Psa. 137:4,—that song which, given under the Old Testament dispensation, was “the song of Moses,” and which, being perpetuated coextensively with the reign of Messiah, is forever “the song of the Lamb.” Psa. 86:8-10; Rev. 15:3,4.

XXX. What psalmody has been used by the church since the death of our Saviour?

In the primitive churches, at Corinth 1 Cor. 14:26, at Ephesus, at Colosse, and among the twelve tribes Acts 26:7; Jam. 1:1, 5:13, the Psalms were exclusively used. Acts 16:25; Heb. 2:12; Psa. 22:22.

2. From Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and others, the practices of their respective periods may be partially learned. “The hearts of the pious, in all ages, have felt the value of the Psalms.” Athanasius styles them, “an epitome of the whole Scriptures”; Basil, “a compendium of all theology.” According to Charles Buck, “St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, is said to have been the first who composed hymns to be sung in churches, and he was followed by St. Ambrose. Most of those in the Roman breviary were composed by Prudentius.”

3. Luther, while he raised the enthusiasm of his countrymen by making for them poetical compositions, styled the Psalms “a little Bible,” and gave a metrical version of them to his churches.

4. When doctrine, government, worship, and discipline were farther reduced to scriptural purity by Calvin, he sang only the Psalms, in the version “began by Clement Marot, and completed by Beza. Guilliaume Franc set them to tunes, and the people seemed to be infatuated with the love of psalm-singing.”

5. The version of Hopkins and Sternhold was completed in 1562, and soon after adopted by the church of England. This denomination subsequently selected, and now use, the version of Tate and Brady, to which they add five hymns and a doxology. To it the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States appends a number of human compositions, yet, conscious of the want of divine authority, for any addition to the Psalms, “it is ordered, that when any hymn is sung, a portion of the Psalter shall be sung also.”

6. On the 19th of May, 1650, the Presbyterian version of the Psalms was adopted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In 1745, when persecution no longer purified her gold, and learned ease became not uncommon among her ministry, she added to the Psalms some forty-six metrical compositions, which, in thirty-six years of travail, grew to the (perfect?) number of sixty-seven pieces, called “paraphrases,” with an appendage of five hymns, all which were adopted by the Assembly, June 1, 1781. By many of the present generation, who have from infancy found them bound with “the Book of Psalms,” the “paraphrases” are viewed as if they were inspired—collected in the same manner—and prepared by the same divine appointment and authority to be the matter of Jehovah’s praise, as the Psalter has been. This common opinion is false.

7. By “the pilgrim fathers,” the Psalms were exclusively used, not only on board of the Mayflower, but for twenty-seven years after their landing at Plymouth. To a second edition of Eliot, Weld, and Mather’s version, published in 1647, “a few spiritual songs were added. Their psalms were those of the New England version, and they seldom used a hymn.”—Hood’s History of Music in New England, p.79.

This was affirmed of the pious in New England in the eighteenth century.

XXXI. What has for the last three quarters of a century, more than any thing else, superseded the Psalms among many Protestants?

The “imitations” and hymns of the Rev. Dr. Watts. These, written about 1719, were republished in America in 1741, the Psalms “imitated in the Language of the New Testament” by J. Edwards, and the hymns by Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

XXXII. What is now the matter of praise among the various Protestant denominations in Christendom?

1. Among Episcopalians. In the Established Churches of England and Ireland, and in the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States,” the Psalter, with a collection of human hymns, to be sung as above directed, see Q.XXX.5, is used. The same may be affirmed of the Lutherans in Europe, while “Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists, by John Wesley,” are used there by his followers. In America “a collection of Hymns for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church, principally from the collection of the Rev. John Wesley,” is set forth by her bishops.

2. Among Presbyterians. In Scotland, England, and the British colonies, the Psalms, with paraphrases, are used by all, excepting the Reformed, and perhaps a few others. In Ireland, the Psalms alone are the acknowledged matter of praise. In the United States, the Associate, the Reformed, and the Associate Reformed Churches profess to adhere exclusively to the Psalms, while the General Assemblies, the Reformed Dutch Church, and the Cumberland Presbyterians, employ human compositions.

3. Among the Congregational, or Independent family of sects, Watts’ Imitations, or other human hymns, are universally sung. To this branch of the Protestant faith modern hymns are indebted almost wholly for their composition and diffusion.

XXXIII. Are not human hymns better adapted to family worship than the Psalms?

Far otherwise. No collection of human compositions can portray, in the language of the heart, the varied joys and sorrows, which are incident to a religious family, much less to all religious families. Consequently, praise, as a part of family worship, is comparatively unknown where the Psalter is laid aside. “The voice of rejoicing” Psa. 118:15 is seldom heard in any “tabernacle” even “of the righteous,” where they do not “sing psalms.” Psa. 92:1,2.

XXXIV. Can any cases be presented in proof of this fact?

Yes. To say nothing of other lands, “Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,” have made, and continue to make, nearly every pious habitation in Scotland vocal with the praises of Jehovah. And, “in pious families” in New England, for the first century and a quarter from their settlement, “two were sung every day in the week, and on the Lord’s day, not less than eight, thus repeating each Psalm not less than six times a year.”—Hood’s History of Music, p.78.

XXXV. Is it then merely the prejudice of education, which binds those Presbyterians and Episcopalians who use them; and that bound the Puritans in New England to the use of the Psalms in praise?

No. It is the paramount authority of divine appointment in all things in religious worship, Num. 3:4; 19:2.; Lev. 10:1; 2 Sam. 6:3; Jam. 5:13; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; Psa. 95:2; 105:2: the example of the Church in her purest times; our own growth in grace; and the safety of true religion, as all erroneous doctrines must have corresponding human hymns for their propagation; and the Psalms are exclusively adapted to that “form of doctrine which is according to godliness,” commonly called Calvinism.

In the service of God, we ought always to employ the best, Mal. 1:8,14; consequently we should never substitute in the place of the true, living, and “incorruptible word of God,” the variable, contradictory, and unscriptural effusions of man, such as the following specimens from different authors:—

“My broken body thus I give,
For you, for all; take, eat, and live.”35th Par. ver.3.

“Still all may share his sovereign grace,
In every change secure.”
“Condemns reluctant, but extends
The hope of grace to all.” 62nd Par. ver.9,10.

“Go with our armies to the fight,
Like a confederate God.” Watts’s Imitation, 60, 5. Ed. ed.

“He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.” Watts’s Imitation, Ps. 98, 3.

“So Samson, when his hair was lost,
Met the Philistines to his cost;
Shook his vain limbs with sad surprise,
Made feeble fight, and lost his eyes.” Watts’s Hymns, book 1st, hymn 15, ver.5.

“Of every preacher I’d complain!
One spoke through pride, and one for gain;
Another’s learning small.”
“Some walk too straight to make a show,
While others far too crooked go;
And both of these I scorn.”
Mercer’s Cluster. A Baptist Hymn Book, hymn 231, ver.2,3.

“Ah! Lord, with trembling I confess
A gracious soul may fall from grace.” Meth. E. Hymn Book, hymn 91.

“Of my Savior possest,
I was perfectly blest,
As if filled with the fulness of God.”
“Ah! where am I now!
When was it, or how
That I fell from my heaven of grace.” Meth. E. Hymn Book, hymn 86, ver.6,7.

Or the following, from “Second Advent Hymns,” (Ed. Lowell, 1842) ,hymn 3rd, called “The Plain Truth.”

“Send the glory, send the glory,
Send the glory, just now.
Send the power, send the power,
Send the power, just now.
Shake the sinner, shake the sinner,
Shake the sinner, just now.”

Such specimens form, probably, not the one thousandth part of the fruits of human opinion and “will-worship,” which might be produced; yet they show to us, that no attainments in holiness will warrant even a regenerated man to claim for his writings inspiration; and no man, unless “moved by the Holy Ghost,” can “praise the name of God with a song” of his own making, which “shall please the Lord better than whole burnt-offering.” The true Christian has “this testimony, that he pleases God,” when he sings psalms to him with grace.

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” “The words of the Lord are pure words.” Psa. 12:6. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Prov. 30:6. Rev. 22:18.

The Manner of Praise.

“They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim.”—R. Burns.

I. How should praise be offered to God?

With the voice, with “the spirit, and with the understanding.” Psa. 30:1; 145:1; 66:17; Heb. 13:15; 1 Cor. 14:15; Psa. 42:4.

II. Why should praise be offered with the voice? Does not God fully know all silent thoughts?

Sentiments are capable of being rendered not only more attractive, but also more impressive, by their combination with musical sounds, especially when we “sing with grace in our hearts, making melody to the Lord.”

III. Why should praise be offered with the understanding?

Some sounds are adapted to sentiments of social pleasure, others to emotions of sorrow; some to matters of sentimental taste, and others, the reverse of all these, to the worship of God.

IV. May not then any musical sound be employed with propriety in the worship of God?

No. It would readily appear abhorrent to every religious mind, to combine those tunes, which are adapted, by their gravity and solemnity, to the worship of God, with the songs of convivial feasting; and it cannot possibly be less so to reverse the case—to associate, by tune, the ideas and feelings of military prowess, amorous yearnings, or bacchanalian revellings, with “the song of Jehovah,” “in the assembly of the saints.”

V. Why must praise be offered with the spirit?

Without the spirit, praise, as a part of religious worship, would not be acceptable to God. John 4:23,24.

VI. Was praise, as a part of worship, given to God, under the patriarchal dispensation?

Not so far as we are informed. We there find that instrumental music was early cultivated by the posterity of Cain. Gen. 4:21. Yet we are not assured that praise was given either by vocal or instrumental music to God, previous to the days of Moses.

VII. In what manner was praise celebrated under the Mosaic dispensation?

At the Red Sea, the whole congregation Exod. 15:1, sang, and at the conclusion of their worship, the women sang “with timbrels and with dances.” Exod. 15:20.

VIII. How was it conducted subsequently?

By singing, frequently accompanied with instrumental music, especially in the magnificent worship of the temple, 1 Chron. 23:5; 2 Chron. 29:25, which was arranged by “David, the man of God.” Neh. 12:36.

IX. Was instrumental music employed in Jewish worship by the appointment of God?

Yes. Always at the temple, after its erection, on the days of their great and solemn festivals, and at the offering of the morning and evening sacrifice; but never in their synagogues, the usual places of weekly worship. Instrumental music was of various kinds in their solemnities, and bore the same relation to praise that incense did to prayer. The one was always an accompaniment of the other. At the temple worship, or under the Mosaic dispensation, 1 Chron. 23:5; Ezra 3:10-12; 2 Chron. 8:14; Luke 1:10; 1 Chron. 23:13, and both instrumental music and incense were by the sacrifice of Christ superseded together. Psa. 141:2; Mal. 1:11; Rev. 5:8; Acts 10:4,30,31; Rev. 8:1,3,4.

X. Was instrumental music in use when Christ was on the earth?

Yes. Both it and the varied sacrifices of slain beasts were in use at the temple.

XI. How long was instrumental music continued in divine worship?

By the Jews, instruments were probably used at the temple until the destruction of it by Titus. By the primitive Christians they were never employed. “The weak and beggarly elements” of Jewish “bondage,” sacred persons, places, and things, priests, altars, temple, sacrifices, incense, robes, and instrumental music, all, all alike perished from acceptance in the worship of God, when Emmanuel exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished.”

XII. Do we find any express repeal of the use of instrumental music in the New Testament? or did our Saviour, the evangelists, or the apostles warn us against harp, psaltery, or organ, in the praise of God?

New Testament writers tell us what observances God requires under the gospel, not what institutions were abrogated. They teach us that the Lord’s supper is to be perpetually administered, but do not say the passover was no longer to be observed; they do not expressly say that instrumental music must be silenced in worship, but they direct and command us to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name;” to “sing with grace, making melody in our hearts, the word of Christ” contained in the Book of Psalms. Heb. 13:15; Jam. 5:13.

XIII. Was instrumental music used any where else but at the temple, in worship, in the days of our Saviour or of his apostles?

No. It was always confined entirely to the temple, (unless we call the sounding of the holy trumpets by the priests, in the time of war, worship), after God had chosen Jerusalem to put his name there, and instruments were never used in the synagogue. The Jews do not use, nor even tolerate, instruments in their worship now, and it is known that they never did. Hence Paul, in all his journeyings, could not find a single harp, psaltery, or organ, in any of the religious assemblies of his countrymen, beyond the precincts of the temple; and of course he never gave any warning or reproof against instruments. As the evil did not exist, the reproof of it could not be expected. He, however, speaks, in language bordering on contempt, of “things without life giving sound,” especially “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:7.

XIV. When was instrumental music permanently introduced into the Christian church?

It was introduced into the church at Rome, about 671, by Pope Vitalian; and the use of it was defended, not from Scripture, but from the assertion of “a power in the church to decree rites and ceremonies;” and by this assertion only can it now be maintained. So unlawful was it previously considered, that both the Christians and the Arians would have reckoned it a return back to Judaism to permit it in their public worship. “In the time of Justin Martyr, instrumental music was abolished; and, says he, psalms with organs and cymbals are fitter to please children that to instruct the church.”—Romaine.

XV. Has since been continued in the Papal Church?

Always. In demanding tithes from the people, it is helpful to the cause, to tell them of the sacrifice of the mass, of incense, of the priesthood, and of organs; and all go together with “the gorgeous compositions which are heard in the Romish church,” to edify “the simple faithful.”

XVI. How have the reformers and the reformed churches viewed instrumental music?

Luther is said “to have reckoned organs among the ensigns of Baal.”

Calvin says, “In Popery there is a ridiculous and unsuitable imitation of the Jews. They, the Papists, employ organs and many other ludicrous things, by which the word and worship of God are exceedingly profaned,” etc.

Beza calls them “artificial musical performances, which are addressed to the ear alone, and seldom strike the understanding even of the performers themselves.”

“That organs were an abomination to our venerable fathers, (says the Presbytery of Glasgow), is an historical fact, established by the most unexceptionable authorities.”

The General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, in 1644, say, “Many corruptions are removed, such as altars, and the great organs at Paul’s and Peter’s, of London, are taken down.” It may be here stated, that the simple scriptural “form of Presbyterian worship does not admit of any of the gorgeous compositions which are heard in the Romish church,” Prog. of Music, Part II, p.26, ed. London, 1846, and that Presbyterianism denies the existence of any “power” in any “church, to decree rites and ceremonies,” for “the house of God.”

XVI. Did “the Pilgrim fathers” employ instrumental music in the worship of God?

No. They had too much regard for divine authority to plunge into such “will-worship;” and when, in 1733, Bishop Berkeley presented the town named after him, in Massachusetts, with an organ, their Puritan feeling rejected his gift. It still gives “sound” in the Episcopal church, at Newport, R.I.

The first organ made in New England was built in 1745. Organs were probably unknown in Boston (excepting among Episcopalians) until since A.D. 1800. It is to the boasted “light of the nineteenth century,” in proportion as it is irradiated by the rays of will-worship from Papal Rome, that we are indebted for “those gorgeous compositions” of the choir and organ, which rival the performances of “the man of sin” himself, “those gorgeous compositions which are heard in the Romish church.”

XVII. Are not purer devotional feeling and a deeper tone or piety produced by a choir, or with instrumental music, than by vocal and congregational singing?

No. The supposed act of worship by proxy cannot at all equal that in which we personally engage. When we listen to the musical performances of others, we are in the mean time prevented from worshipping God ourselves; from “giving to him the fruit of our lips,” and form singing “psalms to him with grace.” Psa. 95:1,2.

“The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise;
No unison have they with our Creator’s praise.”

XVIII. As organs are fixtures in churches, is not all that is performed on them sacred?

No. Since instrumental worship in the Jewish temple was superseded by the sacrifice of Christ, when “the vail was rent in twain,” nothing performed on any instrument, on any “thing without life giving sound,” is sacred; although refined sentimentality divides and distributes musical performances, according to scientific taste and human fancy, in the following order: “W. M. brought out the different styles of which the instrument (a magnificent organ) is capable, with admirable effect, from the truly ecclesiastical to the operatic and secular.”—B. Rec., March 2, 1849.

XIX. Is there any connection between the adoption of an uninspired psalmody and the use of instruments in the worship of God?

The one usually leads to the other. Where men take the liberty of substituting human effusions for “the word of Christ,” it will not be difficult, when the means can be obtained, to “chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David.” Amos 5:23; 6:5.

XX. What, then, is the duty of Christian churches in this matter?

In whatever manner governed, they ought, as Protestants, carefully to avoid all unauthorized worship, either in the matter or manner or praise; to abide by that which is commanded, recollecting that all the em-bellishments and meretricious ornaments, with which human skill invests the matter and manner or our praise, are similar to the armour or Saul when placed on David. 1 Sam. 17:39. They form no appointed part of the “armour of God” in the Christian “warfare,” Eph. 6:11, and they must be cast aside, or we will incur the displeasure of “a jealous God;” spread, under his disapprobation, spiritual death over the churches of Christ; cause his children to weep in secret places; the men of this world to rejoice, and the enemies of Christ to blaspheme.

XXI. What, then, should we sing to the praise of God?

Our own edification and safety lie in singing only the Book of Psalms; not any “imitation,” but “the word of Christ” itself, in the most literal and correct version which can be obtained. Notwithstanding numerous minor defects, the Scotch or Presbyterian “version is, upon the whole, the best.” When using it, “we have the satisfaction to know, that we utter praise in the very words of inspiration;” and in the opinion of Boswell, “it is vain to think of having a better.” Of the version of Sternhold and Hopkins, the Rev. Wm. Romaine says, “It is generally the sentiment of the Holy Spirit. That is very rarely lost, and this should silence every objection—it is the word of God. Moreover, the version comes nearer to the original than any I have ever seen except the Scotch.” Some judicious verbal amendments, by the omission of antiquated words, would be truly desirable if Presbyterians could unanimously make them.

XXII. In what manner, then, should we sing these sacred songs to the praise of Jehovah?

Always as an act of divine worship, with the spirit and with the understanding, with our voice, and with grace in our hearts, making melody to the Lord—individually—in families—and in the house of God. Avoiding the decorations of a theatrical and sentimental taste, and delighting ourselves in the word of Christ after the inward man, we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; we will come to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and daily join with them in singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.

While others, in offering praise in human compositions, to their own Master must stand or fall, we, in singing psalms when merry, can never, never, never be wrong. Individually we may say to God,—

“Whom have I in the heavens high
But thee, O Lord, alone?—Psa. 73.

“Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill:
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.”—Psa. 23.

“But as for me, I thine own face
In righteousness will see;
And with thy likeness, when I wake,
I satisfied shall be.”—Psa. 17.

And when nothing but his own appointed matter shall be offered in praise to God, how soon will then be heard, “from the uttermost parts of the earth, songs, even glory to the righteous!” Then “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs;” the church of the living God being then “established in the top of the mountains, all nations shall flow unto it, singing together with the voice, saying,—

“All lands to God, in joyful sounds,
Aloft your voices raise:
Sing forth the honour of his name,
And glorious make his praise.”—Psa. 66.

Who will not add his tephilah, (his prayer), and say,—

“And blessed be his glorious name
To all eternity:
The whole earth let his glory fill.
Amen, so let it be.”—Psa. 72.


As the vindication of the ordinances of Praise in the foregoing form, may be considered merely the action of a prejudiced mind, or at best, the opinion of a few antiquated Presbyterians, I subjoin the views of the Rev. Wm. Romaine, of the Church of England, author of the “Life, Walk, and Triumph of Faith.” He writes with an earnestness and warmth befitting the subject; and no-one acquainted with his life and writings will suppose that he was actuated by any other motive than zeal for the glory of God and the purity of the church.

“THERE is another thing relating to the Psalms I cannot call it an abuse, for it is a total neglect of them. They are quite rejected in many congregations, as if there were no such hymns given by inspiration of God, and as if they were not left for the use of the church and to be sung in the congregation. Human compositions are preferred to divine. Man’s poetry is exalted above the poetry of the Holy Ghost. Is this right? The hymns which He revealed for the use of the church, that we might have words suitable to the praises of Immanuel, are quite set aside: by which means the word of man has got a preference in the church above the word of God; yea, so far as to exclude it entirely from public worship. It is not difficult to account for this strange practice. Our people had lost sight of the meaning of the Psalms. They did not see their relation to Jesus Christ. This happened when vital religion began to decay among us, more than a century ago.

My complaint is against preferring men’s poems to the good word of God, and preferring them to it in the church. I have no quarrel with Dr. Watts, or any living or dead versifier. I would not wish all their poems burnt. My concern is to see Christian congregations shut out divinely inspired Psalms, and take in Dr. Watts’s flights of fancy; as if the words of a poet were better that the words of a prophet, or as if the wit of man was to be preferred to the wisdom of God. When the church is met together in one place, the Lord God has made a provision for their songs of praise a large collection and great variety and why should not these be used in the church according to God’s express appointment? I speak not of private people or private singing, but of the church in its public service. Why should the provision God has made be so far despised as to become quite out of use? Why should Or. Watts, or any other hymn maker, not only take the precedence of the Holy Ghost, but also thrust him entirely out of the church? Insomuch that the rhymes of a man are magnified above the word of God, even to the annihilation of it in many congregations. If this be right, men and brethren, judge ye.

What poetry is to be compared with the Psalms of God? Who can make the singing of any human verses an ordinance, or give a blessing to them, such as is promised, and is given to the singing of Psalms? For what reason, then, are they set aside in the church? Why are the words of man’s genius preferred to the words of inspiration? Singing of psalms is commanded by divine authority, and commanded as a part of divine worship; not left to man’s wisdom how to provide for it, but is expressly provided for in the good word of God. And is not great contempt put upon this infinitely wise provision, when it is quite disused in the church, and man’s word is preferred to it?

What would you think of them who should throw aside all the Scripture, and never read it all in the congregation? And is it not an offence of the like nature, totally to neglect a part, a chief part of it, which was recorded for the use of the church, and in which its members were to sing the high praises of their God? It is hereby treated as useless and good for nothing. A very gross affront is put upon the love and wisdom which revealed this divine collection of hymns, and the church is deprived of the blessing promised to the singing of them, whereby it is robbed of one of its choicest treasures. If any thing be sacrilege, this is. The Psalms are stolen out of the church, and thereby the members are deprived of the blessings promised to the singing of them; for God will not give you the end if you neglect the means. Frequent are his commands in the Old Testament to sing psalms, and we have several in the New. for instance, let the word (not something beside it, but the word) of Christ itself dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. These are not different things, but different names for the same collection of Psalms, as they treat of different subjects.

We know from very clear testimony that the Psalms were sung in the Temple until its final destruction. We are certain that Christ made use of the Psalms. His apostles followed his example. The churches of Corinth, and Ephesus, and Colosse, made the singing of Psalms part of their public worship. Such of the twelve tribes as were scattered abroad, being persecuted for Christ’s sake, did sing psalms when they were in a happy frame; for they were commanded to do it by the apostle James. The church history affords abundant evidence of the use of psalms in every country converted to the faith, and of their being sung in the church as a part of public worship. This has been the case in every age, without any interruption. The primitive Christians sung in all their church meetings. Eusebius says, in the second century, they sung psalms in praise of Christ and his deity. In the time of Justin Martyr, instrumental music was abolished, and he highly commends singing with the voice, because, says he, psalms, with organs and cymbals, are fitter to please children, than to instruct the church. In the third century, we read much of psalm singing. Arius was complained of as a perverter of this ordinance. St. Augustine makes it a high crime, in certain heretics, that they sung hymns composed by human wit. The sense in which the church of Christ understood this subject, has been, till of late years, always one and uniform. Now we leave the ancient beaten path. But why? Have we found a better? How came we to be wiser than the prophets, than Christ, than his apostles, and the primitive Christians, yea, the whole church of God? They, with one consent have sung psalms in every age. Here I leave the reader to his own reflections. There is one plain inference to be made from hence; none can easily mistake it. May he see it in his judgment, and follow it in his practice.

What, say some, is it unlawful to sing human compositions in the church? How can that be? Why, they sing them at such a place, and such a place: great men, and good men, aye, and lively ministers too, sing them: will you set up your judgment against theirs?

It is an odious thing to speak of one’s self, except it be to magnify the grace of God. What is my private judgment? I set it up against nobody in indifferent things: I wish to yield to every man’s infirmity: for I want the same indulgence myself. But, in the present case, the Scripture, which is our only rule of judgment, has not left the matter indifferent. God has given us a large collection of hymns, and has commanded them to be sung in the church, and has promised his blessing to the singing of them. No respect here must be paid to names or authorities, though they be the greatest on earth; because no one can dispense with the command of God, and no one by his wit can compose hymns to be compared with the Psalms of God. I want a name for that man who should pretend that he could make better hymns than the Holy Ghost. His collection is large enough; it wants no addition. It is perfect as its Author, and not capable of any improvement. Why, in such a case, would any man in the world take it into his head to sit down and write hymns for the use of the church? 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. What a blasphemous attempt! And yet our hymnmongers, inadvertently, I hope, have come very near to this blasphemy; for they shut out the Psalms, introduce their own verses into the church, sing them with great delight, and, as they fancy, with great profit; although the whole practice be in direct opposition to the command of God, and, therefore cannot possibly be accompanied with the blessing of God.”

“The words of God are pure words.” Psa. 12:6.

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind