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´╗┐Title: A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody - 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 Hymns According to the Clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church.
Author: Watts, Isaac, 1674-1748
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody - 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 Hymns According to the Clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church." ***

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Transcriber's note:

   This essay was included at the end of the first printing of
   Isaac Watts (1707) "Hymns and Spiritual Songs" but was omitted
   was transcribed.

   The original 1707 page numbers are retained within curly brackets.

   The spelling and punctuation of the 1707 printing are also
   retained; so are any inconsistencies and errors (e.g. "Excercise"
   on p. 265) except that a mistake at the bottom of page 246, as
   noted in the publisher's concluding "Errata," has been corrected.

   The long 's' has been replaced by its modern equivalent.

   Words broken off and hyphenated at the ends of lines have been
   joined up and the hyphens deleted.

   Italics in the original are indicated by underscores around the
   text. Watts uses italics for proper nouns and quotations; when
   proper nouns occur within quotations their italics are removed.

   Greek letters have been transliterated (e.g. _Psalmos_).

A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody:

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
Hymns according to the clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of
the Christian Church.


Isaac Watts

{233} A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody: 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 Hymns according to
the clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian

To speak the Glories of God in a religious Song, or to breath 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'm perswaded, that the poor Performance
of it in the best Societies, {234} with the mistaken Rules to which it
is confined is one great Reason of their intire 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 Piece 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, he 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 Truth_; 1 Cor. 14. 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 mention'd, and afterwards see what Arguments may be
deduced from thence, to prove, that 'tis proper to use Spiritual Songs
of humane Composure, as well as the Psalms of _David_ or the Words of
other Songs recorded in Scripture.

The most considerable Texts are these; _Mat._ 26. 30. & _Mark_ 14. 26.
relate, that our blessed Lord and his Disciples _sung an Hymn_. Acts
16. 25. _Paul and Silas prayed and sung Praises unto God._ 1 Cor. 14.
15. _I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the
Understanding also._ Ver. 26. _Every one of you hath a Psalm._ Eph._ 5.
19, 20. _Speaking to your selves in Psalms and Hymns, and Spiritual
Songs; singing and making Melody in your Hearts to the Lord, giving
Thanks always for all things to God and the Father, in the Name of
{235} our Lord Jesus Christ_.  Col 3. 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._ Jam. 5.  13. _Is any among you afflicted, let him pray: Is any
merry, let him sing Psalms_. Rev. 5. 9. _And they sing a new Song,
saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book and to open the Seals thereof,
for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy Blood_. Rev. 14.
3. _And they sung as it were a new Song before the Throne_. Rev. 15. 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 4. 24, &c. Where it is suppos'd the Disciples met
together and sung; 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 Mouth 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 whom 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.

{236} If we turn over the New Testament, and search out 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 Song of the Virgin _Mary_, Luke 1. 46, &C. They Song of
_Zecharias_, ver. 67. The Song of the Angels, _Luke_ 2. 13. And of
_Simeon_, ver. 29. Besides many others in the Book of the _Revelations.
The three chief Words used to express the Matter of Singing, are
_Psalmoi, _Humnoi kai Odai_: _Psalms, Hymns and Songs_, as the three
Verbs from which these are derived are generally used to express the
Act of Singing, _psallo, humneo, i ado_. 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 hath better explain'd the original Meaning of these
Words than _Zanchy_. A Psalm, _Psalmos_, is such a Song as usually is
sung with other Instruments besides the Tongue. Hymns, _Humnoi_, such
as are made only to express the Praises, and set out the Excellencies
of God. Songs, _Odai_, such as contain not only Praises, but
Exhortations, Prophesies, Thanksgivings; and these only sung with the

2. The Scripture doth not always confine it self to the original
Meaning of all these Words; for _Psalmos_ a Psalm, and the Word
_psallo_, are used, 1 Cor. 14. and in other Places of the New
Testament, where we can never suppose the primitive Church in those
Days {237} had Instruments of Music. And the Word _Ode_ a Song, is used
several times in the Book of _Revelations_, where Harps are join'd with
Voices in the Emblematical Prophesy.

3. The Sense therefore of these Words in the New Testament seems to be
thus distinguish'd. A Psalm is a general Name for any thing that is
sung in Divine Worship, whatsoever be the particular Theme or Matter;
and the Verb _psallo_ is design'd to express the Melody it self rather
than to distinguish the Matter of the Song, or Manner whereby the
Melody or Music is performed; and therefore in Eph. 5. 19. our
Translators have well rendred _adontes kai psallontes_, _Singing and
making Melody_; and it should be thus rendred, Jam. 5. 13.  _Is any
merry, let him make Melody_. I confess in the New Testament the Noun
_Psalmos_ refers generally to the Book of Psalms, and without Doubt
there are many of the Palms of _David_ and _Asaph_, and other Songs
among the Books of the Old Testament which may be prudently chosen and
sung by Christians, and may be well accomodated to the Lips and Hearts
of the Church under the Gospel. Yet this Word is once used in another
Sense, as I shall show afterwards.

An Hymn, whether imply'd in the Verb _humneo_, or exprest in the Noun
_Humnos_, doth always retain its original Signification, and intend a
Song whose Matter or Design is Praise: Nor is there any thing in the
Nature or Use of the Word either in Scripture or other {238} Authors,
that determines it to signify an immediate Inspiration, or humane

A Song, _Ode_, denotes any Theme or Subject compos'd into a Form fit
for Singing, and seems to intend somewhat suited to the Gospel-State,
rather than any Jewish Psalms or Songs in all the five Verses in the
New Testament where it is used.

Eph. 5. 19. & Col. 3. 16. 'Tis join'd with the word _Spiritual_; and
that seems to be used by the Apostle in all his Epistles, as a very
distinguishing Word between the Law and Gospel, the Jewish and the
Christian Worship. The Jews had _carnal Ordinances_, and _carnal
Commandments_, and their State and Dispensation is often called
_Flesh_, but the Church under the Gospel is a _spiritual House, blessed
with spiritual Blessings_, endow'd _with spiritual Gifts_, to _worship
God in Spirit and in Truth_, to _offer spiritual Sacrifices_, and to
_sing spiritual Songs_.

Col. 3. 16. Confirms this Sense, for _the Word of Christ_ must _dwell
richly in us in Psalms and Hymns, and spiritual Songs_. Now tho the
Books of the Old Testament may in some Sense be called the _Word of
Christ_, because the same Spirit which was afterwards given to _Christ_
the Mediator did inspire them; yet this seems to have a peculiar
reference to the Doctrine and Discoveries of _Christ_ under the Gospel,
which might be compos'd into spiritual Songs for the greater Ease of
Memory in learning, teaching and admonishing one another.

{239} Rev. 5. 9. & 14. 3.  There is mention of a _New Song_, and that
is pure Evangelical Language, suited to the _New Testament_, the _New
Covenant_, the _new and living Way_-.of Access to God, and to the _new
Commandment_ of him who sits _upon the Throne_, and _behold_, he _makes
all things new_. The words of this Song are, _Worthy is the Lamb, for
thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy Blood, &c. and none
could learn it but those who follow the Lamb, who were redeemed from
among Men, &c._ And it must be noted here, that this Book of the
_Revelations_ describes the Worship of the Gospel-Church on Earth, as
is agreed by all Interpreters, tho it borrows some of its Emblems from
the Things of Heaven, and some from the Jewish State. I might here
remark also, that when a _new Song_ is mention'd in the Old Testament,
it refers to the Times of the _Messiah_, and is prophetical of the
Kingdom of _Christ_, or at least it is a Song indited upon a new
Occasion publick or personal, and the Words of it are accomodated to
some new Tokens of Divine Mercy.

Rev. 15. 3. _They sing the Song of Moses, the Servant of God, and the
Song of the Lamb_; that is, a Song for temporal and for spiritual
Deliverances; or, a Song for all antient or all later Salvations of the
Church. As Moses was a Redeemer from the House of Bondage, and a
Teacher of Divine Worship with Harps and Ceremonies; so the Lamb is a
Redeemer from _Babylon_ and spiritual Slavery, and he {240} is the
great Prophet to teach his Church the spiritual Worship of the Gospel.
The Church now, under the Salvations and Instructions of the Lamb,
sings with the Voice to the Glory of the Vengeance and the Grace of
God, as _Israel_  under the Conduct of _Moses_ sung with Harps; for we
must observe, that these Visions of the Apostle _John_ often represent
Divine Things in a Gospel-Church, in Imitation of the Ranks and Orders
of the _Jewish_ Camp and Tribes, and by the Rites and Figures used in
the time of _Moses_; and it would be as unreasonable to prove from this
Text, that we must sing the very words of the _15th of Exodus_ in a
Christian Church, as to prove from this Book of the _Revelations_ that
we must use Harps and Altars, Censers, Fire and Incense. But 'tis plain
that the _15th of Exodus_ cannot be here intended, because the Words of
the Song are mention'd just after, (viz.) _Great, and marvellous are
thy Works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy Ways, thou King of
Saints_. Yet after all, if it could be proved, that the very Song which
_Moses_ sung is here design'd, still it must be confest that the Song
of the Lamb is also to be sung; and if the following Words in this Text
are not to be esteem'd the Song of _Moses_, then neither are they to be
esteem'd the Song of the Lamb; because there is not any express mention
of the Lamb, or his Death, or Resurrection, or Redemption; nor is there
any other Song in Scripture that bears that title and consequently
it must signifie a Song compos'd {241} to the praise of God for
our deliverance by the Lamb, in imitation of the Joy composed for
deliverance by the Hand of _Moses_: And thus at least we are to suit
part of our Psalmody to the Gospel-State as well as borrow part from
the Old Testament, which is the chief point I designed to prove.

The next Enquiry then proceeds thus: How must the Psalms of _David_ and
other Songs borrowed from Scripture, be translated in order to be sung
in Christian Worship? Surely, it will be granted, that to prepare them
for Psalmody under the Gospel, requires another sort of Management in
the Translation, than to prepare them merely for Reading as the _Word
of God_ in our Language, and that upon these two accounts:

_First_, If it be the duty of the Churches to sing Psalms, they must
necessarily be turned into such a sort of Verse and Metre as will best
fit them for the whole Church to join in the Worship: Now this will be
very different from a Translation of the original Language word for
word; for the Lines must be confined to a certain number of Syllables,
and the Stanza or Verse to a certain number of Lines, that so the Tune
being short the people may be acquainted with it, and be ready to sing
without much difficulty; whereas if the Words were merely translated
out of the _Hebrew_ as they are for reading, every Psalm must be set
through to music, and every Syllable in it must have a particular
musical Note belonging to itself, as in Anthems {242} that are sung in
Cathedrals: But this would be so exceeding difficult to practise, that
it would utterly exclude the greatest part of every Congregation from a
Capacity of obeying God's Command to sing. Now, in reducing a _Hebrew_
or a _Greek_ Song to a Form tolerably fit to be sung by an _English_
Congregation, here and there a Word of the Original must be omitted,
now and then a Word or two superadded, and frequently a Sentence or an
Expression a little alter'd and chang'd into another that is something
a-kin to it: And yet greater Alterations must the Psalm suffer if we
will have any thing to do with Rhime; those that have labour'd with
utmost Toil to keep very close to the Hebrew have found it impossible;
and when they have attain'd it most, have made but very poor Music for
a Christian Church. For it will often happen, that one of the most
affectionate and most Spiritual Words in the Prose will not submit to
its due Place in the Metre, or does not end with a proper Sound, and
then it must be secluded, and another of less proper Sense be put in
the Room of it: Hereby some of the chief Beauties and Excellencies of
_David_'s Poetry will be omitted and lost, which if not reviv'd again,
or recompenc'd by some lively or pathetic Expression in the _English_,
will necessarily debase the Divine Song into Dullness and Contempt: And
hereby also it becomes so far different from the inspired Words in the
Original Languages, that it is very hard for any Man to say, {243} that
the Version of _Hopkins_ and _Sternhold_, the _New-England_ or the
_Scots_ Psalms, are in a strict Sense the Word of God. Those Persons
therefore that will allow nothing to be sung but the words of
inspiration or Scripture ought to learn the Hebrew Music, and sing in
the Jewish Language; or at least I can find no Congregation with which
they can heartily join according to their own Principles, but the
Congregation of _Choristers_ in Cathedral Churches, who are the only
_Levites_ that _sing Praise unto the Lord with the Words of_ David
_and_ Asaph _the Seer_, 2 Chron. 29. 30.

_Secondly_, Another Reason why the Psalms ought not to be translated
for Singing just in the same manner as they are for Reading, is this,
that the Design of these two Duties is very different: By Reading we
learn what God speaks to us in his Word; but when we sing, especially
unto God, our chief Design is, or should be, to speak our own Hearts
and our Words to God. By Reading we are instructed what have been the
Dealings of God with Men in all Ages, and how their Hearts have been
exercis'd in their Wandrings from God, and Temptations, or in their
Returns and Breathings towards God again; but Songs are generally
Expressions of our own Experiences, or of his Glories; we acquaint him
what Sense we have of his Greatness and Goodness, and that chiefly in
those Instances which have some Relation to us: We breath out our Souls
towards him, and make {244} Addresses of Praise and Acknowledgment to
him. Tho I will not assert it unlawful to sing to God the Words of
other Men which we have no Concern in, and which, are very contrary to
our Circumstances and the Frame of our Spirits; yet it must be confest
abundantly more proper, when we address God in a Song, to use such
Words as we can for the most part assume as our own: I own that 'tis
not always necessary our Songs should be direct Addresses to God; some
of them may be mere Meditations of the History of Divine Providences,
or the Experiences of former Saints; but even then, if those
Providences or Experiences cannot be assum'd by us as parallel to our
own, nor spoken in our own Names; yet still there ought to be some
Turns of Expression that may make it look at least like our own present
Meditation, and that may represent it as a History which we our selves
are at that time recollecting. I know not one Instance in Scripture, of
any later Saint singing any part of a Composure of former Ages, that is
not proper for his own Time, without force Expressions that tend to
accommodate or apply it. But there are a multitude of Examples amongst
all the Scriptural Songs, that introduce the Affairs of preceding Ages
in the Method I have described. Psal. 44. 1, &c. When _David_ is
recounting the Wonders of God in planting the Children of _Israel_ in
the Land of _Canaan_, he begins his Song thus, _We have heard with our
Ears O God, our Fathers have told us {245} what Works thou didst in
their Days, in times of old, how thou didst drive Out the Heathen with
thy Hand, and plantedst them, how thou didst afflict The People, and
cast them out._ Psal. 78. 2, &c. _I will open my Mouth in a Parable, I
will utter dark Sayings of old which we have heard and known, and our
Fathers have told us, we will not hide them from their Children,
shewing to the Generation to come the Praises of the_ Lord. So he
relates the Converse and Covenant of God with _Abraham_, _Isaac_ and
_Israel_, as a Narration of former Providences and Experiences, Psal.
105. 8, 9, 10, &c. So in the Virgin _Mary_'s Song, and the Song of
_Zecharia_. And I know not any thing can be objected here, but that a
Prophet perhaps in some instances may assume the Words of _Christ_ or
the Saints in following Ages; but it should be observed that this is
almost always in such Respects wherein Persons or Circumstances present
were typical of what is future, and so their Cases become parallel.

By these Considerations we are easily led into the true Method of
translating ancient Songs into Christian Worship. Psalms that are
purely Doctrinal, or meerly Historical, are Subjects for our
Meditation, and may be translated for our present Use with no
Variation, if it were possible; and in general, all those Songs of
Scripture which the Saints of following Ages may assume for their own:
Such are the 1st, the 8th, the 19th, and many others. Some Psalms may
be apply'd to our Use by the Alteration of a Pronoun, putting {246}
_They_ in the place of We, and changing some Expressions which are not
suited to our Case into a Narration or Rehearsal of God's Dealings with
others: There are other Divine Songs which cannot properly be
accommodated to our Use, and much less be assum'd as our own without
very great Alterations, (_viz_.) such as are filled with some very
particular Troubles or Enemies of a Person, some Places of Journeying
or Residence, some uncommon Circumstances of a Society, to which there
is scarce any thing parallel in our Day or Case: Such are many of the
Songs of _David_, whose Persecutions and Deliverances were very
extraordinary: Again, such as express the Worship paid unto God by
carnal Ordinances and Utensils of the Tabernacle and Temple. Now if
these be converted into Christian Songs in our Nation, I think the
Names of _Ammon_ and _Moab_ may be as properly chang'd into the Names
of the chief Enemies of the Gospel, so far as may be without publick
Offence: _Judah_ and _Israel_ may be called _England_ and _Scotland_,
and the Land of _Canaan_ may be translated into _Great Britain_; The
cloudy and typical Expressions of the legal Dispensation should be
turned into Evangelical Language, according to the Explications of the
New Testament: And when a Christian Psalmist, among the Characters of a
Saint, Psal. 15. 5. meets with the Man that _puts not out his Money to
Usury_, he ought to exchange _one that is no Oppressor_ for an
Oppressor or Extortioner, since Usury {247} is not utterly forbidden to
Christians, as it was by the Jewish Law; and wheresoever he finds the
Person or Offices of our Lord _Jesus Christ_ in Prophecy, they ought
rather to be translated in a way of History, and those Evangelical
Truths should be stript of their Vail of Darkness, and drest in such
Expressions that Christ may appear in 'em to all that sing. When he
comes to Psal. 40. 6. and reads there Words, _Mine Ears hast thou
opened_, he should learn from the Apostle to say, _A Body hast thou
prepared for me_, Heb. 10. 5. Instead of _binding the Sacrifice with
Cords to the Horns of the Altar_, Psal. 118. 27. we should _offer up
Spiritual Sacrifices_ (that is the Prayer and Praise of the Heart and
Tongue) _acceptable to God by Jesus Christ_, 1 Pet. 2. 5. Where there
are any dark Expressions, and difficult to be understood in the Hebrew
Songs, these should be left out in our Psalmody, or at least made very
plain by a Paraphrase. Where there are Sentences, or whole Psalms, that
can very difficultly be accommodated to our Times, they may be utterly
omitted. Such is Psal. 150. part of the 38, 45, 60, 68, 81, 108. and
some others, as well as a great part of the Song of _Solomon_.

Perhaps 'twill be objected here, that the Book of Psalms would hereby
be rendred very imperfect, and some weak Persons might imagine this
Attempt to fall under the Censure of Rev. 22. 18, 19. that is, of
_taking away from, or adding to the Words of the Book {248} of God_.
But 'tis not difficult to reply that though the whole Book: of Psalms
was given to be read by us as God's Word for our Use and Instruction,
yet it will never follow from thence that the whole was written as a
Psalter for the Christian Church to use in Singing. For if this were
the Design of it, then every Psalm, and every Line of it might be at
one time or another proper to be sung by Christians: But there are many
hundred Verses in that Book which a Christian cannot properly assume in
singing without a considerable Alteration of the Words, or at least
without putting a very different Meaning upon them, from what _David_
had when he wrote them; and therefore there is no necessity of
translating always intire Psalms, nor of preparing the whole Book for
_English_ Psalmody. I might here add also Dr. _Patrick_'s Apology in
his Century of Psalms first publish'd, that he took but the same
Liberty which is allow'd to every Parish-Clerk, to chuse what Psalm and
what Verses of it he would propose to the People to sing.

Give me leave here to mention several Passages which were hardly made
for Christian Lips to assume without some Alteration: Psal. 68. 13, 14,
15, 16. _Tho ye have lain among the Pots, yet shall ye be as the Wings
of a Dove cover'd with Silver, and her Feathers with yellow Gold: When
the Almighty scatter'd Kings in it, it was white as Snow in_ Salmon.
_The Hill of God is as the Hill of Bashan, &c. Why leap ye, ye Hills,
&c; ver. 25. {249} The Singers went before, the Players on Instruments
followed after, amongst them were the Damsels playing with Timbrels:
Bless ye God in the Congregation, even the Lord from the Fountain of_
Israel: _There is little_ Benjamin _with their Ruler, the Princes of_
Judah _and their Council, the Princes of_ Zebulun, _and the Princes of_
Naphtali. _Because of thy Temple at_ Jerusalem _Kings shall bring
Presents unto thee. Rebuke the Company of Spearmen, the Multitude of
Bulls, with the Calves of the People, till every one submit himself
with Pieces of Silver._ Psal. 71. 2, 3, &c. _Take a Psalm, and bring
hither the Timbrel, the pleasant Harp with the Psaltery, blow up the
Trumpet in the New Moon, in the Time appointed on our solemn Feast-Day,
&c._ Psal. 84. 3, 6. _The Sparrow hath found an House, and the Swallow
a Nest for her self, where she may lay her Young, even thine Altars, O
Lord of Hosts, &c. Blessed is the Man whose Strength is in thee, in
whose Heart are the Ways of them, who passing thro the Valley of_ Bacha
_make it a Well, the Rain also filleth the Pools._ Psal: 108. 2, 7, 8,
9. _Awake Psaltery and Harp, I my self will awake early. God hath
spoken in his Holiness; I will rejoyce, I will divide_ Shechem_, and
mete out the Vally of_ Succoth; Gilead _is mine,_ Manasseh _is mine,_
Ephraim _also is the Strength of mine Head,_ Judah _is my Lawgiver,_
Moab _is my Washpot, over_ Edom _will I cast out my Shoe, over_
Philistia _will I triumph; Who will bring me into the strong City, who
will lead me into_ Edom _Psal. 69, 8 & 109._ are so full of Cursings
{250} that they hardly become the Tongue of a Follower of the blessed
_Jesus_, who dying pray'd for his own Enemies; _Father forgive them,
for they know not what they do._ Psal. 134. is suited to the Temple or
Tabernacle-Worship; the Title is, _A Song of Degrees_, that is, as
Interpreters believe, to be sung as the Kings of _Israel_ went up by
Steps or Degrees to the House of God; In the _two first Verses_ the
King calls upon the Levites, _which by Night stand in the House of the
Lord, to lift up their Hands in the Sanctuary, and to bless the Lord_;
the _3d Verse_ is an Antiphona or Reply of the Levites to the King;
_the Lord that made Heaven and Earth bless thee out of_ Zion. 'Twould
be endless to give an Account of all the Paragraphs of ancient Songs,
which can scarce ever be accommodated to Gospel-Worship.

The Patrons of another Opinion will say we must sing the Words of
_David_, and apply them in our Meditation to the things of the New
Testament: But can we believe this to be the best Method of worshiping
God, to sing one thing and mean another? besides that the very literal
Sense of many of many of these Expressions is exceeding deep and
difficult, and not one in twenty of a religious Assembly can possibly
understand them at this Distance from the Jewish Days; therefore to
keep close to the Language of _David_, we must break the Commands
of God by _David_, who requires that we _sing his Praises with
Understanding_, Psal. 47.7. And I am {251} perswaded, that St. _Paul_
if he lived in our Age and Nation, would no more advise us to sing
unintelligible Sentences in _London_, than himself would sing in an
unknown Tongue at _Corinth_, 1 Cor. 14. 15, 19. After all, if the
literal Sense were known, yet the Application of many Verses of _David_
to our State and Circumstances was never design'd, and is utterly
impossible; and even where it is possible, yet 'tis so exceeding
difficult that very few Persons in an Assembly are capable of it; and
when they attempt it, if their Thoughts should be enquir'd one by one,
you would find very various, wretched, and contradictory Meanings
put upon the Words of the Hebrew Psalmist, and all for want of an
Evangelical Translation of him. 'Tis very obvious and common to observe
that Persons of Seriousness and Judgment that consider what they sing,
are often forced to break off in the midst, to omit whole Lines and
Verses, even where the best of our present Translations at used; and
thus the Tune, and the Sense, and their Devotion is interrupted at
once, because they dare not sing without understanding, and almost
against their Consciences. Whereas the more unthinking Multitude go on
singing in chearful Ignorance wheresoever the _Clerk_ guides them,
a-cross the River _Jordan_, thro' the Land of _Gebal, Ammon_ and
_Amalek; He leads 'em into the strong City, he brings them into_ Edom;
Anon they follow him _thro' the Valley of_ Bacha, till they come
up to _Jerusalem_; they wait upon him into {252} the Court of
Burnt-Offerings, and _bind their Sacrifice with Cords to the Horns of
the Altar_; they enter so far into the Temple, till they join their
Song in Consort with the _high sounding Cymbals_, their Thoughts are
be-darkened with the Smoke of Incense, and cover'd with _Jewish_ Veils.
Such Expressions as these are the beauties and Perfections of a
_Hebrew_ Song, they paint every thing to the Life: Such Language was
suited by Infinite Wisdom to raise the Affections of the Saints of that
Day: But I fear they do but sink our Devotion, and hurt our Worship.

 I esteem the Book of _Psalms_ the most valuable Part of the Old
Testament upon many Accounts: I advise the Reading and Meditation of it
more frequently than any single Book of Scripture; and what I advise I
practise. Nothing is more proper to furnish our Souls with devout
Thoughts, and lead us into a World of Spiritual Experiences: The
Expressions of it that are not _Jewish_ or peculiar, give us constant
Assistance in Prayer and in Praise: But yet if we would prepare
_David_'s Psalms to be sung by Christian Lips, we should, observe these
two plain Rules.

_First_, They ought to be translated its such a Manner as we have
reason to believe _David_ would have compos'd 'em if he had lived in
our Day: And therefore his Poems are given as a Pattern to be imitated
in our Composures, rather than as the precise and invariable Matter of
our Psalmody. 'Tis one of the Excellencies of Scripture-Songs, that
they {253} are exactly suited to the very Purpose and Design for which
they were written, and that both in the Matter, in the Stile, and in
all their Ornaments: This gives Life and Strength to the Expression, it
presents Objects to the Ears and to the Eyes, and touches the Heart in
the most affecting Manner. _David_'s Language is adapted to his own
Devotion, and to the Worship of the _Jewish_ Church; he mentions the
very Places of his Journies, or Retirements, of his Sorrows, or his
Successes; He names the Nations that were Enemies of the Church, or
that shall be its Friends and tho for the most part he leaves the
single Persons of his Time nameless in the Body of his Psalm, yet he
describes them there with great Particularity, and often names them in
the Title. This gives us abundant Ground to infer, that should the
_Sweet-Singer of Israel_ return from the Dead into our Age, he would
not sing the Words of his own Psalms without considerable Alteration;
and were he now to transcribe them, he would make them speak the
present Circumstances of the Church, and that in the Language of the
New Testament: He would see frequent Occasion to insert the Cross of
Christ in his Song, and often interline the Confessions of his Sins
with the Blood of the Lamb; often would he describe the Glories and the
Triumphs of our blessed Lord in long and flowing Verse, even as St.
_Paul_, when he mentions the Name and Honours of Christ can hardly part
his Lips from 'em again: {254} His Expressions would run ever bright
and clear; such as here and there we find in a single Verse of his old
Composures, when he is transported beyond himself, and carried far away
from _Jewish_ Shadows by the Spirit of Prophecy and the Gospel. We have
the more abundant Reason to believe this, if we observe, that all along
the sacred History as the Revelations of God and his Grace were made
plainer, so the Songs of the Saints express'd that Grace and those
Revelations according to the Measure of their Clearness and Increase.
Let us begin at the Song of _Moses_, Exod. 15. and proceed to _David_
and _Solomon_, to the Song of the _Virgin Mary_, of _Zecharias_,
_Simeon_, and the _Angels_, the _Hosanna_ of the young Children, the
Praises paid to God by the Disciples in the _Acts_, the Doxologies of
_Paul_, and the Songs of the Christian Church in the Book of the
_Revelations_: Every Beam of new Light that broke into the World gave
occasion of fresh joy to the Saints, and they were taught to sing of
Salvation in all the Degrees of its advancing Glory.

_Secondly_, In the Translation of _Jewish_ Songs for Gospel-Worship, if
Scripture affords us any Example, we should be ready to follow it,
and the Management thereof should be a Pattern for us. Now tho the
Disciples and primitive Christians had so many and so vast Occasions
for Praise, yet I know but two Pieces of Songs they borrow'd from the
Book of Psalms. One is mention'd in _Luke_ 19.38.

{255} Where the Disciples assume a Part of a Verse from the 118th
Psalm, but sing it with Alterations and Additions to the Words of

The other is the Beginning of the second Palm, sung by _Peter_ and
_John_ and their Company, _Acts_ 4. 23, 24, &c. You find there an
Addition of Praise in the Beginning, _Lord thou art God which hast made
Heaven and Earth, and the Sea, and all that in them is_. Then there is
a Narration of what _David_ spoke, _who by the Mouth of thy servant_
David _hast said_, &c. Next follow the two first Verses of that Psalm,
but not in the very Words of the Psalmist: Afterwards an Explication of
the _Heathen_ and the _People_, (viz.) the _Gentiles_ and _Israel_: The
_Kings_ and the _Rulers_, (viz.) _Herod_ and _Pontius Pilate_, and the
_Holy Child Jesus_, is God's _anointed_. Then there is an Enlargement
of the Matter of Fact by a Consideration of the Hand of God in it, and
the Song concludes with the breathing of their Desires towards God for
Mercies most precisely suited to their Day and Duty; and you find when
they had sung, they went to Prayer in the Assembly, and then they
preached the Word of God by the holy Ghost, and with amazing Success. O
may I live to see Psalmody perform'd in these evangelick Beauties of
Holiness! May these Ears of mine be entertain'd with such Devotion in
Publick, such Prayer, such Preaching, and such Praise! May these Eyes
behold such returning Glory in the Churches! Then my Soul shall be all
Admiration, my Tongue {256} shall humbly attempt to mingle in the
Worship, and assist the Harmony and the Joy.

After we have found the true Method of translating _Jewish_ Songs for
the Use of the _Christian_ Church, let us enquire also how lawful and
necessary 'tis to compose Spiritual Songs of a more evangelic Frame for
the Use of Divine Worship under the Gospel.

The _First_ Argument I shall borrow from all the foregoing Discourse
concerning the Translation of the Psalms of _David_: For by that
time they are fitted for Christian Psalmody, and have all the
Particularities of Circumstance that related to _David_'s Person, and
Times alter'd and suited to our present Case; and the Language of
_Judaism_ is chang'd into the Stile of the Gospel; the Form and
Composure of the Psalm can hardly be called inspired or Divine: only
the Materials or the Sense contain'd therein may in a large Sense be
called the Word of God, as it is borrowed from that Word. Why then may
it not be esteemed as lawful to take some Divine Sense and Materials
agreeable to the Word of God, and suited to the present Case and
Experience of Christians, and compose them into a Spiritual Song?
Especially when we cannot find one ready pen'd in the Bible, whose
Subject is near a-kin to our present Condition, or whose Form is
adapted to our present Purpose.

The _Second_ Argument shall be drawn from the several Ends and Designs
of Singing, which can never be sufficiently attain'd by {257} confining
ourselves to _David_'s Psalms, or the Words of any Songs in Scripture.
The first and chief intent of this part of Worship, is to express unto
God what Sense and Apprehensions we have of his Essential Glories; and
what notice we take of his Works of Wisdom and Power, Vengeance and
Mercy; 'tis to vent the inward Devotion of our Spirits in Words of
Melody, to speak our own Experience of divine Things, especially our
religious Joy; 'twould be tiresom to recount the endless Instances out
of the Book of Psalms and other divine Songs, where this is made the
chief Business of them. In the Texts of the New Testament where Singing
is requir'd, the same Designs are propos'd; when the _Ephesians are
filled with the Spirit_, the Enlightner and Comforter, they are charged
to indulge those Divine Sensations, and let them break out into a
_Spiritual Song_, Eph. 5.19. When _any is merry_ or chearful, the
Apostle _James_ bids him express it by _Singing_. _Giving Thanks unto
God_, is the Command of St. _Paul_ to the Saints while he injoins
Psalmody on them; And speaking the Wonders of his Power, Justice and
Grace, is the Practice of the Church constantly in the Visions of St.
_John_. To _teach and admonish one another_, is mention'd by St. _Paul_
as another Design of Singing; the Improvement of our Meditations, and
the kindling Divine Affections Within our selves, is one of the
Purposes also of religious Melody, if Eph. 5. 19. be rightly
translated. Now, {258} how is it possible all these Ends should be
attain'd by a Christian, if he confines his Meditations, his Joys, and
his Praises, to the _Hebrew_ Book of Psalms? Have we nothing more of
the Nature of God revealed to us than _David_ had? Is not the Mystery
of the ever-blessed Trinity brought out of Darkness into open Light?
Where can you find a Psalm that speaks the Miracles of Wisdom and Power
as they are discover'd in a crucify'd _Christ_? And how do we rob God
the Son of the Glory of his dying Love, if we speak of it only in the
gloomy Language of _Smoke and Sacrifices, Bullocks and Goats, and
the Fat of Lambs_? Is not the Ascent of _Christ_ into Heaven, and
his Triumph over Principalities and Powers of Darkness a nobler
Entertainment for our tuneful Meditations than the removing of the Ark
up to the City of David, to the Hill of God, which is high as the Hill
of Bashan? Is not our Heart often warm'd with holy Delight in the
Contemplation of the Son of God our dear Redeemer whose Love was
stronger than Death? Are not our Souls possess'd with a Variety of
Divine Affections, when we behold him who is our chief Beloved hanging
on the cursed Tree, with the Load of all our Sins upon him, and giving
up his Soul to the Sword of Divine Justice in the stead of Rebels and
Enemies? And must these Affections be confin'd only to our own Bosoms,
or never break forth but in _Jewish_ Language, and Words which were not
made to express the {259} Devotion of the Gospel? The Heaven and the
Hell that we are acquainted with by the Discovery of God our Saviour,
give us amore distinct Knowledge of the future and eternal State, than
all the former Revelations of God to Men: Life and Immortality is
brought to light by the Gospel; we are taught to look far into the
invisible World, and take a Prospect of the last awful Scene of Things:
We see the Graves opening, and the Dead arising at the Voice of the
Archangel, and the Sounding of the Trump of God; We behold the judge on
his Tribunal, and we hear the dreadful and the delightful Sentences of
Decision that shall pass on all the Sons and Daughters of _Adam_; we
are assur'd, that the Saints shall _arise to meet the Lord in the Air,
and so shall we be for ever with the Lord_: The Apostle bids us,
_Exhort or comfort one another with these Words_, 1 Thess. 4. 17, 18.
Now when the same Apostle requires that the _Word of Christ must dwell
richly in us in all Wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in
Psalms and spiritual Songs_; can we think he restrains us only to the
Psalms of _David_, which speak very little of all these Glories or
Terrors, and that in very obscure Terms and dark Hints of Prophecy? Or
shall it be suppos'd, that we must admonish one another of the old
_Jewish_ Affairs and Ceremonies in Verse, and make Melody with those
_weak and beggarly Elements, and the Yoke of Bondage_, and yet never
dare to speak of the Wonders of new Discovery except in the plain and
simple Language of Prose?

{260} Perhaps 'twill be replied here, that there are some Scriptural
Hymns in the Book of _Revelations_ that describe the Affairs of the New
Testament, the Death and Kingdom of our _Lord Jesus_, and these are
lawful to be sung in a Christian Church; I am glad that our Friends of
a different Opinion will submit to sing any thing that belongs to the
Gospel; I rejoice that the Bible hath any such Pieces of Christian
Psalmody in it; lest everything that is Evangelical should utterly be
excluded from this Worship, by those who will sing nothing but what
is inspired; but how seldom are these Gospel-Songs used among our
Churches? how little respect is paid to 'em in comparison of the Jewish
Psalms? how little mention would ever be made of them, if it were not
to defend the Patrons of Jewish Psalmody from the gross Absurdity of an
entire Return to Judaism in this Part of Worship? But give me leave
also to add, that these Christian Hymns are but very short, and very
few; nor do they contain a hundredth Part of those glorious Revelations
that are made to us by _Christ Jesus_ and his Apostles; nor can we
suppose God excludes all other Parts of the Gospel from Verse and

Most express words of Scripture furnish me with a _Third_ Argument,
_Eph_. 5. 19, 20. & _Col_. 3. 16, 17. Which are the two chief Commands
of the New Testament for Singing; both bid us _make Melody, and give
Thanks to God the Father, in the Name of our {261} Lord Jesus Christ_.
This is one of the Glories of Gospel-Worship, that all must be offer'd
to the Father in his Name. So very particular is our _Lord Jesus_ in
this Command, that his last Sermon to his Disciples mentions it four
times, _John_ 14. 13, 14. & 16. 23, 24. Nov why should we make
Conscience of praying in the Name of _Christ_ always, and offer up our
Praises in his Name when we speak in Prose? And yet when we give Thanks
in Verse, we almost bind our selves to take no more notice of the Name
of _Christ_ than _David_ or _Moses_ did. Why should every part of
Divine Worship under the Gospel be express'd in Language suited to that
Gospel (_viz_.) Praying, Preaching, Baptism and the Lord's Supper; and
yet when we perform that part of Worship which brings us nearest to the
heavenly State, we must run back again to the Law to borrow Materials
for this Service? And when we are employ'd in the Work of Angels, we
talk the Language of the Infant-Church, and speak in Types and Shadows?
While we bind our selves to the Words of _David_ when he inclines his
Ear to a Parable, and opens his dark saying upon the Harp, Psal. 49. 4.
we have given too great Countenance to those who still continue the use
of the Harp while they open the dark saying.

The _Fourth_ Argument may be thus drawn up. There is almost an infinite
Number of different Occasions for Praise and Thanksgivings; as well as
for Prayer, in the Life of a {262} Christian; and there is not a Set of
Psalms already prepared that can answer all the Varieties of the
Providence and the Grace of God. Now if God will be prais'd for all his
Mercies, and Singing be one Method of Praise, we have some Reason to
believe that God doth not utterly confine us even to the Forms of his
own composing. This is thought a very sufficient Reason to resist the
Imposition of any Book of Prayers; and I grant that no Number of
Prayers of humane Composure cam express every new Difficulty or future
Want of a Christian; scarce can we suppose a Divine Volume should do
it, except it be equal to many _Folio's_. However I can see no thing in
the inspired Book of Praises that should perswade me that the Spirit of
God design'd it as a universal Psalm-book; nor that he intended these
to include or provide for all the Occasions of Thanksgiving that ever
Could befal _Jews_ or _Christians_ in a single or social Capacity. We
find in the History of Scripture, that new Favours receiv'd from God
were continually the Subject of new Songs, and the very minute
Circumstances of the present Providence are describ'd in the Verse. The
Destruction of _Pharoah_ in the _Red-Sea_; the Victory of _Barak_ over
_Sisera_; the various Deliverances, Escapes and Successes of the Son of
_Jesse_ are described in the Songs of _Moses_, _Deborah_ and _David_.
The Jews in a Land of Captivity sat by the Rivers of _Babylon_, and
remembred _Sion_; they could find none of the antient Songs {263} of
_Sion_ fit to express their present Sorrow and Devotion, tho some of
them are mournful enough; then was that admirable and artful Ode
written, the _137th Psalm_, which even in the Judgment of the greatest
humane Criticks, is not inferiour to the finest Heathen Poems. 'Tis a
more dull, and obscure, and unaffecting Method of Worship to preach, or
pray, or praise always in Generals: It doth not reach the Heart, nor
touch the Passions; God did not think any of his own inspired Hymns
clear and full and special enough to express the Praise that was his
due of new Blessings of Grace and Providence; and therefore he put a
new Song into the Mouths of _Mary_, _Zecharias_ and _Simeon_; and 'tis
but according to his own Requirement, that the _British-Islands_ should
make their present Mercies under the Gospel the Subject of fresh
Praises; _Isa_. 42. 9, 10. _Behold the former things are come to pass,
and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of
them; Sing unto the Lord a new Song, and his Praise from the End of
the Earth; Ye that go down to the Sea, and all that is therein; the
Isles and the Inhabitants thereof_. As for the new Songs in the
_Revelations_, the occasions of some of them are very particular, and
relate to the Fall of _Anti-Christ_; It can never be imagin'd that
there are a compleat Collection of Psalms to suit all the Cases of a
Christian Church: They are rather given to us as small Originals, by
Imitation whereof the Churches should be furnished with Matter {264}
for Psalmody, by those who are capable of composing spiritual Songs
according to the various or Special Occasions of Saints or Churches.
Now, shall we suppose the Duty of Singing to be so constantly provided
for when there was any fresh Occasion under the Old Testament, and just
in the very Beginning of the New, and yet that there is no manner of
Provision made ever since by ordinary or extraordinary Gifts for the
Expression of our particular joys and Thanksgivings? This would be to
sink the Gospel, which is a Dispensation of the Spirit, of Liberty, of
Joy, and of Glory, beneath the Level of Judaism, when the Saints were
kept in hard Bondage, and had not half so much Occasion for Praise.

The Fifth Argument may be borrow'd from the extraordinary Gift of the
Spirit to compose or sing spiritual Songs in the primitive Church,
express'd in 1_Cor_. 14. 15, 26. The several Parts of Divine Worship,
Praying, Preaching and Singing, were performed by immediate
Inspirations of the holy Spirit in that Day, for there two Reasons.
(1.) That there might be a Discovery of Divine Power in them, and the
Seal of a Miracle set to the several Parts of Christian Worship, to
convince the World, and to confirm the Church. (2.) Because there was
not time to acquire a Capacity of Preaching, Praying, and composing
Spiritual Songs by Diligence and Study, together with the ordinary
Assistance of Grace and Blessing of {265} Providence, which would have
taken up many Years before the Gospel could have been universally
preached. But even in those Times of Inspiration, as _Timothy_ himself
was _not to neglect the Gift that was in him given by Imposition of
Hands_, so he was charg'd to _give Attendance to Reading, to
Exhortation, to Doctrine, to meditate upon these things, to give
himself wholly to them, that his profiting might appear unto all_, 1
Tim. 4, 14, 15. And it is granted by all, that the Ministers of the
Gospel in our Day are to acquire and improve the Gifts of Knowledge,
Prayer and Preaching, by Reading, Meditation and frequent Exercise,
together with earnest Requests to God for the ordinary Assistance of
his Spirit, and, a Blessing on their Studies; Why then should it be
esteem'd sinful, to acquire a Capacity of composing a spiritual Song?
Or why is it unlawful to put this Gift in Excercise, for the Use of
Singing in the Christian Church, since 'tis one of those three standing
Parts of Worship which were at first practis'd and confirm'd by
Inspiration and Miracle?

Some may object here, that the words _psallo_ and _Psalmos_, which
the Apostle useth in this Chapter, intend the Psalms of _David_, and
not any new Song: But if we consult the whole Frame and Design of
that Chapter, it appears that their worship was all performed by
extraordinary Gifts: Now, 'twas no very, extraordinary thing to bring
forth, one of _David_'s Psalms; nor would it have been proper to have
hindered the inspsired Worship with such an Interposition of the
ordinary Service of an antient _Jewish_ Song; 'tis very credible
therefore that the Word _Psalm_ in this Place signifies a new spiritual
Song, and 'tis so used frequently in the Writings of the Primitive
Fathers, as appears in the Citations, _pag_. 274.

To close this Rank of Arguments, I might mention the Divine Delight
that many pious Souls have found in the Use of spiritual, Songs, suited
to their {266} own Circumstances, and to, the Revelations of the New
Testament. If the spiritual Joy and Consolation that particular Persons
have tasted in the general Duty or Singing, be esteem'd a tolerable
Argument to encourage the Duty and confirm the Institution, I am well
assured that the Argument would grow strong apace, and seal this
Ordinance beyond Contradiction, if we would but stand fast in the
Liberty of the Gospel, and not tie our Consciences up to meer Forms of
the Old Testament. The Faith, the Hope, the Love, and the heavenly
Pleasure that many Christians have profess'd while they have been
singing evangelical Hymns; would probably be multiply'd and diffus'd
amongst the Churches, if they would but breath out their Devotion in
the Songs of the Lamb as well as in the Song of _Moses_.

Thus far have we proceeded in a way of Argument drawn from Scripture
and the Reason of Things. Many Objections have been prevented, or
sufficient Hints given for the Removal of them. Those that remain and
seem to have any considerable Strength, shall be propos'd with an
Attempt to answer them; for I would not have Christians venture upon
the Practice of any thing in Divine Worship without due Knowledge and

_Object_. 1. The Directions given for Psalmody in some Parts of the Old
Testament, lead us to the Use of those Songs which are inspired,
_Deut_. 31. 16, 19, &c. _And the Lord said unto_ Moses, _write ye this
Song for you, and teach it the Children of_ Israel, _put it in their
Mouths, that this Song may be a Witness for me against the Children of_
Israel; _for when I shall have brought them into the Land which I sware
unto their Fathers, which floweth with Milk and Hony, &c. Then they
will turn unto other Gods_. And in _Psal_. 81. 1, 2, 3, 4. Where we are
required to worship God by Singing, we are not commanded to make a new
Psalm, but to make one that is already made, for the words run {267}
thus, _Sing aloud unto God our Strength, make a joyful Noise to the God
of_ Jacob; _Take a Psalm and bring hither the Tymbrel, the pleasant
Harp with the Psaltery, blow up the Trumpet in the New Moon, in the
Time appointed, on our solemn Feast-Day, for this was a Statute for
Israel, and a Law of the God of_ Jacob.

_Ans_. 1. I have cited these Texts at large wherein the Objection lies,
that an Answer might appear plain in the Text to every Reader. How
peculiarly do these Commands refer to the _Israelites_? The very Words
of the Precept confine it to the _Jews_, to the Men that dwelt in
_Canaan_, to the Worship that is paid with Tymbrels and Trumpets, to
the Days of the New Moon, and solemn Jewish Festivals; and if we will
insist upon there Scriptures as precise Rules of our present Duty and
Worship, the Men that use Musical Instruments in a _Christian_ Church
will take the same Liberty of returning to _Jewish_ ordinances, and use
then same Text to defend them.

_Ans_. 2 But if we should grant our selves under the Gospel still
obliged by these Commands, yet they do not bind us up intirely to
inspired Forms of Singing, since the same sort of Expression is used
concerning Prayer; Hos. 14. 2. _Take with you Words, and say unto the
Lord, take away all Iniquity, and receive us graciously_, &c. Now who
is there that esteems himself confin'd to use no other Prayer but
scriptural Forms? In other Places, where these Duties are injoin'd, we
are bid to pray, or to praise, or to sing; and why should we not be as
much at Liberty to suit the Words and the Sense to our present
Circumstances in Singing as well as Praying, or in praising with Verse
as well as praising in Pros?

_Object_. 2. The examples of Scripture direct us to inspired Matter for
Singing: _Deut_. 31. 21. Mosses _wrote this Song the same Day, and
taught it the Children of Israel_. I _Chron_. 16. 7. David _delivered
first this Song, to thank the Lord, into the Hand of_ Asaph _and {268}
his Brethren_. Now in his dying Words, _the sweet Psalmist of Israel
tells us, 2 Sam. 23. 1, 2. The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his
Word was in my Tongue_. And in the Days of _Hezekiah_, which was some
Ages after _David_: 2 Chron. 29. 27, 28, 29, 30. Hezekia _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, &c.. _Moreover_
Hezekiah _the King and the Princes commanded the Levites to sing Praise
to the Lord, with the Words of_ David _and of_ Asaph _the Seer_.

_Answ_. There are nothing but Examples of _Jewish_, and very
ceremonious Worship; Nor do they effectually prove, that the _Jews_
themselves were forbid upon all Occasions whatsoever to use more
private Composures in their Synagogues, tho in the Temple 'tis probable
that for the most part they sung inspired Psalms. But it must be
remembred, that these Psalms are all suited to their Dispensation, and
yet without doubt they chose such out of them from time to time as best
fitted their present Case; and so will we Christians take as many of
the Psalms of _David_ and other Scripture-Songs, as are suited to our
Dispensation and our Circumstances; but there will be but very few in
Comparison of what the antient Levites might use, especially if we must
_sing the very words of_ David _and_ Asaph the Seer without Omission
or Paraphrase.

Object. 3. We cannot pretend to make better spiritual Songs than the
Spirit of God himself has made, therefore if we should neglect these,
and sing humane Composures, we should incur the Censure of the prophet
_Malachy_, Chap. 1. v. 13, 14. _Ye brought that which was torn, and the
Lame, and the Sick, thus ye brought an Offering, saith the Lord, should
I accept this of your Hands_?

Ans. 1. Can we pretend to make better Prayers {269} than the Spirit of
God has made and scatter'd up and down thro' all the Old and New
Testament? Can we compose better Sermons than _Moses_ or _Solomon_?
Better than our Saviour and his Apostles preach'd, and the Spirit of
God hath recorded? Why then should not we use Scripture Forms of
praying and preaching, as well as of Singing? And tho we may hope for
the ordinary Assistance of the Spirit in our Prayers and Sermons, yet
how can we expect that these shall be as good as those which were
compos'd by his extraordinary Inspiration?

Ans. 2. Divine Wisdom accommodates its Inspirations, its Gifts, its
Revelations, and its Writings, to the particular Cases and Seasons in
which he finds a Saint or a Church. Now tho we cannot pretend to make a
better Prayer than that of _Ezra_ or _Daniel_, or our Lord, for the Day
and Design for which they were prepared; yet a Song, a Sermon, or a
Prayer that expresses my Wants, my Duties or my Mercies, tho it be
compos'd by a humane Gift, is much better for me than to tie myself to
any inspired Words in any part of Worship which do not reach my Case;
and consequently can never be proper to assist the Exercise of my
Graces or raise my Devotion.

Ans. 3. I believe that Phrases and Sentences used by inspired Writers
are very proper to express our Thoughts in Prayer, Preaching or Praise;
and God has frequently given Witness in the Hearts of Christians how
much he approves the Language of Scripture; but 'tis always with a
Proviso that those Phrases be clear, and expressive of our present
Sense, and proper to our present Purpose: Yet we are not to dress up
our Prayers, Sermons or Songs in the Language of _Judaism_ when we
design to express the Doctrines of the Gospel: This would but _darken
Divine Counsel by Words without Knowledge_; it would amuse and confound
the more ignorant Worshipers, 'twould disgust the more Considerate, and
give neither {270} the one nor the other Light or Comfort: And I think
it may be as proper in our Churches to read a Sermon of _Moses_ or
_Isaiah_ instead of preaching the Gospel, as to sing a Psalm of _David_
whose Expressions chiefly refer to _David_ the Shepherd, the King, the
Fugitive, the Captain, the Musician and the _Jew_. In short the
Prayers, Sermons and Songs in Scripture are rather Patterns by which we
should frame our Worship and adjust it to our present Case, than Forms
of Worship to which we should precisely and unchangeably confine our
selves. And as Sermons which are conformable to the Holy Scripture in a
large Sense may be called the _Word of God and the Word of Christ_, and
are usally and justly so called if they are agreeable to the Scripture
and drawn from thence; so Hymns of Humane Composure according to the
Spirit and Doctrines of the Gospel may be as well termed the _Word of
Christ_, which is the proper Matter for Christian Psalmody. _Col_. 3.
16. whereas in the strictest and most limited Sense of the Word nothing
deserves that Title but the _Hebrew_ and _Greek_ Originals.

Object. 4. In the New Testament there are Promises of Divine Assistance
to Ministers and private Christians in preaching the Gospel and in
Prayer; But we have no Promise of the Spirit of God to help us to
compose Psalms or Hymns for our private Use or for the Use of the
Churches; and how can we practise in the Worship of God what we have no
Promise of the holy Spirit to encourage and assist us in?

_Ans_. 1. There are many general Promises of the Presence of _Christ_
with his Ministers, and the Supply of his Spirit in the Discharge of
all their Duties for the Edification of the Church: Now there are
several Performances which are necessary for the Churches Edification,
to which there is no peculiar Promise made of the Assistance of the
Spirit in express Words: Such are, Translating the Bible into {271}
our Mother-Tongue, Composing our Sermons or at least the Substance and
Scheme of them before preaching, Writing pious and useful Treatises
upon divine Subjects, and Diligent Reading and study of Books so
written; nor is there any more express Encouragement to expect the
Presence of the Spirit in turning the Psalms of _David_ into Rhime and
Metre, than in composing new Spiritual Songs: And yet Ministers that
are fitted for such Performances may pray and hope for Divine
Assistance in them all, and trust in the general Promises for Help in
particular Services.

_Ans_. 2. There is no need of these Gifts of Criticism or of Poesy for
all Christians nor all Ministers, tho it seems necessary that some
should be furnish'd with them. A few Persons in an Age or a Nation may
translate the Scriptures into the National Language, and may compose a
sufficient Number of Hymns to answer the chief Designs and Wants of the
Church for that Day for publick Worship. Where there happen Occasions
very particular, the Ministers of the Gospel are not or should not be
so utterly destitute of common Ingenuity, as to be unable to compose or
at least to collect a few tolerable Verses proper for such a Season.

_Object_. 5. We find no Instances in Scripture of humane Composures
sung by the People of God; and 'tis not good to practise such pieces of
Worship without a Precedent.

_Ans_. Whensoever there was just Occasion for an Hymn according to some
new and special Providence, we almost every where find a new Song
recorded in Scripture, and we call it inspired, nor do I know any just
Reason to suspect or doubt of the Inspiration; but if there had been
any one which was not the Effect of an extraordinary Gift but only
compos'd by a good Man, we should be ready to take it for inspired
because mention'd in Scripture; as we do too {272} many Expressions of
the Saints in that divine History, and make every thing that a good Man
saith Heavenly and Divine: However if there can be no Pretence made to
such an Example in Scripture, yet so much Reason, Argument and
Incouragement as hath been already drawn from Scripture sufficiently
justifies this Practice, since we perform many Circumstantials of
Worship under the Influence of a general Command without express and
special Examples.

_Object_. 6. We ought to sing nothing to God but what is given us for
this very End that it may be sung, lest we indulge Will-worship and the
Inventions of Men.

_Ans._ 1. To convert the Verses of _David_ into English Lines, to
confine them to an exact Number of Syllables, and to make Melody in
particular Tunes, may as well be called the Inventions of Men and
Will-Worship: But these Inventions are absolutely necessary for the
Performance of Divine Commands, and for the Assistance of a whole
Congregation to sing; with any tolerable Convenience, Order or Decency,
as the Reverend Mr. _Boyse_ has well proved.

Ans. 2. Those that refuse to sing Forms of humane Composure tho the
Sense be never so divine, generally allow it lawful to take any Parts
of Scripture and alter and transpose the Words into a Form fit for
Singing; But to take a mere Parable or Story out of the Bible, and put
Some Rhimes onto the End of every Line of it, without giving it a new
and pathetic Turn, is but a dull way of making spiritual Songs, and
without a precedent too. _David_ did not deal so with _Genesis_ and
_Exodus_, tho he loved the Words of the Law as well as we pretend to
value the Words of the Gospels and Epistles. The most part of the New
Testament as it stands in our Bible was never given us for Psalms,
Hymns and spiritual Songs; but for divine Instruction and Materials for
this and other Duties, that so we might borrow the Doctrines and {273}
Discoveries of the New Testament, and compose Sermons and Songs out of
them: But if we take Chapters and Verses promiscuously out of the New
Testament, and make them jingle and rhime, and so sing them, we are
guilty of singing what God never commanded to be sung, as much as if we
compos'd spiritual Songs by humane Art agreeable to the Sense of
Scripture and the Christian Faith.

If the Addition of humane Testimony concerning the Practice of Churches
in former or later Ages might have any influence to establish the
Consciences of those who are doubtful in this Matter, I might acquaint
them that the Churches of _Germany_ and the _Eastland_ Churches, use
many Divine Hymns which are compos'd on several Subjects of the
Christian Religion, without any Pretence to extraordinary Gifts. The
Church of _England_ approves this Practice, as appears in those
Spiritual Songs at the End of the old Translation of the Psalm-Book,
and some Churches among the Dissenters. The _Christians of the first
Ages were wont to meet together on a Day appointed before it was Light,
and to speak a Song to Christ as to God_. Thus _Pliny_ the _Roman_
testifies in a Letter to _Trajan_ the Emperour in the Beginning of the
second Century. _Tertullian_, who flourish'd about the Beginning of the
Third Century, relating the Manner of Administration of the Lord's
Supper, asserts _That after they had eat and drank what was sufficient
for those that must worship God by Night, &c. Every one was urged to
sing unto God publickly either out of the holy Scriptures, or according
to their own Genius and Ability_, Apol. C. 39. _Origen_, who flourish'd
in the Middle of the Third Century, speaks of _singing Hymns or Praise
to the Father in or by Christ in good Rhime, Tune, Metre and Harmony.
Origen de Orat. Sect. 6. _Eusebius_, B. 7. C. 19. quotes _Dionisius_
writing against Nepos thus, _Altho I heartily love _Nepos_ for his
Faith, his Study of Knowledge and the holy Scriptures, as well as {274}
for various Psalms and Hymns composed by him, which are used to this
Day by some Brethren, yet, &c. In the Acts of the Council of _Antioch_
mention'd by _Eusebius_, B.7. C.30. It was one of the Accusations of
_Paulus Samosatenus_ the Heretick Bishop of _Antioch_, that he
_abolished those Psalms which were wont to be sung to the Honour of the
Lord Jesus Christ as novel and compos'd by Modern Authors, and that he
appointed Women on Easter Day in the Middle of the Church to sing
Psalms in his Praise_. And in the Fragment of an anonymous Author
extant in _Eusebius_ we find the Heresy of _Artemon_, who denied the
Divinity of Christ, confuted not only by the Scriptures and the
Writings of the precedent Fathers, but also by the _Psalms and Hymns of
the Brethren which were formerly compos'd by them, wherein they sung
Praises to the WORD of God, declaring Christ to be God_. Such a private
composed Hymn was that which _Clemens Alexandrinus_ mentions as one
commonly known among the Christians in his Days, beginning _Kaire
Phos_, or _Hail Light_. _Spanheim_ in his sixth Chapter of the fourth
Century of his Christian History speaks thus, _Besides Hymns and Songs,
and private Psalms, of which there was a great Number in their solemn
Assemblies, the Psalm Book of_ David _was brought into the Western
Church in this Age in the Time of_ Damasus _and_ Ambrose; _but in the
Eastern Church the singing of_ David _'s Psalter by Antiphona's or
Responses was brought in by_ Flavianus Antiochenus. The Use of Psalms
compos'd by private Persons seems not to be forbidden in the Church
till the Council of _Laodicea_ in the fourth Century.


THUS have I drawn together my Thoughts upon this Subject at the Request
of several Ministers and private Christians who practise Psalmody in
this Method themselves, and sing the Songs of the {275} Lamb as well as
the Psalms of _David_ in their publick and private Worship, and
especially at the Celebration of the Lord's Supper. I had design'd and
almost prepar'd a larger Discourse, wherein the Duty of Singing and the
Manner of Performance would have been consider'd. But this Essay has
already swell'd beyond the Bulk propos'd: There are many that would
rejoice to see Evangelic Songs more universally encouraged to the
Honour of their Lord _Jesus_, and to the Joy and Consolation of their
Fellow-saints. If the Spirit of God shall make any of these Arguments I
have used successful to attain this glorious End, I shall take pleasure
in the Release of their Souls from that part of _Judaism_ which they
have so long indulged. I hope the Difficulties that appear'd frightful
and discouraging will be lost, and vanish by a diligent and fair
Perusal of what is written; yet those that pay a sacred Reverence
to the Inspired Writings, may still find it hard to yield to the
Conviction; Scruples and Reliques of an old Opinion will perhaps hang
about their Consciences still: A Fear and Jealousy of admitting any
Forms humane Composure in the Worship of Singing will scarce permit
their Lips to practise that to which their Understandings have given
their Assent. I would intreat such to give this Discourse a thoughtful
Review; and tho they may not judge every Argument conclusive, nor every
Objection sufficiently remov'd, yet if there be but one unanswerable
Reason it ought to be attended to; and the whole put together may give
such Light and Satisfaction as may incourage the Practice of this Duty.
'Tis very easy to make Cavils and Replies to the strongest Reasonings;
but let us have a Care lest we rob our Souls and the Churches of those
Divine Comforts of evangelic Psalmody, by a Fondness of our old and
preconceived Opinions. _He that believeth may eat all Things_, and
should not be forbidden: He may partake of _Flesh {276} and drink
Wine_; he may tast of the various Pleasure of the Gospel, and sing the
New Song: _Another who is weak eateth Herbs_, and satisfies himself
with ancient Melody. _Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth
not_, and _let not him which eateth not judge him which eateth, for God
hath received him_, Rom. 14. 2.

If the Hymns and spiritual Songs which are here presented to the World
are so unhappy as to discourage the Design of this Essay, I will
censure and reprove them my self: If they are condemned as being
unsuitable to the Capacity or Experience of plain Christians, I will
easily confess a Variety of Faults in them; 'twas hard to restrain my
Verse always within the Bounds of my Design; 'Twas hard to sink every
Line to the Level of a whole Congregation, and yet to keep it above
Contempt. However among so great a Number of Songs I hope there will be
some found that speak the very Language, and Desires and Sense of the
meanest Souls, and will be an Assistance to their Joy and Worship. The
Blemishes of the rest may serve to awaken some more pious and judicious
Fancy to a more successful Attempt; and whoever shall have the Honour
of such a Performance, I promise my self a large Share in the Pleasure.
But we must despair of hearing the _New Song of the Lamb_ in its
Perfection and Glory, till _Babylon the Great is fallen, and the
Kingdoms of this World are become the Kingdoms of the Lord and his
Christ_, till _the New Heavens and the New Earth_ appear, till _all the
former things are passed away, and all things are made New_.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody - 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 Hymns According to the Clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church." ***

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