Thomas Dickson Baird.

An inquiry into the privilege and duty of the Christian church, in the exercise of sacred praise: a chronology and history of Scripture songs .. online

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of the



^^An •Apology for the Book of Psalms,'^



Pastor of the Congregation of Lebanon, Pa.

'Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me.— P«aZ?7W, 1. 23.

But none saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the
night. — Joby XXXV. 10.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.— i/e&. xiii. 15.



^i.?m No-

^ 7 £ 'tn



TILDE,-! ' •-•'VOATlo.^iS.


(IS^cstctni Mntvitt of JJcttitj5ii>li)ania, to wit:

BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the nineteenth day of
!;t'«^*^^^^'>i January, in the forty-ninth year of the Independence of the
^ ^ United States of America, A. "D. 1825, Thomas Dickson Baird,

% ^^^^^' Z ^- ^- ^^^^^ ^^^^ district, hath deposited in this office the title
ii'-^i^i^-''^it^i: of a Book, the rii^ht whereof he claims as author, in the words
foU-ovvingijto wit:

An Inquii-y into the privilege and duty of the christian churchy in
the exercise oj" Sacred Praise: a chronology and history of scripture
{,ongs from the creation; an enlarged review of the ancient and mod-
ern history of tJte psalmody of the christian church, and an Examina-
tion of a7i '' .'ipology for the Book of Psalms,^' by Gilbert JVf Master,
.1. jyi.—By Thomas Dickson BdLird, A. J\I. pastor of the congregation
of Lebayion, Pa.

In conformity to the act of the congress of the United States, entitled
'^ An act for the encourag:ement of learnina:, by securing: the copies of maps,
cliarts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during tne
limes therein mentioned." — And also to the act, entitled, " An act supplemen-
tary to an act, enlitled, < An act for the encouragement of learning, by secu-
ring; the copies of maps, charj;s and books, to the authors and proprietors of
yuch copies, during the times therein mentioned,' and extending the benefits
thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and otlier

Clerk of the Western District of Pennsylvania,


iJtTisityeitt oC jffvmklin eollcse, mixtm, ^^eovsi^.

Very Dear Sir,

To return my sincere acknowledgments for your approbation of
my former essay — to own with gratitude the many kindnesses of a well
tried and constant friend, who had the principal direction of my education —
and to express the satisfaction I realize in having shared, not only the friend-
f h p, but the confidential familiarity of so distinguished a patron of piety and
literature; I send you the following sheets over the mountains, which have
for some years raised theii- " cloud capp'd" summits between us.

Could I cease to remember, or to feel, the friendship of many of the most
respectable of the fathers and brethren of our Church, it would evince, at
the same time, my insensibility apd my ingratitude. But to yourself in the
South, and to a Rev. brother in the West, I am under greater obligations,
(Ml the ground of real, solid, practical friendship, than to all others besides.

DR. MOSES WADDELL, of Athens, Georgia, and the REV.
JJiMES CULBERTSOJ^, of Zanesville, Ohio, wiU therefore, indulge
the desire of associating their names on this page, as the particular friends
of the author.

Pv'ext to the desire and hope that this book may, in some reasonable de-
gree, merit your approbation, is my solicitude that it should obtain it. To
enjoy the favourable opinion of a few cha:racters of acknowledged eminence,
in the religious and literary world, such as before expressed their approba-
tion of my performance, will more than counterbalance all the obloquy with
which I have hitherto been distinguished, and of which I may reasonably
antjg^ate a repetition.

ilp^ad, indeed, once ind^plged the hope of presenting you with a work of a
very different character— a work, the execution of which, your friendly
partiality had some years since assigned to my pen; but which, from my
peculiar circumstances, is not likely soon to be performed. Were I de-
sirous, however, of becoming an author, and left to the selection of my sub-


ject, without any adventitious circumstances to influence my choice, th?
doctrine of sovereign grace would be that on which I would enter, perhaps,
in preference to all others j and which, it is possible, may yet be attempted,
if life, health and opportunity permit. As this, however, with all future
events, depend entirely on the will of providence — it may be accomplish-
ed — it may never be attempted. But amidst all earthly changes, while
reason retains its throne and memory its power, you may believe in the sen-
timents of esteem and respect with which I am.

Ever yoursj


i.tb(tnon, mar Pittsbursh, Jan. 12^1825.


In presenting this work to the public, tlie author ex-
pressly disclaims the design of entering into a contest of
angry words with any member, and still less with any branch
of th€ visible Church of Christ. While, therefore, he feels
it to be a duty to examine the ' Apology' of Mr. M'Master,
as well its language as its arguments, he trusts, that even
in that part of his work, the reader will not find any thing
inconsistent with the above profession. While, thereforcy
he designs faithfully and firmly to point out some of the
marked improprieties of Mr. M'Master's language, and to
correct a number of his erroneous statements and misrepre-
sentations, to descend to his abusive language, or retort his
invectives, he has no intention.

The subject, indeed, on which he writes, if duly weighed,
is rather calculated to repress the turbulent passions, and
elicit the best feelings of the human breast, even while it
excites and exercises the temperate zeal of the judicous
advocate. Neither can the author think, that angry oir
reproachful language will ever give weight to argument, or
invite to candid investigation. It may confirm or infuri-
ate the prepossessions of prejudice— dictate or control the
opinions of ignorance — rally and concentrate the zeal or
the envy of sects and parties; but to aid the mind in itft;
judicious deliberations — facilitate the conclusions of sound
wisdom — or fix the principles of the inquirer on the im-
moveable foundation of truth, it has no power. He feels,
therefore, quite disposed to leave the whole vocabulary of
abuse to those who have a taste and a talent for its employ-
ment, as he hopes he has not so learned Christ — as it is not
necessary to the illustration or defence of his sentiments—
and as the taste and the interest of his readers do not re-
quire it.

Some of the language which Mr. M'Master has seen fit
to employ, has also suggested the expediency of giving, in
Mi introductory letter, a succinct account of the progress of
1 ■*


the tTisciission on this subject, and particuhuly the manner
in which the author of tlie present work has been drawn'
into it

In all this, he desires to write under a due impression of
his high responsibility to the public, to the church, to his
own conscience, and above all, to the Searcher of hearts,
from whom the motives of action and means of accomplish-
ment cannot be concealed.

Should this work be instrumental in breaking down some
of the remaining barriers of prejudice — of refuting the un-
supported allegations of party zeal — of encouraging a more
iVee and enlarged enjoyment of christian and scriptural
privileges — and of harmonizing and uniting the sentiments
and feelings of the children of God, in the delightful exer-
cise of sacred praise; the author wou-ld rejoice in this rich
reward of his labour.

To a candid public, therefore, under the patronage of
heaven, he fearlessly commits it; hoping, that its faults
may be forgiven, and what is according to godliness may
be blessed; for which purpose, he requests that it may be-
read with attention and patience — examined with care and
deliberation — and judged with candour and truth, and ke-
asks no more.

Since the proposals for this work have been issued, the-
Christian Monitor for October, 1824, published at Al-
bany, has fallen in my way, in which I find th« following,
article :

"'^Proposed New Pubxication.

We find in the Pittsburgh Recorder, a proposition (should
it meet with sufficient encouragement) to publish a work en-
titled, ♦'An inquiry into the duty and privilege of tlie
christian church in the exercise of sacred praise — By T. D.
Baird, A. M."'the avowed object of which is, a refutation
of a work entitled, **An Apology for the Book of Psalms
— By Gilbert M'Master, A. M." We are ignorant of Mr.
Baird's qualifications for the execution of the work he has.
undertaken; but whatever his talents may be, we hope he
will evince for the book of Psalms, as a component part of


tlie inspired volume, greater reverence tlian most of hi&
predecessors have done when advocating the cause which
Mr. jB. has espoused."

If the writer of the above is ignorant of the author's
** qualifications" or '* talents," it is a full confession^ that
he is also ignorant of his disposition; and any insinu'atioii
of irreverence for the Psalms of David, by anticipated hopes
or fears, is at this period, not only unseasonable, but ex-
tremely indecorous.

The assumption, too, that my ''predecessors" have
treated the book of Psalms, as a component part of the in-
spired volume, urith irreverence, is not only, gratuitous, but
utterly void of truth, as we shall have occasion to notice
more particularly in the sequel. With all the changes which
have been rung on this charge, from the distant insinuation
to the broad and violent accusation, and by whomsoever
propagated, whether from the kitchen, the parlour, the
pulpit, or th« press, it is untrue. Not one of the writer*
to whom the allusion is made, has treated thebuok of Psalms,
or any part of the word of God, in the irreverent manner
intimated, or rather assumed in the above article*. That
incautious, or, if the epithet please better, improper, ex-
pressions have be€n used, we have no disposition to denyf
but as irreverence expresses a particular state of mind, there
is a vast difference betwixt an inconsiderate or an improp-
er expression, and irreverence for any part of scripture.

Even Dr. Watts, who has been so much vilified as the
etrch enemy of the book of Psalms, although he has written
some things which few would approve, has not written any-
thing that a reader of intelligence and candour would con-
strue into such irreverence; and has written much which
affords conclusive evidence of a very contrary character.

If our opponents themselves have guarded against every
improper expression, it is well — they may cast stones: but
if, in the defence of their own views, they have indulged
rnihallowed language or feelings, were their sentiments ever
so correct, it might perhaps be nearly as criminal to con-
tend wickedly for God, asto treat even the Psalma of David
with irreverence.

In fine, it miglit have been as well for the Monitor to
have suffered us to proceed in our own course, without those
flings in whit>h owr brethren on tliil^ other side are so fond


to induli^e^ and if, when we shall have done, the Psalms
have suffered by our observations, the Christian Monitor,
or any of its friends, will have the right and the opportu-
nity to apply the proper corrective. But the course which
has been hitherto pursued by this and other writers, will
have little tendency to convince any one of error, or to
bring the question to any useful issue, unless obloquy and
reproach would promise such a result.

It is not for the author to say how far he has succeeded
in his design, but instead of treating the Psalms of David,
or any other part of the sacred volume the least irrev-
erence, he has endeavoured, in the following sheets, what-
ever other authorities he may have used, to keep the ** law
and the testimony" constantly in view. If they will not
support his cause, he has no wish it should stand, much less
prevail. As, however, he is fully persuaded that divine
revelation triumphantly sustains the principles be has un-
dertaken to advocate, he would, with all due deference to
the judgment of others, show also his opinion. In forming
and supporting this opinion, he occupies ground which he
believes to be altogether new. In it he has no •■^predeces-
sor;" and in occupying it he is no ''copyist." Whatever,
therefore, may be its merit or demerit, the credit or the
blame is exclusively his own. He neither admits the
weakness nor declines the support of the arguments former-
ly employed. Their being trite has not impaired their
strength, but if he has been able to call to his aid original
and efficient arguments, he feels himself not only autho-
rised, but bound, to lay them before the reader, that he
may give them that weight in the formation of his opinion,
to which they may appear to have a just claim.

When his opinions and his reasons shall have been ex-
amined with deliberation and candour, he willingly leaves
every reader to draw his own conclusions.

That these conclusions may be according to truth, and
to the praise and glory of God, is, so far as he can judge
his own views and exercises, his sincere desire and prayero


In this introductory letter I propose giving:
a succinct sketch of the controversy on the sub-
ject of Psalnwdy, as it has progressed from about
the time of its commencement in this country^
until the present day ; at least, so far as it has
fallen under my observation, or come to my

In fuliilling this design, I am led to remark,
that the first publication on the subject which I
have seen, or of which I have heard, is a sermon^
entitled, '' An humble attempt toward the im-
provement of Psalmody, or the propriety, neces-
sity and use of evangelical psalmody in worship :
delivered at a meeting of the Presbytery of Han-
over in Virginia, Oct. 6, 1762 — By John Todd,
A. M." The first sentence of the preface says,
*^ The author had no design of publishing the
following discourse, but a petition having been
presented to the presbytery, desiring their opin-
ion, whether Dr. Watts' Psalmody might, with'
safety, be used in the churches; and the presby-
tery having appointed him to give his sentiments
on the subject; and several persons who heard
it, having earnestly desired it might be printed,
urging, that it Avould be of use to many serious
inquirers: desirous to serve the best interests of
mankind, he sends it abroad into the world."
This is a valuable little performance, but out of
print, and now little known in the church.


The next work which has come to my knowl-
edge, is " Plain reasons why neither Dr. Watts'
imitation of the Psalms, nor his other poems,
nor any other human composition, ought to be
Hsed in the praises of the great God our Saviour
— but that a metre version of the book of Psalms,
exfimined with wise and critical care, by pious
and learned divines, and found by them to be as
near the Hebrew metre Psalms as the idiom of
the English language would admit, ought to be
used — By Thomas Clark, V. D. M. Albany,
1783.''' The design of this work is fully ex-
plained in the title; but, 1 apprehend, that it will
be extremely difficult to find a version of the a-
bove description. In short, I believe tliere never
was, and never will be, one to answer the por-
trait drawn by Mr. Clark. To lay aside other
qualities or requisites, the single one of being as
7iear the Hebrew metre Psalms as the idiom of
the English language would admit, has never
yet been attained, and we apprehend never will.
The requirement as near, would be hard to an-
swer, or to say when it was effected.

In the year 1790, the Rev. John Black of
Marsh creek, Pennsylvania, appeared in defence
of a gospel psalmody, in a Sermon entitled,
^^The duty of christians in singing the praises of
God, explained.'' To this there was a reply in
the following year, in a ^•DiscouTse on the di-
vine ordinance of singing psalms — By John An-
derson, minister of the gospel, and member of
the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania.'' —
To this Mr. Black rejoined in the next year, by
*"^ An examination of the Rev. John Andersion's^,


iliscoiirse on the divine ordinance of singing
psjilins." In tlie year 1794, the Rev. James
Latta^ D. D. entered the lists, in ^^A Discourse
on Psalmody/' from Col. iii. 16, 17; which had
not only the approbation of his brethren, but also
that of the candid of other denominations. This
circumstance appears to have given Mr. M'jVJiis-
ter considerable displeasure and uneasiness, as
we may plainly see in the following margiiiajl

^^ After reading Dr. Latta^s discourse on psal-
mody, and not a little surprised at its sentiments
and reasoning, upon turning to the Christian's
Magazine^ my surprise was accompanied by
pain, to find that the learned and orthodox edi-
tors of that respectable work, devoted their pa-
ges to eulogise that gentleman, not only as a man,
and a scholar, but a divine; and, as if to make
it more conspicuous, in a marginal note, to ad-
duce his ^^ Discourse on Psalmody,'' as a speci-
men of his talent, in justification of their eulogy.
No less painful is it to find such a work receive
the high commendation of such a man as the
learned and excellent professor at Princeton, in
his life of Dr. Rodgers. It is hoped none of these
gentlemen were really acquainted with the true
character of that work; but resting upon what
they considered the character of their friend, un-
wittingly transferred the reputation of the man to
his book. Their testimony may be employed,
in a future day, to give currency to the very ex-
ceptionable pages of that discourse. To coiTect
the evil is a duty they owe to themselves, to the
jchurch of God, and to the cause of truth." Apo}-


ogy, p. 112, third edition; which is the edition I
use, unless where another is specified.

It must have been rash indeed, for Drs. Ma-
^on and Miller, to eulogise a work to which thr
author of the Apology has such a dislike; and it
is perhaps the least that could be expected, that
they would, according to the course he has pre-
scribed, correct the evil, by making a seasonable
and explicit retraction of their eulogies on Dr.
Latta's book. Mr. M^M. has also given the Drs.
a tolerably fair specimen of his charity and can-
dour, in supposing they had univittingly recom-
mended a book, with the true character of which
none of them ivere acquainted, hut transferred
the reputation of the man to his book, by resting
upon what they considered the character of their
friend. And besides all this, that they gave this
Tery book, of the contents of which they were
ignorant, as a specimen of his talent as a man,
a scholar and a divine. What a generous apol-
ogist ! !

Those who know the character of Drs. Mason
and Miller, will not easily believe that a book
highly commended or eulogised by these ^Hearn-
«d and orthodox editors and the excellent Pro-
fessor,'' contains the absurdity or impiety which
t)ur author ascribes to the work of Dr. Latta.
With such readers, his declaration or his opinion
when weighed against theirs, will prove light as
Tanity. But more of Dr. Latta hereafter.

In the year 1800, Mr. Anderso i published
Ms "Vindiciae Cantatus Dominicae;'' and the
next year appeared ^^ A Discourse on Psalmody,
delivered at Newburgh, before the Presbytery


^f Hudson, Sepi 1801 — ^By Jonathan Freeman,
A. M. V. D, M.^^

From this period until the ^^ar 1815, the
eause of Gospel Psalmody ajipears to have been
making peaceable and steady progress^ But a-
bout the latter period^^ Mr. M'Master and some
others, were burnishing their armour for a fresh
onset— although the " Science of Praise"' was
published before the " Apology/' or Mr. Walk-
er's Sermon, yet in the first it is said^ the author of
the^^ Science of Praise" " would not have been
noticed, were it not for the company in which he
is found;" and the last, ^^^had not the pleasure
of seeing your pamphlet, nor had I even knowl-
edge of its existence, until my sermon was almost
ready for the press." These authors, therefore,
were preparing, at the period mentioned, to bring
the subject before the public, but were anticipated
by the zeal of one of their brethren.

In the latter part of the year above mentioned^,
having been engaged to preach in a vacant con-
gregation belonging te our church, at some little
distance from my own, and in the vicinity of the
Rev. Robert Wallace of the Reformed Presby-
tery, he attended sermon, or at least arrived be-
fore the service was closed. After the dismis-
sion of the assembly, he commenced a most
furious attack upon me, respecting the psalmody
of our ehurch; and after a debate at least suffici-
ently animated, Mr. Wallaee concluded by a
torrent of abusive declamation against revivals of
religion, camp -meetings, Presbyterians, &c. &;c.
and finally, with the rest of his brethren, won-
dered we were not smitten down like IJzza


To this I rejoined, that as these things were quite
foreign to the siihject of dispute, they could an-
swer no inirpose in the discussion, unless as a
thill covering to his defeat, and that the simple
fact of his resorting to the language of vitupera-
tion and ahuse was a tacit acknowledgment, that
cither his ground was untenahle, or he was in-
competent to maintain it. In a subsequent con-
versation he confirmed ihis remark, by acknowl-
edging, in the presence of company, that I had
••puzzled'^ him.

Soon after this conversation, Mr. W. under-
took to instruct his people on the subject of
Psalmody, by a discourse in which he certainly
manifested an uncommon share of originality and
ingenuity, in the selection and managem^t ot
his thesis. Histext was Judges xii. 6, " Then
^aid they unto him, say now Shibboleth : and he
said Sibboleth : for he could not frame to pro-
nounce it riglit. Then they took him, and slew
iam at the passages of Jordan : and there fell at
that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thou-
sand.*' In the exposition of this scripture. Shib-
boleth was stated to prefigure or symbolize
David's Psalms— Sibboleth, Watts' Imitation-
Jordan, death— and the Ephraimites, the Pres-
byterians. When, therefore, they shall cometo
the banks of Jordan, that is, to the hour of death,
those who can say Shibboleth, that is those who
have sung David's Psalms, shall pass over m
safety; but those who only say Sibboleth, that is
those who have used Watts' Imitation, shall die
the death. Notwithstanding my information
respecting; the above discourse wa« frpm a res>-


pectable source, I could not resist tlic impres-
sion that tlie account I received was a caricature,
until I had the opportunity and satisfaction of
hearing it from Mr. W. himseif. I communica-
ted to him the account of his discourse whicli I
had received, and which I have given ahove,
adding the explicit question, ^^Is it possible,
Mr. Wallace, that you have given such an ex-
planation of the text in question?'' To which he
replied expressly in these words, ^' I confess it
is substantially correct. '' To the information I
had before obtained, Mr. W. himself added an
account of nine characteristics he had given of
the Presbyterians, in which they were symbolized
by their prototypes, the Ephraimites; such as,
that they w ere ^^ a cruel people — a wicked people
— a treacherous people — a lying people,'' &c. &c.
and stated, or rather boasted, that he had said
hard things of the ^^ General Assembly." These
were his own statements, and require no com-
ment. The facts however could be established
even in a court of justice.

All this, however, might have passed away
as the shadows of the evening, had not Mr. W.
adopted other expedients to create uneasiness
among my people. Not contented with preach-
ing his Shibboleth sermon, and vilifying the
Presbyterians and the General Assembly in pub-

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Online LibraryThomas Dickson BairdAn inquiry into the privilege and duty of the Christian church, in the exercise of sacred praise: a chronology and history of Scripture songs .. → online text (page 1 of 16)