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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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 10 of 16)
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ebration of his heresy,'^ Apol. -19.

This language is not only wjurions, hut insidious in the;
cxireiiie, and a perversion of the history to which it refers.
We know, and our author knows, that almost all the here-
tics that everplagued the church of Christ, have professed
reat reverence for the scriptures; and that the ArianSy ,
n particular, have professed to rest their principles on
that word. Why then would they refuse to sing the/
Ssalms of David? Mr. M'M. knows better than to sup-
pose it. They would refuse the hymns that recognised-
the divinity of Christ, for the same reasons, and under
the same pretexts, that their descendants of the present-
day, would reject ohc creed, confessicms. or catechisms. ,

\Ve shall presently see, however, what kind of hymns
they were, about v/iiich the- difference arose. None of '
those, whom cur author slanders, have ever said in one in-
stance, or insinuated, that avy p&alm whatever is confor-
iUable to the denial of our Saviour^ s deiiif. ^'^'^» ^^^ ^^ ^^7
\viiat we may^ Jews,, and Aria ns, and Socinians, can use
those Psalms and deny that deity; and, wheh we wish tO-
be pointed and explicit on these subjects, we employ some
other formula, to express our views; and it is very evident
'hat on that subject the songs of the primitive christians
were a principal part of their creeds or coiifessions. Is it
again necessary to say, ihat although the Psalms of David
contain many prophesies of the coming, and glory of the
Messiah, then expected, yet, there is not one of them that
does or could recognise the Lord Jesus Christ as. that Mes-
siah. We very prop erh I apply these prophesies to hina, be-
f^ause they all meet, and are yea and amen in him; but, he
has required of us, a more explicit confession, than thes«
Psalms contain,, which I . think 1 have already sufficiently
shown. .

We next' observe, that Prudentius, a writer of this
century, and a composer of hymns. We have some quo«-
tations from his Hymn Book, entitled **Peri Stephan,"ia
troth Mosheim aftd Cave. The first refers to his llth^ jipd I


the last to his 12th hjmn and some others. Mosheim says^
**They were not remarkable either for excellence or mean-
ness." While we have these unquestionable testimonies to
the fact of the first christians composing their songs, for
three centuries of the christian dispensation, we have tlie
same evidence again confirmed, from the mouths or pens oi
enemies. Milnor says, ^'^Tliere is a dialogue, called Phi-
lopatris, ascribed to Lucian, but probably written by some
other person somewhat later. . Doubtless it is of high anti-
quity. It ridicules the doctrine of the Trinity. * One
three, three one. The most high God, Son of the Father,
the Spirit proceeding from the Father;' Such are the ex-
pressions in the dialogue. He spea>ks also of * a beggarly,
sorrowful company of people:^ he insinuates tlieir disaffec-
tion to government, that they wished for bad news and de-
lighted in public calamities. Some of them fasted ten^
whole days without eating, and they spent whole niglits m
singing hymns. ^^ Ecc. Hist. v. 1, p. 492. If it were Lu-
cian, it belonged to the second century.

What kind of hymns they sung is more definitely sta^
ted by Porphery, another enemy, v/ho ridiculously enough,,
says, '* A person asked Apollo how to make his wife re-
linquish Christianity?- — It is easier, perhaps, replied tlie
€racle, to write on water, or to fly into the air, than to re-
claim her. Leave her in her folly to hymn in a faints
mournful voice, the dead God, who publicly suffered
def^h from judges of singular wisdom."

In this passage we see the malignity of Porphery against
Christianity and christians— the invincible resolution and
patience of those who professed the orthodox faith — and
that the death of the suffering Redeemer, here contemp-
tuously called the dead God, formed the burden of their
hymns and songs of praise.

Of the fourth century, Mosheim says, *' The christian
"worship consisted in hymns, prayers, the reading of the
scriptures, a discourse addressed to the people, and con-
cluded v/ith the celebration of the Lord's supper," v. 1,.
p. 384. Again, " The Psalms of David were now receiv'
ed among the public hymns that were sung as 3/ part of di-
vine service," p. 385. For his authority, Mosheim refers
to Cyril of Jerusalem, the apostolical constitutions, and
Beausobre.. Ta these we will add the authai'ity of Spa,n>-


heim, who sajs, ''That besides hymns and songs and pri-
vate psalms, of which their was a great number in their
solemn assemblies, the ^sa???i book of David was brought
into the western church in this age," Spanheim in Todd
page 27.

Mosheim, however, states another fact that gives some
light as to the reasons and causes of those changes, and
that difference of practice that prevailed at this period a-
mong the churches. '" We are not however to think," he
says, " that the same method of worship was uniformly
followed in every christian society, for this was far from
being the case. Every bishop consulting his own private
judgment, and taking into consideration the nature of the
times, the genius of the country in which he lived, and the
character and temper of those whom he was appointed to
rule and instruct, formed such a plan of divine worship a*-
he thouglit wisest and best. Hence that variety of litiir'
gies which were in use, before the bishop of Rome had u-
surped the supreme power in religious matters, and per-
suaded the credulous and unthinking, that the model, both-
of doctrine and worship, was to be given by the mother
church, and to be followed implicitly throughout the chris-
tian world," ibid.

Our author gives here a quotation from Milnor, where
he speaks of Ambrose introducing the eastern mode of al-
ternate singing, intOi the church of Milan, and adds, "It
is to this jViosheim adverts, when he incorrectly states,
that David's Psalms were introduced among the hymns of
the church," Apol. p. 45. Doubtless^ every man must be
incorrect who states a fact wlych Mr. M'M. .dislikes, let
his authority be what it may, Spanheim, too, must, of
course, only mean alternate singing of the Psalms of Da-
vid, when he states as already quoted, that "besides
hymns and songs and private ^sa/ms, 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." It will, however, require more than our author's
assertion, to overturn these evidences, or discredit these

We are now advanced considerably in the fourth cen-
tury — we have added one authority to another of the high-
est character^ while our author storms and rages and. calls. ■


it rant, gratuitous, perversion of history , and what not j
while he has not, all this time, offered a single proof of &
Psalm of David having been ever sung, in the christian
church, from the birth of our Saviour, but the 133d, bjr
Turtullian of Africa, at their love feasts— Mr. M'M. says,
at the administration of the eucharistic supper. Be it so
— I have no objection to the use of it at any time; but it
will go a very small part of the way in proving, against
all the evidence we have offered, that the Old Testament
Psalms were employed during all that time in the christian

Before I pass on, however,, in. this review of ancient
history, I would request the attention of the reader, to a
few remarks. I need not. hope, from the tone of Mr.
JWMaster^s language, that he will pay much attention to
any thing that can be said by a man whose writings he
views as/ar below criticism; "but could I obtain the ear oi*
any of his friends, I would urge them by all the zeal they
have ever felt and displayed, for the truth as it is in Jesus^
to pause and consider what they are doin^. We have the
testimony of the earliest and best historians, that hymns
were composed by faithful christians from the beginning — ■
praising Christ as Qon-^ascribivg Divinity to him — de-
claring him to be God indeed, &c. &c. From the days
of Caius the Presbyter, until the time of the learned and
pious Miller of,Princeton, these, facts have been used, ia
the conflict with the enemies of the divinity of our Lord,
v/ith irresistible effect; and nov/ stand an impregnable
monument of the faith of the first christians, and their op-
position to this, .as they termed it, God denying heresy.
Would then the brethren of Mr. M'M. nay, would Mr.
M'Master himself, were it in his power, wrest this weapon
out of the hands of the faithful? would they overturn,
this monument of the church's pristine glory.^ would they
risk the consequences of removing these impassable barri-
ers, out of the way of the enemies of our Lord's divinity,
rather than offer, or suffer to be: presented, a sor.g of praise
to Him, according to the injunction of the apostle — the
spirit of the present dispensation-^and the practice of the
church from the beginning? This is not said from any ap-
prehension of results; No: until a more extensive vandal-
ism siiall overtake us than lias ever visited the world — ini-


til all ancient history is defaced, or destroyed, this evi-
dence will remain^ and as the millennium, or days ofZion's-
triumph approach, the certainty will be more and more
manifest, that the song of the Lamb is as much the privi-
lege and the duty of tlie ciiristian church, as the song of
Moses. But while this evidence can never be obliterated,
or evaded, the disposition to effect it is the same; and that
the author of the Apology has proved his disposition, and
used his endeavours to accomplish this purpose, requires
no testimony from the present writer. He has shown his
readers, with what zeal he would deny, evade or obscure,
all those records which would go to the establishment of
the facts in question, viz— That the first christians were
in the practice of composing their own songs, which were
sometimes composed extempore, and at other times prepa-
red with more care, and preserved longer in use; and also
in the practice of explicitly acknowledging Christ as God,
m these compositions. But to return to our history.

In this period, when every bishop conducted matters as
he pleased, there was «'one Ilarmonius, the son of Bar-
desanes, a noted heretic, industriously employed himself in
composing religious hymns, for the use of the Syrians, in
which he interspersed his father's heretical notions, and the
philosophy of the Greeks. Ephraim, whose views of the
fundamentals of the christian faith, were strictly sound,,
and to whom the i^titli of the gospel was- precious, made
himself master of the measures and tunes, and in the use
of them composed christian Jujmns, which were well re-
ceived by the Syrians, and sung to the sam.e tunes as those^
of Harmonius. He wrote also a discourse on the utility oL
psalmody, and exploded idle songs and dancing;," Milnor
page 249.

these contests had, it appears^ began sometime before.
'iis, indeed had probably not ceased from the time of
Paul of Samosata. About the middle of this century,.
))owever, new difficulties arose; for Athanasias having;
went to Antioch, 'by the command of Gonstantius^or ra-
ther by his invitation, conjmuned when there,, 'Mvith the
Eustathians, who under the direction of Flavian, held a.
conventicle there. This same Flavian was the first who
invented the doxology, Glory be to the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and in singing of the psalmsi^not only


those who frequented his meeting, but in general all who
followed the Nicene faith in fhe

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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 10 of 16)