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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ted the practice sooner,- was, that it was not an age of Bible
societies^ that copies of the scriptures ivere rare, and a Psalm
hook not to be had. Query — How many Bibles, or Psalm
books, would it require to supply a people who knew not a
letter, and yet had the Psalms of David by heart? The fact,
however, is that the statement of our author, so far as it is
true^ confirms the evidencs of those who say that now the
Psalm book of Davidwas introduced, among the other songs,
'i'he novelty of the songs made the people zealous to obtain
and repeat them. This is generally the case, as a disposi-
tion of that character,vvas not confined to Athens. We
happen to have a piece of history at hand, precisely in point..
D'lsrael, in his curiosities of literature, says, "It appears
that the first book of Psalms in verse was written by Ma-
rot," (by some called Marmot) "a Frenchman. — It was
published at Paris, and contained fifty-two psalms written
m a variety of measures. This book was dedicated to the-
liing of France, and being a gay novelty, no book was ever
more eagerly received by all classes, than Marot's Psalms.
They sold faster than the printers could take them off their
presses; but as they were understood to be songs, and were
unaccompanied with music, every one set them to favour-
ite tunes, commonly those of popular ballads. Beza com-
])leted the collection, and Cah in set them to music : but
Tvhen the court of France found that Calvin used them in
W.Qi"r:hip5. they not only fi.nUaiie them-, but Majot.had to fly,- *


Again, " When Sternhold's version appeared in England,
the same fondness for novelty appeared. His psalms were
practiced by the Puritans in the reign of Elizabeth, and
more particularly during the protectorate of Cromwell, on
the same plan of accommodating them to the popular tunes,
and jigs, which, one of them said, were ^ too good for the
Devil.' Psalms were now sung at Lord Mayor's dinners,
and city feastsf soldiers sung them on their march, and at
parade, there were few bouses which had not their evening

Tlie eftects of novelty is equally apparent in each of the
above cases; and it is well, after all, if Mr. M'Master's
men, who were made into angels^ were a whit more celes-
tial in their minds, than many of the psalm-singers of the
courts of France or England. Think not, reader, that I
am at all disposed to make light of this practice : by no
means; but I repeat, that on the face of it, there is rather
a confirmation of my statement, and of the authorities
which I have adduced, that about this time the psalms
were introduced into the churches. The authors, how-
ever, whom I have quoted, require no confirmation from
any quarter, nor will the varnish that has been bestowed
on that tale, compensate for the trouble of its application.

It is of small importance, whether any thing more is ad-
vanced on this subject or not; but as our author goes on
with his history, we have no objection to follow in the
same course;

In the fifth century, Peter Fiillo, had, by the favour of
the emperor Zeno, and Acocius, bishop of Constantinople,
obtained the see of Antioch. *'This troublesome and
contentious man excited new discords in the church, and
seemed ambitious of forming a new sect under the name
of Theopaschites;- for to the words, O God, most hoii/j
Slc. in the famous hymn which the Greeks called Uirsagi-
um, he ordered the following phrase to be added in the
eastern chuvchesy who hath suffered for us upon the cross.
His design in this was manifestly to raise a new sect, and
also to fix more deeply in the minds of the people, the
doctrine of one nature in Christ, to which he was zealous-
ly attached. His adversaries, and especially Felix, the
Roman pontiff, interpreted this addition to the hymn a-
hove mentioned, in a quite different manner, and charged


]iim \vitli mainiainiiig, tliat all the three persons- of itie
Godhead were crucified; and hence those who approved of
Ids addition were called Theopaschites. The consequence
of this dispute was, that the western christians rejected
ihe addition inserted by Fallo, which they judged relative
t» the whole trinity; while the orientals used it constant-
ly after this period, and that without giving the least of-
j'ence, because they applied it to Christ alone." Mo-
sheim,-v. 2, p. 78.

This place proves, that in both the eastern and western
cliinxhes, whatever use they made of the Old Testament
X*sainis, hymns of human composition were yet in common
TiSe — that the^/ were not newly introduced, for this is cal-
led afamoushymn^ which implies that it was a considera-
ble time in use and well known — that they were in the
practice of expressing their sentiments, of the Redeemer's
character and work, in (heir hymns — and that they were
yet watchful aga.inst the introduction of error by the com-
position or alteration of their songs of praise. We now^
come to the ninth century.

** Another, though less important controversyy(than that
about predestination) arose about this time, concerning the
_ concluding words of a very ancient hymn, which runs.
thus: fe, trincf Deltas iinaque, poscimiis; which may be
thus translated — God. who art three, and at the same-
time but one, ice beseech theeySiic. Hincman wisely pro-
hibited the singing of these words in the churches that
were under his jurisdiction, from a persuasion that they
tended to introduce into the minds of the nmltitude, no-
tions inconsistent with the unity and simplicity of the Su-
preme iieing, and might lead them to imagine that there
^vere three Gods. But the benedictine monks refused to
obey this mandate, and Bertram, who- was one of the
most eminent of that order, wix>te' a large book to prove
the expression irina Deltas, or theeefuld Deity, orthodox,
from the aiithority of fathers, wbich was esteemed the on-
ly criterion of truth in th^se miserable limes. Godeschal-
cus, who now lay in prison^ heard of this dispute, entered
warmly into- it, "and in a laboured dissertation supported^
the cause of his benedictine brethren; on which account
Hincman accused him of tritheism, and drew up a treatise
to grove the charge, and W refute that impious and enormoas-


Iieresy. This controversy, however, was but of a short
duration, and the exceptionable passage of the hymn in
question maintained its credit, notwithstanding all the ef-
forts of Hincman, and continued as before to be sung in
the churches." Mosheim, v. 2, p. S39.

We find as before, that this hymn is termed vei^y ancienL
and although the term is indefi^nite, and does not specify
any particular period of time, it yet unavoidably leads to
the conclusion, that the chain of facts is unbroken, with
respect to the practice of the church, in the use of modern
hymtis, in her praises to God, and also their beinga depos-
itory of her doctrines, and a confession of her faith.

Our author,, after all his exertions to evade or deny the
most unquestionable historical evidence, for five or six
hundred years — and often employing language calculated
to deceive common readers, only some of which I have no-
ticed, comes at last to his confessions as follows : "It never-
theless may be admitted, without injury to our cause, that
in those days of evil, when clerical ambition, and ecclesi-
astical profligacy appeared with such unblushing effronte-
ry, advantage was taken of the commotions of the times^
to introduce by every mean, the conflicting corruptions of
doctrine,.order and worship. And it would be strange if
the united charms of poetry and music, were not laid in
requisition to further their designs* I admit the probabil-
ity of hymns of human composure being numerous^ and
that they were frequently used in public worship, we need
not doubt. That many of them were intended to honour,
and as many other* intended to dishonour the Redeemer of;
men, neither the opinions of the times, nor the characters of
the prime actors of those days forbid us to suppose.

But when all this is granted, I assert,, without apprehen-
sion of any well supported contradiction, that thwe is no
ground to believe, that inspired songs were not used,
from the beginning, in the church of God,* or that uninspired
hymns were exclusively adopted, or at all adopted with di-
vine ap^re&fliiow," Apol. 53. After this, Mr. M'M. gives
his readers another misrepresentation of our reasoning and
conclusions, in his usual manner, which I do not think ne->
bessary farther to notice. On the quotation which I have
given, however, I offer the following remarks :

1 Our author, finding himself utterl;^ unable to resist

116 (^^ PSALMOUY.

the concurrent testimony of history, at last admits— that'
hjimns of human composition ivere numerous — that many
■■'yf them ivere intended to honour the Redeemer — and that
tiiey were frequenily m^ed in public worshij).

2. To destroy the effects of thes-e concessions, he as-
cribes all this to ecclesiastical projligacii — unblushing ef-
frontery — the commotion of the times — and the united
charms of poetry arul music. With those who can believe
that these causes combined, or contributed, to the use of
hym7is in worship to honour the Redeemer, it would be
bitterly in vain to reason. Were these the reasons that
induced the christians, even in the apostle's time, to meet
before da^dight to sing a hymn to Christ as God? were
these the causes that produced thos« hymnSj , composed
by the faithful brethren from the beginnings representing
Christ as God indued? and were these the reasons why
the first defenders of the divinity of Christ, referred to
these jirsf hymns as a most unanswerable proof of the faith
of i\\e first christians'^

3. To help the matter, our author alleges that there were-
as many hymns both calculated and intended to dishonour
THE Redeemer, and the reasons assigned are that neither
the opinions of the times, nor the cha^racters of the prime
actors forbid us to suppose it. Mr. M'M. would let him-
self be heard, were any of those writers whom he opposes,
to take a matter for granted, because they were not for-
bid to suppose it. Mymns, however, in honour of the
Redeemer,-is historical tnU/ir— those intended to dishonour
him, our author's supposition. But if it were true, it in-
terferes no tnore with the question of evangelical hymns,,
tlian the preaching of heresy does with the preaching of
the gospel of Christ.

4. After all this contest, the whole question rests on
the assertion of our author. After passing through so ma-
ny ages, and being able to offer, from the birth of Christ
until the fourth century, only the solitary instance of the
133d Psalm, of the Old Testament Psalms having been
sung, and but few instances after it — after being obliged
to yield up the argument, in the ungraceful manner we
have seen, he at last asserts, without any apprehension, &c.
Mr. M-'Master's assertion, therefore, is the whole of the
argument that remains, and the reader may take it for


lihat it is worth. Whether I have produced evidence to
establish the fact, of the first and purest christians compo-
sing their hymns in honour of Christ — whether they did
not feel themselves obeying the injunctions of the apostles
in so doing — ^and whether we are not both authorised and
required to unite at present, as in the visions of John, the
songs of Moses and the Lamb — or whether I have failed
as to my historical references, and deductions, in all these
points, is now left to the candid and conscientious delib^
eration of the intelligent reader.


Modern History of Psalmody Reviewed,

" It appears from the records of the early periods of the church, that'
christians, in their public assemblies, praised God in the language of scrip.-
ture songs. It also appears, that the term hymn was applied to David's -
Psalms." Apology, p 55.

" They affirm that all our ancestors, even the apostles themselves, were
of that opinion, (viz. that Christ was a mere man) and taught the same with
them" — "This might carry a plausible appearance of truth, were it not
first contradicted by the holy scriptures, next by tlie books of several per-
sons long before the time of Victor. In fine, how many psalms, and hymns,
and cauticles were written from the beginning, by faithful christians, which
celebrate Christ, the word of God, as no other than God indeed?" Mihiorj
v. 1, p. 249.

We have already observed, that this writer, which was
Gaius the Presbyter, although Milnor seems to think the
book anonymous,- refers to the times of the apostles, and
indeed he, in the most express terms, states these psalms
to have been composed by the faithful brethren from the
beginning, and thus refutes the claims of the heretics to a
descent from the apostles. If there is any confidence in
church history, this author shows that these hymns were
in use in the days of the apostles,and that the term psalms^
was applied to those of modern composition, as readilv^as


to those of the Old Testamentj and helps very much to
eonfirm our explanation of the language of the apostle.
Nay, this has an authenticity stamped upon it, beyond the
bare veracity of the historian; for,^ had the author of this
book, whoever he niiglit have been, referred to supposed
facts that had not existed, or had not been known, the ar-
gument would have recoiled upon him, and the world
would have heard it. It is also a fact, that the term psalm,
was much more frequently applied to modern compositions,
than the term hymn, was to the Psalms ol" David. These
facts, will not only fairly balance the sentiments of our
author, above expressed, but overturn the inference he
wishes to deduce from them. We return again to our

In his ^'Modern History of Psalmody," our author car-
ries us at once to the tops of the mountains, where the
Waldenses, ''^'mid Alpine cliffs," sung the songs of scrip-
ture; "the Albigenses, in 1210," who, *' were metre psalm-

As we have no wish to question these facts, we just ob-.
serve, that it proves about as much as if any future histo-
rian were to write that the Americans, in 1825, were
psalm-singers; in relation to whichr two queries might
readily be offered, viz — What psalms did they siug.'^ and
whatever might be the reply to this, if any particular system
were specified, it might be returned, Did they sing no other?
Such is the case of these now mentioned. We add be-
sides, that if, as our author states, they were metre psalm-
singers, their psalms were not those of David; as I think all
respectable historians agree, that the version of Marmot
was the first; and of course their's are more likely to have
been some other than the Old Testament songs. We find
indeed that some of them attempted to turn the scripture
** into low Dutch rhymes, for the edification of their breth-
ren, "but there are no exceptions made, aod no particular
parts speciPicd, unless it is the reason assigned lt)r the
w^ork, which was, that '* In scripture there are no jests,
fables, trifles or deceits, but words of solid truth;" so that
no particular reference is made to the psalms.

In the catechism of the Waldenses, we have the follow-
ing question and answer — Quest. '•' In what manner do
vou iidore and. serve the God in whom vou believe? — ^Ans,


•1 adore him by the adoration of external and internal
worship; externally by bending of the knees^ elevations
of the hands, by inclinations, by hymns, by spiritual songs,
by fasting, by Invocation." — Mil nor, Ledger's Gen. Hist,
and Perrin'h Extracts*. It is indeed abundantly evident
that the Waldenses, the Paulicians and Lollards, used
human compositions in their praise, and were reproached
as hymn -singers, which Mosheim shows to be the etymol-
ogy of the epithet Lollard.

Mr. M'M, says, '*John Huss, in the fifteenth century,
as Wicklifte had done in the fourteenth century, sung the
Psalms in verse." Whether the Psalms of David were
then in verse or not, or whether it were them or some other
psalms that Huss sung, is not material; but we have un-
questionable evidence that he sung other songs, at a time
when, if ever he acted in a conscientious manner, and in
full view of eternal consequences.

John Huss and Jerome of Prague, wer€ both burnt for
heresey; the first on the 6th of July, 1413, and the other
on the SOtk of May, 1416. Eneas Sylvius, a Roman Cath-
olic historian says, "They went to. the stake, as to a ban-
quet; not a word fell from them, which discovered the
least timidity; they sung hymns in the flames to the last
gasp without ceasing," Milnor, v. 4, p. 219. Lest Mr.
M'M. might be tempted to caH all these hymns. Psalms
of David, I will add the case of Jerome, who ** As he went
to execution, sung the apostle's creed, and the hymns, of
the church, with a loud voice and a cheerful countenance.
He kneeled at the stake, and prayed. Being then bound,
he raised his voice, and sung a paschal hymn then much
in vogue in the church.

Hail! happy day, and ever be adored,

When hell was conquered by great heaven's Lord.

UEnJant in Milnor, v. 4. p. 230.

To these may be added, "Henry Voes and John Esch,
who cheerfully underwent the fiery trial on the same dayj
testifying a wonderful constancy. As they were led to
the stake, they cried with a loud voice, that they were
christians; an^ when they w«re fastened to it, and the fire
was kindled, they rehearsed the creed, and after that sang
the verses alternately of Te Beum laudamus, till the flames
deprived them of life. " This was A. D. 1523, Milnorj


V. 5, p. 262. "Luther, in memory of these faithful ser-
Taiits of God, composed a Latin hymn, which has been
much used in the protestant churches," ibid, p, 263.

Luther is one of Mr. M'M's witnesses, for the Old
Psalms. Let us hear what he says, or what is said of him^
besides this hymn. "Luther, a short time before he ven-
tured to administer the Lord's supper in the German lan-
guage, had had the precaution to compose and print a very
useful little book, containing thirty-eight German hymns,
with their appropriate tunes, for the express purpose of
conveying and fixing in the memories of the common peo-
ple, a deal of religious instruction in a very concise and
agreeable manner. The subjects were, parts of the cate-
chism; leading articles of belief; prayers and thanksgivings.
In fact, the book was a summary of christian doctrine, ex-
pressed in very neat and elegant German metre; and so
well managed, that the harmony and modulation of the
voice agreed with the words and sentiments, and tended to
raise the correspondent affections in the minds of the sing-
ers. On this account the author has been called the true
Orpheus of Germany, and to his praise it is added, that he
applied his knowledge of musical numbers and harmonies
to the expectation of the most pious and fervid motions ^of
the soul," ib. 467.

Whether the above be -the version of psalms which was
published by Luther, according to our author, or not, I do
not pretend to say. I can indeed find his commentaries on
the Psalms, bni not any version of them; and I rather in-
cline to the opinion that he never composed one. At all
events, we see he was a hymn -maker, and a hymn -singer;
and we also see that the term hymrL, although it may, in a
very few instances, have been applied to the Psalms of Da-
vid, was the general appellation of human composition.

John Hulin too, *' while preparing for the fire, sang sev-
eral songs of praise with great cheerfulness," ibid. 531.
Also, •' At Tournay in Flanders, in 1528, an Augustine
monk, named Henry, was condemned to the flames, for
having thrown off his dress, married a wife, and preached
against popery. The bishops official told him he might save
his life if he would but own that the woman he had married
was his concubine. But he, refusing to lengthen his days
«ii such terms, praised God by singing Te Deum, and soon


■after, cheerfully finished his course in the fire,*' Miinor, v.
5, p. 596,

I have few remarks now to ofier. The reader will haw-
seen, that notwithstanding the number of witnesses which
our author has brought, or attempted to bring, for the use
of David's Psalms, even where it has been the fact that
they have been used, we n^^vertheless find them making or
using others, without scruple or hesitation — whether it has
been the primitive fathers of the christian cluirch — the fa-
thers of the Reformation — or our commentators and stand-
ard divines. So far then as their authority is of weight, we
have it; but the sweetest consolation is, that this is only a
small weight thrown into the scale of scripture truth and
apostolical practice. Let it be however as Mr. M'M. has
said, about Luther's version of the Psalms, and we have the
following catalogue, viz. —

The version of Luther, published - 152,5

Old English version, - - - 1539

Marmot's, 50-1543. Beza and Marmot, 1550

Some Scotch Psalms, 1555 — The whole Psalter, 1559
Sternhold and Hopkins, - . - 1562

Ver^iion of the translation of the Bible, 1613

' New England version, > _ _ 1640

The version of Rouse, - - - _ 1649
Barton's version, - - - - 168£

Ford's do. - - - - - 1686
Tate and Brady, . - - , 1696

Psalterium Americanum, - - - 1718
Watts' version, - - - - 1719

Davis' version, - - - - 1813

More than twice this number of versions of the Psalms have
been published; but the above is perhaps sufficient as a
specimen, of entire versions, and odd psalms or parts of
versions, it is not necessary to notice.

" In England there have been many translations of the
Psalms into metre. The first, as far as my knowledge ex-
tends, g:oes under the name of Sternhold and Hopkins.
Thej- were assisted by three other persons. Sternhold was
^foom of the robes to King Henry the YIII. and after-
wards of the privy chamber to Edward VL He had a leg-
acy given hiui by Henry. He translated 37 Psalms; Hon-


kins 65; the rest were done by William Whittingham,
William Kothe, and Robert Wisedom. This version was
appointed bj authority to be used in the English church,
and was for a long time the only one in use Bishop Horse-
ly preferred it to all others." The next we notice is, *' The
ivholebook of psalms faithfully translated into English me-
tre. Whei'eunto is prefixed a discourse, declaring not only
the lawfulness, but also the necessity, of the heavenly or-
dinance of singing scripture psalms in the churches of God.
Jiy those ofJWw England. Coll. iii. Let the word of God
dwell plenteously in yoii^ in all wisdom^ teaching and ex-
horting one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songSy
singing to the Lord ivith grace in your hearts. James v.
If any be affl.icted, let him pray; and if any be merry, let
him sing Psalms. Imprinted 1640."

The preface of this curious book begins thus. — " The
singing of psalms, though it breathe forth nothing but holy
harmony, and melody: yet, such is the subtilty of the ene-
raie, and the enmity of our nature against the Lord and his
%vayes, that our hearts can finde matter of discord in this
harmony, and crotchets of division in this holy melody — for
—There have been three questions especially stirring con-
cerning singing. First, what psalms are to be sung in
churches? Whether David's and other scripture psalmes,
or the psalmes invented by the gifts of godly men in every
age of the church? Secondly, if scripture psalmes, wheth-
er in their own words, or in such meter as English poetry
is wont to run in? Thirdly, by whom are they to be sung?
W^hether by the wKole churches together with their voices?
or by one man singing alone and the rest joining in silence,
and at the close saying amen!"

In answering these questions, the writer of the preface
proves, that it is lawful and right to sing the Psal ms of Davidj
attempts to show that it is best to sing no others; and in-
sists that the whole congregation ought to join in this part
of worship. We also learn, that in those days there were
strong doubts in the minds of many, whether it were right
to translate the book of Psalms into *meeter.' And it is
not a little amusing to observe how, with their scruples a-
bout singing any thing but the Psalms of David, they were.
embarrassed with the objection, that to change the Psalms
into metre, was to alter the scripture. The writer's con-


elusion on this subject is right curious. He says — " But

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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 11 of 16)