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 14 of 16)
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ceremonial form, he says —

''Thus, by keeping too close to David, in the house of
God, the veil of Moses is thrown over our hearts. While
we are kindling into divine love, hy the meditations of the
loving kindness of God, and the multitude of his tender
"mercies, within a few verses some dreadful curse against
men is proposed to our lips, that God would add iniquity
to their iniquity, nor let them come into his righteousness^
but blot them out of the book of the living, Ps. cxix. 27, 28,
which is so contrary to the new commandment of loving
our enemies, and even under the Old Testament is best ac-
counted for by the spirit of prophetic vengeance.

Some sentences of the psalmist that are expressive of
the temper, (or state) of our own hearts^ and the circiim-
stances of our lives, may compose our spirits to seriousness,
and allure us to a sweet retirement within ourselves; but


nve meet witli a following line ivhich so peculiarly hdorif^^
to one action or hour of the life of B avid or of Jsaph, that
it breaks off our song in the midst; our consciences are
affrighted, lest we should speak a falsehood unto God| thus
the powers of our souls are shocked en a sudden, and our
spirits ruffled, before we have time to reflect that this may
be sung only as a history of the ancient saints. Besides,
it almost always spoils the devotion by breaking the 2ini-
form thread of it; for while our lips and our hearts run
sweetly together^ applying the words to our own case, there
is something of divine delight in it, but at once we are
forced to turn off the application abruptly, and our lips
speak nothing but the heart of David." As Mr. M'M.
took care to throw out all that part that is printed, as we
have said, in italics, it is not necessary to subscribe to every
word of Watts, to see that our author had little disposition
to do him justice; but, by garbled quotations, to render
his sentiments or expressions as offensive as possible. Had
our author, however, thought proper to have given another
quotation from the Dr. it w^ould have explained his views,
without the necessity of accusing him fy^ enmity to the songs
of Zion, or of uttering a bitter /ift^Zagainstthem. He says,
"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 words unto God.
By reading we are instructed what have been the dealings
of God with men in all ages, and how their hearts have
been exercised, &c. but songs are generally expressions
of our own experience or of his glories; we acquaint hira
with what sense we have of his greatness.and goodness, and
that chiefly in those instances which have some relation to
us. I will not assert it imlawful to sing to God th-e words
of other men, whicii we have no concern in, and which are
very contrary to our circumstances, &c. yet it must be con-
fessed, 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.-' This last quotation gives the sentiments of
the Dr. respecting the difference between reading and sing-
ing, and the design of both; such too, are our own senti-
ments on the same subjects. Had we room to give more
copious extracts from the Dr's own language, and in the
.order he has given it, every reader would see, that our au~

1 16 ox PSALMODY,

thor was very far, indeed, from doing his sen tiiuents jus-
tice; and that the charge of enmity against tlie Psalms of
David, is a gross slander. Of singing the Psalms implying
a falsehood, ^ee this work, p. 44. But if the Dr. were
the enemy of the psalms, and if his heterodoxy were greater
than has been alleged, how does that effect his psalmody?
Does God never employ imperfect men, erroneous nien,
or even wicked men, to do good in his Zion? Does he not
both from babes and from the wrath of man, as he sees good,
ordain praise? Who was it delivered those sublime prophe-
sies recorded in Num. xxiii, and xxiv. ? Or the prophesy
recorded John, xi. 49 — 52? If God were pleased to em-
ploy, in such a service, Balaam and Caiaphas, is it impos-
sible he should make use of Dr. Watts for the edification of
the church? Nay, even David would never have given us
thePsalms on the principle that God does not employ erring
men and wicked men, in the service of his church. And,
if he afforded to those already mentioned an extraordina-
ary afflatus, why might he not afford in tlie present case,
at least an ordinary supply? If so too, what is the mean-
ing of all the vituperation and abuse of the character and
misrepresentation of the sentiments of Dr. Watts? What
has any of it do with the question of the privilege and duty
of christians in the exercise of praise to God, through the
Lord Jesus Christ? I feel then, that while it is fully evi-
dent that the Dr's sentiments have been greatly misrepre-
sented, and his language mutilated and garbled for that
end, all this is entirely off the subject, and has in truth
liothing to do with it.

Neither, indeed, has the Hymn book of Watts, any im-
mediate connexion with the question. If it is erroneous,
it ought not to be employed; but whetlier erroneous or
otherwise, it determines nothing of the chiistian's duty, as
to the general principle^

We have seen the attempts which have been made, by a
6ome think argument, and by ascribing the orthodoxy of the
Psalms and Hymns to D wight, to criminate Watts, and
prove the heresy of the psalmody he composed. I will now
notice a little the critical acumen our author has display-
ed, for the same end. After exposing the no small shallow-
ness of Freeman and Baird, he exemplifies his sentiments,
by a few reaiarjis upon Watts, beginning with Psalms xlv.

: EXAMlNATtON. 147

9 — Upon tliy right hand did stand the queen in gold of

Upon thy ri2:lit hand did the queen

In gold of Ophir stand. Roxise.

At his right hand our eyes hehold-

The queen, array'd in purest gold:

The world admires her heavenly dress,

Her robes of glory and right-ousnees. IVattS.

Our critic says, these *''two last lines labour under the
very great inconvenience of being untrue; for the tvorld, as
distinguished from the churchy never admired her heavenly
dress, her robe of joy and righteousness." It so happens
that the untruth lies with the critic, and not with the poet.
The poet did not say whether he was viewing the world, as
distinguished from the church, or not. This, however, is
no more tlian a quibble. Both the psalm and tlie poet are
speaking of the spread of the gospel, and the impression it
makes on those called the people^ by the one, and the world
by the otherj which has the same signification in scripture.
Again —

A soul distress'd with sin's desert

My God will ne'er dispise. Watts.

Our author says, '« The cases of Cain, Judas, and all the
trembling devils in hell, falsify the assertion." I was at a
little loss whether to stain my page with his language, or
let it pass. It is not like the language of a man wno in-
clines to speak in a sober manner of serious things^ but not
all the infernal witnesses, to whom our author has appealed,
and his own testimony into- the bargain, would make the
assertion false, without the aid of that wilful misconstrue-
tion, of which, however, our author has given us many
specimens* Watts is not speaking of the feelings of des*'-
pair, but a broken and contrite heart, as the rest of Ihe psalm
shows. This then is merely an ellipsis, which no one can
be at a loss how to supply. The phraseology might be
better, but it is a gross misrepresentation to construe it as
Mr. M^M. has done. After all, too, there is a most striking
similarity between it and tlie version of Rouse. If the one
is wrong, the other cannot be right; and I do not doubt but
Mr. M'M's. witnesses would give the lie to Watts, Rouse,
and David, although they should all speak by the same


Again* —

Sliouldst thou condemn my soul to heft.

And crush my flesh to dust,
Heav'n would approve thy vegeance well,

Ajad earth must own it just.


Our critic says, "The words and sentiment of the imitation
are in direct contradiction to the word of God, in such a
case; and-are only fit for one in the gall of bitterness and
bond of iniquity." If our author has ever realized the ex-
ercises of a convinced sinner, he must have experienced
something very like what the above stanza describes. He
did not calculate the anxiety of his mind, by the correct-
ness of theological systems. He did not stand before God
and say,. '^I hav^ repented of my siri — I have a right to
pardon — it would be unjust to condemn me — both earth and-
heaven would declare it to be so." The fact is, that the
difterence in sentiment, between it and the prose, or Rouse,-
is so small, that none but a critic's eyes would discern it,
and he only by the help of his imagination. Once more,

He comes to make his blessings flow,

Far as the curse is found. " IVatts.

Mr. M'M. says, *'The curse is upon all devils and wick-
ed men universally.— Is a smooth line of poetry, though
containing a false doctrine, of more importance than the
truth of God's word?" Our critical author, appears to have
a great fondness for employing devils and wicked men to
assist him, but they are poor help at best, and none at ail

The first thing I remark is, that our author has done here,.
as in some other places-, first misrepresent^ and then
criticise. He sets down, Ps. xcviii 2, ''The Lord hath
Miade know his salvation." — Then Rouse's paraphrase,

The Lord God his salvation,
Hath caused to be known.

He then places with these. Watts' paraphrase on the third

He comes to make his blessings flow.
Far as the curse is found.

\j^i us, however, compare>^ the verse wliich Watts para-
phiuscd, with these lines^ and see. how they agree — ^.S-.


**A1T the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our
God." Prose translation — ■

And the salvation of our God

All ends of the earth have seen. RoUse^

He comes to make his blessings flow,

Far as the curse is found. Watts.

The reader will easily perceive, that these lines were not
intended as a paraphrase of the second verse, and wliy our
author represented it so, is best known to himself.

I next observev that it is quite information, that the
curse extends to devils. The psalmist is speaking of the
salvation afforded in the gospel of Christ. Now, what-
ever salvation that was, the curse it came to remove, is
the one of which the poet speaks, and no other. Now, I
would ask our author, if devils have any thing to do with
the curse incurred by a broken covenant of works, or a
rejected Saviour. They will suffer for their own sinj but
not in man's curse, unless as his tempter. The question
may then be retorted on our author; is a smart criticisn*
of more importance than the truth of the gospel?

I again observe, that the subject is not the extention of
the gospel to mankind as individuals; but to the difierent
countries and regions of the earth. If our author is dispo-
sed to take the meaning of the psalm to the regions of dis-
pair, we will be equally justified in applying it to the man-
sions of the blessed; and then it is much Farther than the
curse. But the criticism is at best silly, and it is not worth-
while to follow it.

But, inquires Mr. M'M. *^Is the language of the imita^
Hon here, the language of the text or of any other scripture?"
Any one who will read the fifth chapter of the Epistle to
the Romans, especially from the fifteenth verse to the end,
will not believe Mr. M'Master, and the apostle both.
*' Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," is
of itself sufficient to settle the question. Our author would
do well to relinquish the office of a critic, for he knows as
little about it, as other men, and less than many. Neither
will the cloud of witnesses he has summoned from the inv
fernal regions, enable him to falsify Watts in these places^

In the version of psalms by Dr. Watts, there are about
£000 verses; of these, our author has attempted- to play the

t50 ON psalmody:

critic, with about six; \vTlh what success the rcad'eT wiU-
judge. Gould any one doubt the disposition of our author
to find faults, errors, or heresies? iS^o, surely: but, while
ntUmfting to establish the some think, of some body, or of
noboihj, he exercises his critical powers, on these six verses
— brings devils and wicked men to help him, and — quits.
Better he had "'quit before he heg^inJ^ More than six
Aersesof Rouse's paraphrase, could be shown to be excep-
tionablei buti have given my view of that matter already.
So much, however, for the heresies of Watts, and the errors
in his psalms.

It is now time to pay a little attention to some things our
author has said respecting the '* Science of Praise," and its
author. He says, t^The Rev. Dr. Jambs Latta, of
Chesnut Level, Pennsylvania, appeared as the chief cham-
pion, in the latter part of the last century, for a new system
of sacred songs; and also the most confident enemy of the
scripture Psalms. Some copyists of the Doctor, such as
Messrs. Freeman and Baird, of inferior standing in the
Presbyterian church, have since appeared in the same cause.
As these lag behind their original in every thing but in
virulence against the inspired songs of Zion,.lhey shall now
occupy but little of our time : our attention shall chiefly be
directed to the conclusions of Dr. Latta,'' p. 33..

As Mr. Freeman has, some time since,, given

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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 14 of 16)