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

. (page 3 of 16)
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 3 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

As, in the days of Enos, men began to call upon the name
of the Lord^ so, his grandson, soon after, was called Ma-
halaleel, or *^He that praises God,'^ expressive doubtless
of the exercises in which his parents, who gave the name^
delighted to employ themselves. The same observations
wiirapply to the other names given in the table, arS it was
the practice for a longtime after this, to confer names ac-
cording' to the feelings or circumstances of the time in
which they were given, and even to alter or change them,
for the same reason. It is therefore evident, that the pa-
triarchs recognised the obligation or privilege, and cultiva-
ted the practice of sacred praise. But what is altogether
conclusive on this subject, is the evidence arismg from the
facts recorded respecting Jubal, Laban and Job- What-
ever may be said of the wickedness of Cain's race, Jubal,
whose name signifies a trumpet, invented the harp and or-
gan, about 300 years after the birth of Mahalaleel; which
was theu but about the third part of man's life. Whatever
too was the use to which they then applied these instru-
ments, we are fully informed of their being admitted into
the sacred service afterward; and we see no improbability
in their having been sa employed before the flood. Thi*
impression is much strengthened, by the circumstance of
Laban, one of Shem's descendants, being so familiar with
theuseof sow^s, and tabret a.nd harp.

In the time of Job, we see by the book itself, which is a

sacred poem, that the cultivation of poetry was carried ta

the greatest perfection; and by the conversations that are

nsoorded, that it was employed for mirth and jollity, chap*


xxi. 11, 12; for grateful joj, xxix. 13; for derision and
contempt, xxx. 9; and witii the divine approbation, xxxv.
10. Eliiiu complaining of the degeneracy of manners in
his day, says, "By reason of the multitude of oppressions
tiiey make the oppressed to cry : they cry out by reason of
tlie arm of the mighty. But none saith, where is God my
Maker, who giveth songs in the night; who teacheth us
more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than
the fowls of heaven," Job xxxv. 9 — 1 1 . These expressions
appear to refer to former times, when men sought after God^
and employed themselves in his praise; but implies that
such characters had become very scarce in the time of Elihu.

The degree of wisdom, too, employed in these songs, is
stated in connexion with what man possesses above the
beasts of the earthy and the fou4s of heaven. Neither
are these songs recorded in the scriptures, and of course they
make no part of plenary inspiration. They stand, there-
fore, as a part of human composition; although our oppo-
nents might class them, perhaps, with compositions not
merely human. To this, however, I have no objectionSe

It will now be recollected, that from the creation to the
flood v/as 1656 years, from the flood to the Exodus from
Egypt, 857 — in all, 2513; in which, no song is recorded^
or any poetic composition but the book of Job. The doc-
trine of our opponents, however, would lead to the con-
clusion, that, either there were no songs of praise oflfered
to God, during that period, or, that they were unaccepta.-
ble, not being the songs of scripture. It appears to me,
therefore, that the patriarchs had no difficulty in offering
up their songs of praise to God, although they have not the
marks of inspiration^ nor has God seen good to preserve

I have not here offered the opinion of hi&torians about
the flourishing of music and poetry in Chaldea before and
during the time of Abraham; of their having been taught
in Egypt by Henries, called Mercury Trismegistus; these
not being the authority which the demand of Mr. M'M.
requires; nor indeed is there occasion for any proof except
the unerring word of God. /^ proves that songs were em-
ployed in the worship of God, which are not among the
songs of inspiration. But of this we shall yet find addition-
al evidjenee as we proceed* The objection, howevef^ has


been suggested, that, the Psalins, which David and other
psalmists composed, may have been the very same which
had been before dictated by the spirit* to the patriarchs^
and that being lost, or never having been v/ritten, they
were given anew by the same spirit, for the use of the
church under the law. This objection would rest upon a
supposition, extravagant enough at all events. But to
meet it fairly, it must intend either literally the same, or
only substantially, the same. To suppose the first, would
be to allege that, before the deluge, they had their Moses
and Aaron, tabernacle and temple, and all the other locali-
ties of the Jews and surrounding nations. As this must
appear absurd at first blush> it can only mean that they
were substantially the same, and to this I have no objec-
tions; as, the doctrines of grace—- the precepts of obe-
dience — and the exercises of the heart, must be substan-
tially the SFame,, under every dispensation; although there
may be a great variety in the particular and local circuni-
stances^ by which they are marked, which require a cor-
respondent vari&ty in the songs, by which they are celebra-
ted. This variety and adaptation to circumstances, i&
strongly marked, in the songs of scripture, under both dis-
pensations. This objection, therefore, of which I should
never have thought, had it not been suggested that it might
possibly be made, is laid by for the present; and the argu-
ment, for the use of an uninspired psalmody by the patri-
archs, remains in full force.


History of Psalmody under the Law,

The Exodus from Egypt, introduces a new era in the
liistopy of the^ church, and another dispensation of divine
graces It opens too with a song of praise, appropriate and
aublime. From that time^ until the time of David, we have
a record of five others; that is, six songs in the space of
more than 400 years. These are, the song at the Red Sea,
the 90th Psalm — the very short one at Beer — the song of
Moses at Jordan— the song of Deborah and Barak— and


the song of Hannah. But, that there were other songs in
their religious meetings, and for signal victories, we have
suflicient evidence; and that they were even numerous,
we have reason to believe. When worshipping the golden
calf, thej performed so loud that, at first Joshua thought
there was war in the camp; but upon a nearer approach he
found it was the voice of singing; and although tliis worship
was offered to an idol, it was obviously conducted, in its
lut-ling features, according to the manner of true worship.
Indeed, the expression by Moses and the apostle, '^The
people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play,"
appears to allude to the manner of worship, and which
David afterward practised before the ark. But the one
was marked with reverence to the true God; the other with
devotion to a worthless idol. The same observation may
be made respecting Aaron^'s proclamation : '• To-morrow is
a feast unto the Lord," and the peoples' praises, '^^ These
be thy Gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the
land of Egypt," which, altogether, show that, in that day,
praise was a part of public worship, whether false or true;
and that they were in the practice of making their songs
expressive of the circumstances, or exercises, of the mo-
ment, and pointedly adapted to the occasion.

In the time of Phineas also, and the elders that outlived
Joshua, we find that religious festivals were observed at
Shiloii, where the ark was kept, and that^ on these occa-
sions, songs and music were a part of the service; yet
these make no part of the scripture anthology.

We have no knowledge of the language employed by
Jephthah's daughter, except that from the song at the sea,
that of Deborah and Barak, and of the damsels of Israelf
when David had slain Goliah, we would be led to conclude,
that it had an express relation to the events, circumstan-
ces and characters of the occasion, accompanied with
thanksgiving to God for the victory vouchsafed.

"The Book of the wars of the Lord," and *'the Book
of Jasher," are quoted with approbation; the one by Mo-
ses, the other both in Joshua and in Samuel. These are
said by the learned to have been poetical compositions;
the first a history much in the manner of Job, the other, a
book of poems, relating to different occasions and events.
lli. these we have evidence of b(tf)ksj not inspired, being.


quoted with approbation, and a quotation from one of them
inserted in Num. xxi. from the middle of the 14th to the
end of the loth verse : which appears to have been sung
by the Jews, as probably more of it was. Indeed it i& quite
out of the question to suppose, that we have all the songs,
which were used with divine approbation, during either of
the periods mentioned. If then the patriarchs sung the
praises of God, as the evidence we have produced proves —
if they had the divine approbation, as appears from their
characters and the statement of Elihu — and if under these
circumstances they sung songs which are not in scripture,
we have before us evidence, which might satisfy any rea-
sonable mind, that under at least two dispensations, the
patriarchal and legal, songs not in scripture, in other
words, human composition, were used with the divine ap-

This proof therefore appears to be complete, without ta-
king into view Solomon's 1005 songs, of which we have
but one, Jeremiah's lamentations for Josiah, and the songs
of the singing men and singing women on the same occa-
sion, 2d Chron. xxxv. 25; with many others on various
subjects and different events.

It is to me, however, inexpliciable, how the professed ad-
vocates of scripture psalmody, can pass by a large proportion
of scripture songs, and while they severely censure us iqx ta-
king away from the book of life, if a psalm of David is o-
mitted, can, not only without scruple, but with a determi-
ned and persevering resolution, pass a number of others,
as appropriate on many occasions, and dictated by th

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

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 3 of 16)