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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the inference which the apostle deduced from his argu-
ment with his countrymen.^ It was this, that they should
ofter up their praises through, him, confessing his name.
Why did he not leave them to the use of their former
songs, aiid at least, tacitly admit that their praises were
thus presented by the exercise.^ No; he found it of some
consequence to inform the Hebrews, that th«ir offerings of
praise were to be presented through *'anewand living
way," even through the express name of him, whom they
had denied and crucified.

Were any evidence wanting on this subject, it is abun?
dantly supplied in the Apocalypse of John. This books .
written probably about thirty years after the writing of the
epistles we have been considering, takes a view of the
state of the church and of the world from that time until
the end. In this view, new songs are frequentlyintrodu*-
ced, but not any account of one of the Psalms of David.
On the song, Revelations v. 9 — 14, on which I have before
noticed some remarks of Dr. M'Leod, he further says,
^' Worthy is. the Lamb that was slain to receive power,
and riches, and imnor, and glory, and blessing" — *'this
is the song of angels and redeemed men. We have a
right to require and expect of yau^ that y-ou join in h'rS
praise," p. 71. In what way they are to perform this, the
Dr. does not say.

Henry remarks, /* The. matter of their song, it was suit-
ed to the new state of the church, the gospel state, in thi^.
new Sion." Scott observes, ''Moreover, they all join in-
a song of praise, which was not only most excellent, but it
was also new in respect to the occasion and composition ^ .


for the Old Testament church celebrated the praised of Je-
hovah, their Redeemer from Egypt, and anticipated the
coming of their expected Messiah,' but the New Testament
church adored Christ as actually come, as having finished
his work on the earth by his sacrifice on the cross, and as
entered into his mediatorial glory. . '

On chap. xi. 15, M'Leod remarks, "and the seventh
^ngel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven,
saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the king-
doms of our Lord and of his Christ. The church is thus
represented as rejoicing — • great voices are heard in heav-
en'-^She has cause of joy. The occasion is novel in-
deed." Again, ''thus shall ye be prepared to join in the
celestial hymn, of the *four and twenty elders,' " &c. pp.
192, 224. It seems in a state of things, novel indeed, the
church mrt^ chaunt a new hymn.

Rev. XV. 1-3, "They are characterised as having g-of fen
the victory, and as having the harps of God. Harps were
in use in the temple service; and are described as uttering
lofty and cheerful sounds, adapted to a happy condition of
the church. The use of them was laid aside during the
captivity, as unsuitable to the depressed state of the saints
in Chaldea," p. 239.

Henry says, "The song was new, suited to the new cov-
enant, and unto that new and gracious dispensation under
Avhich they now were." Rev. xiv. 3.

Scott — "This (song) was sung in the presence of the
emblematical representatives of the church and its minis-
ters, and none could learn it but the redeemed. For as
it related immediately to redemption, the proud, the im-
penitent, the unbelieving, and the carnal, could not un-
derstand the nature or the glory of this subject, nor could
angels join in it, not being redeemed to God by the blood
of tiie Lamb, tiiough they unite in worshipping him as^
worthy to receive all honor and blessing." On Rev.
xiv. 3.

It appears that Whitby, and Henry, and Scott, and M'-
Leod, agree with what has been advanced, as to the pro-
priety of songs being appropriate — the reason why the cap-
tives of Babylon refused their song — and the fact of new
songa being sung by the redeemed, in the gospel day,.
when the occasion is really novel.


We have now seen, that the patriarchs sung, with di-
vine approbation, songs which have never been admitted
into the canon of scripture-— that tiie Jewish church acted
in the same manner, and used many songs that have not
found a place in the written word — that thej uniformly
made or altered their song€ 'to suit the occasions of their
praise, and refused to use them when they did not. If
then the example of the former church, will prove any
thing, it will establish the principles we have espoused,
M'itli relation to the privilege of the christian church, in
the exercise of sacred praise.

In the New Testament day we have seen that its dawn
was ushered in by a song adapted to its new state and
prospects — that new songs were sung by angels from heav-
en, and by men upon earth, on various occasions — that
whatever assertions may be made, it cannot be shown,
that ever Christ or his apostles sung an Old Testament
song — that the apostles required the praises of believers to
be presented as eocjilicitly in the name of Christ, as any
other act of worship — and that, instead of the actions of
Christ, the writings of the apostles, or the visions of John,
confining us to the old dispensation, they examplify to us,
and require of us, in terms that cannot be honestly evad-
ed, the performance of that duty.

It will be easy to exclaim, gratuitous, impious, &c.
but the stubborn facts presented will m-dke their impres-
sion on the candid mind; others, I do not expect, will see
or feel the force of truths, against which they are so
strongly prepossessed.

Should it, however, be supposed that I would banish the
ancient Psalms, I most emphatically disavow the senti-
ment. I \yould build upon the foundation of the apostles
and prophets — sing the song of Moses ^nd the Lamb — the
prediction and the accomplishment in one harmonious
song of exulting praise. I would adopt the language of
the pious and learned author of Horae Solitarae, and say,
*' The song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, are but
two parts of the same glorious anthem; the one chaunting
fourth the predictio7i, and the other the accomplishment of
everlasting truth : and they accord in one chorus, in one
transporting, universal, thundering Hallelujah!" vol. 5,
page 25 L


1 would, therefore, neither cast off the former anthology,
nor confine myself to it; but uniting the harp of David
with the song of Simeon, and the strains of Isaiah with
the anthems of the Redeemed, I would invite all creation
to join with the celestial choir, in singing *'> Glory to God
in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward*
men;" and in ascribing *' Glory, and honor, and blessing,
and power, unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and un-
to the Lamb for ever and e"ver."


History of Psalmody in the Primitive Church,

" For satisfaction as to the appointments of God, we must rest, not on
the practice of the Fathers, but on the dictates of mspired truth. Keeping
this in recollection, it may nevertheless be interesting to ascertain their
Biodes and matter of worship. And as a pompous, and at first sight, im-
posing display, of research into the ancient practice of the church, on the
subject of psalmody, has been made by some of those who treat with little
decorum certain parts of the word of God, it may not be inexpedient to in-
quire, how far their representation of that practice is entitled to our confi-
dence." Apology, p. 33.

We have seen that the events recorded in the New
Testament, respecting the advent of the Messiah, consti-
tute the application of the doctrines of the Old Testament
to him^ and the accomplishment of its promises, which are,
yea and amen, in him — we have seen, that since his being
manifested in the flesh, as our God man, all our offerings
are to be presented expressly in his name — we have seen,
that the church adapted her exercises to the new state of
things; sung the reality and the enjoyment of those bles-
sings which she had before only anticipated; and the in-
carnation, and manifested glories, of him who had so long
been promised — and, we have seen, that in the celebration
of these events, neither the church nor the church's Head
employed a song of the old dispensation.

While, therefore, the doctrines, precepts and examples^
ijf the word of God, are so decidedly in fevour of the

pRiMrnvE CHURCii. 85

ficactice we advocate, it is indeed of small concern, to us
what the primitive church either said or did respectino- it!
As, however, the nearer we approach to the apostolic a-c
-there IS the greaier probability of the worshippers of ^G^o.l
knowing and receiving the apostolic practice, it ought to
have some weight in the argument, especially if we find our
examples in that part of the church, most remarkable for pu •
nty and pietj. But, as I am of opinion that the evidence^
1 have already adduced, from the word of God, fully settles.
not only the qmstwn of right, but, the ebll^atlon of diitv.
lam not so solicitous about the practice of the primitive
christians, on the ground of argument, as I am to see how
tar the second sight of Mr. M'Master, has surpassed our
Jirst sightj ^and whether his imposing display of researdh
will entitle him more to confidence, than that which he op-
poses vvith so much zeal. If lie has treated this part of his
subject unfairly, It will justly weaken our con^dence in
his other statements, from whatever cause the unfairness
may have originated. In the words-of. olir author himself,
theretore, '-it may not be inexpedient to inquire how far
/misrepresentation of that practice is entitled to our con-

Before I proceed, however, I would once more observe
ttiatthis hackneyed chsivge^ of our treating '«with little
decorum certain parts of the word of God'" is untrue in
in all its forms and repetitions; which I will have occasion
to notice, more particularly, in the sequel of this work.
I hope too, that the reader will see, that so far as I have
at i^resent progressed, I ha^e followed both the letter and
spirit of that word, in the doctrines and practices I have
maintained, and the evidence by which thev are supported.

We do not need, however, the authority of Hegesippus
or Jerome, given by our author, to inform us that errors
soon toak root, and spread in the church; as we have the
evidence of the apostles, to establish the fact of apostacies,
and heresies, in their time; and of the miisterij of iniquitu
being at worK: but, when following the most faithful
branch of the church, we are little concerned with the prin^
ciples or modes of heretics.

.r.fn''^'^''''^ ^'^*f philippic. against Latta, Freeman,
and Baird, our author proceeds, in the 33d page, when
apeakmg of Latta, to say, -The results of his historical?


investigation may be reduced to two positions: first, That
evano-elical hymns, of human composition, constituted the
?x'/io/1 matter' of the church's psalmody for the first three
centuries; and, secondly, That tiie book of Fsalms was
not introduced into the christian church, as the matter of
her praise, till error and heresy-, to which it was subser-
vient, boldly attempted, in the fourth century, to veil the
divine glories of the Redeemer."

T have laid aside my pen, at least three different times,
and have examined the book of Dr. Latta, with care, to
fmd something to justify the above language of our author,
but I have sought in vain. I think there is no risk in say-
ing, that neither Dr. Latta, nor any of those who have
Avritten on the same side of the question, have used any
language which could be made, by any honest construc-
tion, to imphj, much less say, that the Psalms of David
were siihservient to the introductien of heresy. Whether
Mr. M'M. has entirely lost sight of the difference between
the cause and the occasion, I do not pretend to say; but I
will have an opportunity, perhaps, of attending to this
matter before I conclude, and hope to satisfy the intelli-
gent reader^ that we have on this ground been grossly
misrepresented and slandered.

The statement, too, which our author makes, of the
question in dispute^ is very far from being fair. ''That
evangelicalhymns, of human composition, constituted the
u)hole matter of the church's psalmody for the fi.rst three
centuries," is not the proposition Dr. Latta has laid down,
and if it were, our authotr has not disproved it. The
proposition af the Dr. when speaking of the arrangement
of his discourse, is thus expressed, *• What I would prin-
cipally insist upon from the w^ords,is to prove, that the
principal subjects of our psalmody, are to be taken from
the gospel of Christ I say the" principal subjects, be-
cause I do not think, that we ought to be restricted from
borrowing light and advantages from any part of scrip-
ture, in Gur psalmody, any more than in other parts of
our public worship.."

Every reader, that will but reflect for a moment, will
see that there is no reason why we should give the pledge,
or lay down the proposition, which our author states.
Hesays, that notliing can be lawfully employed, in the


praise of God, but the Psalms of David, or, at the most
the songs ofscripturej we say^ not th^se alone, but evan-
gelical hymns, may laVvfully be used. Now, will not the
reader see, that prot'i«o' the use of a scripture song, does
not disprove that of a hymn; and does he not see, that so
tar as the example of the primitive church is of weight, if
we prove the use of such hymns, as those in question^tho
example is in our favour, without proving that nothing else
was admitted. As our author contends for psalms alone,
Im ought to show that theij alone have been admitted; but
he disingenuously, and incorrectly, states to his readers,
that we contend for hymns exchisively, while the fact is
just the other way; and, when he has got some little evi-
dence of a psalm having been sung, although it has never
been denied, he triumphs as if he had obtained a victory,
and makes many of his easy convinced readers believe it
is so. This little address he supports throughout the book,
in the application of the words '' the wJiole matter of their
praise" — ''^ exclusively ^^^ Sac. and, very unfairly states it
precisely on the opposite side of the place where it should
stand in the discussion.

Having made these remarks, I proceed to observe, that,
even during the time of the apostles, besides the evidence
which the scriptures afford, we have that of Heumannus,
already noticed, that such *Miymn«i or spiritual songs were
in common use in the christian church in those times."
So that, without laying any stress on the opinion, that ths
apostle quoted from them, we have his evidence, that tkey
were in common use. This evidence, corresponding so
perfectly with the practice of the Corinthian church, and
the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, is the more
probable, and weighty, and entitled to regard; not to say
that the learned and judicious Jehning& quotes him with
approbation, in his ''Antiquities of the Jewish church."
Jahn, in his Archaeology, in accordance with these views,
says, of the first christians, '' Those who held some office
in the church, were the regularly qualified instructors in
these religious meetings; and yet laymen had liberty to
address their brethren on these occasions, the same as in
the synagogues, also to sing hymns, and to pray, which,
in trutli, many of them did, especially those who were
supernaturaily gifted, not excepting women, " The author
'aere intendsy composing and singing.


Mosheim says, (speaking of the christian worship in the
ige of the apostles,) *'In these assemblies, the holy scrips
tures were publicly read, and for that purpose were divi-
ded into certain portions or lessons. This part of divine
service was followed by a brief exhortation to the people,
in which eloquence and art gave place to the natural and
fervent expression of zeal and charity. If any decla-
red themselves extraordinarily aninmted by the Holy Spir-
it, they were permitted to explain successively the divine
will, while the other prophets who were present, decided
how much weight and authority was to be attributed to
what they said. The prayers, which made a considerable
part of the public worship, came in at the conclusion of
these discourses, and were repeated by the people after
the bishop or presbyter, who presided in the service. To
these were added certain hymns, which \vere sung, not by
the whole assenjbly, but by persons appointed for that
purpose, during the celebration of the Lord's supper, and
the feasts of cliarity." Sc. His. v. i, p. 124, Justin's 2d
Ap. & iGer. xiv. 6, 15, 26.

Morsley, speaking of Ignatius, says, he was "the famil-
iar friend of the apostles, who suffered martyrdom so ear-
ly as in th^ . sixteenth year of the second century, and
had been appointed to the bishoprick of Antioch, full thir-
ty years before," Tracts p. 34. Most other authorities,
however; assign the year lOr, for the martyrdom of Igna-

"In the apostolical constitutions, Euodius (Phil. iv. 2) is
said to be ordained bishop of Antioch by Peter, and Igna-
tius by Paul 5 till Euodius dying, and the Jewish converts
being better reconciled to the Gentiles, Ignatius succeed-
ed in the sole care and presidency over that churchy
wherein he might possibly be afterwards confirmed by
Peter himself." "Somewhat above forty -years Ignatius
continued in liis charge at Antioch." Cave.

Of Ignatius, vSocrates relates, that "he saw a vision,
wherein be heard the angels with alternate hymns, celebra-
ting the honor of the Holy Trinity, in imitation whereof
l>e instituted the way of. Antiphonal hymns in the church
of Antiocli, vvhich thence spread itself over the whole
christian chuich." Theodoret says, that "Flavianus, afr
tejy/ards bibhojp. of. Autiochj in tji^ reign of Constantius.


is sai3 to have been the first that thus established the
quire;'^ but this difference, between Socrates and Theo-
doret, is explained bj Sigebert, who says, that "Ambrose
was the first who brought it into the western church, revi-
ving the ancient institution of Ignatius, long disused a-
mong the Greeks.^^ Cave.

If Horselej's calculations were right, Peter and Paul did
not suffer before the year 86; but as the most of historians
place the time of their death about twenty years earlier,
their calculations are more consistent and satisfactory;
not to say that the first is impossible.

It may be supposed by some, that the circumstance of
Ignatius having seen a vision, partakes a little of the air
of romance, or at least enthusiasm; but as the scriptures
inform us, that very many of the works of Christ, and
his apostles, and miracles wrought, were not recorded :
and as we read of the visions of Peter, Paul, and Philip,
before this, and of that of John exactly similar, afterward,
it by no means appears so incredible. I, however, lay
no stress upon it, nor is it necessary, as we have the vision
of John, unveiling the glories, and describing the exer-
cises of the blessedf while recounting the salvation of the
saints, and the triumphs of the Lamb, in a manner corres-
ponding with what Socrates says respecting Ignatius.
The evidence, however, that Ignatius introduced-, at so
early a period, viz. while perhaps four or five of the apos=
ties, at least, were yet living, hymns in honor of the Holy
Trinity, is of another complexion, and supported both by
Socrates and Sigebert, as above noticed* If then we
should term the vision enthusiastic, there is no pretext^
thus to characterize tlie history of the introduction of
"hymns, in honor of the Holy Trinity y in the same manner.

We have another piece of history which appears to ex-
plain the meaning of the scriptures, to confirm the evi-
dence I have offered, and the sentiments I have advanced^
on this subject. Caius, a Presbyter of Rome, in the third
century, writing against Theodotus and others,, who denied!
the divinity of Christ,, says, "They affirm that all; the
primitive christians, and the apostles themselves, both re-
ceived and taught these things which are spoken by them..'^
He then refers to Justin and others who had written a-
gainst the heretics^ and continues, "In fine,. how man^*:


psaliiis, and hymns and canticles were written from ttife
beginning by 'faithful christians, wliich celebrate Christy
the Word of God, as no other than God indeed?" Eu-
sebius in Milnor, v. 1, p. 249^ Miiler^s letters on Uni-
farianism, p. 157.

This testimony is express, for tlie use of human compo*
sition from the beginning, or from the earliest times.
What is implied in this language may be understood from
what precedes it, as well as from the object of the discus-
sion. Theodotus and his party had contended, that from
tlie apostles dov/n, until the time of Victor, these senti-
ments were taught; but Caius appeals to the songs, which
had been made ail this time, by faithful christians, ascribing
divinity to Christ. Now, if there were not any of this
character m.ade at so early a period, how fooHsh must
iiave been the appeal of Caius, and how easily wouW his
opponents not only have denied the existence of such
hymns, but triumphed in- his inability to produce them,
and his consequent defeat. This shows, therefore, that,
the existence of siich hymns, was unquestionable, and
confirms oar explanation of Paul's Epistle, and Pliny's
letter. In addition to this, I remark, that Caiiis employed
the same terms or phraseology, when speaking of those
odes which faithjill christians, composed from the begin-
ning, as the apostle did when- addressing the Ephesiana
and Colossians; and moreover, that the word psalms is
applied by him as promptly^ to such compositions, as itib
to the Psalms of David. Thiaalso confirms the impression
that the apostles, when speaking of the Psalms of David,
gave them some definite denomination, that could not b€
mistaken^ but when they spake of others, employed a more
general and indefinite phraseology. All this broad evi-
dence, therefore, is full to the point, in favour of the sen-
timents i defend.

We are now come to the famous letter of Pliny, which
has afforded so much play for a lively and prepossessed im-
agination;, but which would never^ as to its true meaning,
have given room to a second thought, had there been no
controversy in the case, . Speaking of the conclusions of
iiatta, which w« have already quoted and considered, our
author goes on. to say, *'But how does this author and his
»iUQcessors in the same ^wwk, substantiate these position siP ;


The first historical proof is drawn from Pliny-s letter to
Trajan, in which the emperor is informed, among other
things, that the christians assembled on a certain day, and
* sung a hymn to Christ as God.' Now, if not disposed to
play upon mere words, would not every man of common
sense perceive, that if those christians sung the 45th
Psalm, they must literally have addressed Christ as God?
Compare verses 1-9 with Keb. i. 8, 9, and this will be ev-
ident. Or, had they sung a portion of 102d Psalm, would'
it not have been a song to Christ, as to Ged. I do not
know what our modern hymnolvgists would think of these,,
but certain I am j the apostle Paul did believe them, as
well as many others, to be odes to Christ The reader of
the 1st and 2d chapters of the Epistle to- the Hebrews,
will too, be satisfied of this. The only ground of quibbk
is, the term hymn, the usual version of carmen, which
is the word used by P]iny. Now, the veriest novice in
the Latin language knows, that carmen is a word of gene-
ral signification, applicable to any poetic and even to pro-
saic composition. This is the reasoning of these gentle-
men. Pliny says, the christians of his day sung, or re-
hearsed, (dicere) a poetic composition to- Christ as to Godj
therefore, they did not sing the scripture songs, but hymns
of human composure ! What cliild that has been taught to
read the Bible, and is instructed in the rudiments of Chris-
tianity, would not reason better than such doctors.*^ He
could say, if they sung the 45th, 47th, 68th, &g. Psalms,
(and why-might they not have sung them?) they would
aave bunff to Christ as to God." Apol. p. 34..

I have here given the reader this long quotation, that he
may have an opportunity of seeing, at one view, and ad-
miring the skill, in JLatin and in logic, which our author has
displayed. That the matter, however^ may be fairly un-
derstood^ I will subjoin the following remarks.

1. Mr.- M'M. makes a wide mistake when he says, " the

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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 8 of 16)