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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only ground of quibble is the term %m?i;" and as neither
hymn nor dicere is any part of the quibble, or even of the
argument, it is not v/erth while to tell the reader, whether
we are even novices in the Latin language or not.

2. He has shamefully misstated both the argument and
the conclusion, where he contrasts the reasoning of his
bible -taught littld boy^ with the reasoning oi . doctor s'i.


There never has been one of those, against whom he has-
written, who has attempted to draw such inferences from
such premises^ and how he could permit himself to make
the statement, I am utterly unable to comprehend.

3. What are the forcible arguments, or the strong; rea-
sons of Mr, M'M* which gives him a title to use the lan-
guage of contempt, and to sneer at doctors? Reader at-
tend: To establish his position and excite your indignation
against our quibble-^^, he produces the powerful and conclu-
sive arguments of four ifs and a why not. Jf they sung
the 45th, i/they sung the 47'th, if they sung the 68th, and
2/ they suno; a portion of the 102d, and luhy might they not
have sung them! LogicI logic! well may our author treat
with contempt all the puny race of logicians, who cannot
reach his elevation. But does he offer no other argument,
in this place, or on this subject, than that we have stated?
Only one others but quite as forcible as the former ones.
It is in these wor^X^y^'^ certain I am,^^ and of course, must
settle the question to which it is applied.

We will now give the reader some account of the rea-
sons which influence our opinion on the subject before
us, and whether it be quibble or not, let the candid judge. .

The object on our part, is to show what we think to be
the fact, that hymns of human composition, expressly in
praise of the Redeemer , were used in the fii-st and follow-
ing centuries. For that purpose, the. letter of Pliny, the
proconsul of Asia Minor, is quoted^ which says, that
** The christians met together before daylight, and sung
together, or by turns, a hymn to Christ as to God." Mr^
M'M. says, our first historical proof is drawn from this let-
ter, but the reader will see, that besides the Sacred History^ .
we have produced the evidence of Heumannusj that modern
hymns were in common use in the time of the apostles^
and his opinion that Paul quoted from one of them — the
evidence of Socrates and Sozomon, that Ignatius introdu-
ced hymns in honour of the Holy Trinity, into the church at -
Antioch — and the evidence of Caius, that the faithful chris-
tians from the beginning, composed such hymns and songS|
and Justin Martyn to the same effect. We are not, there-
fore, dependent upon the evidence of Pliny, our author to
the contrary notwithstanding

Kow, what is the point of light in which this letter ought


i4 be viewed? The ai^thor, Piiny,used several expedients
to obtain a knowledge of the peculiarities of the christian
worship; first from apostates, and then by torturing *' two
females who were said to be deaconesses*" The result
of his inquiries was expressed in these words — " And
this was the account which they gave me of the nature of
the religion they had once professed, whether it deserves
the name of crime or error : that they were accustomed on
a stated day to meet before day-light, and to repeat or
sing among themselves, (or alternately) an hymn to Ghrist^
as to God» and to bind themselves by an oath, with an ob=
ligation of not committing any wickedness, but on the con-
trary of abstaining from thefts, roberies, and adulteriesi
also of not violating their promise, or denying a pledge;,
after which it was their custom to separate, and to meet a-
gain at a promiscuous, iMrmless meal, from which last
tliey yet desisted, after th* publication of ray edict, in
which, aoreeably to your orders, I forbade any societies."
After tliis account from the apostates, Pliny examined the
two females by torture, but could make no other or addi-
tional discoveries.

Now, the only part that is connected with our subject,
is tha hymns, and the question, were they David's Psaim^
or something else? is the point at issue. We have scene
the arguments by which Mr. M'M. sup]>orts tbe former^
i'will now state why I think they were of a modern char=

The object of Pliny being to ascertain the- distinguish-
ing peculiarities of the christian religion, what discovery
would he have made, or howvvould they have been dis-
tinguished, by singing the psalms our author has men-
tioned, or any other of that dispensation? This hymn, and
the morality of their lives, are all the traits of character
unfolded; the one to show the safety of the state, as to
any danger from tiiem', the other to distinguish them from
other sects, whether Jews or Heathens. Our author says,
** would not every man of comman sense perceive, that if
they sung the 45tli Psalm, they must literally have addres-
sed Christ as God.'' Then there was no Jew who had
■zommon sense. They would have sung all the Psalms of
David, without ever supposing they were singing one of
that character; but they would have been verv far from


singing a hj^mn to Christ as God. The Old Testament
promised, and the Jews, a* Me have before observed, ex-
pected a Messiah; but the christians are now required, on
all occasions, and particularly in their praises,, to acknow-
ledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah; and as one o-
pinion is of as much force as another, I am persuaded, that
no man of common sense and unbiassed mind, would ever
have attempted to bend the testimony before us, -as our au-
tiior and his friends have done.. And while I most cordi-
ally admit, that the psalms mentioned, -^nd many others.^
were prophetical of Christ, yet I think it abundantly ev-
ident, that they by no means meet the injunction of the
apostle, or the practice of the first christians, in the praise
of the Redeemer. A song of praisevvas required, and it
appears was employed too, which would acknowledge him
in terms too explicit to meet the concurrence of his great-
est enemies, the Jews. Thus we have Ignatius at Anti-
Qch, Justin in Judea, Pliny in Asia, with Caius and Heu-
mannus, over the christian church, establishing the fact of
the hymns of the church, in the apostolic age, being of
modern composition, and corresponding with the view we
have taken of those scriptures, which relate to the subject.
Several of our authorities lived and wrote after the first
century, but their testimony refers to it, that is, to those
customs which had become established in the church at the
time of their writing. This may all be called gratuitous^
assumption, quibble,. &c. &c. but the unbiassed reader
will not be deterred from the examination of the subject,,
by flouts of that description. It will, however, be very
readily conceded, that our authorities would be more ex-
peditiously answered in this way, than by argument.

The next authority i oHer is, Clemens Alexandrinus,
who, in his Pedagogue says, "gather together thy simple
children, to praise in a holy manner, to celebrate without
guile, Christ the leader of cliildren, the eternal Logos, the
infinite Age, the eternal.Light, die Fountain of n^ercyj&c—*^
Filled with the dew of the spirit, let us sing together sin-
cere praises, genuine hymns,, to Christ our king,'" &c.
Clement in Miller, p. 131, This respects the practice of
the second century, which is confirmed by the Apology of
Tertullian, where he describes the christian worship at
'aro;e. Here I would be glad to "ive another lar2:e quota-


tioii from our author, but I carinot afford to fill ray book
with his.; he misstates, however, the evidence of Ter'tul-
lian, and the conclusions of Latta, as he did those in the
case of Pliny. Mr. M'M. admits that Tertullian testifies,
to the christians of his time, composing their hymns by
their own ingenuity, or taking them from the- scriptures;
but to get red of the obvious conclusion, says, -** Tertul-
lian relates the practice of certain individuals, as allowed
by some meetings for social entertainment; therefore,
Tertullian relates an ordinance of God, for the stated and
united worship of his people ! for, if not stated public wor-
ship, it makes nothing for Dr. L." And again, '' because
those individuals, on those occasions, drew their songs,
either from the scrii^tinvs or their own ingenuity; there-
fore, scripture songs were not then in use; but hymns of
Tiuman composition alone! — Such are the premises, and
such are the conclusions," Apol. p. 37. So says Mr. M'
Master; but unhappily, the whole is incorrect, and neither
^he premises nor the conclusions of Dr. L.

In the part I have quoted, as w^U as in the preceding
paragraph, our author taFks of this being the practice ojT
individuaisu and these being meetings for social entertain-
ment. This is, at least, curious enough, I siippose these
were indeed individuals, for I have neverknown a company-
engaged in any exercise whatever, but they were compohed
of individuals:: and as to the socio/ entertainment, I do not
know what our author intends by this phrase. If he in-
tends a party for anmsement, he gives them great impor-
tance by introducing them into Tertullian's Apology for
the christians, and giving them the st:riptures as the
source from which to draw many of their «ongs. If this
is not the design, how does the distinction arise, which he
makes between public stated worship, arid social private
worship. Would songs be lawful in the one that would
be unlawful in the other? If not, why the distinction*
Tertullian says, '* Three make a church;" and I know no
difference which numbers can make in the exercises of
worship. The fact, however, is simply this, these meet-
ings were indeed in private houses, because they had no
public churches in which to assemble— and they were for
the purpose of celebrating the Lord's supper and feasts of
charity. Says Mosheim^ *' If any are pleased to giTe ihe


iianie of c/iwrc/i to a house, or the part of a house, which,
though appointed as the place of religious worship, was
ne ther _separated from common use, nor considered as
holy m the opinion of the people, it will be readily granted,
that the most ancient christians had churches." Ecc
frTl\\\^' ]f^' "After the christians had eaten and
drank the Lord's suppeiv(which they did at night for fear
of heir enemies) every one was used to sing unto God
publicly, either out of the holy scriptures or according to
their ovvn genius or ability," Ter. in Todd, p. 27— Bas-
nage and others. ' » i- aa

,.?ri>^V^''' ^^'^''^ '"^^^"'^ "^' *^^t Tertullian used the
lood Psalm at the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is
ot small importance, but the truth is best. It wa« at the
AgapaB or feasts of charity, at which, in particular, they
sung this psalm, and what could be more suitable to a love
feast, than the delightful little psalm just mentioned.
Kehold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to
dwell together in unity" &c. Augustine said, '^ that these
joids being decently sung and rightly understood, pro-
duce^d u monastic life." It was'the'refore a faviu^rite

We will here, however, invite the reader, for a little
to pause and reflect. Our author has always, in tliis dis-
cussion, employed the language of contempt and abuse
respecting his opponents and their arguments. We have
seen some of his strmg reasons, and now if the reader will
look back through the last 200 years, he will find this to
be the first instance he has given, of a Psalm of David
having been sung. It has not been shown to have been
done by Christ-by his apostles~or by the first christians
after them, nor do I think it ever will. We have, however
ottered a mass of evidence on the other side. But still
1 would say, had a hundred instances been at hand, of the
use of Psalms, It would not prove the impropriety of using
Other compositions, m the worship of God,- but, when in-
stead of that being the case, we have the concurrent testi-
mony of sacred and profane history, which has been here
presented to the reader, what room is there for doubt or
hesitation on the subject? Origen, in the third century'
IS the next authority introduced, of whom Dr. Latta says
-Ongen, who flourished nearly at the same time with



TertulUaD, uses the very expressions of the apostle,
the words of our text. He exlwried the 'people, says Bas-
na^e, to strive by their hymns, by their ijsalms, and 'bi/ their
spiritual songs, crying unto God that they might 'obtain
the victory through our Lord Jesus. — Has not this ancieiU
Father, in these words, an immediate reference to the com-
mand of the apostle, which enjoins upon christians a stric

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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 9 of 16)