Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part VII & VIII

Series on EP in the ARP Cont…

VII. The New Testament commands us to sing Psalms.

The duty of praise is very distinctly recognized in the New Testament. ‘By him,’ says the Apostle to the Hebrews, ‘let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.’ (Heb. xiii:15.) And again, ‘Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.’ (James v:13.)

In what sense is it reasonable to suppose, that the primitive Christians would understand the Apostolic direction, ‘Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.’ To assist in determining what is the proper answer to this inquiry, let us propose another question. When our Lord said to his hearers, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ in what sense is it to be supposed that this direction would be understood? No one will pretend that our Lord designed that His hearers should understand Him as instructing them to prepare writings, the matter of which was to be taken from the Bible, which they might consult for their improvement, instead of searching the Holy Scriptures for their edification. Equally unreasonable would it be to suppose that the apostolic directions, with regard to singing psalms, could be understood by the primitive Christians, as authorizing them to prepare psalms to be used in the worship of God, instead of those which He Himself had provided in His Word. As the command of Christ, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ supposes that there were in existence sacred writings with which those to whom the command was addressed, were acquainted, so the apostolic direction, ‘sing psalms’ supposes that these psalms were in existence, which those to whom the direction was given were to use. Those Christians to whom the words of the Apostle James were originally addressed, knew full well that among the sacred writings which God had given to his church there was a ‘Book of Psalms.’ And the exhortation to sing psalms would naturally be understood by them as a direction to make use of the psalms which the Spirit of infinite wisdom had already provided. And to this may be added this truth that the Psalms are much more suitable and appropriate now than they were under the Old Testament; for much of the language employed in them respecting Christ and his kingdom must have conveyed but a dim and shadowy meaning to Old Testament saints. But in the clearer light of the New Testament these shadows disappear and the rich, golden truths contained in these Psalms shine forth with a beauty and splendor which delight the eye and ravish the hearts of every enlightened student and lover of God’s Word.

VIII. We have the example of our Lord and His apostles who sang the songs, hymns and psalms of the inspired Psalter.

In the gloomy precincts of a dungeon, Paul and Silas at the hour of midnight prayed and sang praises unto God, and at the close of the last Passover and institution of the Lord’s Supper, Christ and His disciples sang a hymn. (Matt. 26:30.)

Were it admitted, or proved, that this “hymn” was made for the occasion by our Saviour or by one of the apostles, what authority would thus be furnished for the making of hymns by mere men, and these uninspired!

Certainly, none at all. But this “hymn,” it is now almost universally acknowledged, was the “Great Hallel,” consisting of a number of consecutive Psalms, and always sung at the close of the Paschal feast. Says Dr. Clarke: “As to the hymn itself, we know from the universal consent of Jewish antiquity, that it was composed of Psalms 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118, termed by the Jews Hallel, from Hallelu—Jah, the first word in Psalm 113th. These six Psalms were always sung at every paschal solemnity.”

Says Dr. Broadus: “It is interesting to read these Psalms (113-118) in this connection, remembering that Jesus himself took part in the singing. The term ‘hymn’ must not be here taken in our common sense as differing from a Psalm, nor is there any radical distinction between the two in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19.”

Albert Barnes says: “There can be no doubt that our Saviour and the apostles also used the same Psalms in their observance of the Passover.”

That the Saviour Himself used the Psalms in worship, no Christian scholar will deny. Their being sung by the Redeemer’s tongue confers a glory and wealth upon them above anything human. If they were sufficient for Him in worshipping His Father, they ought to be sufficient for His followers until He furnishes them something else.

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…


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