Last in a Series on EP in the ARP Cont…
We have in addition to all the above two plain, positive, unmistakable commands in the New Testament to sing the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs of the inspired Psalter.
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns an4 spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. (Eph. 5:19.)
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Coloss. 3:16.)
We not only affirm, but have the highest authority for regarding it as an admitted fact, that the songs here referred to are the psalms and hymns of the inspired Psalter. But inasmuch as these passages are sometimes quoted in support of songs of praise other than the Psalms, we will consider them more fully under Part III of this discussion, Question 4th.
As a concluding argument, let it be remembered that the New Testament knows no book of praises other than the inspired Psalter, there is no intimation whatever that another book of songs is needed or would ever be given to the church. There is neither a direction given to any man to furnish such a book, nor a single promise of the influence of the Holy Spirit to assist any man in preparing one. When Jesus “ascended on high and received gifts for men,” he bestowed upon His church all the gifts necessary for her edification to the end of time. He gave some evangelists, some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body o£ Christ. Now, if it had been necessary for the edification of His church, is it not reasonable to suppose that among other gifts He would have conferred the Spirit of Psalmody? But in vain do we look for the gift of a Psalmist or the spirit of Psalmody. No such office as hymnist is named. The apostles and all who believed through their word had, and still have, the promise of the Holy Spirit to help their infirmities in prayer, and in everything that enters into Christian service save the preparation of songs of praise. There is a promise of the Spirit’s help in the offering of praise, for Paul says: “I will sing with the Spirit;” but there is absolutely no promise of his assistance in the composition of matter to be used in praise. Seek for such pledge from the beginning to the end of the New Testament, and you will seek in vain. There is no promise made for the substitution of another system for that contained in the Book of Praise.
If the collection of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, which had been the church’s sufficient manual of praise for many generations, had been inadequate to the needs of the saints in the gospel dispensation, then He who inspired a John and a Paul to make a fuller and clearer revelation of the doctrines of grace would also have touched the lips and tuned the harps of other Davids and Asaphs. The absence of, such provision may be accepted as proof of the sufficiency of the existing book of songs to meet and satisfy every possible want in this important part of God’s worship.
The conclusion is inevitable. This Book of Praise is the only one that bears the sign manual of the church’s Lord. It is the only, one that can point to the sanction of God as the basis of its claim upon the Church of Christ, and thereby it is the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church declares that “It is the will of God that the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs contained in the Book of Psalms be sung in His worship, both public and private, nor, shall any other songs be used in worship by members of the Associate Reformed Church.”
X. (1.) Dr. Owen, and twenty-five others, signed a preface to the Westminster version of the Psalms published in 1673, in which they said: “To us, David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by these terms of Psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, which the apostle useth.”
(2.) Ridgely, in his Body of Divinity, expresses the same view, and says, “It cannot be denied that the Psalms of David are called indifferently by these names.”
(3.) Dr. Gill, the learned Calvinistic divine of the Baptist school, in the introductory remarks to his commentary on the Book of Psalms, says, “To these several names of this book, the apostle manifestly refers in Eph. v:19, and Colossians iii:16. In his exposition of Eph. v:19, thus expresses himself, “The hymns are only another name for the Book of Psalms,” and “by spiritual songs are meant the psalms of David, Asaph, etc.”
(4.) Calvin, according to Doddridge in his note to Col. iii:16, “thinks all these words refer to David’s poetical pieces.”
(5.) Dr. Broadus on Matt. xxvi:30, says, “The term ‘hymn’ must not here be taken in our common sense as differing from a Psalm, nor is there any radical distinction between the two in Col. iii:16 and Eph. v:19.”
(6.) The Right Hon. Lord Selborne, F.R.S., in the Standard work, The British Encyclopedia says: “The modern distinction between psalms and hymns is arbitrary. The former word was used by the LXX as a generic distinction, probably because it implied an accompaniment by the psaltery or other instruments. The cognate verb ‘psaltere’ has been constantly applied to hymns, both in the eastern and western Church; and the same compositions which they described generically as ‘psalms’ were also called by the LXX ‘odes’ (i.e. songs) and hymns. All the words thus used were applied by the LXX to the Davidical Psalms.”
(5th.) Again it is asked: “Is not the position of our Church a very narrow and exclusive one?”
We answer: No more so, we believe, than the Word of God and the teaching of the Presbyterian Standards. In the words of Dr. Russell:
“It is the narrowness of protection, the exclusiveness of the great dyke, which keeps back the threatening tide of sentimentalism, and saves true worship from being submerged by the dribbling rhapsodies of uninspired men. That some breakwater is needed against this tide, is the constant testimony of those who are leaders in our sister denominations. Our principle is that dyke; our declaration is a standing protest against the view that anyone may prepare matter of praise for the Church; that any and everyone may bring incense for the service of the sanctuary from any garden of spices where imagination may chance to roam; and that any Christian, in moments of spiritual exaltation, may indict the songs which shall supplant God’s own word.”
We have now finished our argument and shown a Scriptural warrant for the position of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on the subject of Psalmody. Our appeal has been to the Scriptures and to the Presbyterian Standards as interpreting them. Any arguments in favor of the use of “other songs” in the ordinance of praise must be derived from the same sources, or they are to be regarded as unworthy of answer. We have carefully avoided all side issues and arguments “ad hominem,” and confined our attention exclusively to the Scripture as the sole and sufficient arbiter on this subject. All questions, of human taste and wisdom, of history, experience or of expediency, are subordinate to this fundamental inquiry; what is the will of God? We claim that divine authority and warrant have been shown for the use of the inspired Psalter in the worship of God.
Now if any other songs are to be used we have a right to demand that similar authority be furnished. Here the burden of proof rests on those who introduce other songs in addition to what we have proved to be given by divine appointment. Let it be shown that they too have been divinely “authorized, appointed, prescribed and instituted” by Almighty God. Let it be shown that such compositions bear the direct and unmistakable impress of Christ’s authority, an impress so clear that he who refuses to use them, limiting himself to the inspired Psalm, is guilty of despising an ordinance of Christ.
Can such a case be made out? Can it be shown that I am bound to sing the songs any poet may choose to write and offer as devotional matter? Can the poet himself make such a demand upon me? Can the minister impose any obligation upon his hearers to sing any songs he may choose to announce from his pulpit? Can the Church enforce the reception and use of any hymn book she may select? Now when men are called upon to unite in praising God in the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, of the Scriptures, upon which he has impressed the sanction of his own authority, we can no more decline to respond without sin than we can refuse to read His Word or wait upon the ministry which He has appointed.
But I might have in my possession for half a century unopened and unused any one of the thousand and one hymnals now offered the public, and yet be guiltless before God. But how can this be if God has “authorized, appointed and prescribed their use” in his worship? “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.”
“Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
Dr. Chalmers complete article here…