“What poetry is to be compared with the Psalms of God? Who can make the singing of any human verses an ordinance, or give a blessing to them, such as is promised, and is given to the singing of Psalms? For what reason, then, are they set aside in the church? Why are the words of man’s genius preferred to the words of inspiration? Singing of psalms is commanded by divine authority, and commanded as a part of divine worship; not left to man’s wisdom how to provide for it, but is expressly provided for in the good word of God. And is not great contempt put upon this infinitely wise provision, when it is quite disused in the church, and man’s word is preferred to it?
What would you think of them who should throw aside all the Scripture, and never read it all in the congregation? And is it not an offense of the like nature, totally to neglect a part, a chief part of it, which was recorded for the use of the church, and in which its members were to sing the high praises of their God? It is hereby treated as useless and good for nothing. A very gross affront is put upon the love and wisdom which revealed this divine collection of hymns, and the church is deprived of the blessing promised to the singing of them, whereby it is robbed of one of its choicest treasures. If any thing be sacrilege, this is. The Psalms are stolen out of the church, and thereby the members are deprived of the blessings promised to the singing of them; for God will not give you the end if you neglect the means. Frequent are his commands in the Old Testament to sing psalms, and we have several in the New. for instance, let the word (not something beside it, but the word) of Christ itself dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. These are not different things, but different names for the same collection of Psalms, as they treat of different subjects.”
“God has given us a large collection of psalms, has commanded them to be sung in the church, and has promised his blessing to the singing of them. No respect here must be paid to names or authorities, although they be the greatest on earth, because no one can dispense with the command of God, and no one can by his wit compose hymns to be compared with the psalms of God. I want a name for that man who should pretend that he could make better hymns than the Holy Ghost. His collection is large enough, it wants no addition. It is perfect, as its author, and not capable of any improvement. Why in such a case would any man in the world take it into his head to sit down to write hymns for the use of the church? It is just the same as if he was to write a new Bible, not only better than the old, but so much better that the old may be thrown aside. What a blasphemous attempt! And yet our hymn [singers], inadvertently I hope, have come very near to this blasphemy, for they shut out the Psalms, introduce their own verses into the church, sing them with great delight and as they fancy with great profit, although the whole practice be in direct opposition to the command of God, and therefore cannot possibly be accompanied with the blessing of God.”
“This Anglican evangelical was an ardent advocate of Psalm singing (of which his favourite was Psalm 121; p. 298). Shenton summarises his position:
“Romaine’s zeal for the Psalms was principally directed towards upholding and, where necessary, re-establishing biblical theology in the church. He wanted the pure Word of God read, preached and sung by Christian congregations. Nothing, in his view, should be countenanced that threatened the supremacy of Scripture. He strongly opposed hymns on the ground that they were man’s creation and not God’s, and that they lowered worship to the level of entertainment (pp. 276, 278).”
Romaine saw hymn singing, according to George Ella, as a
“substitute for true worship and a grave departure from the scriptural norm. Wherever there was a lack of “vital religion,” he thought, people left off praying, singing the Psalms and hearing the Word, and descended into singing [Isaac] Watt’s “flights of fancy,” along with other flippant pastimes. The words of man had become more important to a backsliding church than the word of God (p. 278).”
Angus’ review of An Iron Pillar, The Life and Times of William Romaine by Tim Shenton can be found in full here.