From Alexander Blaikie’s Catechism of Praise:
“XXI. What, then, is the duty of Christian churches in this matter? In whatever manner governed, they ought, as Protestants, carefully to avoid all unauthorized worship, either in the matter or manner or praise; to abide by that which is commanded, recollecting that all the embellishments and meretricious ornaments, with which human skill invests the matter and manner or our praise, are similar to the armour or Saul when placed on David. 1 Sam. 17:39. They form no appointed part of the “armour of God” in the Christian “warfare,” Eph. 6:11, and they must be cast aside, or we will incur the displeasure of “a jealous God;” spread, under his disapprobation, spiritual death over the churches of Christ; cause his children to weep in secret places; the men of this world to rejoice, and the enemies of Christ to blaspheme.
XXII. What, then, should we sing to the praise of God? Our own edification and safety lie in singing only the Book of Psalms; not any “imitation,” but “the word of Christ” itself, in the most literal and correct version which can be obtained. Notwithstanding numerous minor defects, the Scotch or Presbyterian “version is, upon the whole, the best.” When using it, “we have the satisfaction to know, that we utter praise in the very words of inspiration;” and in the opinion of Boswell, “it is vain to think of having a better.” Of the version of Sternhold and Hopkins, the Rev. Wm. Romaine says, “It is generally the sentiment of the Holy Spirit. That is very rarely lost, and this should silence every objection—it is the word of God. Moreover, the version comes nearer to the original than any I have ever seen except the Scotch.” Some judicious verbal amendments, by the omission of antiquated words, would be truly desirable if Presbyterians could unanimously make them.
XXIII. In what manner, then, should we sing these sacred songs to the praise of Jehovah? Always as an act of divine worship, with the spirit and with the understanding, with our voice, and with grace in our hearts, making melody to the Lord—individually—in families—and in the house of God. Avoiding the decorations of a theatrical and sentimental taste, and delighting ourselves in the word of Christ after the inward man, we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; we will come to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and daily join with them in singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.”
The following was originally posted at the Old Light Covenanter blog here. George goes on to list good arguments against the objections against the Psalms.
Objections to the Book of Psalms
“If the argument presented in the preceding lectures be accepted, then no form of objection that can be raised against the book can set it aside. Since God has provided the psalter by His Holy Spirit, and commanded it to be used; and since He has provided no other, nor promised His aid to any effort to prepare another, it is evident that, in this matter, He has left nothing to the judgment of men. Objections to the psalms, and the praise of hymns as superior to God’s book can have no weight as against the single fact that the psalms are divinely authorized and the hymns are not.”
[The Heidelblog has recently closed so the links below are dead. I am working on securing permission to put the Heidelblog quotes here for future reference.]
[Permission denied! Oh well, there are some good comments worth reading at the Greenbaggins website. Rev. Keister, thank you for bringing this issue up for discussion.]
Heidelblog Part 3 More Dialogue on Worship and the RPW part 2
If you join in the discussion, let us know your thoughts…
I must comment that the articles by Dr. Clark are excellent. He responds to some common misconceptions regarding the Psalter and encourages us to be both biblical and confessional in our worship. A few selections from Dr. Clark’s first post:
“I don’t accept the premise that, for the purposes of called, stated, public worship services to which God’s people are required to attend under pain of church discipline, there are such things as “good” non-canonical songs that might be imposed by a consistory or a session upon a congregation. Here’s an analogy. We would all admit that there are skilled artistic renderings that purport to represent God the Son incarnate, our Lord Jesus. Now, we know that no such representation is possible because such representations are necessarily a figment of the artist’s imagination. Confessional Reformed folk cannot tolerate even a “good” painting, i.e., an artistically skilled attempt to represent a first century Jewish male, because it violates the law of God. The same is true for ostensibly good hymns. However permissible it may be to sing well-written hymns with solid biblical content or even paraphrases (e.g., Luther’s paraphrase of Ps 46 is a personal favorite) in a private context their use in the context of public worship is something else altogether.”
“As I argued in RRC, the URCNA synod erred when it essentially codified the mistakes of the CRC from the 1930s. That’s why I distinguish between “conservatives” (e.g., the URCs on worship) and “confessionalists.” I’m not satisfied with mere conservatism especially since we’re conserving a mistake.”
“I have yet to see a single instance in which any of the paraphrases improves upon God’s Word. In services where the order of worship calls for hymn I am sometimes forced to find a psalm to sing or read quietly during the service (there should be no disruption of public worship). Almost without fail the psalm I’m reading/singing is more appropriate to the service than the hymn (or paraphrase) the congregation is singing. I’ve been in many services where it is evident the minister did not even consider a psalm. There are practical reasons for this. 1) Those ministers who, like me, come from non-Christian backgrounds are typically ignorant of the psalms. 2) Those ministers who, like me, come from broad evangelicalism are ignorant of the psalms. 3) Those ministers who were raised in most NAPARC churches are ignorant of the psalms. Our first instinct is to pick a hymn. If it’s a progressive setting it will be a favorite chorus. If it’s a “traditional” setting then it will be “The Church’s One Foundation. To the degree this is true it says more about the inadequacy of those planning the service than it does about the insufficiency of God’s Word.”
“…There is at least a difference of degrees and arguably a a difference in kind between paraphrases and translations. One is not the other. Historically, confessional Reformed churches have sought to make the most accurate translations possible. We produced the Geneva Bible not a paraphrase. Our solution to difficult passages was to teach via marginal notes not to make the problems go away via paraphrases.”
Again, the brief article by Dr. Clark is an excellent summary our our confessional beliefs regarding song in worship. Please give it a read.