Found this today in Robert Lathan’s fine history of the ARP. This sermon is an excellent summary of our position. Lathan says this was preached in 1773, though the publication itself says April 13, 1774. See Robert Lathan, History of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South in which is prefixed a History of the ARP and RPC (Harrisburg, PA, 1882), 221.
A portion of the text:
“We must yield to the current of ancient history, that in the course of three centuries, human composures were sung in the worship of God, as well as David’s Psalms ; but these were concomitants, if not sources of that corruption, which did considerably accelerate that deformation in the church, which brought forth the whore of Babylon. To plead for human composures being admitted into the worship of Cod from their being used in the ancient ages of Christianity, will equally conclude in favor of instrumental music, which was admitted about the same period. A time of deadness in religion is the ordinary period of a church’s declension from the purity of her worship: Men then forgetting the command of God, think of gratifying their own fancies. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. xi. 3.) This is a favorable juncture for the devil to exert himself, when a church is in a slumbering condition. “But while men slept, his enemy came, and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” (Mat. xiii. 25.)…
6. To alter the Psalms of David from their original sense; or to substitute human compositions in their room, in Christian worship, is productive of dangerous consequences. Allow me to point out a few of these, and leave your own minds to suggest many more:
1. This has a tendency to weaken the authority of David’s Psalms. It is natural for people to have a light opinion of the Psalms when thoy hear them branded with a number of contemptuous epithets. Will any be much awed by what is opposite to the spirit of the gospel? But objections of this sort equally strike against all the Old Testament, and have a native tendency to strengthen the cause of Deism. What is said against the Psalms of David is spoken against “the Holy Ghost who spake by the mouth of David.” (Acts i. 16.) Doubtless it would be employing time and talents to better purpose, in attempting a reformation of many things in the church rather than in the Psalms of the Spirit’s inditing. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psal. xix. 7.)
2. If David’s Psalms are to be sung, only as mangled according to the pleasure of men; or if they are to be altogether excluded, and human composures put in their room; none can tell what will be at last sung in “worshipping assemblies.” I speak of those churches in which these things are looked on as matters of indifference; where people are allowed to use what psalms or hymns they please, and thus to act as the children of Israel in the days of the Judges, when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges xvii. 6.) After all the members are severed from the body of the Psalms, some new refiners may be for cutting away part of the remainder, under pretence of their being also unsuitable for gospel worship. Considering the many poets and poetasters in the world, we know what will be sung in place of David’s Psalms, if once excluded. The practice already introduced, of ministers’ composing hymns which comprise the heads of.their sermon will more generally spread: Many of us are but poor preachers, hut would make worse poets. Heads of families will make hymns and spiritual songs, which they may reckon suitable to the state of their families. In one church we shall have one set of such songs, a different one in another: Our Psalms and Anthems will at last become more voluminous than our Bible, and more frequently read, which is already become lamentably true, with respect to so:ns deluded Sectaries. Such disorders began even in the apostolic age and were corrected by the apostlo Paul. ”How is it then brethren? When you come together, every one of you hath a Psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.”
3. This has a tendency to introduce error into the worship of God. The second commandment requireth us to keep the ordinances of God pure and entire: Wnile we abide by the Psalms of David we shall effectually secure purity of worship in respect of praising God: But if once we begin to use human composures in God’s worship, we are in imminent danger of being gradually led to sing mere jargon, or men’s opinions, instead of the sacred truths of the Spirit’s inditing. This is already verified in the case of some deluded enthusiasts, who, instead of reading the Scripture, or singing the Psalms of David with gravity, always sing such hymns and spiritual songs as breathe their own notions, and are inflamed with their own wild fire. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out a fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” (Lev. x. 1, 2.) Could it be made appear that David’s Psalms are not suitable for every person, we would not think it strange to see men so fond of other composures. But this is so far from being the case, that to use the warm expressions of Gerard concerning them, “They are a jewel made up of the gold of doctrine, of the pearls of comfort, of the gems of prayer. This book is a theatre of God’s works, a sweet field and rosary of promises, a paradise of sweet fruits, and heavenly delights: An ample sea, wherein tempesttoss’d souls find richest pearls of consolation: An heavenly school wherein God himself is chief instructor. The abridgement, flower and quintessence of scripture: A glass of divine grace representing to us the sweetest smiling countenance of God in Christ; and a most accurate anatomy of a Christian soul, delineating all its afflictions, motions, temptations and plunges, with their proper remedies.”