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A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody   By: (1674-1748)

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A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody:

Or, An Enquiry how the Psalms of David ought to be translated into Christian Songs, and how lawful and necessary it is to compose other Hymns according to the clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church.

by

Isaac Watts

{233} A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody: Or, An Enquiry how the Psalms of David ought to be translated into Christian Songs, and how lawful and necessary it is to compose other Hymns according to the clearer Revelations of the Gospel, for the Use of the Christian Church.

To speak the Glories of God in a religious Song, or to breath out the Joys of our own Spirits to God with the Melody of our Voice is an exalted Part of Divine Worship. But so many are the Imperfections in the Practice of this Duty, that the greatest Part of Christians find but little Edification or Comfort in it. There are some Churches that utterly disallow Singing; and I'm perswaded, that the poor Performance of it in the best Societies, {234} with the mistaken Rules to which it is confined is one great Reason of their intire Neglect; for we are left at a loss (say they) what is the Matter and Manner of this Duty; and therefore they utterly refuse: Whereas if this glorious Piece of Worship were but seen in its Original Beauty, and one that believes not this Ordinance, or is unlearned in this Part of Christianity should come into such an Assembly, he would be convinced of all; he would be judged of all, he would fall down on his Face, and report that God was in the Midst of it of a Truth ; 1 Cor. 14. 24, 25.

In order to trace out the Matter or Subject of religious Singing, let us collect into one View the chief Texts of the New Testament where this Worship is mention'd, and afterwards see what Arguments may be deduced from thence, to prove, that 'tis proper to use Spiritual Songs of humane Composure, as well as the Psalms of David or the Words of other Songs recorded in Scripture.

The most considerable Texts are these; Mat. 26. 30. & Mark 14. 26. relate, that our blessed Lord and his Disciples sung an Hymn . Acts 16. 25. Paul and Silas prayed and sung Praises unto God. 1 Cor. 14. 15. I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the Understanding also. Ver. 26. Every one of you hath a Psalm. Eph. 5. 19, 20. Speaking to your selves in Psalms and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs; singing and making Melody in your Hearts to the Lord, giving Thanks always for all things to God and the Father, in the Name of {235} our Lord Jesus Christ . Col 3. 16, 17. 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: And whatsoever ye do in Word or in Deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving Thanks to God and the Father by him. Jam. 5. 13. Is any among you afflicted, let him pray: Is any merry, let him sing Psalms . Rev. 5. 9. And they sing a new Song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book and to open the Seals thereof, for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy Blood . Rev. 14. 3. And they sung as it were a new Song before the Throne . Rev. 15. 3. And they sing the Song of Moses, the Servant of God, and the Song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy Works , &c. To all these I might add Acts 4. 24, &c. Where it is suppos'd the Disciples met together and sung; for they lift up their Voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord! thou art our God, which hast made Heaven and Earth, and the Sea, and all that in them is: Who by the Mouth of thy Servant David hast said, Why did the Heathen rage, and the People imagine a vain thing. The Kings of the Earth stood up, and the Rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a Truth, against thy holy Child Jesus whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the People of Israel, were gathered together for to do whatsoever thy Hand and thy Counsel determined before to be done, &c... Continue reading book >>




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