1. The issue stated

1. The issue stated

Six points of apparent "common ground" commences the author's treatment of this subject. Without stopping to offer detailed comment on this section, it may safely be said that Mr. Murray does not seem to be aware of what the advocate of inspired hymnody is contending for. It would be difficult for such an advocate to assent to the proposition that "the content of praise must be ... in accord with the reality of his own experience."2 Christian experience is imperfect, while an inspired hymnody teaches that which is perfect. There will necessarily be matter in the Old Testament psalms which the singer will not be able to grasp either theoretically or experimentally. This applies to "all Scripture," since it is given for the purpose that "the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," 2 Tim. 3:16, 17.

Likewise, the author's fifth point is also dubious. He claims that the singing of praise "is intended to be of special benefit to believers in the uplifting of their spirits... Joyless singing is a contradiction."3 Now it is true that the merry soul is enjoined to sing psalms, Jam. 5:13. It does not follow, however, that singing psalms requires a merry soul. The same verse calls upon the afflicted to pray; but none would argue that prayer without affliction is a contradiction. The Old Testament psalms set forth "a broken spirit" as a sacrifice that the Lord will not despise, Ps. 51:17. Numbers of the psalms were sung with anguish of heart and tearful eyes in distressing circumstances. The psalmists tell of their flesh drying up and of their tongue cleaving to the roof of their mouth under a sense of their sin and a sight of the majesty of God.

So the six points of apparent "common ground" cannot conscientiously be maintained by the advocate for an inspired hymnody.

After alluding to the fact that the controversy over the exclusive use of the Psalter arises because the advocates of an inspired hymnody make the substance of praise a matter of principle rather than preference,4 the booklet provides a summary of the psalms-only case as understood by Mr. Murray. First, the only wise God has provided a book of praise in His inspired Word. Second, only God may determine how He is to be worshipped. Third, uninspired men cannot do better than He. Fourth, in the book of Psalms the Lord has provided what is suitable for all ages. Fifth, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself sang the Psalms in praise. Sixth, the Psalter belongs to both Testaments. Seventh, there is no warrant to supplement or supplant the inspired psalms by making use of uninspired compositions in the public worship of God.5

Now, it is granted that this is the general argument presented in defence of an inspired psalmody. One careless omission, though, is the fact that the inspired psalms are appointed to be sung in the gatherings of the New Testament church, Eph. 5:19,

Col. 3:16. As Mr. Murray later endeavours to discredit this point, it was surely worth mentioning as an element of the psalms-only case. Whatever the arguments presented for or against the exclusive use of inspired psalms in public praise, the interpretation of these texts is crucial.

Moreover, Mr. Murray has failed to mention one even more fundamental argument which the advocates of an inspired psalmody put forward in defence of their position. It has to do with the prophetic nature and function of song in congregational worship. Deut. 32 records the song that Moses the prophet spoke in the ears of all the congregation of Israel. Judges 5 contains the song of Deborah, the prophetess. Mention is made of musical instruments in association with the company of the prophets in 1 Sam. 10. David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, had the words of the Holy Ghost upon his tongue, 2 Sam. 23:2. Then, when David made preparations for the worship which was to be performed in the temple, he committed the song into the hands of Heman, "the king's seer in the words of God," 1 Chron. 25:5, 6.

In the New Testament, Paul gives instructions concerning singing "with the spirit" and the bringing forward of "a psalm" (1 Cor. 14:15, 26) in the context of regulating the use of the prophetic gift. In the disputed passages, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, the saints are to speak to themselves, to teach and admonish one another, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Again, a prophetic function. Finally, in the Apocalypse, the songs of the redeemed and of the heavenly host are prophetic, either foretelling God's judgements to come, or revealing the nature of those judgements when they do come. Here, then, is the biblical criterion for examining the quality of a song which is to be used in congregational worship. Is it prophetic? If not, the composition does not come up to the standard of worship-song as revealed in the holy Scriptures. In both the Old and New Testaments the church was blessed with a prophetic hymnody. The church of subsequent ages should not settle for anything less! And as uninspired men cannot produce prophetic compositions, the church ought not to settle for their substandard songs.

That, as far as the advocate for an inspired hymnody is concerned, is the fundamental point to be made on this issue.