2. A response issued

2. A response issued

In the next place, Mr. Murray offers a response to what he has summarised as the case for exclusive psalmody. His first challenge to an inspired psalmody is: "where is the proof in Scripture that God appointed the one-hundred-and-fifty Psalms of David for the public worship of the Old Testament church?"6 Mr. Murray provides some reasons for his doubt concerning the Divine appointment of all 150 psalms. These are, because "the title of other Psalms ... refers to them as prayers;" "other Psalms, perhaps forty in number, may be said to be chiefly for instruction;" and "for many Psalms there is no indication at all that they were to be set to music for public worship."7

The subscription at the end of Psalm 72, which Mr. Murray thinks is significant, namely, "the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended," either refers to the first two books of the Psalter (1-41, 42-72), or to the chain of Davidic psalms from 51-72. In either case, it is clear that some of these compositions at least are designated as "psalms," "psalm-songs," or "song-psalms;" e.g., 61-72 particularly. For this reason, the majority of commentators do not see "prayer" as a strict genre within the psalms. The LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, translates Ps. 72:20 as "the hymns of David," which Justin Martyr quotes approvingly.8 E. W. Hengstenberg rendered the word "prayer-songs," in association with tehillim being "praise-songs."9 But however one understands these prayers, the fact is that at least some of them were appointed to be sung. Hence, one cannot claim that the prayer-nature of these songs renders them unsuitable to be used in connection with the worship of the Old Testament church.

The same principle applies to the second doubt. One of David's "prayers," the 53rd, is virtually the same in substance as the 14th. The 14th is titled, "to the chief musician, (a Psalm) of David;" while the 53rd adds "upon Mahalath, Maschil." The 60th psalm has this design in the title: "to teach." Verses 5 to 12 of Ps. 60 form over half of the 108th psalm called "A song (or) Psalm of David." Maschils, or psalms of instruction, are to be found in the titles of some compositions which are also designated a "psalm" (32), or a "song" (45), and which are dedicated "to the chief musician" (52-55). Which is sufficient to show that a "maschil" can, with propriety, be called a song, and be employed in the public worship service. As with the "prayers," the very fact that these are "instructions" does not render them unsuitable for Old Testament public worship. And as far as the New Testament church is concerned, the apostle commands the use of them for the express purpose of "teaching and admonishing one another," Col. 3:16. Dr. J. A. Alexander of Princeton was surely correct when he stated that all 150 psalms, different as they are, have a marked resemblance to each other. "They are all not only poetical but lyrical, i.e. songs, poems intended to be sung."10

As to the third doubt, this only demonstrates that "God ... at sundry times ... spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets." The appointment to sing inspired psalms in the Old Testament church sufficed as a divine appointment to sing all 150 of the Old Testament psalms, even if every individual psalm was not explicitly appointed to be used in worship. Paul's instruction to Timothy to give attendance to reading (i.e., of the Scriptures), 1 Tim. 4:13, warrants the reading of all the Scriptures in the New Testament church, even though certain New Testament epistles had not yet been written when the instruction was given. Whenever the Psalter came to be completed,11 the last psalms to be composed would have been placed on the exact same footing as the first compositions.

Now, the biblical evidence that God appointed inspired psalms for the use of Old Testament public worship is as follows. Firstly, William Binnie notes that

the frequent mention of the ‘Precentor' or ‘Chief Musician,' in the titles of the earlier psalms, reminds us that a large portion of them were originally composed with an eye to the Service of the Temple, and were delivered to the leader of the psalmody for the public use of the Congregation.12
Of the 116 titled psalms in the Psalter over 50 of them are committed "to the chief musician." This designation, along with the difficult musical directions in the titles, and the rare mention of particular times at which certain psalms were to be employed, intimates to most commentators that the Psalter was to be used in the temple service.13 The very description of them as "psalms" and "songs," together with the use of the first person plural pronouns "we" and "us" in numbers of the psalms, indicates that they were to be sung in a corporate context. There are, besides, many references in the Psalter to singing songs in the house of the Lord, and these obviously apply to the inspired psalms themselves.

Outside of the Psalter, the evidence mounts to an irrefutable height.14 When the congregation of Israel brought up the ark to Zion, "David delivered first this psalm to thank the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brethren," 1 Chron. 16:7. The words of the untitled 96th and 105th psalms are particularly interwoven into this composition, together with short selections from the 29th and 98th, and the doxology from the 41st psalm; which, interestingly, is combined with the people's response of "Amen" to form the doxology of the 106th psalm. Moreover, it has already been referred to before that when David made preparations for the worship which was to be performed in the temple, he committed the song-service into the hands of Heman, "the king's seer in the words of God," 1 Chron. 25:5, 6. The song, as with the other instructions concerning the temple, was not an unwarranted human imposition on David's part. Rather, "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern," 1 Chron. 28:19.

After David's era, Solomon organised for praise to be given to the Lord in the psalms of David when he brought the ark up to the completed temple. It is recorded that the people sang to the Lord in words which are found in the 136th Psalm, 2 Chron. 5:13. At which time, "the house was filled with a cloud," and "the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God," verse 14. Such was the divine approval of these proceedings. Later, it is mentioned concerning Hezekiah's reform of temple worship that "the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer," 2 Chron. 29:30. Now, it is obvious that the singing of David's and Asaph's words must have been appointed by God as a part of public worship, else Hezekiah's directives could not have been regarded as a reformation. Finally, at the restoration after exile in Nehemiah's time, the service of song was reinstated "according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son. For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God," Neh. 12:45, 46. These songs and thanksgivings, unquestionably, were the inspired compositions which are to be found in the Old Testament book of Psalms.

Now, Mr Murray is correct when he goes on to say that "even the fact that Scripture designates a part of Scripture as a ‘song,' is not itself proof that it is necessarily given for public worship."15 It is upon this basis that the Song of Solomon is not to be employed in public worship; nor the other Scripture songs outside of the book of Psalms; nor the versification of other parts of Scripture which were not appointed to be sung in the midst of the congregation. But this is immaterial to the author's response to the exclusive psalmodist's case. The fact is that the compositions which constitute the Old Testament book of Psalms were appointed for this purpose, as demonstrated above; while no other compositions were provided with this warrant.

Nor is the author's assimilation of prayer and praise to any effect. He says: "If the exclusive argument were true it would mean there is a prohibition concerning sung praise which is in marked contrast with the freedom believers have in expressing all desires and thanksgivings which are not set to music."16 This is exactly what is found in both the Old and New Testaments. There are, in fact, public prayers which are offered up in the Old Testament; but none of these are either appointed to be used as set prayers in public worship or incorporated into a book of other set prayers to form a liturgy of common prayer. The Psalms, though, are both appointed for public praise and incorporated into a book to be used in public praise. Similarly in the New Testament. In Eph. 5:19 Paul commands the singing of a form of words. The "psalms," "hymns," and "songs" must be written compositions which the whole congregation can sing in unison to. By its very nature, congregational singing must be bound to a form of words which prohibits individual expression (in words, though not in spirit), in order to provide for a unified voice. A little later, in Eph. 6:18, the apostle instructs the same church to pray "with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." Herein the apostle has not bound prayer to a set form, but has given liberty to the church to express their desires and thanksgivings in their own words.

The second challenge presented by Mr. Murray to an inspired hymnody is no challenge at all. It has to do with the manner in which such songs are to be sung. Should they be chanted so as to enable the worshipper to adhere to the exact wording? Or should exactness be sacrificed in order to facilitate a more structured singing of them by means of a metricated version?17 That does not enter into the question as to whether the church is bound to an exclusive use of inspired psalmody, but is the sort of issue which is resolved after the question has been settled in the affirmative.

Mr. Murray's third challenge is more to the point. What evidence is there that the Psalter "must remain the sole manual" for the New Testament? The author examines two main principles which the advocate of an inspired hymnody relies upon to establish his case. First, the "‘regulative principle,' namely that what God has not appointed he has forbidden, and God has not appointed any second hymnal to supplement the Psalter." Second, "It is said that the ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' of Ephesians 5:19 refer solely to different sections of the Old Testament Psalter."18 The booklet then deals with the second point and refers to the first point afterwards.

Now, the author's response to the claim that Eph. 5:19 (and Col. 3:16, though he fails to mention it) refers to the compositions which are to be found in the Old Testament book of Psalms is a very strange one indeed. It comes down to this. "We know of no prominent orthodox commentator who takes that view." He then refers the reader to J. Eadie, C. Hodge, R. C. H. Lenski, and W. Hendriksen; all advocates of an uninspired hymnody. There is no examination of the passage under consideration; not even a quote from Mr. Murray's esteemed interpreters on this passage, nor a statement as to why their comments persuaded the author to reject the interpretation put forward by the advocates of an inspired hymnody.

Mr. Murray does attempt a biblical answer of sorts. It comes by way of referring to the extraordinary "psalms" of 1 Cor. 14:26. And here the author seems to seize upon the New England Puritan, John Cotton, as if he had to make a concession that the psalms in this passage were given by divine inspiration.19 But Mr. Cotton was not conceding this point, he was insisting upon it. The fact that these psalms were inspired renders an appeal to them as futile. If the composing of these psalms required an extraordinary gift, the directions in 1 Cor. 14 for the regulation of the extraordinary gifts are only precedents "to all such Churches as have received the like gifts." They cannot provide a precedent for a Church in which this extraordinary gift has ceased. Hence, no warrant can be derived from the Corinthian practice, or from Paul's directions which regulate that practice, "to compile some spirituall Ditty in verse."20

So 1 Cor. 14 does not create any uncertainty as to the materials of praise which are to be employed in the New Testament church's public worship. Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 regulate the "ordinary" matter that is to be sung therein, and these texts refer to the compositions found in the book of Psalms. This may be clearly seen by considering the following facts of the case.

The use of the terms "psalms," "hymns," and "songs," as has already been seen in a previous section, is used within the Psalter synonymously. A composition can be both a psalm and a song at the same time. It has also been seen that the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, referred to the "prayers" of David, as "hymns," Ps. 72:20. It has translated a number of words, particularly those which are obscure, by the words "hymn" and "song." The title of Ps. 4 contains "neginoth" in Hebrew, and this is transliterated as such in the Authorised English Version; but the Greek translation renders it "song." Two psalms later, Ps. 6, the same word "neginoth" is translated "hymn." Altogether,21 the Greek translation contains the word "psalm" in 67 titles, "hymn" in 6, and "song" in 35. On occasion these words appear in combination, and in Ps. 67 (66 in the LXX) they all appear together, as they do in the apostle's instructions.

Besides the evidence in the titles of the Psalter, one may also consult the body of the psalms themselves. The words "hymn" and "song" are to be found there as well, and it has already been noted that Nehemiah referred to the compositions of David and Asaph as "songs," Neh. 12:46. This interchange of words is used a number of times in the historical books. So the Old Testament provides a strong basis for understanding "psalms," "hymns," and "songs," as a reference to the compositions of the Old Testament Psalter.

Now, the Greek translation of the Old Testament was regularly adopted by the apostle Paul in his letters to the churches. Paul's 27 quotations of the Psalms, Prof. Allan Harman's Th.D. thesis demonstrates, "are for the most part cited exactly from the LXX or else are very close to it;" and "the manner in which the quotations are introduced shows that Paul conceived of the Psalmists' words as possessing divine authority."22 Paul's adoption of the three terms which appear in the titles of the LXX translation is in reliance on the divine authority of these terms. Furthermore, Paul uses the same terms in two different letters to two different churches, thereby showing that the three terms in combination must have been a common way of referring to the hymnody of these Greek speaking, LXX reading churches.

The evidence is strongly in favour of understanding the Old Testament Psalms as the "psalms," "hymns," and "songs" which Paul exhorts the New Testament church to sing. There are two churches who adopted the same terminology when referring to their hymnody; there is the repeated use of that terminology in the received translation of the Old Testament which was used by these churches; and the point of reference in this received translation when using this terminology is to the compositions in the Book of Psalms, both in the psalms themselves and in the historical books which give some account of the use of these psalms in the Old Testament church.

There is also evidence in the New Testament to show that "hymning" referred to the singing of these Old Testament compositions. In Matt. 26:30, after the institution and celebration of the Lord's supper on the night of Passover, Jesus and the disciples are described as singing a hymn, literally, hymning. This is generally believed to have been the traditional Jewish hymn which was sung after the celebration of the Passover, the Hallel of Pss. 113-118. Then in Heb. 2:12 the apostle himself (if the majority of orthodox commentators are to be followed) quotes the LXX translation of Ps. 22:22 verbatim: "in the midst of the church will I sing praise (hymn) unto thee;" where the hymning David referred to was undoubtedly one of his psalms.

Among Jewish writers around the time of the apostle, "hymn" and "song" were also commonly used when referring to the Old Testament Psalms. Josephus says that David "composed songs and hymns to God," "and taught the Levites to sing hymns to God;"23 while Philo referred to the 23rd Psalm as a song, and the 30th as a hymn, to name but two examples.24

In the early Christian church, similarly, the three terms were used interchangeably to describe the book of Psalms. Justin Martyr was referred to before as endorsing the LXX translation of "hymns" in Ps. 72:20. Clement of Alexandria must have been contemplating either Eph. 5:19 or Col. 3:16 when he said: "The apostle calls the psalms ‘a spiritual song.'"25 Lactantius called David, "the writer of divine hymns;"26 and the apostolic constitutions could not be any clearer: "sing the hymns of David."27

So the weight of biblical evidence supports the claim that the three terms in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 refer to the Old Testament book of Psalms. (1.) The three terms were common to the Greek speaking church who received and read the Greek translation of the Old Testament by Divine authority. (2.) That Greek translation uses these same three terms to refer to the Psalms of David both in the Psalms themselves and in the historical books. (3.) The New Testament itself provides two examples of "hymning" these sacred compositions; while (4.) both the Jews of the apostolic time, and the post-apostolic Christian church constantly applied these terms as synonyms for the Old Testament book of Psalms.

Next, some prominent orthodox commentators shall be quoted in order to show that this understanding of the biblical texts has historical support, contrary to Mr. Murray's sensational claim.

The Dutch Annotations say that "these several names seem to be taken from the several inscriptions of the Psalmes of David."28 Henry Ainsworth taught: "Ther be three kinde of songs mentioned in this book [the Psalms]... All these three the Apostle mentioneth together, wher he willeth us to speak to our selves with Psalmes & hymns & spiritual songs, Eph. 5.19."29 As might be expected, John Cotton was in agreement: "as the Apostle exhorteth us to singing, so he instructeth what the matter of our Song should be, to wit, Psalmes, Hymnes, and spirituall Songs. Now those three be the very Titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himselfe."30 Edward Leigh stated the matter in the exact same words: "as the Apostle exhorteth us to singing, so he instructeth what the matter of our Song should be, viz. Psalmes, Hymnes, and spirituall Songs. Those three are the Titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himselfe."31 Thomas Manton, whom Mr. Murray later calls a "Puritan leader," writes on the very next page of a work which the booklet cites: "Now these words (which are the known division of David's psalms, and expressly answering to the Hebrew words Shurim, Tehillim, and Mizmorim, by which his psalms are distinguished and entituled), being so precisely used by the apostle in both places, do plainly point us to the Book of Psalms."32 Thomas Ford, the Westminster divine, has given in his thoughts: "I know nothing more probable than this, viz. that psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, do answer to mizmorim, tehillim, and shirim, which are the Hebrew names of David's psalms."33 A contemporary English Presbyterian, Cuthbert Sydenham, speaks to the same effect, "I find they are used in general as the title of David's psalms, which are named promiscuously by these three words."34 An edition of the Westminster version of the Psalms in 1673 has the names of Dr. John Owen and twenty-five others signed to the preface which says: "To us David's psalms seem plainly intended by these terms of psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, which the apostle useth. Eph. 5.19; Col. 3.16."35

A little later Thomas Ridgeley came to the same understanding: "It cannot well be denied that the psalms of David are called indifferently by these three names, ‘psalms,' hymns,' and ‘songs.'"36 This view is expressed by Jonathan Edwards: "We find that the same [the words of David and Asaph] are appointed in the New Testament to be made use of in the Christian church, in their worship." Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 are subsequently quoted.37 John Gill might also be added to the list of orthodox commentators: "these three words answer to ... the several titles of David's psalms; from whence it seems to be the intention of the apostle, that these should be sung in Gospel churches."38 Then there is John Brown of Haddington: "The Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual Songs, there recommended, are plainly the same with the Mismorim, Tehillim, and Shirim, mentioned in the Hebrew titles of David's Psalms."39