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The next work which has come to my knowledge, is " Plain reasons why neither Dr. Watts' Imitation of the Psalms, nor his other poems, nor any other human composition, ought to be used in the praises of the great God our Saviour --but that a metre version of the book of Psalms, examined with wise and critical care, by pious and learned divines, and found by them to be as near the Hebrew metre Psalms as the idiom of the English language would admit, ought to be used-By Thomas Clark, V. D. M. Albany, 1783.” The design of this work is fully explained in the title; but, I apprehend, that it will be extremely difficult to find a version of the a-bove description. In short, I believe there never was, and never will be, one to answer the portrait drawn by Mr. Clark. To lay aside other qualities or requisites, the single one of being as near the Hebrew metre Psalms as the idiom of the English language would admit, has never yet been attained, and we apprehend never will. The requirement as near, would be hard to answer, or to say when it was effected.
In the year 1790, the Rev. John Black of Marsh creek, Pennsylvania, appeared in defence of a gospel psalmody, in a Sermon entitled, “The duty of christians in singing the praises of God, explained.” To this there was a reply in the following year, in a “Discourse on the divine ordinance of singing psalms-By John Anderson, minister of the gospel, and member of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania.”— To this Mr. Black rejoined in the next year, by “An examination of the Rev. John Anderson's
discourse on the divine ordinance of singing psalms.” In the year 1794, the Rev. James Latta, D. D. entered the lists, in 66 A Discourse on Psalmody,” from Col. iii. 16, 17; which had not only the approbation of his brethren, but also that of the candid of other denominations, This circumstance appears to have given Mr. M’Master considerable displeasure and uneasiness, as we may plainly see in the following marginal note.
66 After reading Dr. Latta’s discourse on psalmody, and not a little surprised at its sentiments and reasoning, upon turning to the Christian's Magazine, my surprise was accompanied by pain, to find that the learned and orthodox editors of that respectable work, devoted their pages to eulogise that gentleman, not only as a man, and a scholar, but a divine; and, as if to make it more conspicuous, in a marginal note, to adduce bis 6 Discourse on Psalmody," as a specimen of his talent, in justification of their eulogy. No less painful is it to find such a work receive the high commendation of such a man as the learned and excellent professor at Princeton, in his life of Dr. Rodgers. It is hoped none of these gentlemen were really acquainted with the true character of that work; but resting upon
what they considered the character of their friend, unwittingly transferred the reputation of the man to his book. Their testimony may be employed, in a future day, to give currency to the very exceptionable pages of that discourse.
of that discourse. To correct the evil is a duty they owe to themselves, to the church of God, and to the cause of truth.” Apology, p. 112, third edition; which is the edition I use, unless where another is specified.
It must have been rash indeed, for Drs. Mason and Miller, to eulogise a work to which the author of the Apology has such a dislike; and it is perhaps the least that could be expected, that they would, according to the course he has prescribed, correct the evil, by making a seasonable and explicit retraction of their eulogies on Dr. Latta's book. Mr. M’M. has also given the Drs. a tolerably fair specimen of his charity and candour, in supposing they had unwittingly recommended a book, with the true character of which none of them were acquainted, but transferred the reputation of the man to his book, by resting upon what they considered the character of their friend. And besides all this, that they gave this very book, of the contents of which they were ignorant, as a specimen of his talent as a man, a scholar and a divine. What a generous apologist!!
Those who know the character of Drs. Mason and Miller, will not easily believe that a book highly commended or eulogised by these “learned and orthodox editors and the excellent Professor,” contains the absurdity or impiety which our author ascribes to the work of Dr. Latta. With such readers, his declaration or his opinion when weighed against theirs, will prove light as vanity. But moro of Dr. Látta hereafter.
In the year 1800, Mr. Anderson published his “Vindiciæ Cantatus Dominicæ;" and the next year appeared “ A Discourse on Psalmody, delivered at Newburgh, before the Presbytery
of Hudson, Sept. 1801—By Jonathan Freeman, A. M. V. D. M."
From this period until the year 1815, the cause of Gospel Psalmody appears to have been making peaceable and steady progress. But about the latter period, Mr. M'Master and some others, were burnishing their armour for a fresh onset-although the Science of Praise” was published before the 66 Apology," or Mr. Walker's Sermon, yet in the first it is said, the author of the “ Science of Praise" 66 would not have been noticed, were it not for the company in which he is found;" and the last, “ I had not the pleasure of seeing your pamphlet, nor had I even knowledge of its existence, until my sermon was almost ready for the press.” These authors, therefore, were preparing, at the period mentioned, to bring the subject before the public, but were anticipated by the zeal of one of their brethren,
In the latter part of the year above mentioned, having been engaged to preach in a vacant congregation belonging to our church, at some little distance from my own, and in the vicinity of the Rev. Robert Wallace of the Reformed Presbytery, he attended sermon, or at least arrived before the service was closed. After the dismission of the assembly, he commenced a most furious attack upon me, respecting the psalmody of our church; and after a debate at least sufficiently animated, Mr. Wallace concluded by a torrent of abusive declamation against revivals of religion, camp-meetings, Presbyterians, &c. &c. and finally, with the rest of his brethren, wondered we were not smitten down like Uzza. To this I rejoined, that as these things were quite foreign to the subject of dispute, they could answer no purpose in the discussion, unless as a thin covering to his defeat, and that the simple fact of his resorting to the language of vituperation and abuse was a tacit acknowledgment, that either his ground was untenable, or he was incompetent to maintain it. In a subsequent conversation he confirmed this remark, by acknowledging, in the presence of company, that I had “puzzled” him.
Soon after this conversation, Mr. W. undertook to instruct his people on the subject of Psalmody, by a discourse in which he certainly inanifested an uncommon share of originality and ingenuity, in the selection and management of his thesis. His text was Judges xii. 6, 6 Then said they unto him, say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to
pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.” In the exposition of this scripture, Shibboleth was stated to prefigure or symbolize David's Psalms-Sibboleth, Watts’ ImitationJordan, death and the Ephraimites, the Presbyterians. When, therefore, they shall come to the banks of Jordan, that is, to the hour of death, those who can say Shibboleth, that is those who have sung David's Psalms, shall pass over in safety; but those who only say Sibboleth, that is those who have used Watts' Imitation, shall die the death. Notwithstanding my information respecting the above discourse was from a res