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IN presenting this work to the public, the author expressly disclaims the design of entering into a contest of angry words with any member, and still less with any branch of the visible Church of Christ. While, therefore, he feels it to be a duty to examine the APOLOGY' of Mr. M'Master, as well its language as its arguments, he trusts, that even in that part of his work, the reader will not find any thing inconsistent with the above profession. While, therefore, he designs faithfully and firmly to point out some of the marked improprieties of Mr. M'Master's language, and to correct a number of his erroneous statements and misrepresentations, to descend to his abusive language, or retort his invectives, he has no intention.
The subject, indeed, on which he writes, if duly weighed, is rather calculated to repress the turbulent passions, and elicit the best feelings of the human breast, even while it excites and exercises the temperate zeal of the judicous advocate. Neither can the author think, that angry or reproachful language will ever give weight to argunent, or invite to candid investigation. It may confirm or infuriate the prepossessions of prejudice-dictate or control the opinions of ignorance-rally and concentrate the zeal or the envy of sects and parties; but to aid the mind in its judicious deliberations-facilitate the conclusions of sound wisdom-or fix the principles of the inquirer on the immoveable foundation of truth, it has no power. He feels, therefore, quite disposed to leave the whole vocabulary of abuse to those who have a taste and a talent for its employment, as he hopes he has not so learned Christ—as it is not necessary to the illustration or defence of his sentimentsand as the taste and the interest of his readers do not require it.
Some of the language which Mr. M'Master has seen fit to employ, has also suggested the expediency of giving, in an introductory letter, a succinct account of the progress of
the discussion on this subject, and particularly the manner in which the author of the present work has been drawn into it
In all this, he desires to write under a due impression of his high responsibility to the public, to the church, to his own conscience, and above all, to the Searcher of hearts, from whom the motives of action and means of accomplishment cannot be concealed.
Should this work be instrumental in breaking down some of the remaining barriers of prejudice of refuting the unsupported allegations of party zeal-of encouraging a more free and enlarged enjoyment of christian and scriptural privileges-and of harmonizing and uniting the sentiments and feelings of the children of God, in the delightful exercise of sacred praise; the author would rejoice in this rich reward of his labour.
To a candid public, therefore, under the patronage of heaven, he fearlessly commits it; hoping, that its faults may be forgiven, and what is according to godliness may be blessed; for which purpose, he requests that it may be read with attention and patience-examined with care and deliberation-and judged with candour and truth, and he asks no more.
Since the proposals for this work have been issued, the CHRISTIAN MONITOR for October, 1824, published at Al-bany, has fallen in my way, in which I find the following article:
"PROPOSED NEW PUBLICATION.
We find in the Pittsburgh Recorder, a proposition (should it meet with sufficient encouragement) to publish a work entitled, "An inquiry into the duty and privilege of the christian church in the exercise of sacred praise-By T. D. Baird, A. M." the avowed object of which is, a refutation of a work entitled, "An Apology for the Book of Psalms -By Gilbert M'Master, A. M." We are ignorant of Mr. Baird's qualifications for the execution of the work he has undertaken; but whatever his talents may be, we hope he will evince for the book of Psalms, as a component part of
the inspired volume, greater reverence than most of his predecessors have done when advocating the cause which Mr. B. has espoused."
If the writer of the above is ignorant of the author's "qualifications" or "talents," it is a full confession that he is also ignorant of his disposition; and any insinuation of irreverence for the Psalms of David, by anticipated hopes or fears, is at this period, not only unseasonable, but extremely indecorous.
The assumption, too, that my "predecessors" have treated the book of Psalms, as a component part of the inspired volume, with irreverence, is not only gratuitous, but utterly void of truth, as we shall have occasion to notice more particularly in the sequel. With all the changes which have been rung on this charge, from the distant insinuation to the broad and violent accusation, and by whomsoever. propagated, whether from the kitchen, the parlour, the pulpit, or the press, it is untrue. Not one of the writers to whom the allusion is made, has treated the book of Psalms, or any part of the word of God, in the irreverent manuer intimated, or rather assumed in the above article. That incautious, or, if the epithet please better, improper, expressions have been used, we have no disposition to deny; but as irreverence expresses a particular state of mind, there is a vast difference betwixt an inconsiderate or an improper expression, and irreverence for any part of scripture.
Even Dr. Watts, who has been so much vilified as the arch enemy of the book of Psalms, although he has writtensome things which few would approve, has not written any thing that a reader of intelligence and candour would construe into such irreverence; and has written much which affords conclusive evidence of a very contrary character.
If our opponents themselves have guarded against every improper expression, it is well-they may cast stones: but if, in the defence of their own views, they have indulged unhallowed language or feelings, were their sentiments ever so correct, it might perhaps be nearly as criminal to contend wickedly for God, as to treat even the Psalms of David with irreverence.
In fine, it might have been as well for the Monitor to have suffered us to proceed in our own course, without those flings in which our brethren on the other side are so fond
to indulge; and if, when we shall have done, the Psalms have suffered by our observations, the Christian Monitor, or any of its friends, will have the right and the opportunity to apply the proper corrective. But the course which has been hitherto pursued by this and other writers, will have little tendency to convince any one of error, or to bring the question to any useful issue, unless obloquy and reproach would promise such a result.
It is not for the author to say how far he has succeeded in his design, but instead of treating the Psalms of David, or any other part of the sacred volume with the least irreverence, he has endeavoured, in the following sheets, whatever other authorities he may have used, to keep the "law and the testimony" constantly in view. If they will not support his cause, he has no wish it should stand, much less prevail. As, however, he is fully persuaded that divine revelation triumphantly sustains the principles he has undertaken to advocate, he would, with all due deference to the judgment of others, show also his opinion. In forming and supporting this opinion, he occupies ground which he believes to be altogether new. In it he has no "predecessor;" and in occupying it he is no "copyist." Whatever, therefore, may be its merit or demerit, the credit or the blame is exclusively his own. He neither admits the weakness nor declines the support of the arguments formerly employed. Their being trite has not impaired their strength, but if he has been able to call to his aid original and efficient arguments, he feels himself not only authorised, but bound, to lay them before the reader, that he may give them that weight in the formation of his opinion, to which they may appear to have a just claim.
When his opinions and his reasons shall have been examined with deliberation and candour, he willingly leaves every reader to draw his own conclusions.
That these conclusions may be according to truth, and to the praise and glory of God, is, so far as he can judge his own views and exercises, his sincere desire and prayer.
In this introductory letter I propose giving a succinct sketch of the controversy on the subject of Psalmody, as it has progressed from about the time of its commencement in this country, until the present day; at least, so far as it has fallen under my observation, or come to my knowledge.
In fulfilling this design, I am led to remark, that the first publication on the subject which I have seen, or of which I have heard, is a sermon entitled, "An humble attempt toward the improvement of Psalmody, or the propriety, necessity and use of evangelical psalmody in worship: delivered at a meeting of the Presbytery of Hanover in Virginia, Oct. 6, 1762-By John Todd, A. M." The first sentence of the preface says, "The author had no design of publishing the following discourse, but a petition having been presented to the presbytery, desiring their opinion, whether Dr. Watts' Psalmody might, with safety, be used in the churches; and the presbytery having appointed him to give his sentiments on the subject; and several persons who heard it, having earnestly desired it might be printed, urging, that it would be of use to many serious inquirers: desirous to serve the best interests of mankind, he sends it abroad into the world." This is a valuable little performance, but out of print, and now little known in the church.