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Voices, we publickly set forth the Praise of our Almighty Creator, and most Merciful Redeemer. And therefore these Psalms have born always a very considerable part in the Divine Worship, both of the Jewish, and the Christian, Church. That several of them were composed exprelly for the Service of the Tabernacle and the Temple, is plain. And as well our Saviour himself, as the State of his Church under the Gospel, have so great an Interest in them, that these Prayers, and Praires, and Complaints, continue very applicable to the Godly of all ages. And, that Men might, in Our manner of serving God, the better imitate that Consent of Saints and Angels above; that no Tongue might lie idle, but
all joyn in so necessary, fo acceptable a Work; the People, in Present, as well as Primitive, Congregations, have been allowed their share too. This is done, either by Consort, where Musick was customary, or by repeating the Verses by turns, where that advantage could not conveniently be had. All which, and going over the whole Book of Psalms in the Course of every Month, help to stir up a godly Zeal, to imprint and fasten these things in the Memories of Men. Thus their Devotions Abroad furnish proper Matter for those at Home, and enrich their Mind with a Treasure of pious Remarks and Reflections, to be drawn out for such uses, as each Person's Temper disposes him to, or his private Circumstances shall best direct.
But it must never be expected, that the most innocent or most beneficial Institutions should escape all Censure and Scruple. The Malice of Some, and the Weakness of Others, call every thing into Question. For the Conviction therefore of them, who seek occasion of Blame, where there is none ; and for the Satisfaction of those, who would be glad to find, that in reality there is none; I will just mention some of the principal Objections, against our use of these Pfalms, in the daily Publick Service ; and leave some short Hints with you, by way of Answer, which may
vindicate the Church's Practice in this Matter.
1. Now the First Objection I shall mention, pretends the Psalms to have been composed, upon occafions, peculiar to the Times and Circumstances of their respective Authors. Therefore, it is said, they are wholly impertinent, and unfit for the use of other Ages and Persons. This is far from being the case, with a great number of them however: For very many are equally fit, and edifying, for all Places and Seasons. And even for the Rest, which it may seem most to concern : The Defence is obvious, from those Intimations already given, that Christ and his Church are so often referred to, so clearly predicted there ; Which renders them of general Concernment to all Christians. And fure such an incommunicable Property cannot belong to David, in those Psalms whereof himself was the Author; since our Blessed Lord hath so often used, and interpreted, and his Apostles argued from many Passages spoken, as in David's own Person. For the truth and force whereof I appeal to our Saviour's own Words upon the Cross, and St. Peter and St. Paul's Discourses on his Resurrection ; the one in Jerusalem, the other at Antioch ; But
Luke xxiii. 46.
Plal. xxxi. 5. Both address’d to People versed in these
Act.ii. 25,--31. Scriptures, and not to be imposed upon by xiii. 35, 36, 37. false Applications.
2. It hath been a Second Exception, that, however a private Use of them may, where every Man's Discretion will guide him, to that which is proper for his own purpose; yet a publick Use of these, and all these Psalms, as they offer themselves promiscuously, never can be convenient : Because, suppoling all to joyn, the afflicted give Thanks, the prosperous Mourn, and the easy Complain. Now the Answer to this is very easy. For Men, then met, are looked on as one
Matt. xxvii. 46.
Body, and as having a common concern in all the Providences of God, not only that are now, but that ever were, to his Servants and People. But waving this. Is not the Mercy of God over every one of his Works? And hath not the most diftreffed Creature breathing received more, than he deserves, or hath been sufficiently thankful for? Are not our very Sufferings for excellent Ends, and may not the Calamities of our Outward greatly promote the Happiness of our Inward Man? Do not even these then demand our Thanks ? Thanks for being afflicted no sooner, no heavier ; Thanks for the Comforts our Amictions have still left us ; nay, Thanks for being afflicted here, with a design to prevent our being tormented hereafter? And therefore Praise cannot be uncomely in any Mouth, or at any time. Then for the Prosperous, if he hath no Infelicities (but who is there so perfectly happy as to have none?) of his Own to deplore ; yet, is he not bound to remember and lament those of his Brethren, to express a Sympathy for his Fellow-members of Christ's Mystical Body, and to reckon himself a Sufferer in them, and with them? And once more, will not the Recolle&tion of Adversities which Others, especially which Good Men endure, naturally excite in us great Gratitude, for that Tenderness and Long-suffering of God, which hath preserved, and laid so much less upon Us, who have ('tis probable) deserved to endure so very much more.
3. A Third Cavil hath been taken from the Curses and Imprecations to be met with there, as not agreeable to Christian Charity, and the Temper of Him who hath commanded us, to love them that bate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute
Be it allowed, that higher Degrees of Charity and Meekness are now required, than under the Law; and that some things, excusable in the Jews, or in
David, are not a Pattern, nor so much as pardonable, for Christians. Yet ought it to be considered, (1.) That no temporal Judgments are final, but capable of becoming Blessings, in order to a future State: And therefore, to People incorrigible by gentler means, as it may be Mercy in God to inflict such; so it may be no breach of Charity in Us, to pray that he would deal with them in such manner, as may effectually reclaim them from their Wickedness, and prevent their farther hardening in Sin, and their everlasting Damnation. (2.) That it is always lawful (with due relignation to God's Will) to ask our own Safety and Deliverance from Trouble ; and, if matters are brought to such pass, that these cannot be compassed any other way, we may, in order to it, pray for the Humbling and Confusion of our Enemies. (3.) That David is to be looked upon in the quality, both of a Prophet, and an eminent Type of Christ; and thus His Enemies and God's are inseparable, and the same. Thus those forms of Imprecation, as they stand in our TranNation, are rather Predictions of the Vengeance God resolved to take, on the Blaspheniers and Persecutors of our Lord and his Gospel; and so ought to be read with thankful Acknowledgments of that Power, and Goodness, and Truth, which appeared in their refpective Accomplishments, whereby he so wonder fully vindicated his own Cause. And (Lastly) we may consider both David's Enemies and Christ's, as Figures of our Spiritual Enemies, the Prince and Powers of Darkness. And sure we need be under no scruple or restraint, against the Tempter and his hellish Accomplices, who so earnestly labour our eternal Ruin. Some, or All of these Reasons may,
I hope, fuffice to satisfy Men in the use of these Psalms, and, that it is not the Composer's fault, but their own, if they feel from hence provocations to such a frame of Mind, as is in any degree inconsistent with
the Duties of Forgiveness. and truly Christian Charity.
4. Once more, Some object, That, not having attained to David's Piety, they dare not make his Professions, of having weaned their Souls, and kept them low, of praising God seven times a day, studying his Law all the day long, loving his Commandments above Gold and precious Stones, or thousands of Gold and Silver, and the like. Now these Men ought to consider, that, in such Passages, David is our Pattern ; and expresses Perfections, necessary for us to be put in mind of; Such as we all should aspire after, and be ashamed and very sorry, if we have not yet attained to.
In a Word, Let us make it our great Aim, both in publick, and in private, to repeat David's Words, with David's Affection; to tune our Souls to his Harp, and enter into his Spiritual Joys, and Griefs. For, as we have no right to his Comforts, without his Repentance; so neither do we make Melody to the Lord, unless we make it in our Hearts. It is the Hand, that touches the Instrument, not the Instrument it self, that recommends the Composition. And we must have Pure Hearts, Abstracted Spirits, Heavenly Desires, and Inflamed Devotions; if we hope to make good Consort with Saints upon Earth, or to have a Place in the Glorified Choir of Heaven.