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The singing of Psalms and Hymns has ever constituted a delightful part of Divine Worship. The remains of the Jewish sacred Poets, which we possess, are, with few exceptions, consecrated to the celebration of the praises and perfections of that God, by whom they were inspired.
In the lowest state of the Church, when the sufferings of our blessed Saviour were at hand, Himself and the company of His disciples, followed the custom of adding praise to their devotions. * From the practice of Paul and Silas, who sang praises unto God' at midnight +, as well as from the very explicit instructions recorded in the New Testament I, it appears, that the first Christians were wont to edify themselves in Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: and though we have no specimens of these left, except the occasional doxologies ascribed to the redeemed in the book of the Revelation s, it cannot
*. « When they had sung an hymn, they went out.” Matt. xxvi. 30.
f Acts xvi. 25.
be doubted, that they used not only the Psalms of the Old Testament, literally, or accommodated to the circumstances of a new and rising church ; but that they had original lays of their own, in which they celebrated the praises of Christ as the Saviour of the world.'* From the East, the practice of singing passed to the Western Church. During the middle ages, it formed an essential part of Divine Worship in the Greek and Romish Churches, though too frequently in an unknown tongue : but, at the æra of the Reformation, the singing of Psalms and Hymns, in the vernacular tongue, was revived in Germany, France, and England, among the means of grace of which Christendom had been deprived. +
In this country, the first attempt to naturalise the book of Psalms in rhyme was made by THOMAS STERNHOLD, who published an English metrical version of thirty-seven Psalms in 1549 : the remaining hundred and thirteen were translated at different times f, by John Hopkins, William Whitting
* Montgomery's Christian Psalmist, p. v. The testimony of the Younger Pliny," who was governor of the provinces of Pontus and Bithynia in Asia, is too important to be omitted, Writing to his sovereign, the Emperor Trajan, A. D. 107, concerning the first Christians, he says, that “ they were accustomed to sing among themselves, alternately, a Hymn to Christ, as to God: “ Carmenque Christo, quasi Deo, dicere secum invicem.” Epist. lib. X. Ep. 97. † Montgomery's Christian Psalmist, p. vi.
In 1551, Sternhold's thirty-seven Psalms were republished with seven additional ones. These were soon adopted by the English Protestants at Geneva ; and, after undergoing various
ham, afterwards Dean of Durham, and other coadjutors. In 1562 appeared the first complete edition of this version of the Psalms, now commonly designated “ THE OLD Version;" which, in 1562–63, was authoritatively introduced into the service of the Reformed Church of England, being sanctioned both by the Crown and by the Convocation. *
Thus introduced, the version of Sternhold and his associates became endeared to the people : and though objections were made to it by Dr. Donne, Dean of St. Paul's, in the reign of James I., and subsequently by Archbishop Usher +, yet it continued to retain its place in the services of the Church of England. During the rebellion, indeed, an attempt was made, in 1645, to supersede this version by introducing the metrical version or paraphrase of the Psalms, made by Francis Rouse, the presbyterian provost of Eton College : but, though
alterations, they were, with the addition of seven others by Wil.liam Whittingham, at that time residing at Geneva, printed there in 1556. (Christian Remembrancer, June 1821, pp. 327, 328.) The first edition of “ The whole Book of Psalms, collected into English Metre, by T. Sternhold, J. Hopkins, and others," was published by John Day, at London, in 1562, in folio. Other metrical translations of the Psalms, entire or partial, appeared shortly after Sternhold's version ; notices and specimens of which are given in the Rev. Dr. Cotton's List of Editions of the Bible in English, &c. from 1505 to 1820, pp. 55, 56. 142–146. 157–161.
* Rev. H. J. Todd's Observations on the Metrical Version of the Psalms, by Sternhold, Hopkins, and others, pp. 39—42.
+ See N. Tate's Essay for promoting Psalmody, pp. 14. 16. London, 1710.
the latter was adopted at that time, and is still retained by the Kirk of Scotland, the people of England could not be weaned from their attachment to the Old Version; nor could the printers be prevented from multiplying editions of it, not fewer than ten being published in London and at Cambridge, between the years 1641 and 1660. *
The accuracy and dignified simplicity of this version have been vindicated by the late Bishop HORSLEY+: and, although it has now. fallen into almost utter oblivion and disuse from the concurrence of various circumstances, but principally from its general style becoming so obsolete that the people cannot be reconciled to the entire use of it; yet every one who candidly examines it, will allow that its • diction has not unfrequently a liquid sweetness, and generally a force and grandeur, the effect of which is much increased by its simplicity.' I
In 1695, the Rev. Dr. BRADY and Mr. NAHUM Tate published a metrical version of the first twenty Psalms, in 8vo., which they intituled “- An Essay of a New Version of the Psalms of David ;' and, in the following year, they gave to the public a complete
* Rev. H. J. Todd's Observations, &c. pp. 74, 75.
of Book of Psalms, translated from the Hebrew, with notes, vol. i. pref. pp. xi.-xiii.
# Rev. R. Kennedy's Thoughts on the Music and Words of Psalmody, pa 65.