Magnalia Christi Americana (The Great Works of Christ in America)
Prior to sailing from Southampton, the following occurred (Book I Ch. II Sect. 4):
Mather writes the following of the character of the Church (Book I Ch. III Sect. 7):
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31
"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19
"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17
"Content not yourselves with reading, singing, and praying together; but set some time apart to confess your faults, and to communicate your experience one to another. For want of this (which I take to be one chief design of private meetings), most of the old Societies in London, I fear, are sunk into a dead formality, and have only a name to live. They meet on a Sabbath evening, read a chapter, and sing a psalm ; but seldom, if ever, acquaint each other with the operations of God's Spirit upon their souls ; notwithstanding this was the great end of those who first began these Societies. Hence it is, that, they have only the form of godliness left amongst them, and continue utter strangers to the state of one another's hearts. My brethren, let not your coming together be thus altogether in vain, but plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for your souls. To this end, you would do well as others have done, to form yourselves into little companies of four or five each, and meet once a week to tell each other what is in your hearts that you may then also pray for, and comfort each other, as need shall require. None but those who have experienced it, can tell the unspeakable advantages of such a union and communion of souls. I know not a better means in the world to keep hypocrisy out from amongst you. Pharisees and unbelievers will pray, read, and sing psalms; but none save an Israelite indeed, will endure to have his heart searched out."
'By piety I mean that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires. For, until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.' (Institutes Book 1 Ch. 2 Sect. 1)
'For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”... And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose...
'What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...
'For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
Question.You said, that your Godfathers and Godmothers did promise for you, that you should keep God's commandments. Tell me how many there be?
Question. Which be they?
IV. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates.For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
56. The first day of the week, which is the Lord's day, is wholly to be dedicated unto the service of God: and therefore we are bound therein to rest from our common and daily business, and to bestow that leisure upon holy exercises, both public and private.
3. And God blessed the seventh day ... Thus we may be allowed to describe the day as blessed by him which he has embraced with love, to the end that the excellence and dignity of his works may therein be celebrated... God therefore sanctifies the seventh day, when he renders it illustrious, that by a special law it may be distinguished from the rest. Whence it also appears, that God always had respect to the welfare of men. I have said above, that six days were employed in the formation of the world; not that God, to whom one moment is as a thousand years, had need of this succession of time, but that he might engage us in the consideration of his works. He had the same end in view in the appointment of his own rest, for he set apart a day selected out of the remainder for this special use. Wherefore, that benediction is nothing else than a solemn consecration, by which God claims for himself the meditations and employments of men on the seventh day. This is, indeed, the proper business of the whole life, in which men should daily exercise themselves, to consider the infinite goodness, justice, power, and wisdom of God, in this magnificent theater of heaven and earth. But, lest men should prove less sedulously attentive to it than they ought, every seventh day has been especially selected for the purpose of supplying what was wanting in daily meditation. First, therefore, God rested; then he blessed this rest, that in all ages it might be held sacred among men: or he dedicated every seventh day to rest, that his own example might be a perpetual rule. The design of the institution must be always kept in memory: for God did not command men simply to keep holiday every seventh day, as if he delighted in their indolence; but rather that they, being released from all other business, might the more readily apply their minds to the Creator of the world. [TJD: I.e. it isn't about sleeping the day away.] Lastly, that is a sacred rest, which withdraws men from the impediments of the world, that it may dedicate them entirely to God. But now, since men are so backward to celebrate the justice, wisdom, and power of God, and to consider his benefits, that even when they are most faithfully admonished they still remain torpid, no slight stimulus is given by God’s own example, and the very precept itself is thereby rendered amiable. For God cannot either more gently allure, or more effectually incite us to obedience, than by inviting and exhorting us to the imitation of himself. Besides, we must know, that this is to be the common employment not of one age or people only, but of the whole human race. Afterwards, in the Law, a new precept concerning the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the Jews, and but for a season; because it was a legal ceremony shadowing forth a spiritual rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ. Therefore the Lord the more frequently testifies that he had given, in the Sabbath, a symbol of sanctification to his ancient people. Therefore when we hear that the Sabbath was abrogated by the coming of Christ, we must distinguish between what belongs to the perpetual government of human life, and what properly belongs to ancient figures, the use of which was abolished when the truth was fulfilled. Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live unto themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but inasmuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.Full version at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.viii.i.html. See also http://ad-gloriam-dei.blogspot.com/2006/08/calvin-on-sabbath.html.
"..the Laudian triumph resulted in a judgement of equal moment - that the Ecclesia Anglicana was of another spirit than Geneva... In the Elizabethan settlement the Reformation had been given a peculiarly English expression, and we may interpret the settlement of 1662 as an equally characteristic version of the Counter-Reformation."
Francis Turretin on the Descent of Christ into Hades
Extract from Institutes of Elenctic Theology,
Topic 13, “The Person and State of
Was the soul of Christ, after its separation from the body, translated to paradise immediately? Or did it descend locally to hell?
The former we affirm; the latter we deny against the Papists and Lutherans.
I. The question concerning Christ's descent into hell is twofold: the one with the Papists and some Lutherans, who hold a local descent of Christ; the other among the orthodox themselves concerning the true sense of the article – whether it is to be referred to the spiritual anguish of Christ or to his burial and his most abject state under the dominion of death. We are now to examine the first and will speak of the last immediately afterwards
Il. The Papists maintain that the soul of Christ from the time of its separation from the body straightway descended locally to hell until the resurrection.
In the Catechism of Trent, it is proposed to be believed: “Christ being now dead, his soul descended into hell, and remained there just as long as his body was in the sepulchre” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Art. 5 [trans. J. A. McHugh, 1923], pp. 62 and 64).
And that no one might think this was only done by virtue and power and not by essence (as Durandus held, cf. Sententias theologicas Petri Lombardi Commentariorum, Bk. 3, Dist. 22, Q. 3, 4 , p. 215), it is added in the same place, “It is to be entirely believed that the soul itself really and by presence descended into hell.” However they wish him to have descended thither for the purpose of freeing the souls of the fathers of the Old Testament detained in limbo and of carrying them with him to heaven.
On this account, they wish it to be referred to the state of exaltation and not to that of humiliation (as Brochmann determines, ‘De Servatoris Nostri Jesu Christi,’ Sect. 14, Q. 6, 7 in Universae theologicae systema , 1:920-23).
IV. Hence the question took this form: Whether Christ descended locally into hell or only to the limbo of the fathers and to purgatory for the purpose of leading out the souls of the pious or to the very place of the damned to openly exhibit his victory. This our opponents hold; we deny.
V. First, the soul of Christ immediately after its release from the body mounted up into paradise, according to the promise made to the thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
(1) In vain do our opponents wish the words to be understood of the deity only, with which the soul of the thief was to be in paradise.
They involve the futurition in paradise or the translation not only of the soul of the thief, but also of Christ; that as Christ and the thief truly suffered, so they were to be carried together also into heaven, that both conditions might be common to both. And thus they were consolatory not only in order to the thief, but also to the Lord himself that in a short time they would both emerge from their distresses. Thus in the same manner, they might be in heaven as to their souls as they were on the cross together as to their bodies.
Hence Cyprian: “The thief was made a partaker of the kingdom, who had been made by his confession a colleague in martyrdom” (‘De Passione Christi’ [attributed to Cyprian] in Amold Camotensis, Opera, p. 50 in Cyprian, Opera led. John Oxoniensem, 1682]). The words themselves prove this. Christ does not say, "I will be with you" (which designated the presence of the deity in paradise), but “thou shalt be with me,” in order to promise him the fellowship of his humanity. Fellowship with Christ in his kingdom is promised. Now this cannot be understood of the deity (which concedes to no one such a privilege), but of Christ, the God-man (theanthropo), who calls believers into a share of his kingdom.
(2) No better do others wish the word “today” to be referred to the words of Christ, not to the introduction into paradise. Thus the sense is, “Today I say to you,” that thou shalt be with me in paradise.
As Suarez well remarks, this is an elusion, not an interpretation. For there was no need for Christ to indicate this, which the verb of the present tense and the expression of Christ itself sufficiently indicated. Rather he wishes to encourage the thief (constituted in agony and breathing after the grace of Christ) by this consolation that his petition would be fulfilled on that very day.
(3) Thomas Aquinas also gratuitously feigns, “Paradise here denotes generally the place of happiness, wherever it may be, in which they are said to be who enjoy the divine glory; whence the thief as to place was in hell with Christ, as to reward in paradise; so that paradise is wherever Christ is and wherever God is seen” (ST, Ill, Q. 52, Art. 4, p. 2305).
But what is this except to mingle heaven not only with earth but also with hell? Thus the thief on the cross would have been already in paradise because he was there with Christ. Christ, however, speaks of that paradise, where he was not then.
Finally, in no other way is paradise to be understood than as Scripture elsewhere speaks of it: as the seat of the blessed (2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7), which Bellarmine (‘De Sanctorum Beatitudine,’ 3 Opera 2:426) and Suarez (‘Commentaria ... in tertiam partem D. Thomae,’ Q. 52, Dist. 42 in Opera Omnia [1856-78J, 19:697-743) acknowledge.
The thing itself proves this because the promise of Christ ought to answer to the petition of the thief, “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” To which Christ answers, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (i.e. in my kingdom).
VI. Second, the soul of Christ was in the hand of the Father: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Therefore it was not in hell because according to the style of Scripture the hand of the Father is not to be understood with respect to power (according to which the hand of God is everywhere, Psa. 139: 7 -10) or as it is the terrible hand of God, the Judge; but as the consoling hand of the Father of mercy with respect to glory and grace; or the condition of the blessed usually described by being in the hand of God.
It is confirmed by this – that Christ by this phrase wished to proclaim that nothing more remained to be done by him, both as to freeing others and as to undergoing new torments. But as the body was about to enjoy its repose in the sepulchre, so the soul also was about to rest from all its labours and be bathed in the greatest joys. For to commit or commend the soul has a relation to foregoing labours. Christ, however, could not have said, “I commend my spirit,” if after death he was yet to descend into hell and suffer the most grievous burdens.
He commends his spirit to the hand of his Father in the same manner as David and Stephen commended their souls because these were the very words of David before (Psa. 31:5), from whom Christ took them, and of Stephen afterwards (Acts 7:59), who imitated Christ himself; yea, as Peter recommends all believers to commit their souls to the faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19); not assuredly that they may descend into hell, but be received into heaven (as the ordinary gloss has it, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit that you may receive it, leaving the body”).
Hence among the fathers the hand of the Father and hell are opposed. Cyril of Alexandria says, “The innocent above, the guilty below; the innocent in heaven, the guilty in the abyss; the innocent in the hand of God, the guilty in the hand of the devil” (De exitu animi [PG 77.1082 J).
VII. Third, if according to the soul Christ truly and locally descended into hell, either that was done to suffer something there or to free the fathers or to preach the gospel to the dead, or to show his victory to the devils.
But the first cannot be said because he finished all things on the cross (John 19:30) and by one offering he perfected forever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10:14).
Not the second because they were already admitted into heaven; nor were they ever in a fictitious limbo, as was proved before.
Not the third because preaching the gospel belongs only to the state of this life, not to the condition of death. If Peter says, “The gospel was preached to the dead” (1 Pet. 4:6), this is not to be understood in the compound sense (as if he had preached to the dead as such because since they are not in the state of the way, they need no more any preaching), but in the divided sense (i.e. to them who are now dead, but who formerly lived when the gospel was preached to them).
Not the fourth because that descent ought to be penal, not triumphal and belongs to the state of humiliation, not of exaltation.
VIII. Now that such was the descent of Christ various arguments prove:
(1) According to the style of Scripture, a descent into hell signifies the most terrible adversities and most exquisite pains (Gen. 37:35; Job 14:13; Psa. 6:5; 86:13; 130:1).
(2) The passages which speak of the descent into hell denote his extreme misery, not a triumph (to wit, in which he was not on that account to be left, but to be freed by the Father, Acts 2:30, 31).
(3) The descent into the lowest parts of the earth is opposed to his ascension above all the heavens, which is a part of the exaltation (Eph. 4:9). Therefore it ought to be a part of his humiliation.
IX. The “heart of the earth” in the style of the Hebrews means nothing else than what is within the earth, for lb is put for thvdh (which is the middle) and what is internal is often called the middle, whether it is in the middle or not. The borders of
Thus “to be in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40) means nothing else than to be within the earth whether that be nearer or more remote from its surface. In this way is intimated the state of Christ's body in the sepulchre (which was in the earth, in which it rested until the third day).
X. When Christ is said to have “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (eis ta katotera mere tes ges, Eph. 4:9), a local descent is not implied, but his humiliation and manifestation in the flesh which he assumed on earth, so that it is nothing else than to descend to the earth (which is the lowest part of the universe) by a construction sufficiently known to the Hebrews, in which the governing word stands for the apposition – “in the lowest parts of the earth” (Psa. 139:15), i.e. in the earth, which is the lower part with respect to heaven.
Thus not the parts of the earth are compared with each other, but the heaven and the earth, parts of the universe. Nor do the words of the text admit of any other meaning. There is an opposition between the ascent from earth to heaven and the descent from heaven. However, as the ascent has the earth as the point from which and heaven as the point to which, so in turn the descent has heaven as the point from which and the earth as the point to which. This Cajetan saw, who by the lower parts of the earth wishes to be understood “the earth which is the lowest part of the world as distinguished from the lower parts of the heaven which are in the air. And thus he would more clearly have expressed it, because he descended first to the lower part of the earth.”
XI. When Peter says “the soul of Christ was not to be left in hell” (Acts 2:27 from Psa. 16:10), a local descent cannot be understood, but the detention in the sepulchre because this is referred by Peter to the resurrection.
This is gathered:
(1) From the connection “my flesh,” says he, “shall rest” (i.e. in the sepulchre) “in hope, because thou wilt not leave.”
(2) From the phrase added for explanation, “Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One” (i.e. me) “to see corruption” (to wit, in the body), which otherwise it would undergo if left in the sepulchre.
(3) From a comparison with Acts 13:34,35, where God is said to have raised up Christ from the dead that he might not see corruption.
Nor is this opposed either by the word psyches [“soul”] which as Emanuel Sa (de phrasibus Scriptura) remarks, is put by a synecdoche of a part for the whole, for the whole person itself frequently elsewhere (Psa. 3:2; 17:13; Acts 7:14) or of a part for a part, for the body itself (Lev. 19:28; 21:1, 11; Num. 5:1; Luke 6:9) as Virgil (“We bury the soul in the tomb,” Aeneid 3.68 [Loeb, 1:352-53]), or by the word “Hades”, which evidently is often put for the sepulchre, as will be proved hereafter.
XII. The passage in Peter, when “Christ quickened by the Spirit” is said “to have preached unto the spirits in prison” (tois en phylake, 1 Pet. 3:19), does not favour the local descent into hell.
(1) Peter does not speak of "the soul," but of "the Spirit." Therefore it cannot be understood of any descent of the soul. For that Spirit cannot here be taken for the soul but for the Deity is gathered from the preceding verse. No other Spirit is meant than he by whom he was quickened. This cannot be said of the soul, neither subjectively because that only is quickened which can die (which cannot apply to the soul), nor efficiently because quickening is a work of infinite power. On this account, the Deity itself must necessarily be understood.
This is often thus designated elsewhere (Rom. 1:4; Heb. 9:14; 1 Tim. 3:16) where he is said to have been “justified by the Spirit,” which Cajetan, Gagnaeus, Thomas Aquinas, Lyranus and others understand of the deity and the Holy Spirit.
(2) It treats of the apeithesasi (i.e. rebellious spirits) who did not obey those giving them good advice (such as the fathers cannot be called, whom they wish Christ to have led out of limbo [in which they were detained] to heaven). Nor can it be said that they indeed were unbelieving at first but afterwards repented because this is not in the text, but is rather opposed to it. For eight only are said to have been saved, the rest to have perished. Yet if some had repented, Peter would not have called them apeitheis.
(3) There is no mention here of liberation, but only of preaching.
(4) The “prison” (phylake) treated of here is taken only in two ways in Scripture, either for a nightly guard, or for a prison in which the guilty are detained (Luke 3:20). Since, in truth, it cannot be used here in the first sense, it ought necessarily to be taken for a prison (as the interlinear Gloss says, “the prison of darkness and unbelief”). Nowhere in Scripture is any place called a prison where happy spirits are contained.
(5) The preaching is not said to have been made to the spirits being in prison, as if they were in prison at the time of the preaching. For to what purpose would it have been made since there is granted no exit from it?
But it is said to have been made formerly in the time of Noah (in which God's patience waited for men) to them who (at the time in which Peter writes) are in prison. Hence Peter does not say ekeryxe tois pneumasi en phylake, but tois en phylake pneumasi ekeryxe. Thus the substantive verb must be supplied, not as the Vulgate has it iis qui in carcere erant as if they were in prison at the time of the preaching, but tois ousi (“who are,” to wit, at the time of the apostle's writing). For that pote Peter does not join with the words en phylake, but with apeithesasi in this manner, tois en phylake pneumasi apeithesasi pote, clearly distinguishing the times in which they were rebellious in the days of Noah and in which they were thrust into prison on account of their rebellion.
Thus the meaning of the passage is plain, as our Beza has most happily explained it. “Christ,” says he, “whom I said was quickened by the Spirit, having gone, not by a change of place, but by a certain special manifestation of his presence, by revelation and operation, as God is often said to come in Scripture, not literally but figuratively and metaphorically; not in the body, which he had not yet assumed, but by that very Spirit or divine power by which he rose again and was quickened, and inspired (by which the prophets spoke, 1 Pet. 1:11) preached to those spirits, which are now in the prison of hell, where they suffer the punishment of their rebellion to his preaching in the time of Noah.”
This Andradius saw, saying that this is the meaning of the passage – “in which Spirit (coming long before) he preached to those spirits who now in prison pay the deserved penalty of their former unbelief, since they never wished to believe Noah telling them of their duty and building an ark by God's command” (Defensio tridentinae fidei catholicae 2 , p. 294).
XIII. If Christ is said by the resurrection “to have been loosed from the pains of death” (Acts 2:24), it does not follow that he endured pains up to the moment of his resurrection and that his soul departed into hell, where he could be affected by such pains. The passage can be understood in two ways:
(1) That “the pains of death” by a grammatical figure (hen dia dyoin) are put for a painful death. Christ, it is said, “will baptise with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (as Matt. 3:11), i.e. with spiritual fire, as Virgil, “I sing of arms and men,” i.e. the armed man (Aeneid 1.1 [Loeb, 1:240-41]). It is certain that the death of Christ was connected with the most exquisite pains, nor was that death resolved except in the moment of the resurrection.
(2) The passage to which Peter alludes (Psa. 18:5) employs the expression chbly mvth, which properly denotes cables and chains by which the man is detained as a captive in death, from which he is released by the resurrection. Thus there is no need to invent in addition any suffering of the soul after death. However, Peter, following the Septuagint, retains the word odinas, which can connote both the torments he suffered in death and the chains of death, by which in a measure he was bound in the sepulchre. Thus the meaning may be “whom” (namely, Christ) “God hath raised up, having loosed the chains of death because it was impossible that he should be always holden [krateisthai] like a captive by it.”
XlV. The triumphal song which Paul sings (after Hosea, 1 Cor. 15:54,55) is rightly referred to the resurrection of Christ, by which he began to triumph over sin, death and hell. But it cannot pertain to a descent into hell, which was the lowest degree of his humiliation, in which he seemed to be only not swallowed up by death.
May the descent into hell [Editor: Hades] be rightly referred to infernal torments and to a most abject state under the dominion of death in the sepulchre? We affirm.
I. By the preceding question, the false opinion of the papists concerning the local descent of Christ into hell was refuted. Now its true and genuine sense must be given. About this again the orthodox do not altogether agree among themselves, some referring it to the spiritual anguish and hellish torments which he suffered (as Calvin, Beza, Danaeus, Ursinus and others, even various confessions of the churches), others maintaining that it pertains to his burial and three days' detention in the sepulchre (as Zanchius, Piscator, Pierius and others).
Il. However, we must observe before all things that we do not inquire concerning the origin of this article – whether it was contained from the beginning in the Apostles' Creed and constantly acknowledged and received by the churches. For it is evident that no mention is made of it in the Nicene Creed and in the Roman, according to Ruffinus (A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed 28 [NPNF2, 3:553-54 D. The ancients who published confessions and set forth the rule of faith (such as Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Augustine and others) say nothing about it. Also it is referred by Ruflinus only to the end of the fourth century.
This article does indeed occur in the Athanasian Creed, but the article of burial being omitted is a clear proof that they were considered as one and the same thing. So it is very probable that this article was transferred from the Athanasian to the Apostles' Creed and at first perhaps was placed in the margin for the purpose of explication; then from the margin into the text itself where it was afterwards retained and incorporated with it. But this question being now dismissed, we treat here only concerning its true sense (about which all do not agree).
The word sh'vl [Editor: Sheol] is spoken in Scripture in four ways:
(1) For a sepulchre (Psa. 16:10; 49:15);
(2) For the place of the damned (Luke 16:23);
(3) For the greatest torments (Psa. 18:5; 116:3);
(4) For extreme humiliation (Isa. 14:15).
Hence to descend into hell [Editor: Hades] is used in four ways:
(a) It denotes to be buried (Gen. 37:35; 42:38);
(b) To descend into the place of the damned (Num. 16:33);
(c) To feel infernal pains (1 Sam. 2:6);
(d) To be extremely humbled (Matt. 11:23).
According to this fourfold signification, there can be a fourfold meaning of this article. So that it may be referred either to:
A local descent into the place of the damned (as the papists and Lutherans hold and refuted by us already);
Or to the burial of Christ,
Or to his infernal sufferings,
Or to the extreme degree of his humiliation.
IV. They who hold that this article does not differ from his burial rest especially upon these reasons:
(1) That Peter (from Psa. 16:10 in Acts 2:31) seems clearly to refer to the burial of Christ, “David seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell.”
(2) Everywhere in Scripture sh'vl [Editor: Sheol] is put for the sepulchre and to descend into hell for to descend into the sepulchre (as Arias Montanus, Emanuel Sa and other papists and lexicographers teach).
(3) In various creeds mention is made of a descent into hell, no mention being made of the sepulchre (as in the Athanasian Creed, which evinces that they were taken by him for one and the same thing). And here can be referred the fact that Paul mentions Christ's death, burial and resurrection according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3, 4), but says nothing of his descent into hell. However he would have spoken of it if he had believed that such an article meant anything else than his burial.
V. Still it is not probable that this article is the same as the burial.
(1) It would be a tautology (tautologia) scarcely to be endured in so succinct and brief a creed.
(2) It cannot be said that this article was appended to the former concerning the burial to explain it, since it is more obscure than the former.
Thus it is not to be referred precisely to the burial, but to the state of death or his detention in the sepulchre under the dominion of death (as this phrase is often used to describe the state of the dead; cf. Gen. 37:35 where Jacob, bewailing his son Joseph whom he believed to have been tom in pieces by wild beasts, says, “I will go down” lsh'vl “unto my son mourning”; not indeed into a sepulchre because he supposed he had been tom in pieces by wild beasts and not buried, but simply to death or the state of the dead). Thus “in death there is no remembrance of thee, in sh'vl who shall give thee thanks?” (Psa. 6:5; cf. Job 17:13-15; Psa. 30:3; 49:15; Isa. 14:11,19,20).
VI. Also, the passage of Peter (Acts 2:27) drawn from the oracle (Psa. 16:10) seems necessarily to demand this: “Thou wilt not leave my soul eis hadou” (supply oikon, employed by him to prove the resurrection). He says this prophecy was fulfilled by the resurrection of Christ, so that the meaning is: “Thou wilt not leave my soul” (i.e. my life) or “me in death, but wilt raise me up from death by the resurrection.” Here belongs what is said in v. 24 concerning “the pains” or “chains of death” by which he was holden as a captive by death (from which he was released by the resurrection). It was impossible (both on account of the glory of his divinity and on account of the holiness of his humanity) to be held any longer by it.
VII. But neither is the other opinion to be repudiated which understands this descent of the extreme sufferings of Christ endured both in the garden and on the cross. It agrees:
(1) With the style of Scripture which usually designates the most grievous torments by “hell” and the “pains of hell,” as we have already said;
(2) With the creed, that the most weighty and special sufferings of Christ be not passed over in silence (which would be the case, unless the descent of Christ into hell be understood of the internal sufferings of his soul). For the preceding articles speak only of the external sufferings of the body.
VIII. If it is asked which of these two opinions ought to be retained, we answer both can be admitted and be made to agree perfectly with each other.
Thus by the descent into hell may be understood the extreme degree of Christ's suffering and humiliation, both as to soul and body; and as the lowest degree of humiliation as to the body was its detention in the sepulchre, so as to the soul were those dreadful torments he felt. And thus this last article will be apposite for expressing the last degree of Christ's humiliation, whether as to disgrace of body or as to anguish of soul.
Nor should it seem wonderful if these two parts (mutually diverse from each other) should be joined together in one and the same article. It is not unusual in Scripture for a single sense to put on various relations (schesin) and for many things to be embraced together, especially when the things are mutually subordinated and connected with each other. Since this phrase may be referred now to abjection of the body, then to griefs of the soul (and Christ should have undergone both conditions), it was not without reason that the ancients added this article to the preceding in order to set forth more distinctly this state of Christ.
IX. The constant and indissoluble union of the human nature with the divine in Christ does not hinder him from being able to suffer both in soul and in body the punishment due to us. The union with the Word causes him indeed to be always holy and free from all sin; but not that he should be always happy and glorious (since he came that he might suffer). Christ always had the glory of person as God-man (theanthropos); but he ought not to always have the glory of human nature (which he was to obtain only after his resurrection) because he was to be tempted in all things equally with us and be made a curse for our salvation.
X. As he is properly said to be damned who in hell endures the punishment due to his own sins, this term cannot be applied to Christ, who never suffered for his own but for our sins; nor did he suffer in hell, but on earth. Still there is no objection to saying that the Son of God was condemned for us by God, just as elsewhere he is said to have been made a curse (katara) and malediction for us. Nor is it more absurd to say that Christ was condemned than that the Lord of glory suffered and was crucified and for our sake was crucified and chastened (as is so often said).
XI. The vision of God belonging to the saints in heaven by glory differs from that of believers on earth by grace. They who see God in the former manner can be subjected to no further punishments and pains because they are in their native country, constituted in a state of happiness. But it is not the same with believers who, although they see God by faith, do not cease to be exposed to various afflictions. Christ on earth (as man) saw God in the latter sense, and far more perfectly than believers; but this vision did not hinder him from suffering and complaining that he was forsaken of God.
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." (Psalm 90:1)Anything else is man-made speculation. It is easy to make pious assertions and seem to exalt God, but is it pious to make assertions with no Biblical warrant? Is this bearing a witness to the truth, or is it exalting ourselves above what He has chosen to reveal to us. I don't know all about God and time, but I do know that God has not revealed that He is timeless.
Labels: Theology Proper
Labels: Practical Religion
‘Sing to Him a new song! Play skilfully with a shout of joy!’ (Psalm 33:3)
‘He has put a new song in my mouth — praise to our God! Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.’ (Psalm 40:3)This is a fair question and one that I asked when I was a teenager examining the practice of the Church in which I was raised. Let me answer it in my imperfect way.
‘Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth.’ (Psalm 96:1)
‘Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For he has done marvellous things; his right hand and his holy arm have gained him the victory.’ (Psalm 98:1)
‘I will sing a new song to you, O God! On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to you!’ (Psalm 144:9)
‘Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise in the assembly of saints.’ (Psalm 149:1)
‘Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands and you inhabitants of them!’ (Isaiah 42:10)
Just like the appeal to Paul’s exhortations to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”, the superficial interpretation that “sing a new song” calls for new man-made composures should be carefully examined in the light of the history of the Old and New Testament Churches, and the early, post-Apostolic Church.
This is not to invoke “tradition” as authoritative, but to aid us in the normal task of interpretation. We usually interpret words and phrases as contemporaries understood them. We should have lots of examples of hymn-composition, if this is how they understood these words, but we don't. We don't even have a little! This doesn’t seem right, if the exhortation to “sing a new song” is a call for new compositions.
More importantly than extra-Biblical sources, Scripture itself gives no indication that we are called to add to, or take from, the God-given Hymnal.
If those contemporary to Scripture didn’t practice the composition of new hymns, except for prophets like David called to this task, then it seems unlikely that “sing a new song” could refer to such a practice. Is there an interpretation that makes more sense in the light of the rest of Scripture and known Church practice?
“A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another.” (John 13:34)
‘And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.’ (2 John 1:5)
‘He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
‘Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining… He who loves his brother abides in the light…’ (1 John 2:6-8,10)
When we hear the word “new”, we usually think of something freshly made that didn’t exist before, but Scripture doesn’t always use the term this way.
Christ calls the exhortation to love one another “a new commandment”. Did this commandment not always exist? Yes, it did. Christ Himself says that the Law could be summed-up in our love for God and for our neighbour. Indeed, the Second Table of the Law is devoted to loving our neighbour, for love is the fulfilment of the Law. As John said, it was not a new commandment, but an old commandment they had from the beginning. So clearly Jesus didn’t mean that it had not previously existed.
John also says that there is a sense in which the command to love one another is new because a radical change has happened when the light of Christ shines in the heart of true believers.
Even the Psalms which are the “new songs” in question are not particularly new, in the sense of not having previously existed. The content in each case was sung many times before, and indeed several of them repeat what the other “new songs” already stated. Interestingly, Psalm 96 would appear not to be a new composition. It was extracted from a longer song that is found in 1 Chron. 16:8-36 and only encompasses vv. 23-33 of that chapter. (Or was this latter song an expansion of the former?)
“New” in the Scriptures can mean that it is so unusual, fresh and different, that it is as if it had never existed previously. In my opinion, this definition fits what Christ was saying in John 13:34. This commandment had fallen into such disuse by the selfishness of men that it was something new to them, even though it was as old as God himself.
John Calvin agrees with this idea of “newness” in commenting on the various verses that speak of a new song. He describes this newness as “rare and choice”, “exquisite and not ordinary”, “singular and worthy of remembrance”, “not one which was common”, “unusual and extraordinary”, “singular or uncommon”, “rare and unusual” and “distinguish[ed] from those with which the saints commonly and daily praised God”.
Matthew Poole similarly talks of this newness as “renewed”, “fresh”, “new matter or occasion for a song”, “new and great occasion” and “new mercies”. How many new occasions does God give us for renewed praise to our God?
But maybe these are just Psalm-singing Presbyterians from centuries ago? The modern Anglican Derek Kidner also describes this “newness” as “freshness” in his comments on these various Psalms.
In commenting on Psalm 96:1, he says, “The new song (cf. on 33:3) is not simply a piece newly composed, though it naturally includes such, but a response that will match the freshness of His mercies, which are ‘new every morning’.” Here he does not draw away from the fact that David’s song was one newly composed for the occasion in question (nor does Poole or I), but he emphasises “the freshness of His mercies, which are ‘new every morning’.”
The late 19th Century, hymn-singing Baptist, Charles Spurgeon similarly states the following:
“We ought to make every hymn of praise a new song. To keep up the freshness of worship is a great thing, and in private it is indispensable. Let us not present old worn-out praise, but put new life, and soul, and heart, into every song, since we have new mercies every day, and see new beauties in the work and word of our LORD.”
Spurgeon goes on to quote Augustine and others who take the same interpretation. It is worth noting Diodati’s comment that Spurgeon quotes: “sung with such fervency of affections as novelties usually bring with them.”
In commenting on the new song of the nations (Psalm 96), Spurgeon further comments:
“Men are made new creatures and their song is new also. The names of Baalim are no more on their lips, the wanton music of Ashtaroth ceases; the foolish ditty and the cruel war song are alike forgotten; the song is holy, heavenly, pure, and pleasant.”
Derek Kidner, in commenting on Psalm 144:9, also emphasises the hope of victory that the “new song” expresses. The New Geneva (or Reformation) Study Bible similarly states, “Often such ‘new’ psalms are found in contexts of victorious war and can be seen as shouts of victory.”
It is a fact that the Psalms were new songs when they were composed, but this is not an exhortation for us to compose a new song. The Psalmist calls us to sing his new songs, but he does not command us to compose new ones ourselves. This is an important distinction.
Nor is he calling us to only sing songs that are new; clearly this would be absurd and irrational, and is contrary to the commandments to sing the Psalms.
For us, the purpose should be that we are filled with the joy and freshness of God’s mercies, and I believe that it is really this newness that the Psalmist is pointing us to, and what he is calling us to join with him in. Let us join him in singing his new songs, the old Psalms, “with such fervency of affections as novelties usually bring with them.”
Matthew Henry comments that the Psalmist entered a “new world” of “fresh mercies”. Often when God mightily delivers us from the old, long-endured burden of affliction, it is as if we entered a new world. The song of deliverance, although used many times before (like the Psalmist), becomes for us a new song because of the freshness of God’s mercies toward us.
When we sing of a “new song” in these Psalms, we should not think, “What new song should I compose today?” or “What newly-composed song should I sing?” but “How new and fresh are God’s mercies to me! What a place of freedom and joy I find myself in through my Saviour Jesus! Let me sing this old Psalm with the fresh joy of salvation!”
Let us constantly remember:
‘Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not; they are new every morning! Great is your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”’ (Lam. 3:22-24)
Historical Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists know that we must only worship God in the way that He commands, but how can one justify singing man-made hymns in worship? Where does God ask us to compose our own songs and sing them to Him?
Often an appeal is made to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16:
“Paul tells us to sing ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’. It doesn’t just say ‘psalms’, it also says ‘hymns and spiritual songs’, so we can sing other songs than the Book of Psalms.”
“You Psalms-only guys make Paul say that ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ are ‘psalms, psalms and psalms’? That’s ridiculous!”
These statements are due to a lack of familiarity with how the Bible uses these terms. This brief study is an attempt to shed some light on what Paul actually meant.
It may surprise some people to know that Psalms-only adherents (e.g. historic Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists, and the Early Church) don’t believe that “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” are “psalms, psalms and psalms”. So what are they?
Firstly, let’s remember that Paul was writing in Greek, not English. In today’s world, when we talk about ‘hymns’, we mean songs other than the Psalms, but it is illogical to apply our modern English usage to the Greek of Paul’s day. What did Greeks mean by these words?
The word “psalm” is not exclusive to the Bible. Today, we talk about ‘psalms’ as the Book of Psalms in the Bible, but to the Greek-speaking peoples ‘psalmos’ could be applied to any song that was accompanied by string-instruments by derivation from the Greek word for plucking. This term came to have a more generalised meaning over time.
A ‘hymn’, or ‘hymnos’, was a song of praise, usually to deities or heroes. In English, we refer to Christians songs outside of the Book of Psalms by this term, but the Greeks, and even the Greek-speaking Jews and Christians, didn’t make such a distinction by this term.
‘Songs’ is a general term, but it is specifically defined in this context as “spiritual”, although the Greek grammar allows for the adjective “spiritual” to apply to all three nouns.
These three terms in and of themselves say nothing about what Paul was referring to. Indeed, if it wasn’t in the Bible, it could apply to the entire repertoire of songs that one could come across in life. However, it is in the Bible, so how do the Scriptures use these terms?
The Greek version on the Old Testament was known as the Septuagint, referring to the 70 scholars who were supposed to have translated the original Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. How the Septuagint uses the terms “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” is important because this was the Bible used by the NT Christians, and many of the Apostles’ quotations of the OT in the NT show their extensive use of this version.
It was the title that these scholars gave to the Hebrew Sepher Tehillim, “Psalmoi”, which gives us the title of the “Book of Psalms” in our English Bibles. However, in this “Psalmoi”, the individual songs are categorised using the three terms, “psalms, hymns and songs”. The Book of Psalms isn’t just Psalms!
In our English Bibles, we will see titles to many of the Psalms: only 34 don’t have any. However, in the Septuagint there were even more titles with only 2 lacking a title. In this Greek version (not necessarily our English Bibles), 67 titles include the word ‘psalm’, 6 include the word ‘hymn’ (Psalms 6, 54, 55, 61, 67 and 76) and 35 the word ‘song’. Even some of those that were entitled “hymnos” in the Greek should more accurately have been translated as “psalmos”, but the fact the Greek translators used the word “hymnos” shows the interchangeableness of these two terms to Greek Jews and Christians.
Frequently, these terms are used in groups, such as “a psalm of a song”, “a song of a psalm”, “a psalm, a song”, “in psalms a song”, “in hymns a psalm” and “in hymns, a psalm, a song”. Note that the Seventy referred to some of the Psalms as “a psalm in the hymns” or “a psalm and a song in the hymns”. They referred to the collection of Psalms as “the hymns”.
Here I refer to the titles, but all three terms are also used in the body of the Psalms themselves.
In the text of the Psalms themselves, the terms “hymn” and “song” (together with their cognate verbs and substantives) are used throughout as descriptive of the Psalms, e.g. “He put into my mouth a new song, a HYMN to our God” (Psalm 40:3).
At the end of Psalm 72, the Septuagint says, “The HYMNS of David, the son of Jesse, are ended”, presumably referring to all the Psalms up to that point, or something similar.
One of the most interesting texts in the Septuagint Psalms is Psalm 137:3, which reads, “There they who took us captive demanded of us words of SONGS, and they led us away said, ‘Chant us a HYMN out of the SONGS of Zion.’” Clearly the Songs of Zion were the Book of Psalms, but they were also hymns. The Psalmist goes on to call these "the LORD's song".
Although the Seventy entitled the Greek version of the Psalms as “Psalmoi”, they would have been more accurate to have translated it as “The Book of Hymns” because the Hebrew title was Sepher Tehillim, and the equivalent of Tehillim in Greek was ‘hymnoi”.
It is only traditionalism from the Greek usage that means that we call the book “Psalms” and not more accurately from the Hebrew “Hymns”.
In 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah (and elsewhere) the Psalms are referred to as hymns or songs, and the singing of the Psalms is referred to as “hymning”.
In the Septuagint Apocrypha, the same terminology is used in Ecclestiasticus, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.
Clearly, the Greek Christians would have been familiar with the Psalms being “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. Everyone was calling them hymns and songs (apart from modern English-speakers!).
The fact that the Hebrew title for the Psalms should really have been translated “The Book of Hymns” is interesting when one considers the use of “in hymns, a psalm”, and also the way that the Greek-speaking Jews referred to the Book of Psalms. Two of the best-known unbelieving Jews who spoke Greek are Philo and Josephus.
Philo never used the term “psalmos” in reference to the Psalms, but “hymnos”. This amazing absence of the term “psalmos” in his writings has caused some scholars to speculate that some Greek versions of the Psalms were actually (and more appropriately) entitled “Hymnoi”, rather than “Psalmoi”.
As McNaughter says, not only the Greek-speaking Jews, but the Early Greek Church also referred to the Psalms as hymns, citing the Apostolic Constitutions, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Hilary, Athanasius, Jerome, Augustine and Cassian.
When Emperor Domitian burned huge quantities of Bibles and Psalters during his persecution of the Christians, where were the man-made hymnals? When the Early Church authors wrote their multitude of letters and books, where are the hymns? They do not exist. How can this be, if man-made hymnody was the early Christian practice?
McNaughter states, “Testimonies from the Middle Ages could be multiplied at great length, but Bede, ‘the Venerable,’ gives their gist when he speaks of the whole Psalter as called ‘Liber Hymnorum” by universal consent. Thereafter, through the Reformation period and down to modern times, the Psalms are spoken of incessantly as hymns.” This is no surprise as hymns are songs of praise, especially directed to deity. Is the Book of Psalms a collection of hymns? Yes.
When Jesus and His disciples finished the Last Supper, they “hymned.” It is generally accepted that they followed the Jewish practice at the Passover in singing Psalms 113 – 118, which is known as the Hallel. It seems that the singing of these Psalms is referred to here as singing hymns.
Paul and Silas prayed and “hymned” to God while imprisoned at Philippi. As they sang from memory, it seems more than likely that they sang the Psalms that they would have learnt in their youth.
It is interesting to note that at the Corinthian worship services, they sang Psalms. There is no mention of man-made hymns, let alone the composition of man-made hymns. Now, admittedly, these “psalms” could have been man-made, but the natural use of the term is that they were the Canonical Psalms. There is certainly no evidence of man-made hymnody either here or anywhere else in the NT.
In quoting Psalm 22:22, the writer to the Hebrews says, “…I will hymn to you.” So, again, to the distinction between psalms and hymns is blurred.
One could look at further instances of the use of psalms and hymns in the NT, but these examples give an idea that our modern use of the word “hymn” as songs to God distinct from the Book of Psalms is foreign to the NT.
We may say that Paul should have said “psalms” and left at like that, but we impose our own meaning of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” on him. The same goes for the titles of the Psalms”: in 12 of them psalms and songs are put together. Isn’t this all a bit superfluous? Isn’t a psalm a song? Again, this shows the distinction between modern English-speakers and Jews. We should remember this distinction and take it into our interpretations.
“Doesn’t it seem a bit of a mouthful?” one may say, but the Jews weren’t British or American, they like using long parallelisms in their speech. In 1 Kings 2:2, David charged Solomon before he died:
“to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgements, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses”.
Again, in Deuteronomy 30:16 (and elsewhere), Moses says something similar:
“to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgements”
“Why doesn’t they just say obey God’s commandments?” says the modern Evangelical. David and Moses were a bit more poetic than that. These are all commandments, but there are different categories in God’s commandments, just as there are three categories for the Canonical Psalms. One is further reminded of the various categories that David applies in Psalm 119.
Similarly, in Acts 2:22, Peter (a Jew) speaks as follows:
“Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs…”
Peter could have said “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles” and left it at that, but he didn’t. He was more Jewish than us (funny that!).
Paul was a Jew and spoke like a Jew, and wrote “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” because he was Jewish, not because he was distinguishing the Spirit-inspired Psalms from man-made products.
As stated previously, the word “spiritual” could apply to all three terms, but I am inclined to think that it refers to “songs” only. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul was exhorting his readers to be different from the unbelievers who wasted their lives in drinking and singing drunken songs to Bacchus:
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”
The heathen sang songs when they were filled with wine, but we sing songs too when we are filled with the Holy Spirit: these songs are spiritual.
What does the word “spiritual” or “pneumatikais” mean? We think of “spiritual” as being religious, but the word has a far stronger meaning than this. As Dr. B. B. Warfield of Princeton said (The Presbyterian Review, July 1880):
‘Of the twenty-five instances in which the word ["spiritual"] occurs in the New Testament, in no single case does it sink even as low in its reference as the human spirit; and in twenty-four of them it is derived from "spirit" (pneuma), the Holy Ghost. In this sense of belonging to, or determined by, the Holy Spirit, the New Testament usage is uniform.’ ‘The appropriate translation for it in each case is “Spirit-given,” or “Spirit-led”, or “Spirit-determined”.’
These songs are given by the Holy Spirit, they are not merely religious. Some would argue that the hymns of Charles Wesley, for example, are given by the Spirit, but is this really what Spirit-given means in this context? I think that “pneumatikais” is too strong a term for mere man-made hymnody.
What about the psalms, hymns and songs of Scripture, including those which weren’t included by the Spirit in the Book of Psalms? Were they merely man-made products – “spiritual”, but not inspired? None of them were like modern hymns: they were either personal utterances of praise (some of which may not properly be termed songs, but are nonetheless praise) and not meant for public worship (e.g. the ‘Songs’ of Hannah, Jonah and Hezekiah), or they were given for public worship in the Temple or Synagogue, but only produced by prophets and prophetesses (e.g. Moses, David and Habakkuk).
It is also noteworthy that many of them were produced by a specially-inspired class within the Levites who were devoted to God’s praise (1 Chron. 16:4-7), e.g. Asaph and the Sons of Korah. It is also noteworthy that just as some prophecies ended-up in the Canon of Scripture and many did not; so also some inspired songs made it into the Canon-within-the-Canon, i.e. the Book of Psalms, and some did not.
Does God command us to compose our own “spiritual” songs for public worship, or are there examples of it in the Scriptures? The silence is deafening. The Spirit-given songs are all inspired. We have no reason to believe that “spiritual” refers to anything else.
Not only are these songs given by the Spirit, but they are the Word of Christ:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
How does the Word of Christ dwell richly within us? By teaching and admonishing one another through singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs together. These “psalms, hymns and songs given by the Spirit” must be “the Word of Christ”. This makes sense if these terms refer to the Canonical Psalms, but can even Charles Wesley’s hymns be spoken of in this way?
If “psalms” refer to the Book of Psalms, and “hymns” refer to man-made productions, then what are “spirituals songs”? Is Paul saying “psalms, hymns and hymns”? What sense does that make? Those who ridicule us with the absurd interpretation that we say that these are “psalms, psalms and psalms” should consider the implication of their own interpretation when they hold that “psalms” is the only term that refers to songs from the Book of Psalms.
The only interpretation of these terms that make sense are that they collectively are an expansive term for the Book of Psalms, with the various categories of song within it.
It may be argued by some that although psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are different categories of song, and that these categories are found in the Book of Psalms, yet why should we think that they are restricted to this Book; maybe even the songs of the Wesleys could be referred to as “psalms”?
As we have seen previously there are real difficulties with this: are they Spirit-given in the Scriptural sense? Are they the Word of Christ? Should we sing songs to teach each other that are any less inspired than what we use in reading from the pulpit?
Another fundamental issue with this interpretation is: how do the Scriptures use these terms? We should not ask merely how they are used outside of Scripture. For example, when we read that the Bereans “searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so”, do we think that these were writings in general, even though the term could be understood in that sense? Why is that? It is because we know from the use of this term in the Bible what is meant by it.
Even so, we know from the use of the terms “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” that the Bible refers to the Book of Psalms when referring to the congregational worship of God’s people. We have no reason to understand it any other way.
All the Scriptural evidence points to the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” being the various categories of song found in the Canonical Psalms. There is no evidence that hymns are man-made as distinct from the Book of Psalms, nor is there evidence any where is Scripture of the composition or singing of man-made productions in when Christians meet together for worship. Neither is there evidence in history from the period covered by the Scriptures, nor the period immediately after it.
Those who claim to hold to Biblical worship and seek to worship God as He asks, have no warrant to compose or sing man-made songs. The only logical conclusion is to restrict ourselves to what God has provided in His grace as sufficient for us: the Book of Psalms.
Let us sing "the LORD's song" (Psalm 137:4).