THE following extract from the Doctor's Preface, as it contains the plan of his version of the Psalms, may be found useful:
"I come therefore to explain my own design, which is this, To accommodate the book of Psalms to Christian worship. And in order to do this, it is necessary to divest David and Asaph, &c. of every other character but that of a psalmist and a saint, and to make them always speak the common sense, and language of a Christian.
"Attempting the work with this view, I have entirely omitted several whole psalms, and large pieces of many others; and have chosen out of all of them, such parts only as might easily and naturally be accommodated to the various occasions of the Christian life, or at least might afford us some beautiful allusion to Christian affairs. These I have copied and explained in the general style of the gospel; nor have I confined my expressions to any particular party or opinion; that in words prepared for public worship, and for the lips of multitudes, there might not be a syllable offensive to sincere Christians, whose judgments may differ in the lesser matters of religion.
"Where the Psalmist uses sharp invectives against his personal enemies, I have endeavoured to turn the edge of them against our spiritual adversaries, sin, Satan, and temptation. Where the flights of his faith and love are sublime, I have often sunk the expressions within the reach of an ordinary Christian: where the words imply some peculiar wants or distresses, joys, or blessings, I have used words of greater latitude and comprehension, suited to the general circumstances of men.
"Where the original runs in the form of prophecy concerning Christ and his salvation, I have given an historical turn to the sense: there is no necessity that we should always sing in the obscure and doubtful style of prediction, when the things foretold are brought into open light by a full accomplishment. Where the writers of the New Testament have cited or alluded to any part the Psalms, I have often indulged the liberty of paraphrase, according to the words of Christ, or his Apostles. And surely this may be esteemed the word of God still, though borrowed from several parts of the Holy Scripture. Where the Psalmist describes religion by the fear of God, I have often joined faith and love to it. Where he speaks of the pardon of sin, through the mercies of God, I have added the merits of a Saviour. Where he talks of sacrificing goats or bullocks, I rather chuse to mention the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God. When he attends the ark with shouting into Zion, I sing the ascension of my Saviour into heaven, or his presence in his church on earth. Where he promises abundance of wealth, honour, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brought to light by the gospel, and promised in the New Testament. And I am fully satisfied, that more honor is done to our blessed Saviour, by speaking his name, his graces, and actions, in his own language, according to the brighter discoveries he hath now made, than by going back again to the Jewish forms of worship, and the language of types and figures."
Of chusing or finding the Psalm.
By consulting the Index at the end, any one may find hymns very proper for many occasions of the Christian life and worship; though no copy of David's Psalter can provide for all, as I have shewn in the Preface to the large edition.
Or, if he remembers the first line of any Psalm, the Table of the first lines will direct where to find it.
[NOTE: the Index and the Table of First Lines are omitted from this Project Gutenberg electronic version.]
Of singing in course.
If any shall think it best to sing the Psalms in order in churches or families, it may be done with profit, provided those Psalms be omitted that refer to special occurrences of nations, churches, or single Christians.
Of dividing the Psalms.
If the Psalm be too long for the time or custom of singing, there are pauses in many of them at which you may properly rest; or you may leave out those verses which are inclued with crotchets [ ], without disturbing the sense: or, in some places you may begin to sing at the pause.
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