The James Begg Society

The James Begg Society

Publishers of Protestant, Reformed Christian Literature

God's Hymnbook for the Christian Church

by Rev. Malcolm Watts


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God's Hymnbook for the Christian Church

by Rev. Malcolm Watts


ISBN 0-9539241-8-1
64 pages; soft cover



£3.00



God's Hymnbook for the Christian Church

Our "Psalmody Pack" – the books God's Hymnbook for the Christian Church, The Voice of His Praise, and A Catechism on Praise – can be purchased here.


In his booklet "The Psalter - The Only Hymnal?" the Rev. Iain H. Murray has argued that human hymns should have a place alongside the Psalms of David as suitable songs for Christians to sing in public worship. Given the author's standing and his professed adherence to the Reformed faith, some response was necessary. The Society is pleased to publish this useful work by Rev. Malcolm H. Watts, of Emmanuel Church, Salisbury, Wiltshire. It was originally printed in his own church magazine, believing that it will be of much help to all who love the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the only Head of the Church.


Publisher's Preface

I N the Word of God the Lord's people are exhorted to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). To many believers today, even those who would regard themselves as 'reformed', the subject of how God is to be worshipped is not one which warrants engaging in any great controversy. The publishers however are not ashamed to say that they are of different mind.

All who are committed to Holy Scripture as their supreme authority in matters of religion will agree that the essence of the worship required by God is given in those words which Christ spoke to the woman of Samaria: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Worship must firstly be "in spirit." It must come from a heart which believes in Jesus Christ and has a love to the living God. In this regard we do not doubt the sincerity of those who differ from us.

However, to be acceptable to the Lord our worship must also be "in truth." It must be according to God's revealed will. Though we may have a great zeal for our own particular form of worship, it is nothing compared to what the Lord has for His; "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" (Exod. 20:5). If we do not have a positive warrant from Scripture for what we offer to God then our sincerity will not help us. We will incur the Lord's displeasure, because our worship is simply false.

The question of what should be sung in praise to God has long exercised the church of Christ. Asserting their supposed New Testament liberty and pleading their positive experience,many earnest souls have maintained that man-made compositions are to be used in public worship. In his booklet The Psalter – The Only Hymnal? the Rev. Iain H. Murray has argued that human hymns should have a place alongside the Psalms of David as suitable songs for Christians to sing in public worship. Given the author's standing and his professed adherence to the Reformed faith, some response was desired.

The Society is pleased to publish this useful work by the Rev. Malcolm H. Watts, believing that it will be of much help to all who love the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the only Head of the Church. Mr. Watts has done the church a valuable service by his careful exegesis and research. We wish for it a wide circulation and pray that the Lord will hasten the day when every branch of the visible church will abandon choruses, hymns, paraphrases and all other innovations of men and return to the Psalter – God's hymnbook for the Christian church.

The James Begg Society, March 2003.

Preface

by Rev. Malcolm H. Watts

I AIN Murray's booklet The Psalter – The Only Hymnal? was written to show that although Scripture warrants the singing of psalms in the praises of the church, God never intended that they should be exclusively used. We are therefore said to have the liberty to include uninspired hymns and songs in our various worship services. The position set forth in this response is that, since we are bound to worship God in the way prescribed in Holy Scripture, our congregational singing should be limited to the inspired and canonical Psalms.

Some people love controversy. I confess that I do not; but there are times when it is necessary to vindicate the truth. However, when this is required, Scripture makes clear that it must always be done in a Christian spirit, carefully avoiding a harsh, severe and condemning style. In writing this booklet, I have honestly tried to keep this in mind and I would be deeply grieved if anything has been written contrary to the law of brotherly love.

I first met Iain Murray at Westminster Chapel in the 1960's. Some time later he graciously came and ministered to the church here in Salisbury. Since then we have kept in touch and I am pleased to recognise him among my friends. Along with many others I owe him a great debt; not least on account of his theological, biographical and historical writings. Differing with him (as I do) over this matter of worship does not in any way diminish my respect for him as a distinguished Christian minister.

My sincere thanks are due to Edward Greene, Roy Mohon and Douglas Somerset, who kindly read through the manuscript and offered helpful suggestions, and to Alan and Rachel Finch who rendered invaluable assistance in preparing this for publication.