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11. Of the Psalmody of the church

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER X. Of the Prayers and Psalmody of the Church

11. Of the Psalmody of the church. 

The sacred canon of the Jews consisted of the Law and the Prophets. The Psalms were a collection of sacred songs, and were used in their temple service, like our modern collections of Psalms and Hymns. The use of sacred music in religious worship was derived from the Jews, and the Psalms of the sacred Scriptures were uniformly used by the primitive Christians as songs to be sung. Some one or more lead the singing, and the whole congregation united their voices in the chorus. Sometimes they constituted two divisions, and sung responses to each other, and at other times, it is probable that all sung in unison. Their worship was conducted by the reading of the Scriptures, and singing of the Psalms alternately. Certain Psalms were sung also on certain occasions. There were accordingly morning and evening Psalms, and Psalms prescribed by the bishops to be sung on the several religious festivals. 

It is worthy of remark, that the earliest christian fathers make no mention of Psalms and Hymns as a part of religious worship. These were classed with the prayers and thanksgivings of the church. Origen is the first author who distinctly mentions them. "We," says he, "sing hymns to God who is over all, and to his only begotten [Son] the Word and God."  Eusebius also says that the Psalms and Hymns of the brethren, written at the beginning by the faithful, do set forth the praises of Christ the Word of God, and attribute divinity to him. From all which, we have historical evidence that the divinity of Christ was a doctrine of the primitive church.

The circumstance that none of the Psalms and Hymns of the primitive church have come down to us, may be ascribed to various causes. They were comparatively few in number, consisting only of a few hymns to be committed to memory by the young people, and by all those who could not afford the expense of a manuscript copy. They must have been carefully destroyed in the times of persecution. They were a part of the secret service, which was never taught to any but believers. And the church were greatly divided in opinion respecting this part of their worship, often revising their collections of psalmody. The various sects of heretics especially, adapted their psalmody to their peculiar sentiments; and generally, the ancient psalmody was of a decidedly doctrinal character, subject to change from age to age, with the ever varying sentiments of the church. Like their creeds and catechisms, their psalmody also was expected to contain a summary of the christian faith. The music by which it was accompanied consisted merely of a few easy and simple melodies.

Aug. Jac. Rambach's Anthologie ciiristlicher Gesange aus der alien und mittlern Zeit. Th. i – iii. 1817–19. 8: Joannis Bonae, De divina Psalmodia ejusque caiisis, mysteriis et disciplinis, deque variis ritil)iis, on)ninin Ecclesiaruin in psallendis divinis officiis, tractatus hist, symbol, asceiicus; sive psallentis ecclesiae harmonia etc. Edit, nova, auctior et emendatior. Colon. 1677. 8: Mart. Gerbeni, De cantu et njusica sacra etc. Bias. 1774. 2 vol. 4: Job. Zach. Hilligeri, De psalmorum, hymnorum atque odarum sacr. discrimine. Viteb. 1720. 4. S. Thesaur. nov. theol. 1720. 8: Jo. Godofredi Baumanni, De hyninis et hymnopoeis vet. et rec. ecclesiae. Bremae, 1765. 8: J. Ge. Walch, De hymnis ecclesiae apostolicae. Jenae, 1737. 4: S. Miscellanea sacra. Amstelod. 1744. 4. pag. 34. seq: Jo. Frickii, Orat. de sacra carminum divin. hymnodia: S. Meletemata varia. Ulmae, 1756. 4: Jo. Henr. a Seelen, De poesi chr. non. a tertio post Chr. nat. saecnlo demum, sed a primo etiara et secundo deducenda. Lubecae, 1754. 8: Friedr. Münter, Ueber die alteste christliche Poesie: S. Dessen, Offenbarung Johannes, metrisch übersetzt. Zweyte Ausg. Kopenhagen, 1806. 8. S. 17–54.

Constitut. Apost. lib. ii. c. 57: Socrat. h. e. lib. v. c. 22: Basil. Epist. 63: Sozomen, h. e. lib. v. c. 19: Hierarch. eccl. c. 3.

Concil. Laodic. c. 17: Augustin. Serm. 10. de verbis Apost. opp. torn. X. p. 112.

Constitut. Apost. lib. viii. c. 37: lib. ii. c. 59: Chrysostom. Comment, in Ps. Opp. torn, iii: Athanasius, Epist. ad Marcel, tom. i. p. 957: De Virgin, p. 1057: Cassian. Institut. lib. iii. c. 3.

Contra Celsum. lib. viii. c. 67: Edit. Oberth. tom. ii. p. 512, 13.

Lib. V. c. 28.

The genuineness of the last phrase, is called in question by some writers.


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