Verse 3. Upon an instrument of ten strings; with the fullest range of music, uttering before God with the full compass of melody the richest emotions of his soul.
And upon the psaltery; thus giving variety to praise: the Psalmist felt that every sweet- sounding instrument should be consecrated to God. George Herbert and Martin Luther aided their private devotions by instrumental music; and whatever may have been the differences of opinion in the Christian church, as to the performance of instrumental music in public, we have met with no objection to its personal and private use.
Upon the harp with a solemn sound, or upon meditation with a harp; as much as to say, my meditative soul is, after all, the best instrument, and the harp's dulcet tones comes in to aid my thoughts. It is blessed work when hand and tongue work together in the heavenly occupation of praise.
"Strings and voices, hands and hearts,
In the concert bear your parts:
All that breathe, your God adore,
Praise him, praise him, evermore."
It is, however, much to be feared that attention to the mere mechanism of music, noting keys and strings, bars and crotchets, has carried many away from the spiritual harmony which is the soul and essence of praise. Fine music without devotion is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. Upon an instrument of ten strings. Eusebius, in his comment on this psalm, says: "The psaltery of ten strings is the worship of the Holy Spirit performed by means of the five senses of the body, and by the five powers of the soul." And to confirm this interpretation, he quotes the apostle, 1 Corinthians 14:15 : "I will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also." "As the mind has its influence by which it moves the body, so the spirit has its own influence by which it moves the soul." Whatever may be thought of this gloss, one thing is pretty evident from it, that instrumental music was not in use in the church of Christ in the time of Eusebius, which was near the middle of the fourth century. Had any such thing then existed in the Christian Church, he would have doubtless alluded to or spiritualized it; or, as he quoted the words of the apostle above, would have shown that carnal usages were substituted for spiritual exercises. --Adam Clarke.
Verse 3. In Augustine to Ambrose there is the following passage bearing on this same subject: -- "Sometimes, from over jealousy, I would entirely put from me and from the church the melodies of the sweet chants that we use in the Psalter, lest our ears seduce us; and the way of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, seems the safe one, who, as I have often heard, made the reader chant with so slight a change of voice, that it was more like speaking than singing. And yet, when I call to mind the tears I shed when I heard the chants of thy church in the infancy of my recovered faith, and reflect that I was affected, not by the mere music, but by the subject, brought out as it were by clear voices and appropriate tune, then, in turn, I confess how useful is the practice."
Verse 3. We are not to conceive that God enjoyed the harp as feeling a delight like ourselves in mere melody of sounds; but the Jews, who were yet under age, were restricted to the use of such childish elements. The intention of them was to stimulate the worshippers, and stir them up more actively to the celebration of the praise of God with the heart. We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people, as yet weak and rude in knowledge, in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this, it appears that the Papists, in employing instrumental music, cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God's ancient people, as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative, and terminated with the gospel. --John Calvin.
Verse 3. Chrysostom says, "Instrumental music was only permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off from idols; but now instead of organs, we may use our own bodies to praise him withal." Theodoret has many like expressions in his comments upon the Psalms and other places. But the author under the name of Justin Martyr is more express in his determination, as to matter of fact, telling us plainly, "that the use of singing with instrumental music was not received in the Christian churches as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song." --Joseph Bingham.
Verse 3. Instrumental music, the more I think of it, appears with increasing evidence to be utterly unsuited to the genius of the gospel dispensation. There was a glare, if I may so express it, which characterized even the divine appointments of Judaism. An august temple, ornamented with gold and silver, and precious stones, golden candlesticks, golden altars, priests in rich attire, trumpets, cymbals, harps; all of which were adapted to an age and dispensation when the church was in a state of infancy. But when the substance is come, it is time that the shadows flee away. The best exposition of harps in singing is given by Dr. Watts --
"Oh may my heart in tune be found,
Like David's harp of solemn sound."
Verse 3. (last clause). On meditation with a harp. (New translation.) By a bold but intelligible figure, meditation is referred to as an instrument, precisely as the lyre and harp are, the latter being joined with it as a mere accompaniment. --J.A. Alexander.
Verse 3. With a solemn sound. Let Christians abound as much as they will in the holy, heavenly exercise of singing in God's house and in their own houses; but let it be performed as a holy act, wherein they have immediately and visibly to do with God. When any social open act of devotion or solemn worship of God is performed, God should be reverenced as present. As we would not have the ark of God depart from us, her provoke God to make a breach upon us, we should take heed that we handle the ark with reverence. --Jonathan Edwards, in "Errors connected with singing praises to God."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- All the powers of the soul shall be praise. "Upon an instrument of ten strings", all the chords of the mind, affections, will, etc.
- All the utterances of the lips should be praise.
- All the actions of the life should be praise.
Verse 3. In our praise of God there should be,
- Preparation -- for instruments should be tuned.
- Breadth of thought -- "upon an instrument of ten strings."
- Absorption of the whole nature -- "ten strings."
- Variety -- psaltery, harp, etc.
- Deep reverence -- "solemn sound."