Saturday, August 29, 2009

considering our praise

'The praises of the Lord, being well considered, will yield continually new matter, and fresh delight in the work'

'There is no exercise whereunto we have more need to be stirred up, than to praise; such is our dulness, and such is the excellency and necessity of the work' David Dickson.

Man's chief end is to glorify God. To praise God is to declare His glory; this is the highest activity on earth of which we are capable. The book of Psalms concludes with these words, 'Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord' (Ps. 150:6). The godly Scottish divine John Willison writes: 'God made man the tongue of the creation, to trumpet forth aloud what the rest of the creation do but silently whisper'.

Praise is also the continual exercise of those in heaven where they behold his glory immediately. John Willison writes that praise 'is the eternal work of heaven, the music of saints and angels there, (Rev. 5:9-11; 15:3). And what are church-assemblies here, but the place of our apprenticeship and preparation for heaven? I know nothing in the world that more resembles heaven, than a company of God's people harmoniously singing his praises "with grace in their hearts, making melody to the Lord" for then the soul rejoiceth in divine goodness, meditates on divine promise, extols divine excellencies, and mounts up to God in acts of faith and love. Let us then make conscience of this heavenly duty in the public assemblies, and perform it with heart and tongue; for were it not a proper exercise, God would not honour it to be the only work of heaven, to the exclusion of prayer, repentance, reading, hearing, communicating, etc.'

We can sum these things up in the words of the Puritan Thomas Ford (member of the Westminster Assembly). 'To praise God, and bless his name, is the highest and most excellent service we can do on earth; it comes nearest to the exercise of the saints in heaven, who are always praising God in the admiration of his infinite and incomprehensible glory'. Elsewhere he says, 'I believe that godly men (who are such indeed) have scarcely seen more of God in any exercise than in this. To my thinking, there is not a more lively resemblance of heaven upon earth than a
company of godly Christians singing a psalm together'.

Praise is one of the parts of religious worship, it consists of singing psalms to God with grace in the heart. God is the focus of all our praise: 'whoso offereth praise glorifieth me' (Ps. 50:23; Ps. 109:1). We must not only 'praise him for his mighty acts', done for us but 'praise him according to his excellent greatness', for what He is in Himself, His glory and perfections. God, to whom all praise alone is due commands that we praise Him, 'Praise ye the Lord' (Ps. 147:1). He commands this duty frequently and even four times within one verse. 'God is gone up with a shout; sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises unto our King, sing praises' (Ps. 47:6).

God also prescribes the type of praise that is worthy of His name and how we must engage in it. We are limited to the commandments of the Word of God in the exercise of praise. The Lord Jesus Christ regards that as vain or empty worship which is instructed by the commandments of men, 'in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men' (Matt. 15:9). He has instructed His Church only to teach to observe all things that He has commanded (Matt. 28:20). The Apostle Paul defines 'will worship' as that which is 'after the commandments and doctrines of men' (Col 2:22-23). In the praise of God, we are confined to singing the psalms of the Old Testament which only are commanded in Scripture without the accompaniment of musical instruments (since these are not commanded in the New Testament).