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David Dickson on the music in Psalm 150

David Dickson was a Presbyterian minister who was born in 1585 in Glasgow, Scotland. He was an only child, and one asked of the Lord by religious parents who had been childless for many years. Mr Dickson was first a pastor at Irvine in Ayrshire, where under his ministry “multitudes were convinced and converted” despite the fierce persecution under Prelacy. A very close and familiar friend of James Durham, one result of their friendship was the excellent “Sum of Saving Knowledge” which is usually bound with the Westminster Confession and the Catechisms. In the 1640’s he became a minister in Glasgow and professor of theology; in 1649 he moved to Edinburgh to be minister and professor at the college there until his death in 1662.

Psalm 150, verses 3-5 Ė 

3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. 4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. 5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Here are other six exhortations, teaching the manner of praising God under the shadow of typical music, appointed in the ceremonial law. Whence learn,

1. Albeit the typical ceremonies of musical instruments in God's public worship, belonging to the pedagogy of the church, in her minority before Christ, be now abolished with the rest of the ceremonies; yet the moral duties shadowed forth by them, are still to be studied, because this duty of praising God, and praising him with all our mind, strength, and soul, is moral, whereunto we are perpetually obliged.

2. The variety of musical instruments, some of them made use of in the camp, as trumpets; some of them sounding by lighter touching of them, as stringed instruments; some of them by beating on them more sharply, as tabrets, drums, and cymbals; some of them sounding by touching and blowing also, as organs: all of them giving some certain sound, some more quiet, and some making more noise: some of them having a harmony by themselves; some of them making a concert with other instruments, or with the motions of the body in dancing; some of them serving for one use, some of them serving for another, and all of them serving to set forth God's glory, and to shadow forth the duty of worshippers, and the privileges of the saints; - the plurality and variety, I say, of these instruments, were fit to represent divers conditions of the spiritual man, and of the greatness of his joy to be found in God, and to teach what stirring up should be of the affections and powers of our soul, and one of another, unto God's worship; what harmony should be among the worshippers of God, what melody each should make in himself, singing to God with grace in his heart, and to show the excellence of God's praise, which no means nor instrument, nor any expression of the body joined thereunto, could sufficiently set forth: and thus much is figured forth in these exhortations to praise God with trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, and organs, loud and high sounding cymbals.  


A COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, by David Dickson. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985. pp 536-537.