How 16th c. Scottish Hymns Teach the Doctrine of Scripture

Reformation in Scotland

As I write this entry consider how little of what is posted on Standard Sacred Text that can be utilized by or is relevant to the modern Evangelical MVO critical text adherent. Having thrown off the past and being every day in the process of recreating an uncertain theological future, the ecclesiastical history and historic defense of the Faith is of little consequence to them. The initiation of Christianity, for them, was inaugurated at the end of the 19th century. From this perspective it is relatively easy to understand why modern Evangelicalism bibliology is so anemic and negative. Evangelicalism has little ecclesiastical or theological history to build upon, unless, as has been noted in previous posts, it borrows from pre-critical theology for the sake of deceiving the simple. Rather than building on the rich theological and exegetical tradition built upon the apostolic message and preserved throughout the epochs of time since then, the Church today is spiritually starving on scholarly offerings. Like the Left’s opposition to taking advantage of the wealth of oil in America by drilling and fracking leaving the consumer with $5/gallon gas, the theological Left’s opposition to the historical wealth of theological resources has the church spiritually destitute.

The following are excerpts of a Scottish Hymn published in 1567 as part of a compendium entitled “Followings of the Great Loving and Blessedness of God’s Word.” The hymns of the church, like Confessions, convey the theological sentiments of the Church. The same is true today. The existentially centered music of the contemporary church reflects the ecclesiastical transition from theological doxology to anthropological self-absorption and the distorted notion that “If it’s not about me, why go to church?”

Stanza 1

“We know perfect, the holy writ”

Note here that the Scriptures are perfect and holy, two adjectives unsuited to qualify the MVO tradition. This is the theological and confessed position of the latte 16th c. Scottish kirk.

Stanza 3

“Teach them from thy hand to understand, Thy word to their Salvation.”

Here, the salvific quality of Scripture is addressed. Scripture is not a science project or textbook but the means of eternal salvation from the hand of God. This verse also infers the Scripture to be the means of evangelism and teaching. Epistemologically, being taught to understand also infers that understanding the Scripture is not a natural ability but comes through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Stanza 4

“Though Pope or King would so malign, To make the word of God forlorn, Their strength shall fail and not prevail, Though they the opposition all have sworn.”

Here the Church is cognizant of the institutional attack upon the Scripture from an apostate church and corrupt civil government. Attempts to make the Word wretched or miserable in the eyes of the people, even the most resource-rich and entrenched opposition will fail and not prevail against the power of Holy Scripture.

Stanza 5

“They give thy word a false report, Though never fails the truth”

Falsifying the Scripture is the modus operandi of the apostate church and corrupt civil government. In effect, there is an attempt to make the Scripture as wholly unreliable as every other authority except the apostate church and government, neither of which will allow allegiance to anything other than themselves. Once Scripture is accepted as containing prevarications, the gullible masses will have nowhere else to turn than to the church and government. Having abandoned the only thing that argues for freedom of conscience, the naïve voluntarily submit to slavery.

But for those who trust the Word, they know that it’s truth never fails, that it is the source of liberty of conscience, and that God always keeps His promises.

Stanza 6

“Thy word shall stand fast and perfect.”

The providential preservation of Scripture was a constant theme of the 16th c. writers. The Word being preserved is “perfect.” For the word “perfect” to have any relevant meaning it is imperative that God be the Preserver of the words and canon. Only God is capable of fulfilling such a promise. You see, then, once God is removed from the scenario man begins to speak of the Scripture in terms of intrinsic and transcriptional probability, of conjectural emendations and degrees of doubt.

Stanza 7

“To us though he a promise made, Us to convey from pain to Joy, Both in our life, and in our death.”

The eschatological ramifications of this issue is rarely addressed. “What bearing does the version issue have upon the eternal destiny of your soul?” This is usually answered by saying you can come to Christ through any version, or without a printed text through, the quotation of Scripture. All this is true at present, but this stanza deals with not only comfort in death but comfort presently in life. Only the reader can answer the reality of this statement in their own life. Are the new versions a comfort to you in the adversity of life? When on your deathbed, will reading the ESV, et al, give you comfort as you depart this world for the next? In the 16th c. this was not an issue. God made promises in His Word, they did and do convey or move the saint from pain to joy not only in this life but the next. Are believers in the pre-critical text and believers in the post-critical text believing the same thing about the person, word, and work of Jesus Christ? I don’t know. Do you?

Stanza 8

“We hope and trust the Holy Ghost, Shall not forget us at our need, So we thy word, with one accord, Hold in our heart, our Soul to feed.”

In the last stanza the inseparability of the Word and Spirit is presented in the hymn. Note the doctrinal depth of this hymn compared to the repetitious drivel that characterizes much of contemporary music. The Holy Spirit as comforter in accord with the Word satisfies the hungering heart and soul. This is the affectual impact of the Spirit and Word upon the saint. It is love for the Spirit and Word, especially in times of trial, that the saints cling to. To hold the word in the heart is to hold the Spirit in the heart and to hold the Spirit in the heart is to hold the word in the heart.

The attributes of Holy Scripture described in this hymn surpass those of Multiple Version Onlyism. They speak of the fulfilled promises of God, holiness, perfection, preservation, salvific qualities, and the inseparability of the Word and Spirit, all of which is in keeping with the writings posted at Standard Sacred Text. To speak and write this way about Scripture has a doxological focus toward which we should all strive. We “Praise God from Whom all blessing flow” except when it comes to the rational source of these blessings, the Holy Scripture. At that point, everyone has to throw away their Christian theological precommitments and think like a natural man.

A. F. Mitchell, ed., A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs commonly known as “The Gude and Godlie Battatis,” reprinted from the Edition of 1567 (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1897, 1567), 56-57.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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