Beware of Digging Ditches

Before the early American Presbyterian worship wars between those who preferred the hymns of Isaac Watts and those who preferred Rous' Psalms (although nicknamed such, the Scottish Psalter of 1650 was in fact far removed from the earlier version by Francis Rous), there was Sternhold & Hopkins' edition of the Psalms of David. In the 19th century, Sternhold & Hopkins, nevertheless, was not forgotten. 

In the commentary on the Psalms by William Swan Plumer, he refers to Sternhold & Hopkins twice. One reference is found in his exposition of Psalm 7:15, in which he quotes the metrical version thus: 

"Sternhold and Hopkins have given a version of this and the next verse, which has attracted attention.

He digs a ditch and delves it deep,
In hope to hurt his brother;
But he shall fall into the pit
That he digged up for other.
Thus wrong returneth to the hurt
of him in whom it bred;
And all the mischief that he wrought,
Shall fall upon his head." 

Rev. Plumer had occasion to quote this verse at the 1874 General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church, which was dealing with a controversy at Columbia Theological Seminary, which had enacted a rule requiring faculty and students to attend chapel services on the Lord's Day morning (which, according to Richard McIlwaine, later president of Hampden Sydney College, obstructed professors supplying other pulpits and students desiring to hear other ministers preach). The following was recorded by McIlwaine in his autobiography, Memories of Three Score Years and Ten, pp. 312-313:

"This seems to show that the root of contention was a personal disagreement in the Faculty, and to justify the story narrated to me by Rev. Dr. A.P. Smith, then of Mississippi, but afterwards, for a quarter of a century or more, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Tex. He was a most companionable man, full of life and spirit and bubbling over with good humor. He said that on the adjournment of the session of the Assembly at which these resignations were accepted, he walked out of the house with Dr. Plumer, who took his arm and as they got out of the crowd, asked, 'Do you remember Sternhold and Hopkins' version of such and such a palm?' and on his reply, 'No,' the doctor repeated a verse, as follows:

'He digged a pit, he digged it well,
He digged it for his brudder,
Into that selfsame pit he fell,
Himself and not anudder.'

This narration impresses the fact that we are all liable to err and do err..."

Even servants of Christ, who desire to do right, as McIlwaine acknowledged of those with whom he disagreed on the issue at Columbia Theological Seminary, may yet dig ditches for others into which they themselves fall. May God grant that we be not blind leaders of the blind, leading ourselves and others into ditches. But rather, may we stick close to the light of God's Word, and build bridges over snares rather than dig ditches that are snares.