Puritan Era Treatises on Psalm Singing

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See also Spiritual Helps for Psalm Singing, which contains numerous more puritan treatises.

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1600’s

Ainsworth, Henry – ‘Of Worship’, ‘Singing of Psalms’, pp. 20-21  in A Defence of the Holy Scriptures, worship, and ministery, used in the Christian Churches separated from Antichrist Against the challenges, cavils and contradiction of Mr. Smyth...  (Amsterdam, 1609)

Hildersham, Arthur – ‘That it is an ancient and excellent ordinance of God that in his worship and service we should sing psalms, even David’s psalms, and that we should sing them in that manner as may be most unto edification’  in Lecture 1  of 152 Lectures upon Psalm 51…  (London, 1635), pp. 4-6

The English puritan Hildersham, amongst other things, argues against other Bible-songs besides the psalms being sung as the public praise of the Church.

Mather, Richard et al. – ‘Preface’ to the Bay Psalm Book, which was the first book printed in New England.  See also the ‘Introduction’.

Holmes, Nathanael – Gospel Music: or, The Singing of David’s Psalms, etc. in the public congregations, or private families asserted and vindicated against a printed pamphlet entitled, Certain reasons by way of confutation of singing Psalms in the letter; Objections sent in, in writing; Scruples of some tender consciences… unto which is added the judgment of our worthy brethren of New England touching singing of Psalms  Buy  1644  46 pp.

Holmes was an English, Independent puritan and argues for inspired Bible-song singing.

Cotton, John – Singing of Psalms: A Gospel Ordinance  Buy  1647  128 pp.

Cotton argues for inspired Bible-song singing as the only regular ordinance for the singing of praise in the public worship of the Church.

Taylor, Jeremy – ‘The Preface’  to The Psalter of David with Titles and Collects according to the matter of each Psalm: whereunto is added Devotions for the help and assistance of all Christian people, in all occasions and necessities  (London, 1647)

Taylor (1613–1667) was a conformed cleric in the Church of England who advocated for very liturgical worship.  The Preface is very good, at length, with regard to the psalms.  Some of the references to ‘hymns’ he makes refer to the psalms themselves.  Taylor held to predominant psalmody.

Ford, Thomas – Singing of Psalms the Duty of Christians under the New Testament, or, a Vindication of that Gospel Ordinance in 5 Sermons upon Eph. 5:19  Buy  1653

Ford was a Westminster divine and presbyterian.  He allows for singing some hymns in private, but believes they ought not to be sung in the Church’s public worship.

Sydenham, Cuthbert – A Gospel-Ordinance Concerning the Singing of Scripture Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs  Buy  1654  122 pp.

Clapham, Jonathan – A Short and Full Vindication of that Sweet and Comfortable Ordinance, of Singing of Psalms. Together with some profitable rules, to direct weak Christians how to sing to edification. And a brief confutation of some of the most usual cavils made against the same. Published especially for the use of the Christians…  ToC  1656

MacWard, Robert – pp. 272-280 of The True Non-Conformist, Dialogue 5  1671  9 pp.

MacWard was a Scottish covenanter and the protege of Samuel Rutherford.  He argues that (1) singing is a distinct element from prayer with different Biblical regulations, and (2) that inspiration is a requirement for sung praise (contra man-made hymns and praise songs), in the context of having critiqued the Anglican prayer service, and heard the Anglican’s response.

Roberts, Francis – Of Singing of Psalms  1675, 10 pp.  being pp. 118-128 from his The Key of the Bible: Unlocking the Richest Treasury of the Holy Scriptures

Roberts argues for inspired Bible-song singing.

Manton, Thomas – Sermon 24, on Eph. 5:19, pp. 411-417  in Sermons on Eph. 5:1-27  in Works, vol. 19  (1680’s)

Manton was an English presbyterian that allowed for hymns, and that likely even in public worship, but he takes Eph. 5:19 to refer primarily to psalms and thinks that psalms, and perhaps that only, ought to be the public sung praise of the Church as they are inspired, most fitting, and agreed upon by all Christians.

Allen, Richard – An Essay to Prove the Singing of Psalms with Conjoined Voices, a Christian Duty: and to resolve the doubts concerning it  (London, 1696)  150 pp.  This book was recommended by five other ministers, two of which, at least, were baptists.

Allen (fl. 1696-1700) was likely a baptist.  His son-in-law was Charles Gregory.  He argues for majority psalm singing (pp. 58-61).

H., E. – Scripture Proof for singing of Scripture Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: or an Answer to Several Queries and Objections Frequently made use of to stumble and turn aside young Christians from their Duty to God in Singing of Psalms, Gathered out of the Scriptures of Truth, to which is added the Testimony of Some Learned Men, to Prove that Scripture-Psalms are Intended by all Those Three Words, Psalms, Hymns and Songs, used by the Apostle, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16  (London, 1696)  48 pp.  The list of testimonies from ‘learned men’ begins on the bottom of p. 41.  He quotes Ainsworth, Cotton, the Bay Psalm Book, the Preface to the Scottish Metrical Psalter, Augustine, Hilary & Sidenham.

E.H. was a little-known laymen, though the work was highly commended in ‘The Epistle [to the Reader]’ by two more well-known particular baptist ministers of that era.  For the larger historical context that this work appeared in, see Thomas Ross, ‘English Particular Baptist Singing and Congregational Worship Practices to 1700’.

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1700’s

A’Brakel, Willhelmus – Ch. 79, ‘Singing’  in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 4, pp. 31-38

The decision of the Dutch Synods has been very correct indeed, namely, that none other but the Psalms of David are to be used in the churches.” – pp. 34-5

Gill, John – A Discourse On Singing of Psalms as a Part of Divine Worship  Buy  1733, 39 paragraphs

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Latin

Brown of Wamphray, John – bk. 6, ch. 36, ‘Of the Public Exercises of the Lord’s Day’, pp. 957-966  in A Tract on the Cause of God Against the Anti-Sabbatarians, vol. 2  (Rotterdam, 1676)

David Hay Fleming on p. 959: “Paul’s three words are restricted to the Book of Psalms, and several very cogent reasons are given for doing so.” 

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Related Pages

Psalm Singing

Psalters Online

Familiar Tunes for Singing Psalms

The History of Psalm Singing

The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing

The Puritans and Psalm Singing

The Puritans on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’, Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16

Historic Quotes of Praise on the Psalms

Do We Sing Christ’s Name in the Psalter?

The Imprecatory Psalms