The Predominant Exclusive Psalmody of the English & Scottish Churches from the Reformation through the Puritan Era, with a Review of Mark Jones’s Article

“Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy…  All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer [prophet] in the words of God…  All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord…  according to the king’s order to…  them…  that were instructed in the songs of the Lord…”

1 Chron. 25:1-7

“Hezekiah began to reign…  and he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done…  And said unto them, “…our fathers have…  turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord…”…  Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer.  And they sang praises with gladness…”

2 Chron. 29:1-2,5-6,30



Unfinished, under construction



The Predominant Exclusive Psalmody of the English & Scottish Reformed Churches from the Reformation through the Puritan Era,

with A Review & Correction of Rev. Dr. Mark Jones’s

’17th Century Exclusive Psalmody & Hymnody’



Travis Fentiman, MDiv.



I.  English

Early Anglican Church
The Private Purpose of Hymns
Baynes, Davenant & Ball
The Presbyterians & Ford
Entrance of Hymns, 1640’s: Independency, Leigh, Holmes, Cotton, Burroughs, Goodwin

II.  Church of Scotland

The Private Purpose of Hymns
Ferguson & McWard

III.  Westminster
IV.  English

1650’s, Langley
Post-1660, Hymns Take a Foothold, Savoy, Baxter
Presbyterians: Wells, Flavel, Manton
Anglican: Barton, Playford, Introduction of Hymns into Public Worship
Post-1689, Rising Use of Hymns: Henry & Anglicans
Early 1700’s: Still Predominantly Exclusive Psalmody

V.  The Slow Rise & Popularization of Hymnody

Watts, 1707 ff.
1700’s American Presbyterianism: Which Psalter to Use?
1800’s American Presbyterianism: the Rise of Hymnody





The Rev. Dr. Mark Jones, in his historical article, ’17th Century Exclusive Psalmody & Hymnody’ (2017) at The Calvinist International, comes to the conclusions that “…the evidence” of earlier Reformed theologians “shows that no firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship”, and that, “In short, there is plenty of evidence that many notable Reformed writers positively argued for the inclusion of hymns, besides Psalms, in corporate worship.”  In order to seek to demonstrate this, Rev. Jones quotes nine reformed, English theologians, and one Scottish theologian.

It will be demonstrated that these conclusions do not follow from the evidence that Rev. Jones presents in that for most of the theologians he quotes, it cannot actually be shown that the hymns that they spoke of were actually “in corporate worship” (but were rather intended to be sung privately), and the evidence that does exist only demonstrates that most of those figures practiced “exclusive psalmody in corporate worship”.

It should be noted that Rev. Jones does not quote anyone who holds to the historical view that he is arguing against, that a “firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship” for “[e]arlier [international?] Reformed theologians” during the 17th century.  A firm consensus on such an exclusive practice might seem to imply that no reformed church in the 1600’s ever sang a hymn in public worship.  However, what historian of worship has ever claimed such a thing?  None would, though Rev. Jones easily conquers his opponent.

One of the things wanting in Rev. Jones’s article is significant historical context.  Some or many of the historical quotes may leave questions in the reader’s mind as to what that particular theologian’s church actually was singing in public worship.  While Rev. Jones largely does not provide that broader information, yet it does exist and it can be uncovered, as it will be in this article, much against his conclusions.

This article will, in some length and detail, sketch trajectories from the primary sources and historians of worship that present a picture of predominate exclusive psalmody in the public worship of the reformed, English and Scottish† Churches from the Reformation through most of the puritan era, from the mid-1500’s to near the end of the 1600’s.

† Rev. Jones also refers to the Czech, John Cemenius (1592-1670) and the Swiss, Benedictus Aretius (1505-1574), which persons will not be within the scope of this article.

The attempt to show that a significant, though minority practice of hymnody occurred in the public worship of the Church of Scotland after her Reformation in 1560 is not new.  It was sought to be argued with more detail than many coming after in the late-1800’s by a leader in the Free Church of Scotland, Dr. Horatius Bonar, at a time when the Free Church of Scotland was moving from exclusive psalmody in its public worship to allowing for, and being taken over by, human, uninspired hymns.

One of the greatest historians of the Scottish Church, David Hay Fleming (1849–1931), responded to Dr. Bonar with a mass of historical documentation, analysis and argument that came to the opposite conclusion.  Though more evidence has surfaced since Fleming’s time (some of which will be answered below), yet his conclusions have not been overturned.

While Fleming’s work has remained unanswered, it has not prevented numerous contemporary writers from making the same claims as Dr. Bonar, with much less evidence, not realizing that Fleming thoroughly disproved these claims more than a 100 years ago.  This article will but highlight a few things from Fleming’s work and recommend the interested reader to read the whole of it.  It has recently been reprinted by Naphtali Press in Shorter Writings of David Hay Fleming, vol. 1 (2007), though that edition is now hard to find.  It, however, is available on the net:

‘Hymnology of the Scottish Reformation’ part 1part 2part 3part 4 in The Original Secession Magazine, vol. 16 (1886) p. 461- 470, 531-542, 597-607, 777-781

Hence, this article will mostly focus on the English side of things.  It is believed that this article (with links which are able to be followed), though necessarily brief and but a sketch, is the most detailed and comprehensive monograph inquiring into the predominant exclusive psalmody of the public worship of the reformed, English churches during the puritan era, to date.  Where exceptions occur to this pattern, or fire-hydrant let open, they will be largely seen to prove the rule.

The article’s method is largely chronological; the early foundations will set the stage for what comes after.  One will be able to see for oneself when hymns began to rise, from whom they came, how they developed and when they became popular.  Due to the comprehensive survey, no gap will remain, it is believed, that could fundamentally overturn the overall picture and conclusions of the article (which are simply the accepted conclusions of scholars of English worship).

This article also serves as an introduction, and as contextual background to the collection of 100 plus, mostly puritan quotes on Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 from 1539-1787, almost all of which interpret the phrase, ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ as referring to the book of Psalms, and/or to inspired Scripture songs.

Puritan Quotes on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’


The Biblical Teaching

Though this article is purely historical, it derives its significance not merely from history, but, more importantly, from the teaching of God’s Word respecting what is to be the content of sung-praise in the Church’s public worship of God.  To summarize the Scriptural teaching:

Praise-song is to be sung (Ps. 92:1; 96:1) in the public assembly by all alike (Ex. 15:20-21Ps. 118:15126:2Eph. 5:19Col. 3:16).  The only examples and warrant for sung-praise in Scripture are immediately inspired and were given by persons prophesying (Ex. 15:1,20-21; Jud. 5:1-3; 2 Sam. 23:1-2; Lk. 1:67-79; 1 Cor. 14:14-15,26-32; etc.).  Prophets were set to compose and direct the praise-songs at the establishment of the regular public worship in the Temple services (1 Chron. 25:1-7).  Though the Church is enjoined to sing a ‘new song’ unto the Lord (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; etc.), yet this does not remove the requirement that it be inspired, and every Biblical example of such new praise songs after those injunctions in the psalms were immediately inspired of the Holy Ghost.

When the Old Testament public worship services had fallen into decay at a later period, Hezekiah did not institute any uninspired songs composed by men to be sung, or even songs of other prophets, but “commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer,” which had been instituted from the beginning for the public services (2 Chron. 29:30).  This shows the principle and development of a canon of public worship-song for the Church.

There is a sufficient book of praise-song in the Canon for all times; hence the content of praise-song is religiously significant and is therefore regulated.  As the psalms have been given and set forward by God to us, and therefore are chosen of Him for the purpose, so the content of praise song is hence necessarily regulated.  As these psalms are commanded to be sung, so they may not be added unto, according to Scripture (Dt. 4:2; Lev. 10:1-2; Prov. 30:6; Mt. 15:9) and the Reformed principle of the Regulative Principle of Worship.

When one gets to Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 (rather late in the revelation of Biblical teaching), these verses may be understood of the Psalms alone, do not necessarily refer to anything else (see WCF 1.6), and ought to be interpreted in accord with the teaching of the 95% of the rest of Scripture, rather than against it.

As persons often argue from liberty in the content of prayer to liberty in the content of worship-song (such as Robert Boyd below), it ought to be noted that God has chosen in his Word to regulate these two distinct, elements of worship differently.  In contrast to sung-praise:

Congregational prayer is to be regularly performed by ministers (Ex. 30:1,7-8; Ps. 141:2; Acts 6:2,4; 20:16,18,36; 1 Cor. 14:13-15,26,29) and not by other Church-officers, men, women or children (Num. 16:1,6-9,16-19,32-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-12; 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:11-15; Isa. 3:12; Westminster’s Form of Presbyterial Church Government, ‘Pastors’).  Prayer, formally as prayer (in contrast to sung-praise), is spoken (Lk. 11:2; Mt. 26:39,42,44).  All persons may, and ought to give their audible, public agreement and witness to the prayer with an ‘Amen’ (Neh. 8:6; Mt. 6:13; 1 Cor. 14:16).  While a general form of prayer has been given by our Lord (Mt. 6:9), yet there is no sufficient book of prayers which we are limited to in Scripture; rather, the content of prayer is to include all things we have need of or godly desires unto (Gen. 4:26; Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1-4; WCF 21.4).

While many more Biblical texts could be brought up and analyzed, yet they will all be found, upon an impartial consideration, to be consistent with the principles above.  To be introduced further to the Biblical teaching about the Church’s public praise song, see Paul Barth, ‘A Concise Case for Exclusive Psalmody’ (2017).  One has not heard the full case for the Biblical teaching, however, until one reads Michael Bushell, The Songs of Zion  Buy.

With the voice of God echoing in our ears, let us proceed to the history of our Reformers and the Puritans.


Early English Hymns:
for Private Use

The first influence in England towards reformation was Lutheran, which, following Martin Luther, advocated a strong hymnody.  The Ghostly [Spiritual] Psalms & Spiritual Songs¹ of Miles Coverdale, first appearing in 1539, reflected this Lutheran influence.  Col. 3:16 and James 5:13 were quoted on the original title page.

¹ In Remains of Myles Coverdale  (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1846), pp. 533-590

The volume contained 13 metrical psalms, with metrical versions of the Songs of Mary and Simeon, the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, Decalogue and over a dozen German and Latin hymns.  The private purpose of these songs was made clear on the title page in the verses, ‘To the Book’:

“Thou shalt to youth some occasion be
In godly sports to pass their time.”

The preface, ‘Unto the Christian Reader’, elaborates that these songs were meant to be sung in everyday life, and were also likely for educating the common people in the Christian religion.  This is further confirmed in that Coverdale recommended to people to sing a few apocryphal songs, which, while not being held as canonical by the Lutherans, yet were held to be ‘wholesome ballads’.

The public worship in England was regulated by the Church and government authorities.  As it was still essentially Roman Catholic and would not be first reformed in a major way till 1549 with the first Book of Common Prayer, it is very unlikely that the sometimes ‘rude’ non-psalms in the Ghostly Psalms and Spiritual Songs were used in public worship.  Although Lutheranism and its hymnody had an initial popular influence amongst the people in England, yet “the decisive influence leading the directors of parish praise to accept metrical psalmody was Genevan.” (Davies, Worship & Theology, ***get page number***).


The Early, Sung-Praise in the Public Worship of the Anglican Church

The Protestant reformation of worship did not occur in a major way in the Church of England until the institution of the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549.  It was not until after the intervening reign of the Romanist Bloody Mary, that the Church of England in 1559, now under Queen Elizabeth, more permanently established its public worship with a slightly revised edition of the Second Book of Common Prayer from 1552.

Those English, reforming puritans that had been exiled under Bloody Mary came back when it was safe under Elizabeth, from such places as Geneva, “and brought with them this practice of psalmody, which the English Church was not slow to adopt…

‘1559, September. The new Morning Prayer at Antholius, London; the bell beginning to ring at five, when a psalm was sung after the Genevan fashion, all the congregation, men, women, and boys, singing together.'”¹

¹ J. Spencer Curwen, ‘The Old Parochial Psalmody’, p. 1 in Studies in Worship Music, First Series: chiefly as regards congregational singing (London, 1901).  Curwen provides three more specific instances from the histories of John Strype.

In 1559 Queen Elizabeth gave an Injunction (p.23) allowing songs to be sung “in the beginning or at the end of common prayer”, but not in the midst of it.  By 1562 the civil government authorized the Sternhold & Hopkins psalter which came to be known as the Old Version, “and was everywhere adopted…  ‘Psalm singer’ was indeed but another name for a Protestant.” (Curwen, p. 2)

Also in 1562, Archbishop Thomas Parker visited Merton College and enjoined them to follow the practice which had recently been instituted:

“…the warden and more part of the fellows have decreed before Hallowtide [Oct. 31 to Nov. 2] last that in the stead of certain superstitious hymns appointed for certain feasts in the hall, English psalms in metre should be sung.”

– Visitation Articles & Injunctions, vol. 3, 1559-1575, ed. Frere & Kennedy (London, 1910), p. 121.  The Te Deum in the footnote need to refer to nothing more than a spoken prayer.

Regarding musical instruments, “Organs were only to be found in the cathedrals, and in a few large churches…” (Curwen, p. 4)  The contemporary Anglican scholar, Spinks, adds, “Cathedrals and Chapels Royal retained choirs that developed their own repertoire for singing the new services.  Most parish churches, however, simply used metrical psalmody.”²  The cathedral worship, with its choirs, usually entailed responsive, antiphonal singing, whereas the psalm singing in the country parishes was congregational and simple.º  These characteristics would remain a permanent feature of the English scene through most of the 1600’s.ª

² ‘Anglicans & Dissenters’, p. 499

º Davies, Worship & Theology in England, II. 1603-1690, p. 276 in Worship & Theology in England… 1534-1690, Eerdmans, 1996), Ch. VII, ‘Sacred Music: Splendid or Scriptural?’, pp. 253-277.

ª Except where the puritans rose to power in the middle of that century and reformed the cathedral worship and destroyed many of the organs and other sensual and carnal worship mimicking the Jewish ceremonies.  For a defense of the Biblical and puritan view, see our webpage: Musical Instruments in Worship.

As opposed to keeping the metrical psalm singing before or after the service, a manuscript-account from 1564 said that “Some keep precisely the order of the [Prayer] book; others intermeddle Psalms in metre.”¹  A recent psalmody scholar, Timothy Duguid, in his dissertation, portrays this practice as having even greater currency at that time:

“…the Book of Common Prayer instituted the reading and recitation of the Psalms. Most churches instead began to sing their psalms as part of the liturgy, both before and after the sermon.”

Sing a New Song: English & Scottish Metrical Psalmody from 1549-1640, vol. 1 (Univ. of Edinburgh, 2011), p. 250.  Duguid cites: Nicholas Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), 1.47‐8

¹ John Strype, Life & Acts of Matthew Parker, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1821), bk. 2, p. 302;


The Book of Common Prayer:
Hooker & Cartwright

Besides the metrical psalms that were sung in addition to the Prayer-Book service, what was actually in the Book of Common Prayer at that time?  While one can read the Second Book of Common Prayer (1552) for oneself, yet to see if what is on paper lined up with what happened in practice, testimonies will be given from leading figures in that era.

Richard Hooker (1554–1600) was the most important, early, defender of mainline Anglicanism; his most famed work is his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, where Hooker seemingly defends every minute practice of the via media, ‘the middle way’ of the Anglican Church.

In book five (1597) of that work, section 40, Hooker describes the content of the public praise of the Anglican Prayer-Book service.  In this section Hooker only describes the responsive reading or singing† of the psalms and a select handful of various, enumerated, ‘evangelical hymns’, which were, according to him, inspired New Testament Bible songs, such as the Song of Mary (Lk. 1), the Song of Zechariah (Lk. 1), the Song of Simeon (Lk. 2), etc.  Hooker does not describe in this section any stand-alone, uninspired songs in the regular, public, Prayer-Book services.

† He, and other Anglican apologists after him, did not distinguish significantly between the reading and singing of the material, likely because it had a chanting quality to it, and, they often argued, if one can sing a psalm in a set form, then one can read a prayer in a set form.  The puritans on the other-hand, rightly from Scripture, defended the Biblical distinctions and regulations between the distinct elements of praise, such as between prayer and singing, and their content.

Notably, the whole of Hooker’s Eccleasiastical Laws was organized around responding to the critiques and teachings of puritanism.  Hooker’s main opponent was the father of English presbyterianism and Puritanism, Thomas Cartwright.  Hooker gives block quotes from Cartwright in the margins of his work.

It should be noted that the ‘evangelical hymns’ or Bible songs, do not appear in the weekly Lord’s Day service, but only in the daily morning and evening services.  In those services, tellingly, the liturgy does not actually say that those inspired Scripture texts are to be sung, but only that they ‘followeth’, and hence they could be used simply as prayers.‡

‡ The ‘Reformed Liturgy’ (p. 35) of the ‘presbyterians’ at the Savoy Conference in 1661 explicitly allows for those Scripture texts to be ‘said’.

Cartwright had argued, representing the puritan dissenters,¹ that the New Testament Bible songs ought not to be in the public praise of the Church, precisely because they were, in their original Scriptural context, occasional.  The book of Psalms, on the other hand, is the canon of public worship song that the Lord has given to the Church for all ages.  Cartwright challenged an opponent of his once, Archbishop Whitgift:

“…that M[aster]. Doctor will not defend the piping and organs, nor no other singing than is used in the reformed churches, which is, in the singing of two psalms, one in the beginning and another in the ending, in a plain tune…”

A Reply to an Answer made of M. Doctor Whitgift Against the Admonition to the Parliament  (1573), p. 133, sections 1 & 2, as quoted in John Whitgift, The Defense of the Answer to the Admonition Against the Reply of Thomas Cartwright. By John Whitgift  (1584), Tract 15  in Works of John Whitgift…  the Third Portion…  (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1853), p. 107

¹ Richard Cox, an Anglican minister, wrote in a letter: “We use in our prayers the song of the blessed Virgin, of John the Baptist, and of the aged Simeon.  This they [the puritans] cannot endure.”   The Zurich Letters, or the Correspondence of Several English Bishops and Others with Some of the Helvetian Reformers During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth…  2nd ed. Chronologically Arranged in one series (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1846), Letter 174 (1572), p. 420

Cartwright speaks of the ‘Bible-songs’ in the Anglican liturgy as ‘prayers’, which suggests that they were being prayed in his day and not sung.  Cartwright said of them:

“These thanksgivings [the inspired N.T. songs] were made by occasion of certain particular benefits, and are no more to be used for ordinary Prayers than the Ave Maria [‘Hail Mary’, used by Papists].

So that both for this cause, and the other before alleged of the Psalms, it is not convenient to make ordinary prayers of them.” (p. 241, margin)


The Te Deum

In addition to inspired, New Testament Bible ‘songs’, the daily service included the lone ‘hymn’, Te Deum, traditionally (but probably inaccurately) attributed to St. Ambrose (d. 397 A.D.).  The ambiguity in the manner in which the ‘hymn’ is to be performed is striking.  The service does not say that it shall be sung, but only that it ‘shall follow’ the first Lesson.  Said as a prayer, the Te Deum would not be objectionable on grounds relating to the singing of God’s praise.†

† This distinction is evidenced in the later ‘Reformed Liturgy’ of the ‘presbyterians’ at the Savoy Conference in 1661, which says in the service: “After which may be sung a Psalm, or the Te Deum said…”

Numerous other places in the Prayer Book explicitly state that something may be read or sung.  The service itself says that Te Deum may be replaced with the ‘canticle’, Benedicte Omnia, a song from the Apocrypha.  The Te Deum was not in the weekly service of the Lord’s Day, which must have been convenient for conscientious, God-fearing persons who carefully chose what they participated in.

A puritan pamphlet of 1584 posed the question to the Archbishops:

“51. Whether men ought to mingle the Apocryphal writings of men¹ with God’s Word, as in order of prayer to put in Te Deum, Benedicte, Athanasius Creed,‡ etc.?”

– ‘Questions to be Answered Concerning the Archbs. Urging of Subscription.’  in The Second Parte of a Register…  vol. 1, ed. Peele  (1593; Cambridge, 1915), p. 199

¹ Human forms, as such, can’t be objected to in God’s worship if they are purely indifferent and have a legitimate positive benefit in facilitating the Lord’s elements of worship.  Some of the Brownists (separatists), Independents and others (wrongly) held at this time and later that all human forms in God’s worship are immoral.  However, certain human forms in specific contexts, amidst applicable regulations of Scripture, such as with regard to the content of sung praise, may be contrary to God’s Word.  Even if the Te Deum was said as a prayer, there is still the question of the wisdom of using such a human composition in a service where all, or near all the rest of the content is inspired.

‡ For the Biblical, puritan and Westminster case against creeds in Christian worship, see: ‘Creeds are Not an Elements of Worship’.


The Gloria Patri

The only other possible use of uninspired song in the daily or weekly Anglican service was the stipulated practice that the short Gloria Patri (a doxology, ‘Glory be to the Father…”) ‘shall be repeated’ at the end of ‘every psalm throughout the year’, as well as with the Bible songs (including the apocryphal song).

While this Trinitarian custom is often lauded as coming from the ‘Early Church’, it stems from the late-300’s A.D., during the time of the Trinitarian controversies and conflicts, thus showing that it was not originally handed down from the time of the apostles, but that it came much later into the Church (whereas before it was not present), and that precisely at the time that uninspired hymns began to especially proliferate in the Church, in response to the heretical hymns that had preceded.

Hooker defends the use of the Gloria Patri, which he calls ‘the Hymn of Glory’, at the end of section 42 (pp. 245-7), precisely because Cartwright and the puritans rejected it (Book 5, ch. 35, p. 235).  Cartwright says:

“The like may be said of the Gloria Patri, and the Athanasius Creed.  It was first brought into the Church, to the end that men thereby should make an open profession in the Church of the divinity of the Son of God, against the detestable opinion of Arius and his disciples, wherewith at that time marvelously swarmed almost the whole Christendom.  Now that it hath pleased the Lord to have quenched that fire, there is no such cause why these things should be used in the Church, at the least, why that Gloria Patri should be so often repeated.”  (Bk. 1, p. 137 in Ibid., p. 243 margin)

The Gloria Patri, was not a stand-alone praise-song and was only prescribed to be ‘repeated’ after the psalms were ‘said¹ or sung’² in the daily service; the Gloria Patri was not in the weekly, Lord’s Day service.  In the prescribed rite for ‘The Thanksgiving of Women After Childbirth’, the Gloria Patri clearly seems to have been said, as the psalm that it is continuous with was enjoined to be said.

¹ The English puritans were accused that they “will not read every collect [short prayer], say gloria patri at the end of every Psalm…”  William Burton, A sermon preached in the Cathedrall Church in Norwich…  [London: Robert Waldegrave, 1590].  The saying of it was often objected to due to it becoming a ‘vain repetition’. (Mt. 6:5)

The Scot David Calderwood, in his broadside against the English liturgy, said that ‘Glory to the Father…’ was ‘said’ in the English liturgy after certain songs.  The altar of Damascus or the patern of the English hierarchie, and Church policie obtruded upon the Church of Scotland  ([Amsterdam,] 1621), ch. 7, p. 191

In 1631 the English bishop of Chichester produced some articles which were to be inquired into amongst the churches for further conformity.  In those he said that the Gloria Patri was ‘read or said’.  Articles to be enquired of, throughout the whole diocesse of Chichester…  (London [1631]), ‘Articles Concerning the Parishioners’, no page number.  They same was true for the Diocese of Norwich.  Articles to be inquired of within the dioces of Norwich…  (London, 1636), ch. 4, no page number.

² Richard Sibbes said that the Gloria Patri was sung by certain persons.  Light from heaven discovering the fountaine opened. Angels acclamations…  (London, 1638), ‘Glory to God on High’, p. 236

There is further reason to believe that the Te Deum and the Gloria Patri after psalms in the daily services would have been allowed to be said (as opposed to sung) in that day, in that:

In 1637 the King sought to impose on Scotland the English liturgy of the Prayer-Book service.  In the new Scottish Book of Common Prayer, the order at the beginning of the daily morning service says that the liturgy shall be ‘said or sung’.  The likely reason for this was one which was common through that era:  not every group of (largely illiterate) people could sing together pre-set tunes or chants, or sing together at all.

It is also made clear in that service that the Gloria Patri was distinct from the singing of the psalm and that it was not seen, in all ways, to be a continuation of the psalm.  It was not the case that the people sang the psalm, and then without hesitation, continued to sing the Gloria Patri.  Rather, after the appointed psalm was ‘said or sung’, the phrase ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’ was to be ‘repeated’ by the minister.  Then “the people shall answer, As it was in the beginning…”  The service goes on and says that Te Deum ‘shall be said or sung’.

If the saying or singing of parts of the Prayer Book liturgy seeking to be imposed on Scotland was held to be indifferent in 1637, there is some likelihood that the same variation may have been in practice tolerated in England in the late-1500’s (and following), especially when those details were not explicitly prescribed.

This is further confirmed when, later in English history, at the Savoy Conference in 1661, the English presbyterians and independents interpreted the directive in the Book of Common Prayer, that the Gloria Patri be ‘repeated’, that it “was appointed to be said”. (‘The Presbyterian Exceptions Against the Book of Common Prayer’ being Appendix 2 of The Book of Common Prayer as Amended… A.D. 1661, ed. Shields, Philadelphia: Claxton, 1867, p. 155)

To come back to the early-1600’s, the English puritan Anthony Wotton (c.1561-1626), speaking of ‘our custom’, says that ‘Glory be to the Father…’ was said.  A trial of the Romish clergies title to the Church by way of answer to a popish pamphlet…  (London, 1608), pp. 95-96.

William Bedell (1571-1642), bishop of Kilmore, Ireland, had:

“ordered that the whole Doxology to the blessed Trinity, ‘Glory be to the Father,’ etc. should be always read by the Minister alone, without the respond of the people, and the like for the Psalms: Te Deum, etc. with the rest, appointed to be read between and after the Lessons, though the custom had prevailed otherwise in most Churches.”

– James Ussher & William Bedell, Certain discourses, viz. of Babylon (Rev. 18:4) being the present See of Rome…  (London, 1659), ‘A Character of Bishop Bedell late Bishop of Kilmore, in Ireland’, pp. 350-1


The Hymns Gloria in Excelsis & Veni Creator

At the end of the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer, the ‘hymn’, Gloria in Excelsis, “shall be said or sung”. (p. 157)  At the occasional service for ordaining a bishop, priest or deacon, the ‘hymn’ Veni Creator Spiritus (‘Come Creator Spirit’) was included.  However, according to the Scot David Calderwood (1575-1650), the ‘hymn’ was ‘sung or said’.†

Altar of Damascus, pp. 88 & 164


The Nature of the Anglican ‘Hymns’

The ‘hymns’ that appeared in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (insofar as they may have been sung) differed from modern hymns on three counts:

1. They were capable of being simply said as a prayer, and were often;

2. They often contained elements of inspired Bible-songs and imitated in their style the praise of the psalter;

3. They were not strongly congregational.  The puritan view and practice was that all persons in the congregation ought to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), whereas the Anglican view held that the people may sing, if able.  Given that the cathedral music usually involved an organ, possibly other musical instruments, a choir, professionally composed, complex and elaborate productions with anthems, motets and antiphonal singing (in imitation of the Old Testament, Levitical, Temple worship), it was not uncommon for the people to sing very little in the service.  In fact, the Anglicans argued that “though the congregation cannot join in vocally with the elaborate music, this does not prevent them from active participation in heart and mind.” (Davies, Worship, 1603-90, pp. 259-60)


Private Dissent & Conformity

It also seems probable that a private person who thought it not right to sing a part of the service would be tolerated without penalty.  To state the obvious:  It is not always easy to spot someone not singing at a distance, especially if some of the congregation is lethargic and inattentive about participating in the service to begin with.  The puritan Nathaniel Holmes in 1644 said, referring to the psalms: “For in all the prelatical persecutions, men were never persecuted for omitting to sing them publicly or privately.”¹  If this was true of singing psalms publicly in the churches, it would seem that the same toleration would apply to other discreet parts of the service.

¹ Gospel Music: or, The Singing of David’s Psalms, etc. in the public congregations, or private families asserted, and vindicated… (London, 1644), p. 19


The Book of Common Prayer Publicly Deviated From

An older Anglican historian, whom modern scholars are still dependent upon, John Strype, provides a primary source manuscript from 1564, which gives a succinct summary of the many ways in which the Prayer Book service was deviated from by ministers: ‘Varieties in the Service and Administration Used’  (Life & Acts of Parker, vol. 1, bk. 2, pp. 302-313).  Parker spends the following eleven pages describing examples and details of the puritans that resisted parts of the Prayer Book.  Strype, in summarizing, speaks of:

“…the great disturbances in the Church, occasioned by these varieties, and the common omission of what was prescribed by the Queen’s Injunctions…  These practices…  begetting so much dissension, difference and disorder among Christians…”  (Ibid., pp. 306-7)

Spinks, ennumerated numerous ways in which puritans evaded some of the details, or more, of the Anglican Prayer Book.  He writes:

“Many of these clergy made their own emendations and reforms to ceremonies and liturgies.  Some, like Richard Greenham…  had permission from the bishop to dispense with the surplice [a white robe], the cross [a sign made on the baby’s forehead] in baptism, and the ring in marriage [which had Romanist superstitions at the time¹].  Others did so with the connivance of their congregation; still others were less lucky, or more outspoken–such as Arthur Hildersham–and were prosecuted in the church courts and suspended.”

– ‘Anglicans & Dissenters’ in The Oxford History of Christian Worship  (Oxfrod, 2006), p. 501

¹ On the history of this, and the Biblical principles that directly applied then in that context, but largely do not now due to the altered context, see our webpage, Wedding Rings.

Spinks then outlines four ways in which evasion was sought through the ‘textual reform’ of the Prayer-Book.  In summary, they are:

1. Ad Hoc Emendations.  “The minister simply omitted certain parts, such as versicles and responses [responsive readings]…ª  it was reputed that Richard Bowler…  ‘addeth and diminisheth at his pleasure in the use of the book.’  Eusebius Paget admitted…  that he omitted parts of the liturgy that offended his conscience.”

ª For the Biblical, reformed, puritan and Westminster case against responsive readings, contra the Anglican Church, see ‘Responsive Readings in Worship’.

2. Emended Editions of the Book of Common Prayer.  The contemporary scholar, “…A.E. Peaston argued convincingly that these were ‘puritan’ editions, with minor, but significant changes, which could go undetected.”

3. Use of the Genevan Form of Prayers.  “Already in 1567 and 1568 there were semiprivate congregations in London using the Genevan Form of Prayers…  In 1584 and again in 1587, attempts were made to introduce bills into Parliament to replace the Book of Common Prayer with the editions of the Genevan Form of Prayers.”

4. Use of the Liturgies of the ‘Stranger Churches’, 1572.  “These were the French, Dutch and Itallian congregations in London and in other British towns…  these churches…  were allowed to use their own Reformed rites…  [Patrick] Collinson aptly comments that ‘they played the part of a Trojan horse, bringing Reformed worship and discipline fully armed into the midst of the Anglican camp.'” (‘Anglicans & Dissenters’, pp. 51-2)

When a dissenting minister (who who preached against bishops, refused to wear the distinctive surplice, could not subscribe to every point of the Book of Common Prayer and was accused of making “such long prayers before the sermons”) was tried before bishops, he told the bishops that “they themselves had not observed the Book in every point, for they did not confirm children in the way it set forth.”¹  The minister was shortly deposed by a bishop that had known him for twenty-four years and had encouraged him to enter the ministry.

¹ The Seconde Parte of a Register: being a Calendar of Manuscripts under that Title Intended for Publication by the Puritans about 1593  ed. Albert Peel (Cambridge, 1915), 2.204-7


More Puritans, Early-1600’s

To give a further specimen of puritanism, the appointed literary executors of Cartwright’s works were the puritans Arthur Hildersham (1563-1632) and John Dod (1550-1645).  Hildersham publicly lectured on why Bible-songs outside of the book of Psalms are not suited, nor were meant for the public worship of the Church:

“…it is worthy the observing that though there were many of God’s holy servants that made songs, and psalms beside David, as Deborah, Jud. 5:1, and Anna, the mother of Samuel, 1 Sam. 2:1, and Solomon, Cant. 1:1, and Mary the blessed Virgin, Lk. 1:46, such as might be used, yet were none of them committed to the musicians to be publicly sung in the temple, but these of David only.  In which respect he (by an excellency) is called the sweet Psalmist of Israel, 2 Sam. 3:1.” (152 Lectures upon Psalm 51…  London, 1635, Lecture 1, p. 5)

Dod and Robert Cleaver (c.1561-c.1614) often published books together without differentiating which material was from whom.  In a joint work of theirs, Four Godly & Fruitful Sermons (London, 1611), in Sermon 3, the preacher describes persons in their day who ‘grudge and murmur’ and ‘are indeed utter enemies unto God’; and yet even such persons are described as those that “resort unto the Word in public, that read it in private, that have prayer and singing of Psalms in their families, etc.” (p. 66)

The notable thing about the singing of psalms, simply, being described in family worship, is that there are only so many Biblical verses that one can use to proof-text it, the most common ones being Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19, which speak of ‘psalms, hymns & spiritual songs”.  Of course, if one believes that only psalms are to be used in family worship (compare Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 21, section 6 with section 5), a seemingly necessary implication is that only psalms are to be used in the public worship of the Church.

Speaking of that early English era, the scholar of post-Reformation, English worship, Horton Davies, said that “[i]t was not long before the Puritans were known as ‘the Psalm-roaring Saints.'” (Worship & Theology in England, II. 1603-1690, p. 276 in Worship & Theology in England… 1534-1690, Eerdmans, 1996)


Richard Greenham & Richard Bernard

Greenham was a ‘moderate’ puritan minster, that is, while having a deep spirituality and godliness, and offering resistance and non-compliance to certain deformities in the Church, yet he was willing to remain under the Anglican, episcopal Church government and conform to a significant share of its practices.  While writing a significant and influential treatise promoting the Sabbath, it was not as doctrinally and practically strict (faithful) on that topic as the work of his step-son, Nicholas Bownd.

A follower of Greenham said that “in a mere outward thing” Greenham “would not break the peace of the Church” and in “the lesser adjuncts of religion…  he would not withstand or condemn any but leave them to their own reason”.  Only when “it came to the essence of God’s worship…  must we be strict.”  In fact, “we may yield just obedience, so it be in things merely outward…”¹

¹ Kenneth Parker & Eric Carlson, ‘Practical Divinity’: The Works and Life of Revd Richard Greenham  in St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History  (Routledge, 2018), ch. 2

Hence it is no surprise that Greenham used the Gloria Patri.  He justifies it in this way, “Again, to profess ourselves enemies to Arianism, we use, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,’ etc., all one with that so often in the Psalms, ‘Praise ye the Lord.'”ª  While Greenham does not specify whether they read or sang the Gloria, it does not seem likely that he would have objected to the latter.

ª The workes of the reuerend and faithfull seruant af Iesus Christ M. Richard Greenham…  (London, 1612), ch. 9, ‘Of Baptism’, p. 642.

Greenham’s argument is either that using the doxology is (1) a legitimate substitute for the oft-repeated Biblical phrase, ‘Praise ye the Lord’, or that the doxology is (2) a fulfillment of the command to praise the Lord.  However, contra both of these understandings:

(1)  The command to ‘praise’ the Lord may simply refer to praising by way of prayer (1 Chron. 23:30; Neh. 9:4-5 ff.; Ps. 34:1 ff.; Isa. 12:4; 25:1).

(2)  Where praising the Lord was done with song, it had reference to, and was limited to, singing inspired praise-songs, which were used in course in the Temple worship (2 Sam. 22:50 with Ps. 18:49; 1 Chron. 16:4 with v. 7; 1 Chron. 25:3; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:6; 20:19,21; 29:30; 30:21; 31:2; Ezra 3:11; Ps. 7:17; 21:13; 27:6; 33:2).

(3)  The very proclaiming of ‘praise ye the Lord’ was in fact praising the Lord and a fulfillment of itself, as the phrase is scattered throughout the psalms.  The phrase also often opens a psalm, referring to the subsequent matter of the inspired psalm itself that the people were singing (Ps. 40:3 ff.; 111:1; 113:1 ff.; 146:1; 147:1; 148:1 ff.; 149:1).

(4)  A substituting of the human constructed, non-inspired phrase for the Biblical phrase alters the God-given, canonical psalm itself.  Richard Bernard, also a moderate puritan (though much more vocal against episcopacy and the many problems in the Book of Common Prayer), noted (as did other puritans) that “the [Prayer] Book omitteth, ‘Praise ye the Lord’, seventeen times, and putteth in Gloria Patri.”

– Dwalphintramis, The Anatonie of the Common Prayer-Book, wherein is Remonstrated the Unlawfulness of it: and that by Five Several Arguments...  (1661), p. 21

This violates the equity of Ex. 20:25 that, with reference to God’s ordinance, “if thou lift up thy tool [or human ingenuity and artifice] upon it, thou hast polluted it.”  It also expressly breaks God’s commandment in Dt. 4:2, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you…  that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

(5)  ‘Praise ye the Lord’ was not used at the end of every psalm, as the psalms themselves witness.  Hence, this too is adding something to God’s worship by human wisdom that the Lord never prescribed or desired for Himself.

(6)  Regarding when a variation of the phrase is used in reference to the people’s congregational response:

These congregational responses were not frequent or ordinary, but rather all three instances were upon extraordinary occasions (1 Chron. 16:36; 2 Chron. 7:3; Neh. 5:13).  Such responses of the congregation were not preset or ordained as Church ordinances, but rather were the natural reaction of the people upon the extraordinary event, insofar as God’s worship may be, and ought to be ordered by the light of nature (WCF 1.6).

It seems likely that what is in view here is not singing but spontaneous spoken praise, or even reflexive, excited shouts (Ezra 3:11) at the (sometimes unexpected) greatness of the event.

When the people responded with a different phrase, “For he is good, for his mercy endureth forever,” (2 Chron. 7:3) this may have been simply spoken by the many people, not in unison, as “they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement”.  If it was sung, yet this was only an exact repeating of the inspired-praise that the Levitical singers had just finished (2 Chron. 5:13).

Many responses of the Israelite congregation of old did not involve any repeating of the phrase, ‘Praise ye the Lord’ or any variation of it (1 Chron. 29:20; 2 Chron. 20:18; 29:29-30; Neh. 8:6; 9:3) .

The phrase at the end of Ps. 106 (v. 48), “and let all the people say, ‘Amen, Praise ye the Lord'” may simply be a part of Ps. 106 (as Calvin so takes it with contextual reasons in his commentary on Ps. 106).  Arthur Jackson (1593?-1666), an English presbyterian, understood the verse in his annotations on Ps. 106 in the same way, noting that the first verse of the psalm opens with ‘Praise ye the Lord,’ the phrase (simply ‘Hallelujah’ in the Hebrew) acting as book-ends for the psalm.

As the book of Psalms was traditionally divided into five books by the Jews, Ps. 106:48 is the last verse of the fourth book (psalms 90-106).  Hence some interpreters (mostly modern ones) have inferred that the second half of Ps. 106:48 was used as a regular response of the people after singing a course of psalms in the Temple.  However, there is no further express evidence of this, and the closing verses of the other books of the psalms (Ps. 41:13; 72:20; 89:52; 150:6) do not contain the specific phrase, showing that there is no determinative evidence (or any at all)¹ that the phrase was a regularly, ordained, congregational response.  E.W. Hengstenberg (1802–1869), a conservative, 1800’s Old Testament scholar, said that it was ‘inconceivable’ that Ps. 106:48 was not an original part of the psalm, but added later by the compiler of the fourth book of the psalms.ª

¹ The only other place cited for such is 1 Chron. 16:36 at the setting up of the sung, Tabernacle praise at the time of David.  However the theory involves many gratuitous assumptions nowhere evidenced in Scripture, namely that that particular song in 1 Chron. 36 was used cyclically in the regular praises of the Tabernacle service and that the people’s response of ‘amen and hallelujah’ was a set, liturgical response.  Needless to say, if such were the case, one might expect this practice to show up later in the Old Testament or New Testament, yet it does not.  It should be noted that hypothetical, historical constructs are not the rule, or even warrant for the worship that God accepts; rather, the revealed will of God in Scripture, and that alone, is.  Even if, theoretically (though very doubtfully), new dug up history could show that regular doxologies were used in Israel’s worship (or that of the New Testament Church), yet such a practice not being preserved in the canonical Word of God would demonstrate that God had not intended for such to be a rule of worship to us in the continuing Church age after the close of the Canon (Isa. 8:16,20; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11, etc.).

ª See his discussion, Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 3  4th ed. rev. trans. John Leith & Patrick Fairbairn  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1864), in loc., p. 284

(7) There is no evidence in the Old Testament that the Israelites themselves understood the command to praise the Lord to entail singing uninspired content as public worship to God.  Rather, all of the evidence is consistent with the Israelites singing in the Church’s public worship the inspired praise songs that had been originally established with David and his prophets and instituted by prophets for the Temple worship (1 Chron. 25:1-7; 2 Chron. 29:1-2,5-6,30).  When the O.T. saints sang “a new song to the Lord”, it was always a song that had been revealed by inspiration.  Likewise in the N.T., all of the evidence is of the new songs being revealed of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 14), or being consistent therewith.  No evidence in the N.T. clearly or necessarily implies that any worship song the early Christians sang was uninspired.

(8) No evidence exists in the New Testament of the praise-songs of the Apostolic Church being concluded with sung doxologies.  This ought not to be surprising as the Church in the New Testament simply continued the moral worship of the Old Testament, which did not have it either.

Hence if one would have a regular, sung doxology in worship, one must add it by their own contrivance, as it simply did not exist in recorded Biblical worship.


A Summary

Louis Benson, a standard authority on English hymnology, and a strong supporter of it, summarily wrote:

“…there was no English hymnody in any effective sense until the 18th century.  It happened so, in brief, because the Churches in England and Scotland in arranging for the participation of the people in the service of praise, adopted the model set up by Calvin in Geneva as over against that set up by Luther.

The practical effect of this was, in a word, that both the English and Scottish Churches became psalm singers as distinguished from hymn singers.”  (The English Hymn: its Development and Use in Worship, Philadelphia, 1915, ch. 1, pp. 21-22)

In fact, he continues:

“The English Church adopted Metrical Psalmody just as effectively [as the Church of Scotland], but less formally, as something not provided for in the Prayer Book system, but yet ‘allowed’ to adhere to the margin of that system.” (English Hymn, p. 26)


The Private Purpose of Hymns

Benson explains how, from the beginning, hymns found in published English psalters, or hymnals, did not significantly affect the public worship of the Anglican Church:

“There was…  no hesitation on the part of the compilers of the early Psalters in joining to the Psalm versions matter intended for private use…  it appears from the tile pages of the English Psalter [of 1562] that it was intended for use outside of church.  The title of the editions of 1561-1562 contained the words: ‘Very mete [meet] to be used of all sorts of people priuately [privately].’  It was not until 1566 that the title page of the Psalter claimed authorization for its use in church.¹

¹ …But in this matter the opinion of many since was voiced by George Wither in his pamphlet, The Scholar’s Purgatory (1624) [p. 39]: ‘that those metrical Psalms were never commanded to be used in divine service, or in our public congregations, by any canon or ecclesiastical constitution, though many of the vulgar be of that opinion.  But whatsoever the Stationers [printers] do in their title page pretend to that purpose, they being first allowed for private devotion only, crept into public use by toleration rather than by command.’

It is then obvious that the presence of these hymns in the English Psalter does not of itself imply, either in intention or in fact, their use in the church services.

On the whole these hymns present no more than an insignificant exception to the statement that the Church of England became a psalm singing church.” (pp. 29 & 32)

Wither also implies in his work that the appendages to the psalters (with quite diverse material) was due to popular taste, the discretion of the printer for profit, and though allowed or tolerated by the government, were not at all actually sanctioned by it:

“…they being allowed by Authority, are as fit, I trust, to keep company with David’s Psalms, as Robert Wisdom’s Turk and Pope; and those other apocryphal songs and prayers, which, the stationers add to the Psalm-book for their more advantage: Sure I am, that if their additions shall be allowed of by the most voices…” (p. 35)

Davies, also a strong supporter of hymnody (Worship & Theology, p. 281) concurs and further elaborates.  He gives two classifications for the hymns that were written at that time.  “One was a handful of hymns written for private devotion…  for the reading or singing of the few so inclined.” (Ibid., p. 282)

The first example Davies gives to illustrate this is of a hymn by John Cosin (1594–1672), a friend of William Laud, the notorious persecutor of the puritans.  The second and last example Davies gives, is of George Wither (mentioned above), a poet.

Wither attempted to publish the first hymnbook in England in 1623; and sought to “induce the King to sanction his hymns for church use”; he was turned down. (James Lightwood, Hymn-Tunes and their Story, London, [1906] p. 67)  The difficult time Wither had in seeing it through the press, and the reception it received from the public, is aptly described by the title of Wither’s subsequent book complaining of the process: The Scholar’s Purgatory in the Stationers’ [Printers’] Commonwealth Regarding Wither’s hymnal, Davies said that Wither “attribute[d] its unpopularity to the attempt of the Stationers’ [Printers’] Company to quash it…”

Wither followed up that production in 1643 with a second hymnbook entitled, Haleluiah or, Britain’s Second Remembrancer…  which was intended “to be sung in families, etc.”

The second classification Davies gives for ‘hymns’ written during that early-1600’s context is that they were actually “sacred poems that were written without any intention of their being used in public or private worship…”†  Such divine poems were written by such great poets as George Herbert (1593-1633) and John Donne (1572-1631).  It was only in the 1700’s that such persons as John Wesley began to resurrect these poems, highly revise them, and turn them into hymns.

† Davies confirms this in equally strong language, and with more examples, in Worship and Theology in England, I. From Cranmer to Hooker, 1534-1603  in Worship and Theology in England, from Cranmer to Baxter and Fox, 1534-1690  (Eerdmans, 1996), p. 391

In the late-1600’s, when hymnody began to rise and take a foothold in the public worship of some of the English churches, one of the ways it entered was through there being made provision for a hymn of preparation before the Lord’s Supper.  Its clear that this practice started with singing hymns for private preparation, but slowly, with time, it moved into the public service.  The first indication we have found of this tendency is from 1628.  An anonymous Romanist private devotional was published entitled, ‘The Hours of Prayer’.  The Independent puritan, Henry Burton (1578–1648), critiques the advocated practice as follows:

“…he setteth down sun­dry sayings, prayers, Psalms, Hymns, before the receiving of the sacrament…  In all which it should seem [he] describeth a new solemn service for the Sacra­ment.

For else what time is there allowed for any man’s private devotion, while he is present at the public ad­ministration of the Sacrament?  Or would he have a man busied about his private devotions while the minister is in the public service?  Or would he have the minister to be mute until every man present have said over such lessons, as our Author teacheth?”

A Trial of Private Devotions.  Or, a Dial for the Hours of Prayer  (London, 1628), no page numbers


The Dominance of Psalm Singing, Early-1600’s

Benson summarizes the English, post-Reformation practice regarding the churches’ public singing of praise:

“Practically both English-speaking Churches [in England and Scotland] entered upon an era of psalm singing¹ which was to be little disturbed through two centuries.” (p. 26)

¹ Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) was largely responsible for composing the first two editions (1549 & 1552) of the Book of Common Prayer.  Cranmer had previously wrote to King Henry VIII in 1544, offering his translation of the Latin hymn Salve Festa Dies (Letter 276, Miscellaneous Writings of Cranmer, Parker Society, 1846), yet even this hymn did not make it in to any edition of the Book of Common Prayer.  See Leighton Pullan, History of the Book of Common Prayer (London, 1900), pp. 171-2 for further details.

What were the reasons behind this?  For the “Puritans, and their successors the Nonconformists”, amongst other reasons, Davies writes:

“…it was the conviction that metrical Psalms were the Word of God while hymns were human compositions, that restricted their praise to the paraphrases [of Scripture] until the last decade of the [17th] century.” (Worship & Theology, pp. 254-5)

The puritan Nathaniel Holmes wrote:

“If in the matter [of a hymn]…  there should be any unsoundness of doctrine, by custom and the music, the people would fall in love with it, and as [Jerome] Zanchi [d. 1590] saith very well, there would be no removing it.” (Gospel Musick, or the Singing of David’s Psalms…  (London, 1644), section 6, point 1, objection 2, p. 17)

In a later concluding passage, Davies explains:

“above all, [it was due to] the conviction that in using only the words of the Word of God men believed themselves to be secure from human error.” (Worship & Theology, p. 282)

However, referring specifically to the Anglican ‘ecclesiastical hierarchy’, and specifying the notorious William Laud (d. 1645) in particular, Davies wrote:

“In some quarters, however, Psalm-singing was not at all popular.  Strictly speaking, it was illegal to mingle metrical psalmody with the Anglican liturgy [itself] in the seventeenth century, whatever Elizabethan [1558-1603] Injunctions might have permitted.” (p. 280)

The reason why the “intrusion” of such psalm singing “into the Prayer Book services” “produced frowns” by some such persons, was due to its Genevan origin, and in that it was a “Puritan badge of loyalty”.  Yet, Davies writes:

“…nonetheless, metrical psalmody had come to stay, it became necessary even for high churchmen to accommodate to it.” (p. 281)

While high Anglican and (English) Roman Catholic musical composers produced voluminous amounts of sacred, choral hymns (not congregational) set to musical scores for an artistic use in society,º yet these ‘hymns’ were not allowed into the Church’s Prayer-Book service, upon pain of non-conformity.¹  So far from the high Anglicans introducing hymns into the public worship of the Church, in general (and ironically) it would later be in the late-1600’s and early-1700’s “the heirs of the fiercest defenders of metrical psalmody who first introduced modern hymnody to their initially unwilling churches in England.” (Davies, p. 285)

º Davies, Worship & Theology, Cranmer to Hooker, pp. 398-402.  “Although great music was composed for the Church of England in Elizabethean and Stuart times, the Church played only a minor role in the general musical life of the country.” (p. 391)  Some of the leading composers included Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Thomas Morley, Tye, Whyte, Weelkes, Tompkins, Dowland, Bull, Wilbye & Orlando Gibbons.  Many of their works can be found on Early English Books Online, TCP.

¹ However, such musical hymn productions appear, at least in theory, to have been allowed before or after the Prayer-Book service, per the wording of Elizabeth’s Injunction (***quote specifics***).

Excepting Romanism,† the separatistic Brownists, Barrowists and the later Quakers, it can be said:  “In view of the general practice of the singing of metrical versions of the psalms during the later sixteenth century and the whole of the seventeenth century…  Apparently everybody did it, but it was thought that the Puritans overdid it.” (Percy Scholes, The Puritans and Music in England and New England…  (New York, 1962), Ch. 17, ‘What the Psalms Meant to the Puritans’, p. 274)

† Romanism had some Latin hymns in its public worship through this whole era, that is, sung by choirs, as congregational singing had long been given up.  See Whitley, pp. 103-5.


Paul Baynes

The early puritan Paul Baynes (c.1573–1617) was a successor to William Perkins and was under the supervision of the established Church and civil government as a preacher and lecturer at Cambridge, before he was subsequently forced out due to non-conformity.

Bayne makes constant references to ‘presbyters’ and ‘presbytery’ in his, The Diocesan’s Trial (1641, a criticism of Episcopacy), yet it does not appear that his affirmations go beyond what an Independent could affirm.  The book was published by the Independent William Ames (1576-1633).

Rev. Mark Jones quotes Baynes from his commentary on Ephesians (later published in 1643) as interpreting the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Eph. 5:19 as allowing for uninspired compositions (see p. 334, lt. col.).  While this is true, yet Rev. Matthew Winzer had earlier in 2008 shown in the same passage that when Baynes comes to the ordinary and regular worship of the Church, he only mentions the singing of ‘psalms’, and that, ‘a psalm of David’.†  Baynes also mentions at the end of the section, “this part of the church service, in the psalmody of the church,” and the “church and house psalms must be sung to God”.

† Matthew Winzer, ‘Westminster and Worship Examined…’ in The Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008), p. 264

Baynes’s commentary on Ephesians was a result of him preaching through the book (see the title page of the 1866 ed.).  It is likely that the portion through Eph. 5 was done when he was yet a ‘preacher of God’s Word at St. Andrews, Cambridge’, this phrase appearing on the title page of the 1618 publication of the commentary on the first chapter of Ephesians, and as such a massive series would likely need to be done in a period of relative stability.  To confirm this, Baynes speaks of ‘a choir of singing men’ at the end of the section, and that persons fled out of the meeting place when the organ played during the service (p. 335).  Such was a known practice of some of the dissenters in the Church of England at that time.  As the historian of congregational hymnody, William Whitley, said, “Of course, Dissenters never dreamed of such instruments in their meeting-houses,”¹ or of having choirs.

¹ Whitley, Congregational Hymn-Singing (London, 1933), p. 103

Hence, the order of Baynes’s worship is known: it was the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with the singing of metrical psalms, which Book of Common Prayer did not require that any uninspired texts be sung.  Baynes does not mention any actual singing of hymns in Christ’s public worship.  Further, the specific reason Baynes was forced out of the Anglican ministry was “for his refusing (absolute) subscription”, that is, to the Book of Common Prayer.¹  Hence, Baynes was not following the Book of Common Prayer exactly when he got forced out of the Anglican ministry, nor was he likely doing so at least some while before that.

¹ Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 1, ed. Stephen & Lee (New York: MacMillan, 1908), p. 1,376

As nothing other than the singing of psalms is mentioned in Baynes’s other works, the evidence does not go further than that Baynes thought that uninspired compositions were acceptable in some context, namely outside of the public worship of the Church.


John Davenant

Rev. Jones follows William Barton’s 1688 work (to be discussed later) in citing the early-1600’s, English bishop, John Davenant (1572-1641) as saying that “it is apparent by ancient writers, that the ancient churches did use Hymns.”  This quote, or rather reference (for it is inexact) comes from Davenant’s Exposition of the Epistle…  to the Colossians on Col. 3:16 (p. 141, point 1).

Davenant in this passage is understanding such non-inspired hymns to be encompassed in the teaching of Col. 3:16.  Notice though, that Davenant, here and elsewhere, does not actually say that he, and those in his context, were singing hymns in public worship.  When Davenant comes to speak of that which “is to be adopted in the assemblies of Christians” (p. 143) he speaks only of the non-descript, “custom of singing”.  Davenant’s exposition of Colossians was published as early as 1639 in Latin, precisely at the time that sects were arising in England who forbid public singing in the Church altogether (whom he probably had an eye unto).

When Davenant refers to what was actually being sung by his readers, he speaks of only ‘singing psalms’ (p. 143).  He then goes on, at the very end of the sermon to make it clear that in considering Col. 3:16, he believes it encompasses the personal recreation of the Christian:

“4.  What things are done for cheerfulness and relaxation of the mind by Christians, ought to be of such a kind, as are agreeable to Christ and the Christian religion…” (p. 144)

These precise nuances in what Davenant actually says, of course, are significant.  Davenant, as a conformed bishop, was following the Book of Common Prayer, which necessitates no singing of hymns; and it appears that there is no other indication in Davenant’s works in English that support the singing of uninspired compositions in the Church’s public worship of God.


John Ball

Rev. Jones, at the opening his article, says that John Ball (1585–1640) “argues for the singing of uninspired hymns in his work, A friendly trial of the grounds tending to separation in a plain and modest dispute touching the lawfulness of a stinted liturgy and set form of prayer […] (London, 1640), 54-83.”

Ball (1585-1640), though a puritan dissenter who suffered for it, yet he also went along with Anglican worship in the established Church as long as he could and defended some of the mainline Anglican positions on worship in print.  His work on covenant theology was influential on the Westminster Assembly, held only several years later.

What’s interesting is that Ball does not actually argue for the singing of uninspired hymns in the public worship of the Church in this work (or any other work).  In the passage that Rev. Jones references, Ball is arguing for the lawfulness of the stinted (brief), responsive forms of prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer service.  Ch. 3, the passage referenced, is entitled:

It is as lawful to pray unto God in a form of words devised by others, as to sing psalms to the praise of God in a stinted form of words prescribed by others.”

Ball says of his separating, sectary opponents that were arising in the 1640’s, that,

“[w]hen in the new Testament we are exhorted to sing psalms (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), they will not say that we are tied to David’s psalms, or other songs given by immediate Divine inspiration.” (pp. 56-8)

Note that Ball is describing the view of his opponents as not tying themselves to inspired songs.  Ball then uses this premise of his opponents to further argue against his opponents that a human, non-inspired construction of the form of prayers and singing of psalms (such as in the Anglican Prayer-Book and liturgy) should therefore, on their terms, be allowable.

Ball then goes on to give, again not his own view, but his interpretation of a practice of the early Church: “and if we look to the practice of the times after the apostles, we shall find the church used other hymns, and not scripture-psalms only.”†

† One early church reference Ball gives in the margin is to Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical History, though the reference does not appear to be correct.  Ball glosses the reference as: “The primitive church had certain hymns composed and sung to the honor of Christ.”  The earliest instance of such is in Pliny’s letter (A.D. 111-112), which says that the Christians were in the habit of meeting “before dawn on a stated day and singing alternately a hymn [in Latin: carmen] to Christ as to God.”

Michael Bushell comments:

“The meaning of the key term carmen (‘hymn’) in this clause has been much debated.  On the basis of parallels with the Jewish Sabbath service, C.J. Kraemer and E.C. Ratcliff take it to refer to an Old Testament Psalm.  J.B. Lightfoot remarks that the term carmen can be used of ‘any set form of words’ and does not have to presuppose a metrical composition at all.  Along the same lines J. Stevenson renders the phrase in question as, ‘recite by turns a form of words.’  In support of this interpretation it is pointed out that the primary meaning of the verb used in the clause (dicere) is ‘to say’ or ‘to declare,’ not ‘to sing.’…

The fact of the matter is that none of the current interpretations of Pliny’s letter requires that we see in it a reference to the singing of uninspired compositions, and there is nothing in the passage to preclude its being seen as a reference to the inspired Psalms…” (Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody  Buy  (3rd ed., 1999) p. 162)

John Knox and the early, English puritan, John Reading, below, interpreted the term as referring to a psalm.

The only other reference to a ‘hymn’ (excluding hymns of pagans) in Ball’s work is on p. 131, which is a Biblical reference which Ball interprets as having the content of psalms:

“For unto their custom of finishing the Passover with certain psalms, there is not any thing more probable than that the ho­ly evangelist doth evidently allude, saying that after the cup delivered by our Savior to his apostles ‘they sung an hymn and went forth to the mount of Olives.’ [Mt. 26:30]”

When Ball does give his own view of the matter, it is at the beginning of chapter 2, before the passage that Rev. Jones references.  In the sustained context of the Anglican public worship, Ball says:

“And if we may sing psalms with the spirit and with understanding, with feeling and joy of heart (1 Cor. 14:14:15) as it is commanded (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) in a form of words stinted and prescribed, it cannot be thought a thing impossible, to pray with affection in a stinted and prescribed form…

In singing psalms penned by the prophet David or other holy men of God, the eye doth lead the heart no less than it doth in a stinted form of prayer…” (pp. 13-14)

It is not explicitly clear whether ‘other holy men of God’ refers to other prophets (in the Book of Psalms or not) or to uninspired men.  Yet David is described by Ball as a prophet and it seems the passage alludes to the the inspired ‘holy men of God’ in 2 Pet. 1:21.

What is clear though, is that Ball nowhere in his work says that hymns were being sung in the public Anglican worship service; rather, Ball refers exclusively dozens of times in his work to psalms being sung therein.  When Ball comments on the general practice of family worship in his day and context, he speaks of the “singing of psalms…  in the family”. (p. 113)  Thus, there is no clear evidence in this work that Ball held to anything other than inspired praise-singing, and possibly exclusive psalmody, for the public worship of the Church; nor is any further warrant found in his other works.


The Public Worship of the English Presbyterian Church

English presbyterian worship was fundamentally defined and governed by Thomas Cartwright’s Directory of Church Government (1583/5), the Waldegrave Liturgy (1584/5) and the Middleburg Liturgy (1586).  All three of these public forms provide for only psalms as sung praise to God in the public worship of the Church.  See background to these three documents and their orders of worship in the subsection, ‘Puritan Orders of Worship’, on our webpage:

The Psalm Singing of the Puritans

These forms were used by the English presbyterians until at least the 1640’s.

The very distinction by a leading presbyterian, Thomas Wilcox (c.1549-1608), that hymns may have their private use confirms the self-conscious presbyterian paradigm that psalms were to be used exclusively for public worship.  Wilcox was one of the puritan authors of the 1571 Admonition to Parliament which called for presbyterian Church government (for which he spent a year in jail).

At the end of his book Guide to Eternal Glory… (rep. London, 1755), Wilcox included numerous ‘Holy Breathings’ (pp. 164-180), or ‘Divine Poems’, which he also calls ‘Divine Hymns’.  Numerous of them are on the Lord’s Supper.  Yet there is no indication that these ‘hymns’ were intended for, or ever used in public worship; and the other various sections of the book in which they are contained are self-evidently for private edification.


Thomas Ford

Rev. Jones quotes Thomas Ford (1598–1674), a presbyterian and Westminster divine (who was ejected in 1662), to the effect that Ford “seems to make a concession to non-inspired “psalms””.  Rev. Jones concludes that Ford “seems to be arguing for inclusive Psalmody, not exclusive Psalmody, even though he exhibits a clear preference for Davidic Psalm singing.”  The passage from Ford reads:

“But I return to answer the former objection concerning singing of Psalms composed by an ordinary and common gift, as God in his providence gives occasion.

And to this I say that I am not so much against composing as imposing; when men set up their own new songs, and shut out David’s Psalms.  Suppose it lawful for men of spiritual minds to endite a Psalm, and then commend it to others, and sing it; yet it will not follow, that therefore we must not sing the Psalms of David.” – Singing of Psalmes the duty of Christians under the New Testament…  (London: 1653), pp. 22-3

However, if one looks back to see what the original objection was on p. 17, it is clear that the objector (likely an Independent sectarian) sought to exclude all of David’s psalms from the public worship service, in preference for persons bringing and singing their own compositions, as in 1 Cor. 14:15-16, 23.  Ford (rightly) replies that what was done in Corinth was done by an extraordinary, inspired gift, which has now ceased.  This was the standard presbyterian interpretation.  Ford then answers the related objection on p. 20 which said that Christ and his disciples did not sing at all, but only spoke such praises.  Hence Ford is not dealing with an opponent who desires to add some hymns to the regular psalmody of the worship service, but with one where the only alternative to the regular presbyterian practice is to exclude congregational psalmody altogether.

That there was a rising strand of English Independents, ‘anabaptists’º and other sects who excluded all of David’s psalms from their worship services in that time may be confirmed by other witnesses thereto, such as the presbyterians Samuel Rutherford, Survey of Spiritual Antichrist… (London, 1648), Part 1, p. 10 and Thomas Edwards, The First and Second Part of Gangræna…  (London, 1646), pp. 44-45 & The third part of Gangræna…  (London, 1646), p. 25, 62, 147, 247.

º ‘Anabaptist’ was often used as a slur.  These 1640’s persons would probably be called simply ‘baptists’ today, but, nonetheless, there is a a connected history between the persons and thought of the anabaptists, some of those in London in the 1640’s, and the more mainline baptists that rose out of them.

Later in Ford’s book he goes on to address the topic at hand more specifically.  He explicitly directs:

 “Sing none but Spiritual Songs, such as David’s Psalms are, and others composed by holy men of God, who spake as they were inspired by the Holy Ghost [2 Pet. 1:21].  These are altogether spiritual [Eph. 5:19] for the author, for the matter, and for the end and use of them.” (p. 143)

He then poses a question and answers it (pp. 143-144 [160]):

“May we not sing any other song composed by a common gift, so long as it is spiritual for the matter?

It may be of ill consequence many ways, to shut out David’s psalms and take in our own; as:

Secondly…  I rather think that such Psalms (if any have them) should be fitter for their own private use than for the churches of God; though for my part, I do not encourage any to the private use of them, with a neglect of David’s Psalms, but rather dissuade them from it.

For other songs (always supposed that there be no vanity, nor filthiness, nor scurrility, nor reflectings upon other men’s good name, which all Christians must be far from) they may be for honest delight and recreation for ought I know, even as a man may play a lesson on a lute or other instrument to refresh his spirits.”

Hence it is clear that when Ford said, as Rev. Jones quoted, “Suppose it lawful for men of spiritual minds to endite [compose] a Psalm, and then commend it to others, and sing it,” that Ford did not mean this of the public worship of the Church.  Nor is it clear that Ford held such hymns to be for the use of private worship.  It is only clear that Ford, the presbyterian, held such songs to be lawful for a certain recreational use.

It also ought to be noted that, in reference to Ford’s statement, quoted by Rev. Jones, “…I say that I am not so much against composing as imposing; when men set up their own new songs..”:  Any putting of a non-inspired praise song into a church’s public worship service is a de facto imposing of it on the church, all the worshippers and on God.


The Entrance of Hymns in Public Worship in the 1640’s:

Rev. Jones said that the ‘preferred ecclesiology’ of the lay-theologian, Edward Leigh (who sat at the Westminster Assembly) “was that of his friend, Archbishop James Ussher, a primitive episcopacy”.  The eclectic nature of Leigh’s background is apparent in that he served as a colonel for the Parliamentary Army in the English Civil War, which army had strong influences of Independency in it.

In Leigh’s commentary on the New Testament in 1650, when speaking on Mt. 26:30; Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, he interpreted all of these texts as being consistent with singing psalms and inspired productions (see below on this webpage).

Four years later, in 1654, Leigh expressed the opinion in his Systeme or Body of Divinity (London) that, according to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 (as Rev. Jones quoted):

“…we may lawfully sing Scripture psalms, so also songs and psalms of our own† inditing [composing] (say some) agreeable to Scripture, ‘Sing unto the Lord a new Song’, framed on a fresh occasion, therefore, 1 Cor. 14:26, a Psalm is named among those things which they had for the use of the Church…  therefore we may make Songs for our selves agreeable to the Word of God as well as prayers…” (Book 8, ch. 3, ‘Of Singing Psalms’, p. 610)

While the quote above, and its larger context, expresses Leigh’s personal view, yet he notes that his view was said by ‘some’ other persons.  The footnote says:

“† Singing of hymns is by some counted an Ordinance, that is, any person of the congregation exercising their own gifts, should bring an hymn and sing it in the congregation, all the rest being silent and giving audience. M[r]. Edw[ards].”

Mr. Thomas Edwards (1599-1647), whom Leigh references, was a prominent and leading presbyterian of the most orthodox variety.  The passage of Edwards that Leigh references is found in Edward’s broadside against the Independents at the Westminster Assembly, Antapologia, or, A Full Answer to the Apologetical Narration of Mr. [Thomas] Goodwin, Mr. [Philip] Nye, Mr. [Sidrach] Sympson, Mr. [Jeremiah] Burroughs, Mr. [William] Bridge, members of the Assembly of Divines…  (London, 1644), which work Edwards ‘humbly also submitted to the Honorable Houses of Parliament’.

Edwards describes (p. 35) how in Holland, around 1639, two flagship churches of the Independents sprung up, one at Rotterdam and one at Arnhem.  At the church at Rotterdam was William Bridge and Sidrach Simpson, and later Jeremiah Burroughs (all of them would shortly become Westminster divines).  After a falling out, Simpson removed with some persons and set up another church a ways off (there being no presbytery above them with authority to settle disputes).

The second flagship church at Arnhem had Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye as teachers (both also would be Westminster divines).  Here “a controversy arose whether singing should be that of one person or ‘conjoined’ [congregational].” (Curwen, p. 81)  Nye was against congregational singing, so it seems that Goodwin may have been for it.

The story gets more interesting.  Edwards relates on pp. 36-7, in the passage that Leigh referenced, the instance of hymn-singing coming into the Church as an ‘ordinance’:

“A gentleman of note in that church…  did propound in the church, that singing of hymns was an ordinance (which is that any person of the congregation exercising their own gifts, should bring a hymn and sing it in the congregation, all the rest being silent and giving audience); now upon the propounding of this, another gentleman did oppose it (as not judging it an ordinance)…

…At last, after more than half a year’s debate, not being able to bring these differences to an end…  do yet run into such strange conceits, and break among themselves thus…”¹

¹ See also Robert Baillie relate this same thing in A Dissuasive from the Errors of the time wherein the tenets of the principal sects, especially of the Independents, are drawn together in one map…  (London, 1645), pp. 81, 88, 118

Edwards goes on, on p. 60, saying, “I propound it to you, whether some of you [Independents] have not held out some other public worship than the reformed Churches hold, namely hymns…”  Edwards then says, on pp. 58-59:

Now for the way and practice of our Churches, we give this brief and general account.  Our public worship was made up of no other parts than the worship of all other reformed Churches doth consist of.  As public and solemn prayers for kings and all in authority, etc., the reading the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; exposition of them as occasion was; and constant preaching of the Word; the administration of the two sacraments, baptism to infants, and the Lord’s Supper; singing of psalms; collections for the poor, etc. every Lord’s day.”

Despite Leigh’s personal opinion (he was no minister that had authority to publicly enact his opinion), yet Leigh is in agreement with Edwards as to what the reformed Churches’ practice had been and was in his day.  Leigh says (p. 609):

“Reformed Churches use to begin and end with a psalm, and to sing David’s psalms in order, that the people of God might be acquainted with them all, and professors used to sing psalms in their families, Ps. 118:15.”


The Precursors to the Entrance of Hymns

The novel practice above, be it noticed, was only one person composing an uninspired hymn, bringing it to their Independent church, and then singing it before the congregation (which remained silent), in imitation of the extraordinary and inspired practice of the apostolic Church in 1 Cor. 14.  What there is no evidence of yet, is unison, congregational, hymn-singing.  In fact, as is made clear by the references supplied, those sectarian churches disallowed singing the psalms of David, and had no other public singing in their worship.

While this ‘ordinance’ definitely grew in popularity from the 1640’s London sects, it was not entirely new.  The idea and practice was certainly previously available and practiced by the Brownists, who were the radical wing who had separated from the Cartwright in the 1580’s and continued on into the early 1600’s.  It is not a coincidence that through that period the Brownist churches likewise had no congregational singing and yet approved and practiced the lone person singing, in their case, not a composed or arranged song, but an immediately given song through their extraordinary breathings, before the congregation (or as others did it as well).

William Edgar, an 1800’s, Scottish antiquarian, described the views of the Brownists:

“…they rejected altogether metrical versions of the Psalms as an unauthorised union of divine and human, inspired and uninspired elements.  One of their chief apostles says, “what I speak against is not that comfortable and heavenly harmony of singing Psalms, but it is the rhyming and paraphrasing of the Psalms as in your church.

The Brownists allowed the singing of psalms in prose but only as a matter of instruction and comfort, whereby God is glorified, and not as an act of immediate praise.  All praise as well as prayer, they contended, must be extempore, and not expressed in any set words, whether found in the Bible or not.  The singing of hymns, they said, is an ordinance, and any member of the church exercising his gifts is free to bring a hymn of his own and sing it to the congregation, all the rest being silent and giving audience.  And it was not the Brownists only that held these opinions, but some of the Independents also…”

Old Church Life in Scotland...  (London, 1885) pp. 74-75, 77; compare Davies, Worship & Theology, p. 168.

In contrast to this, the late-1500’s and early 1600’s separatist groups of Henry Ainsworth and John Robinson sang metrical psalms congregationally, and Ainsworth argues that the 1 Cor. 14 practice was extraordinary and has ceased (Curwen, p. 81).

It is not likely that Robert Browne came up with his ideas from nowhere.  His ideas on worship follow in a stream that was current in his time.  Whitley writes: “It is seldom recognized how the Anabaptists pioneered in hymn singing.”

The Anabaptist movement started in 1525 on the continent.¹  They were prolific hymn writers with a hymnal coming out by at least 1529, and many more following in the subsequent decades, particularly in the 1560’s and 1580’s.²  It is not clear, however, that there is any evidence that the Anabaptists sang congregationally.

¹ John Rempel, ‘Mennonites’ in The Oxford History of Christian Worship  (Oxfrod, 2006), p. 545
² Harold Bender, ‘Hymnology of the Anabaptists’ Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956


The Entrance of Hymns into Moderate Independency

It seems that there was a strand of more moderate Independents from the early-1600’s coming from the disciples of William Perkins (1558-1602), a very influential leader of puritanism after Cartwright.  Perkins, in his Art of Prophesying, had proof-texted singing from the book of Psalms from Col. 3:16.¹

¹ Works, vol. 2, London: John Legatt, 1631, p. 650

As mentioned, Baynes was a successor to Perkins at Cambridge.  William Ames (1576-1633) was tutored by Perkins, influenced by Baynes and also initially took a position at Cambridge.  In The Marrow of Sacred Divinity… (London: 1642), Book 2, ch. 9, ‘Of Prayer’, sections 47-8, 53, p. 284, Ames links the singing of psalms, simply, with Col. 3:16 and says that “all do join their voices together”.

Burroughs (1599-1646) was mentioned as following Bridge and Nye at the Rotterdam church (which did not have the story connected to it regarding the novel ‘ordinance’ of individual hymn-singing).  In his Gospel Worship (London, 1653), he says that Christ singing a ‘hymn’ in Mt. 26:30 warrants the Church in singing a ‘psalm’ after the Lord’s Supper. (p. 225-6)  In the same passage he speaks of the ‘institution’ of singing psalms and gives his auditors directions regarding it.

Goodwin (1600–1680) was also a disciple of Perkins; he was at the Arnhem church and had (presumably) advocated for ‘conjoined’ singing.  That church was the one that had the bitter division of individual hymn-singing in public worship.  Goodwin, in his commentary on the book of Revelation, from the song in Rev. 5:9-10, says:

“Learn we from hence to frame new matter of praise, and to have fresh affections upon every new occasion.” (Works, 3.14)

This might be a bit of a tenuous deduction, considering that all creatures in the heaven and the earth, in the sea and under the earth (probably all animals and inanimate matter) join in this vocal, linguistic praise (v. 13), but nonetheless Goodwin on the previous page (p. 13) had linked the whole with ‘the spiritual songs’ of Eph. 5:19.  On p. 215 (bottom), Goodwin likewise speaks of ‘spiritual songs in Christ’ from an equally symbolic, eschatological text, and, citing the prophet David saying, “I will sing a new song” (p. 216) derives again that we are to “Learn to frame new matter of praise and affections upon every new occasion.”

While we are not prophets, nor did uninspired men compose new songs to be sung in the Temple since David gave those words in the Old Testament, it is suspected that Goodwin may be here seeking to prove the novel doctrine and practice of uninspired men occasionally singing their composures before the congregation in Christ’s worship.  There are reasons why the vast majority of puritans derived the worship of the regular, historical Church, from the regular history of the Church in Scripture (such as in the book of Acts, etc.), and not from the visions of the most difficult book in the Bible.


Hymns enter Moderate Independency:
The Treatises of Holmes & Cotton

Two major treatises on psalm singing were published by Independents while Westminster sat.  It will be seen how the sectarian practice of an individual singing an uninspired hymn before an assembled congregation in worship entered into more moderate and mainline, psalm-singing, congregationalism.

Nathaniel Holmes (1599–1678) was an English Independent.  His treatise on psalm singing, aimed at the sects who denied it, was entitled, Gospel Music: or, The Singing of David’s Psalms, etc. in the Public Congregations, or Private Families Asserted…  (London, 1644)  It appears not to have been reprinted in that era.  In it he allows for the singing of inspired Bible-songs (pp. 2, 20-21).

On p. 23 Holmes allows that ‘upon some special occasions’, if the congregation give him ‘leave’ to do so (as opposed to some who forced it by self-will on the congregation?), a ‘godly brother’ may sing the ‘spiritual song’ he had composed, the congregation silently attending; “yet this cannot infer that always it should be so…”

Taken in an absolute way, Rev. Jones is certainly right that in the 1600’s “the evidence shows that no firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship” for more than this reason.  Holmes gives an idea as to what was going on in the worship of the Anglican cathedrals in his time (and likely the whole time since Queen Elizabeth):

“David’s psalms sung in our English meter differ much from cathedral singing, which is so abominable, in which is sung almost everything, unlawful litanies, and creeds, and other prose not framed in meter, fit for singing;¹ battologizing [repeating excessively] and quavering over the same words vainly.

Yea nor do they all sing together, but first one sings an anthem, then half the choir, then the other, tossing the Word of God like a tennis ball.  Then all yelling together with confused noise.  This we utterly dislike as most unlawful.” (p. 19)

– The following work mentions how the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed were often sung as a matter of course: A Survey of the Book of Common Prayer, by way of 197 Queres Grounded Upon 58 Places…  with a View of London Ministers’ Exceptions…  ([no place or publisher,] 1606), p. 45

The New England puritan, John Cotton (1585–1652), was also very influenced by William Perkins at Cambridge.  Cotton’s work, Singing of Psalms: A Gospel Ordinance…  (London, 1647; 1650) was influential on both sides of the ocean.  Particularly, the English, conforming puritan, William Barton (who will be important later) said:

“For Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs which Paul commands to be used, Col. 3:16, are proper terms of the O[ld]. Test[ament]. Psalms, as Mr. [John] Cotton fully proveth…”

Psalms and Hymns Composed and fitted For the present Occasion Of Publick Thanksgiving, October 24, 1651  (London, 1651), Preface

Yet Cotton also allowed that other inspired Bible-songs “may be lawfully sung in Christian churches”. (p. 15)  On the same page Cotton allows for the private singing of uninspired material for a person’s “own private comfort”.  He goes on:

“Neither do we deny, but that in the public thanksgivings of the Church, if the Lord should furnish any members of the Church with a spiritual gift to compose a Psalm upon any special occasion, he may lawfully be allowed to sing sing it before the Church, and the rest hearing it, and approving it, may go along with him in Spirit and say Amen to it.”

But yet:

“…we would not call upon men now, to prefer their ordinary common gift, as more fit for the public edifying of the Church, before the extraordinary gifts of the holy men of God in Scripture, who by the Spirit were guided to prepare spiritual songs, suitable to all the conditions and affections and temptations of the Church and people of God in all ages.” (p. 16)

Before the Westminster Assembly in England is examined, it will be necessary to catch up on the history of exclusive psalmody in her northern neighbor, the Church of Scotland.


On the Public Worship of the Church of Scotland
after the Reformation in 1560

The Reformation in worship in Scotland after 1560 was heavily influenced by the worship of Geneva, particularly the 1556 service book of the English refugee congregation at Geneva, pastored by John Knox.  The epistle ‘To our Brethren in England…’ prefaced to the 1556 service book, entitled, Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc., used by the Congregation at Geneva: and Approved by the Famous and Godly Learned Man, John Calvin (printed 1562; given in Laing, Knox’s Works, vol. 4, p. 155 ff.), says:†

“But because prayers are after two manner of sorts, that is, either in words only, or else with song joined thereunto; and this latter part…  is called by many into doubt, whether it may be used in a reformed church; it is expedient that we note briefly a few things pertaining thereunto.  S[t]. Paul giving a rule how men should sing…  showing what songs should be sung, exhorteth the Ephesians to “edify one another with psalms, songs of praise, and such as are spiritual…”…

And there are no songs more appropriate than the Psalms of the Prophet David, which the Holy Ghost hath framed to the same use, and commended to the Church, as containing the effect of the whole Scriptures…” (pp. 165-6)

† “This Preface, or Address, is usually ascribed to [William] Whittingham…”, David Laing, Knox’s Works, 4.157.

That 1556 service book was made the basis of the 1564 Book of Common Order which the Church of Scotland ordained to be used in the realm.  This Book of Common Order would maintain official status for the worship of the Church until the Westminster era when the Church of Scotland adopted Westminster’s Directory for the Public Worship of God in 1645 (Eutaxia, p. 134).

Unlike the Genevan service of John Calvin though, the Scottish Book of Common Order did not in any way provide for the singing of non-psalm, Bible-songs, the Ten Commandments or the Apostle’s Creed in the worship service, occasionally or otherwise.  Rather, the only sung praise that ‘The Order of Public Worship’ enjoined was psalms.  Hence, between 1564 and 1645 the Church of Scotland sanctioned exclusive psalmody in its public worship.

To confirm this, the first printing of a complete psalter in Scotland occurred in 1564-5 in Edinburgh.  It contained only the 150 psalms.ª  This is undoubtedly what the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland referred to in Dec. of 1564 when they:

“…ordained, that every minister, exhorter and reader shall have one of the Psalms books lately printed in Edinburgh, and use the order contained therein…”

– Contained in David Calderwood, The History of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. 2  (Edin.: Wodrow Society, 1842), p. 284

ª In contrast to a similar English psalter from 1562 which contained about 20 hymns.  Livingston, Diss. 2, p. 13; compare Duguid, p. 121.


On the ‘Spiritual Songs’ Appended to Some Psalters

After 1564, the first time a hymn came to be appended to a Scottish psalter was in 1575,¹ which psalter contained two hymns (this happening three years after Knox’s death; at least eight other psalters had appeared since then, per the Short Title Catalogue).  Certain other editions of psalters contained a few or several hymns and other material (usually things like the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the Songs of Mary and Simeon, the Lamentation of a Sinner,† Veni Creator, etc.).  A helpful chronological list of these songs, based on exhaustive information, is given in Cowan, Bibliography of the Book of Common Order, pp. 10-11.

¹ A psalter of 1571 had appended to it three spiritual songs, but none of them were hymns; rather, they were all of inspired material: the Ten Commandments, the Song of Simeon, and the Lord’s Prayer.  Fleming, Reformation, p. 306.

† This hymn, appended to the 1575 psalter, was ‘not unlikely’ composed by William Whittingham, a colleague of Knox. (A Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs… ed. Laing, Edin., 1868, p. 217)  Whittingham’s expressed view for, and de facto practice of, exclusive psalmody in public worship has been given above.

There were also occasional books of spiritual songs produced.  One was by Alexander Hume (1558-1609), who acted as the moderator of the Church of Scotland several times in the early-1600’s.  He was both a poet and a musician, and published his Hymns and Sacred Songs in 1599.  The subtitle of the work says, “wherein the right use of poesy may be espied”.  Eph. 5:19 was on the original title page‘The Epistle to the Reader, to the Scottish Youth’, makes clear the private purpose for these spiritual songs, just as they were intended to displace the worldly songs also sung for private and social recreation.

The last two verses of Hume’s poem entitled, ‘His Recantation’, speak clearly of playing such spiritual songs on musical instruments in private.  If this were in doubt, his will left a lute and other musical instruments to others.ª  Yet, Hume’s Admonition to the Ministry of Scotland, shortly before he died, said (emphasis added):

“…yet the high places are not put away, that is, the preeminence of bishops, their surplice, their organs, their lights, their observing of feasts…  which resemble the cicatrices [scars] of an evil-cured wound.” (p. 13)

ª Fleming, p. 539, citing ed. Hew Scott, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae 2.735

In concluding about these spiritual songs, whether appended to psalters or otherwise, Fleming said:

“…not only can no formal sanction of them, for any purpose, be produced; but there is no evidence of their having been used in the services of the sanctuary.” (Fleming, ‘Hymnology’, p. 16)

Further, one:

“…might as well insist that the Alphabet and Multiplication Table are in the Church of Scotland now, because they have so long been printed with the Shorter Catechism!” (Ibid., p. 19)

Neil Livingston in 1864 wrote a standard, scholarly piece on the various editions of the early Scottish psalters.  The contemporary psalmody scholar, Timothy Duguid, in surveying recent, serious literature on the subject, said (2011):

“…the most recent monograph to consider Scottish metrical psalmody is Millar Patrick’s 1949 survey [Four Centuries of Scottish Psalmody], which did not eclipse the accuracy or content of Rev. Neil Livingston’s theses…” (Sing a New Song, p. 18)

Duguid further comments that “Though based on incomplete data, Livingston’s discussion remains the most accurate description of reformation Scottish psalmody.” (Ibid., footnote).  While Duguid has surveyed nearly all of the early Scottish psalters available (see his bibliography in vol. 1, pp. 319-347), his work does not impinge on the conclusions of Fleming or Livingston, but rather complements and confirms them.º

º See for instance pp. 78, 244, 246 of Sing a New Song, vol. 1

Regarding the ‘spiritual songs’ appended to some of the late-1500’s Scottish psalters, Livingston comes to the conclusion that:

“There seems to be good ground for the conclusion that they were used only for private purposes…  It must be remembered that singing of compositions relating to religion–some more strictly devotional and doctrinal, others levelled at the abuses of Popery–was a conspicuous feature in the Reformation movement.  But the distinction between the use in worship and private ends seems to have been generally recognized.  Even in [Lutheran] Germany, where hymns abounded, only a limited selection was admitted into the books prepared for the Church…

This distinction being understood, it is not surprising that a few things intended for private instruction and edification should, for convenience sake, be appended to the Psalter.”

Scottish Metrical Psalter of A.D. 1635…  (Glasgow, 1864), Dissertation 1, II. Principles Relating to the Poetry, p. 4, lt. col.; G. Wauchope Stewart agreed with this conclusion, Music in the Church  (London, 1914), p. 148

Livingston gives four further arguments towards this conclusion.  Being summarized, they are:

(1)  The Book of Common Order repeatedly prescribes the singing of psalms for public worship, but nowhere does it allude to anything else.

(2)  The standard, and near only remaining documentation of many official documents of much of that early period is contained in the eight volume History of the Kirk of Scotland by David Calderwood (1575-1650).  No instance of corporate-worship hymn singing appears to be recorded therein.

(3)  Evidence in Calderwood exists from 1608, and by implication from an earlier enactment, that parents instruct their children at home in the Lord’s Prayer, the ‘Articles of Beliefe’ and the Commandments; and that ‘all ministers’ examine the children therein.  The ‘Articles of Beliefe’, a name for the Apostles’ Creed, was the name of one of the spiritual songs sometimes printed in the psalters.

It is not clear how there would be easy access to such pedagogical documents except that they be appended in numerous of the psalters that every family was required to have.  In 1579 the Parliament of Scotland had ordered that every householder, yeoman and burgess of sufficient means own a Bible and a psalm-book, upon pain of a fine.  There is evidence that this statute was enforced.¹

¹ John Lee, Memorial for the Bible Societies in Scotland…  (Edin., 1824), pp. 40-1;  see also Thomas M’Crie, The Life of Andrew Melville…  (Edin.: Blackwood, 1819), p. 467 and the order of the Kirk session of Aberdeen in 1610, in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery and Synod of Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1846), p. 40

(4)  If hymns were in general use, it is inexplicable how some psalters could dispense with hymns.  Yet some psalters in 1599 & 1611, evidently intended for the common people, have no hymns.  In 1615 the Song of Moses was first introduced as an appendage to a psalter.  The account of the introduction in that psalter “indicate[s] that publishers considered themselves warranted to exercise some amount of discretion in these matters…”  (Livingston, Diss. I, p. 4)

William McMillan, published later in 1931, gave three responses to the first three arguments of Livingston.  They are summarized below, with counter-arguments provided to them.

(1)  “…the Book of Common Order leaves considerable freedom to the individual minister, and this liberty would apply as much to the materials used in praise as to the words used in prayer.” (The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church, London, p. 76)

The issue at hand with the English liturgy was that it didn’t allow for any free-prayer whatsoever; whereas freedom in the content of worship-song, in principle, was never in dispute.  While the Scottish Book of Common Order explicitly gives liberty with regards to its prayers (and which of two forms of benediction is used) it never states any such liberty with regard to the psalms that were to be sung.  Quotes from ‘The Order of Public Worship’:

“…the minister useth this conession [of sin] following, or like in effect…”  “An other Confession and Prayer…”  “…and yet commonly used in the Churches of Scotland…”  “…the Minister prayeth for th’assistance of God’s Holy Spirit, as the same shall move his heart…  Using after the Sermon this Prayer following, or such like.”  “Then the people sing a Psalm, which ended, the Minister pronounceth one of these blessings…”

“It shall not be necessary for the Minister daily to repeat all these things before mentioned, but beginning with some manner of Confession, to proceed to the Sermon; which ended, he either useth the prayer for all Estates before mentioned, or else prayeth, as the Spirit of God shall move his heart…  but also use some form of prayer, according as the present necessity requireth…”

That the point at issue was maintaining some freedom in prayer has been recognized by many scholars.  See Fleming provide a mass of primary source evidence for this in pp. 246-9 of ‘The Moulding of the Scottish Reformation’ in Critical Reviews Relating Chiefly to Scotland (London: Hodder, 1912).

(2.1)  “…the Historie of the Estate of Scotland [p. 59] which is believed to be a contemporary document distinctly mentions the ‘Singing of Psalms and Spiritual Songs’ by the Protestants in 1559.” (Ibid.)

This instance was said to happen after the public assembly of the Church was over.  The men in question were going through towns and purging churches and chapels of altars and idols “in all places where they come.  And so praising God continually , in singing of psalms and spiritual songs, they rejoiced that they Lord wrought thus happily with them.”

It is not clear whether these ‘spiritual songs’ were other inspired Bible songs.  There is little doubt though, that non-inspired songs were available at that time.  Their actions are consistent with a recreational use of such songs in daily life outside of the Church’s public worship.  This is consistent with, five years later, the Church of Scotland as a whole ordaining the psalms (alone) to be sung in the public worship with a careful thought towards reformation and the utmost fidelity.

(2.2)  “Bishop [John] Sage, who was born in 1652 [and died in 1711], just two years after the old psalter had been discontinued, and who must have been in touch with many who used it, states that the Reformers used beside the psalms several other hymns in meter. (Fundamental Charter of Presbytery…  [Examined and Disproved… (London, 1695)], pp. 357-8)” (Ibid.)

The Episcopal Sage would have had no direct experience with anything before the 1650’s.  Regarding the late time when he wrote in the 1690’s, Fleming has documented other persons of that era, who, being dependent on hear-say or otherwise, made other inaccurate and mistaken historical claims.  The ‘hymns’ that Sage mentions (mostly inspired Bible-songs) are precisely those that were appended to some of the late-1500’s and early-1600’s psalters.  Sage’s information, in fact, appears to be dependent on ‘the old Psalm Book’, which modern scholars have much more collated evidence regarding than he likely had.  By ‘Our Reformers’, Sage evidently is encompassing those of the Second Reformation in 1638 ff., especially with regard to the Doxology, which will be addressed below.

As for Sage’s own time and context, which he did have direct experience regarding, he says in reference to the presbyterians:

“The Gloria Patri, recovered from desuetude at the last restitution of Episcopacy [1660-62], and generally used in the Episcopal assemblies these thirty years past, was a mighty scandal to them; so great, that even such as came to Church, hanged their heads and sat silent, generally, when it came to that part of the office.”

(2.3)  “Calderwood himself may also be cited as a witness against the view that the hymns might be used in private, but not in public, for arguing against the suggestion that King James’ version [of the psalter] might be used in private, he says that to use one version in private and another in public is a most unprofitable work, because in time the one might displace the other. (Bannatyne Miscellany, I, p. 229 [‘The Psalms of David in Meter Allowed Be the General Assembly Should be Sung in the Kirks of Scotland, as they have been since 1564, for the Reasons Underwritten’, ‘Reasons Against the Private Use’, p. 242].  The work is anonymous, but there is good reason for ascribing it to the church historian.)” (Ibid.)

This paper, with others, has only been said to have been “generally considered to have been compiled” by Calderwood. (p. 231, footnote)  The objection itself might hold good if there was not already an understood paradigmatic difference between judging which psalter to use (based on faithfulness, etc.) in private and public, versus discerning the difference between uninspired materials for song in private and the necessity of using only inspired materials for song in the Church’s corporate worship.

The issue may be able to be decided by providing presbyterian Calderwood’s own view.  He said in his book-long critique in Latin of the government and worship of the Church of England (trans. Fentiman):

“They do not retain the hymns of the Roman Breviary only because, I believe [ut opinor], they lose that elegance of the hymn in translation compared to the Latin meter and rhythm, not, however, because they do not exist in sacred Scripture.  For they retain that song Te Deum Laudamus [‘You O God we praise’], which is not held among the songs of Scripture, and they even greatly magnify its prerogative more than that of the Psalms or other songs.”

The Altar of Damascus, or the Ecclesiastical Polity of Anglicanism Obtruded on the Church of Scotland by Formalists, Delineated, Illustrated & Examined  ([No place or publisher,] 1623), ch. 10, p. 628

Calderwood’s view was actually more clearly, publicly expressed just two years prior to this in his previous, though much shorter edition of the Altar of Damascus in English:

“If I should insist upon every particular [holy] day [that Anglicanism owns], and rip up their collects, gospels, epistles, hymns and songs, I should be too prolix.  For we should fall upon many fooleries, and impertinent application of the word of God.”

The Altar of Damascus…  ([Amsterdam,] 1621), ch. 7, p. 185

(3)  “Although there are pieces which might be used for the instruction of children, that is no reason why they should not have been sung at services where children were present, as they seem always to have been in the days with which we are dealing.” (McMillan, Worship, p. 76)

McMillan’s argument gives no positive evidence, or even a compelling reason, that these additional songs appended to the psalter actually were sung in the worship services.  On the contrary, it is quite sure that numerous of the additional songs were not sung in the worship services.

Those songs appended to the psalter included metrified versions of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments.  Yet the Book of Common Order already included spoken versions of the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed in the weekly service.  It would be incredible for them to have sung it again, especially when the same reformers often criticized the Anglican liturgy for its numerous repetitions, including that of the Lord’s Prayer.

Further, it is not at all likely that the word ‘psalm’ used in the Book of Common Order, from its usage in that era, encompassed in its meaning the Lord’s Prayer, Creed or the Ten Commandments, nor that those things would be indiscriminately sung here or there in the service at will rather than they being distinct parts of the regular order of the weekly service (which two of them were).

Also, the focused attention towards teaching the children in the corporate-church context was, per the First Book of Discipline, 9th Head, on the Lord’s Day afternoon where the minister would publicly examine the ‘young children’ ‘in audience of the people’.

What were the children to sing in public worship?  The Church of Scotland ordained in the First Book of Discipline (1560) that:

“Moreover, men, women and children would be exhorted to exercise themselves in the Psalms, that when the Church conveneth, and does sing, they may be the more able together with common heart and voice to praise God.”  (Knox, Works 2.241-242)

Even the use of the few or several hymns that came to be appended to psalters in family worship is questionable.  Duncan B. Forrester, a modern scholar, has said: “…the steady practice from the early days was that only psalms should be sung in church and in family worship.”†  This would certainly come to be explicitly the case with the adoption of the Westminster standards by Scotland.  In enjoining the practice of the worship of God daily in private families, this was evidently to be done with the forementioned elements of worship, namely the ‘singing of psalms’. (WCF 21.5-6).

† ‘The Reformed Tradition in Scotland’ in The Oxford History of Christian Worship (Oxford, 2006), p. 480


The Good & Godly Ballads

The earliest, surviving edition of the The Good and Godly Ballads dates to 1567.†  Not exactly a psalter, it was a collection with three parts: 1. Doctrinal songs: a catechism and the Apostles’ Creed set to meter, with various spiritual songs; 2. Twenty-Two Psalms with a number of hymns; 3. Secular songs converted from profane to religious poetry.  The Good & Godly Ballads were quite popular and went through many subsequent editions.

† David H. Fleming, The Reformation in Scotland…  (Hodder, 1910), pp. 305-306

Despite the prominence given to these Good & Godly Ballads in discussions of the content of Scotland’s early praise-song, numerous of the Ballads would not be able to be sung in corporate worship, not being appropriate thereto.  To give only one example, in a song headed with ‘Examples Taken out of the Bible’, the song describes Judith and Holofernes (pp. 191-2), characters in the Apocrypha (which the Scots Confession of Faith in 1560, Article 18, had dismissed).  The authority in Scottish Church history, David Laing (1793–1878), said of the collection of the Ballads:

“…it neither was authorized by the General Assembly, nor was it known to have ever been employed in the public services of the Church.”

A Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs, Commonly Known as “The Gude and Godlie Ballates.”  ed. Laing (Edinburgh, 1868), ‘Preface’, p. xliii)  Alexander Mitchell said that the ballads were “no doubt sung in their homes, though they never had formal ecclesiastical sanction.” A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs…  ed. Mitchell (Edin.: Scottish Text Society – Blackwood, 1897), p. xvi.  For more arguments that the Ballads were very unfit for public worship, see Fleming, pp. 25-34.

However, one could probably have inferred this from what the original title page gives as the Ballads‘ stated purpose:

An Compendious Book of Godly Psalms and Spiritual Songs Collected forth of Sundry Parts of the Scripture, with Diverse Other Ballads Changed out of Profane Songs in[to] Godly Songs, for Avoiding of Sin and Harlotry

Nonetheless, after all of this, it is possible that some church somewhere in Scotland sang some song in worship that was not a psalm.  If so, the singers were acting against the 1564 act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the law of the land.


Sung Doxologies:
The Romanist Winzet

Perhaps the strongest evidence put forward to show that a human doxology was commonly sung early in the reformed Church of Scotland is the witness of the Scottish, Roman Catholic priest and apologist, Ninian Winzet (1518–1592).  In his Book of 83 Questions, publicly challenging John Knox to answers, he wrote in 1563:

“67.  Of the Form Glory to the Father, etc., in the end of every Psalm.

Why use ye to sing with us Catholics at the end of every psalm, Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in, etc.  seen that godly form was only commanded to be sung in that place by the Pope Damasus [c. 305-384], in the rebuke of heretics?”

– Ninian Winzet, Certain Tractates, Together with the Book of Four Score Three Questions, and a Translation of Vincentius Lirinensis, vol. 1  ed. James K. Hewison  (Edin.: Scottish Text Society, 1888), Book of 83 Questions, p. 117

Fleming commented on Winzet’s claim thus:

“Had Knox ever published his intended reply to Winzet, and admitted the truth of this charge, then the contention that the doxology was not used prior to 1575 must have been given up; but the bare word of one who probably never attended a Protestant service in his life is not enough to overturn such a contention…”

Critical Reviews Relating Chiefly to Scotland  (London: Hodder, 1912), ‘Scottish Presbyterian Worship’, p. 490

To this McMillan later replied, “Winzet was as likely to attend Protestant services as any Roman Catholic of his time, and it is quite well known that many such did so (Knox, [Works] I, 321[-323], 389, 392, etc.).” (Worship, p. 87)  All of the references that McMillan explicitly cites took place in 1599 before the Reformation was decisively established in 1560, when Protestants and Roman Catholics (especially in the Queen’s party) sometimes attended the same worship service, and all the instances involve the contention of physical conflict.  Needless to say, it is still doubtful whether a Roman priest would have attended a settled, protestant worship service.

To settle the issue, though, Winzet gave his own testimony.  Speaking of his Questions, he wrote:

“For I had collected them shortly wanting [lacking] books when I was in travel, as they come in my memory of former reading and of conferring with others at that time by the way.”  (Winzet, Certain Tractates, ‘Introduction’, p. xxxv)

From a simple skim of the Questions, it is clear what profound misconceptions and ignorance Winzet had of the doctrine and practice of the ‘Calvinian Preachers’.   The previous question (#66) had asked how the ‘Calvinian Preachers’ could reprove a heretic who denies the Holy Trinity, seeing as “ye will approve nothing but expressly written…  how establish ye your doctrine, seeing their names are not written expressly in Scripture?”  Thus, Winzet Q. 67 is not only criticizing them for following the practice of a Pope, but is quick to charge them with inconsistency upon a claimed, universal, public and explicit profession of the Trinity.  However, even in these thinly-veiled attacks, it appears Winzet actually is desirous of finding out the Calvinian Preachers’ true practice and thoughts.  What is clear, though, is that Winzet’s manuscript was initially aimed for fellow Romanists, as it was first circulated in those circles (Ibid.), in order to gain the easy triumph.

Winzet’s dependence for his knowledge of the Calvinian Preachers’ practice on his memory of reading books (which he did not have with him) and on hear-say from other people is significant.  ‘Calvinian’ is a broad term, referring to all those who had been significantly influenced by Calvin’s thought and practice, including the Anglican divines and the Church of England (with whom the Scottish reformers were intimately acquainted and influenced by).  All the previous Books of Common Prayer (1549, 1552, 1559) of the Church of England had contained and enjoined the universal practice of repeating the doxology after singing psalms.

Further, the reform-minded leaders and congregations in Scotland from 1550-1560 were using the Book of Common Prayer for their worship.¹  Knox, in 1555, said:

“…I began to declare what opinion I had sometime of the English Book, what moved me from the same, and what was my opinion presently.  I had once a good opinion of the Book, I said, but even so, I added, like as yours is at the present that it ought not in all points to be observed…  and by contemplation of our estate, which requireth all our doings to have an open defence of the Scriptures (especially in God’s service to admit nothing without God’s Word) I was driven away from my first opinion…”

– Knox, Works,  vol 4, ‘A Narrative by Knox of the Proceedings of the English Church at Frankfurt…’, p. 43

¹ William Maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland  (Oxford, 1955), pp. 43-45.

In 1557 the Protestant nobles of Scotland enjoined the use of the English Book of Common Prayer “in the parish kirks”† of Scotland.  This would last, officially, till it was replaced at 1560.  According to Maxwell the Book of Common Prayer “continued in use in some, perhaps many, parishes until well into the 1570’s [possibly by those of the more episcopal bent].” (History of Worship, p. 45)

† Knox, Works, 1.275; see the discussion in Thomas M’Crie, Life of John Knox…, vol. 1  (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1831), ‘Note DD’, pp. 437-441

The doxology Winzet quotes is the Gloria Patri, which is that prescribed in the English Book of Common Prayer.  It does not reflect the variegated doxologies that would arise in Scotland in 1567, 1575 or 1595.  It seems very likely that Winzet, in claiming that the Calvinian Preachers sang the doxology ‘at the end of every psalm’ (an exact quote from the Book of Common Prayer), was dependent on the English Book of Common Prayer and the known practice that the reformed-minded, Scottish preachers and populace had been largely using the English Book of Common Prayer during the previous decade.

The views and practice of Knox and the ‘Calvinian Preachers’, however, were not stationary.  Knox’s main contention at the “strangers’ church” in Frankfort, Germany, in 1554-5, was against the ‘ceremonies’ of the English Book of Common Prayer¹ (which included the doxology).  When Knox left for Geneva and drew up there his order of service for his congregation in 1556, it did not include the doxology.  When the Church of Scotland, in control of the ‘Calvinian Preachers’, adopted the Book of Common Order in 1562 & 1564, based on Knox’s 1556, Genevan order, it did not include the doxology.

¹ See The Liturgy of Compromise used in the English Congregation at Frankfort, ‘Introduction’  in The Second Prayer Book of King Edward the Sixth and the Liturgy of Compromise  ed. Wotherspoon & Sprott (Edin.: Blackwood, 1905), pp. 205-229

Hence, as Fleming noted regarding Winzet:

“…the bare word of one who probably never attended a Protestant service in his life is not enough to overturn such a contention, seeing that not one of the known editions of the Book of Common Order, or Psalm-Book, printed before 1575 contains a single doxology.  If they had been in common use, they would surely have been printed with the Psalms, at the end of each of which Winzet alleges they were sung in 1563.”

Critical Reviews, pp. 490-1


Doxologies in the Good & Godly Ballads

The fullest martialling of evidence for the singing of doxologies in the Church of Scotland’s early history is found in the 14 pages of Ch. 6 in McMillan.  While McMillan came after Fleming, and critiques him at points, McMillan does not cite any evidence that Fleming was not aware of, or was not likely aware of.  McMillan cites a few various works of Fleming, but appears to be unaware of Fleming’s four-part article on ‘Hymnology’, where Fleming treats of the issues in the fullest depth (which was buried in a small denominational magazine from about 50 years before McMillan gave his lectures).  Fleming has yet the fullest tracing of the history of the development of the doxology during the Second Reformation era.  We will proceed with updating Fleming’s work by handling some of the more conspicuous arguments that McMillan gave.

After giving prominence to Winzet’s testimony, McMillan relates:

“Doxologies were certainly used by the Reformed in the days preceding 1560.  Several of the Wedderburn’s songs end with such.” (p. 88)

McMillan footnotes a reference in the Good & Godly Ballads, which have already been noted by David Laing not to have been used in public worship.  The Good and Godly Ballads sometimes went under the name of the Wedderburns, as John and Robert Wedderburn (fl. c. 1540) wrote some of the songs contained in it.  However the collection of Good and Godly Ballads contained material from various authors.  David Laing, an editor of a reprint of the collection, said:

“That either of them was the collector or editor of the volume, or that any considerable portion of it was printed in Scotland prior to the Reformation, are points which seem to be highly improbable.” (Preface, pp. viii-ix)

It has been previously remarked the earliest known edition of the volume is only from 1567.  The ‘doxology’ that McMillan cites appears at the end of a song (pp. 126-7) which is plainly intended for going to bed at night.  Another doxology that McMillan quotes is from a song about Christ’s nativity (pp. 67-8), or, in the words of McMillan, a ‘Christmas Hymn’.  If it is wondered what the official position of the Church of Scotland was on Christmas, the First Book Book of Discipline (1560), ‘First Head’, said:

“…we understand whatsoever men, by laws, councils, or constitutions have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandment of God’s word: such as…  keeping of holy days of certain saints commanded by man, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the feasts (as they term them) of apostles, martyrs, virgins, of Christmas…  Which things, because in God’s scriptures they neither have commandment nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this realm; affirming further, that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abominations ought not to escape the punishment of the civil magistrate.”

It is clear from both of these ‘doxologies’, by the specific details mentioned in their last lines, that neither of them were transferable to other songs, nor were they intended to be.


The View of Knox: Doxologies in Prayer

What then was the view of Knox and the early Scottish reformers about doxologies?

The later Scottish minister, church historian, antiquary and defender of the covenanters, Robert Wodrow (1679–1734), said that in a public worship service in 1560 Knox used a ‘doxology’.¹  However, Wodrow said that in this ‘doxology’, “Christ is owned to be their Lord, King and only Bishop”, which does not fit with the Gloria Patri.  In fact, Wodrow seems to imply that the ‘doxology’ (meaning ‘super-abundant praise’) was part of the minister’s prayer.

¹ Wodrow, Collections upon the Lives of the Reformers…  vol. 1  (Glasgow: 1834), p. 79

Upon turning to the passage in Knox’s ‘The Form and Order of the Election of the Superintendent…’, which was intended to be provided as a form for the Church at large, it is seen that Knox does not use the term ‘doxology’ at all, and Wodrow’s reference refers to the doxological character of Knox’s recorded public prayer set in that service.²  The service itself contains no sung doxology, nor does the service of ‘The Election of Elders and Deacons…’³

² The Books of Discipline and of Common Order…  and the Order of Election of Superintendents…  (Edinburgh: Edin. Printing & Publishing Co., 1836), pp. 223-4

³ This latter document was written as early as 1569 and approved by the General Assembly for the purpose in 1582, The Books of Discipline, p. 226 fn.

The minister’s service in the ‘The Order of Public Worship’ in the Book of Common Order opens with a prayer of the minister confessing sin on behalf of all.  It ends with a prayed, Trinitarian doxology, “To thee, therefore, O Father, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end.  So be it.”ª  Similar but natural, prayed variations of doxological, Trinitarian praise occur at the end of numerous (but not all) of the offered prayers in the weekly service and in the Book of Common Order in general.º

ª The Liturgy of John Knox, Received by the Church of Scotland in 1564  (Glasgow: Univ. Press, 1886), p. 92

º Liturgy of Knox, pp. 95, 97, 123, 126, 128-9, 144, 166, etc.

While Knox frequently mentions the singing of psalms in his six volumes of works, he never mentions singing a doxology.  The only time “the hymns of the Church” is mentioned in his works, it is in reference to the unreformed, 1530’s worship of the Church of England, that comment being supplied by the editor. (Laing, 1844, 1.40)

Hence, given that singing the Gloria Patri was a live and well known option in that day, yet it was ignored and dropped from the Book of Common Order and other public orders of service, it seems established that the decided position of Knox and the Scottish reformers was to use instead natural Trinitarian, doxological praise in the ministerial prayers offered on behalf of the congregation unto God in public worship.  This is further confirmed in that the prayers in the Scottish orders of service are more pronounced in the doxological nature of their Trinitarian praise than the previous prayers of The Form of Prayers authored by Calvin as they were used for public worship in Geneva from 1542 and following.†

† See Reformation Worship: Liturgies form the Past for the Present  ed. Jonathan Gibson & Mark Earngey  (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2018), ch. 12, ‘Form of Ecclesiastical Prayers (1545, 1542, 1566), John Calvin’, pp. 299-336

The practice of the Scottish reformers is not only allowed by Scripture, but is eminently Biblical, insofar as Christ gave a pattern for prayer (Mt. 6:9) to his disciples ending with a doxology, and as the apostles and others frequently pray doxologies (Rom. 11:33-36; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:21; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:12-13; 7:12; often of a Trinitarian nature, Rom. 16:25-27; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 3:20-21; Jude 24-25; Rev. 1:5-6) in a concluding fashion, though they do not always end their prayers therewith as a rule.  In addition to this, the exclusive psalmody, Scottish reformers, as well as those today who follow in their Biblical steps, sing Scriptural doxologies constantly¹ in singing the Holy Spirit’s psalms (Ps. 18:2; 21:13; 24:7-10; 29:1-2; 41:13; 45:2,6-7; 47:6-8; 57:5,10-11; 59:17; 66:4; 67:3-4; 68:34-35; 70:4; 72:17-19; 89:52; 96:7-9; 99:1-3,9; 100:5; 103:20-22; 106:48; 136:4-5; 148; 150; etc.).

¹ More so than the current, common custom of singing the uninspired doxologies Gloria Patri and ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow…’ only once a service.

This Biblical practice will be seen to have been exemplified by Alexander Henderson and argued by Rutherford’s protege, Robert MacWard.


A Doxology in 1567?

On the last page of the earliest known edition of the Good and Godly Ballads, from 1567, is printed the title page¹ of a psalter.  On the back of that page is printed in meter 16 lines.  The first four and last four form a prayer each.  The middle eight are a doxology.  At the top is written: “Sing these four verses [lines] after every psalm as follows.”  Above the eight lines of doxology is written: “And if ye please to sing this Gloria Patri.”

¹ Found after the Introduction in Mitchell, A Compendious Book

McMillan follows Alexander Mitchell in thinking that the psalter at one time had been printed and bound with the Good and Godly Ballads, the psalter following the Ballads in the volume.  The theory is that after 1568, when the General Assembly condemned a ‘bawdy’ song appended to a ‘Psalm Book’,² that the book of Ballads was then separated from the psalter, taking with it the title page of the psalter.  The psalter was then given a new title page.

² This ‘Psalm Book’ undoubtedly refers to a psalter or to the Book of Common Order bound with a psalter, and not to the Good and Godly Ballads.

Fleming, on the other hand says that “it has been suggested that the leaf [with the title page on it] was utilized in this way to serve as an advertisement of a forthcoming or projected edition of the Psalter,” and that it “has been doubted whether this edition [of the psalter] was ever really printed.” (Reformation, pp. 305-6)

Mitchell’s theory seemed ‘improbable’ to Fleming for two reasons.  The first was that “Had the Psalter and the Ballatis been bound up together as one book, surely the Psalter would have received the place of honor [in front of the Ballads].” (Reformation, p. 306, fn.)  McMillan responded to this saying, “This argument would have more weight if the Psalms printed in the Gude and Godlie Ballads had occupied that place of honor, but, as has been stated, they did not.” (p. 88, fn.)

McMillan was referring to the fact that in the three sections of songs in the Ballads, the doctrinal content came first (a catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, etc.), then the Psalms, and then secular songs turned into hymns.  However, if the Ballads were for private use (to keep people from spending their recreational time in ‘harlotry’, per the title), then this is exactly what one would expect: the doctrinal matter comes first in order to teach people in the Christian faith, then comes the divinely given psalms for the praise of God, and then, only after that, human hymns are provided for further recreational and edifying material.

With regard to volumes intended for public use, the hymns appended to psalters always came after the psalter itself (for the obvious reason that the psalms were regularly used in the Church’s worship).  The additional hymns never came before the psalms.  On the other hand, if Mitchell’s theory were true, persons would have taken this 1567 hymnal-psalter to worship and would have had to flip through all of the hymns to get to the psalms that they were regularly singing in public worship.  Fleming’s argument stands.

To understand Fleming’s second argument, one needs to understand how books were made in that era.  The printer would use a large, over-sized piece of paper which would be folded one or more times, depending on the size of the book.  Those folded papers would be placed together and bound to form the book.  Once the outlying folds were cut, the pages would be ready to read.  Hence, the first pages in a book would be part of the front page-folds of the larger paper, and the end pages of a book would be part of the end page-folds, or end half-sheets, of the larger paper.  In addition, when books were bound together into the same volume, it was not often done with continuous page numbering or page folding.  Rather, it was usually done simply by binding two separate volumes together, each with their own independent page-folding (which also was easier and cheaper).  Advertisements for projected books of a publisher were normally placed at the end of the volume, and it is a matter of history that many of them were never completed.

Fleming’s second argument was that, “if the Psalter had been completed [and hence actually bound after the Ballads], or intended to be completed, it is not likely that the title-page [of the psalter] would have been printed on the concluding leaf of a half-sheet.” (Reformation, p. 306 fn.)  To this argument McMillan does not respond.  If Fleming’s second argument is not of itself determinative, the following is:

WorldCat, the largest, contemporary catalogue of books from across the world’s libraries, lists no other known edition of the purported 1567 psalter except the bare page at the back of the Good and Godly Ballads volume.  The notes on the listing say, “Although psalms alone are called for on the titlepage, no separate Scottish edition of the psalms is known this early; see STC 2701 for the first independent edition.”  The first known independent edition of a Scottish psalter, according to Short Title Catalogue #2,701 is from 1596.

A third argument will yet be given:  The end of the ‘doxology’ has the very individualistic couplet: “Which Godhead never shall remove, Lord God deliver me.”  The appropriateness of this as a repetitive conclusion for congregational worship is questionable, though it may have been thought appropriate for private use.  As will be further seen, printers often added their own material and advice to these psalters at their own behest.  Hence McMillan’s conclusion that “the Gloria if not commanded was certainly allowed” in public worship, still has not been established.


The Development of Doxologies

The development of using doxologies, in some context in Scotland, only occurred slowly over decades.  A doxology for Psalm 148 (and only that psalm) turned up in a 1575 psalter, not after Psalm 148, but appended to the back of the psalter.ª  The very appending of it to the rear of the psalter, out of sight for when persons actually sang psalm 148 in public worship, makes it doubtful whether the doxology was actually used in public worship, especially as others were likely using psalters that did not have that appendix.  That doxology was retained in a 1587 psalter.

ª Scottish Psalter, Diss. II, p. 13

“No advance beyond this seems to have been made until”† a fully formed set of 32 doxologies occurred in a psalter of 1595-6, “one adapted to each form of meter; the intention being that each Psalm should be terminated by one of these formulas.”º  These doxologies in this edition by Henrie Charteris may be viewed in Livingston, Appendix, V – Conclusions to the Psalms, pp. VI-IX.  Subsequent editions are not uniform: “The Conclusions disappear from the editions of 1611 and 1615, but are restored in that of 1633.”¹

† Fleming, p. 36
º Scottish Psalter, Diss. II, p. 14 & App., p. iv.  The Scottish spelling and variants in the doxologies manifest that they were of Scottish origin (and not English).
¹ Ibid., App., p. ix

With regard to this mixed evidence, Fleming notes, “Few people will be inclined to lay much stress on the solitary doxology of 1575 & 1587; and as little can really be laid on the multifarious collection of 1595, for various reasons.” (p. 36)  Some of those reasons respecting the 1595 edition of the Book of Common Order are that:

– Charteris was not the King’s printer, and the special title page to the Psalms suggests that all of the appendages to the psalter were exactly that, appendages of the publisher, and not something authorized for, or even condoned for public worship (the psalter never claims such):

The Psalms of David in Metre.  According as they are sung in the Kirk of Scotland.  Together with the Conclusion, or Gloria Patri, after the Psalme: and also a Prayer after every Psalm, agreeing with the meaning thereof.  (Livingston, p. 72, no. 3rd)

– The publisher deliberately made available various portions of the psalter and the prose appendages as separate, smaller volumes so as to make the the portions easier for ‘men in travel’ to carry and for children to buy ‘of easy price’, as ‘the discreet reader’ is told by the printer. (Livingston, p. 14 & App. p. II)

– Fleming relates with regard to the appended features of this edition: “The printers of those days, as has been already shown, took a good deal upon them; and Charteris seems in this edition to have eclipsed them all.”  The edition, in five parts, not only containsª the psalter, psalm headings with a summary of each psalm, printed tunes, ‘prayers used in the Kirk’, doctrinal material (including a children’s catechism), a treatise on fasting, the Order of Excommunication, a treatise on excommunication, Bible-songs, hymns and the doxologies, but also a prayer after every psalm ‘agreeing with the meaning thereof’ and an almanac-calendar with a short, quaint, metered poem for each month.  The poem for October reads:

“Warm clothes man now prepared be,
Also warm meats are good for thee,
Have good regard they feet be dry,
Thou shall avoid great harm thereby.”

ª This edition is most fully described in Robert Dickson & John Edmond, Annals of Scottish Printing...  (Cambridge, 1890), pp. 371-3

– The only psalters Charteris published were this one and one the year before (the contents of which are not known in detail).  Charteris’s son Robert took over his printing business at his death in 1599.  Robert and other ‘heirs of Charteris’ published only three further editions of psalters in 1601 and 1603.  None of them contained doxologies.

Fleming observes:

“Must it be understood that because these verses are in [an appendix to a psalter appended to] the Book of Common Order they were sanctioned by the Church?…  It might be further inferred that the printer was alone responsible for these additions; and this is borne out by the omission of the of the conclusions from so many later editions, and the prayers from all others.  It is not reasonable to suppose that the printers would have left out the conclusions, if they had been in general use…” (Fleming, p. 37)


Were Doxologies Ever Officially Sanctioned?

McMillan notes that though there is no evidence that the doxologies were ever officially approved by the Church of Scotland, yet “considering the scanty records of the period in question that is not to be wondered at.”  This response, however, is inadequate upon three grounds:

1. The process that brought the paraphrases of Bible-songs officially into the Church was extremely long and drawn out, primarily due to, amongst other reasons, the lack of interest, and that staggering when present.  Besides beginning precedents in the mid-1600’s, the notion only got officially brought again in 1706, only to be delayed till 1741.  In 1751 the Bible-songs were commended by the Church to be used privately in families.  Only in 1781 were the Bible-songs officially allowed to be used in public worship.¹  Needless to say, nothing of the sort occurred for doxologies in the late-1500’s and early- 1600’s.

¹ M’Crie, Public Worship, pp. 278-290

2. If doxologies were ever officially allowed by the Church at that early time, one can be quite sure that persons later in the 1640’s would have appealed to such for the practice.  Yet when the practice of singing the Gloria Patri became very common by the 1640’s, and it became a matter of hot dispute not to sing the Gloria Patri amongst the presbyterians in Scotland, no one has been documented being able to appeal to the Church officially sanctioning its use (and Baillie does not in his discussion with the yeomen).

3. When the Church did officially address the practice of the singing of the doxology during the Westminster era, the Church enjoined that it may be allowed to fall into ‘desuetude’.  Addressing the practice this way is not what one would expect if the Church had previously, at any time, positively sanctioned the use of doxologies.  Another ‘ceremony’ that singing the doxology was paired with was the minister bowing and praying before entering the pulpit, yet this practice was not officially sanctioned either.

(The same may be said for Scripture-songs.  Most of the early ‘spiritual songs’ appended to psalters were Scripture-songs.  The fact that they were not officially approved for public worship in the Church of Scotland till 1781, reflects on their status previous to that time.)

McMillan then brings an argument from the Church exercising overseeing control of religious literature printed in that era:

“…when one considers that the supreme court [of the Church] (Calderwood, 3.338) claimed and exercised the right of overseeing any work touching ‘religion or doctrine’, it is very difficult to believe that they allowed these to be printed in the Psalter, if they did not approve of them.  Judging from the intervention which the Assembly exercised in other matters of church life, it is impossible to hold that they permitted these to be used in public worship without their consent.”

This argument is inadequate, however, for the following reasons:

1. McMillan footnotes the instance of the General Assembly of 1568 censuring and restraining the circulation of a ‘bawdy’ song appended to a Psalm book (Book of the Universal Kirk, 1839, pp. 100-101).  This example though, is evidently of a song that the Assembly thought to be inherently immoral, and possibly that it contained false doctrine (it was entitled, ‘Welcome Fortune’; another book of the same printer was also censured at the same time as it appeared to contain false doctrine).  This ground for censure is exactly what is spoken to in the Calderwood reference that McMillan provides.

2. Contrary to McMillan’s assumption, there still is no evidence that the doxologies were used in public worship, and hence the regulatory administration of the Assembly’s enactments did not necessarily consent to their use in public worship.  It is true that the printing of the doxologies as appendices to the psalter was tolerated, just as hymns were, though singing hymns in public worship was against the Assembly’s Act of 1564.  Clearly these things were tolerated as they had the appearance of possibly being used for edification outside of public worship, just as many of the very-inappropriate-for-public-worship, Good and Godly Ballads were.  This is sufficient to answer McMillan’s argument that, “It would be equally true to say that there is no evidence that the Assembly made any objection to the use of these additional forms of praise…” (p. 89)

3. McMillan, in his statement, equates toleration with approval, as if there could be no difference.  However, toleration without approval of the Church occurred in numerous instances, specifically when, in the 1640’s, the Church officially allowed the practice of the singing of the doxology to fall into ‘desuetude’ without approving it or condemning it.

4. Despite the evidence for some regulation of religious books being printed in Scotland at that time, there is also significant evidence that printers often printed as they willed, such as the 1611 example of a printer introducing for the first time (with his reasons stated, at his prerogative) the song of Moses in meter: ‘The Printer to the Reader’.  A modern scholar, William Cowan, who was not friendly to presbyterianism, but did have an exhaustive acquaintance with the available evidence, said:

“A comparison of the contents of the different editions [of the Scottish psalters]…  reveals the somewhat remarkable fact that these contents vary considerably, both in regard to the matter included and the order and arrangement of the several items.  There seems to be no evidence that these changes were made by authority, or even had ecclesiastical sanction….  and, as a matter of fact, these printers made additions and changes without being called in question for so doing…  Charteris…  made extensive changes in the arrangement of the book, for which he gives his own reasons without any reference to church authority.”

A Bibliography of the Book of Common Order and Psalm Book of the Church of Scotland: 1556-1644  (Edinburgh: Privately Printed, 1913), p. 6-7

The contemporary scholar, Duguid, with an equally comprehensive view of the evidence, confirms:

“Variations between the hundreds of psalter editions printed within this time‐span suggest that a strict standardising authority overseeing psalter printing did not exist and that performance practice varied widely.” (Sing a New Song, vol. 1, pp. 253-4)

5. That the existence of a practice, even in public worship, but especially as appended by printers to the Book of Common Order, does not imply that the Church of Scotland condoned it, is amply see in numerous instances.  One such instance is that, though about half of the seventy editions of the Book of Common Order from 1560-1644 contained calendars of church seasons and festival days.†

Yet these editions, possibly printed by prelatic sympathizers, went contrary to the established Church law set forth in the First Book of Discipline (1560, First Head: ‘Of Doctrine’) which explicitly called for the abolishing of such holy-days, they having no warrant in God’s Word.  The General Assembly, in their letter to Theodore Beza in 1564 (Works of John Knox, vol. 6, pp. 547-8), concerning the Second Helvetic Confession, also excluded such holy-days for the same reason.  Calderwood showed that from the beginning of the Reformation to 1618, the Church of Scotland, in various ways, condemned all observation of such holy days except Lord’s Day.‡

Fleming’s argument against Bonar about appended hymns to editions of the Book of Common Order equally applies to doxologies:

“Why, it may well be asked, has Dr. Bonar ignored the Calendar and Fairs which appear in so many editions of the Book of Common Order?  Was it because they savor of Prelacy, and so might have destroyed his argument by proving too much?” (p. 469 online)

† John A. Lamb, ‘The Kalendar of the Book of Common Order: 1564-1644’, Scottish Church History Society  (1956)

Perth Assembly… ([no place or publisher,] 1619), ‘Reasons Against Festival Days’, pp. 63-64


Doxologies in the Early-1600’s

The rise of Episcopacy in the Church of Scotland occurred in the early-1800’s, until it would rooted out in the Second Reformation in 1638.  The last General Assembly to be recognized as lawful by the 1638/9 Assemblies was the Assembly in 1602.  Those from 1606-1618 were declared unlawful.

After the full set of doxologies appended to the 1595/6 psalter, they disappear altogether in the editions of 1611 & 1615, though they would again be restored in some manner in 1633, 1635, and of course with the 1637 Book of Common Prayer that was sought to be imposed on Scotland (which did not go over very well with Jenny Geddes).

If doxologies were common in the early-1600’s, one might expect them to show up in some way, shape or form in a worship service.  During this time no mention is made of hymns or doxologies in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery, and Synod of Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1846), though the public ‘singing of psalms’ was prescribed for funerals in 1606 (p. 54).  In 1604 the Aberdeen session had ordained:

“…that all men and women in this burgh which can read, and are of famous report and ability, shall have bibles and psalm books of their own, and shall bring the same with them to their parish kirks, thereon to read and praise God, conform to the acts of parliament made thereanent.” (p. 40)

As psalters were commonly appended to the Book of Common Order, even as early as the 1560’s books of Common Order were often or usually simply referred to as ‘Psalm-books’.  Hence, in the quote above, the people likely had in hand the Book of Common Order with their psalter; hence the ‘acts of parliament’ which they were to conform to were most likely those given in the Book of Common Order, which were those from the beginning of the Reformation in 1564.  Of course, the Book of Common Order provided for nothing in the public worship of the Church besides the psalms.  When the Aberdeen session records provided an instance of such reform to the public worship service in 1611, in light of the singing of psalms having fallen into disuse (likely due to the difficulty in some places of getting the people to sing together well), the only thing said to be reinstated for sung-praise was the singing of psalms. (p. 75)

The General Assembly of 1608 concluded in this way: “Thanks being given to God…  by prayer and singing of psalms, the same was dismissed.” (Calderwood, History, 6.776)

The absence of anything sung besides the psalms is strikingly evident even in Episcopalian controlled worship services at this time.  William Cowper (1568–1619) was made bishop of Galloway in 1612.  Fleming records:

“…soon after he wrote the Seven Days Conference, in which he has given the fullest description which we now have of the worship of the Church of Scotland in those days.  He refers several times to the singing of Psalms, without the slightest reference to hymns or doxologies.” (p. 38)

In describing the service conducted by the preacher, Cowper concluded:

“The preaching being ended, he concludes all with a thanksgiving [in prayer], after which there is a Psalm sung by the whole congregation, and then the minister blesses the people in the name of the Lord, and so demits them: you will see no other thing here.”

– William Cowper, Seven Days Conference between a Catholick christian, and a Catholicke Roman. Concerning some controversies of religion.  (London, 1613), ‘The Seventh’, p. 219

Cowper’s conclusion, “you will see no other thing here” is significant in light of the fact that this representative Scottish worship service was being described to a Roman Catholic; Roman Catholics sung the Gloria Patri in their worship as a matter of course.

How did a staunch presbyterian generally view doxologies at this time?  Patrick Simson (1556-1618) in 1613 complained in his magnum opus on Church history that the Spanish Fourth Council of Toledo (A.D. 633) was “superstitious out of measure even beyond the Roman Church in doxologies, when Gloria Patri is sung…”†

†  A Short Compend of the Historie of the First Ten Persecutions moved against Christians…  (Edinburgh), p. 67.  Simson goes on to speak of the end of the Lord’s Prayer as being a doxology, yet this is a prayer; Simson does not speak of it as being sung.

In 1614, Hart (one of the only two publishers printing psalters at this time in Scotland) “printed what would become one of his most influential Scottish psalters…  it was the most musically complete metrical psalter printed for Scottish use since Isaac Canin’s 1601 octavo edition;” yet it did not have doxologies in it. (Duguid, p. 232)  Hart’s choice not to include the doxologies appears to have been very deliberate in that the edition of his psalms and their tune recommendations was closely based upon the edition of Charteris (which had the full set of doxologies in it):

“…Hart’s 1614 edition more closely followed Charteris’ 1596 edition, having only 14 differences in tunes and tune suggestions.  This suggests Hart made a conscious effort to discard many of the innovations in Scottish psalters printed by both him and others over the previous 18 years.” (Ibid.)

About the year 1616, Robert Blair (1593–1666), who would shortly become one of the right-wing, ‘Irish Innovators’, said:

“At this time I observed little controversy in religion in the Kirk of Scotland; for though there were bishops, yet they took little upon them, and so were very little opposed until Perth Assembly.”

The Life of Mr. Robert Blair  ed. Thomas M’Crie  (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1848), p. 12


Circa the Articles of Perth, 1618

The significance of the following (somewhat detailed) history will be to show the predominance of exclusive-psalmody through this period, and also the encroaching episcopalianism, which entailed the doxology.

The Episcopalian Assemblies of 1606-1618 had made attempts to set aside the Book of Common Order.  The episcopalian Articles of Perth (1618) proved to be a major landmark in this era, imposing five objectionable worship practices upon the Church of Scotland (though the Articles did not touch on the sung praise of the Church itself).  However, before the Articles of Perth, there was a little-known, failed attempt to revise the Scottish liturgy across the land, which will shed light upon our subject.

The General Assembly of 1616, under orders of King James I (prodded by ‘the vehement insistence of his [Scottish, episcopal] commissioners’),¹ appointed a committee to revise the liturgy and to draw up a new form that was to be strictly followed at all times in public worship.ª  A committee prepared a draft of this new liturgy and submitted it to the King, which appeared to remain under his review until his death in 1625.  From thence Charles I took it up, though at the prevalency of Archbishop Laud, it was turned down in preference for the near-full, English Liturgy that was sought to be imposed on Scotland in 1637.²

¹ Irwin, p. 28

ª Book of the Universal Kirk, pp. 595-596; the account is taken generally from George Sprott, The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland…  (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1868), p. xvi.  Irwin gives a fuller history in the first part of his correspondence below.

² Irwin, pp. 29-30

The 1616 liturgyº was “very much a compromise betwixt the English Liturgy and the Book of Common Order.” (Sprott, Common Order, p. xvi)  A manuscript copy of the liturgy (as revised probably between 1625-30)³ was preserved in the British Museum, and was minutely described by a Rev. Alexander Iwrin in five letters to The British Magazine and Monthly Register of Religious and Ecclesiastical Information…  in 1845-1846, in vol. 28, pp. 26-33; 148-152; 364-369; 621-627 & vol. 29, pp. 169-174; 539-543.

º Published in George W. Sprott, Scottish Liturgies of the Reign of James VI…  (Edinburgh: Edmonston, 1871)
³ Irwin, p. 30

The person principally responsible for drawing up the 1616, draft-liturgy was the previously mentioned bishop, William Cowper of Galloway. (Irwin, p. 28)  In the Morning Services of this liturgy, “part of a Psalm is to be sung between the Lessons instead of the [hymn] Te Deum or [the apocryphal] Benedicte…” (McMillan, p. 105)  Irwin further described:

“the Venite [Ps. 95]…  is directed to be ‘said or sung’, but which has not the doxology at the end of it; then a rubric directing the minister to ‘read the psalms appointed for the morning of that day: at the end whereof he shall say, Glory be to the Father, etc.’  Then comes the following rubric: ‘After this he shall read two chapters, the first of the old testament, the second of the new, as is appointed in the table, and after each chapter a part of a psalm is to be sung.†

† Here a mark * is made in the manuscript, and the letter ‘a’ is written in the margin, as if calling attention to this departure from the English prayer-book [which contained the Gloria Patri].”

British Magazine (London, 1845), vol. 28, p. 31; for the Gloria Patri, see Sprott, Scottish Liturgies, pp. 23 & 31.

Though a sung-doxology by the people formed no part of the service, yet it was intended to be inserted into the Scottish service via the means of the minister saying it after reading the psalms (while there is nothing theologically wrong with this, yet it shows its entrance from the episcopal side by degrees).

The prescribed Evening Service included singing the Bible-songs Magnificat and the Song of Simeon. (Sprott, Scottish Liturgies, p. 31)  This is the first clear evidence of Bible-songs being intended for public worship in Scotland since the Reformation.  This episcopal precedent is relevant to the rise of their use, as will be seen, in the 1630’s and later in considering the preparation of the Bible-songs for possible public use in the late-1640’s by Zachary Boyd for the Church of Scotland.

While this 1616 liturgy does not explicitly appear to have been for the purpose of bringing the Church of Scotland into full conformity to the English liturgy,¹ according to the official documents that Irwin cites, yet this apparently was only due to the difficulty that the Scottish bishops and bishop John Maxwell foresaw that they would encounter in seeking to impose the liturgy on the people² (it appears that the bishops did not in principle object to anything in the English liturgy, as is brought to light from the later history).

¹ Nothing in Irwin’s account explicitly suggests this, except as the push for this came from Archbishop Laud (on the English side) in the end, and resulted in the imposition of the 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer.

² Irwin, pp. 29-30

Yet, for whatever careful restraint the Scottish bishops had, the English King, in blissful ignorance, had much less.  In order to prepare the way for the implementation of the new 1616 liturgy being worked on, the King ordered that in 1617 the full English liturgy (with the Gloria Patri) should be used daily in the chapel of his Scottish residence, the Holyrood palace.†

† John Skinner, An Ecclesiastical History of Scotland…  vol. 2 (London, 1788), p. 283.  Skinner, of the later Scottish Episcopal Church, declared as antecedent to this context, that King James, “had done so much, and struggled so long, to accomplish this desirable end, and to bring the church in his native kingdom [Scotland] as near as possible to a conformity with the Church of England…” (Ibid.)

Whatever were the motivations behind the 1616 draft-liturgy, those surrounding the imposition of the Articles of Perth (1618) were much more clear.  The Five Articles of Perth were:

“…devised by King James VI to impose episcopalian worship ceremonies on a reluctant CoS [Church of Scotland]…  The King [had] visited Scotland in 1617 in the company of his persuasive chaplain, William Laud, the better to cajole the Church into submission to the ceremonies of English episcopacy.”

– Sherman Isbell, ‘Perth, Five Articles of’ in Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology  ed. Nigel Cameron  (IVP, 1993), p. 654

Yet, nonetheless, the content of worship song was not affected by these Articles.  A modern scholar wrote:

“Ordinary Sunday worship was not affected by the Perth Articles, and the great Sunday morning service of prayer and psalm, Scripture and sermon remained the most significant moment in the weekly rhythm of the church’s life.”

– Walter Foster, The Church Before the Covenants: the Church of Scotland, 1596-1638 (Ediburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1975), p. 200

In 1621, Scottish bishop David Lindsay (d. 1641), a member of the High Commission, wrote a book¹ defending the Perth Assembly.  In the Preface to the work he mentions the content of a normal worship service, which only lists the ‘singing of Psalms’ as sung-praise to God.  In the larger work, Lindsay mentions the singing of psalms numerous times, though never hymns or doxologies.

¹ A True Narration of all the Passages of the proceedings in the generall Assembly of the Church of Scotland, holden at Perth…  (London, 1621)

Despite Lindsay’s strong statements in the Preface as to the seeming exclusivity of Scriptural worship, yet he makes the qualification that “the form and order how the worship and work of the Ministry should be performed…  the Church hath power to define…”  That Lindsay understood all the ceremonies of the English liturgy, including the Gloria Patri, to fall under this latter category, is clear in that he was the bishop reading the Book of Common Prayer in 1637 in Edinburgh when Jenny Geddes threw her stool at him.


The 1620’s & the Lord’s Supper

In 1620 a minister near Edinburgh was called before the episcopal court of the High Commission over conformity to the articles of Perth.  While the specific points at hand were with regard to the administration of the Lord’s Supper and not observing holy-days, the minister’s defense would seem to reflect on the status and practice of psalmody according to Church law:

“Neither is there any warrantable form directed nor approven by the kirk beside that which is in print before the Psalm Book, according to the which, likeas I have always done, so now I minister that sacrament.” (Calderwood, History, 7.422)

Calderwood defended some ‘honest men’ in 1624 who would not attend the ‘Communions’ of certain Episcopal ministers (where kneeling before the Eucharist, according to the Articles of Perth, would be involved, amongst other things).  In doing so, he said (again reflecting on the status and practice of psalmody according to Church law):

“…the Kirk of Scotland is bound by the Confession of Faith to maintain the order of ministration which was received in this kirk when the Confession of Faith was first subscribed, which order is registered in the First Book of Discipline, and in our Psalm Books, and is still practiced by two parts at lest of the congregations of Scotland, still opposing to these innovations.” (History, 7.618)

In 1623 Calderwood described in his Altar of Damascus, pp. 776-7 the communion service as it was performed in Scotland, both before his day and during his day.  In the detailed description, the only thing he mentions being sung is psalms.  Calderwood, in differentiating the strict Scottish practice according to the Word of God from the Anglican service (which used the Gloria Patri after psalms daily), said that the minister:

“…adds nothing to the words of Christ, changes nothing, omits nothing…  the Minister delivers the cup to those nearest, repeating the words of Christ, without addition, mixture, change, or omission, and they hand it to those sitting beside them…  In this form our Church has now for sixty years celebrated the Holy Supper.”

– This, as well as a portion of the larger passage has been translated in George W. Sprott, Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland…  (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1868), pp. xxxix-xl

The Book of Common Order confirms that the psalms were the only thing sung in the communion service for the previous 60 years since the Reformation.  It it says, “The action thus ended, the people sing the 103 Psalm, ‘My soul, give laud…’ etc., or some other of thanksgiving…” (p. 145)  As the psalter at that time had nothing but psalms in it, ‘some other of thanksgiving’ could only have referred to a psalm.

Hence, the Scottish reformers understood Christ to have sung a psalm in Mt. 26:30 after the first Lord’s Supper, insofar as the epistle ‘To the Reader’ appended to the communion service in the Book of Common Order says:

“Finally, the ministration ended, we give thanks again [by singing the psalm previously mentioned], according to his example [in Mt. 26:30]: So that without his word and warrant, there is nothing in this holy action attempted.” (p. 146)


Robert Boyd & Hymns

Robert Boyd (1578–1627), a native Scot, studied under Robert Rollock and taught as a professor of philosophy and theology in French academies for a large share of his life.  He was presbyterian by conviction (which he suffered for) and subsequently became the principal at Glasgow University (1615-21) and also Edinburgh University (1622-23).  Amongst other things Boyd was a poet and wrote a massive commentary in Latin on Ephesians.  The commentary, which was published posthumously in 1652, appears to have been composed from serial lectures that he had given.

William Spang (in 1638) introduced the following quote of Boyd On Eph. 5:19 saying, “after that he has answered punctually all the arguments on the contraire and brought in arguments for his conclusion, thus he infers:”

“Wherefore it is possible from the foregoing that we should thus determine the first question, that it is not only lawful but signally advantageous to the edification of the Christian church, and that according to the sense and scope of the teachings of this apostle, to propone [propose] and permit other hymns and spiritual songs which besides these are contained in holy scripture, composed by men of worthy piety and faith, approved by common vote of the churches of at least one kingdom and language, for varied occasions, to be sung by the faithful in a solemn assembly of the church;

indeed from time to time to add as opportunity offers, new songs to earlier ones, first approved by ecclesiastical authority, which answer to the truth of Christian doctrine, the gravity of Christian profession, the purity of divine worship, the sanctity of the Spirit of Christ; which conduce to the elucidation of the glory of God, to the increase of faith and trust in God, to the encouragement and kindling of pious feeling in us; and which, thirdly, approach as closely as possible to the sense and intention of scripture, and of its norm and form, whether in wording or in content.”¹

¹ Robert Boyd, In Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios Praelectiones…  (London, 1652), p. 728 lt. col. F & rt. col. A  as trans. by Spang & Mullan in ‘William Spang to Henry Rollock, 1638’, p. 126  in Religious Controversy in Scotland, 1625-1639  ed. David G. Mullan  in Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, vol 11 (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998).  Boyd’s section on Eph. 5:19, Lecture 140, begins on p. 719, rt. col. A.  In Lecture 141, the first question, which Boyd references above, begins on p. 726, rt col. B.

The theological conclusions of a human writer, of course, are only as good as they are able to derive them from the Scriptures.  To give an example of how Boyd reasons, he argues on p. 727, rt. col. F, that the liberty of content one has in prayer ought to be granted for the content of public, sung-praise.  This has already been shown from Scripture not to follow (in the Intro above).  Boyd also infers from David’s exhortations to sing a new psalm that new uninspired material may be used (p. 727, lt. col. A-D), which has also been addressed (and could be addressed much further).

It should be noted that Boyd does not argue above that hymns ought to be regularly sung in the public worship of the Church, but only that hymns may be proposed and permitted to be sung in a solemn assembly of the Church “for varied occasions”.  It seems that Boyd may have had in mind a person possibly composing a hymn for a great new providential event affecting the Church or nation.  The infrequency of Boyd’s hymn-singing view is confirmed in that he projected hymns to be added to such a collection “from time to time…  as opportunity offers”.  This is confirmed in that:

By the time of Boyd’s death, the Scottish psalters that did have spiritual songs attached to them, had at most about ten, only half of which were hymns (none of which were officially sanctioned by the Church of Scotland). (Cowan, Bibliography, pp. 10-11, 31-9)

Boyd’s language appears to be very deliberate.  His wording that it is ‘lawful’ for the Church to ‘permit’ hymns, as they would be “signally advantageous to the edification of the Christian church”, is not the same as saying that the Church must sing hymns, being absolutely required thereto.  This ensures that Boyd is not condemning any of the reformed, exclusively psalm-singing churches.  It will also be shown to be relevant in showing how, at the Westminster Assembly, individual persons who may have allowed for hymns in their private (or published) opinions could yet agree by majority vote to a document that only provides for psalms in the public worship of the Church.

Boyd’s argument, though, that composing hymns is lawful and even singularly advantageous for the Church upon certain occasions, is troubling in that it poses the moral, insufficiency of the psalter for all of the various occasions that may arise for the Church.  If the Canon of Scripture is sufficient in the applicability of its moral content for every occasions that may arise for the Church, without new Scripture needing to be written, it is not clear why any new praise-songs would need to be written for new occasions when the the applicability of the moral content of the psalter is completely sufficient thereto.  The very fact of God choosing not to preserve in the Canon the prophetically given, new, praise-songs in the early Church (1 Cor. 14) further evidences the sufficiency of the psalter for the praise of the Church in all ages.

Boyd’s sentiment was very different from that of the Reformation Church of Scotland.  The Church had enjoined in 1564 every minister to “have one of the Psalm books lately printed in Edinburgh, and use the order contained therein…”   The Edinburgh psalter of 1564/5 contained no hymns, but it did contain the following sonnet by William Stewart on the sufficiency of the psalter.  Speaking of the Church of Scotland’s faithful pastors, it said:

“Out of whose hands (with great thanks) now receive
All David’s Psalms set forth in pleasant verse:
A greater gift of them thou couldst not crave,
Whose endless fruit my pen cannot rehearse:
For here thou hast, for every accident
That may occur, a doctrine pertinent.”

– Knox, Works 6.334

The most significant thing to note about Boyd’s quote though, is that, for whatever his opinion on the matter was, he does not actually say that any church in Scotland was singing hymns in public worship.  What were Scottish churches in Boyd’s day singing?  After seeking to derive uninspired hymns from David’s injunctions to sing a new song to the Lord, he says without qualification, “But, yet we only sing ancient songs; no new song is heard from our mouth in the church.  Why therefore do we lend a deaf ear to the admonition of David so often repeated?” (p. 727, lt. col. D, trans. Fleming)  Interestingly, with this even agrees Boyd’s published poetry and hymns:

Boyd wrote in Latin a poem of 100 stanzas “to Christ the Savior”, entitled, Hecatomb ad Christum Servatorem.  The poem apparently was not intended to be sung in churches, as it is in Latin.  Nor was it likely to be sung at all, unless one could have found a tune fitting repeating 11-11-11-5 stanzas (they did not have an overwhelming plethora of psalm tunes available in that day).

Boyd’s ‘The Sacrifice of a Sinner, to Christ our Redeemer’ (1628) is in English, though, with a series of 8-8-8-6 stanzas it still is not clear that the average person could have found a tune for it.  The 44 stanzas of the poem seem to make it clear that it at least was not meant to be sung all at once (if it was to be sung at all, which might be doubted).  It very likely was not sung in public worship given the individualistic character of the poem, and it mentioning things like politicians (stanzas 1,2,10,14,16), not to mention that it was not “approved by common vote of the churches of at least one kingdom and language”.

In advocating for uninspired hymns, Boyd was clearly arguing for something new.  The first evidence of an independent praise song, besides a psalm, being sung in a Scottish church in public worship (and the opposition to it) will be seen to have been in the 1630’s, though it was an inspired, Scripture-song, and that Scottish church was not actually in Scotland.


The Two Views of the Development of Doxologies in Scotland

As will be seen by the evidence, there is no doubt that by the early-1640’s a particular doxology, the Gloria Patri, had come to be commonly sung among the presbyterians, with numerous of the Church’s leading lights defending the practice.  However, the implications of this for those persons’ theology may not be what one might at first think, as will be seen.

Two main interpretations of the foregoing evidence (and that to come) exists:  (1) That doxologies were in common enough use in the Scottish Church since the Reformation in 1560, or at least since 1595, and that their popularity was not due to Episcopalian tendencies;†  (2) That the use of doxologies in the Scottish Church since the Reformation was unauthorized.  If they were sung in public worship at all, this was very limited at best.  Doxologies probably did not come to grow to be commonly used until the early-1600’s, under Episcopacy,‡ especially between the 1620’s and 1637.

† The Liturgical Renewal writers of the late-1800’s and early-1900’s, George W. Sprott, Thomas Leishman and William Maxwell, took this view, as well as did McMillan and C.G. M’Crie, who fell somewhere in between the early practice of the Free Church of Scotland and the later Liturgical Renewal.

‡ Argued by Livingston, Fleming, Thomas Thomson, and briefly mentioned by Laing.

McMillan, taking the first view, argues thus:

“It has also been suggested that the presence of these ‘conclusions’ in the Psalter was due to Episcopalian tendencies,² but that theory may be dismissed when the express statement of Calderwood is remembered, that in 1596, the year after the full series [of doxologies] had been issued [in the edition of Charteris], the ‘Kirk of Scotland was now come to her perfection and the greatest purity that ever she attained…  The assemblies of the saints were never so glorious, nor so profitable to everyone of the true members thereof.’

² Livingston…

The historian [Calderwood]…  could not have written as he has done had he thought that the Doxology was something incompatible with Presbyterianism which had been thrust upon the Church, or something newly introduced against the Church’s wish.³

³ History, V, 387.  It may be noted that the Doxologies were not printed in the first two Psalters (those of 1611 and 1615) published under Episcopal auspices.”

Calderwood (1575-1650), as will be shown, approved the doxology and defended it in the 1640’s; however, it is not known when he adopted that view during his long life.  At the time of Charteris’s psalter (printed in Edinburgh) Calderwood had recently taken a Masters degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1593.  However, it is not clear that Calderwood had, or would have had seen this psalter printed by a private printer with doxologies in it, as there were plenty of editions to go around and that were in use.  If doxologies were objectionable to him at the time, there would seem to be no more reason for him to comment on such more than for him to comment in his History on each particular edition of the many unofficial psalters that contained calendars of holy-days (which he was opposed to, and yet did not do).

Rather, Calderwood’s main interest in 1596, as is seen in his History, was in the renewal of the National Covenant in the General Assembly,¹ and with official ecclesiastical proceedings in general.

¹ Thomas M’Crie the younger tells the story in short space in The Story of the Scottish Church from the Reformation to the Disruption (London: Blackie, 1875), pp. 86-87.

Calderwood worked on and finalized his History in the last years of his life (when he was for the doxology).  Given the pointed disputes about the doxology in the Church of Scotland in the early-1640’s, it would have been advantageous to him to point out a common usage of doxologies early in Scotland’s history.  Yet, while Calderwood’s History, which goes up to 1625, mentions the singing of psalms in many places in its eight volumes, Calderwood never mentions the singing of a doxology.


An Analysis of All the Scottish Psalters

McMillan, Sprott, Leishman and C.G. M’Crie,† nor Livingston or Fleming had access to Cowan’s exhaustive, descriptive Bibliography (1913) of all the known psalters printed in Scotland from 1556-1644.

† It is not clear whether Maxwell had access to it (writing later in the 1900’s), as the bibliography was privately printed.  McMillan wrote after 1913, but appears to make no reference to the work.

Out of the 35 psalters printed between 1556 and 1616, only one of them included doxologies for the psalms,¹ that of Charteris in 1595.  Out of all the 70 editions of psalters from 1556-1644, 61 of them do not include doxologies (87%).  The psalters that do include doxologies (besides that of Charteris) were only printed in 1617, 1625, 1629, 1633, 1634, 1635, 1640 and 1642, only after the Church was episcopalian and the Erastian, English King put great pressure on the Church for changes in her worship.  Even in this late period when these eight psalters with doxologies arose, yet 27 other psalters (77%) were printed without doxologies.

¹ These numbers do not include the editions of 1575 and 1587, which appear to be of little consequence.  They included only one doxology appended at the back, specifically for Ps. 148.  This lone doxology had the meter of 6-6-6-6-4-4-4-4, and hence would not have likely been used for many other psalms.  It was the same that Charteris provided for Ps. 136, and is given in Livingston, ‘Appendix’, p. IX.

These numbers appear to be nearly conclusive as to when doxologies came to be popular in Scotland, and under what circumstances.  However, we will make it more certain.


The Rise of Common Meter Tunes

Without most psalms being in a common meter, one would need many different doxologies of varying meters to sing after each differently metered psalm.  Charteris’s edition of 1595 had a ‘full set’ of doxologies with 32.  However, with so many different sets of words for singing doxologies, it would be very difficult for a congregation to sing many such doxologies without everyone having that one psalter in hand with all of them in it.†  That whole congregations had large sets of Charteris’s psalter is doubtful; and no other psalter had doxologies in it till 1617 (the year after the 1616, episcopal draft-liturgy, and the year before the Articles of Perth).

† Unless they lined-out the psalms, but that practice was initially popular amongst the English Independents and did not take hold in Scotland, and that only reluctantly, after the adoption of Westminster’s Directory for Public Worship in the 1640’s.

Duguid provides evidence that “seems to affirm this theory that Common Tunes only began to be used after 1600 and did not become popular until after 1615.” (Sing a New Song, pp. 284-5)  Only when psalms had been commonly put into common meter and common meter tunes had become popular, would a text-only edition of the psalter without tunes become possible and helpful.  “Interestingly,” Duguid comments with reference to the first, text-only Scottish psalter in 1603

“the years in which this first edition appeared were precisely when English metrical psalmody most influenced Scottish metrical psalmody.  Not only did printed editions for the Scottish church reflect an English influence, the Common Tunes that were becoming popular in England also appeared in Scotland…  The appearance of these text‐only editions after 1600 and popularisation after 1625 suggests that the printed tunes were less important after 1625. Most likely, this shift parallels the introduction and spread of the Common Tunes in Scotland.”

This English influence is notable as the Church of England was episcopal and doxologies were a standard feature of its worship.  Doxologies only began to appear in Scotland in common meter (by which they might be applied to most of the psalms) in psalter editions of 1629, 1633 and 1635.  That is how Baillie, around 1643, would be able to speak of only one doxology being commonly used in his context, and yet that it was sung after every psalm portion.

Hence, despite some of the broad-stroke, anecdotal claims of individuals in the 1640’s and after, it is very unlikely that doxologies could have been commonly sung after every psalm in Scotland before the 1620’s.


The Rise of Doxologies under Episcopalianism

After this analysis, grounded upon a significant amount of evidence provided by more recent scholarship, our conclusion remains exactly that of Livingston (who was open to the use of doxologies in worship, p. 4):

“Though the introduction of these compositions is involved in obscurity, it cannot be supposed that they were forced into the Psalm Book against the wishes of the church authorities.  Calderwood, who held rigid views in matters of Order, would not have allowed such an outrage to pass unnoticed.  But on the contrary he describes the Kirk of Scotland as having come to “her perfection and the greatest purity that ever she attained unto, both in doctrine and discipline,” in the beginning of 1596, the year after their publication; and adds that in the end of that year began “the doleful decay and declining of this Kirk.”

It is more conceivable that they were inserted quietly, on the printer’s own responsibility or that of other private parties; and their disappearance from most of the subsequent editions lends countenance to this conjecture.  Even those for common metre are wanting in so important an edition as that of 1615.

Very possibly those who had Episcopal leanings had most to do with their first introduction;¹ but the absence of any trace of controversy on the subject warrants the inference that other parties acquiesced, so far at least as to make the use of them a matter of forbearance.  It may also be inferred from the state of the psalm books that they were used only to a partial extent till after 1615.” (p. 37)

“…but whether they were then introduced gradually or at once–whether their adoption was in compliance with court pressure for approximation to Episcopal practices, or from a spontaneous movement of the church, are doubtful questions.” (p. 4)

¹ Speaking of the 1595 doxologies, Laing (who was open to hymns) said, “the use of which seems at a subsequent period to have been disallowed as a prelatic innovation.” (Baille, Letters 3.529)  It is not clear whether by ‘a subsequent period’ Laing meant the time immediately following between 1596 and 1616 when none of the psalters had doxologies in them, or between Westminster and 1660.  It would be strange if Laing meant the latter, not knowing that the Church let the doxology fall into ‘desuetude’.  If the former, the doxology was not likely to have been formally disallowed, though it very well could have been informally discountenanced as a prelatic innovation.  This would very well explain how doxologies did not rise again till the ascendancy of Episcopacy.

How did the use of a doxology become more commonly practiced (without sanction) in the churches of Scotland during the 1620’s, 30’s and into the early-1640’s?  To quote the Liturgical Renewal writers Sprott and Leishman, “Novelties are very soon accepted as traditions of long standing…” (Sprott & Leishman, Book of Common Order…, p. vi)


The Diary of Wariston:
A Public Doxology & Private ‘Hymns’

Archibald Johnston of Wariston (1611–1663) would be a major leader during the Covenanting era, becoming one of the Scottish commissioners to Westminster; later he threw in his lot with the Protestors.  He wrote that in his childhood (perhaps around the Articles of Perth or shortly thereafter), at a church in Edinburgh which he attended with his father, they sang the Gloria Patri.¹  This is the first direct evidence found, it appears, of a doxology being sung in the public worship of the Church of Scotland.

¹ Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston of Wariston, 1632-1639, ed. George Paul  (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1911), p. 50

In 1633, when Johnston was in his early-twenties, he recorded in his diary that “I read over [Daniel] Featley’s daily exercises and sang psalms and was extraordinarily moved at all my private exercises, morning, evening and midtime of day.” (Diary, pp. 160-1Featley (1582-1645) was an English minister who became a Westminster divine, and defended episcopacy in that context.  The book referred to, Ancilla pietatis: or, The hand-maid to private devotion… (London, 1626) contains many ‘hymns’ in it.  As the title notes, the book was intended for private devotion, not public worship.  Interestingly, every single one of the ‘hymns’ is simply a collection of verses from the psalms in prose, which are not in rhyme or meter, and hence could not be sung.


A Hymn & Doxology at the Coronation
of King Charles I, 1633

The first clear evidence that we have found of a hymn or a doxology being sung as worship to God in a public service in Scotland since the Reformation was at the Coronation of King Charles I in 1633.

McMillan describes the event at the Scottish royal palace of Holyrood: “We know that the 89th Psalm (or part of it), with the Doxology,¹ was sung congregationally, but in what version is not stated.”²

¹ This was the Gloria Patri according to James Cooper, Four Scottish Coronations  (Aberdeen & Glasgow Ecclesiological Societies, 1902), p. 28

² William McMillan, ‘The Metrical Psalter of King James VI…’, Scottish Church History Society (1944), p. 131

Just after the administering of the coronation oath, before the actual crowning, Cooper adds: “The Hymn, Veni Creator, (a feature almost constant, I suppose, in Coronation Services, since it was first written [in the 9th century A.D.]…) was then sung…” (Scottish Coronations, p. 28)  Just before he sat on the throne, the choir sung the hymn Te Deum. (p. 30)  Cooper also wrote of the coronation service:

“There can, I fear, be little doubt, that to the innovations in worship begun at this coronation service…  must be traced many of the calamities which were not only to overwhelm both the King and the Bishops, but dissolve, down to the present day, the intercommunion between the two National Churches.” (p. 26)

McMillan briefly sketches the influence of these English innovations in Scotland:

“In the Large Declaration [1639], [King] Charles states that when he was in Scotland in 1633, the Book of Common Prayer had been publicly read in all churches when he was present, without any scruple on the part of any one.  Further that the Scots Bishops had used it regularly in the conferring of orders [which would have entailed the hymn, Veni Creator].  It was likewise known to be in use privately in many Scottish families, while Scotsmen who resorted to England attended church there without objecting to it in the slightest degree.” (McMillan, Worship, p. 109)

How was it that the English worship ceremonies of the King were so well received (from his perception) in Scotland, and that the doxology apparently grew into common use during this period?  Part of the answer may be uncovered in realizing the extent to which the smoldering embers of certain similar English, episcopal worship practices had already taken a foothold in Episcopal Scotland.  The Five Articles of Perth (1618) were the ‘law of the land’, including kneeling in receiving the Lord’s Supper and the observance of holy days.  The recognition of such holy-days, despite the clear condemnation of them in the First Book of Discipline (1560, and many other statutes), had remained a problem that peppered the Scottish scene since the Reformation.¹  A similar spattering of musical instruments in worship, though to a lesser extent, also was not completely reformed in Scotland’s post-Reformation history, though much of this was due to royal influence and occurred after 1617.²

¹ As is shown in William McMillan, ‘Festivals & Saint Days in Scotland After the Reformation’  Scottish Church Historical Society  (1929) and John A. Lamb, ‘The Kalendar of the Book of Common Order: 1564-1644’  Scottish Church History Society  (1956).

² William McMillan, The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church, 1550-1638  (London, 1931), Ch. 7, ‘Instrumental Music’, pp. 94-101

Non-conformity had sacrificial consequences for many, and anyone who was willing to acquiesce to kneeling in communion, observing holy-days and countenancing musical instruments in the worship of God was not likely to have a great problem with singing the doxology, especially as it might be understood as a paraphrase of inspired Scripture, as will be seen.

The incoming Anglican influence, though, ought not to be overplayed.  In 1636, at the College of Edinburgh:

“The order that is observed in the worship of God is this; upon the Lord’s Day they do assemble ‘twixt eight and nine in the morning, and spend the time in singing psalms and reading chapters of the Old Testament…  then the preacher comes into the pulpit, and the psalm being ended, he reads a printed and prescribed prayer [typically a more episcopalian practice], which is an excellent prayer; this being ended, another psalm is sung…”

– As described by William Brereton in P. Hume Brown, Early Travellers in Scotland  (Edinburgh: Douglas, 1891), p. 146.


The Imposed Scottish Book of Common Prayer, 1637

Not much needs to be said about the imposed, 1637, Scottish Book of Common Prayer.  It was intended to bring the Church of Scotland into full conformity with the worship of the Anglican Church.  Though it was too readily accepted by the Scottish bishops at the command of the King, yet it promptly spurred the presbyterian Second Reformation of 1638.

The Book differed only slightly from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, all the major elements of the latter being retained in it.  The daily Morning Service says that the liturgy shall be ‘said or sung’.  The Gloria Patri was distinct from the singing of the psalm in that after the appointed psalm was ‘said or sung’, the phrase ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’ was to be ‘repeated’ by the minister.  Then “the people shall answer, As it was in the beginning…” (p. 40)  Shortly thereafter the Te Deum ‘shall be said or sung’. (p. 41)  At the end of the Communion Service, the hymn Gloria in Excelsis, “shall be said or sung”.

The Book of Canons (1636),ª also imposed at that time, ordering how ‘clergy’ would be ordained, did not include the hymn, Veni Creator.

ª in William Laud, Works (7 vols, 1853), vol. 5, pp. 583-606


1637, Gordon, Scots Affairs, bk. 2, ch. 24, p. 25

“The first of these two petitions was subscribed by the promiscuous multitude, in name of the city of Edinburgh, against the Service Book, much to the following purpose: That they, men, women, children, and servants, indwellers within the city of Edinburgh, having considered the Service Book urged upon them, did find many things therein far different from the form of worship received in Scotland; that they were sworn to maintain the same at their entry; that though they had for a time winked at former innovations, yet it troubled them much to see the true worship of God changed; therefore desired some time to advise, and prayed their Lordships for to find out a way whereby they might enjoy the true religion, which was dearer to them then their lives;”


Spang and a Bible-Song, 1638

The first clear, available evidence of a Bible-song being sung in public worship in a Scottish church which we have found is the testimony of the Scottish minister, William Spang (c. 1607-1664), though the church was actually in Holland.

Spang is most remembered as a correspondent of Robert Baillie, though he was ‘a considerable theologian’ in his own right.¹  Spang was born in Scotland, graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1625 and was made a minister of a Scots congregation in south Holland in 1630.  Spang was “a man whose prudence led some to think he was too reserved in his support for the [National] Covenant [of 1638]”.²

¹According to A.L. Drummond, as quoted in Dictionary, p. 788.

² Religious Controversies in Scotland, 1625-1639, ed. David Mullan (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998), ‘Introduction’, p. 11

Spang wrote a letter in 1638 (apparently before the General Assembly of that year which launched the Second Reformation in Scotland)† to Henry Rollock, who “had been known as a waverer.” (Controversies, p. 11)  In that letter Spang seeks to explain and answer some accusations that had been commonly made against him to ministers and others, including that he “were a favorer of the unhappy [in]novations obtruded upon our church”. (p. 121)

† Spang does not mention the Assembly and speaks as though the Articles of Perth (which the Assembly did away with) were still a present concern, amongst other reasons.

Spang spoke of “how little I was affected to any innovation either in doctrine or discipline before my coming hither” and how he suffered at the hand of episcopalian minded persons for opposing Arminianism and in how he pointed out the difference in presbytery between jure divino [divine right] Episcopalianism and presbytery. (Ibid.)  Spang states and gives reasons for not approving of the English liturgy that had sought to be imposed on the Church of Scotland.  Spang makes known his awareness of the radical Brownists (who were opposed to all forms in worship), yet he does not attribute the stricter persons in the Church of Scotland who were accusing him as being of their mind, or even influenced by them. (p. 122)

The two innovations that Spang was accused of (including by persons in Scotland) were principally two: that he preached on Christmas day, and that “for the honor of that feast, ordained a new song, viz. that of Simeon’s to be sung…” (p. 125, this inspired Bible-song having some relevance to Jesus coming into the world).  Spang says that he did not preach on Christmas due to the Articles of Perth, and that he was very hesitant about doing as much as he did (pp. 125-6).

Spang defends singing the Bible song in public worship ‘but twice or thrice at the most’, partly as it was ordinarily sung at that time in the Dutch and French churches, and as the song is canonical. (p. 126)  Spang says, “I have heard it sung in our churches in Scotland sometimes” and then block-quotes Robert Boyd’s commentary on Ephesians, not that it was necessary to compose new worship songs, but only that it is possible and expedient for the glory of God and the edification of the Church to do so.  Spang then appeals again to other Reformed churches.

Spang then argues that “if it had been the judgment of our Church of Scotland” to have limited itself to singing the 150 Psalms, or even to inspired Scripture, “why have we without any contradiction used always that doxology, ‘Glory to the Father and the Son, etc.’, after the singing of all our Psalms?”

While this letter could easily be magnified to give an impression of a great and common use of hymns and the Gloria Patri throughout the Church of Scotland since the Reformation, a closer examination of the details of the letter show quite the opposite:

– Spang does not say that any uninspired hymns were actually sung at his church (and if they had been, they would have created an even greater disturbance than the Bible song did).  Nor does Spang say that the doxology was ever sung at his church.

– Though Spang mentions that Simeon’s song was “put amongst these Psalms which are appointed for the use of the Church of Scotland”, he does not claim, notably, that the inspired Bible-song itself was appointed for use in the Church of Scotland due to its being appended to the psalms.  This was apparently well understood.

– The singing of the Bible-song was something new in Spang’s church, which, from the further details of the letter, must have only began to occur in the second half of the 1630’s.  Due to the newness of the practice which was not taking place before, singing such a Bible song was considered an ‘innovation’ by those of the stricter sort in the Church of Scotland who were accusing him.

– Those concerned were very sensitive to such a ‘new song’ being ‘ordained’ for such an occasional ‘feast’.  As has been seen in English history, and in the quote by the Scot Boyd, the open door to non-Psalms coming into the public worship of the Church was initially through the idea of a new song being introduced upon new occasions (the psalms not being sufficient thereto).

– A significant share of the influence for the introduction of the new song in this church was due to foreign influences, not Scottish ones.  This ‘strangers’ church of not more than 10 adults (p. 128) was more susceptible to such due to its positioning in Holland, on the outskirts of the Church of Scotland.

– Spang’s great reluctance in his actions which were taken offence at (p. 126) shows how uncommon his controversial actions were.

– Spang grew up as a child around the time of the Articles of Perth (1618) and spent his time at the University in the 1620’s.  This is when the popularization of doxologies occurred in published psalters.  Spang did not have personal experience before that.

– Spang claims that the Gloria Patri, specifically, was “used always” “after the singing of all our Psalms”.  However, as has been seen, the same specific doxology could not have been plausibly used after every psalm until after the rise of common-meter tunes and after doxologies were commonly set in common-meter tunes, which occurred in the 1620’s.  The use of only one popular doxology doxology, namely the Gloria Patri, also appears to be a late development (as the earlier psalters contained many various doxologies), probably occurring in the 1630’s.  As will be seen in later testimonies, such personal, anecdotal claims often don’t stand the test of the historical evidence.

– Spang is an example of a minister who acquiesced to the Second Reformation, through whom an innovation came quietly into worship under the time of Episcopacy.

– Spang was a close friend of Robert Baillie, who had low-episcopal leanings (and even convictions, as will be seen).  Spang is also an example of one, as he relates in his letter (pp. 128-30), who had significant reservations about swearing the National Covenant (1638).


The Mixed Character of the Post-1638 Church of Scotland

While the Second Reformation sweeping through Scotland in 1638 was a tremendous blessing and turn from the detrimental course that the Church of Scotland had been on under Prelacy, yet there remained a certain mixed character to it, which will be relevant to setting the context for our subject.

On the one hand, some of the deposed Scottish bishops fled to England and emitted a declaration reflecting on the character of those who had taken up the cause of the Second Reformation in Scotland.  In response, the ‘nobility, barons, burgesses, ministers and commons within the kingdom of Scotland’ replied and said:

“It is known by all, who are acquainted with this country, that almost the whole
Kingdom standeth to the defence of this cause, and that the chiefest of the nobles, barons, and burgesses, are honored in the places where they live for religion, wisdom, power, and wealth answerable to the condition of this Kingdom; that the meanest of the commons who have joined in this cause, are content of their mean estates, with the enjoying of the Gospel; and no less known, that our adversaries are not for number, any considerable part of the Kingdom, and that the chiefest (setting aside some few states-men, and such as draw their breath from court) are known Athiests, or professed Papists, drowned in debt, denounced his Majesties Rebels…”

The Remonstrance of the Nobility, Barrones, Burgesses, Ministers and Commons within the Kingdom of Scotland Vindicating them and their proceedings from the crimes wherewith they are charged by the late proclamation in England, Feb. 27, 1639  (Edinburgh: Bryson, 1639), pp. 14-15.  See the glowing and somewhat unqualified discussion of Thomas M’Crie the younger, The Story of the Scottish Church  (London: Balckie, 1875), ch.7, surrounding pp. 147-8.

On the other hand, pockets of resistance to the reform remained in Scotland, especially in the North, particularly around Aberdeen.  Persons and ministers who held church government to be indifferent, or that the change of which could be cooperatively tolerated, would have little trouble in acquiescing to the reforms therein.  In fact, the presbyterian historian, Thomas M’Crie, said:

“There can be no doubt that the original demands of the Covenanters came short of the abolition of Episcopacy; and that they would have been contented, at the outset, with some limitation of the power of the bishops, and their subjection to General Assemblies…” (Story, p. 165)

This was reflective of the fact that “Episcopalians more scrupulous than [Robert] Baillie were allowed to subscribe [to the National Covenant of 1638] with a reservation of Episcopacy and the Perth Articles.”¹

¹ William Mathieson, Politics and Religion: a Study in Scottish History from the Reformation to the Revolution, vol. 1 (Glasgow: Maclehose, 1902), ch. 11, p. 382.  To understand how this might plausibly be done, see the King’s exceptions to the National Covenant in Gordon, Scots Affairs, bk. 2, ch. 46, pp. 53-4.

It was requested of the 1638 General Assembly that they explain their interpretation of the National Covenant (1638), which they declined to do.  The knowledgeable and powerful person making that request, the Earl of Argyle, Archibald Campbell (1607-1661), gave his reasons as follows:

“First, because many who had taken it did think that the Service Book, Book of Canons, etc., might subsist with it.

Second, because A.D. 1638, several of the lords of council and session had subscribed it with an explication, it was needful to let them know whither they were tied by their subscription and explication.

Third, because it was alleged by some of the followers of the pretended prelates, that it neither excluded [in]novations, ceremonies, nor offices of the English church, but was only against papists, otherways that all other things might very well stand therewith, and were not abjured by their subscription thereof.

Fourth, that since the ambiguous sense had brought men for to subscribe it diversely, viz. some according to the King’s sense thereof, others according to the institution of it, and, lastly, some according to the present profession thereof, including all corruptions introduced, or to be introduced…”

– Gordon, Scots Affairs, vol. 2, bk. 3, ch. 65, p. 102-3


The 1638 Assembly on Hymns & the Doxology

As will be seen, shortly after the Second Reformation, when presbyterians were in control, a controversy about the doxology broke out, some being for it and some against it.  Yet, in the words of Fleming, “It is evident that human hymns were not used in God’s public worship at the Second Reformation, for those who opposed the doxology would also have objected to them, and so they would have been specially mentioned;” but of course, they were not. (‘Hymnology’, p. 49)

However, we have more explicit evidence about the Church of Scotland’s disposition towards hymns at this time, and likely for the whole time since the Reformation.  At the 1638 Assembly, a committee was established which was to critique the Scotch-English Book of Common Prayer (1637).  Their draft, composite tract on the subject said:

“Ninth, Every day the hymn Te Deum laudamus is appointed to be read or sung; as if an hymn composed by men were holier than all the psalms and hymns dictated by the Holy Ghost.”

– Session 14, Dec. 6, 1638, ‘Animadversions on the Service Booke’  in ed. James Gordon, History of Scots Affairs, vol. 2 (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1841), bk. 3, ch. 50, p. 61

The same document does not say anything about the inherent morality of the doxology in the 1637 Prayer Book, which was to be ‘said or sung’ in an antiphonal way between the congregation and the minister.


Baillie’s Pastoral Conference on the Doxology, 1643

The only discussion of the lawfulness of the doxology that has been published from that controversy is Robert Baillie’s conference about it with three or four yeomen of his congregation.  The written summary of that conference¹ has been ‘guessed’ by Livingston (who published it from the manuscript) to have been from 1643, which takes us several years ahead (we will come back to the intervening time).

¹ as published in Livingston, Scottish Metrical Psalter, Diss. 3, 3. ‘Conclusions’, pp. 36-7

Baillie (1599-1662) was episcopally ordained in 1631 (something George Gillespie refused about that same time, waiting till he could receive presbyterian ordination in 1638); Baillie became a professor of divinity at Glasgow University in 1642.  He would shortly thereafter become one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.  However, at the time of the 1638 Assembly (and after through his life), Baillie believed in the lawfulness of a limited and low episcopacy.¹

¹ Alexander Campbell, ‘Episcopacy in the Mind of Robert Baillie, 1637-1662’  The Scottish Historical Review, vol. 93, no. 236, pt. 1 (April, 2014), pp. 29-55.  See also ch. 3, ‘Presbyterian Church Government’  in The Life & Works of Robert Baillie (1602-1662): Politics, Religion & Record-Keeping in the British Civil Wars  Pre  (Boydell, 2017), pp. 85-113

Baillie was also for the practice of kneeling at the Lord’s Supper, which was one of the Articles of Perth.  He speaks of it as ‘our kneeling’, openly identifying himself with the other conformists. (Letters 1.9)

In his conference, Baillie, arguing for the singing of the doxology, relates that the anti-doxology yeomen made a distinction between the regulation and content of prayer and the regulation and content of praise-song.  Baillie writes:

“That it is lawful to conclude every prayer with the matter of this conclusion [doxology] none of you doubts, for it is your daily practice, according to Christ’s pattern [in the doxological conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer].  Now, it is strange, if a praise, which you say is lawful and pleases God, [should be unlawful] when it is sung at the back of our praises [psalms].”

While Baillie warns the yeomen against adopting the tenets of Brownism,¹ it shows that English developments in the previous half century were known to those in Scotland and may have had some influence with persons in Scotland.  Yet Baillie does not actually say that his congregants had professed, adopted or even been influenced by Brownism.  Rather, the yeomen, it is evidenced, held to and practiced using the Lord’s Prayer and singing metrical psalms (which the Brownists refused), in exact accord with English puritanism.

¹ Named after the English, radical Separatist Robert Browne, who parted ways with Thomas Cartwright in the 1580’s.  Brownism held that all forms in worship are unlawful, including that of creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, singing metrical psalms and reading out of a book or a psalter, and that one should separate from the Church for any or all of these things.

Baillie refers to the singing of the doxology as “the constant practice of our church”.  This claim was necessarily, epistemologically limited by his personal experience and resources, and was capable of the possibility of exaggeration, especially in light of Baillie’s other strong rhetoric in his account of the conference.  Regarding the limitations of Baillie’s personal experience, it should be noted that he was born under the rise of episcopacy in Scotland and attended the University of Glasgow as a student at the time of the Articles of Perth.

Also, the evidence currently available to us only shows that singing such a doxology only came to possibly have some prevalence in Scotland in 1595-6, 36 years after the Reformation and eight years before Baillie was born.  More will be commented on this and sourced below.

Baillie’s claim may be interpreted two ways, either: (1) as the Liturgical Renewal writers tend to take it, that the practice was nearly universal in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation in 1560; or (2) that the singing of the doxology was at that time a widespread practice in parts of the Church of Scotland, and had been so for some or many years.  This latter, limited, interpretation of Baillie’s claim is undoubtedly correct, insofar as:

1.  Baillie only mentions one doxology (the Gloria Patri) throughout the conference.  Yet given the history of the wide variety of doxologies in different meters in Scottish history, this popularization of only one must have been a relatively recent phenomenon.

2.  Baillie says that the doxology was sung after every song; yet this was not likely to have been practiced before the 1620’s with the rise of common-meter tunes in Scotland or before the provision of sets of doxologies in common meter in 1629 and after.

3.  While Baillie undoubtedly had evidence that we do not have, yet we also have much more evidence than he had in many respects, and the exhaustive survey of the psalters available to us published since the Reformation in Scotland virtually prohibits the doxologies’ early universal use.

4.  If doxologies had sustained a near universal use in public worship since the Reformation in Scotland, it would be very likely that evidence of such would turn up somewhere in the mountain of historical documentation we have from that period.  Yet, in searching for the needle of the doxology in the haystack, Baillie’s testimony of its use in public worship from 1643 appears to be the first clear evidence of such in Scotland (apart from English Prayer Books) since the Reformation in 1560.

It should also be noted that Baillie told the yeomen that “There is no tie laid on you for the practice; but when it is left free to be used sometimes and omitted sometimes, you to yourself with a perpetual abstinence…”  If the doxologies were ever made the law of the Church in evidence unavailable to us, Baillie surely would have said this; yet he is not able to.  His stating that the doxologies was optional to ministers, congregations and people concedes the use of the doxology was not quite so ‘constant’ and that those of stricter opinion than Baillie (a moderate, leaning a bit to the left) were not necessarily using the doxology.

How did ministers and congregations of Baillie’s time justify singing the doxology in light of opposition?  Baillie made himself a spokesman for such in offering to the yeomen “some of the reasons which we have for that practice”.  One of the arguments that Baillie used was that the Gloria Patri was a paraphrase of inspired Scripture.  As background to this argument it should be noted that psalters were often called ‘paraphrases’, that is, they were the psalms paraphrased, to some extent, into a metrical and poetic form.

Baillie says that the whole Gloria Patri is simply a paraphrase of the sentence: “Glory be to God forever.”  This sentence is either implicitly in, or may be put together¹ from the following passages:  Ps. 41:13; 45:1-2; Gal. 1:5; Phil. 4:18; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18; 1 Pet. 4:11; 5:11; Heb. 13:21; 2 Cor. 11:31; Rev. 1:6.  The word ‘God’ may be paraphrased to say, ‘the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’, and the word ‘forever’ may be paraphrased to say, ”what was in the beginning, what is now, and what shall be”.

¹ This notion was characteristic of the first metrical, congregational hymns that were introduced into English worship during the mid to late-1600’s.

As Baillie believed that the Gloria Patri was no more than a constructed, inspired Bible-song, it seems that he (and others,† as will be seen) held to the position of the singing of inspired material for the public praise of the Church, in that:

† Baillie was a ‘good friend’ of Zachary Boyd, who was called upon by the Church of Scotland to prepare Bible-songs set to meter at the end of the 1640’s. (Baillie, Letters 3.3)

1.  This position is similar to the dominant, Early Church practice of inspired Bible-song singing in public worship.  Baillie defended a limited form of episcopacy from the Early Church.

2.  Baillie’s three volumes of Letters is the fullest history from a covenanter’s perspective on the mid-1600’s.  Yet, he does not mention the approval of hymns in those volumes, or any of his other available published writings (though the singing of psalms is frequently so mentioned).

3.  Baillie complains of the novel ‘ordinance’ of English, Independent puritan churches in the 1640’s of a lone person singing a composed hymn in front of a silent congregation in his Dissuasive (1645), pp. 81, 88 & 118.

4.  A certain passage in Baillie’s Dissuasive (p. 29) lends itself to best being understood that Baillie condoned the singing of other songs that are ‘express Scripture’.

5.  When Baillie makes an allusion in the conference to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, he calls the psalm sung in worship a ‘spiritual song’ and a ‘spiritual hymn’: “We have it [the doxology] but once almost in one spiritual song, for every portion of the Psalm, which is right divided is a full spiritual hymn to us.”

Regarding the yeomen of Baillie’s flock, Livingston remarks that they “may have represented a considerable portion of the Scottish people who entertained scruples respecting this usage, and this portion would probably be larger at an earlier period.” (p. 4)


Is Singing Constructed & Paraphrased
‘Bible-Songs’ Scriptural?

Baillie’s arguments, be it noted, are his own, and were not necessarily the original premises of the persons who caused the Gloria Patri to become widespread in Christian Church in the late-300’s.  A more important question though, is, do Baillie’s theological arguments hold water from Scripture?  (1) If psalms may be paraphrased, may the Gloria Patri be so paraphrased from Scripture and used in worship?

There is a difference of necessity.  WCF 1.6 rightly says that “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory”, including worship (as is clear from the larger context) must be able to be deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence.

God commands us to sing psalms (Ps. 95:2; 98:5; 105:2Jam. 5:13).  As we must sing them, so we must put them into a form in which they are able to be conveniently sung.  While it is good and necessary to stay as close to the original text of God’s Word as possible, yet if the psalms are to be put into such a convenient form in order to obey God’s command, it is necessary that the psalms be paraphrased to some extent.

A sung doxology,¹ however, is neither necessary nor warranted for worship; and therefore the paraphrasing of such for such a purpose is wholly gratuitous and unnecessary.  The liberty that is involved in paraphrasing the Gloria Patri from Biblical texts is also beyond what is necessary or good in seeking to be faithful to God’s Word in such a paraphrase.

¹ We are not speaking to the case of a doxological part of a psalm being used as a psalm selection for the element of singing psalms in worship.

(2) May constructed Bible-songs be used in worship?  As many of the earliest ‘hymns’ in the rise and development of English & Scottish hymnody had such a nature and were often justified upon such grounds (opening the door to the flood of uninspired hymns that were not simply pieced together from inspired, Bible verses), so an answer to this question is foundational to those who desire to worship the Lord “in Spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24) with as much precision as God’s Word requires.

On singing Scriptures, which are not songs, as worship unto the Lord:

All of the commands and precedents of Scripture only involve singing things as worship that are songs (e.g. Neh. 12:46; Ps. 33:3; 96:1;137:3; Isa. 42:10; Mt. 26:30; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13, etc.).  There is no command or warrant to sing Scripture, unqualified.

Further, by the Regulative Principle of Worship, that we are only to worship God as He so reveals, if God enjoins a certain kind of worship for us, then by definition everything of that kind not therein enjoined, and everything not of that kind, yet used for that enjoined purpose, is prohibited.  This stems from God’s divine right to choose for Himself how He wills to be worshipped.  As God has given us the psalms, and told us to sing psalms, therefore the content of sung praise is regulated.  Necessarily this establishing of God’s Will excludes everything sung as worship that is not a psalm so given and enjoined, and it excludes everything that is not a song being used for the purpose of singing praise.

To add other Scriptures which were never given to be sung to the canon of Scripture song that God has de facto given in his Word, is to impede upon the sufficiency, balance and wisdom of the action of God in supplying a book of praise songs in his Word.

On constructing songs out of inspired, Bible-songs:

Sometime’s the public worship song in 1 Chron. 16 (vv. 8-36) is used to justify constructed Bible songs.  As numerous commentators note, the first half of it (vv. 8-22) is very similar to Ps. 105:1-15 (though the passages are not exact).  The second half (vv. 23-33) is very similar to Ps. 96:1-13, and the end of the song and account (vv. 34-36) is very similar to Ps. 106:1,47-48.  While it is possible that the writers of Psalms 96, 105 & 106 drew upon David’s early, no doubt celebrated, public song in 1 Chron. 16 at the setting up of the sung-praise in the Tabernacle, yet if David, in composing the song in 1 Chron. 16, drew upon previously existent versions of Psalms 96 & 105, he could not have so used Ps. 106 as that psalm expressly mentions the later Babylonian Captivity.

The problem, though, for using 1 Chron. 16 or the other psalms as an argument for allowing persons today to construct songs from the inspired material of Scripture, is that these passages only warrant prophets or those under the oversight of prophets to so construct and provide songs for public worship.¹  The reply might be made that the authors of the constructed Bible-songs being prophets or under prophets was not religiously significant and therefore the passages still warrant non-prophets to construct such Bible-songs today.  Yet it is beyond doubt clear that the authors’ prophetic authority to enact the sung-praise of the Church’s worship was indeed religiously significant, and in fact, essential to performing it according to the will of God (1 Chron. 25:1-7; 2 Chron. 29:1-2,5-6,30; compare 1 Chron. 15:12-13 with 1 Chron. 15:14-17, 19, 21-22, 24).  This is especially applicable to 1 Chron. 16, where David was giving the first song to be sung for the setting up of the Levitical sung praise in the Tabernacle.

¹ Note the mention of Asaph in 1 Chron. 16:5 & 37, who was a prophet (2 Chron. 29:30; 35:15).

Further, it is not the case that the song in 1 Chron. 16 is exactly a constructed song from other parts of inspired songs.  Insofar as modifications were made (if they were) from other inspired songs is insofar as the song in 1 Chron. 16 is its own unique, whole praise song suited to that occasion.  The same applies to the author of Psalm 96 possibly adapting material from 1 Chron. 16.  Prophetic inspiration and guidance was instrumental in such composing, and hence it was needed for God’s ends in the use of those songs.  Inspiration was likewise needed for the construction and writing of Psalms 105 & 106 insofar as what they may have used from 1 Chron. 16, or alluded to in it, formed only a minor part of those psalms.

The question is not what are the designs of uninspired human composers and their perceptions of the needs of the Church, but rather what are the designs of God and his perception of the needs of the Church?

Further, there is no evidence that the song in 1 Chron. 16 was intended for anything besides that one time event.  If the song did continue to be used with the Tabernacle service there is no evidence that it was used or meant for the later Temple service insofar as it did not make it into that canon of praise-song, the Psalter.  The suitability and continuing use of a Bible-song for the regular public worship of the Church became evident when it was adopted into the Psalter under prophetic supervision (as with 2 Sam. 22 slightly modified in Ps. 18).  Other Bible songs, such as the prophetess Deborah’s song in Judges 5 and the prophet Moses’s song in Dt. 32, simply never seem to have been intended for the regular worship of God, especially as there is no evidence they were ever used for such.  On the other-hand, Ps. 90 was written by Moses and has been preserved as a psalm for us to sing, it being in the book of Psalms, though it is recorded nowhere else in Scripture.

The other passages persons arguing for constructed Bible-songs might use include the New Testament songs of Anna, Zecharias, Mary and Elizabeth, and the heavenly, eschatological songs in Revelation.  However, all of the foregoing principles apply equally to these inspired songs, none of which it is clear were ever used or intended for the historical Church’s continued public worship.


The ‘Innovations’:  Introduction

In the first half of the 1640’s in the Church of Scotland erupted a relatively small in the end, but nonetheless feared and lively debate about not singing the doxology and other ‘innovations’.  As we have already seen from Spang’s letter (1638) that there was no evidence that the doxology was sung in his church, and yet his introduction of singing a non-psalm, Bible-song was termed an ‘innovation’ by his stricter antagonists, what gets labeled an ‘innovation’ depends on who is telling the story.  Most of the primary source material that is available to us about the early-1640’s ‘innovations’ is told by the moderate-left, episcopal Robert Blair (friend and correspondent of Spang).

What were all the ‘innovations’ that had ‘arisen’ in the Church?  The initial one, which had some correlation to those following on its tail, was the ‘innovation’ of lay men and women holding private meetings for spiritual fellowship, prayer and possibly Bible reading.¹  According to Baillie, Andrew Ramsay (1574–1659), an Edinburgh minister and moderator of the General Assembly in 1640, “could enumerate” as innovations the following year, “omitting Glory to the Father, [omitting] Kneeling in the pulpit [by the minister, in order to privately pray before preaching], discountenancing read prayers, and the rest.”²  ‘Discountenancing’, as will be seen, may only have meant the discouraging of reading prayers (including the Lord’s Prayer), not that read prayers (or the Lord’s Prayer) were inherently wrong.

¹ For some of the chief complaints about these private meetings, see ed. James Gordon, History of Scots Affairs, vol. 3 (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1841), bk. 5, ch. 28, pp. 221-223.  These complaints were made by Henry Guthrie, a Scottish minister at Stirling in mid-Scotland, a chief opposer of such meetings.  The Church of Scotland would shortly pass legislation curbing some of the abuses, or perceived abuses of these meetings (as opposed to prohibiting them outright).  See also Sprott, The Worship of the Church of Scotland during the Covenanting Period, 1638-1661 (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1893), p. 11

² Baillie, Letters 1.362

How did these ‘innovations’ arise?  What is their history?  That, again, depends on who is telling the story.  Baillie says that they arose from Northern Ireland, where some Scottish ministers were greatly oppressed by the bishops and an abundance of ceremonies.  The Scots in Ireland began to meet privately and were influenced by Brownists.  In fleeing back to Scotland for safety at the Second Reformation, the returned Scots continued private meetings.  These meetings were shortly complained of until the “Irish ‘novations” were brought to the General Assembly to deal with.

Leishman, one of the Liturgical Renewal historians of Scottish worship from mid-1800’s Scotland, has the fullest secondary account we have found on pp. 377-8 of ‘Ritual in the Church’.  Leishman adds that these ministers and people in the southwest of Scotland had fled across the Irish channel into Ireland at the time of the imposition of the Perth Articles (1618) and after.  Upon returning to Scotland at the Second Reformation, ‘a party began to organize itself in Scotland’, contending for the ‘innovations’.  Leishman links this party with the English Independents that began “to appear as an organized force in England” at roughly the same time.

The first thing to note is that those who later most adamantly opposed the doxology were said to have arisen at the time of the imposition of the Articles of Perth (1618) and following, which is the general time-frame that we have posited for when doxologies, with the episcopal and English influence, began to become more popular.  Numerous of the resisters, from the hottest part of Scotland, left, while the Scots who stayed in Scotland may have been more susceptible to the tiring, Scottish episcopal impositions.

The thing next thing to dispose of is the Brownist influence.  While there is little doubt that Brownists creeped along at the periphery of such groups at times, yet the Scottish, ‘innovating’ party simply were not Independent Brownists.  Robert Blair, John Livingstone and John Nevay, amongst the innovators, not to mention Samuel Rutherford who was linked with them, as well as David Dickson (who was suspected of being such), by their long subsequent history showed themselves to be through and through presbyterians of the most staunch variety.  The heart of Brownism was separatism, but the Scottish ‘innovators’ didn’t hold to or practice separatism.  Brownists held that all human forms in worship, including metrical psalms and using a psalter, were inherently wrong; the ‘innovators’ in the Church of Scotland sang metrical psalms.  Brownists held that lone persons singing charismatic songs in a trance before the public congregation was an ordinance of the church; the ‘innovators’ didn’t.

The whole fundamental premise that the controverted practices were simply ‘Irish novations’, as well as the link to the English Independent puritans in the last years of the 1630’s and early-1640’s, can also be safely discarded.  Contrary to the personal knowledge of Baillie, David Stevenson, a modern Scottish historian (and no friend to the covenanters), in 1974 documented the rise of private conferencing amongst the resisting, native presbyterians in Scotland during the time of Episcopacy between 1619-1637 in, ‘Conventicles in the Kirk, 1619-37. The Emergence of a Radical Party’ (Scottish Church Historical Society).  To give some of the highlights:

While the origins of holding private meetings in Scotland is not clear, “their origin may date from the introduction of the Five Articles of Perth in 1618; it is only after this that they can be traced.” (p. 101)  On p. 105, Stevenson documents the staunch presbyterianism and opposition to Brownism of these native Scottish ‘radicals’ (otherwise known to the godly as faithful saints) and that they were not ‘separatists or sectaries’.  These presbyterians

“saw themselves as conservatives, not revolutionaries.  They wanted to restore the kirk to its pristine purity…  Suffering from persecution, unable to obtain pure and godly public worship, the radicals took to holding private meetings to pray, sing psalms and discuss the state of religion.”  (pp. 100-101)

Nor were these ‘conventiclers’ simply on the fringe of the later, 1638, presbyterian Church.  The wife of one of them, Barbara Hamilton, was responsible for starting one of the riots in the churches of Edinburgh in July of 1637 (along with Jenny Geddes), which catalyzed the Second Reformation.  Her son John Mean became a minister at Anwoth (in the southwest of Scotland) after Samuel Rutherford.  Stevenson devotes a whole section of his article to the Southwest of Scotland and Ulster, Ireland. (p. 105)  A minister of Irvine (the southwest presbytery out of which most of the ‘innovators’ would come) was David Dickson, who is on record as supporting private meetings.  Two of the major revivals that happened under the Epsicopal reign occured in the southwest: “the ‘Stewarton sickness’ of 1625 and the Kirk of Shotts revival of 1630 were both inspired by David Dickson and John Livingstone.” (p. 106)

According to Stevenson, these ‘radical’ ministers of the southwest were heirs of a leading father-figure of Scottish presbyterianism, Andrew Mellville, as well as disciples of the thought of Robert Bruce and Robert Boyd (though not adopting the latter’s openness to hymn singing).  After detailing the circumstances which made Ulster, Ireland a desirable place for setting up presbyterianism by some of the Scottish refugees, Stevenson quotes Livingstone as saying that he had, “public worship free of any inventions of men”. (p. 107)  During and after being suspended and deposed by the Irish bishops in the early 1630’s, Blair and Livingstone made frequent trips to Edinburgh where they attended many private conferences, Livingstone at one point attending them everyday.  Stevenson tells us that Scots in Ireland fled back to Scotland even in 1637 and that these favorers of private meetings “took a leading part” in “organizing resistance to the king”, bringing about the Second Reformation. (p. 111)

These native Scottish ‘innovators’, some of the biggest names in the era, held, in fact, the thesis that we have been arguing here, that the specific controverted worship practices in the Novations controversy were “illegal human inventions, and many denied even that they were traditional in the kirk.” (p. 112)  Stevenson also notes that the “actions of the radicals mainly grew out of the mainstream of Scottish presbyterianism,” yet:

“Those who opposed the radicals tried to deny this.  They represented these ideas as introduced from England and Ireland…  spawning such dangerous alien innovations…  at least as regards prayer meetings, the evidence shows that they were widespread in Scotland in the 1630’s; they were not innovations introduced after 1637 as those opposed to them maintained…

Both Robert Baillie and Henry Guthrie asserted that such ideas had been brought to Scotland by refugees from Ireland; neither mentioned that private meetings…  had indeed perhaps been introduced from Scotland to Scots settlers in Ireland rather than vice versa.” (p. 113)

After the Second Reformation, the ‘innovators’ desired to continue their practice of private meetings, though “the great majority of covenanting ministers regarded any further changes in worship and the holding of private meetings with horror.” (p. 112)

How is it that the great majority of ‘covenanting’ ministers were horrified at such a practice as private spiritual conferencing, which is so well evidenced and commended in the Scriptures (Lev. 19:17; Isa. 2:1-3; Jer. 50:4-5; Zech. 8:21; Mal. 3:16; Jn. 3:1-2; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11-12, 14; Heb. 3:13; 10:24; Jude 20), as Rutherford would shortly show?  The answer appears to be that:

Most of the ‘covenanting’ ministers at 1638 had previously, to varying degrees, tolerably acquiesced to,¹ and grown comfortable with the practice of episcopacy to some degree; and being comfortable to some degree with such a status quo, they saw no need for private meetings (which were abhorrent to episcopacy) and had grown accustomed to certain optional worship practices that had risen in popularity during that time.

¹ Stevenson, p. 100; Spang, Controversies, p. 129

While such post-conformed ministers did desire the removal of imposed, offensive ceremonies such as the Articles of Perth, which were notoriously pressed on the Church by the King and bishops against her own laws (and which the covenanters discarded in the 1638 Assembly), yet the more seemingly more indifferent and optional practices controverted in the innovations controversy were not of that same legal character, and the majority of the ministers did not desire further disruptive controversies about changes in worship that might be imposed on the Church one way or the other.


Stereotypes of the Innovations & Innovators Dashed

Many of the broad-stroke, generalizations made in the secondary literature (especially by the Liturgical Renewal writers, dependent largely on Baillie) of the right-wing ‘innovators’, and even of their opponents, are not accurate and are even false.  To give a sampling of evidence:

Spang (moderate-left) complained that the episcopal Book of Canons (1636) discharged “all private conferences about the Scripture”.¹ (Controversies, p. 123)  He also ‘discountenanced’ read prayers for the same reason as the right-wingers:

“…for I think a common and ordinary Christian who is come to any reasonable growth of grace should be able to make use of the gift of prayer without books, how shameful then were it for a minister to pray by book ordinarily.” (p. 127)

¹ In 1638 noblemen, ministers and covenanters libeled the bishops to the Edinburgh presbytery in part for, “mocking of the power of…  spiritual conference”.  Gordon, Scots Affairs 2.128

This was the ordinary view of the convinced, presbyterian ministers during the period under the rise of episcopacy before 1616, according to King Charles I.  He spoke of:

“….that diversity, nay deformity which was used in Scotland, where no set or public form of prayer was used, but preachers or readers and ignorant school-masters prayed in the Church, sometimes so ignorantly as it was a shame to all religion to have the majesty of God so barbarously spoken unto, sometimes so seditiously that their prayers were plain libels, girding at Sovereignty and Authority; or lies, being stuffed with all the false reports in the Kingdom:” (Large Declaration, p. 16)†

† Though Baillie described the Large Declaration of the king as “a number of silly fables invented for our disgrace,” “heaping up a rabble of the falsest calumnies that ever was put into any one discourse that I had read, to show that we were the most desperate traitors that had yet lived…”  M’Crie, Story, p. 148 fn.

For a more fair survey than what the king gives, see Sprott, Book of Common Order, pp. xxiv-xxxii.

Calderwood (who manifested himself to be for the doxology) was invoked to write a paper against the novations (Baillie, Letters 1.70), yet Calderwood also said in regards to his own practice:

“During the whole thirteen years [1604-1617] in which I discharged the functions of the Ministry, whether in administering the Sacraments or in celebrating other sacred rites, I never used the exhortations or prayers which are extent in our agenda.  So also many others.”

Altar of Damascus, p. 613 mid, as translated in Sprott, Book of Common Order, p. xxv

How does all of this accord with the Reformation Book of Common Order containing set numerous forms, albeit adaptable, for public prayer?  Besides what has already been said and documented about the explicitly stated flexibility of these forms in the Book of Common Order, the end of the ‘Form of Excommunication’ in it says:

“This order may be enlarged or contracted as the wisdom of the discreet minister shall think expedient; for we rather show the way to the ignorant, than prescribe order to the learned that cannot be amended.” (p. 80)

Thomas M’Crie the elder, one of the most careful Scottish Church historians (as recognized by all), comments:

  “The Scottish prayers, therefore, were intended as a help to the ignorant, not as a restraint upon those who could pray without a set form.  The readers and exhorters commonly used them; but even they were encouraged to perform the service in a different manner.” (Life of John Knox, 1.441)

The main reason, it seems, that many of the Scottish presbyterians ‘discountenanced’ read prayers was not because they disclaimed all forms in God’s worship (as the Brownists), but, as Rutherford said:

“There be so many other things that are a pouring out of the soul in prayer, as groaning, sighing, looking up to heaven, breathing, weeping, that it cannot be imagined how far short printed and read prayers comes of vehement praying; for you cannot put sighs, groans, tears, breathing, and such heart messengers down in a printed book, nor can paper and ink lay your heart in all its sweet affections out before God, the Service-book then must be toothless and spiritless talk.”

– The Trial and Triumph of Faith, (Edinburgh: Free Church of Scotland, General Assembly’s Committee, 1845), Sermon 6, p. 73


On the Lord’s Prayer in Worship

Perhaps the main, claimed, distinctive of the ‘innovators’ that turns off modern readers from sympathizing with them is the claim that they thought it was wrong to use the Lord’s Prayer in worship.  While some of them may have said and argued as much, yet this certainly was not characteristic of all of them, or the best of them, nor was the non-use of the Lord’s Prayer in public worship a unique practice of theirs (to whatever extent it was attributable to them in the first place):

When the episcopal bishop, William Cowper, in his Seven Days Conference in 1613, described a typical worship service of his day, he mentioned that in the service the minister would ‘conceive a prayer’, though he does not mention the use of the Lord’s Prayer at all, though “you will see no other things here.” (pp. 215, 219)  The ‘innovators’ were accused of rejecting all forms in worship, like the Brownists (though the ‘innovators’ used the metrical psalms unlike the Brownists), yet you will not find the Apostles’ Creed (which was in the Book of Common Order) in bishop Cowper’s representative episcopal service either.

The yeomen who would not sing the doxology, yet used the Lord’s prayer in their ‘daily practice’ (unlike the Brownists), according to Baillie.

Rutherford is commonly linked with the right wing ‘innovators’, and it has been claimed that he was in the practice of “not saying the Lord’s Prayer” in public worship.¹  Rutherford spoke for himself while the innovations controversy was still simmering in his Peaceable and Temperate Plea (London, 1642), ch. 20, article 13, p. 326:

“…yet did our Church never condemn, but constantly practice the praying of that divine and canonical prayer of our Savior, called the Lord’s prayer, as being commanded, Mt. 6:9; Lk. 11:2, in matter and manner, though affirmative precepts oblige not ad semper [always].”

¹ Leishman, ‘Ritual of the Church’, p. 378

Rutherford’s position was clearly that the Lord’s Prayer as a set form was not necessary to always be used in worship, though it was a good prayer which was necessary from precept to be used at least sometimes in its ‘matter and manner’.

This was essentially the same position as that of the later Westminster Larger Catechism, #187, which said that the Lord’s Prayer “may also be used as a prayer” (though it doesn’t not mention public worship specifically).  Rutherford’s position is also essentially consistent with the direction of the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God: “And because the prayer which Christ taught his disciples is not only a pattern of prayer, but itself a most comprehensive prayer, we recommend it also to be used in the prayers of the church.”

Rutherford, in A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist (London: 1648), against the risen English sects in London, censured those who would not pray the Lord’s Prayer, or parts of it, on pp. 11, 143 & 228-9.

In 1650, when the Church of Scotland was controlled by the right-wing party, two men who had been charged with propagating sectarian tenets were obliged to confess the following:

“…I do acknowledge that…  such as are weak Christians may use set forms of prayer;”  “Whereas I…  am charged to have…  condemned the use of that prayer commonly called the Lord’s Prayer…  I acknowledge that that prayer…  is not only a pattern of prayer, according to which we are to frame our prayers, but (is) itself a most comprehensive prayer…  and may lawfully used as a prayer, both by the ministers of Christ in the public prayers of the Church, and by others in their private or secret worship…  and I do heartily detest and abhor the error of those who condemn the use thereof as sinful.”  (Sprott, During the Covenanting Period, pp. 36-7)

At a later date, after the Glorious Revolution of 1689, when the Episcopalians taunted the presbyterians as departing from the recommendation of Westminster, the latter replied that they “gave the substance of it, and sometimes used it.” (Sprott, Worship & Offices, p. 41)

Gillespie was also called upon to write a paper against the novations (Baillie, Letters, 2.70), yet he also listed doxologies in a list of previously imposed, deviant, English, episcopal practices in the Westminster context:

“yea another parliament may…  impose again the surplice and cross in baptism, fonts, railing of communion tables, the reading of diverse passages of Apocrypha to the congregation, doxologies, anthems, responsories, etc.”

– Gillespie, Male Audis…  (London, 1646), ch. 4, p. 26

At least numerous of these things Gillespie held to be unlawful will-worship whether or not they were imposed.  As will be seen, the variations of parties, understandings and even of papers written ‘against’ the novations were quite complex, and still are to a large degree unknown to us.


Bowing in the Pulpit

Briefly examining the ‘novation’ of the minister not bowing upon entering the pulpit in order to privately pray before preaching will be useful to our purpose in a few ways.

The only instance of bowing in the pulpit given in the common secondary literature is the following.  In 1586 the episcopal bishop of St. Andrews went into St. Giles’s pulpit, at the king’s specific request, and (according to the Wodrow Society edition):

“(after the English form) began to beck in a low courtesy to the King, whereas the custom of this Kirk was, first to salute God, to do God’s work, and then, after sermon and divine worship closed, to give reverence, and make courtesy particularly to the King.”

– John Row & Sons, The History of the Kirk of Scotland: From the Year 1558 to August 1637…  Preface by David Laing  (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1842), pp. 115-6

So the quotation is given in McMillan (Worship, p. 161).  However, there appears to be some doubt as to the original reading of the manuscript(s).  Another edition of this work was published by the Maitland Club in the same year.  Besides a few other differences of words, the relevant phrase in question reads:  “whereas the custom of this Kirk was, first to preach and do God’s work, and then, after sermon, to give reverence particularly to the King.”†  The very practice of bowing before God is wholly left out of this reading, and it is very possible that ‘to salute God’ in the Wodrow edition was synonymous in meaning with ‘to preach’ in the Maitland edition (preaching being a form of giving respect to God).¹  If that is the case, there simply is no evidence that the minister privately praying to God before preaching was ever a Scottish presbyterian custom until the Second Reformation in 1638.

† John Row & Sons, The Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, 1558-1637…  (Maitland Club, 1842), p. 23

¹ There is also the possibility that one or more of the manuscripts was copied wrong or tampered with in later years.  The Wodrow edition was published from a manuscript wholly written in the hand-writing of his son, John Row, minister at Aberdeen (p. vi).  The Maitland Club discusses the manuscripts they used on pp. lvi-lxiii (see especially their note on p. lxii).

What is clear though, in both editions though, is that bowing in the pulpit was a custom of English episcopalianism.  Baillie confirms this in that he speaks (1645) of, “the late consequent abuse of it by the Prelatical party to bow to the east and the altar…” and how “it was universally, by all sorts of men, so unanimously disused…” (Letters 2.258)  Rutherford also critiques the Anglicans for this practice on pp. 5, 7, 11, 23, 143 & Appendix, p. 92 of The Divine Right of Church Government (London, 1646).  Hence the Westminster Directory for Public Worship directed:

“Let all enter the assembly, not irreverently, but in a grave and seemly manner, taking their seats or places without adoration, or bowing themselves towards one place or other.”

Baillie states that the English divines at Westminster seemed to hold “the general maxim that all private worship in the time and place of public worship is to be discharged.”¹  Hence the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God said:

“If any, through necessity, be hindered from being present at the beginning [of the service], they ought not, when they come into the congregation, to betake themselves to their private devotions, but reverently to compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand.”

¹ ‘Appendix E: Baillie’s Paper to my Colleagues’ in Leishman, Westminster Directory, p. 188

However, this English, puritan, maxim, as Baillie complains, “directly does decide the controversy of our Church in favors of that side who challenges the minister’s and people’s private prayers in their entry to the public [service], as unlawful worship.” (Ibid., pp. 188-9)  Hence, because of these things, Baillie says that ‘we’, some of the Scottish commissioners, “were not able to make them altar” (Letters 2.258-9), and so the minister privately bowing in prayer to God before preaching was left out of the Westminster standards.

It appears¹ that at least by 1640 Rutherford became persuaded of the novation of not privately praying before he entered the pulpit.  His general grounds is the same as the English puritan maxim, though Rutherford very carefully delineates the position with numerous qualifications and nuances in Letter 290, ‘To a Person unknown, anent Private Worship in time and place of public’

¹ The context and some of the references and pronouns in the letter are obscure, but that Rutherford adopted the novation is what best makes sense of the second half of the letter, especially in the chronology of the developing context of the novations controversy through the Church courts in Scotland.  Other interpretations of the references don’t seem to hold up or do the passage justice.

² Rutherford, Letters  5th ed., ed. Andrew Bonar  (Edinburgh: Oliphant, 1891; rep. Banner of Truth), pp. 578-9

Besides the fascinating arguments and qualifications themselves, other things for our interest and notice are that:

– Rutherford rightly disclaims that omitting the practice of private praying before preaching has anything to do with Brownism, as the heart of Brownism is separating from the entire Church for such impurities, not simply omitting an erroneous practice.

– Rutherford says that “Neither Scripture nor Act of our Assemblies doth allow this human custom.”

– Rutherford thought that the way certain of the right-wing ‘innovators’ so directly petitioned the General Assembly to censure the disorderly custom was out of line.  This will be important in understanding in part how Rutherford was called upon to write a paper against the ‘innovators’ and argued against them on certain points.



The most interesting thing about Rutherford’s letter, however, for our purposes, is that he speaks of how he learned something in looking into the issue, and humbly desired to walk more perfectly according to God’s will thereon out:

“Whatever hath been my practice before I examined this custom, I purpose now no more to confound [private and public] worships.”

Rutherford had previously been prevailed upon in 1634 to take up regular, private¹ fasts and conferencing by “some of the worthiest of the ministry in this kingdom”.²  No doubt in this context Rutherford was able to more closely consider and come to argue the finer points of the theology of private conferencing in a ‘treatise’ on “Conventicles, or the extent of private men’s liberty in public praying and exponing [expounding] of Scripture.”³  This treatise, according to Baillie, “defended the lawfulness of these meetings in greater numbers, and for more purposes than yet we have heard practiced.”ª  Though we think Rutherford would have had a better idea of what numbers and exercises had occurred in private conferences in Scotland more than Baillie, and that the Scriptures Rutherford quotes in his works on the topic (on our page Spiritual Conferencing) necessitate such: Isa. 2:1-3; Jer. 50:4-5; Zech. 8:21; Mal. 3:16; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13; Jude 20.

¹ Stevenson, ‘Conventicles’, p. 108
² Rutherford, Letters, p. 92
³ Baillie, Letters 1.8
ª Ibid., 1. 253

So the Scottish commissioners to Westminster, in the words of Gillespie:

“came not hither [to the Westminster Assembly] presuming to prescribe anything unto You, but willing to receive as well as to offer light, and to debate matters freely and fairly from the Word of God, the common Rule both to you and us.”

– Gillespie, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming…  (London, 1646), ‘Epistle Dedicatory’, p. 3

An example of a Scottish commissioner so learning at Westminster, with the end result of putting away a traditional practice which was not warranted by the Word of God, was Baillie about the Scottish practice of having unordained readers of Scripture in worship services:

“All, both they [the Independents] and we, would gladly have been at the keeping still of Readers; for we foresaw the burden which the removal would bring on the Minister’s back: but, after all our study, we could find no warrant for such an officer in the Church; and to bring in the Church a man to be the congregation’s mouth to God, and God’s mouth to the congregation, without a clear warrant of the Word, we saw the intolerable consequents of such a maxim.”

– Baillie, Letters 2.258

While this quote shows Baillie’s commendable humility and willingness to learn on the point, it also shows his ignorance of previous Church custom and legislation, as the Scottish First Book of Discipline (1560) has a section on ‘Readers’ under its Fourth Head, which regards them as persons intending the ministry.  Hence, the readers, insofar as this was the case, did have the authority to so read the Scriptures publicly to the congregation, as the Westminster Directory for Public Worship says:

“Howbeit, such as intend the ministry, may occasionally both read the word, and exercise their gift in preaching in the congregation, if allowed by the presbytery thereunto.” (See also WLC 156)

While Rutherford in his works defended the ‘Reader’ on the same grounds, yet Baillie was probably right in that much of Scotland had long forgotten this and that many who acted as Readers likely did not expressly consider themselves called to the ministry, nor were seeking that end.  Hence when the Church of Scotland got rid of the office of Reader after Westminster, it was in keeping with a closer adherence to the Word of God; so also when they got rid of the doxology at the same time.


The Right-Wing Scots & English Presbyterianism

The right-wing Scottish ‘innovators’ are often portrayed as if their theology was unprecedented in Scotland before, and anywhere else except for in the English Brownists (which claim has been shown to be false).  The next favorite linking of the Scottish ‘innovators’ by the Liturgical Renewal writers is with the English, Independent puritans.  However, while the Scottish ‘innovators’ rejected singing the doxology, the English Independents at Westminster sang it, says Baillie:

“…about the Conclusion of the Psalm, we had no debate with them; without scruple, Independents and all sang it, so far as I know, where it was printed at the end of two or three psalms.” (Letters 2.259)

Who did the right-wing Scots agree entirely with?  Who else held, taught and practiced all of the exact same distinctives as the right-wing Scots?  The English presbyterians:

The English presbyterians, since at least the 1570’s, were known for holding private, spiritual conferences frequently.ª  Richard Rogers, a Cambridge scholar and early organizing presbyterian, published a poem extolling the Biblical and spiritual virtues of private conferencing:  ‘A Sweet Meditation: A Poem on the benefit of reading, conference, musing on holy things, and prayer: containing a complaint that these holy exercises are neglected…’, from his Seven Treatises (1603).

ª M’Crie, Annals, pp. 102-3; Drysdale, History, pp. 104-5, 219, 224, 279 fn. 2, etc.

Regarding public prayer, Cartwright’s A Directory of Church Government (1585) contains no forms of prayers, though it does contains some directions for prayers (being an early precedent for Westminster’s ‘Directory’).

Cartwright was not against the use of the Lord’s Prayer in public worship but thought it was a good prayer, even a perfect, model, short prayer; Cartwright was only against the notion that the Lord’s prayer was necessary for every public worship service, that prayer ought to be limited to it, and he was against the undue repetition of it:

“What reason is this, we must repeat the Lord’s Prayer oftentimes, therefore oftentimes in half an hour, and one in the neck of another?  Our Savior Christ doth not give a prescript Form of Prayer whereunto He bindeth us: but giveth us a Rule and square to frame all our Prayers by.  I know it is necessary to pray, and pray often.  I know also that in a few words it is impossible for any man to frame so pithy a prayer, and I confess that the Church doth well in concluding their prayers with the Lord’s Prayer: but I stand upon this, that there is no necessity laid upon us to use these very words and no more.”

– Bk. 1, p. 219, as quoted in Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, bk. 5, ch. 35, p. 235

Cartwright’s Directory, in fact, includes the weekly use of the Lord’s Prayer, as well does the Waldegrave Liturgy (1584/5), though the Middleburg Liturgy (1586) does not.

The English presbyterians, as has been seen, were against the minister setting apart public time for privately bowing and praying in the pulpit before preaching, as well as using the Gloria Patri, as were the right-wing Scots.

It should be no small comfort that the best puritans of both England and Scotland exactly agreed about the worship issues at hand.  Yet, contra the claims of most of the older secondary literature, based on gratuitous assumptions, Stevenson, who evidenced a much more in-depth knowledge of the history than those before him, said:

“Undoubtedly English puritan ideas in these matters had some influence on the [Scottish] radicals, but such influences are impossible to trace and were probably of relatively minor importance.”¹ (pp. 112-3)

¹ With respect to a proposed act of the Church of Scotland condemning private meetings, Dickson said, “We have many friends in England…  we should be loathe to give them offence…”  Sprott, The Worship of the Church of Scotland during the Covenanting Period, 1638-1661 (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1893), p. 10.  “Godly Scots like Robert Boyd, Johnston of Wariston and David Dickson were avid consumers of the works of practical divinity produced by English Puritans.”  John Coffey, “The Problem of ‘Scottish Puritanism’, 1590-1638”, p. 5  in E. Boran and C. Gribben, eds, Enforcing Reformation: Scotland and Ireland, 1560-1690 (St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History, Ashgate, 2006)

Where then did the right-wing, native Scots get their worship-practice theology from?  The most likely source is exactly what they claimed, from the pure and unadulterated worship set forth in Scripture.ª  Where the right-wing Scots did learn a thing or two, possibly from English presbyterians, yet the reasons the Scots gave for holding to it were not that certain of the English held to it, but rather that these things were taught by the Lord in his Word.

ª It has been claimed that the ‘innovation’ of ‘lecturing’ (in contrast to the simple reading of Bible chapters in worship) was a product of English Independent influence through Westminster and the invasion of Cromwell.  According to Robert Wodrow, however, the practice began in Edinburgh in the 1630’s, first starting with ministers giving short notes on the chapters of the Bible that were read.  The description given seems to suggest that the practice arose naturally out of local circumstances and hence was not directly due to foreign influence, but was natively Scottish. (Forrester, Studies, p. 40)  After all, as the reason given in that era for it, does not 1 Cor. 14 teach that hearing without understanding is useless?


Early-1640’s Public Worship in the Church of Scotland

In the early-1640’s, in the midst of the Novations Controversy, Henderson and Rutherford both wrote detailed descriptions of a representative Scottish worship service, both in defense of its Scriptural purity and for the information of the larger public, especially the English.

Henderson was claimed by Baillie to (at least initially) be against the novations.º  Yet Henderson’s account of the typical Scottish worship service (1641), he nowhere mentions the Lord’s Prayer, Bowing in the Pulpit, hymns or the doxology.  In reference to public prayer, he says of ministers:

“…for although they be not tied to set forms and words; yet are they not left at random, but for testifying their consent and keeping unity, they have their directory and prescribed order.”

The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland ([Edinburgh: Bryson,] 1641), ‘To the Reader’

º Baillie, Letters 1.249, though it seems the main one in view was private, spiritual meetings.

Rutherford, in his account (1642),¹ also omits Bowing in the Pulpit and any reference to hymns or the doxology.  While he speaks well of the Lord’s Prayer and the Church of Scotland for their constant practice of using it, Rutherford does not list the Lord’s Prayer as a distinct part of the order of worship.

¹ A Peaceable & Temperate Plea… (London, 1642), ch. 20, ‘Whether or no the government of the Church of Scotland can be proved by God’s Word to be lawful?’

Interestingly, neither Henderson or Rutherford mention the Apostles’ Creed, though this ‘human form’ was directed to be used by Book of Common Order (which was still technically legally binding at this time).

As Henderson and Rutherford’s representative accounts describe in exact detail the worship service of the ‘innovators’,† Baillie’s claim, also made at this same time, that the doxology was ‘the constant practice of our Church’, may also be greatly questioned.  One wonders whether Baillie was more describing the practice of the Scottish churches that had been previously conformed to episcopacy.

† Yet Henderson denounces the Brownists in Reformation of Church-Government in Scotland…  (1644), p. 17.  Rutherford’s opposition to Brownism is evidenced throughout his works.


The History of the Novations Controversy
in the Church of Scotland

With these extended prefatory matters setting the context, the history of the Novations Controversy may now be sketched.  The fullest and most careful and accurate relation of the history remains that found in Fleming (pp. 38-48); that given here will merely be a summary of it with additional analysis:

Going into the 1642 General Assembly,ª Baillie says, “we were feared for a storm about novations”.¹  The novations were ‘keenly debated’ in committee where they agreed for the time not to handle the issue with an act (for fear of offense), but for the moderator of the Assembly to draw up a latter to be sent out by the Assembly’s commission “to the presbyteries troubled with novations.”²

ª For some of the legislation from 1639-1641 against novations, see John Lamb, ‘Examination of Innovations’, Section II, pp. 22-8.  The 1639 legislation, while eerily relevant, yet explicitly sought to protect the 1638 establishment from the prelatic novations that had occurred previously to it, which had the possibility of creeping in again.  The language of the legislation assumes that such novations would be proposed and enacted through Church legislation, yet the controverted practices, and their omission, had not come through the Church in this way, and the language of the legislation was too indefinite to apply explicitly to them.  In 1640-41 the language became more specific to those ‘novations’ at hand, yet was still capable of multiple interpretations, especially if one thought the novations were the controverted practices themselves, not the omission of them.  See the survey of the history by Sprott, During the Covenanting Period, pp. 10-20

¹ Letters 2.46

² Letters 2.51; Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715), a Scottish, Arminian, Latitudinarian, episcopalian bishop, lawyer and historian, professed to have known about this letter and gave his sketch of it in Burnet, A vindication of the authority, constitution, and laws of the church and state of Scotland…  (Glasgow: Sanders, 1673), pp. 182-3.  Sprott quotes Baillie from an unpublished manuscript giving a fuller sketch of it in During the Covenanting Period, p. 16.

Officers in the southwest presbytery of Irvine (which David Dickson was part of) were so exasperated at the use made of the Commission’s letter (presumably against them) that one, Gabriel Maxwell, in the words of Baillie, wrote up:

“in five sheets of paper, a full treatise, in a very bitter and arrogant strain against the three nocent [noxious] ceremonies, Pater Noster [Our Father], Gloria Patri, and kneeling in the pulpit; proving by a great rabble of arguments, both particular and general, which go far beyond these three particulars questioned, the unlawfulness of our Church practices.” (Letters 2.69-70)

This treatise was consented to by six other officers of the presbytery, the most known of which were John Nevay (d. 1672) and George Hutcheson (1615-1674, the commentator on Job, the 12 Minor Prophets and John, and a future Resolutioner).  It was rumored that:

“…our brethren were confident to carry by disputation, in the face of any Assembly, the truth of any of their tenets; and if they were oppressed by wrong determinations, their willingness to suffer all extremities of persecution.” (Letters 2.70)

These brethren said that twice as many as their number were of the same mind in the synod of (the southwest territory of) Galloway.  The issue was resolved to be brought before the 1643 Assembly.  Before that though, Baillie writes:

“…we convened in Mr. Robert Douglass’s chamber, Mr. A. Henderson, Mr. D. Dickson, Mr. R. Blair, Mr. S. Rutherford, and Mr. G. Gillespie.  Mr. David [Dickson] and I made to them a true and a full relation of the business: they were all exceeding[ly] grieved.  We resolved to write answers to their arguments, and assay to satisfy them in reason.  For this end, I was careful to get promises of Mr. S. Rutherford, Mr. R. Blair, Mr. G. Gillespie, also my Lord [Archibald Johnston] Wariston, and Mr. D. Calderwood, our best penmen, that they should, every one of them, presently set themselves to write answers to the papers [of ‘innovators’] I delivered them.

My colleague, Mr. D. Dickson, hath written already very good and solid answers to all they say; and did so far prevail in one conference with Mr. William Adair, the chief of them for preaching, that he conformed with us the other day openly in our Church to all the three nocent [noxious] ceremonies.  We hope God will help us to get our brethren satisfied, and by them our people.  However, I am doing all I can to set all instruments on work for the quenching of that fire.” (Letters 2.70-1)

The complexity of the viewpoints of the men involved must have been much greater than Baillie let on, insofar as:

1.  The treatise agreed to by the men in question was not necessarily, or even apparently, agreed upon by all those who disused those practices.  If Baillie’s estimation of the treatise was remotely accurate, then there may have been enough bold proclamations, inferences and lack of qualification in it, not to mention how it was publicized or what they may have demanded of (or how they reflected on) the Church courts in it, to warrant the criticism of even those in their own camp.

2.  It should also be noted that the rehearsal of the whole business as made by Baillie (albeit with Dickson) may not have been the most impartial and balanced account of the persons and issues involved, to the extent that they knew of them.

3.  The very group assembled and commissioned by Baillie was quite the conglomerate.  Henderson proved himself to be flexible in the whole affair.  Blair was one of the ‘Irish innovators’; Dickson was for private meetings, was accused of the innovations and apparently held to (at least) only inspired materials being sung.¹  Rutherford was the closest of all of them to the ‘innovators’, having begun to cease from bowing in the pulpit before preaching, arguing against the necessity of the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer in worship and in being a strong supporter of private meetings.  Gillespie had lumped singing doxologies with the other many objectionable Anglican practices.  Wariston would be a leader of the future right-wing Protestors (though he was part of the nobility, which Baillie had claimed were for the most part against the ‘innovations’; 2.94).  Calderwood, though he defended the Gloria Patri before the General Assembly, yet he was quite averse to read prayers in his own practice and eschewed hymns.

¹ Exposition of all St. Paul’s Epistles…  (London, 1659), on Col. ch. 3, verse 16, p. 143.  This might possibly consist with the doxology, if Baillie’s argument is to be had, that the doxology is simply a paraphrase of inspired material.

4.  In all of this, many of the leading men showed a surprising flexibility and openness to outcomes in the face of their ministerial brethren, and even opposite sides, if things were qualified enough, could surprisingly find peaceable unanimity of agreement. (e.g. Baillie, Letters 1.249-50, 362)

5.  As the final event would prove (despite certain actions along the way), the general consensus was reluctant to affirm and impose the controverted practices or to disallow them.  Disruption and division upon such possibly indifferent and optional practices was feared above all else.

However, Baillie, says, “These who promised to write did all fail.” (Letters 2.76)

At the 1643 Assembly there was much debate, according to Baillie, about “the troublesome evil of innovations”. (Letters 2.94)  At a private meeting John McLellan and John Nevay gave “their reasons for their judgment.  Mr. Samuel Rutherford and Mr. D. [Dickson] did answer.” (Ibid.)  As is clear from Rutherford’s writings, he was rather scrupulous not simply about practices (yea or nay), but what was claimed for practices, on what grounds and what arguments one might use for them, not to mention what should be done about them in the Church courts, and in what way.  No doubt there was plenty for him to dispute about, even on the Lord’s Prayer, especially as the abuse of something in that era was sometimes an effective argument against the practice altogether:

“All heard with disdain Mr. John Nevay’s reasons were against the Lord’s Prayer: after one hour’s jangling, we left it nothing better; I found many inclined, especially Mr. Samuel, though he professed it duty to answer satisfactorily all their arguments, for peace cause, to pass from† the use of the conclusion [doxology], and bowing in the pulpit, especially if we [will] agree with England [in a directory for worship, omitting these things altogether]; however, we agreed to draw up some act for satisfying in some measure all.” (Ibid.)

† This could mean either to pass from debating the use of the conclusion and bowing, or to pass from their use altogether in light of the proposed agreement with England, for the sake of peace.

Again, Rutherford had said, as of 1640, with reference to the practice of bowing in the pulpit, that “Neither Scripture nor Act of our Assemblies doth allow this human custom;” yet, Rutherford apparently did not lack fodder to debate with the ‘innovators’.  Unfortunately what he had to say about the doxology will never be known.

The act mentioned was drawn up by Henderson.  Though Baillie was dissatisfied with “some parts of it, as putting in too great an equality the novators and their opposites,” yet he submitted to Henderson “who was much wiser” than himself. (2.95)  Noting that the presbyteries of the Synod of Glasgow (which both Baillie and the southwestern men were a part of) had managed that none of the obnoxious brethren were sent to the General Assembly as voting commissioners,º the “Act for preparing the Directory for the worship of God” was passed unanimously by the 1643 General Assembly, and, until the proposed directory was “framed, finished and concluded”, “by universal consent of the whole Kirk”:

“…The Assembly forbiddeth, under the pain of the censures of the Kirk, all disputation by word or writing, in private or public, about different practices in such things, as have not been formerly determined by this Kirk, And all condemning one of another in such lawful things as have been universally received, and by perpetual custom practiced by the most faithful Ministers of the Gospel, and opposers of corruptions of this Kirk, since the first beginning of Reformation to these times.”

– Session 12, Aug. 15, 1643; Records of the Kirk of Scotlandfrom 1638 Downwards…, ed. Peterkin (Edinburgh: Sutherland, 1838), p. 349

º Baillie, Letters 2.94

This section of this act might be read as encompassing not one, but two categories of practices: (1) things that have not been formerly determined by the Kirk; these things persons ought not to dispute for the time; and (2) things that have been universally received by perpetual custom since the Reformation; persons ought not to condemn one another about such lawful things.  The Lord’s Prayer and the option of reading prayers certainly fall under the second category (such being in the Book of Common Order).  Private conferences and singing the doxology (not being in the Book of Common Order; the latter being seemingly deliberately left out of it) fall under the first category; and if read in this light, were not claimed by this act of the Church of Scotland to be ‘lawful things’ universally received or perpetually practiced.

The directory for worship proposed by the Church Scotland to be worked on in this act would not need to be finished as that work was taken over by Westminster.


The Doxology at Westminster

If the Independents sang the doxology at the end of two or three psalms (per Baillie, Letters 2.259), and some of the Scottish commissioners were for it (these persons composing most of Westminster’s committee for drawing up Westminster’s directory for public worship), then why was the doxology left out of the final Directory?  This was for three reasons, the first being the most important:

1. Baillie said, “But in the new translation of the Psalms, resolving to keep punctually to the original text, without any addition, we and they were content to omit that [doxology]…” (Ibid.)

2.  Out of love for those who differ and a desire (and Scriptural obligation) not to offend them and create division where a unanimous and uniform practice may be had.  In a hand written note at Westminster Gillespie listed the Gloria Patri amongst eight things that were proposed to be so passed over on this ground, for the sake of peace and concord.¹

¹ Gillespie, Notes of Debates and Proceedings of the Assembly of Divines...  (Edinburgh: Ogle, Oliver, Boyd, 1846), p. 108

3.  The evil association that the doxology sometimes bore.  With respect to the doxology, according to Baillie, “we saw both the Popish and Prelatical party did so much dote, as to put it to the end of the most of their lessons, and all their psalms.” (Letters 2.259)

As to the question of how so many good Scottish presbyterians could have at the Second Reformation sung the doxology, or been sympathetic to it, or tolerate it, we conclude that singing the doxology appears to have been an inconsistency with their official, psalm-singing-only practice for public worship, due to it having come in and grown common in the Church as a fond optional practice, it sometimes being defended as a paraphrase of inspired Scripture.

However, with greater attention to the matter, being willing to receive light from debating “freely and fairly from the Word of God”, from learning on certain related points in the larger controversy, and ultimately out of a desire for greater faithfulness to the Lord and the text of those Scriptures God had given the Church to sing as praise, the Psalms, Westminster, and subsequently the Church of Scotland, was willing to put away singing the doxology.


The Adoption of the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God
by the Church of Scotland, 1645

In 1643 the Church of Scotland wrote a letter to the ministry of the Church of England, which said:

“In the beginnings of our late Reformation [in 1638], when we were assembled at Glasgow against the Prelacy, the ceremonies and the Service-Book, a great part of the Assembly intended no such alteration in the Form of Worship and Kirk-government, as they were moved unanimously to consent unto in the end.  When the time of Reformation cometh, the wisdom and Spirit of God in his servants, cannot be resisted by the wit and power of man.”

The Humble Petition of the Commissioners of the General Assembly…  (Edinburgh: Tyler, 1643), p. 12

So it fell out with the doxology.  In commending the new Directory to the Church of Scotland in 1645, the Westminster Assembly wrote to them saying:

“…we trust, that none will be so tenacious of old customs not expressly forbidden, or so averse from good examples although new, in matters of lesser consequence, as to insist upon their liberty of retaining the one, or refusing the other, because not
specified in the Directory; but be studious to please others rather than themselves.”

– Peterkin, Records of the Kirk, pp. 417-8

The Scottish commissioners, still at Westminster, also expressed a similar sentiment in commending the Directory in a letter to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly that same year.¹  Baillie says that, “all did lovingly condescend to the alterations I had so much opposed,”² and the Westminster Directory was adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1645.

¹ Peterkin, Records, p. 417
² Letters 2.259-60

Four days after the adoption of the Directory, a committee of the General Assembly stated their ‘judgement’ that:

“…Ministers bowing in the pulpit, though a lawful custom in this Kirk, be hereafter laid aside, for satisfaction of the desires of the reverend divines in Synod of England [Westminster Assembly], and for uniformity with that Kirk so much endeared to us.”

– Peterkin, Records, p. 422

The doxology, however, was not formally laid aside, but allowed by the Church of Scotland, informally, to fall into ‘desuetude’.  Before that happened though, one last spark would be ignited for it from Calderwood.  Robert Edward was a conforming Scottish minister under Episcopacy during ‘the Killing Times’.  If his lone anecdotal account (which is wrong about the date) is to be trusted, he said:

“Mr. Calderwood…  spoke to the hearing of the whole Synod:  ‘Moderator, I entreat that the doxology be not laid aside, for I hope to sing it in heaven,’ to which speech he received no satisfactory answer; and I doubt not but many in that Synod by their silence did approve his saying, as a sound and seasonable testimony in favors of the doxology.”

This occurred the day after bowing in pulpit was ‘laid aside’.  Gillespie records something further of Calderwood’s speech:

“Concerning Gloria Patri, Mr. D. Calderwood cited Bailius ad Amphilochium¹ saying, That hymn was used from the days of the Apostles, only the Council of Nicea added these words, ‘As it was in the beginning,’ against the Arians.²  He cited also a canon of Conc. Tolet.,³ against some who would not sing any songs made by men, namely by Ambrose and Hilarius, the canon objects, Why, then, sing they Gloria Patri?  So that, as precise as they were, they sung that song.

[Gillespie:] But the canon saith, Respuunt igitur† [they cast it off], which imports they did not sing that song.

It was thought good, to make no Act about this, as there is made about bowing in the pulpit, but to let desuetude abolish it.”

Notes of Debates, p. 120

¹ Basil of Caesarea (A.D. 329-379), Liber de Spiritu Sancto ad Amphilochium Iconii Episcopum  [A Book on the Holy Spirit to Amphilochius, Bishop of Icon]  in Sanctorum Patrum Opuscula Selecta…  vol. 31, ed. H. Hurter (Oeniponti: Libraria Academica Wagneriana, 1875)

² Ibid., pp. 135-6; see also pp. 2 & 23.  Basil’s claim that this hymn was used by the apostles is groundless, other than the evidence he cites for it, namely the similar wording of 1 Cor. 5:4 & 6:11.  It does confirm to some extent though that Calderwood and others likely considered the doxology to be a constructed, inspired Bible song, and not a hymn in the modern sense of the word.

³ Fourth Council of Toledo (A.D. 633), ch. 13  in ed. J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (Florence-Venice, 1757–98) 10.622-3

Ibid., col. 223, top, in this edition, respuant ergo.

After this event in 1645 respecting the doxology, according to Sprott, “we hear no more of it till the Restoration [in 1660].” (During the Covenanting Period, p. 24)


A Critique of Westminster’s Directory

The first author to comment on Westminster’s Directory appears to have been the episcopal Henry Hammond (1605–1660), a high-Church, Arminian, latitudinarian Anglican.  Besides understanding Westminster’s phrase, the ‘singing of psalms’ as only speaking of the psalms of David (and not hymns, which he was for),¹ he also considered ‘the use of the doxology’ (which he was for) to have been “purposely avoided in this Directory”.²

¹ Hammond, A view of the new directorie and a vindication of the ancient liturgie of the Church of England…(Oxford, 1646), p. 29

² Ibid., p. 10; see also pp. 31-32.


Gordon of Rothiemay’s History

To continue refuting the arguments of McMillan, he cites a passage from James Gordon of Rothiemay’s, History of Scots Affairs from 1637-1641, under the section on 1640, which speaks of the, “Gloria Patri, which had been constantly used in the church, since the reformation, to be sung at the closure of the psalms, began to fall into desuetude.”

Gordon (1615?-1686) was a Scottish minister who was born near the time of the Articles of Perth, and grew up in the 1620’s under Prelacy.  Rothiemay is in the Northeast of Scotland near Aberdeen.  The later editor of his work said that “though he submitted to the [National] Covenant, he was far from bearing it any goodwill, and probably was not far from the thought of his predecessor who refused it altogether.  At the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, there “can be no doubt, that, like the great majority of the Northern clergy, he willingly acquiesced in the re-establishment of Episcopacy.” (Scots Affairs 1.30-31)

That Gordon in this passage was writing later and was dependent on secondary information, and likely public documents from the period, seems clear in that he uses the very specific term of ‘desuetude’ with reference to the doxology, which is the term Gillespie used in his notes from the 1645 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  Though Gordon writes of 1640, he seems to be dependent on the Act of 1643 which had spoken of certain unnamed practices as having been in use since the Reformation.  Though this was true of the Lord’s Prayer and possibly bowing in the pulpit, Gordon inserts by his own interpretation the doxology.

Gordon uses the term ‘constantly’ in reference to singing the doxology, the word choice of Baillie, which perhaps was a familiar term being used by a certain party of the Church in their claims.  Gordon only speaks of one doxology in particular as being sung since the Reformation, the Gloria Patri, rather clearly reading the contemporary practice of his own day back onto former times with which he had no personal experience with.º

º For a similar, self-evidently, inaccurate claim by a late writer, see the pronouncement of the Scottish Bishop John Sage (1652-1711) analyzed by Fleming, ‘Hymnology’, part 3, pp. 39-40.


The Scottish Directory for Family Worship, 1647

It may come as a surprise that the Directory for Family Worship, written by the Church of Scotland, and approved by her in 1647, does not mention psalm singing, or any singing of praise at all.  As Sprott traces the supposed Brownist influence through the period,¹ one might be tempted to think that the omission of singing psalms was due to a sectarian, Independent influence in the Church of Scotland.

¹ e.g. During the Covenanting Period, p. 28

This tempting conclusion, though, is incorrect:

(1)  Cromwell and the Independents did not invade Scotland until 1650.

(2)  In 1642 Rutherford also left out the singing of psalms in regard to what the Church of Scotland had officially ordained for families:

“The worship of God is commanded by our Assemblies to be in private families, as catechizing by the master of the family, or some other better gifted in every family, Dt. 6:6-8; Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:15; praying, Zech. 12:10.” (Peaceable & Temperate Plea, ch. 20, Article 13, pp. 325-6)

(3)  Such ordinances and relevant proceedings directing unto family worship which do not mention, but also do not exclude, the singing of psalms, occurred in 1638 & 1639. (Peterkin, Records, pp. 36, 209, 269)

(4) The 1650 psalter was ordained by the Church of Scotland to be the only psalter used in the family (as will be seen), and it contained nothing but the 150 psalms to sing.

Hence it seems a much more likely explanation for the absence of the singing of psalms in the Directory for Family Worship is the following qualification posited in the Scottish First Book of Discipline (1560, 9th Head):

“Policy we call an exercise of the church…  And thereof there are two sorts: the one utterly necessary, as that the word be truly preached, the sacraments rightly ministered, common prayers publicly made; that the children and rude persons be instructed in the chief points of religion, and that offences be corrected and punished.  These things, we say, are so necessary, that without the same there is no face of a visible kirk.  The other is profitable, but not of mere necessity: as, that psalms should be sung; that certain places of the scriptures should be read when there is no sermon; [and] that this day or that day, few or many in the week, the church should assemble.”

To put into perspective a bit more that singing of psalms is profitable, but not necessary to there being a ‘face of the visible kirk’:  Many work-places today cannot even sing ‘Happy Birthday’ together, on key, or at all.  The Church of Scotland had trouble with the churches across the nation being able to sing together well throughout the whole post-Reformation era. 

Much of Scotland in that period was illiterate.  Hence the Directory says, “in every family where there is any that can read, the holy scriptures should be read ordinarily to the family.”  The Directory’s directions regarding ‘secret worship’ do not even mention the reading of Scripture, or the singing of psalms, but only press ‘prayer and meditation’ (which can be done by all, including young children).  Hence, while the Church held the singing of psalms to be ‘profitable’, it is possible, and perhaps likely, that the Directory left out the singing of psalms because the Church did not want to enjoin something on persons which they may not be able to perform (such a rational was used by those proposing legislation in the Church of Scotland about other things in that era).

In order to get a more balanced perspective on the foregoing ‘innovations’ in the Church of Scotland, some observations on what the Directory has to say about them will be provided.  Regarding not using the Lord’s Prayer verbatim:  The Directory never enjoins the use of the Lord’s Prayer.  It does say, however:

“So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer, but so as they be not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure: to which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to express, convenient desires to God for their family.  And, in the meantime, for their greater encouragement, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of, as followeth.”

Directions and matter for prayer follow, some of which reflect parts of the Lord’s Prayer.

Regarding private conferencing, the Directory said:

“7. Whatsoever have been the effects and fruits of meetings of persons of diverse families in the times of corruption or trouble [during prelacy in the 1630’s] (in which cases many things are commendable, which otherwise are not tolerable), yet, when God hath blessed us with peace and purity of the gospel, such meetings of persons of diverse families (except in cases mentioned in these Directions [related to family worship]) are to be disapproved [for a following list of feared abuses, some of which no doubt had occurred already]…”

The most ambiguous (and likely to be stretched) case previously listed in ‘these Directions’ in section 6 was that one was not to admit to family worship “persons from diverse families, unless it be those who are…  otherwise with them upon some lawful occasion.”  In case that one might plead that their gathering was not considered family worship, nor even for exercises of worship, but for spiritual conferencing only, the block quote above disapproves of ‘meetings of persons of diverse families’ simply.  However, according to one Scottish opponent of such private conferencing, those who did it whom he was familiar with considered their gatherings to be family worship (perhaps in an attempt to more easily justify them), and hence such persons might plead the ‘some lawful occasion clause’.  It seems likely that this justifying clause had at least in view the popular custom of multiple families gathering at the minister’s house to profit by his family worship, as even a leading opponent of private meetings conceded the lawfulness of this.¹

¹ Baillie, Letters 1.253-4.  The rational may have been that the many fears and abuses of private meetings listed in the Directory, section 7, would not occur if a minister was leading family worship with other families present.

Regarding the Directory’s disapproval of private conferencing during times of the ‘peace and purity of the gospel’, where regular public ordinances are available, we find it sufficient that numerous of the injunctions, precedents and promises of Scripture regarding private conferencing were made in contexts where the regular, public ordinances of the Church were available.  The Biblical writers, nor the Holy Spirit disapproved of private conferencing for fear of people abusing it.

When Rutherford argued for private conferencing “in greater numbers, and for more purposes than yet we have heard practiced” (Baillie, Letters 1. 252-3), that was before the 1640 General Assembly, when the Church was at peace and regular public ordinances were available.  Part of his argument was that “What Scripture does warrant, an Assembly may not discharge; but privy meetings for exercises of religion, Scripture warrants.”  Rutherford referenced Heb. 12 [10:25?], James 5:16 & Mal. 3:16, and argued that those “things could not be done in public meetings.”  Hence, they must be done in private gatherings of diverse families.

The only thing, it seems, that can be made against Rutherford’s argument is the example of the early Christians being morally able to eat blood, and yet the Synod at Jerusalem (Acts 15) rightly prohibited the practice due to fear of scandal in those early Church circumstances while the Church was coming out of the Jewish context (this was the dominant view of the Reformation and puritan era, including that of Rutherford; see our page On Eating & Drinking Blood).  While this principle of prohibiting lawful practices due to the risk of scandal may apply to contexts of the Church where the issue of private conferencing is first rising, or abuses of it cannot be well curbed, yet in the Church’s maturity, and with right teaching, it is never good or safe to prohibit something outright which Christ has given liberty for and promised to bless the use of to the faithful as a means of grace.  These considerations and conclusion do justice to the basic rationale of the Church of Scotland’s Directory for Family Worship, and at the same time are in consistency with Rutherford’s main argument.

It would only be three years after the publication of the Directory, in 1650, that the Church arguably entered into ‘times of corruption or trouble’ at the invasion of Cromwell (in which times private conferencing might be approved according to the Directory).  In 1651 the intense split of the Church into Resolutioners and Protestors occurred, they each holding separate churches, presbyteries and assemblies (in the same locale often).  Both of these things would last till the end of the 1650’s, with the Protesters (the heirs of the ‘innovations’) maintaining the upper-hand, who were also not shy about disobeying ecclesiastical ordinances contrary to God’s Word.  In the early-1660’s the Church of Scotland entered into even greater ‘times of corruption and trouble’, all the way up through 1688.†

† The United Societies, or Scottish ‘Cameronians‘ (who generally saw themselves as following in the line of the Protesters) arose in 1681 with an organized network of private conferencing, which network came to be relatively large at times in the following years.  The later John Howie (1735–1793), of the same perspective, wrote an introduction to the Societies’ correspondence and records which he had collected.  In this introduction Howie admirably argues for private conferencing from Scripture and reason, and defends it from objections.

Interestingly, Howie argues for keeping up private conferencing even where regular public ordinances are available.  To sections 6 & 7 of the Directory he responds (not altogether satisfactorily) that this practice is not against the Directory, “providing that the one duty do not retard or justle out the other.”  The Directory had disapproved of private conferencing in part because it said that private conferencing tended “to the hindrance of the religious exercise of each family by itself.”

As Rutherford’s treatise on the subject is not published (if it even still exists), Howie’s is the next best and most detailed treatment of the topic that this writer has found:  Faithful Contendings Displayed…  (Glasgow: John Bryce, 1780), pp. xii-xix.


The Preparation of Bible Songs, 1647-48

As is well-known, the 1650 Scottish Psalter only includes the 150 Psalms.  The psalter was a product of the Church of Scotland revising Francis Rous’s psalter sent over to them from the Westminster Assembly.

During that revision process the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had set the Scottish minister, royalist and poet, Zachary Boyd (1585-1653, a cousin of Robert Boyd and a friend of Baillie),† upon the task of setting to meter various Bible-songs.  In 1647, the General Assembly had recommended:

“That M. Zachary Boyd be at the pains to translate the other Scriptural songs in meter, and to report his travails also to the Commission of Assembly, that after their examination thereof, they may send the same to Presbyteries to be there considered until the next General Assembly.”

– Session 25, Aug. 28, 1647, ‘Act for Revising the Paraphrase of the Psalms brought from England, with a Recommendation for translating the other Scriptural Songs in Meter’  in Peterkin, Records, p. 475

† Boyd was a hesitant swearer of the National Covenant (1638), at first being opposed to it.  While he (later) expressed disgust at the Five Articles of Perth and the 1637 Service Book, yet it is not seen how he could have had such a prosperous and uninterrupted career in 1630’s at the University of Glasgow without being a conformist to Episcopacy.   While Boyd definitely (later) expressed disgust for prelacy, yet this was able to held in hand with a preference for a limited episcopacy, as in the case of Baillie.  Note Boyd being a member of the episcopal Commission for maintenance of Church Discipline in 1634.  David Atkinson, ‘Zachary Boyd as minister of the Barony Parish…’  Scottish Church Historical Society (1990), pp. 20, 25; ed. Hew Scott, Fasti ecclesiae scoticanae…  (1920), 3.392

Clearly the project of metrifying the inspired Bible-songs was tentative, as the authorization of whether they would be included in the psalter was subject to the presbyteries and further General Assemblies.  In 1648 the Commission of the General Assembly thanked Boyd and three others for their work on the Scripture songs and asked Robert Lowrie, one of them, “to present his labors therein to the Commission at their next meeting.”º  Lowrie would later conform to Erastian Episcopacy at the Restoration (1660).

º Baillie, Letters, vol. 3, Appendix, 86. ‘Notices regarding the Metrical Versions of the Psalms received by the Church of Scotland’, VII – ‘Scriptural Songs & Paraphrases’, pp. 554-5.  See generally pp. 540-556.

According to Laing, “in the minutes of the Commission, no further notice is taken either of these Scriptural Songs by Leitch, or Lowrie; which do not appear ever to have been printed.” (Letters 3.555)  They of course did not make it into the final version of the psalter, meaning that the commission and/or the presbyteries turned them down.

However, did the General Assembly, at one point, intend for the Scripture songs to be used in public worship?  There is no evidence for this; their initial commissioning of Boyd to the task could have been merely for their use outside of public worship,¹ just as Bible-songs were appended to Scottish psalters for this purpose in the late-1500’s and early-1600’s.

¹ This is stated by Livingston, Scottish Metrical Psalter, p. 4 lt. col. bot.  On the preparation of Bible-songs in general, see also Winzer, ‘Westminster & Worship Examined’, pp. 259-260 fn. 29


The 1650’s Scotland

In 1649 the Commission of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland authorized what would become known as the 1650 Scottish Psalter (which had only the 150 Psalms in it):

“to be the only paraphrase of the Psalms of David to be sung in the Kirk of Scotland; and discharging the old paraphrase and any other than this new paraphrase, to be made use of in any congregation or family after the first day of May in the year 1650.”  (Letters 3.548)

The 1650’s in Scotland were filled with ecclesiastical and political turmoil.¹  1650 saw the beginnings of the Resolutioner – Protestor controversy in the Church (over issues such as who could fight in the army, the support of King Charles II, etc.) which would continue all the way through the decade.  The Protestors were the right-wing and, in a certain, limited alliance with Oliver Cromwell, held the upper-hand of dominance in the Church and State through the 1650’s, though they were actually the minority.

¹ Deal with psalms not being sung in Edinburgh from 1645-1653, contra Sprott, not due to Independents but due to Westminster taking out the reader’s service and they not following the Directory. ****

Stevenson highlights the continuity through these periods, “Most of the radicals of the 1630’s and 1640’s (with the important exception of David Dickson)¹ emerged as leaders of the protestors.” (‘Conventicles’, p. 114)  Though the singing of psalms is mentioned many times in ten of the main historical works on this period,² hymns never are.

¹ George Hutcheson also became a Resolutioner.  Robert Blair, one of the ‘Irish innovators’, sought to be a reconciling influence in the middle.

² James Balfour, The Historical Works: The Annals of Scotland, vol. 3 (1641-49), 4 (1650-52) (Edinburgh, 1824); James Beattie, History of the Church of Scotland during the Commonwealth (Edinburgh, 1842); Sprott, During the Covenanting Period, pp. 42-47; J.L. Ainslie, ‘The Church and People of Scotland, 1645-1660’  Scottish Church History Society (1947); John R, Young, The Scottish Parliament, 1639-61: A Political and Constitutional Analysis PhD diss. (Univ. of Glasgow, 1993); Kyle Holfelder, Factionalism in the Kirk during the Cromwellian Invasion and Occupation of Scotland, 1650 to 1660: The Protester-Resolutioner Controversy  PhD diss. (Univ. of Edinbrgh, 1998); R. Scott Spurlock, Sectarian Religion in Scotland: The Impact of
Cromwell’s Occupation (1650-1660)  PhD diss. (Univ. of Edinburgh, 2005); Christopher Langley, Times of Trouble and Deliverance: Worship in the Kirk of Scotland, 1645-1658, PhD diss. (Univ. of Aberdeen, 2012); Neil McIntyre, Saints and Subverters: the Later Covenanters in Scotland c.1648-1682  PhD diss.  (Univ. of Strathclyde, 2016); Kirsteen MacKenzie, The Solemn League and Covenant of the Three Kingdoms and the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663 (Routledge, 2017)


David Dickson, 1650’s

In 1655 Dickson (c.1583–1663), a Resolutioner, published a song he wrote about the Christian life, ‘True Christian Love’, with a header quoting Col. 3:16.  The song is definitely not a praise-hymn, and is self-evidently not fit for congregational worship, though it does include some sporadic ejaculations of praise.

In his commentary on Matthew (1651), Dickson derives this doctrine from Christ and his apostles singing a ‘hymn’ after the Last Supper in Mt. 26:30, “It is fit that God be glorified in the Assembly of the church, by singing of Psalms.”  In his commentary on the last third of the psalms (1654), the title page bore the verse Col. 3:16, “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”.  Dickson wrote brief annotations (of an unknown date) on the 1650 psalter (with nothing but psalms in it), to be used as prefatory remarks when singing.  In his comments on Ps. 149, he refers to psalm 148 being a ‘hymn’.  Dickson’s most explicit elucidation of his view though comes in his Exposition of Colossians, on ch. 3:16:

“…and every one stir up his own and others affections to the singing of holy Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual Songs, composed of some spiritual matter, by the Spirit, and made for mutual edification.”

– An Exposition of all St. Paul’s Epistles together with an explanation of those other epistles of the apostles St. James, Peter, John & Jude  (London, 1659), on Col. ch. 3, verse 16, p. 143

This statement (alone) does not go so far as to limit sung-praise to only the psalms, but grounds it on inspiration.  It ought to be remembered that in 1641 Dickson and Blair “did purge themselves fully” of the ‘innovations’ and “were ready to receive any of the models” of the church legislation that might be made about them, according to Baillie. (Baillie, Letters 2.362)  Insofar as Dickson was apparently open to singing the doxology, it is possible that Dickson’s personal view may have been that Col. 3:16 warrants uninspired, human composed odes about the Christian life, though limits direct praise to God to inspired Bible-song singing only.  However, in all of Dickson’s works, the only thing he mentions as being sung is the psalms.


Ferguson, late-1650’s

Rev. Jones references the Scottish minister, James Ferguson (1621-1667), as supporting the singing of non-psalms.  While this is the case, the fuller details of Fergusson’s context are not supportive of Jones’s main thesis that “there is plenty of evidence that many notable Reformed writers positively argued for the inclusion of hymns, besides Psalms, in corporate worship.”

Ferguson’s 1656 commentary on Colossians says on Col. 3:16 with respect to the “ordinance of God’s worship”:

“The psalms of David, and other Scriptural songs in the Old Testament, may, and ought to be sung in this part of gospel-worship…  now all agree that hereby [in the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’] are designed the psalms of David, and other Scriptural songs…” (A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul...  London, Ward, 1841, p. 365)

Ferguson’s 1659 commentary on Ephesians on Eph. 5:19 (which Rev. Jones does not reference) repeats this notion but further elaborates his position:

“He expresses the matter to be sung, in three words, the very titles which are given to David’s Psalms, and other scriptural Songs…  and those Songs he calls ‘spiritual’ (which epithet is to be extended to the Psalms and Hymns also) as being framed by the Spirit of God…  it is necessary that we be filled with the Spirit and have a rich and copious measure of his presence and assistance, though not to compose new songs: for he points at scriptural Songs, as the most fitting purpose to be sung, under the title of ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’…” (A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, Edinburgh, Higgins, 1659, pp. 365-7)

That Ferguson was against singing hymns in the public worship of the Church and was for singing inspired Bible-songs is clear.  It should be noted though that Ferguson’s claim that “all agree” that ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ refers also to other Scriptural songs outside of the psalter simply is not true, as is evidenced in this article and our collection of Puritan Quotes on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’.

However, Ferguson’s claim that ‘all agree’ to inspired Bible-songs probably does reflect the thought of a segment of the Scottish Church that Ferguson was familiar with.  Calderwood and Baillie seemed to hold to inspired Bible-song singing only for public worship.  Ferguson was a Resolutioner, as were Baillie, Zachary Boyd¹ and most of the former ministers that had compliantly tolerated episcopacy before 1638.

¹ Baillie, Letters 3.142, 194, 239

Ferguson’s claim may likely refer to his knowledge of published works.  As will be seen, the English Independent puritan Nathaniel Holmes and the New England Independent puritan John Cotton had written influential books on psalm singing in 1644 and 1647 respectively which very forwardly put forward singing inspired Bible-songs in public worship.  The political influence of Independency came into Scotland through Cromwell’s invasion in 1650 and subsequent occupancy through that decade.  Though it is true that Ferguson preached against Independency in 1652 (published later in his A Brief Refutation…), more may be said.

The Bay Psalm Book of the New England, Independent puritans was first published in 1640 and only included the 150 psalms in it.  The preface explicitly interpreted and promoted Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 as speaking only of the Biblical psalter.  By its third edition in 1651 (ed. Dunster, and for editions after that), some Bible songs had been appended to it, and the preface changed the grounding of sung-praise to mere inspiration.  Davies described the Bay Psalm Book’s widespread influence, including that in Scotland:

“It had…  a lasting influence upon the psalmody not only of North America, but also of England and Scotland.  Sufficient proof of its popularity and influence is to be found in the fact that it passed through eighteen English and twenty-two Scottish editions.”

– Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (1948; Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), p. 167

In 1654 the English presbyterian Cuthbert Sydenham wrote another major treatise on psalm singing.  This too, as will be seen, reflected the influence of Independency and allowed for the singing non-psalm, inspired Bible-songs in the Church’s public praise of God.  These were the main recent precedents in Ferguson’s greater British context.

It is also noteworthy that by the 1650’s the the oldest Scottish psalters were becoming rare through the disintegrating qualities of time, and it would be easy to think from the late-1500’s and early-1600’s psalters that Bible-songs had always been in them.  Ferguson also would have found no lack of precedent for the Church singing inspired Bible songs from the reformed Churches on the continent, but this however, would reflect a foreign influence not natively Scottish.

It should also be noted that while Ferguson held that inspired Bible-songs could be and should be sung (Ephesians, p. 367), and that in the context of the ordinances of the Church, yet there is no explicit indication in his works that such Bible-songs were actually sung in his context.  The 1650 Psalter had been ordained by the Church to be the only one used in the Church and in families, and it had no non-psalm Bible songs in it.  Resolutioners tended to be conscientious about obeying Church ordinances.  In addition to this, the state of Church singing in Scotland was quite pitiful in the 1650’s (likely due in large part to the havoc created by Cromwell’s invasion).  Churches were sometimes forbidden by the Independent occupants to sing at all; even when allowed, not all were able to sing together or very well.  Tunes available and commonly known were very limited.  All of this would take a greater toll on singing Bible-song which were not in the 1650 psalter more than the bread and butter of their singing: the psalms.

Perhaps a main referent that Ferguson (a Resolutioner) had in mind by ‘Scriptural song’ in the context of the public ‘ordinance’ of worship was simply the doxology (which the Church had officially let fallen into desuetude a decade earlier)?  As the Scottish Church often ordained worship practices for families, Ferguson may have had in mind Bible-songs being part of the worship ‘ordinance’ of singing praise in families and in private, as private publications with Bible-songs in them would be more accessible to that context.  Ferguson also left in manuscript an essay on singing the psalms.ª

ª William G. Blaikie, ‘Ferguson, James (1621-1667)’  Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, vol. 18


After the Restoration (1660) in Scotland

The Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 brought the Church of Scotland into a new stage.  Within a few years Erastian Episcopacy would be the law of the land, and the hundreds of presbyterian ministers that would not conform were ejected from their pulpits in 1662.  Being dislocated, the presbyterian ministers shortly took to holding field meetings for worship.  As the persecution drew on through the 1670’s and 1680’s, the difference and separation between the established episcopal churches and the presbyterians became more pronounced.

Naturally those who did not conform were of the more right-wing variety, especially as persecution increased.  They simply continued the presbyterian worship they had inherited from the 1650’s and laid claim to the Westminster standards as embodying the best of the Second Reformation of Scotland and forming in part the constitutional rule of the Church, irrespective (and in the face) of the divergence into Erastian Episcopacy.

In January of 1661, a newspaper in Scotland described the account of a minister, James Ramsay, preaching before parliament:

“There were two remarkable things fell out this day: he in the forenoon, instanced the Authority of the learned Fathers; and he in the afternoon, restored us to Glory to the Father, to be sung at the end of the Psalms: both which, have been great strangers to our Kirk these many years.”

Mercurius Caledonius, Jan. 25 – Feb. 1, 1661, Sunday, Jan. 27, 1661; referenced in Baillie, Letters 3.259

The ‘authority’ of the Church fathers, it is said, had been a stranger to the Kirk for the last many years; yet presumably on this basis (which Episcopalians were particularly dear to), not Scripture, was the doxology ‘restored’.  Four months later Ramsay:

“…celebrated the return of the King, the establishment of Episcopacy, and the inauguration of a new regime, by burning ‘The Solemn League and Covenant’ [1643] at the market-place.”

– John Ferguson, Ecclesia Antiqua…  (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1905), p. 192

Ramsay would become a bishop and then later be defrocked by the presbyterian Church of Scotland at the Revolution, circa 1690.ª

ª Ferguson, Ecclesia Antiqua, p. 192 and Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae…  ed. Hew Scott (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1915), 1.216

It is well documented that during the era of persecution between 1661 & 1688, the Episcopalians in general sung the doxology and the presbyterians did not.¹  However, even in the established Episcopalian churches, there was still resistance to it, as, despite legislation for the doxology in 1662, the Synod of Galloway (in southwest Scotland, where Rutherford had been) learned in 1664 that “some of the brethren…  have not been careful to practice these duties.”  In fact, in Dunblane (above Glasgow and Edinburgh):

“…one or more enactments on reading the Scriptures [in contrast to lecturing through the reading of a chapter], the use of the Doxology, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Commandments were repeated almost annually until 1668.  Possibly at that point the struggle was given up in despair, for so late as 1688, on the eve of the overthrow of the Restoration settlement, the Creed, Lord’s Prayer and Doxology were still not in general use in the presbytery of Inverness and Dingwall [in the Highlands, a region of resistance].  In the intervening years there is evidence from various other places of failure to achieve uniformity.”

– ed. Duncan Forrester & Douglas Murray, Studies in the History of Worship in Scotland, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), pp. 65-66

¹  Robert Wodrow, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland…  vol. 1  (Glasgow: Blackie, 1835), p. 281; Brown, Early Travellers, p. 232; Life of Robert Blair, p. 426; Fleming, ‘Hymnology’, part 4, pp. 777-9; Sprott, During the Covenanting Period, pp. 48-49Book of Common Order, pp. 272-4; John Dowden, The Scottish Communion Office, 1764 (Oxford Press, 1922), p. 44, fn.; Mark Mirabello, Dissent and the Church of Scotland, 1660-1690, PhD Diss. (Univ. of Glasgow, 1988), pp. 43-44, 138, 154-6, 172-3, 176, 200-1.  See especially, ch. 8, ‘The Worship of the Established Church’, pp. 153-167.  Leishman, ‘Ritual of the Church’, pp. 394-7; McMillan, Worship, pp. 92-93; Maxwell, History of Worship, ch. 5, ‘Worship after the Restoration’, pp. 113-5, 125, 128; Forrester, Studies in the History of Worship, pp. 64-70; M’Crie, Public Worship, pp. 212-214 & 229-40

Through this period various ‘Indulgences’ were offered to resisting covenanters which allowed them only slightly more freedom.  As many covenanters found themselves ethically able to acquiesce to such conditions, it began to fill the established churches with more and more presbyterians.  How did presbyterians sitting in the pew respond to the doxology?  A poetic work composed in 1679 at the time of the third indulgence, and critical of it precisely because it brought more ‘fanatics’ and ‘rebels’ into the churches, said:

“For being baptized to the Trinity,
They dare sit mute to the doxology.
They dare not sing, what they dare say, like those
Despise in verse what they commend in prose.”

– Ninian Paterson, The fanatick indulgence granted anno 1679  (Edinburgh, 1683), p. 4

The common presbyterian take at the doxology at this time¹ seems to be adequately represented by James Fraser of Brea’s statement in a sermon:

“are there not things added as necessary parts of worship, that God never burdened his people with; such as singing of the doxology, repeating of the Creed, and Lord’s Prayer, and are not all these men’s inventions; and if not idols of the hands, yet idols and works of the understanding.; and is not the worship of God thereby mixed and defiled; and what did all Jeroboam’s sin amount to, but this the defiling of the worship of God with man’s inventions;”

Prelacy an Idol and Prelates Idolaters…  2nd ed. (Glasgow, 1742), pp. 15-16

¹ The sermon was evidently originally given in the time of persecution when Prelacy was in power: pp. 3, 14.

While the doxology was made necessary by legislation at the time, yet it even being in the public worship at all made it to have a de facto necessary force upon laypersons.  With respect to the Lord’s Prayer, the de facto necessary repeating of it in each worship service is something more than Jesus ever instituted or is found in the early, Scriptural worship of the apostles.  Persons have accused the presbyterian worship of this time as being extreme, but it in fact, as has been seen, it was no different than the representative orders of worship laid out by both Henderson and Rutherford in 1641-2.  The episcopalians no doubt claimed that they were were simply reviving the old worship of the Book of Common Order, however they added to it a legal and practical necessity that the Book of Common Order simply never bore before.


Robert MacWard

In 1669, Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715), a Scottish, Arminian, latitudinarian, conformist minister, published a monograph against the non-conformist presbyterians entitled, A modest and free conference betwixt a conformist and a non-conformist about the present distempers of Scotland…  In 1671, the Scottish covenanter Robert MacWard (1633?-1687), a protege of Rutherford,¹ answered this work with, The true non-conformist in answere to the modest and free conference…  Burnet, on p. 72 of his work speaks of “the Apostles and persons immediately inspired” and then says in the next sentence, “Beside, you see by the worship of the Corinthians, they used hymns of their composing, as well as prayers.”  To this argument for uninspired hymns, MacWard responds the obvious:

“the Apostle’s business, in the place, is, to set an order to the use of extraordinary
gifts, wherein that Church abounded; so, the Psalms, Doctrine, Tongue, Revelation, and Interpretation [1 Cor. 14:26], there spoken of, appear to be inspired and afflatitious motions, which will not found you any argument:” (True Nonconformist, p. 278)

¹ Rutherford does not directly address the content of sung-praise in any of his published works, though whenever he mentions singing praise, it is only the psalms.

In the larger section (pp. 272-80), MacWard argues that (1) singing is a distinct element from prayer with different Biblical regulations, (2) that inspiration is a requirement for sung praise, (3) that the God-given Psalms are sufficient for the Church’s praise, and (4) in referring to the psalms, says “the Lord hath provided us with a plentiful variety of psalms and hymns,” (p. 278) implicitly making reference to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16.  While affirming that the non-conformists use the doxology after prayers,¹ McWard says:

“as the Lord, whose it is, hath commanded, so we worship Him, using that allowed liberty of Spirit, and utterance, both in prayer and praise, whereunto He Himself hath promised to direct and assist us: And as for the Psalms given us by Divine appointment, for the matter only (and not for the formal expression of our more solemn praising) we are satisfied with his bounty; and therefore do refuse your vain super-addition of an human invention:” (p. 279-80)

¹ An example of this, perhaps, is Henderson often or usually ending his prayers with a short doxological prayer, as in the many prayers in Sermons, Prayers and Pulpit Addresses ed. R. Thomson Martin  (Edinburgh: Maclaren, 1867).  McMillan notes this (Worship, p. 92), but with little effect to his thesis as it was not the Gloria Patri, nor sung.

While McWard in a few places (pp. 272, 280) seems to suggest that he was open to singing “other spiritual songs, in Scripture”, yet he tells Burnet, “you might indeed with some reason reprehend our too great disuse” of them.  It is very possible that MacWard was referring to a former period than his own, for instance when such other Scripture songs were appended to psalters, they not being intended for public worship.

As for Burnet, he never states that any non-inspired hymns were actually sung in the Scottish churches of his day.  Several years after this exchange he would go to reside in England where he would have more opportunity for such.

MacWard’s section is unique, as it may very well be the only published, extended argument against hymns from the 1500’s or 1600’s in Scotland.  The reasons for this seem to be that:

– Exclusive psalmody in public worship was so dominant in the Church of Scotland for the whole period, and that by ecclesiastical constitution, that there simply was no agitating force for hymns¹ in order to create a native Scottish controversy.

¹ Even Burnet’s criticism is subordinate to the main issue of using forms for prayer; after making the point he immediately moves on to something else.

– The English Service-Book was a prayer book, and as its few human authored prayers could be said or sung, there was no necessity that it entailed singing uninspired material.  Hence in many of the Scottish critiques of the English prayer book, they did not feel it necessary to critique singing hymns.

– The Independents, the main initial source for singing hymns in corporate worship in the 1600’s, which came to be done congregationally, never had a lasting hold in Scotland as they did England.  This was in a significant measure due to the stricter establishmentarianism in Scotland by the civil magistrate.  When Independents did come in with Cromwell (the Usurper, and breaker of the Solemn League), they were largely seen as a foreign, oppressive influence.


A Tract for the Doxology

In 1683, during the dark days of the Killing Times, a conformist minister, Robert Edward, wrote a 100 page tract defending the doxology, entitled, The Doxology Approven….  The work is dedicated to George Gordon, a civil, Earl of Aberdeen and the civil Chancellor of Scotland (1682-4).  Gordon was noted in that he “executed the laws enforcing religious conformity with severity.”¹  In the Preface, Edward says that in his day:

“in one parish church you may hear the doxology Christianly sung, but in the next parish church no mention of it, nor in the wandering conventicle [field worship-meeting] at the hill-side, or in the den…  yea, and too often in the same church-assembly, both in city and country, when it comes to the closing of the psalm some sing the doxology decently, others sitting by who did sing the Psalm instantly turn silent at the doxology…”

¹ Philip Chesney Yorke, ‘Aberdeen, George Gordon, 1st Earl of’, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

What was the fundamental ground upon which the conformist Edward held the doxology to be lawful in Christ’s worship?  On p. 72 he says:

“But doth not the apostle command to praise God ‘in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’, Eph. 5:19.  In which place the Learned dare not exclude any hymn or spiritual song in Scripture, and we have proven already the Doxology to be of this nature.”

Nowhere in Edward’s work does he explicitly approve of uninspired hymns;† it is very possible that Edward, and a significant share of the ‘Learned’ conformists, held to inspired-material, praise singing.

† Edward cites incidentally some historical examples of ‘hymns’ being sung, but so do other persons against uninspired hymns in the Church’s public worship in that era.

The presbyterians retorted that “the Doxology is not express in continued Scriptures, as the Psalms of David are.” (Ibid.)  Edward responds by arguing from the mixing of the distinctions and Biblical regulations between the elements of worship, saying that neither “their Sermon, [or] Prayer…  be express Scripture.”  Edward then gives the presbyterians’ view as to the limits of praise-song: “but if we praise God with a tone, or song, it must either be in the Psalms of David, or else it is an abomination to them.” (Ibid.)

Apart from MacWard’s polemic, and this by Edward, there does not appear to be much else from the period controverting at any length the issue of the doxology.  As Leishman said, “Controversy on ritual was forgotten in controversy about rule…  the finger of the new prelacy was thicker than the loins of the old.”  (‘Ritual’, p. 396)


Hymns in Scottish Worship?

A remarkable characteristic about the period of persecution is how little episcopal and presbyterian worship differed.  At the end of the period in 1690, an English army chaplain stationed in Scotland wrote:

“…the Episcopal Church have hitherto used no liturgy at all, no more than the Presbyterians who now govern [in 1690 and following]; yet she everywhere agreed in the way of worship, and their whole service on the Lord’s Day (having no other holidays, except fasts and feasts upon special occassions; for though they had a Calendar in the Directory [the Book of Common Order], above [mentioned]…  yet it is more for the use of their fairs, and to know the age of the moon…

They both do it [worship] after the same manner, saving that after the psalm the Episcopalian minister uses the doxology, which the other omits, and concludes his own with that of the Lord, which the Presbyterian refuses to do.”

– Thomas Morer, A Short Account of Scotland: Being a Description of the Nature of that Kingdom, and what the Constitution of it is in Church and State…  (Thomas Newborough, 1702), p. 59 as quoted in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery and Synod of Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1846), ‘The Editor’s Preface’, ‘Appendix’, p. lxvii

You will search in vain for hymns being sung in public worship in this period, whether in the fugitive field meetings, or in the churches under Episcopacy.†  The saintly, Scottish, Archbishop Robert Leighton (1611–1684) uses the term ‘hymns’ in his works more liberally than most, and yet many of these references clearly refer to the psalms.  Other references are ambiguous, and in none is it clear that he is referring to the public worship of the Church, or that ever any were sung in that context in his day.

† The most in-depth, published, primary source on the period between 1660 and 1689 is Wodrow’s History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland…  in four volumes.  He does not mention uninspired hymns once for either the presbyterians or the episcopalians.

On the Episcopal side there were attempts in 1666 and 1683-85 to prepare a liturgy, or a manual of prayers, but none of these came to fruition.¹  In 1675:

“…many Conformists began to dispute for a liturgy and some to preach for it; but the fox [the Archprelate, James] Sharp was not much for it, only because he had no will to ride the ford where his predecessor drowned.”

The Life of Mr. Robert Blair…  ed. Thomas M’Crie  (Edinburgh, 1848), p. 563

¹ Forrester, Studies, p. 65

It appears that the closest thing one will find in the secondary literature to a hymn in this period is the mention in morning and evening prayers being drawn up for Aberdeen Cathedral of “a portion of Te Deum” being ‘read’. (Forrester, Studies, p. 65)  However, it is true that towards the end of this period “there were ministers found here and there eager to go as far as possible in imitating English worship.”º

º Leishman, ‘Ritual’, p. 394, see this evidenced in Ibid., p. 395 & Sprott, Book of Common Order, p. 274


Scotland after 1690

After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, changing the monarchical line, the Church of Scotland was re-established as officially presbyterian in 1690.  While quite a number of previously conformed presbyterian and episcopal ministers were allowed into the re-established Church (one way or another), yet the previously protesting covenanter ministers “constituted the core of the re-established, Presbyterian, Church after the Revolution.”¹

¹ ed. Cameron, Dictionary, p. 681

Civilly the Revolution Church had no recognized directory of worship, as the infamous Act Rescissory (1661) under Charles II had (illegally) annulled the previous covenanter, civil legislation from the 1640’s, including the civil establishment of Westminster’s Directory for the Public Worship of God (1645).  The only thing civilly re-established at 1690 was the Westminster Confession of Faith.  However, as the Church has an independent jurisdiction directly under her head, Jesus Christ in Heaven, the Church was free to claim (insofar as it did) to still be ecclesiastically bound by its act of 1645 adopting the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God, and to practice it.  Hence C.G. M’Crie made:

“…the general contention that public worship, at the outset of the Revolution epoch, remained substantially as it had been in the immediately preceding period, when although an alien government [episcopacy] was obtruded upon the Church of Scotland, her ritual was left to be conducted on the broad lines laid down in the Westminster Directory.” (Public Worship, p. 254)

After 1690 the doxology was nearly universally disused in the presbyterian Church of Scotland.¹  An exception to this appears in an account in a ‘collegiate’ church around 1724 where one minister used the doxology in the morning service and another minister in the afternoon service omitted “these obnoxious prelatic superfluities.”²

¹ M’Crie, Public Worship, pp. 249-50; Dowden, Scottish Communion Office, p. 44-45, fn.; Leishman, ‘Ritual of the Church’, pp. 398, 402, 404, 406

² Maxwell, History of Worship, p. 132

The separated episcopal churches were very few in number.³  It appears that the doxology may have have been retained by them, although with a change.  A book in 1705 critiquing Episcopal practices said that at this time the doxology was not sung after every psalm, but, in more consistency with the modern practice, was sung “only before pronouncing the blessing [benediction].”º

³ ed. Cameron, Dictionary, pp. 297-8

º Robert White, Mene Tekel, Or Prelatick Church Principles, Weighed in the Ballance…  In a Few Remarks on a Late Book by John Sage, Entituled, The Reasonableness of Toleration to Those of the Episcopal Perswasion  Ref  (1705), pp. 9-10, as quoted by Fleming, ‘Hymnology’, p. 777 and others.

As far as what was used as the sung-praise in the public service of God, Maxwell says regarding the presbyterians and the separated episcopalians, “Apart from the few differences mentioned the rest of the worship was largely indistinguishable between the parties…  Both parties…  used the metrical psalms, rejected organs…” (History of Worship, p. 132)  To this, no dissent has been found.  The separated episcopalians in Scotland would remain numerically negligible through the 1700’s.  As for the reigning presbyterians, Fleming provides two quotes¹ consistent with exclusive psalmody from Principal Forrester and the minister, Anderson of Dumbarton, from 1699 and 1714 respectively.

¹ ‘Hymnology’, p. 781


Scripture Songs Recommended
for Family Worship, 1706

In 1685 the Scottish minister Patrick Simson (1328-1715) published a volume of “mediocre versified translations of all the Bible’s songs apart from the Psalms.”¹  Simson had a fascinating life.  Simson was the grandson of a staunch presbyterian minister of the same name in the late-1500’s.  His father died when he was fourteen years old, George Gillespie rearing him after that.  Later Simson acted as a scribe as Dickson and James Durham dictated to him The Sum of Saving Knowledge (1650).  Simson was ordained at Renfrew in 1653 but was ejected in 1662.  Simson accepted the 2nd Indulgence in 1672 and yet resisted certain of the episcopal restrictions (and arrest).  He also took the 4th Indulgence in 1687.  Simson became the moderator of the 1695 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  Robert Wodrow called him “the most digested and distinct master of the Scripture that ever I met with.”²

¹ Cameron, Dictionary, p. 776
² Ibid.

The work in question, Spiritual Songs, or Holy Poems… was originally published anonymously and was intended, says the long title, “at first for the author’s own recreation”.  In the work is included “[s]ome short Scripture Doxologies”, which were probably understood to be of inspired material.  Simson had not kept within the bounds of only metrifying actual songs in Scripture, but put “many more Scriptures into song than were intended for such by the Spirit.”ª  This work never received the sanction of the General Assembly for public worship.

ª M’Crie, Public Worship, p. 279

However, by 1706 these songs had evidently created enough interest, that after a committee limited the scope of their endeavor to only songs in Scripture,¹ the General Assembly passed an act to undertake the revision of these songs, recommending:

“in relation to the Scriptural Songs…  [that it be recommended] to the several presbyteries of this Church to endeavor to promote the use of these Songs in private families within their bounds…  and for facilitating the Assembly’s work in preparing the said Songs for public use…”

Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1638-1842 (Edinburgh: Church Law Society, 1843), p. 392

¹ M’Crie, Public Worship, pp. 279-80

In 1708 the Commission of the General Assembly was “authorized and empowered to conclude and establish that version, and to publish and emit it for the public use of the Church…”  However, probably due to a lack of widespread interest in the Church,¹ the Commission never did so, nor actually printed the Scripture-songs at this time.

¹ M’Crie, Public Worship, p. 281; see pp. 278-291.

While metrified Bible-songs had been present on the sidelines for about the last quarter of the 1500’s and the whole of the 1600’s, yet they had never breached the more careful and restricted, official exclusive psalmody of the public worship of the Church of Scotland during that time.  A change of trajectory occurred in the early-1700’s.  While, notably, there was not enough interest to bring Bible-songs into public worship at that time, yet the 1706 act of the General Assembly recommending to the presbyteries to promote Bible-songs in family worship was a distinct change from the mid-1600’s.  The legislation that had enacted the 1650 psalter (with nothing but the 150 psalms in it) had made it the exclusive psalter to be used in families.

In 1745, when the topic was taken up again, a volume of metrical Scripture songs and “of several passages of sacred Scripture”º was printed and distributed to presbyteries, but not actually approved for use in the Church.  Again, notably, lack of interest appears to have stalled the work.

º M’Crie, Public Worship, p. 283


John Willison, 1712, up through 1731

Might be exclusive as the only ‘hymn’, not plural was te deum, unless including the Bible songs as illegitimate.  Get context to this work from Fergusson.  Check Willison’s other works.

“As also in appointing several psalms and hymns, taken from the Mass Service to be used in churches, besides those prescribed by God in his Word…  As also the Holy Ghost’s exhortation to praise the Lord [is] cut off from from the end of most of the psalms; and man’s exhortation to praise, appointed to be said or sung, in its stead.”

Queries to the Scots innovators in divine service, and particularly, to the liturgical party in the shire of Angus, and places adjacent thereto: Being a compendious collection of the choicest arguments, against the present innovations  ([Edinburgh] 1712), section 18, pp. 16-17

Wodrow’s four volumes of Analecta, which covers from 1701-1731, mentions psalms frequently, but only hymns in relation to Lutherans and some ministers in England and America (in vol. 4).


The Introduction of Hymns into Scottish Public Worship:
The Glasites, 1749

The first ‘hymnal’ published in Scotland for use in the public, church setting was that of John Glas (1695-1773), called Christian Songs (Dundee, 1749; 1787 ed.).¹  Glas was a deposed Church of Scotland minister turned Independent.  He became known as the sect leader of the Glasites, or Sandemanians (after his disciple, Robert Sandeman).  One of his principal endeavors was to restore the practice of the apostolic Church.  In so doing, Wodrow said that he “and his company were bringing in some surprising novelties…” (Correspondence 3.460)

¹ Cameron, Dictionary, p. 421

One of their distinctive tenets was that at their ‘love feast’ (a meal on the Lord’s day; it is not clear whether this was formally part of their public worship or not), they sang hymns.  This was probably pre-texted on Mt. 26:30 (they not understanding the Jewish psalm-singing context very well).  However, this appears to have been the only time the Glasites sung hymns as a gathered church, as otherwise they sang metrical psalms in their worship.¹

¹ Cameron, Dictionary, 744


Scripture Songs & the First Few Hymns Approved
in the Church of Scotland

It would not be till 1781 that the Church of Scotland, after further revising the Scripture-songs, distributed the volume to presbyteries and passed an interim (provisional) act that, “allows this Collection of sacred Poems to be used in Public worship in Congregations where the minister finds it for Edification.”²

² Douglas Maclagan, The Scottish Paraphrases…  (Edinburgh: 1889), pp. 173

The collection was printed the same year, and what was in it?  There were 67 Scripture songs and other parts of Scripture put into meter, and five hymns.  This provisional act clearly made the use of these songs (and only these particular songs) optional, not necessary.  This is the only legislative sanction for the use of Scripture-songs in the worship of the Church of Scotland, and the first sanction of any hymns for public worship.

There is little doubt that the sanction of these first few hymns would be appealed to later for the proliferation of hymns in the 1800’s.  When did songs outside of the psalter become popular enough to effect change from the Church of Scotland’s official exclusive psalmody in public worship from the time of the Reformation?  In the late-1700’s, during the heart of the long, cold, reign of Moderatism, or Latitudinarianism.


The Relief Church: the First Significant Hymnal
for Public Worship

Notably the first Scottish denomination to fully embrace uninspired hymnody was the New Light,¹ Relief Church, which had formed in dissent from the Church of Scotland in 1761 (and continued till 1847).  While a few congregations had begun using their own hymnals beginning in 1786, the denomination officially approved and recommended the use of hymns in public worship in 1794 and published its own hymnal in that same year.  Besides Scripture paraphrases, the hymnal contained hymns mostly from Isaac Watts and others by the ministers, John Newton and Philip Doddridge (all of these men were English Independents).  The hymns of only one Scottish author were included.†  The hymnal also had a preface defending the use of uninspired praise for God.

¹ Noted for their new doctrines, namely repudiating the continuing obligation of the national Scottish covenants, anti-establishmentarianism and their holding full communion with all ‘visible saints’ (which was reckoned latitudinarianism by their antagonists).

† Cameron, Dictionary, p. 422


The Official Sanctioning of Hymnals
in the Larger Scottish Churches: Mid-to-Late 1800’s

The proliferation of hymns in the Scottish churches followed the path of the New Lights.  The Scottish United Presbyterian Church (UPC, 1847-1900) was a merger of the Relief Church and the New Light, United Secession Church (1820-1847).  The UPC published its own hymnal in 1852, containing 468 hymns.º

The Church of Scotland followed suit in 1861, approving the use of its own hymnal.

The Free Church of Scotland, coming out of the Disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843, was the last of the Scottish denominations to hold out.  “It was only in 1866 that a movement for introducing uninspired hymns into the services of the sanctuary was initiated in the Free Church.”¹  The first motion asking the Free Church General Assembly to sanction the use of hymns was by the Free Church leader, Robert Candlish.¹  The Free Church approved hymns in 1872 and issued its first psalter including hymns in 1873.  However, among “the circumstances that contributed to the rapid ascendancy of the hymns in the services of the sanctuary a prominent place must be assigned to the [Dwight L.] Moody and [Ira D.] Sankey [evangelistic] mission in this country in 1874.”²

¹ Alexander Stewart & J. Kennedy Cameron, The Free Church of Scotland: the Crisis of 1900  (1910; Edinburgh: The Knox Press, 1989), p. 41

² Stewart & Cameron, Free Church of Scotland, p. 52.  This same held true for persons in the Free Church becoming reconciled to organs; Cameron, Dictionary, p. 421.

As the content of worship song (which God rather clearly regulated in the Old Testament) came to be viewed as indifferent, so did the use of musical instruments in public worship, which God also rather clearly regulated in the Old Testament.  In 1866 the Church of Scotland effectively allowed the use of musical instruments in worship by handing the question down to be decided by each presbytery.  The UPC approved the use thereof in 1872.  The Free Church followed suit in 1883, and “by 1900 there were few [Scottish] congregations without an organ of some sort.”³

³ Cameron, Dictionary, p. 616


The Free Church of Scotland, 1905

As the majority of the Free Church of Scotland unconstitutionally merged with the UPC in 1900, the minority of the Free Church continued on as the same constitutional body.†  In 1905 it passed an act recalling the resolutions in the late-1800’s that had authorized and sanctioned the use of uninspired hymns.  The act specifically states that the Free Church did then:

“…reaffirm the Disruption position of 1843 in respect of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, and enjoin all their congregations to adhere to purity of worship, as that was understood and practiced at that period…”‡

† Stewart & Cameron, Free Church of Scotland.

The Principal Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1900–1909  (Edinburgh: Free Church of Scotland), p. 33

What was the Disruption position of 1843 about worship?  It was simply the then legislated practice of the Church of Scotland, which included the allowance of inspired Bible-songs in public worship, per her 1781 act.  Thus when every current ordinand, in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), for instance, pledges to uphold “the present practice of the Free Church to avoid the use in public worship of uninspired materials of praise…”,¹ this allows for the use of Bible-songs in public worship.²

¹ per a 1932 act; The Practice of the Free Church of Scotland in her Several Courts  8th ed.  (Edinburgh: Knox Press, 1995), p. 150

² The whole is qualified by the ability to make legislative changes per acts of 1910; The Principal Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1910-1919  (Edinburgh: Free Church of Scotland), pp. 2 & 5

The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) would do well to repeal the act of 1781 allowing for Bible-songs, and come into greater conformity with the public, sung-praise of the Church as it existed in Jesus Christ’s day.


Conclusion on Scotland &
Back to mid-1600’s England

The whole of the foregoing, in-depth survey of the churches in Scotland could have been omitted, perhaps, in simply noting that the Church of Scotland’s official exclusive psalmody from the Reformation in 1560 did not change until 1781 when Bible-songs, other inspired Scriptures put into meter, and five hymns were officially allowed into public worship.  Only in 1861 did the Church of Scotland approve her first hymnal.

A fuller summary of the evidence and trends that we have seen in Scottish history about worship song will be given in the Conclusion of this article.

In the meantime, we will go back to where Scotland and England most notably meet: at Westminster in the mid-1600’s, and will continue to trace the history of public worship-song on the English side, finding our end in America.


See also Fleming’s discussion of the same for more arguments in ‘Hymnology’, part 1, pp. 461- 470.

Benson, p. 36, great quote on no evidence in public worship as in Bushell p. 195

Copy and paste from History of psalm singing, on Conclusions about McMillan.

No matter how common or popular it may have been in certain contexts or periods in Scotland, it was against the law of the Church that said to sing from the 1564/5 psalter, which did not have them in it.

Conclusion, fleming p. 34

But could they really have understood psalms hymns and spiritual psalms as only referring to those dictated by the Holy Ghost?  Yes.

Add in to doxologies in 1500’s scotland that it is evidenced, later and that in England that the Gloria Patri was used for private devotions, maybe read after reading ps. 51:

Allestree, Richard – Private devotions for several occasions, ordinary and extraordinary  (London, 1660), p. 51 and to this psalm only.



Give conclusion of David Hay Fleming on Scotland.

late 1600s, presbyterians against doxology, Thomas Morer, 1715 Appendix, ‘A Short Account of Scotland’, p. lxviii  in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery and Synod of Aberdeen.  See also in 1662, p. 267



Bushell, p. 191, no evidence of debating hymns at Westminster, only which psalters and lining out

Zachary Boyd, Winzer and fleming, p. 22

Westminster Confession (1645) 21.5 states:

“The…  singing of psalms with grace in the heart…  are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:”

It uses as proof-texts for this statement: Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13.  Whatever Westminster understood to be ‘psalms’ in this passage can fairly be said to manifest its interpretation, as a body, of the phrase, ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19.

The following historical article strongly argues from the specific context of Westminster that its Confession is an exclusive psalmody document:

Winzer, Matthew – Westminster and Worship Examined: a Review of Nick Needham’s Essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Teaching Concerning the Regulative Principle, the Singing of Psalms, and the Use of Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God  from the Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008)  Buy  13 pages, pp. 253-266

Part of Rev. Winzer’s conclusion is that (p. 260):

“It has been demonstrated that the Church of England, in conscientiously pursuing covenanted uniformity with the Church of Scotland, sought to make provision for that part of worship called “the singing of psalms” by preparing and authorising a book of metricated Old Testament Psalms to be used throughout the kingdom.

They made no further provision for the singing of any other materials in the Church of England.  When this is taken in connection with the fact that nothing was to be used in public worship but what was authorised by public authority, it becomes clear that the covenanted Church of England adopted the same exclusive psalm-singing practice as the covenanted Church of Scotland.”

Hence, the covenanted consensus of the Westminster Assembly as a body (whatever variation of opinion may have existed amongst its particular members) in its public declaration and practice was that the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 only referred to the book of psalms.


Davies, Worship & Theology in England, etc., p. 276, “The duty of Psalm-singing was canonised in the Westminster Directory for both public and private worship.”  The Worship of the English puritans, p. 168,

“The position of the presbyerians does not demand further considerations, since that is represented by the official approval given to metrical psalmody by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in which Presbyterians were an overwhelming majority.”

Its what most everyone could agree on, and more not allowed in order to not break unity.  Lowest Common Denominator.

especially as those Independents represented at Westminster and composing about half of its committee for the Directory for Public Worship, psalm singing appeared to be dominant.  Bible songs they would not be able to agree on, and even the hymns occassionally allowed by the Independents were not necessarily and ordinance, much less of congregational praise-song.

Those who did sing hymns, in all this evidence, it seems that they could sing hymns, not that they must sing hymns, such is nowhere clearly to be found and an anachronism.

It is possible to interpret Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19 as allowing for hymns in the terms, and yet that those terms are fulfilled by only singing psalms insomuch as psalms are included in those terms.

Also a difference between the theory that Col & Eph allowed for hymns in WCF, and there is evidence that they actually sang hymns in public worship, the latter seems there is no evidence for.

Variation of opinion of members is somewhat irrelevant: Philip Nye, and Independent, opposed all the singing of psalms.  Check and link Sprott.

An old interpreter such as G.W. Sprott does not even raise the question that psalm might mean hymn.  Check Ward and others on West. commentaries page, and in contemporary works.

Also in the 1640’s ordinance of one person singing a hymn to congregation, Baillie Dissuasive and Edwards, Gangrene, Holmes p. 19 argues against it.


The English Presbyterians After Westminster, Late-1640’s

While the Church of Scotland shortly went on to adopt the Westminster standards, strangely enough, the English presbyterians did not.†  Part of the reason for this is that, while presbyterianism was fully developed in Scotland, and so could act efficiently with concord, in “England presbytery had yet to be organized, and at every step it encountered conflicting and neutralizing influences.”‡

† Thomas M’Crie, the younger, Annals of English Presbytery…, London, 1872, pp. 181-2
‡ M’Crie, Annals, p. 183

Yet presbyterianism held the dominance in the Long Parliament and in 1647 Parliament ordained that “all parishes within England and Wales be brought under…  the form of presbyterial government agreed upon by the Assembly of divines at Westminster.” (Ibid.)  This ‘form’ was not ‘Form of Presbyterial Church Government’ (1644), that was adopted by the Church of Scotland (which speaks of the singing of psalms as an ordinance), with which many are familiar.  Rather, Westminster had a year later in 1645 produced another document similar to this, entitled, A Directory for Church-Government and Ordination of Minsters.  This Directory also speaks of the singing of psalms as an ordinance of worship, and it was sent to the Church of Scotland in 1647 to be adopted, though it never was.

Upon this latter Directory was drawn up by Parliament the presbyterian document that would govern English presbyterianism from 1647-1662, The Form of Church Government to be Used in the Church of England and Ireland…  After Advice had with the Assembly of Divines (printed 1648).  This Form prescribes the singing of a ‘psalme’ in the service for an ordination (p. 24), and mentions the singing of ‘praise’ elsewhere, but it does not have an explicit list of the regular worship ordinances that the Directory had, and it no where else mentions the singing of psalms, though it occasionally mentions all the other regular elements of worship together.

As a product of this Form, twelve presbyteries were set up in London and their biannual synod was called the London Provincial Assembly.¹  In 1648 the London Provincial Assembly petitioned Parliament to ordain and enjoin the ‘Confessions and Catechisms’ so “that they may be publicly taught and learned throughout the whole Kingdom.” (M’Crie, p. 182 fn.)  The civil establishment of these psalm-singing documents did not occur.

¹ A.H. Drysdale, History of the Presbyterians in England...  (London, 1889), p. 310

At the end of 1648, the presbyterian Long Parliament was purged by Army (filled with Independents and sects) and came to be called the Rump Parliament, which henceforth was dominated by Independents.  The Rump Parliament would last until 1653, when it was dissolved and replaced by the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, an Independent (and a Familialist, according to Samuel Rutherford; Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, 1648).  Cromwell would rule till his death in 1658.

The execution of King Charles I by the Rump Parliament in 1649 seemed to open up a new eschatological horizon for an ambitious, new and radical political sect called the Fifth Monarchy Men.  There having been four monarchies in the Book of Daniel, they thought that the fifth, their own (one of the saints), would usher in Christ’s personal reign on earth.  They would reach the height of their political power just as the rest of the Rump Parliament in 1653 dissolved that body so that the Fifth Monarchy Men wouldn’t take over.

In 1649, some of the Fifth Monarchy Men, such as John Goodwin (an Arminian), Vavasour Powell, Thomas Lamb and Appletree:

“…composed hymns deliberately to embody their doctrines.  These were given out from the pulpit, usually after the sermon which they summarized…  This is a point that…  gives the key to this new departure, the re-invention of the homiletical hymn…  this group of preachers provided hymns to respond to the sermon.  The novelty was quickly taken up, especially by the preachers with novel doctrines…”

– W.T. Whitley, Congregational Hymn-Singing (London [1933]), p. 92

The Fifth Monarchy Men appear to be the first documented English group that practiced true, congregational hymn-singing.  Whitley calls their practice the ‘re-invention of the homiletical hymn’.  The first invention of the homiletical hymn, the index of her book indicates, was with Luther and the Lutheran churches in Germany after the Reformation, who did not hold to what is now called the Regulative Principle of Worship.

Another strange event occurred in 1649, but among the London presbyterians.  No doubt due to pressure from the newly purged Rump Parliament (many of which sectarians desired no public, congregational singing in churches at all), the London Provincial Assembly agreed that “singing of psalms shall not be ennumerated among the substantials of Church government.” (M’Crie, p. 181-2 fn.)

Note that this was not a removal of the psalms from worship services, but it was only a refraining of mentioning them publicly in order to prevent offense from others (such as some of, many or most of the Independents), and that only with regard to the ‘substantials’ of Church government.


The 1650’s, Jus Divinum & the Bay Psalm Book

To back up a few years, in 1646, ‘sundry London ministers’ had published a book from London during the Westminster context which argued, amidst opposing forms of Church government, the divine right of presbyterian Government.  It was entitled, Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, or the Divine Right of Church Government.  In that Westminster context it had asserted that the “[S]inging of psalms is a divine ordinance…” and proof-texted this with Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19 (p. 58).  This major work was reprinted in 1647 and 1654.  This third, augmented edition was considered by the authors to be a refined presentation of their view; it included the affirmation about singing psalms.

The London Provincial Assembly, also in 1654, put out a second major work, with the similar name of: Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici, or The Divine Right of the Gospel-Ministry.  The previous work was about the leading and distinctive elements of the whole of presbyterianism; this work focuses in on simply the Gospel-ministry.  The reason for the difference is the difference in context: with Independency swarming London, laypersons were commonly held to be able to preach, if not administer the sacraments.  The work defended the Biblical teaching that only ordained ministers are to do so.

This work, however, being produced by the London Provincial Assembly (and not simply a group of individual ministers), does not mention any regular singing of psalms by the congregation as an ordinance.  The only place in which it mentions the singing psalms is in respect to 1 Cor. 14:26-30, to prove that that instance in the worship of the apostolic Church was extraordinary, miraculous and inspired (the normal presbyterian interpretation), contrary to the ordinary, non-inspired view (pp. 98-99) which hymn-singing sectaries and Independents often held to.

Leigh’s work reprinted in the 1650’s check, influential

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

p. 176, 186, 192 says other Scriptural songs as an ‘ordinance’, says regularly,, influences by Cotton pp. 176-7, 186, main opponent is the sects who would not sing psalms at all, good quote on p. 192 about unscriptural supposition, critiue of epsicopal and roman that spends most of time in singing, p. 214, notable does not mention addition of hymns, p. 186 ‘ordinance’ probably means that in private may be different, which h does not address.  p. 186 does not allow for an xtraordinary hymn occassion as Independents.

Francis Roberts, London, 1657 God’s Covenants, was a presbyterian see wiki

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  an english historian and poet

The Bay Psalm Book of New England in 1640 had only included the 150 psalms with a preface on psalm singing.  The third edition in 1651 (ed. Dunster) included some Bible songs and changes to a grounding on inspiration.

Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (1948; Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), p. 167,

“In the main it was a revision of Rous’s version.  It had…  a lasting influence upon the psalmody not only of North America, but also of England and Scotland.  Sufficient proof of its popularity and influence is to be found in the fact that it passed through eighteen English and twenty-two Scottish editions.”

Probably some evidence that psalm singing took a rise in the 1650’s among the Independents, Curwen, pp. 83-4

While there are not many references to anything being sung in

Minutes of the Manchester Presbyterian Classis [1646-1660], Part 1Part 2Part 3  ed. William A. Shaw  Chetham Society, vols. 20, 22 & 24

Minutes of the Bury Presbyterian Classis, 1647-1657, Part 1Part 2  ed. William A. Shaw  Chetham Society, vols. 36 & 41  (1896/98)

Some of the few primary source documents that have been published for English presbyterianism for that period, yet none of them mentions hymns, and all of the sung worship in private, family or public refers to psalms, for instance ‘the congregation sung a psalme’, see:

Manchester minutes, pt. 3, p. 373 (1648); Bury Minutes, pt. 1, p. 54 (1647/8) pt. 2, pp. 168 (1658/9), p. 171 (1659), p. 173 (1660).

Hewison on England 1653-4 and an official psalter by parliament or lords or something with hymns appended per Barton, citing Shaw’s history of England, Hewison, 1.402

Example of an occasional hymn at army preaching probably by a sectarian, 1655, Collection of State Papers, vol. 3, p. 485


Samuel Langley

Samuel Langley (fl. 1649-1660) was appointed to the Swettenham, Cheshire parish by the puritan and presbyterian House of Lords in 1648 and was a non-conformist at the Restoration in 1660.  He maintained a long-held friendship with the presbyterian Henry Newcome (bap. 1627-1695).

Rev. Jones goes on to say of Ball, “[e]vidently, his work influenced Samuel Langley who wrote uninspired hymns for public worship (see A catechisme shorter then the short catechisme compiled principally by Mr. Ball out of which this (for the most part) was taken, … also a spirituall song for the Lords Supper, or Communion, put into an ordinary tune […] together with two other hymns or psalms […] London, 1649).”

The specific title page to the “Spirituall Song or an Affectionat Hymne” refers to it being, not for churches or public worship, but “for the use Christians in the Celebration of the Communion’.  The preface to the hymn, again, does not speak of it being for the purpose of being sung in public worship.  Rather, it says:

“The design aimed at in the composing of this song, is to affect the soul [singular] with melting joys and thankful mournings according to the nature of the Lord’s Supper.  It is made public to save the labor of often transcribing it for the benefit of those [persons?] for whose use it was particularly at first intended.  Besides it is hoped other sincere Christians whom may see it, if they make use thereof, may have cause to glorify God…”

All of this is consistent with persons using the hymn to privately prepare for the Supper, whether that be the night before, the morning of, etc.  Is it likely that every person in a church would buy a copy of the catechism the hymn is bound with, and bring it with them to the place of worship to sing out of, in addition to holding onto their Prayer-Book?

The purpose of the remaining two hymns in the volume is given on p. 16, “To fill up the remaining vacant pages, these two following hymns are added.”

During the Protectorate with Cromwell, 1653-1659

“…the [Anglican] liturgy being abolished…  the fanaticism of the times led many to think…  that no singing but the singing of David’s Psalms was to be tolerated in a church that pretended to be forming itself into the most perfect model of primitive sanctity.”  A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, vol. 4  (London, 1776), p. 56


After the Restoration in England, 1660

After the Protectorate of the Independent Cromwell through the 1650’s came the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, establishing an Erastian Episcopacy in the Church of England again.  Paving the way for what was to come, in 1662 the Great Ejection defrocked some 2,000 puritan ministers from the Anglican Church.

1662 ff.  presbyterians left without doctrinal standards, a form of government or a directory for worhsip, and hence acted very indpendently amidst the Independents.

Yet, in all of this, the post-Restoration government and Church sought “the reinstatement of Congregational psalmody in parish churches”, which “was effected with some difficulty” in the dilapidated conditions. (Benson, p. 75)

For the Anglican churches, adopted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer service, while revised, yet substantially the same.  Good quote for them and non-conformists in John Durel a conformist Anglican, A View of the Government and Publick Worship of God in the Reformed Churches beyond the Seas: wherein is shewed their conformity and agreement with the Church of England, as it is established by the Act of Uniformity (London : J.G. for R. Royston, 1662), p. 183.

Book of Common Prayer, 1662

1663, John Reading complains of those who won’t sing the doxologies, A sermon delivered in the Cathedral Church of Canterbury, concerning church-musick  (London, 1663), p. 14


The Rise of Hymnody, 1660 and Following:
The Savoy Conference, 1660

Benson says that, in tracing the rise of English hymn singing, that “we have also to take account of the advances…  on that Puritan side of the Church…  under the leadership of such men as [William] Barton, [Richard] Baxter and [John] Mason†”. (p. 82)

Mason (1646?-1694) was a conformist, Anglican, Calvinist minister “and somewhat of a Fifth Monarchy man.” (Whitley, p. 99)  He likely suffered from mental illness at the end of his life, but that did not stop him from fervently preaching on the imminent return of Christ to reign for a thousand years on earth, attracting a cult following on his property in doing so.  His followers held to believed in his immortality, even after his corpse was exhumed and showed to them.

Whitley says of him: “He published in 1683 a volume of Spiritual Songs, which ran to twenty editions, though it is not clear that the songs did actually pass into congregational use.” (p. 99)

One of the few theologians whom Rev. Jones references who clearly did advocate for singing hymns in the public worship of the Church was the congregationalist, Richard Baxter,¹ though Rev. Jones did not actually reference Baxter for this point specifically.

¹ Besides the below, see also Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (1948, SDG 1997) Appendix A, p. 263; Baxter, The Reformation of the Liturgy (1661) & Mr. Richard Baxter’s paraphrase on the Psalms of David in metre with other hymns (London, 1692), especially the Preface.

Baxter played a significant role at the Savoy Conference (1661), which was called by King Charles II just after the Restoration in order to confer with 12 leading independents and presbyterians (called in that context often simply ‘presbyterians’) on how the Book of Common Prayer might be revised for the Anglican Church going forward.  The ‘presbyterian’ divines allowed Baxter solely to write up the ‘Reformed Liturgy’, which, when it was “read by the ministers, was generally approved of”.‡

‡ Edward Calamy, the younger, An Abridgment of Mr. Baxter’s History of his Life and Times, vol. 1 (London, 1713), ch. 8, p. 158

The ‘Reformed Liturgy’ was then proposed by the ‘presbyterians’ to the 12 bishops at the Conference.

The order of the weekly worship of the ‘Reformed Liturgy’, says, after the minister reads a chapter from the Old Testament:

“And after that the 67 or 98 or some other Psalm, may be sung or said, or the Benedictus [Song of Zechariah], or Magnificat [Song of Mary].”

The allowance of Bible-songs outside of the psalter, here proposed at Savoy to be sung as praise to God in the regular, public worship of the Church, was a departure from the prescription of Westminster in its Confession and Directory of Public Worship.

Interestingly it is given as an alternative to singing psalms.  That is, exclusive psalm singing ministers and congregations could acquiesce in the liturgy proposed for all of England, without ever singing praise to God in public worship outside of the Psalter.  It is also noteworthy that the liturgy says that the Bible songs may be ‘said’, that is as prayers.

After the close of the regular weekly service, the ‘Reformed Liturgy’ says:

“Here are also adjoined…  a Hymn to be used at the discretion of the minister either after sermon, or at the Communion, or on other days.” (p. 36)

The lengthy ‘hymn’ follows on pp. 44-46.  The ‘Reformed Liturgy’ makes clear Communion was not held weekly. (p. 36)  The end of ‘The Order of Celebrating the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ’, just before concluding with the ‘Blessing’, says this:

“Next sing some part of the Hymn in meter, or some other fit Psalm of Praise (as the 23, 116, or 103, or 100, etc.)” (p. 58)

Notice though, that the ‘Reformed Liturgy’ says that use of ‘the Hymn’ is at ‘the discretion of the minister’, and that singing of a psalm may be used instead.  Hence, use of ‘the Hymn’ was allowable, but optional.  Exclusive psalmody ministers and congregations in England would still be allowed in public worship to sing only the 150 psalms.

As the ‘Reformed Liturgy’ does not speak of ‘a hymn’, but rather ‘the Hymn,’ the term appearsº to refer to the lengthy hymn that the liturgy had provided, which has four parts to it.

º Benson says that ‘the hymn’ refers to a hymn from the Old Version of the psalter (Sternhold & Hopkins), entitled, The Lord be Thanked for his Gifts’, but he does not cite his authority for this.

It is noteworthy that ‘the Hymn’ is simply a string of various Scripture verses set to meter and conjoined together.  This explains another peculiar phrase that the ‘presbyterian’ party at Savoy used in an exception of theirs against a place in the Book of Common Prayer, which reads:  “We desire that some psalm or scripture hymn may be appointed instead of that apocryphal [song].”¹

¹ ‘The Presbyterian Exceptions Against the Book of Common Prayer’ being Appendix 2 of The Book of Common Prayer as Amended… A.D. 1661, ed. Shields (Philadelphia: Claxton, 1867), p. 156

This ‘scripture hymn’, being distinguished from a ‘psalm’, thus, more than likely refers to singing inspired texts, arranged at will.  Such a use of ‘hymn’ by the presbyterians at Savoy shows:

(1) How ‘hymns’ began to be conceived and developed in reformed thought for public worship;

(2) That the terms ‘psalm’ and ‘hymn’ must have commonly had a different connotation, insofar as they were distinguished from each other at Savoy;

(3) That, as those terms likely had not radically changed in the English context in the previous 15 years or so, so Westminster, in only affirming ‘psalms’ to be sung, did not intend, by their word choice, to include hymns; and

(4) That the ‘presbyterians’ at Savoy had made a departure from the prescribed exclusive psalmody of of Westminster by allowing for inspired texts outside of the psalter to be used in public worship.

The Savoy Conference, however, “was to break up without consensus, and Baxter’s liturgy was relegated to the history of ‘what might have been if only.'” (Spinks, p. 513)

The general character of the public sung praise amongst the Independents after the Restoration may be seen by a testimony of their leading representatives.  In 1663, Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye and Joseph Caryl met privately with King Charles II and said to him, respecting the Independent churches, that “…we have in our churches all parts of worship, as preaching, praying, reading, and singing of psalms, and the sacraments…”º

º A letter of William Hooke, in John Waddington, Congregational History, 1567-1700…  (London, 1874), ch. 15, p. 579

However, Benson writes on Baxter’s larger significance in the opposite direction, that he:

“…was in fact the leader…  of the movement to introduce hymn singing into the [non-conformist] churches.  He was…  ‘the only begetter’ of William Barton’s Centuries of Hymns, which began to appear in 1659, but he occupied ground far in advance of Barton’s ventures.” (pp. 84-5)

“…behind the early Nonconformist hymn singing there was no Independent leader before Watts so influential and so outspoken as Richard Baxter…” (p. 88)


The Book of Common Prayer, 1662

The Book of Common Prayer was revised in 1662.  The revised edition said that in the weekly service, a new uninspired hymn, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, “may be sung”.  After certain prayers, the service continues: “And then, a hymn having been sung, will follow the Sermon…” (p. 43)  After the Sermon, if there is to be no Communion, then the minister “will conclude the service with a prayer and hymn suited to the Sermon, and with the Benediction.” (p. 44)

While the unspecified hymns mentioned likely could have allowed psalms, yet it seems very possible that they allowed and encouraged uninspired hymns.  In the cathedrals and large town churches, the choir could have prepared something for their performance.  In the parish churches, the hymn could have been lined out by a precentor or memorized by the congregation.

See also preface to a Playford book late-1500’s that may indicate these people were singing hymns publicly.


William Prynne

Prynne (1600-1669) was not a minister, arguing for lay people

Wrote much of 30 years before 1662

“…at every recital of Glory be to the Father…  (repeated at the end of every Psalm, Hymn, eight or ten times every morning and evening prayer, though no Scripture, but a humane invention of Pope Damasus, as all acknowledge, at least 376 years after Christ)…

A moderate, seasonable apology for indulging just Christian liberty to truly tender consciences, conforming to the publike liturgy in not bowing at, or to the name of Jesus, and not kneeling in the act of receiving the Lords Supper…  (), section 2, p. 116

A Short Sober Pacific Examination of some Exuberances in, and ceremonial appurtenances to the Common Prayer, especially of the Use and Frequent Repetitions of Glory be to the Father, etc., standing up at it, at Gospels, Creeds, and Wearing White Rochets, Surplices, with other Canonical Vestments…  (London, 1661), pp. 8-10 great!


The Dissenters, 1660’s to the 1680’s

During the era of persecution that followed, till 1688, Benson believed that the non-conformist churches “doubtless satisfied their craving for a purer version of the Psalms by employing some one of the current Psalters of the more literal type.”

Nonetheless, Benson says elsewhere that the “singing of hymns in Independent meeting-houses began in the last quarter of the 18th century,† introduced there as elsewhere by divines who had become restless under the limitations of an Old Testament psalmody.” (p. 104)

† Benson footnotes this with a reference to a minister in Rothwell named Mr. Browning, whose pastorate ended in 1685, who used hymns “at the Lord’s Table”.  However, Browning was a baptist; and the baptist history of hymns, which does not fit within our scope, had quite the checkered past.  Browning’s baptist successor was Richard Davis.  Benson, not helpfully, speaks of Davis, a hymn writer, as an ‘Independent’ (on p. 105).

Benson continues regarding the Independents:

“With the right of each congregation to regulate its own worship and the prevalence of the practice of lining out the words [without needing books], the use of hymns in manuscript required merely the agreement of pastor and people.

With the fraternization of Independents and Presbyterians, and the frequent occupancy of Independent pulpits by Presbyterian divines, it would be difficult to distinguish a separate origin of hymn singing in either body.  It would be still more difficult to show that the impulse came from the Independent side.

During the last decade of the century hymn singing reached the stage that called for printed hymn books.”


Rise of Congregational Hymnody Amongst the Baptists

Give something of Keach, and link article.

Give curious description of John Bunyan practice, Whitley, p. 97

1689 London Baptist Confession, I believe, adds ‘and hymns’


John Wells & John Flavel

The later English presbyterian John Wells (1623-1676) is another example of one who interprets the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ to allow for uninspired compositions, and yet when he comes to speaking of the Church’s actual, regular worship, the evidence is likewise in accord with exclusive psalmody.  See his sermon, ‘How We may make Melody in our Hearts to God in Singing of Psalms’, in Puritan Sermons.

The puritan and presbyterian, John Flavel (c.1627–1691), it is known, has a ‘hymn’, based upon Rom. 5:6-11, in his Works, vol. 6, pp. 469-70.  However, it is not clear that the original manuscript of Flavel had ‘hymn’ written upon it (as later editors often add such titles).  There is no evidence that this piece was sung in public worship, or that it was even intended to be sung at all; it may have been simply a written poem, expressing his prayerful thoughts.  Perhaps it was intended to be similar to the death-bed ‘song’ of the early reformer, Wolfgang Musculus (d. 1563), which Flavel gives an account of in Works, vol. 3, pp. 96-7?

What is known is that Flavel is on record as saying that ‘the singing of Psalms is an ordinance of Christ’, proof-texting this statement, and one in another place of a similar nature, with Col. 3:16.  Flavel has three more clear passages which speak simply of ‘psalms’ when describing the singing of God’s praise, two of which are in the domestic context.  We have searched thoroughly and have found no instances in Flavel’s six volumes of Works of non-psalms being sung as God’s praise in families or in the worship of the Church.  The documentation is below under his name.

An example of only singing the psalms in this period, 1674-5, Broadmead Records (ed. Underhill, London, 1847), p. 226


Thomas Manton

Thomas Manton held, theoretically, that hymn singing may be acceptable for public worship (Works, 19.412, 1680’s; Rev. Jones quotes Manton on James 5:13, 1653, to a similar effect).  While Manton was a presbyterian, he appeared to have quite the first-hand familiarity with Indpendency.

Manton was a chaplain to ‘The Protector’, Oliver Cromwell, an arch-Indepenent and persecutor of presbyterians.  Manton also took part in the Savoy Conference (1661), where both presbyterians and indpendents were known as ‘presbyterians’, in that independents also held to rule by presbyters (though only at the local level, their synods of presbyters not having ecclesiastically-binding authority).  Manton also, numerous times, had cooperative workings with the congregationalist Richard Baxter, including in being a representative at the Savoy Conference.

Yet Manton still held that Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 ‘do plainly point us to the Book of Psalms’ (Ibid.), and, commenting on James 5:13, that “Scriptural psalms…  are fittest to be sung.” (Works, 4:442)  In William Harris’s Memoirs of Manton (at the beginning of Manton’s Works), Harris relates that Manton:

“…was a strict observer of family religion…  Notwithstanding the labors of the Lord’s-day, he never omitted, after an hour’s respite, to repeat the heads of both his sermons to his family, usually walking, and then concluded the day with prayer and singing a psalm.”

Manton went on to say on Eph. 5:19 that:

“Scripture psalms in most respects are fittest to be used in the church, as being indited [composed] by an unerring Spirit, and of a more diffusive concernment than any private composure of a particular person…  Nor can it be easily presumed that others can devise better addresses to God by way of praise and thanksgivine than these did…

Therefore, since here we are safe, we need the less to seek further.  Certainly we should not cavil at the present practice of many of the churches of Christ, who only content themselves with these forms, being instructed out of the gospel how to apply them to our redemption and deliverance by Christ.

Austin saith, Scriptuae tuae sunt castae deliciae meae — The holy scriptures are my chaste delights, especially the psalms, which seem to be composed for the use of all persons.”

Works, vol. 19 (London: James Nisbet, 1874), Sermon 24 on Eph. 5:1-27, p. 412


Barton & the Development of Anglican Hymnody

Rev. Jones references William Barton numerous times as supporting his thesis that “the evidence shows that no firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship” amongst reformed theologians in the 17th century.

Barton (1598–1678) was a conforming, puritan minister in the Anglican Church in London who wrote a versification of the Psalter which was considered by the Westminster Assembly (though passed up by them).  Barton published numerous volumes of ‘hymns’ between 1659 and 1688, his final volume containing over 600.

In the ‘Epistle to the Reader’ of that final volume, Six Centuries of Select Hymns (London, 1688), Barton seems clearly to interpret ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Col. 3:16 as being inclusive of the hymns contained in his volume.  In the quote that Rev. Jones provides from this same ‘Epistle’, Barton says that hymns are “fittest to be sung in God’s worship”:

“Hymns especially taken out of the Holy Scriptures…  certainly such as are thence aptly composed and keep nearest to the original Text are the most spiritual and fittest to be sung in God’s worship.”

While the key phrase is somewhat ambiguous (it could refer to singing hymns as worship in private or family worship), yet we will demonstrate that it likely refers to the Church’s public worship, and that Barton changed his view, slowly, from exclusive psalmody in the 1640’s and mid-1650’s, to more fully and explicitly arguing for hymns in the public worship of the Church by 1688.  Barton’s path roughly corresponds to the larger changing outlook in the Anglican context that he partook of, and in this respect tracing his history in a bit of detail will be helpful in further illustrating the pattern of the rise of hymnody in the Anglican scene.

In 1651 Barton published Psalms and Hymns Composed and fitted For the present Occasion Of Publick Thanksgiving, October 24, 1651, which had prefaces in it written to the English Parliament and Lord, Oliver Cromwell.  Given the title of the work, it may seem like the three ‘hymns’ contained in this volume were designed for the public worship of the Church.  However, each of the hymns are more-or-less paraphrases of explicitly indicated Scriptures (and hence are ‘Scripture-songs’ in some respect).

In the preface, ‘To the Courteous Reader’, when Barton explicitly speaks to our topic, in reference to “that Ordinance of Psalm-singing”, he says that:

“lest the amendment of the Psalm Book, and of the times themselves by universal and powerful reformation, should reduce Christians to that primitive duty of singing Psalms, Satan hath suggested some witty scruples amongst godly spirits…  I shall hope…  fully to answer.”

Barton continues, arguing against worship songs not out of the Scriptures:

“III.  Some object that more pertinent expressions may be used by Psalms composed on purpose, and of our own invention, as they did in the primitive times. 1 Cor. 14:26.

Answ[er]. 1. You cannot show so much Scripture that they used unscriptural Psalms, as we can that they did use Scriptural; For Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs which Paul commands to be used, Col. 3:16, are proper terms of the O[ld]. Test[ament]. Psalms, as Mr. [John] Cotton fully proveth in his defence of this Ordinance….  whereas they have not a word to intimate the custom of unscriptural Psalms.”

In 1656 Barton wrote a work entitled, A View of Many Errors and Some Gross Absurdities in the old translation of the Psalms in English metre…  showing how the Psalms ought to be translated…  (London, 1655 [i.e. 1656]).  In the preface,  ‘To the Courteous Reader’, Barton argues throughout for exclusive psalmody (and not just exclusive Bible-song singing) in the Church’s public worship:

“From which words [Col. 3:16] follow also these conclusions:

1.  That Scripture psalms (even David‘s Psalms, called in Hebrew by the name of Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs) and no other, should be used in the Church; for no other are the word of Christ, and consequently cannot have that certainty, purity, authority and sufficiency that the Scripture psalms have.

2.  That these Psalms of David must as well be translated into verse for singing…  that the Church might be fully furnished.

3.  …to those ends for which God hath ordained and indited [composed] a Psalm book, in his Word, for the edification of his Church.”

The psalter that Barton had versified in 1644 at the time of the Westminster Assembly, The Book of Psalms in metre close and proper to the Hebrew…  (London, 1644), which was, in some measure, for the benefit of the public worship of churches (as is known from later statements he made), had contained only the 150 psalms (despite previous psalters that appended additional material).

A new phase in Barton’s thought more explicitly appears in 1659 (at the end of Cromwell’s governance) in his A Century [100] of Select Hymns  (London).  Dedicated to the Parliament and England’s ministers, especially those about London, Barton explicitly argues in a Preface, “That the ancient Churches used not only David’s Psalms, but other portions of Scripture, chosen ad libitum [to their liking], to be put in Song for their edification.”

These ‘hymns’ may have been intended for public worship, as Barton says in another Preface:

“Indeed I would gladly annex to these Hymns some select places, and whole Psalms touching the most spiritual and concernable matters of praise and public worship, exhortation, and consolation…”

The 100 hymns in the volume are not equivalent to modern hymns: most or all of them are short metaphrases of explicitly stated Scriptural passages.  Whereas Lutherans wrote compositions for worship right out of the gate of the Reformation that resemble modern hymns, a trend for hymns deriving from the psalm-singing, reformed context, was for them to be styled directly out of Scripture, and hence more falling under the warrant of resembling the inspired, ‘Word of Christ’ (Col. 3:16).

In 1670 Barton released, Two centuries of select hymns and spiritual songs…, which had a recommendatory preface by Richard Baxter (pp. 94-5).  According to Whitley, “There is no probability that they were ever used by public congregations.” (Ibid.)

By 1688, in the ‘Epistle to the Reader’ to his volume of 600 hymns, Barton still seems to understand ‘hymns’ to be in some sense the Word of God, and hence within the limits of Col. 3:16 (emphasis in the original):

“Of what account then should Hymns be among Christians?  Hymns especially taken out of the Holy Scriptures?  Scripture-Hymns then may challenge the preeminence, for St. Paul calleth it the Sword of the Spirit, for it is the Word of God; whereby we may gather that the Hymns used anciently were composed out of the Sacred Scriptures…”

The ‘hymns’ in this volume still generally partake of the character of those in the previous volumes.  It is also clear that in the ‘Epistle’ Barton is giving arguments contrary to the very arguments he used in support of exclusive psalmody for the Church’s public worship in the early to mid-1650’s.  For instance, previously he had argued for the sufficiency and superiority of the singing of the Davidic psalms for the Christian life, but by 1688 he is arguing that hymns are more suited every condition of the Christian life and have a ‘preeminence’.

While Barton had said that his hymns were suited in their content for public worship, and that hymns were “fittest to be sung in God’s worship”, yet it still has not been seen that Barton’s hymns were actually publicly sung alongside the Anglican Prayer-Book liturgy (and Rev. Jones provides no such evidence).


The Introduction of Hymns into the Corporate Worship of the Church of England

Following Benson in sketching the history (who gives many more details), John Playford (1623–1686/7), a London music publisher and the clerk of an Anglican church, lead a movement to introduce hymn-singing into the corporate, public worship of the Anglican Church.  “for a quarter of a century the leading music-publisher” (Whitley, p. 95)

In 1671 Playford published his Psalms & Hymns in Solemn Musick…  It did not include a full psalter and it interspersed the 17 newer hymns amongst psalms which were not in numeric order.  What was the reception of this Psalter-Hymnal?

“None of these hymns was introduced into church use by means of Playford’s book, which was not kindly received…  Playford’s general proposal of substituting a selection of ‘Psalms and Hymns’ for the accepted system of Psalmody was too precipitate.” (p. 76)

With a new view to better accommodating his target market, Playford then published in 1677, The Whole Book of Psalms: with the Usual Hymns and Spiritual Songs…  Only one of the previous 17 hymns appears in this volume.  The ‘usual hymns and spiritual songs’ referred to the matter appended to the late-1500’s editions of the Sternhold & Hopkins psalter, also known as the ‘Old Version’.  In the “preface he still maintains the parity of psalms and hymns”.  Benson gives the practical significance of this newly constructed Psalter-Hymnal.  It:

“…showed how slight a hold hymns of any sort had upon the people.  The actual influence of Playford’s book was by way of prolonging the period of psalm singing…  it…  reaching its twentieth edition in 1757.  During this long period…  his psalter was carried to church by great numbers of people.

But it cannot be affirmed that they made much more use of the new hymns than their fathers had made of the hymns originally printed in the Psalters.  An addiction to the continued use of [this edition by Playford of] the Old Version became, in fact, the particular form in which indifference or opposition to hymns expressed itself.” (p. 78)


After the Glorious Revolution of 1689, non-conformists

Benson gives as a general summary for this period amongst the non-conformists:

“In the failure to establish any church organization, no general principle regulated the congregational song, and no book was provided for common use by the congregations.  Psalm singing prevailed, and the Scottish Psalms of David in meeter of 1650 seems to have been adopted pretty generally.

The pastors were free to supplement the psalms with hymns…  Amongst the ministers of the later or meeting house era of Presbyterianism there was much diversity of sentiment and practice in the matter of hymn singing.” (p. 86)

Matthew Henry, such a later English presbyterian, allowed for some ‘hymns’ in private and family worship, though all of the collection he made of them,† except for the last ‘hymn’ (Hymn 110, Te Deum) are paraphrased portions of inspired Scripture.

‘Family Hymns…’ (1695) in Works, vol. 1  (New York, 1855), p. 704-734

This basic position of preferred, inspired Scripture singing, using the term ‘hymns’ in such a way, is reflected in Henry’s commentary on Colossians, ch. 3, verse 16, where he interprets the key phrase as:

“the Psalms of David, and spiritual hymns and odes, collected out of the scripture, and suited to special occasions…”

Henry’s biographer, speaking of the period from 1687-1712 and referring to the public worship of the church that Henry led, says that:

“…on the Sabbath…  [i]n singing he used David’s Psalms, or sacred hymns, of which (Dr. Watts’s not being then published) he compiled a suitable and arranged collection.

He preferred scriptural psalms and hymns, to those which are wholly of human composition; the latter being generally liable to this exception, that the fancy is too high, and the matter too low; and sometimes such as a wise and good man may not be able, with entire satisfaction, to offer up as a sacrifice to God.”  (J.B. Williams, Memoirs of the Life, Character, Writings… 3rd ed. (London, 1839), ch. 10, pp. 146-7)


Late-1600’s Anglicans

Davies cites two other English hymn writers from the late1600’s.  The Anglican Thomas Ken (1637–1711), a bishop and non-juror, was ‘one of the fathers of modern English hymnody’.  In 1688 Ken refused to publish the fourth indulgence which offered greater liberty (with conditions) to the persecuted puritans.”¹

¹ ‘Ken, Thomas’  1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

The doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” comes from bishop Ken.  A version of this doxology served as the last stanza in Ken’s morning and evening hymns in his authorizedª 1695 edition (and subsequent editions) of A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College.  The hymns were recommended to be used in the first edition of the work in 1674 (here is the 1675 edition), though the earlier editions of the work did not include the hymns (with the doxology).¹  The Manual itself says that it was intended for private use.

ª The morning and evening hymns with a version of the doxology were published first in a 1692 pamphlet by Richard Smith, A Morning and Evening Hymn Formerly Made by a Reverend Bishop (London, 1692).  Chris Fenner, ‘Three Hymns and a Doxology by Thomas Ken’  2018.  The evening hymn with doxology was also included in the 1693 edition of Harmonia sacra, or, Divine hymns and dialogues Second book…  ([London] In the Savoy: Printed by Edward Jones for Henry Playford…, 1693).  See the 1726 edition, pp. 36-4.

¹ Chaoluan Kao, Reformation of Prayerbooks: the Humanist Transformation of Early Modern Piety in Germany and England  (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018), p. 48

The second and last cited hymn writer by Davies in his section was the Anglican minister, Samuel Crossman (1623–1683).  Crossman initially was sympathetic to the puritan cause, however in 1665 he renounced his puritan affiliations.  Davies concludes, “[t]he majority of these hymn writers were the clergy of the Church of England, with the exception of the Roman Catholic priest, [Richard] Crashaw [c. 1613–1649)].” (p. 283)  Davies says in a footnote that “the Church of England did not officially authorise hymns in worship until 1821…”ª

ª Citing Erik Routley, Hymns and Human Life (1952), p. 8.


1700’s Anglican

In 1700 a marked change occurred with the publication of A Supplement to the New Version of Psalms by Dr. Brady & Mr. Tate (London, ed. 1717), which contained 16 hymns.  This supplement to the new version of the Psalter was authorized by the Queen in 1703 for use in churches, and it “became a very popular little book, often reprinted”.  Benson describes the work’s significance:

“These hymns…  if they did not spring up immediately and if they did not multiply, they, at all events, were not trodden under the feet of the psalm singers…

This group of hymns in the Supplement marks the limit of anything in the nature of an authorized provision for hymn singing in the Church of England during period under review [1671-1708].  It was sufficient to establish the principle that hymns were allowable as supplementary to the psalms.

The actual practice of parochial hymn singing which it represents must seem small, when we remember that [the] Tate and Brady [psalter, to which it was designed as a supplement] was only then making headway into London churches, and for long afterward was hardly known beyond the bounds of that diocese  ” (pp. 80-1)


1700-1706, Dissenters

Henry’s Family Hymns was reprinted in 1702.  The five hymnals found in the advertisement list of the publisher at the end of the volume “was substantially a catalogue of the earliest hymn-books of the Independents, as also of the presbyterians”, according to Benson. (p. 105)  Two of the hymn-books were by anonymous authors, the others were by William Barton, John Mason, Joseph Boyse and Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739, an English Independent).

Given our close sketch of the rise of English hymnody, Benson’s summary of roughly 1690-1706 may be a bit surprising.  Speaking of Isaac Watts, Benson says:

“We have indeed his own testimony that some ministers had already commenced to use ‘evangelical hymns.’  But such use was exceptional; the books marking the tentative efforts of progressive individuals rather than the general practice.  In the great body of the meeting houses the singing of psalms obtained exclusively, though not perhaps very jealously.” (p. 106)


Early 1700’s Dissenters

Benson gives further examples of the times, including that of James Pierce (1674-1726) of Exeter, a minister who served in English presbyterian and independent churches.  Before his sub-orthodox views on the Trinity (following George Bull) later came out, he, and his church, held and practiced exclusive psalmody and discontinued the use of the Doxology.

Both of these positions, however, may have been more due to the Christological perplexities he felt in his context, as singing the psalms allowed Pierce to take refuge in the determined hermeneutical ambiguity of resting in simple Scripture statement instead of making his views more explicit and clear through such newly written and popular hymns.  Pierce seemed exceptional for his times.

Benson relates:

“The temper and tone of current English Presbyterianism was better represented in the persons of the Presbyterian divines of Dublin and the south of Ireland…  By his hymn writing [Joseph] Boyse is entitled to a place among the predecessors of Dr. Watts…  To each volume [of his hymns] is prefixed the recommendation of six Dublin ministers…

Of Boyse’s resolute Presbyterianism there can be no question.  But if we take the whole body of Nonconformist meeting houses in England at the beginning of the 18th century, it is by no means easy to make partition of them between Presbyterians and Independents…  Presbyterianism was not destined to establish itself in England, and its meeting houses were about to fall into the control of men of Arian theology.  The congregational song of these meetings was first to come under the domination of Dr. Watts, and then to develop into a Unitarian Hymnody.

Apart from this stream of Church Song [represented by Boyse], thus diverted from its original channel, the early Presbyterian hymn singing seems to have no part or representation in the great Hymn Movement of the 18th century, which it is customary to trace to its source in Independency.” (pp. 87-8)


Isaac Watts, 1707

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), an Independent minister, was probably the most influential hymn writer of all time.  His initial project, though, a bit more suited to his target audience, was an ‘improvement of psalmody’.  His professed designs would grow much bolder with time.

The first publication of the body of Watts’s ‘psalms’ and hymns for congregational use was, Hymns & Spiritual Songs… (1707).  It included 210 selections:  The first 78 were paraphrases of psalms, 110 ‘free composures’ of hymns followed, with 22 hymns for the Lord’s Supper succeeding.  In a preface to the work entitled, ‘A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody’, Watts gives his views and goals for his project.  Some choice quotes follow:

“First, They [the psalms] ought to be translated its such a Manner as we have reason to believe David would have compos’d ’em if he had lived in our Day…”

“…and the Language of Judaism is chang’d into the Style of the Gospel; the Form and Composure of the Psalm can hardly be called inspired or Divine: only the Materials or the Sense contain’d therein may in a large Sense be called the Word of God, as it is borrowed from that Word.”

“…there are some Scriptural Hymns in the Book of Revelations that describe the Affairs of the New Testament…  I rejoice that the Bible hath any such Pieces of Christian Psalmody in it; lest everything that is Evangelical should utterly be excluded from this Worship, by those who will sing nothing but what is inspired; but how seldom are these Gospel-Songs used among our Churches? how little respect is paid to ’em in comparison of the Jewish Psalms? how little mention would ever be made of them, if it were not to defend the Patrons of Jewish Psalmody from the gross Absurdity of an entire Return to Judaism in this Part of Worship?”

“…there is not a Set of Psalms already prepared that can answer all the Varieties of the Providence and the Grace of God.”

These sentiments (quite different from those of the puritans) give an indication for how Watts loosely paraphrased the psalms and ‘made David speak like a Christian’‡ in his Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Applied to the Christian State and Worship  (1719; Newbury-Port, 1781).

‡ Whitley says John Patrick (1632-1695), a conformed Anglican, was a precedent for revising the psalter in this way. (p. 99)

While Watts’ ‘psalter’ would become quite popular in time (even becoming later known as the old, faithful standby), there were still those who sought to be faithful to the Word of God in singing psalms.  Samuel Pike (1717?–1773) was a godly, Indpendent, London minister (known for his work on cases of conscience).  In writing a version of the psalter that sought to be as faithful to the Hebrew as much as possible, without necessarily making it rhyme, he wrote in the Preface:

“It is well known, that in the last century…  it was then the concurrent judgement of the dissenting churches, that nothing ought to be sung in public worship but those psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which God has provided his Church with in his inspired Word.

But of late years these versions have been much despised by some, and laid aside by many congregations which formerly used them; because of the roughness of the lines…  and other versions, or rather paraphrases on the psalms are made use of by them.  Many others use hymns of mere human composure as preferable to the inspired ones.

But there are yet many serious Christians, and some churches, that adhere to the sentiments of our godly ancestors in preferring Scripture psalms, hymns and songs to any mere human composures, lest they should incur the guilt of bringing strange fire to God’s altar…”

– The Book of Psalms in Metre. Fitted to the Various Tunes in Common Use: wherein closeness to the text, and smoothness of the verse are preferred to rhyme…  (London, 1751), ‘The Preface’, p. iii-iv

Move to next section before civil war  – —  As late as the early-1800’s in America, Thomas Clark and James Harris, critiqued Watts ‘psalms’ in the respective two tracts:

Plain Reasons why neither Dr. Watts’ Imitations of the Psalms, nor his other poems, nor any other human composition, Ought to be used in the Praises of the Great God our Savior, but that a meter version of the book of Psalms, examined with wise and critical care by pious and learned divines, and found by them to be as near the Hebrew meter Psalms as the idiom of the English language would admit, ought to be used  ([Albany, NY?], 1828)  12 pp.

A Supplement to the Ploughman’s Letter, in Answer to Some Inquiries on Psalmody by his Young Friends  (Charlotte, NC: 1827) 15 pp.


American Presbyterianism Psalmody & the Entrance of Hymns

As the flowering of English hymnody began with Watts, it is not our purpose to sketch the development of his influence in detail; but lest his initial impact be overestimated, in closing, and for the interest of the reader, we will summarize, first, from Michael Bushell, how hymnody only slowly came into Christ’s sung, public praise in the Church in early American presbyterianism:

“…in 1729… the practice of exclusive psalmody was neither challenged nor even seriously debated in American Presbyterian churches…¹  The psalmody question did not become a really divisive issue in the Presbyterian church until the latter half of the eighteenth century.”

[¹ See the interesting account of Wodrow describing in 1730 an American minister in the Carolinas defending psalm and Bible-song singing contra the hymn-singing “practice of several ministers in England, and some in America too…”  Analecta 4.174]

“Controversy over the psalmody question reached a peak in the 1780’s.”

“It must be kept in mind that throughout most of the eighteenth century, the debate in the Presbyterian church centered on the question of which psalter version was to be used [either the older literal psalters or Isaac Watts’ new interpretative paraphrased psalter].  On the surface of the matter at least, the question of the use of uninspired or non-canonical materials was not even involved.  It is true, as [Louis] Benson complains, that

‘there was indeed no general desire to sing hymns among colonial Presbyterians.  The progressives asked no more than liberty to choose their own Psalm book; and it was not till the beginning of the nineteenth century that the church formally authorized the use of any designated hymn book [in 1831].’ (The English Hymn, 1915, p. 179)’

…Given the pragmatic and pietistic tenor of the times and the determination of the judicatories of the denomination to settle the matter by popular preference rather than by the scriptural principles involved, it was only inevitable that an inspired psalmody should fall by the wayside…”

– ‘The Development of Psalmody in American Presbyterianism’, pp. 204, 207-9  in Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody  Buy  (3rd ed., 1999)


The Rise of Hymnody in American Presbyterianism

It is notable, even after the uninspired praise of God entered American presbtyerianism in its public worship, how long (especially in comparison to other denominations) predominant psalmody continued in presbyterianism before the songs of men nearly completely eclipsed the songs that were sung by our Savior in this life.  The following is a summary of the data found in’s article, ‘We Used to Sing Only Psalms — What Happened?’  (1987):

Until the Civil War the various Presbyterian bodies used psalms predominantly, singing hymns only now and then, especially in informal gatherings.  Their songbook, Psalms and Hymns, had a clearly defined psalter section.

After the Civil War the use of hymns increased greatly.  In the Presbyterian Hymnal, published in 1874 by the northern branch of the Church, psalms were mixed in with hymns.  The 1901 Psalms and Hymns of the southern Church followed suit.

The rest is history.  And that is how the divinely given book of Psalms, an all-sufficient canon of inspired praise-song for Christ’s bride on earth, in all ages, was prized as such by the predominate share of the early English and Scottish puritans, being reformed according to the Word of God, and consequently how human wisdom added unto it, it thereafter falling into neglect by the American presbyterian Church.


“And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.”

Ex. 20:25

How is the gold become dim!”

Lam. 4:1

“Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it!…  and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.”

Mal. 1:13



To summarize in the order that Rev. Jones presented references to theologians:

John Ball was a conforming, though dissenting, English puritan.  His theoretical position on the content of the Church’s public worship song is unclear, and he gives no evidence that there were anything but psalms being sung in the Anglican Prayer-Book service.

Samuel Langley was educated in England and published hymn(s) that are consistent with the private exercise of Christians before the Lord’s Supper.

Thomas Ford, a presbyterian and Westminster divine, was a strong advocate of psalmody and said that non-inspired compositions “should be fitter for their own private use than for the churches of God”.

Edward Leigh, an English layman and Wesminster divine, held to a primitive episcopacy, and that hymns, from Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, could be sung, but he does not attribute singing hymns as an ‘ordinance’ of the Church as his own view.  Rather, it was the view of rising Independents, in contradistinction to the presbyterians, as the English presbyterian Thomas Edwards evidences.

The relatively late, English presbyterian, Thomas Manton seemed to theoretically allow for hymns in the public worship of the Church, yet he said, “Scripture psalms in most respects are fittest to be used in the church…”

The early English puritan Paul Baynes was open to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 allowing for uninspired compositions, yet the evidence in his commentary on Eph. 5:19 is consistent with public worship that is de facto exclusive psalmody.

No evidence was presented by Rev. Jones that the many hundreds of hymns produced by the English, conforming puritan, William Barton (1598?–1678) were ever sung in public worship.  On the contrary, a scholar of English hymnology, Louis Benson has shown that hymns only came to begin to receive a foothold in the public worship of the Anglican Church in the post-Restoration era (1661 ff.), and that “there was no English hymnody in any effective sense until the 18th century.”

Regarding Rev. Jones’s references to the Early Church, he got them from Barton’s ‘Epistle to the Reader’ in his Six Centuries of Select Hymns (1688).  Needless to say, we have much more full and accurate scholarship on the worship-song of the Early Church than what Barton had access to, and the early quotes he provides are not without the need of interpretation.  For numerous full resources on the history of the content of worship-song in the Early Church, see the subsection ‘The Early Church’ on our page, ‘The History of Psalm Singing’.

Davies, 1st half, p. 390-1, evidently did not consider Te Deum a song, nor necessarily the Gloria Patri in Book of Common Prayer

“One question remains: why was popular praise limited to metrical psalmody?  Why were there so few hymns produced in the Tudor age in England and those not of a popular character?  …in successive editions [in 1662 and after] of the Book of Common Prayer the only hymns included were translations of the Veni Creator in the Ordinal [ordination service].  Translations of ancient hymns were no new phenomenon, either…

Did the growing influence of Calvinism repress the production of hymns?¹  This is a strong possibility…  What is indubitable is that the Sternhold and Hopkins Old Version [of the psalter] quickly acquired an almost canonical authority, and dominated the field to the virtual exclusion of experiments on the Lutheran or Latin models, which had seemed promising only two decades before…

¹ This is the view of C.S. Phillips, in Hymnody Past and Present, p. 153; and H.A.L. Jefferson, in Hymns in Christian Worship, p. 32.

Perhaps the decisive reason for the failure of hymns to develop was the strong sixteenth century sense in nascent Protestantism of ‘the Bible and the Bible only’ as the liturgical, doctrinal and moral criterion.  To develop original hymns of Christian experience would have seemed a human impertinence when God had already provided approved forms of praise in the Psalms.”

“The chief source of modern hymnology may, therefore, be clearly traced to a German origin.” David Laing, Preface, p. xxvii

It will be demonstrated that these conclusions do not follow from the evidence that Rev. Jones presents, and trajectories will be sketched which present a picture of predominate exclusive psalmody in the public worship of the English and Scottish Churches during most of the puritan era.

On the Scottish Church, Thomas Thomson (1798–1869), Free Church minister, editor 5 years and biographer of Calderwood, takes this view, vol. 8, ‘Life of David Calderwood’, p. xxxi-ii

as well as David Laing, get quote, fleming, p. 49 end of part 3, Baillie, Letters 3.529

Also get great quote from Row on Scottish Church History page as to Scriptural motivation, as well as Henderson, Reformation of Church Government in Scotland, p. 5

As Louis F. Benson has observed, “the addition of hymns was made so easily simply because their use in church worship was not proposed” (‘Th e Development of the
English Hymn,’ in Princeton Th eological Review, volume 10 [1912]: 53



For a careful exegesis of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16, see John Murray’s Minority Report on Song in the Public Worship of God.

For an example of where all three of the Greek terms occur in a psalm title, see the heading of Ps. 75 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation that the Ephesians and Colossians would have been using of the Hebrew Old Testament; the psalm is #76 in the KJV).  See also this chart which specifies every place in the Greek Septuagint’s Psalter where these Greek terms occur in the psalm titles.

For articles from the puritans on psalm singing, see the subsection at our webpage:




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