Puritan Quotes on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”

Eph. 5:19

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Col. 3:16

“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



Order of Contents

About the Puritan Quotes on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’
Order of Quotes
Quotes  100+
Latin  2



About the Puritan Quotes on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’

As is seen in the quotes below on this page, while there were some exceptions, a significant share of puritans interpreted ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’ to be:

1. A triadic, poetic reference in the Greek (psalmos, humnos, odee) to the Hebrew titles of the psalms (mizmor, tephillah, shir) in the Book of Psalms, and/or

2. A phrase more explicitly expressing the variation of the content and form of the praises that are to be sung to God, while the phrase still refers only to the psalms of David.

Examples of puritans who thought that Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 ‘plainly intended’ David’s psalms, and yet thought that some ‘spiritual songs of mere humane composure may have their use’ (not defining what context that use may be for, such as a private use), include the group of 26 puritans who endorsed the 1673 Preface to the Scottish Psalter (below).

Other theologians quoted below on this webpage understood ‘the word of Christ’ in Col. 3:16 to refer to the written Word, and hence also understood ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ to refer only to Scriptural songs.  For sufficient Biblical and theological reasons as to why Scriptural songs outside of the Book of Psalms ought not to be used in the public, corporate worship of the Church, see the English puritan, Arthur Hildersham (1563–1632) below.


On Historical Interpretation

It should be noted that where some of the puritans interpreted the phrase in Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 as including man-composed, non-inspired hymns, many did not see the passages as relating to public worship, and still practiced exclusive psalmody in public worship.

While brief quotes do not always make explicit, clear and certain an author’s theological position on the interpretation of Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, or the larger consideration of what the content of worship-songs (or the public worship-songs of the Church in particular) is to be, yet the quotes are presented below as offering trajectories and helpful documentation to those ends.

These statements of theologians (some of which were off-hand) were not made in a vacuum, but ought to be understood in their historical context, especially in the larger context of their Church’s historical practice regarding public worship.  For that context set forth in detail, see:

Travis Fentiman, ‘The Predominant Exclusive Psalmody of the English & Scottish Churches from the Reformation through the Puritan Era, with a Review of Mark Jones’s Article’  (2020)

It should be noted that sometimes terminology was ambiguous, its meaning being difficult to nail down.  Just as in the Biblical context a ‘hymn’ might refer to a psalm (Mt. 26:30), and a ‘psalm’ in its classical, secular usage might refer to a non-inspired human composition, so the same was sometimes the case in Reformation and puritan Europe.  Particularly tricky is the fact that the word ‘psalm’ sometimes included Bible-songs outside of the Psalter, giving significane to the specification, “David’s Psalms”.

It should be noted, however, as the Lutherans composed thousands of ‘hymns’ within decades of Luther posting the 95 Theses in 1517, and were known for singing them in their Church’s worship, so the reformed word choice for ‘psalm’ often did connotate nothing but psalms from the Book of Psalms.

Some of the quotes below were collated from Matthew Winzer, ‘Westminster and Worship Examined…’ in The Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008), as well as from a list historic quotes at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church: ‘Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)’.



Order of Quotes  100+

In English

Early Church



Coverdale                                       Evans
Becon                                              Marbeck
Whittingham                                 Rhodes
Ridley                                              Bownd
Parker                                             Clapham, H.


Scottish Psalter, Preface, 26 puritans

Cartwright                                      Deacon
Rogers                                              Long
Wilson                                              Dickson
Byfield                                              Lightfoot
Baynes                                              Gaskin
Ainsworth                                        Gauden
Taylor, T.                                           Wilson
Elton                                                  Stokes
Robinson                                          Trapp
Perkins                                             Daille
Scudder                                            MacWard
Hildersham                                     Swinnock
Dutch Annotations                        Young
Bay Psalm Book                              Roberts
Cheshire                                           Collinges
Ames                                                 Manton
Rutherford                                       Ambrose
Holmes                                             Owen
Vaughan                                           Turretin
Featley                                              Flavel
Westminster                                    King
London Ministers                           Craghead
Palmer                                              Allen
.                                                          Heidegger
Cotton                                               Mather, C.
Taylor, J.
Leigh                                        1700’s
Dunster                                           Heywood
Ford                                                 Edwards
.                                                         Pike
Gower                                             Gill
Barton                                             Brown of Haddington
Clapham, J.
Fergusson                                 In Latin
Thomas                                           Rollock
Stalham                                           Brown of Wamphray





Early Church


Homilies on the Epistle to the Ephesians  in A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church…  Trans. members of the English Church  (Oxford, 1845), Sermon 19, vv. 18-21, p. 302

“‘Dost thou wish’, he [the apostle] says, ‘to be cheerful, dost thou wish to employ the day?  I give thee spiritual drink;’ for drunkenness even cuts off the articulate sound of our tongue; it makes us lisp and stammer, and distorts the eyes, and the whole frame together.

Learn to sing psalms, and thou shalt see the delightfulness of the employment.  For they who sing psalms are filled with the Holy Spirit, as they who sing satanic songs are filled with an unclean spirit.”


Miles Coverdale


The first influence in England towards reformation was Lutheran (which advocated a strong hymnody), “[a]lthough the decisive influence leading the directors of parish praise to accept metrical psalmody was Genevan” (Davies).

The ‘Ghostly Psalms & Spiritual Songs’ first appeared in 1539, a specimen of the Lutheran influence.  It 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.  As is clear from the preface, 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’.

As the public worship of the Church was regulated by the Church and government authorities, and 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 all of the non-psalms in this collection were used in public worship.  Col. 3:16 is printed on the title page.


Ghostly [Spiritual] Psalms and Spiritual Songs  (1539), ‘Unto the Christian Reader’  in Remains of Myles Coverdale  (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1846), pp. 536-540

“…we would not only fall down upon our faces and give him thanks, but with loud voices would we praise Him, and in the midst of the congregation would we extol his name, as David and Asaph do almost in every psalm.  For doubtless whoso believeth that God loveth him, and feeleth by his faith, that he hath forgiven him all his sins, and careth for him…  shall be compelled by the Spirit of God to break out into praise and thanksgiving therefore…  but shall cry and call upon them, as David doth, saying: “Praise the Lord with me, and let us magnify his name together.  I sought the Lord, and He heard me, yea, He delivered me out of all my fear.”…

Yea, would God that our minstrels had none other thing to play upon, neither our carters and ploughmen other thing to whistle upon, save psalms, hymns,
and such godly songs as David is occupied withal!  And if women, sitting at their rocks [instruments used in spinning], or spinning at the wheels, had none other songs to pass their time withal, than such as Moses’ sister, Glehana’s [Elkanah’s] wife, Debora, and Mary the mother of Christ, have sung before them, they should be better occupied than with ‘hey nony nony, hey troly loly,’ and such like fantasies.

If young men also that have the gift of singing, took their pleasure in such wholesome ballads as the [apocryphal] three children sing in the fire, and as Jesus the Son of Sirac doth in his last chapter, it were a token, both that they felt some spark of God’s love in their hearts, and that they also had some
love unto Him; for truly, as we love, so sing we…

Seeing then that, as the prophet David saith, it is so good and pleasant a thing to praise the Lord, and so expedient for us to be thankful (Ps. 147); therefore, to give our youth of England some occasion to change their foul and corrupt
ballads into sweet songs and spiritual hymns of God s honor, and for their own consolation in him, I have here, good reader, set out certain comfortable songs grounded on God’s Word, and taken some out of the holy scripture, specially out of the Psalms of David, all whom would God that our musicians would learn to make their songs! and if they which are disposed to be merry, would in their mirth follow the counsel of St. Paul and St. James (Col. 3; James 5), and not to pass their time in naughty songs of fleshly love and wantonness, but with singing of psalms, and such songs as edify, and corrupt not men’s conversation.

The children of Israel in the old time, when God had delivered them from their enemies, gave thanks unto Him, and made their song of Him, as thou seest by Moses, Barak, David, and other more.  Why should not we then make our songs and mirth of God, as well as they?  Hath He not done as much for us as for them?  Hath He not delivered us from as great troubles as them?  Yes, doubtless.  Why should He not then be our pastime, as well as theirs?

As for such psalms as the scripture describeth (beside the great consolation that they bring into the heart of the spiritual singer) they do not only cause him to spend his time well by exercising himself in the sweet Word of God;
but through such ensamples they provoke other men also unto the praise of God and virtuous living.  And this is the very right use wherefore psalms should be sung; namely, to comfort a man’s heart in God, to make him thankful, and to exercise him in his Word, to encourage him in the way of
godliness, and to provoke other men unto the same. By this thou mayest perceive, what spiritual edifying cometh of godly psalms and songs of God s Word; and what inconvenience foloweth the corrupt ballads of this vain world.


Thomas Becon

David’s harp full of most delectable armony, newly stringed and set in tune by Theodore Basille  (London, 1542), ‘To the right honorable Sir. George Broke, Lord Cobham’, no page numbers.  Theodore Basille was a pseudonym for Thomas Becon (1512-1567), the English reformer.

“Moreover, who can deny ye there is much & great virtue in David’s Harp…  Again must not David’s songs be of great excellency, seeing that ye Son of God came down from the glorious throne of his heavenly Father to accomplish and fulfill them?  Doth not Paul also say, ‘Be ye filled with the Spirit, speaking among yourselves in Psalms, Hymns, & spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to ye Lord, ever giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?’

Certes [assuredly] the psalmody of David may well be called ye treasure house of the holy Scripture.  For it contain the whatsoever is necessary for a christian to know: There is nothing in the law, no thing in the Prophets, nothing in ye preaching of Christ and of his apostles, yt this noble minstrel, King & Prophet doth not decantate and sing with most goodly & manifest words.  He singeth all the works and wonderous miracles of God from the beginning of the world, until the redemption of mankind by Christ.

He singeth Christ’s incarnation, preaching, working of miracles, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, glory, the blessing of all nations, the conversion of the Gentiles with all other mysteries that pertain to our health…  To be short, he singeth whatsoever is expedient for a Christian’s knowledge.  So that even this one book alone of David’s songs had been sufficient truly to instruct a man in the righteousness of God…  O the wonderful and marvelous strength of David’s harp.  O the great and exceeding virtue of David’s songs…

Would God that all men of honor would nourish such minstrels in their houses, as David’s, and that might sing unto them both at dinner and supper, yea and at all other times these most sweet and delectable songs of David…  Would God also that all fathers and mothers, all masters and mastresses, would bring up their children and servants in the singing of these most godly songs.”


William Whittingham

The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, &c., used in the English Congregation at Geneva: and Approved by the Famous and Godly Learned Man, John Calvin  (1556; Imprinted at Edinburgh, by Robert Lekprewik and are to be should at his house at the neither bow. Cum priuilegio. 1562), ‘To our Brethren in England…’, pp. 165-6  “This Preface, or Address, is usually ascribed to [William] Whittingham…”, David Laing, Knox’s Works, 4.157.

“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…

in another place, showing what songs should be sung, exhorteth the Ephesians to “edify one another with psalms, songs of praise, and such as are spiritual…”…

… and confirmed by all Antiquity.  As, besides other places, is most manifest by the words of Pliny, called the younger, who, when he was depute in Asia unto the Emperor Trajan, and had received charge to inquire out the Christians to put them to death, writ among other things, touching the Christians, “That their manners were to sing verses or psalms early in the morning to Christ their God.”…

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, that hereby our hearts might be more lively touched, as appeareth by Moses, Hezekiah, Judith, Debora, Mary, Zechariah, and others, who by songs and metre, rather than in their commune speech and prose, gave thanks to God for such comfort as he sent them.

Here it were to[o] long to entreat of the metre; but for as much as the learned doubt not thereof, and it is plainly proven that the Psalms are not only metre, and contain just caesuras [rhythmical pauses], but also have grace and majesty in the verse more than any other places of the Scriptures, we need not to enter into any probation.

For they that are skillful in the Hebrew tongue, [Read Moses Chabib, in his books called, מרפא לשון דרכי נרעם] by comparing the Psalms with the rest of the Scriptures, easily may perceive the metre.  And to whom is it not known, how the Holy Ghost by all means sought to help our memory, when he factioned [fashioned] many Psalms according to the letters of the alphabet; so that every verse beginneth with the letters thereof in order.  Sometimes A. beginneth the half verse, and B. the other half; and in another place, three verses, yea and eight verses with one letter, even the Psalm throughout; as if all men should be inflamed with the love thereof, both for variety of matter, and also briefness, easiness, and delectation.”


Nicholas Ridley

‘An other letter of B. Ridley wherein he confirmeth the brethren in captivity translated out of the Latin’  in Acts and Monuments of matters most special and memorable, happening in the Church… vol. 2, pt. 2  (London, 1583), bk. 11, ‘Doctor Nicholas Ridley and M. Hugh Latimer, both Byshops, Preachers, and Martyrs of Christ, with theyr doinges, conferences, and sufferinges described’, p. 1,727.  Ridley  (c. 1500–1555) was an English reformer who was burnt at the stake under Bloody Mary.

“and also the holy Ghost in the Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs which are set forth in the Bible, did teach and instruct all the people of England in the English tongue, that they might ask such things as are according to the will of the Father…”


Matthew Parker

The Whole Psalter translated into English Metre…  (London, John Daye, 1560).  The front title page speaks of the first 50 psalms, but the volume contains all 150 Psalms.


A book-dealer’s catalog gives this description of this psalter:  “This is Archbishop [Matthew] Parker’s celebrated version, of which only about eight other copies are known… it has been supposed that the Archbishop did not design it for sale, but for present only.”

The title page, at the bottom, in Latin, says that the work was printed “With the thanks and privilege of the Royal Majesty”.

Appended to the psalter, after the 150 psalms is Glory to the Father, Te Deum, The Song of the Three Children, Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, Quicunque Vult & Veni Creator, amongst other matter and 8 tunes.  For an explanation of the appendage of some Bible songs (one apocryphal) and hymns to this psalter, see the Introduction to this webpage.


‘To the Reader’

“Paul, Eph. 5, Col. 3

Sing Psalms and hymns and songs on high,
To God yourselves among:
But sing in heart: make melody,
To God give thanks in song.

James 5

If sad ye be, and bear the cross,
In faith pray ye contrite:
If glad ye be, and feel no loss,
Sing Psalms of thanks aright.

‘Of the Virtue of the Psalms’

What man hath heart in heaviness
With sundry cares oppressed:
And would have help in redines [reclinings]
To heal his thoughtful breast.

Let him behold: the melody,
Of David’s blissful harp:
In Psalms there find: his remedy,
He may of care so sharp.

If pangs and pains, both sharp and fell,
With gripes thy body winges:
Sweet David’s harp can ease thee well,
For it good physic sings.

Again if they be overflown,
By rage of water streams:
If David’s Psalms thou makest thine own,
Thy soul must feel his beams.

Both Paul and James in their denise[?]
Bid Psalms with voice to use:
In hymns and songs: sweet exercise,
To God in heart to muse.


Lewis Evans

The Castle of Christianity detecting the long erring estate, as well of the Roman Church, as of the Bishop of Rome: together with the defence of the catholic faith…  (London, 1568), ‘A Plain Demonstration of the Erring Estate of the Roman Church’, pp. 49-50.  Evans (fl. 1574).  This book was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.

“Why then will they [the Church of Rome] reprehend our singing?  ‘Be ye’ (sayeth he) ‘fulfilled with the spirit, speaking amongst yourselves in Psalmes, Hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody unto the Lord in your hearts.’  You hear what the apostle of Christ willeth us to do.  ‘My songs’ (sayth the prophet David) ‘will I make of thy name, O thou most highest.’  Whosoever therefore rebuketh us for singing of Psalms, the same doth withstand the Scriptures and holy Ghost.

But if they themselves do allow their own singings, why then disallow they ours?…   Yea, they themselves thus write: ‘Concerning the singing of Hymns, we have the example of our Savior, and of the apostles.’  Be not therefore any longer obstinate, the Psalms of David we sing, never go about to carp our singing.  Many other things there be, which in us they do blame.”


John Marbeck

A Book of Notes and Common Places, with their expositions, collected and gathered out of the works of diverse singular writers...  (London, 1581), ‘Singing’, p. 1,015


The meaning of these two places following.

Be not filled with wine wherein is wantonness, but be ye
filled with the spirit, speaking to yourselves in Psalms, hymns, & spiritual songs, singing in your hearts, giving thanks always unto God for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:19)….

Let the word of the Lord abound plenteously in you,* teach & admonish ye one another, in Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs, singing in your hearts with grace (Col. 3:16).  By these words Paul expresseth two things, first that our songs be the Word of God, which must abound plenteously in us…”


John Rhodes


Col. 3:16 is printed on the title page.  As may be seen from the title and ‘To the Christian Reader’, the various religious songs he published (though they are said to be sung to various common psalm tunes) were held to be ‘religious recreations’ and were in no way intended for public worship.


The Country Man’s Comfort. Or Religious Recreations Fit for all well disposed persons. Which was printed in the year of our Lord, 1588…  (1588; London, 1637)


Nicholas Bownd

The True Doctrine of the Sabbath  (1595/1606; Naphtali & RHB, 2015)  Emphasis in the original.  See also pp. 402-3.

Book 2, ch. 11, ‘Private Worship: Singing of Psalms’,

pp. 396-8

“And if we look into the book of Psalms, we shall find not only a great many which do generally concern the estate of the whole Church, and therefore are most fit to be sung in the common assemblies…

And if the private singing of psalms were not so necessary a duty of Christians as it is, to what end serves that earnest exhortation of the apostle to the Colossians?  Let the word of Christ dwell in you plenteously in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).  Where he teaches the whole Church how they should behave themselves in their private meetings…  they should sing spiritual songs, whereof there are so many kinds, as appears by the diverse words he uses in this place, as when he says, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Whereunto agrees that which he writes unto the Ephesians: Be not drunken with wine…  speaking unto yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs…  (Eph. 5:18-20)…  they on the contrary should in the midst of these things (being guided by God’s Spirit) burst forth into the praises of God through Jesus Christ; and testify their holy mirth, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit, by singing Psalms; whereof there are so many sundry kinds, that for every time we shall be fitted with some one or other [psalm, hymn, or spiritual song.]

Let us not therefore deny so manifest a truth, but acknowledge as the Word teaches us, that the Lord requires of us in our private meetings upon the Lord’s Day, and when we are alone by ourselves, to sing psalms, as well as in the church.  And though I do not bind men unto this–for be it far from me that I should lay any heavier burden upon any, than the Word of God itself binds–bind them I say unto this, that in all their mirth they should sing psalms, as might seem the places alleged do import…  For as that is…  a blessed heaviness that makes us seek unto the Lord; so that is a godly mirth that ends with singing of psalms, and a heavenly joy, that at leastwise makes us more fit to serve God.


pp. 406-7

What Makes it Comely

…So though to sing be never so comely in its own nature, yet it become not us, except we be prepared for it, and do sing David’s psalms [not so much with David’s harp,] as with David’s spirit.  Therefore the apostle, writing to the Ephesians, wills them in singing to make melody in their hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19), and not to sing with the tongue only…”


Henoch Clapham

A Brief of the Bible drawn First into English Poesy, and then Illustrated by Apt Annotations...  (Edinburgh, 1596), ‘Devotional Poems’, p. 228.  Clapham (fl.1585-1614) was an English puritan.

“Because Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, have much affinity with prayer, therefore I have thought it not amiss, in the next place to add two such sonnets: always remembered that nothing I have or ever shall write, be joined in use with the canonical Scriptures in the public service of my God.

Such joining of our patcheries (for no better name I will give them, in comparison of the holy Canon) I call nothing but a saucy joining our posts by Jehovah’s posts. Eze. 43:8″


Preface to the 1673 edition of the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter

A print version of this may be found in The True Psalmody (Edinburgh: James Gemmell, 1878)  Buy  p. 98

Good Reader,

’Tis evident by the common experience of mankind, that love cannot lie idle in the soul. For every one hath his oblectation [pleasure] and delight, his tastes and relishes are suitable to his constitution, and a man’s temper is more discovered by his solaces than by anything else. Carnal men delight in what is suited to the gust of the flesh, and spiritual men in the things of the Spirit. The promises of God’s holy covenant, which are to others as stale news or withered flowers, feed the pleasure of their minds; and the mysteries of our redemption by Christ are their hearts’ delight and comfort.  But as joy must have a proper object, so also a vent: for this is an affection that cannot be penned up: the usual issue and out-going of it is by singing. Profane spirits must have songs suitable to their mirth; as their mirth is carnal, so their songs are vain and frothy, if not filthy and obscene; but they that rejoice in the Lord, their mirth runs in a spiritual channel: “Is any merry? let him sing psalms,” saith the apostle (Jam. 5:13); and, “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage,” says holy David (Ps. 119:54).

Surely singing, ’tis is a delectable way of instruction, as common prudence will teach us.  Aelian tells us that the Cretians enjoined their children, ‘τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς ἐλευθέρους μανθάνειν τοὺς νόμους ἐκέλευον μετά τινος μελῳδὶας,’ to learn their laws by singing them in verse.†

† Claudius Aelianus (c. 175 – c. 235), Variae Historiae, lib. 2, cap. 39.

And surely singing of Psalms is a duty of such comfort and profit, that it needs not our recommendation.  The new nature is instead of all arguments, which cannot be without thy spiritual solace.  Now though spiritual songs of mere humane composure may have their use, yet our devotion is best secured, where the matter and words are of immediately divine inspiration; and to us David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by those terms of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” which the apostle uses (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  But then ’tis meet that these divine composures should be represented to us in a fit translation, lest we want David, in David; while his holy ecstasies are delivered in a flat and bald expression.  The translation which is now put into thy hands comes nearest to the original of any that we have seen, and runs with such a fluent sweetness, that we thought fit to recommend it to thy Christian acceptance; some of us having used it already, with great comfort and satisfaction.

Thomas Manton, D.D.
Henry Langley, D.D.
John Owen, D.D.
William Jenkyn
James Innes
Thomas Watson
Thomas Lye
Matthew Poole
John Milward
John Chester
George Cokayn
Matthew Mead
Robert Franklin
Thomas Doolittle
Thomas Vincent
Nathanael Vincent
John Ryther
William Tomson
Nicholas Blaikie
Charles Morton
Edmund Calamy [the son of the Westminster divine]
William Carslake
James Janeway
John Hickes
John Baker
Richard Mayo


Thomas Cartwright


Note that though Cartwright in his commentary uses the word ‘hymn’, and other ‘songs’, yet everything he says about them is consistent with they being from the book of Psalms.  He also mentions singing with musical instruments on Col. 3:16, and seemingly recreating; yet he debated with the Anglican Richard Hooker that only psalms should be in the public worship service (not other inspired Bible songs), and that musical instruments should not be used.


A Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul Written to the Colossians  (d. 1603; rep. Edinburgh, 1864), Sermon 26, on Col. 3:16-17

p. 54, lt. col.

“And in your meetings to make merry, let your mirth be showed forth in psalms, singing as well with instrument as with voice; also with hymns of thanksgiving for benefits received; and for further variety against irksomeness, which our nature easily falleth into, with songs of praising God for his noble acts; all spiritual unto the Lord…”

p. 55, rt. col.

“Towards God the duty is set down, that when we are merry and cheerful, to sing psalms and hymns unto God, ver. 16.  And therefore St. James saith, chap. 5:13, ‘if any be merry, let him sing psalms ;’

…a hymn, is a song of thanksgiving for a benefit received, and therefore our Savior, after his supper, sang an hymn, Mt. 26:30, viz., for a particular benefit.

Lastly, a song is a more general thing than either the psalm or hymn, viz., wherein we give thanks, not for particular benefits, but for general blessings received at God’s hands, as when David praised the Lord for the works of creation, as the heavens, etc., Ps. 104…

Use.  These must be spiritual songs, viz. holy psalms and songs, not profane and wicked love-songs…”


As quoted by Richard Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5 (1597), section 40  in Works (London, 1676).  Hooker gives as the reference:  Cartwright, Book 3, p. 208.


Note that the responsive reciting by the congregation and the priest out of the Prayer-Book was both considered at times both a ‘reading’ and a ‘singing’ of the material, precisely because the recitation had a chanting quality to it.

The defenders of mainline Anglicanism, such as Hooker, did not find a significant distinction between reading or singing such, whereas the puritans did distinguish these things with respect to prayer and singing praises.


p. 241, margin

“These thanksgivings [the NT ‘evangelical hymns’, or Bible songs, such as the song of Mary, Simeon, etc.] 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 alledged of the Psalms, it is not convenient to make ordinary Prayers of them.”


Richard Rogers

A Garden of Spiritual Flowers, Planted by Richard Rogers, William Perkins, Richard Green and George Webb  (1609; London, 1643), Part 1, ‘Of Singing Psalms’, p. 124


Thomas Wilson

A Complete Christian Dictionary…  (London, 1612), ‘Psalm’, p. 506.  See also a 1661 ed., p. 506.  Wilson (c.1562-1622) was a reformed Anglican.


A song made of short verses and sentences, where many superfluous words are cut off, Ps. 3. In the title: a Psalm of David: it cometh of an Hebrew word, which hath the signification of pruning, or cutting off superfluous twigs.

There are three kind of songs mentioned in God’s book, namely, in the Psaltery:  1. A Psalm.  2. An Hymn, or Praise.  3. A Song, or Lay.

The Apostle mentioneth all three together, Eph. 5:19.  This word [‘psalm’] is put for the Book of Psalms, Lk. 24:44.”


Nicholas Byfield

An Exposition upon the Epistle to the Colossians (London, 1615), commentary on ch. 3, v. 16, p. 101

“The matter is here three ways to be considered:

First, in the ground, foundation, or authority of the Psalms we use, viz. they must be the word of Christ, that is contained in the Scriptures.

Secondly in the kinds of Psalms, there are many sort of Psalms in Scripture.  The Psalms of Moses, David, Solomon, and other prophets: but all are here referred to three heads; they are either Psalms, specially so called, or hymns, or songs.  Great ado there is among interpreters to find a difference in these: some would have Psalms to be the songs of men, and Hymns of angels: some think they differ, especially in the manner of music.  Some are sung by voice, some played upon instruments; but the plausiblest opinion is not to distinguish them by the persons that use them, or by the kind of music, but by the matter, and so they say Psalms contain exhortation to manners or holy life.  Hymns contain praises to God in the commemoration of his benefits.  Songs contain doctrine of the chief good, or man’s eternal felicity.  But I think there needs not any curious distinction: it may suffice us that there is variety of Psalms in Scripture and God allows us the use of every kind.

Thirdly, the property of the Psalms, they are Spiritual, both because they are indited by the spirit, and because they make us more spiritual in the due use of them.”


Paul Baynes (d. 1617)

Baynes, Paul – on Eph. 5:19, pp. 632-636  of Entire Commentary upon the whole Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians  (London, 1645)

Matthew Winzer, ‘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  p. 264

“He [Baynes] subsequently discusses the difference of the words in terms of the manner of singing.  He does say that a spiritual song might be one which is framed according to the Scripture (Baynes, [ed. London, 1658,] p. 505), but makes no suggestion that this is to be used in an ordinary public worship context.

When he comes to “the sum of the verse,” he speaks of “singing both in private and publick, which this Scripture and Col. 3:16 do commend;” but where he speaks of the church service he confines his terms to “Psalms”—”and all things, Psalms, Prayers in the Church must be to edify” (p. 505).  When he finally applies the passage he provides this maxim: “get the spirit of David to sing a Psalm of David” (p. 506).”


Henry Ainsworth

The Book of Psalms: Englished both in Prose & Meter.  With Annotations, Opening the Words and Sentences, by Conference with Other Scriptures  (Amsterdam, 1612)  Note that the title page quotes Eph. 5:18-19.


“I have enterprised (Christian reader) this work, with regard of God’s honor, and comfort of his people; that his Word might dwell in us richly, in all wisdom; and that we might teach and admonish ourselves, in psalms and hymns and songs spiritual.  This I have labored to effect, by setting over into our tongue the Psalms in meter…

Psalms of holy Scripture, are perpetually to be sung in the Church.”


p. 1

Title of the Book of Psalms

“The Book of Psalmes, or Hymnes.”


Annotations on Ps. 1

“The book of Psalmes:]  so our Lord Himself entitleth it, Lk. 20:42, but the Hebrew title, Tehillim, signifieth Hymnes or Praises.  According to the Greeks it is called the Psalter.”


On Ps. 3, on the Title, p. 7

“There be three kinds of songs mentioned in this book: 1. Mizmor, in Greek psalmos, a psalm: 2. Tehillah, in Greek humnos, a hymn or praise: and 3. Shir, in Greek ode, a song or lay.  All these three the apostle mentions together, where he wills us to speak to ourselves with ‘psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,’ Eph. 5:19.”


On Ps. 145, pp. 335-6

Translation of Ps. 145

“Ps. 145

1. An hymne, of David;”


“Verse 1. An hymne]  or Praise; and hereof the whole book in Hebrew is called the book of Hymnes.”


The Orthodox Foundation of Religion long since collected by that Judicious and Elegant man, Mr. Henry Ainsworth…  (London, 1641), p. 71.  See all of pp. 71-72 for more, along with the footnotes, which have more pertinent Scripture references.

“Songs of holy Scripture are to be sung in the Church; first, because God hath given his Word partly in prose to be read, partly in meter to be sung, Col. 3:16; 2 Sam. 23:1-2.”


A Defence of the Holy Scriptures, Worship, and Ministry used in the Christian Churches separated from Antichrist, Against the Challenges, cavils and contradiction of Mr. Smyth in his book entitled, The Differences of the Churches of the Separation  (Amsterdam, 1609), p. 22

“If it [psalm singing] be an ordinary part of worship, why perform they it not, but quarrel with us, who…  do content ourselves with joint har­monious singing of the Psalms of holy scripture, to the instructi­on and comfort of our hearts, and praise of our God.”


Thomas Taylor

Christ’s Combat and Conquest: or, The Lion of the Tribe of Judah Vanquishing the Roaring Lion assaulting him, in three most fierce and hellish temptations, Expounded…  ([Cambridge], 1618), on Mt. 4:5-6, p. 173-4

“5.  In edifying the family with Psalms and melody to the Lord, as it is, Col. 3:16.  In these daily duties doth the sanctification of a family consist…  and where this worship of God is not set up in families, there is nothing but a conspiracy of atheists, and a wicked brood bringing God’s judgments on themselves…”


More on Psalm Singing, with no references to anything else in the book

p. 124

“Yea, and Bernard himself, whom Harding brings in as a favorer of his cause herein, saith, That at Bethlehem the common people sang Psalms and Halleluiahs, yea in the fields as they were plowing and mowing, etc.”

pp. 399-400

“2.  Some about the time of receiving the communion are very devout, will make a show of religion, of prayer, of repentance, of charity, and love; they will not swear much that day, perhaps not play, but read, and (it may be) sing Psalms: A man would think (for so do they) that the devil is quite gone.  But it is but for a season…”


Edward Elton

An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Delivered in Sundry Sermons  (London, 1620), on Col. 3:16, p. 521

Elton limits ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ to the Word of Christ, namely the songs in the whole Word of God.


John Robinson

Works, vol. 3, A Catechism of the Rev. John Robinson; Leiden.  Being an Appendix to the Foundation of Christian Religion, Gathered into Six Principles, by Rev. William Perkins, p. 434.  Robinson (c.1576-1625) was a Pilgrim and separatist minister, leader of the Congregationalist settlers who journeyed to Plymouth Colony, New England.

“Q. 37:  What is required touching singing of psalms in the church?

That they be such as are parts of the Word of God, formed by the Holy Ghost into psalms or songs, which many may conveniently sing together, exhorting and admonishing themselves mutually with grace in their hearts (Matt. 26:30; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).”


A Justification of Separation from the Church of England Against Mr. Richard Bernard his Invective, entitled, The Separatists Schism  (Amsterdam, 1610), p. 467.  See through p. 469 where only psalms are mentioned, and that from the book of psalms.

“Add unto this, that whereas in praying we are to speak only unto God, it is otherwise in singing, where we are taught to ‘speak unto ourselves in psalms’, and ‘to teach, and admonish ourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  What greater difference?  In prayers we speak only to God: in psalms to our selves mutually, or one to another…”


John Reading

David’s Soliloquy Containing many comforts for Afflicted Minds. As they were delivered in sundry sermons at Saint Mary’s in Dover  (London, 1627)  These sermons of the reformed and conforming Anglican, John Reading (c.1587-1667) on Ps. 42:11 contain 42 references to a psalm or psalms.  As is seen from below, the few times Reading refers to ‘hymns’, the term refers to psalms from the book of psalms.  Note Reading’s interpretation of the early letter of Pliny as referring to the early Christians singing psalms to Christ.

pp. 2-6

“…all that, being given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works; and therefore is the wholesome physic for the soul, common to all, a promptuary [a calculator]; and storehouse of spiritual receipts, to cure all maladies of the mind: a perfect directory to all those holy duties required of man: this one book of Psalms doth especially, and most comfortably meet with the perturbations, and sicknesses of a distempered mind.

It [the book of psalms] was penned by those holy men of God, who in sundry conditions of the Church, prosperous, and diverse, in several distresses of their own, did either accommodate those-hymns to the public use, or poured out their souls to God, opening the privaties of their own hearts to Him.

So like are the things which are, to those which have been, that (as they were not written for one time or age, but for the Church’s use, to the end of time) every man may apply something hereof to himself: this book [of psalms] is so completely furnished with all varieties, that some part or other hereof draweth every man to a private and peculiar examination of himself.


p. 21

“Christ and his disciples sang psalms: the Church in her purest ages used it, yea when persecution hindered the more public service of God, they sung Psalms before day… [likely referring to Pliny’s letter]”


pp. 30-31

“…lest the evil one, making use of our natures, should pervert with lascivious and wanton songs; God Himself made us songs, wherein we might both profit and delight.

Psalms are the angels’ exercise, the daily practice of blessed saints, the spiritual incense of the host of heaven: the sweet harbor in solitude: the ornament of celebrities, the medicine of sick minds, the mode ratour[?] of affections: an exercise becoming all degrees, all ages, all conditions, since none are either too grave, or too good to praise the Lord.

I have not made so large a digression upon this point only to praise these spiritual hymns [God-given psalms], which beyond all commendations, praise themselves to every religious heart and care…”


p. 38-9

“He would have us cheerful, he commandeth us to rejoice evermore; and, is any merry, ‘let him sing’ (James 5:13), but one of the songs of ‘Sion’ [Ps. 137:3]: only let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouths; but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.  Sing Psalms, Hymns, & spiritual Songs, singing with a grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).

To such songs the spirit of grace commeth flying: the bees come to aromatical and sweet things, the swine will to the mire: to obscene and meritricious songs and discourses, the devil’s swarm, let them only use and love them, who love their company.”


A Sermon Delivered in the Cathedral Church of Canterbury, concerning church-music  (London, 1663), p. 15.  This sermon was given shortly after the Restoration and Great Ejection of 1662, in order to defend in Reading’s church, the cathedral church in Canterbury, that instruments were lawful in public worship, contra the dissenting puritans.  Cathedral churches usually had more ornate music than parish churches.

“Let the most bitter-spirited antagonist ingenuously say, ‘Is not the whole Book of Psalms (so often avowed, cited, and used by Christ) Sepher-Tehillim, a Book of Praises, composed for the Churches use unto the end of time [in contrast to adding instrumentation]?’

or think you that this so excellent a part of Scripture was written only to inform us what the saints of God did before us, but not what we also must do by their example [of playing instruments in worship]? As for the abuse of music, we abominate it…”


William Perkins

‘The Art of Prophesying,’ in Works, vol. 2 (London: Printed by John Legatt, 1631) p. 650

“The book of Psalms, which contains sacred songs to be fitted for every condition both of the Church and the particular members thereof, and also to be sung with grace in the heart, Col. 3:16.”


Henry Scudder

The Christian’s Daily Walk in Holy Security and Peace…  (London, 1631), ch. 9, ‘Of keeping Company, as in the sight of God’, section 3, p. 236-7.  While Scudder in the passage immediately below allows Col. 3:16 to speak of uninspired compositions in the context of private or social conference, yet the only reference in the book to the content of the Church’s public praise is to ‘psalms’ simply, as is documented below.

“When therefore you meet with those that fear God, make improvement of the communion of saints, not only by communicating in natural, and temporal good things as you are able, and as there is need; but especially in the communion of things spiritual, edifying yourselves in your most holy faith, by holy speech and conference, and in due time and place) in reading the holy Scriptures & good books, and by prayer, and singing of Psalms together (Col. 3:16, Rules of singing).

That your singing may please God, and edify yourself and others, observe these:

Sing as in Gods sight, and, in matter of prayer & praise speak of God in singing.

The matter of your song must be spiritual, either indited by the Spirit, or composed of matter agreeing thereunto (Col. 3:16).

You must sing with understanding.

You must sing with judgement, being able in private to make choice of Psalms befitting the present times and occasions; And both in private and public to apply the Psalm sung to your own particular, as when and how to pray and praise in the words of the Psalm, taking heed…”


pp. 64-65

“And the best recreation to a spiritual mind, when it is weary of worldly employments, is to walk into Christ’s garden, and there, by reading and meditating, singing of Psalms (Col. 3:16) and holy conference, you may solace yourself with the sweet comforts of the holy Spirit, and may work your heart to joy in God, even to joy in the holy Ghost, and to a delight in the Commandments and Word of God.”


Scudder on the Church’s Public Worship

pp. 101-2

“Have I caused my family to go with me to the Church?  And did I with them come in due time, and being there, did stay the whole time of prayer, reading, and preaching of the Word, singing of Psalms, receiving and administering the Sacraments, even that of Baptism, when others are baptized, and did attend diligently, and join with the minister and the rest of the congregation in all those holy exercises?”


Arthur Hildersham

152 Lectures upon Psalm 51…  (London, 1635), Lecture 1, p. 4-5

“That it is an ancient and excellent ordinance of God, that in his worship and service we should sing psalms, even David’s Psalms, and that we should sing them in that manner as may be most unto edification.

Observe the proof of this doctrine, as I shall propound it unto you distinctly in three points:

First, it hath ever been esteemed a chief part of the worship, and service of God wherewith he hath been highly pleased.  It was used in Moses’ time, Ex. 15:1 and in the time of the Judges, Jud. 5:1, and in the days of Samuel, 1 Sam. 18:6-7, in David and Solomon’s time, 1 Chron. 6:32, in the days of Jehosaphat, 2 Chron. 20:21-22, and of Hezekiah, 2 Chron. 29:28,30, and after the captivity in Nehemiah’s time, Neh. 12:42, yea in the New Testament, our Savior himself, and his apostles used it, Mt. 26:30, and prescribed it to God’s people, Col. 3:16…

Thirdly, the Psalms that God’s people did use to sing in the worship of God were most usually David’s Psalms, and those that are accounted among his: and that even at such times when there were prophets in the Church that had extraordinary gifts, and were inspired by the Holy Ghost, yet the Church did not usually sing any other than David’s Psalms:

This we shall see in the days of Hezekiah, 2 Chron. 29:30.  Hezekiah the King, and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord, with the words of David, and of Asaph the Seer.  The like we may see in Ezra’s time, Ezra 3:10.  They set the priests in their apparel with trumpets; and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals to praise the Lord with those songs (as Tremelius rendreth it) that David the King of Israel did deliver; and the Psalm they sung was, Ps. 136, as appeareth by the 11th verse.  And this may also further appear by that which we read, Neh. 12:46.

To which purpose 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.”


The Dutch Annotations

1637, as ordered and appointed by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), on Eph. 5:19

“These three sorts of spiritual singing serve for one end.  Namely to recreate the spirit; and are by some thus distinguished, that Psalms are all kind of spiritual songs, which are exercised, not only with the voice, but also with stringed instruments of music.  Hymns, thanksgivings unto God, or metrical celebrations of God’s grace to us: and spiritual songs such indicting as contains all manner of spiritual doctrines.  See also Col. 3:16, and these several names seem to be taken from the several inscriptions of the Psalms of David.”


The Bay Psalm Book

The Bay Psalm Book (1640) was the first book to be printed in New England.  It contained only the 150 psalms set to meter.


“…the whole Church is commanded to teach one another in all the several sorts of David’s psalms, some being called by himself Mizmorim: psalms, some Tehillim: hymns, some Shirim: spiritual songs.  So that if the singing of David’s psalms be a moral duty and therefore perpetual; then we under the New Testament are bound to sing them as well as they under the Old: and if we are expressly commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), then either we must sing David’s psalms, or else may affirm they are not spiritual songs: which being penned by an extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, for the sake especially of God’s spiritual Israel, not to be read and preached only (as other parts of holy writ) but to be sung also, they are therefore most spiritual, and still to be sung of all the Israel of God: and verily as their sin is exceeding great, who will allow David’s psalms (as other scriptures) to be read in churches (which is one end) but not to be preached also, which is another end, so their sin is crying before God, who will allow them to be read and preached, but seek to deprive the Lord of the glory of the third end of them, which is to sing them in Christian churches.”


Thomas Cheshire

A Sermon Preached in Saint Paul’s Church the Tenth of October, 1641…  wherein are many memorable passages most worthy of serious observations in these times  (London, 1641), pp. 10-11

“I should be too tedious if I should stand to reckon up the manifold mercies that God hath bestowed on this our land, beyond all the world besides, our peace, and plenty, with the Gospel of Christ, our many, and great deliverances…

God hath delivered us from the Spanish invasion, and the Gun-powder treason, and hath placed us in a wealthy land.  ‘Be ye therefore filled with the Spirit’ (saith our prophet David) ‘speaking to yourselves in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual songs’: and here I might speak of the godly care of our Church, which hath ordained singing of Psalms, both before, and after sermon, and indeed are very fitting to be sung in order, for the better stirring up of our affections.

And here I have a just cause to task them of the Separation, who will not admit of any set form of prayer, for that (as they say) is cursing of the Spirit; but why then should we have a set form of singing?  For my part it shall ever have my allowance and I think that these their ex tempore prayers sounds as harshly in the ears of heaven, as diverse Psalms sung together in several tunes would in ours.”


William Ames

The Marrow of Sacred Divinity Drawn out of the Holy Scriptures, and the Interpreters thereof, and brought into Method  (London: 1642), Book 2, ch. 9, ‘Of Prayer’, p. 284

“47.  Yet because the lifting up of the heart to God is together required, Simul & consequenter, and going along with the thing that is sung, and it is also the end of that meditation; therefore we are said to sing in our heart to the Lord, Col. 3:16, and psalms that are sung have the consideration of prayers.

48.  But because this religious melody hath the respect of prayers, therefore it is not so fit that the Decalogue, and other such like, which do not partake the nature of prayer, be turned into meter and be sung instead of psalms.

53.  But in the melody of singing, because it tendeth to our mutual edification, attention, and stirring up of pious affections among us one toward another, Col. 3:16, therefore all do join their voices together, 1. Chron. 16:35; Mk. 14:26.”


Samuel Rutherford

A Peaceable and Temperate Plea  (1642), ch. 20, 13th Article, ‘Private Worship’, p. 326

“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; Deut. 6:6-8; Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:15), and praying (Zech. 12:10).”


Francis Rouse  Westminster divine

The Psalmes of David in English Meter, set forth by Francis Rous  (London, 1643), ‘A Preface’, no page number.  While no Scripture reference is explicitly given for the below statement, yet it seems to be a clear allusion to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16.  The Psalter contains only the 150 psalms.

“And toward this universal use of them [the psalms], diverse well-affected persons have turned them into their own languages; and not only so, but they have turned them also into harmonious measures, that they may be still used as Psalms, that is, as spiritual and heavenly Songs.”


Nathanael Holmes

Gospel Musick, or, The Singing of David’s Psalms (London: Printed for Henry Overton, 1644)

p. 1

“Christians under the Gospel and New Testament have commended, yea commanded to them the singing of Psalms in public and private, both by precept and pattern, Eph. 5:19…”


p. 16

“David’s Psalms are so full of praises, that they are called Tehillim, praises. Therefore the Apostles in that, Eph. 5, Col. 3, and Matt 26:30, use a Greek word of the same signification; namely, humnos, a hymn.”


Robert Vaughan

The Psalter of David with Titles and Collects According to the Matter of Each Psalm  (Oxford, 1644), The Preface, no page number.  This psalter only contains the 150 psalms.

“But the practice of this devotion [a psalmody] I derived from a higher precedent [and not just the Early Church], even of Christ and his apostles: for before the passion, immediately they sung a Psalm, saith the Scripture, hymno dicto, saith the vulgar Latin, ‘having recited or said a Psalm’.  But however, it was part of David’s Psalter that was sung, it was the great Allelujah, as the Jews called it, beginning at the 113 psalm, to the 119 exclusively, part of that was sung…

Against the example of Christ, if we confront the practice of Antichrist, nothing can be said greater in commendation of this manner of devotion: for B. Hippolytus, in his oration of the end of the world, saith that in the days of Antichrist, Psalmorum decantatio cessabit, they shall then no more use the singing or saying of the Psalms; which when I had observed. without any further deliberation I fixed upon the Psalter as the best weapon against him whose coming we have great reason to believe is not far off, so great preparation is making for him.

From the example of Christ this grew to be a practice apostolical, and their devotion came exactly home to the likeness of the design of this very Book: they turned the Psalms into prayers.  Thus it was said of Paul and Silas, Acts 16, ‘they prayed a Psalm’, so it is in the Greek…

I only add this, that since according to the instruction of our blessed Savior, God is to be worshipped in Spirit and in truth, no worshipping can be more true, or more spiritual than the Psalter said with a pure mind and a hearty devotion.  For David was God’s instrument to the Church, teaching and admonishing us (as our duty is to each other) in Psalms and Hymns, and spiritual Songs, and the spirit of truth was the Grand Dictator of what David wrote; so that we may confidently use this devotion as the Church of God ever did, making her addresses to God most frequently by the Psalms…”


Daniel Featley

The Dippers Dipt, or, The Anabaptists duck’d and plung’d over head and eares, at a disputation in Southwark…  (London, 1645), Article 3, Exception 1, Answer, pp. 104-105

[Anabaptist] Exception 1.

First, they except against it [set forms of prayer], that it is a mere human invention, and hath no warrant from God’s word.


But this exception is weak and false:

First, weak; for if all things in the service of God, wherein mans invention, skill and art is exercised, are to be rejected and abandoned, what will become of the partition of the Bible into chapters and verses, the translating it into the mother-tongue, putting Psalms into meter, and setting tunes to them, Catechisms, confessions of faith, forms of administering sacraments, nay, conceived as well as read prayers, and all commentaries, homilies, and sermons; for all these have something of Art, and are the issue of our meditation, invention, and contemplation?

We must therefore of necessity distinguish between the doctrine and the method of a sermon, the matter and the form of a prayer, the substance and circumstance of God’s worship: in the former there is no place for man’s art, wit, or invention; in the latter there hath been always, and must be.

Secondly, it is false; for the book of Common-prayer consisteth of, first, confessions of sins, and of faith; secondly, lessons out of the old and new Testament; thirdly, thanksgivings or blessings general and special; fourthly, Psalms read and sung; fifthly, prayers for our selves and for others:

but for all these we have precept and precedent in scripture, namely, for confession of sins, Ps. 32:5…  For Psalms read and sung, Ps. 95:1, ‘O come let us sing unto the Lord.’  1 Chron. 16:9, ‘Sing Psalms unto Him.’  Eph. 5:19, ‘Speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and spiritual songs.’  Jam. 5:13, ‘Is any merry? let him sing Psalms.’  Rev. 15:3, ‘And they sang the song of Moses, the servant of the Lord.'” 


Westminster Confession (1645)

See the article at the top of this webpage and Matthew Winzer,  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… in the Public Worship of God  Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008)  Buy  pp. 253-266 on the interpretation of this passage of the Confession.

Ch. 21.5:

“The…  singing of psalms with grace in the heart (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13)…  are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:”


Sundry London Ministers

Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici or The Divine Right of Church-Government, asserted and evidenced by the holy Scriptures, etc.  (1646, 1647, 1653; London, 1844 [from the 1653, 3rd ed.]), pt. 2, ch. 7

“2. Singing of psalms is a divine ordinance, being,

1. Prescribed; “be filled with the spirit: speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” Eph. 5:18-19.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” Col. 3:16.

2. Regulated; the right performance thereof being laid down, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also,” 1 Cor. 14:15-16. “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord,” Col. 3:16. “Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord,” Eph. 5:19.”


George Palmer

Sectaries Unmasked and Confuted, by the treating upon diverse points of doctrine in debate betwixt the Presbyterialists and Sectarists, Anabaptists, Independents, and Papists  (London, 1647), p. 45.  Palmer was an English presbyterian.  The concession that Palmer makes below actually shows that such a practice as composing a hymn upon a special occasion was not in fact being done.

“Col. 3:16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord,’ etc.

He did not here mean (in this place) any new Psalms or hymns, for he bade them admonish each other in those Psalms and hymns; therefore those Psalms and hymns were then Canonical:

although I could wish that upon some occasion (were it not for startling the weak in knowledge) that some preacher that were a solid man, would frame a Psalm for that special occasion (for he that can make a prayer according to the Word, is able also to make a Psalm) but this I think would be inconvenient; but this is fit to be done, viz. the preacher himself should fit a Psalm out of the Book of Psalms for the several occasions, and suitable to his sermon.”


John Cotton

Singing of Psalms, A Gospel Ordinance (1647, republished as Greg Fox, ed., John Cotton on Psalmody and the Sabbath, p. 21, Puritan Publications, 2006)

The reasons for our faith and practice are these:

1. Taken from the commandment, or exhortation of the Apostle, Eph. 5:19, Be you filled with the Spirit, (saith he) speaking to yourselves (that is, to one another) in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.  To the like purpose is his commandment and exhortation to the Colossians, Col. 3:16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another, in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

In both places, as the apostle exhorts us to singing, so he instructs us what the matter of our song should be, to wit, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs; Now these three be the very titles of the songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost Himself: some of them are called Psalms, some Hymns, some Songs, Spiritual Songs. Now what reason can be given why the apostle should direct us in our singing to the very titles of David’s Psalms, if it were not his meaning that we should sing them?  Yea, either we must exclude the Psalms of David, from the name of Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs; or else we must be forced to acknowledge, that we are exhorted to sing them, as well as any other.


Jeremy Taylor

The Psalter of David with Titles and Collects according to the matter of each Psalm: whereunto is added Devotions for the help and assistance of all Christian people, in all occasions and necessities  (London, 1647) ‘The Preface’, no page number.  Taylor (1613–1667) was a conformed cleric in the Church of England who advocated for very liturgical worship.  The Preface is very good, at length, with regard to the psalms.  Some of the references to ‘hymns’ refer to the psalms themselves.  Taylor held to predominant psalmody.

“‘God is to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth’; no worshipping can be more true, or more spiritual than the Psalter said with a pure mind and a hearty devotion.  For David was God’s instrument to the Church, teaching and admonishing us (as our duty is to each other) in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, and the Spirit of Truth was the Grand Dictator of what David wrote; so that we may confidently use this devotion as the Church of God ever did, making her addresses to God most frequently by the Psalms:”


Edward Leigh

Annotations upon all the New Testament (London: 1650)

on Mt. 26:30

Verse 30. ‘When they had sung a hymn,’ etc.

A hymn is a verse sung for the praise of God.  Their opinion doth not seem to be vain who think that the apostles at that time sung a great hymn which consists of six Psalms: 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118.  The Hebrews certainly sing this song in the night of the Passover after the lamb is eaten.  Paulus Burgensis thinks that the Apostles rehearsed this hymn, according to the custom of the Jews, after the Passover, and that this place is to be understood of that, which is very probable, for since in other things it is manifest that Christ with his apostles observed the rite of the Jews in eating the Passover, it is not unlikely that He might follow them in this also.  Grotius saith, learned men think that the hymns were sung by Christ which were wont to be sung at the Passover, as the 114, and those that follow, but he seems to be of another opinion.”

on Eph. 5:19, p. 287

“Our songs must be spiritual:

1. For matter, not profane.  2. They must proceed from God’s Spirit, as the Author of them (see v. 17 and Ps. 37:4).  3. Must be framed with honest and gracious words beseeming the Spirit…”


on Col. ch. 3, verse 16, p. 306

Teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs]  See Eph. 5:19.  In both which places, as the Apostle exhorteh us to singing, so he instructs what the matter of our song should be,† viz. Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual Songs.  Those three are the titles of the songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost Himself; some of them are called Mizmorim, Psalms; some Tehillim, Hymns; some Shirim, Songs, Spiritual Songs.

†Mr. Cotton of singing of Psalms, ch. 4, and on 1 Cant., Psalmus est in quo concinendo adhibetia musicum aliquod instrumentum praeter linguam.  Hymnus propriè est laudis canticum, sive alta voce, sive aliter canatur.  Oda non laudes tantum continet, sed paraeneses & alia argumenta. Calvinus.”

Psalmes]  Were sung on the voice, and instrument both, Ps. 108:1; Dan. 3:7.

Hymns]  Were songs of thanksgiving, for a particular benefit received, Mt. 26:30.

Songs]  Wherein we give thanks for general blessings; as when David praiseth the Lord for the works of creation, Ps. 104:3.”


Henry Dunster

The Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testament, faithfully translated into English metre, for the use, edification, and comfort, of the saints, in public & private. Especially in New-England  ([Cambridge, Mass.], 1651), ‘To the Godly Reader’, no page number.  This 3rd edition of the Bay Psalm Book psalter has the 150 psalms and other inspired Bible songs in it (the original Bay Psalm Book did not have the other Bible-Songs).  On the title page is 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19; James 5:13.  This same psalter and preface were reprinted in Boston in 1698 with Cotton Mather’s name on it.

“We knew that these psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, though in other languages (and consequently so in other poetical measures) were inspired by the Holy-Ghost, to holy men of old for the edification and comfort of the Church and people of God in all ensuing ages to the end of the world.  And for these holy ends we have with special care & diligence translated them into such meters as are most usual and suitable for such holy poems, in our own language, having a special eye to the gravity of the phrase of sacred writ and sweetness of the verse.”


Thomas Ford  Westminster divine

Singing of Psalms: the Duty of Christians under the New Testament, or a Vindication of that Gospel Ordinance in Five sermons upon Eph. 5:19, 1653, London, p. 14

I know nothing more probable than this, viz. That Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs [in Eph. 5:19], do answer to Mizmorim, Tehillim, and Shirim, which are the Hebrew names of David’s Psalms.  All the Psalms together are called Tehillim, i.e. Praises, or songs of praise.  Mizmor and Shir are in the Titles of many Psalms, sometimes one, and sometimes the other, and sometimes both joyn’d together, as they know well who can read the Original.  Now the Apostle calling them by the same names by which the Greek Translation (which the New Testament so much follows) renders the Hebrew, is an argument that he means no other than David’s Psalms.


Stanley Gower

‘Preface’  in John White, David’s Psalms in Metre. Agreeable to the Hebrew, To be sung in usual Tunes. To the benefit of the Churches of Christ.  (London, 1655), no page number.  John White was a Westminster divine.  This psalter only contains the 150 psalms.  Both Gower and White were New England puritans in Dorchester, near Boston.

“The singing of Psalms was under the Law, is under the Gospel an Holy Ordinance of God, in right performance whereof, Churches and Christians make heavenly melody in their hearts unto the Lord. Eph. 5:19.”


William Barton

A View of Many Errors and some gross absurdities in the old translation of the Psalms in English metre; as also in some other translations lately published: showing how the Psalms ought to be translated, to be acceptable and edifying…  (London: Printed by W.D., 1656), ‘To the Courteous Reader’, no page number

“There are three main ends of Psalms:

3.  That all men might learn by heart the principles of religion, the Psalms (as Rivet saith) being a compendium of Scripture, affording all points necessary for doctrine and duty.  Col. 3:16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching, and admonishing one another in Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs,’ etc.

From which words 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.”


Jonathan Clapham

A Short and Full Vindication of that Sweet and Comfortable Ordinance, of Singing of Psalms (London: 1656) p. 3

The Apostle, Eph. 5 and Col. 3, where he commands singing of Psalms, does clearly point us to David’s Psalms, by using those three words, Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, which answer to the three Hebrew words, Shorim, Tehillim, Mizmorim, whereby David’s Psalms were called.


James Fergusson

A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians  (1656-1674; London, 1841), p. 239 & 365

On Eph. 5:19, p. 239

“Thirdly, he expresseth the matter to be sung in three words, the very titles which are given to David’s Psalms and other scriptural songs: and
though there be some difference among interpreters about the kind of songs, which are expressed by every one of those in particular, yet the most received and probable opinion is that by ‘psalms’ are meant all holy songs in general of whatsoever argument, whether they contain prayers, praises, complaints, deprecations, prophecy, history, or a purpose mixed of all those; and by ‘hymns’ are meant special songs of praise to God; and by ‘songs’, a certain kind of hymns, expressing the praises of God for some of his noble acts, great and wonderful beyond others.

And those ‘songs’ he calleth ‘spiritual’ (which epithet is to be extended to the psalms and hymns also), as being framed by the Spirit of God, containing spiritual and heavenly purpose, and requiring the assistance of God’s Spirit and a spiritual frame of heart for singing them aright; and this in opposition to the obscene, filthy, and fleshly songs of carnal men and drunkards.

2.  That we may go about this worship of singing praises to God acceptably, 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 pointeth at scriptural songs, as the most fitting purpose to be sung, under the titles of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs;” yet that we may be enabled to choose the fittest songs for the present occasion, and sing them with such a spiritual, elevated frame of heart, as such a divine and heavenly piece of worship requireth; for he saith, “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”


On Col. 3:16

“6.  The psalms of David, and other scriptural songs in the Old Testament, may, and ought to be sung in this part of gospel-worship: for saith he, ‘in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing,’ etc. or rather, ‘singing in psalms, hymns,’ etc. for so the words may be rendered: now all agree that hereby are designed the psalms of David, and other scriptural songs, though there be some difference about the kind of songs which are intended to be expressed by every one of those in particular.”


Cuthbert Sydenham

A Christian Sober and Plain Exercitation (London: Printed by Thomas Mabb, 1657) p. 179

I find they are used in general as the title of David’s psalms, which are named promiscuously by these three words.


William Thomas

A Preservative of Piety in a Quiet Reasoning for those duties of religion, that are the means and helps appointed of God for the preserving and promoting of godliness…  (London, 1662), Pt. 2, Ch. 4, ‘Of Singing of Psalms, and namely, in Families’, pp. 195-6.  Thomas was a rector in the Anglican Church.

“First, the Scripture will inform us that singing of Psalms is a necessary and profitable duty:

1.  A necessary duty, because God requires it, Eph. 5:17-19.  It is the will of God that (on the one side) Christians should not be drunk with wine; and, on the other side, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to themselves in Psalms, etc.

(Col. 3:16; Beza (in location) shows that the three Greek words that are translated PsalmsHymns, and Songs, are the same that are used by the Septuagint to render the Hebrew words, which are the Titles of diverse Psalms, which we call the Psalms of David) [We have not been able to find this reference in Beza’s NT Commentary]

It is the Spirit of God that saith to the afflicted, ‘Pray’; and to the merry, ‘Sing psalms‘, Jam. 5:13.

2.  And a profitable duty, because the Spirit of God declares unto us the benefit of it, prescribing that the Word of God should dwell in us richly, and then adding further, ‘teaching and admonishing one another in psalms’, etc.  Now it’s true, that teaching and admonishing may be referred either to the Word of God going before, or to psalms and hymns following after; but, it comes all to one, if the psalms, hymns, and songs spoken of there, be such as are recorded in Scripture, for then they are a part of the Word of God: and so the intent of the apostle may be to show that of every part of the Word of God, and in particular of the psalms and songs thereof (the rejoicing part) use is to be made for our edification; thereby something may be added to our light in a teaching way, and to our life and vigor in piety in an admonishing way.

Secondly, the Scripture gives excellent rules also for singing, that it may be a profitable duty; As that it be,

1. With understanding, Ps. 47:7; 1 Cor. 14:14-15.

2. With the heart and affection; not without the voice: but the meaning is, that we should not please and content our selves with the outward sound without an inward sense.

3. With grace in the heart, Col. 3:16, that is, (as I conceive), with a godly and gracious frame of heart inwardly, (according as the matter of the Psalm is), showing itself in a graceful and dexterous demeanor in that duty outwardly (as in a comely and reverent gesture, a decent tune and tone)…”


John Stalham

The Reviler Rebuked: or, A Re-Enforcement of the charge against the Quakers: so called for their contradictions to the Scriptures of God, and to their own scriblings (London, 1657), 15th Head, ‘Concerning Singing’, Section 42, p. 205.  Stalham (d. 1677) was a reformed puritan.

“I gave account of their express words [that of the Quakers], ‘We are against all your David’s praises and prophecies in meter’, contrary to Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16 and other Scriptures.

R.F. makes me this return, ‘Singing of psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, we are not against, but own; but your poetry we deny.’

Response:  He might as well say, your translation of them into English meter we deny: but if psalms, hymns and spiritual songs be owned, they are either David’s, and other of saints’ penning, and the Spirit’s inditing [composing] in the Scripture, or of their [the Quakers’] own composing.  If they own none but of their own composing, they reject David’s, and what was left for our use in Scripture…

And what better poetry than that in the Scripture?  which is translated and ordered as suiteth best to our own mother tongue, for singing, and teaching others to sing David’s words and praises, with David’s spirit.”


John Deacon

Nayler’s Blasphemies Discovered, or, Several Queries to him proposed with his own answers thereunto  (1657), ‘Answer to the 13th Query’, pp. 50-51.  Deacon appears to have been a presbyterian (p. 10 & 54) writing against a Quaker, who did not publicly sing praise at all.

“And for singing of David’s Psalms in meter, establisheth a concord in the harmony; and the matter being the same, it is nothing to the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the thing…  and for singing psalms (Mt. 26:30; Acts 16:26; Col. 3:16), we have the practice of our Savior Himself, Paul, Silas, and the recommendation of James, and of Paul also; and ’tis reported of Theodorus, that under the cruel persecution of Julius the Apostate, suffered much in martyrdom, and being on the rack, to the amazement of all the beholders, sung psalms most harmoniously; and if there can be any song spiritual, and yet unlawful, why then did Paul admonish us to exhort one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs?  and there can be no song, but there must be meter, for so the word signifies, and therefore take them as songs, our practice is justified.  And if you look for more, I refer you to them who have writ largely on this subject.”


Thomas Long

An Exercitation Concerning the Frequent Use of our Lord’s Prayer in the public Worship of God and a view of what hath been said by Mr. [John] Owen concerning that subject  (London, 1658)

pp. 14-15

“That as the Jews were wont to shut up the solemnity of the Passover by singing some of David’s Psalms; so our Saviour, after the celebration of the Sacrament of his body and blood, went out with his disciples to the mount of Olives, […] having sung the Hymn, which Hymn (say the best expositors) was the same that the Jews did ordinarily sing after the Passover, and is called by them the great Hallel, which, as Paulus Brugensis says, consisted of six Psalms, from Ps. 113 to Ps. 118, and he adds (verisimile est hos à Domino decantatos) it is most like that these were sung by our Saviour.

And Drusius says, hunc hymnum hodieque canunt in nocte Paschatis; The Jews sing this Hymn in the evening of the Passover to this day.  The learned Scaliger having largely described the forms and rites of celebrating the Passover, concludes thus; This was the true rite of celebrating the Passover in the times of the Messiah…”

pp. 40-1

“And doubtless, as the people of God under the Old Testament, and we under the New, ought to use David’s Hymns of Prayer and Praise, as an Ordinance of God in his public worship;”

p. 42-3

“And when the Scripture assures us that it was their practice to use Psalms and Hymns, and spiritual songs, praising God and praying unto Him in the words of David…

And when we all account it our duty to praise God in singing David’s Psalms, some of which, as we use them [in the psalters they had], are of a mean composure and carry expressions beneath the majesty of Scripture; others, such as concerned the Jewish Church only; why ought not the apostles, and we as necessarily, to use this form of prayer sanctified by our Savior’s own lips?”


David Dickson

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

“…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.”


John Lightfoot  Westminster divine & at the Savoy Conference


Lightfoot below speaks of the interpretation of Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 as allowing ‘other songs in Scripture’ besides ‘the psalms of David’, as an interpretation of ‘others’.

When Lightfoot gives his own view, he says that Christ in his earthly life, “submits to order, which God had appointed, sings the Psalms of David, and tenders the peace of the Church, and takes the same course the whole Church did.” (p. 1,160)  Towards the end of the sermon, on p. 1,161, he says, “If you sing right, sing David’s Psalms…”

Throughout the sermon Lightfoot only, and constantly, evidences that psalms from the book of Psalms were actually sung in the regular public service.


A Sermon Preached at St. Mary’s Cambridge, June 24, 1660  on 1 Cor. 14:26  in The works of the Reverend and learned John Lightfoot…  (London, 1684)  Also in Works, vol. 7, ‘Every One Hath a Psalm, a Sermon’.

p. 1,158

“…I shall therefore only meddle with the first at present, ‘Hath a Psalm’: and speak something concerning that great and heavenly work of singing of Psalms in Christian congregations.  And that the rather, because it hath been spoken against in the cross times, that have gone over our heads, wherein all religion has been brought into dispute.  Although it is a question, whether these Psalms mentioned in the Text, were of their own dictating, or penned by others, the former whereof seems more probable, yet the very mode and work of their singing Psalms, shows that it was a practice in the Christian Church from its very beginning.  Nay, though this place speak it not clear, yet others do, that it was the practice to sing David’s Psalms in the public congregation, the whole congregation together.

Therefore I shall take up this discourse the rather, to show that singing of David’s Psalms is a duty incumbent upon Christians.  For the clearing of this, I shall First, speak something of the nature of this work, which will speak it moral, and upon that account fit to be used in the Christian Church.  And secondly, the evidence of the use of it in the first times.

And first of the nature of this duty.  Many things are spoken of the excellency of the book of Psalms; and many may be spoken of the excellency of singing Psalms.  I may allude to that expression, ‘Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.’  So may I say in reference to this duty; all duties are excellent, but this includes all.  In singing of Psalms there is what is in other services, and more.  Prayer is our duty, Praise, speaking of God’s works, singing are our duties, but this last is all…”


p. 1159

“I need to say no more to show that so excellent a duty could not but be settled by Christ, with others, in the Christian Church, the very nature of the thing may speak it.  I shall therefore only speak to three things:

I.  The warrant of Christ for the observance of this duty.
II.  The admonitions of the apostle for the same purpose.
and III. An instance or two of the practice of all the Church.”


pp. 1,160-1

2. [in Greek] having sung’.  What?  The very same that every company did, viz. The great Hallel, as it was called, which began at the 113th Psalm, and ended at the end of the 118th.  No expositor but grants this, and no reason to the contrary; for Christ complied with all the rites of the Passover, and started not from them in this.  Here the Lord of David sings the Psalms of David. What Christ saith by way of posing, If David in Spirit call him Lord, how is he his Son?  We may say the like by way of admiration, If David in spirit call him Lord, how did he descend, to make use of his poetry?  What says our caviller now?  ‘Set forms are too strait for the Spirit.’  He that had the Spirit above measure thinks not so, but useth such.  He that gave the Spirit to David to compose, sings what He composed.  That All-blessed Copy of peace and order, could have indited himself, could have inspired every disciple to have been a David, but submits to order, which God had appointed, sings the Psalms of David, and tenders the peace of the Church, and takes the same course the whole Church did.

II.  Now let us hear our great apostle, the Apostle of the Gentiles.  In two places he speaks to this subject, besides what he says in this Chapter [1 Cor. 14], Eph. V5:18-19, ‘Be filled with the Spirit: speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.’ And Col. 3:16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all Wisdom, Teaching and Admonishing one another in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’  Where let us take up three things…

“2. Observe the three titles he useth, ‘Psalms’, ‘Hymns’, ‘Spiritual Songs’.  They are variously indeed taken, but very generally for the Psalms of David.  Psalms, mizmorim, i.e. Psalms upon any subject.  Hymns, tehillim, i.e. Psalms of Praise.  Spiritual Songs, shireem, i.e. Cantica magis artificiosa.  Psalms about which is employed greater art and curiosity.

Others differ upon particulars, but agree upon this, that by these three are meant the Psalms of David, and other Songs in Scripture.  What?  If psalmoi be the Psalms of David upon any subject; humnoi, Hymns be such Psalms as are picked out and used for special occasions, as Hallel, those of Degrees, and for every day.  So that word seems to imply, from the word humnesontes that is used to express the Psalms that Christ and his apostles sung at the Passover, which were ordinarily used by the Jews for that occasion.  Odas, ‘Spiritual Songs’, were other Songs in Scripture besides David’s.  So you read of the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb, in Rev. 15:3.

III.  Further examples of this exercise in the New Testament we might observe in the Revelations.  That book speaks of the state of the Christian Church, and one great work of it is singing, Rev. 5:9, ‘And they sung a new song, etc.’  The ordinary practice was to sing the Psalms of David: but they sung a new song: and that is there set down, ‘Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood,’ etc….

But that that I shall fix on is that in 1 Cor. 11:5, ‘Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head.’  What is meant by the woman prophesying?  Not preaching…

But it is plain the apostle speaks of the ordinary service, which whole congregations joined in; and the praying and prophesying here used, is praying and praising, or singing Psalms.  Take the apostle’s own gloss in this Chapter, verse 15, ‘I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.’  As all the congregation joined in prayer with the minister, and said ‘Amen’, verse 16.  So all the congregation, men and women, joined with him, that had and gave the Psalm, and sung with him.

Now to make some Use of what I have said:

I.  If I were in a vulgar or unlearned congregation, I would give rules for singing of Psalms with profit: and among divers, especially these two.

2.  To apply to ourselves the matter we sing, as far as it may concern us: To bear a part with David, not in word and tune but affection…  But here I will alter the words a little, Si bene recitas; If you sing right, sing David’s Psalms, but make them your own.  Let the skill of composure be His, the life of devotion yours.”


John Gaskin

A Just Defence and Vindication of Gospel Ministers and Gospel Ordinances against the Quakers’ many False Accusations, Slanders and Reproaches.  In answer to John Horwood, his letter, and E.B. his book…  (London, 1660), pp. 84-87

The third particular [objected by a Quaker] is, your different practice from Christ and his apostles in singing of Psalms.

Wherefore I shall lay down this for a truth, That singing of psalms with a voice, is a part of God’s worship now in the days of the New Testament, as well as in the days of the old.

For proof whereof, take the example of Christ and his apostles, who sang a Psalm or Hymn together after the administration of the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 26:30), which was a time of sorrow and heavinesse…  and yet they sang a Psalm together, which surely was for our example; also the apostle Paul and Silas being in prison sang praises unto God (Acts 16:25); also the apostle Paul instructeth and exhorteth the Ephesians to speak one to another “in Psalms and Hymns, and spiritual Songs” (Eph. 5:19) and so to the Colossians, “teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and Hymns, and spiritual Songs.” (Col. 3:16)…

But it is objected by you and others [also regarding Acts 14:15-16 & Rev. 15:3], that these were not the Psalms of David, but some other Hymns, or spiritual Songs immediately inspired; which you like well, and sometimes persuade yourselves, that you have such inspirations, and fall a singing meer non-sense, which edifies neither your selves nor others.

Wherefore I shall show, that all these three titles, are given to David‘s Psalms; some are called Psalms, some are called Hymns, some are called Songs, that is, spiritual Songs.

The Prophet David hath given these titles or names to them (Ps. 13,14,15,18,19, 20), “To the chief Musician a Psalm of David”; also “a Psalm and Song,at the dedication of the house of David (Ps. 30), “To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, a Song upon Alamoth.” (Ps. 46)

Now, what reason can be given why the apostle should direct us in our singing to the very titles of David‘s Psalms, if it were not his meaning that we should sing them; so that you must exclude the Psalms of David from the name of “Psalms and Hymns and spiritual Songs”; or else you must be forced to acknowledge, that we are exhorted to sing them as well as any other.

[Margin Note:] Some make no difference between David King, and David a King and a Prophet, but say he was a Layman.

Is it not better to sing those Psalms or Hymns of David which we know to be indited [composed] by an infallible inspiration of the spirit, than to sing such Songs or Hymns as men invent of their private spirits, or pretend to be immediately inspired by the spirit, which appears to be their own fancies, by the distractions and contradictions that are in them?

Do you not think that Christ was better able to indite and sing new Psalms or Hymns then you Quakers, and yet we have not the least intimation in Scripture of any new Psalm or Hymn, indited or sung by Christ and his apostles after the Lord’s Supper, which certainly would have been recorded by the Evangelist, who records far less matters in things which pertain to God’s worship.  And it is supposed that Christ did sing with his apostles one of these Psalms appointed or used to be sung at the end of the Passover, and some affirm that it was the 118 Psalm which Christ did sing…”


John Gauden

Some Considerations upon the Act of Uniformity with an expedient for the satisfaction of the clergy within the province of Canterbury  (London, 1662), Section 1, pp. 7-8.  Gauden was a reformed, conforming Anglican.

“4.  Even the high-praises of God, which we hope shall be in our mouths with angels, and arch-angels: We may enjoy in the Holy Church, which throughout all the world doth acknowledge God with heavenly praises, they on earth answering one another as they in Heaven; ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabbath’: Not without those excellencies, to which the ingenuous industry of Christians hath attained for singing and the use of music, oral and organical, in consort or solitary, whereby God is glorified both in private and in public, either by the skillful or attentive Christians, whose hearts are turned and framed after God’s own heart; who are by this Heavenly way, pleased into a spiritual, holy, humble, and calm frame of spirit, and sweet meditations, which are the usual effects of good and grave music on sober and devout souls, who in hearing, or reading, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, in which the divine truth of the matter affects the enlightened judgement, and the quieted conscience by a close, pleasant, and heavenly virtue, with the nearest conformity to the holy minds and spirits of those sacred writs, inspired of God, for the composures of those holy psalmodies.


John Wilson

Cultus Evangelicus, or, A Brief Discourse concerning the Spirituality and Simplicity of New-Testament Worship  (London, 1667), pp. 78-9

“The heart is the thing He chiefly calls for, expects, and eyes in all our performances…  When we pray unto Him, praise Him, sing Psalms (2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 26:9; Ps. 9:1; Col. 3:16; 1 Chron. 30:19), let’s do it with the heart.  When we read or hear his Word, receive the Sacrament, or celebrate any other ordinance; let’s do it with the heart.”


More on psalm singing

pp. 44-5

“Some think pure denotes the spirituality of the service, which is not to be celebrated as the Jews and Gentiles was, modo corporuli, by slaying of
beasts and such like work, but in a spiritual manner, by putting up of prayers, giving of thanks, singing of Psalms, with other duties of that nature.”


David Stokes

Verus Christianus [The True Christian], or, Directions for Private Devotions and Retirements…  (Oxford, 1668), ‘A Transition to What Follows in the Appendix’, no page number.  Stokes (1591?-1669) was an educated Anglican.

“After his [Saul’s] death, the crown was set upon David‘s head.  Whose constant pious life, and holy devotions (in Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs) are left, as the best patterns, directions, and encouragements to all posterity.

And we are sure enough, that he him∣self, after his own use of them (to shew the difference betwixt His end, and Saul‘s) was happily assured to be one of the Heavenly Quire above, and there Crowned again with an immortal Crown of Glory.  David is an ancient Pattern, a Royal Prophet, and Grand Guide to such, as are willing to fight the Battles of the Lord, in their Pil∣grimage towards the true Land of Promise…”


John Trapp

Commentary on the Whole Bible (d. 1669), on Ephesians ch. 5, v. 19

“Spiritual songs they are called, both because they are indited [composed] by the Spirit, and because they spiritualize us in the use of them.”


John Daille

Daille (1594-1670) was a French Huguenot.  Commentary on Col. 3:16

“The apostle names three sorts of them [i.e. ‘divine canticles’], psalms, hymns, or praises, and odes, or songs…  You have various examples of them all in the book of Psalms…  It is with these sacred lyres, of which the word of Christ affords us both the matter and the form, that the apostle would have us solace ourselves. St. James gives us orders for it: ‘Is any among you merry? let him sings psalms,’ James 5:13.

The apostle calls all these sonnets spiritual, both on account of their author, who is the Holy Spirit, and also of their matter, which concerns only divine and heavenly things, the glory of God, and our salvation…”


Robert MacWard

The True Non-Conformist…  ([Amsterdam], 1671), The Fifth Dialogue Answered.  MacWard was the protege of Samuel Rutherford.  He does not explicitly cite Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 below, but the allusions to those passages are obvious.  He appears to allow for singing Scripture songs in some respect.

pp. 272-3

“…but first, let us take your N[on]. C[onformist]. answer [from Gilbert Burnet’s previous book] to your main scruple, and he and I tell you, that [these are actually Burnet’s words, that MacWard is consenting to]:

‘because the Psalms and Scripture-songs are a collection of praises, dictated by the Spirit of God, for worship; and have been so made use, both by the Church of the Jews, in the time of the old Testament, and by the Christian Church in all ages; therefore, they are used by us to the same end, without either restraining the Spirit in the performance, seeing it is his own appointment, or tying all our praises to these forms, seeing God hath thereto, only tied our solemn praise, by singing, and otherways left and allows us a further liberty.’


p. 278

“Next you say, ‘Why may not the Christian Church compose new Hymnes, as they of Corinth did?’

And this you judge to be the more necessary because that David‘s Psalms have not such full and clear Hymns upon the great mysteries of the Christian belief: And you think the liberty which we plead for in prayer should much persuade it.

‘Tis answered, if you consider that Scripture, 1 Cor. 14, and particularly the 26th verse, you may understand that as 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 there spoken of, appear to be inspired and afflatitious motions, which will not found you any argument: And you yourself do so plainly observe that these Psalms of the Corinthians were framed by private persons, that I marvel that your remembering of the thing to be extraordinary did not stop your translation of it by way of privilege to the Churches in our days.

2. Seeing the Lord hath provided us with a plentiful variety of Psalms and Hymns; and beside, hath allowed us as full a liberty of praising in prose, as of prayer, I think it doth fully remove all that is here by you objected, and abundantly warrant us both to abide content with God’s institutions, and refuse a superfluous mixture of humane odes with these divine Psalms, which He hath appointed, for the matter of our more solemn praises.”


p. 279-80

“I say, we close our prayers ordinarily with praise and glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; because it is warrantable from Scripture-practice, to wit, in blessing; and agreeable to the truth and liberty of Gospel-worship; and yet we refuse it in singing (mark it, not in praising), because, for that exercise, the Lord having instructed us with a sufficient plenty of Divine composures, we think it neither needful nor acceptable that we should gratify an arbitrary imposition in receiving the supplement of a human addition:

It is true, the words are Scriptural, but can you say that the Scripture bears any such allowance for their use in singing as it doth for the Psalms of David?  Yea and many other spiritual songs in Scripture, whereof you might indeed with some reason reprehend our too great disuse:”


Thomas Young  Westminster Assembly

The Lords-Day, or, A Succinct Narration compiled out of the testimonies of H. Scripture and the reverend ancient fathers…  (London, 1672), Book 2, ‘The Lord’s Day’, ch. 11, p. 353-4, 357-8.  See also ch. 12. Young was a Scottish presbyterian who lived in England much of his life.

“The use of Hymns was but of late time in the Western Churches, although Baronius think otherwise…

St. Paul oftener than once, mentions Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, with which the faithful sung with grace in their heart to the Lord (Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19) although in both places the apostle seems to some not to speak of public hymns sung in the Church, but of private; yet it is without controversy that the Church had her hymns in the public assembly: which Paul himself witnesseth, 1 Cor. 14:26, when he saith, ‘When ye come together, every one of you hath a Psalm’, etc. there doubtless the apostle speaks of Psalms recited in the sacred assemblies of the Church.  Therefore St. Austin thinks, that the Church hath our Lord’s, and his Apostles’, both documents, examples, and precepts, for singing Hymns and Psalms.

In explaining the hymns which were anciently sung of the Church, we will first search into the matter of the hymns, and then into the manner of singing. As for the hymns themselves, the Divine Oracles being sung with a sweet voice, did animate their sounds, and therefore they sung sometimes David’s Psalter. Aug. Conf. l. 10 c. 33.  So Theodoret saith, that Flavianus and Diodorus did teach, that David’s Psalms were to be sung. Hist. l. 2. c. 24.  Chrysostom, when he reproves some that sung uncomelily, mentions the very words of David’s Psalms, which were uttered in the singing.  Austin glorieth, that the divine songs of the prophets were sung soberly in the Church. Ep. 119. c. 18.

Council Laodicea, Canon 59, it is prohibited, that no private Psalms be uttered in the Church.  Therefore St. Austin in the aforesaid place doth blame the Donatists, for leaving David’s Psalms, and singing Hymns which were invented by themselves.”


George Swinnock

The Christian Man’s Calling, (Part 1, Ch. 27), in The Works of George Swinnock, Vol. 1, pp. 341-342 (d. 1673; 1868, 1992, Banner of Truth)

3.  Singing of psalms must be used in your family.  The Lord Jesus and his family did practice this duty: Matt 26:30, ‘And when they sang a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.’  David in that psalm, at the dedication of his house, speaks that his glory should sing praise to God, and not be silent, Ps. 30 title, verses 4 and 12.  Our tongues are called our glory, not only because by our speech we excel beasts, but chiefly because therewith we should glorify God.  It is observable that most of these places which prophesy the Gentiles’ conversion, do mention their worshipping the true God by singing, Ps. 108:3; Ps. 100, and Ps. 64:4; Isa. 54:1, and 52:8.  The Holy Ghost when He commands that the word should keep house with us, does also enjoin us to ‘teach and admonish one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,’ (which are the titles of David’s psalms, and the known division of them, expressly answering to the Hebrew words, Shurim, Telhillim, and Mizinurim, by which his psalms are distinguished and entitled, as the learned observe,) ‘singing and making melody with grace in our hearts to the Lord,’ Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13.  Basil speaks high in the praise of praising God by this holy exercise.  Chrysostom speaks of some in his time who always concluded their suppers with singing a psalm, and, saith he, they lived like angels.

This ordinance will much quicken holy affections, and help a Christian to serve God with more cheerfulness.  When the Israelites were singing the 136th psalm at the bringing in the ark, the glory of the Lord filled the house, 2 Chron. 20:22.  The sweet singer in Israel was the man after God’s own heart.

Only, reader be careful to sing David’s psalms with David’s spirit, and not like a nightingale to sing by rote: ‘I will sing with my spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.’  Making melody with grace in the heart, is the best tune to set all David’s psalms with.


Francis Roberts

Mysterium & Medulla Bibliorum the Mystery and Marrow of the Bible, viz. God’s Covenant with man…  (London, 1657), bk. 4, New Testament

ch. 6, p. 1,632

“(2) His Special Mediatory Kingdom over his Church and People, Christ administreth and executeth principally by these and such like kingly actions, viz. I. In this present world.

3.  By instituting his New-Covenant ordinances which are to be managed and administered by these his officers. As, Preaching the Gospel to all Nations…  Public praises and singing of Psalms, etc. Jam. 5:13; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15; Eph. 5:18-20.”


ch. 7, p. 1,687

“3.  By sundry other ordinances of public New Covenant worship for all nations.  As,

3.  By Public singing of Psalms. Eph 5:18-19; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15-16.”


The Key of the Bible, Unlocking the Richest Treasury of the Holy Scriptures, 1675, p. 122-3

The Subject-matter of Christians singing now under the New Testament should peculiarly be the scripture-Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

May be evinced by these ensuing arguments or reasons, viz.

1.  Because, the denominations of the subject-matters which Christians and churches under the New Testament are exhorted and required by the apostles to sing, viz. Psalms, Hymns, and Songs, are the very scripture-denominations which are prefixed to David’s Psalms, and other scripture Psalms.  For,

1.  These three Greek words are borrowed from the Greek Version of the LXXII [72, that is the number of translators of the Septuagint] upon the Psalms: (the apostles in the New Testament much following the version of the LXXII, as the learned well know)

‘Psalms’ is used by the LXXII in the titles of Ps. 3,4,5,7,8,9 and most frequently in the titles of other Psalms.

‘Hymns’ is used by the LXXII in the titles of Ps. 6 (‘in hymns upon the eight, etc’), of Ps. 54 (‘in hymns of instruction to David’), of Ps. 60 (‘in hymns a psalm of David), and in the close of Ps. 71, according to the Greek, but which is according to the Hebrew, verse 20.  The Greek says, ‘Ended are hymns of David son of Jesse.

‘Odes’, or songs, is used by the LXXII in the titles of all the Psalms of Degrees from Ps. 120 to 135 (according to the Hebrew account) and in the titles also of many other Psalms.  Yea, all these three names, Psalms, Hymns and Songs are used by the LXXII in the title of Ps. 75, ‘A Psalm to Asaph, a Song unto the Assyrian.

All these particulars I have exactly examined and found to be thus in the Greek Version of the psalms by the LXXII

2.  These three Greek words do also notably answer in signification and sense to the other three Hebrew words used in the titles of the Psalms in the Hebrew.  ‘Psalms’ to the Hebrew mizmorim, ‘psalms’.  ‘Hymns’, to the Hebrew tehillim, or thilloth, ‘praises’.  And the Hebrews call the whole Book of Psalms, sepher tehillim, The Book of Hymns, or Praises.  ‘Odes’, or songs, to the Hebrew shirim, ‘songs’.  But of this and of the proper notation and signification of these three Hebrew words, and wherein they differ one from another, I have formerly spoken enough.  There see.

4.  These things well considered, how can any rational man choose but [to] conclude that the apostle, requiring Christians to sing Psalms, Hymns and Songs now under the New Testament, did peculiarly intend their singing of those which were eminently and notoriously known in the churches and among Christians by these names of Psalm, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, and which can those be imagined to be, but the psalms, hymns, and songs recorded in Scripture?  for (as one has well noted,

‘What reason can be given why the apostle should direct us in our singing to the very titles of David’s Psalms, if it were not his meaning that we should sing them?  yea, either we must exclude the Psalms of David from the name of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, or else we must be forced to acknowledge that we are exhorted to sing them.’ ¹

¹ John Cotton, Of Singing of Psalms, ch. 4, at the end.

So he.  And another says thus,

‘Now the apostle calling them by the same names by which the Greek translation’ (which the New Testament so much follows) ‘renders the Hebrew, is an argument that he means no other than David’s psalms.’ (I add, and other Scripture-psalms, hymns or songs)  ‘Besides, when ever the New Testament quotes the Psalms, it means those of David: and so the apostle speaks, as taking it for granted, that they to whom he wrote, knew what Psalms he meant.’ ²

² Thomas Ford, Of Singing Psalms, Sermon 1, p. 16-17, London, 1653


John Collinges  Savoy Conference

A Supplement to a Little Book Entitled, A Reasonable Account why some Pious Nonconforming ministers cannot judge it lawful for them to perform their ministerial acts in public solemn prayer, ordinarily, by the prescribed forms of others…  (London, 1680), Section 1, p. 92.  Collinges was an English presbyterian; he is writing against a conforming defender of Anglicanism.

“But he is not satisfied that in the Christian Assemblies, in the apostles’ times there were no manner of forms.  Who says there were not?  There was a form of sound doctrine (which the apostle tells us of), there were Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual Songs in forms, they are the three titles of David’s Psalms;

we have nothing to do with any thing but forms of prayer, made by some particular ministers, or Church officers, to be used by all other ministers.”


Thomas Manton

Works, vol. 19 (London: James Nisbet, 1874), Sermon 24 on Eph. 5:1-27, p. 412

“Now these words (which are the known division of David’s psalms, and expressly answering to the Hebrew words Shurim, Tehillim, and Mizmorim, by which his psalms are distinguished and entitled), being so precisely used by the apostle in both places, do plainly point us to the Book of Psalms.”


Isaac Ambrose

The Complete Works (London, 1682), p. 256

“Whether may not Christians lawfully sing David’s or Moses’ Psalms? and how may it appear?

Answered affirmatively: Eph. 5:19, where, under those three heads, of Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual songs, David’s Psalms are contained.”


John Owen

The Independents’ Catechism, or, a Brief Instruction in the Word of God and Discipline of the Churches of the New Testament, by way of Question and Answer, in Works (d. 1683), vol. 15, p. 477

“Q. 17.  Which are the principal institutions of the gospel to be observed in the worship of God?

A. The calling, gathering and settling of churches, with their officers, as the seat and subject of all other solemn instituted worship;¹ prayer, with thanksgiving;² singing of psalms;³ preaching the Word…

¹ Mt. 28:19,20; Acts 2:41-42; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-12; Mt. 18:17-18; 1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:15;
² 1 Tim. 2:1; Acts 6:4; 13:2-3;
³ Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16;”


Francis Turretin

Institutes (d. 1687), vol. 2, Eleventh Topic, Question 14, ‘The Lord’s Day’, p. 99

“…every pious person is bound in duty to his conscience to have privately his daily devotional exercises, still on this [Lord’s] day above others a holy convocation ought to take place (as was the custom on the Sabbath, Lev. 23:3) in which there may be leisure for devout attention to the reading and hearing of the Word (Heb. 10:25), the celebration of the sacraments (Acts 20:7), the psalms and prayer (Col. 3:16; Acts 1:14), to alms and helo to the poor (1 Cor. 16:2) and in general to all that sacred service pertaining to external and stated worship.”


John Flavel  d. 1691


vol. 3, ‘The Causes & Cures of Mental Errors’, p. 476

“So, for that scriptural heavenly duty of singing: what more commonly alleged against it than the abuse and ill effects of that precious ordinance?  How often is the nonsense and error of the common translation, the rudeness and dullness of the meter of some Psalms, as Ps. 7:13, as also the cold formality with which that ordinance is performed by many who do but parrotize?  I say, how often are these things buzzed into the ears of the people to alienate their hearts from so sweet and beneficial a duty?

And very often we find it urged [by Antinomians, who sometimes forsook singing public praise altogether] to the same end, how unwarrantable and dangerous a thing it is for carnal and unregenerated persons to appropriate to themselves in singing those praises and experiences which are peculiar to the saints; not understanding or considering that the singing of Psalms is an ordinance of Christ appointed for teaching and admonition, as well as praising, Col. 3:16, ‘Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns,’ etc…

If Satan can prevail first with wicked men to corrupt and abuse God’s ordinances by superstitious mixtures and additions; and then with good men to renounce and slight them for the sake of those abuses; he fully obtains his design, and gives Christ a double wound at once; one by the hands of his avowed enemies, the other by the hands of his friends, no less grievous than the first.  First, wicked men corrupt Christ’s ordinances, and then good men nauseate them.”


vol. 6, Reply to Mr. Carey’s Solemn Call, p. 357

“Certainly you [a baptist, antinomian opponent]…  are found in the sinful neglect of a sweet and heavenly gospel-ordinance, viz. the singing of psalms, for which you have both precept and precedent in the gospel, Col. 3:16, James 5:13, 1 Cor. 14:26.”


Flavel on the Content of Singing Public Praise to God

No relevant passage from his Works which we know of has been left out.  References to heavenly songs of the departed and angels have not been included as they have not been found relevant.


vol. 1

Life of Flavel, p. ix

“Mr. Flavel after this, returned to Dartmouth, where with his family and dear people he blessed God for his mercies towards him.  He was in a little time after confined close prisoner to his house, where many of his dear flock stole in over night, or betimes on the Lord’s Day in the morning, to enjoy the benefit of his labors, and spend the sabbath in hearing, praying, singing of psalms, and holy discourses.”

Epistle to the Reader, p. 29

“Set up, I beseech you, the ancient and comfortable duties of reading the scriptures, singing of psalms, and prayer, in all your dwelling-places.”

Fountain of Life

p. 237

“And this early persecution was not obscurely hinted in the title of the 22nd Psalm, that psalm which looks rather like a history of the New, than a prophecy of the Old Testament; for as it contains a most exact description of Christ’s sufferings…”

pp. 277-8

“If he [Judas] sat out that ordinance, as others suppose he did, then he left Christ singing an heavenly hymn [simply a Biblical citation: Mt. 26:30], and preparing to go where Judas was preparing to meet Him.”

Sermon 32, p. 404

“But after he had given them good evidence of the reality thereof, there were acclamations and singing of Psalms, the people every where crying, Marcus Caius Victorius is become a Christian.”

vol. 2

Method of Grace, p. 309

“When a sanctified man reads David’s psalms, or Paul’s epistles, how is he surprised with wonder to find the very workings of his own heart so exactly deciphered and fully expressed there!  O, saith he, this is my very case, these holy men speak what my heart hath felt.”

vol. 4, ‘England’s Duty’, p. 557

“Wicked men cry out of bands and cords in religion…  Away with this strictness and preciseness, it extinguishes the joy and pleasure of our lives; give us our cups instead of bibles, our profane songs instead of spiritual psalms, our sports and pastimes instead of prayers and sermons.”

vol. 5, ‘Husbandry Spiritualized’, p. 120

“It is storied of Caius Marius Victorius, who lived about three hundred years after Christ, and to his old age continued a Pagan; but at last being convinced of the Christian verity, he came to Simplicianus, and told him he would be a Christian; but neither he nor the church could believe it, it being so rare an example for any to be converted at his age; but at last seeing it was real, there was a shouting and gladness, and singing of psalms in all churches; the people crying, Caius Marius Victorius. is become a Christian!”

vol. 6

The Best Work in the Worst Times, p. 55

“Reproaches have been the lot of the best men.  They called Athanasius, Sathanasius; Cyprianus, Coprianus, a gatherer of dung; blessed Paul, ‘a pestilent fellow’; Dr. Story threw a faggot at sweet Mr. Denlie’s face as he was singing a psalm in the midst of the flames, saying, ‘I have spoiled a good old song.'”

Exposition of the Assembly’s Catechism, p. 291

“Q. 12.  What is the duty of worthy receivers, after the sacra- ment?

A.  Their duty is, heartily to bless God for Christ, and the benefits of his blood, Mt. 26:30, ‘And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives;’  to double their care and watchfulness against sin; Eph. 4:30…”


William King

A Discourse concerning the Inventions of men in the Worship of God  (Dublin, 1694), Ch. 1, ‘Of Praises’, Section 1, ‘What the Holy Scriptures prescribe concerning them’, pp. 6-7.  King (1650-1729) was an Anglican divine in the Church of Ireland and was the archbishop of Dublin.

“I.  First then, as to the Praises of God.  The Scriptures both of the Old and New Testaments require the use of the Psalms in offering up praises to God.  We find in the Old Testament (2 Chron. 29:30) [that] Hezekiah the King and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph, and they sang with gladness.  This Command of Hezekiah proceeded from God, and was approved by Him.  The same way of praising God continued in the Jewish Church till our Saviour’s time:

And after that, we have yet a more positive command for the use of them by the apostle, Eph. 5:19, ‘Speaking to your selves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.’  And Col. 3:16, ‘Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’  I think there is no room to doubt, but by the psalms, etc. in these places, is meant the Book of Psalms, which the Holy Ghost has left for this purpose to the Church.”


Robert Craghead

Ch. 1, ‘Of Praises’, p. 6  of An Answer to a Late Book, Entitled, A Discourse Concerning the Inventions of men in the Worship of God, by William, Lord Bishop of Derry…  (Edinburgh, 1694)

William King, in his work above, had wrote it in order to reprove and instruct the dissenters in his area.  Craghead here responds defending the dissenters.  The work is dedicated to the presbyterian nobility of London.  Both parties agreed that Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19 only refers to the book of psalms.


Richard Allen

An Essay to Prove the Singing of Psalms with Conjoined Voices, a Christian Duty: and to resolve the doubts concerning it  (London, 1696), p. 59.  Allen was likely a baptist as at least two of the ministers recommending his book in the preface were baptists and as he is mainly arguing against the position that held that the psalms in meter ought not to be sung at all.  He argues for majority psalm singing in the work.

“1. Because the apostles require us to sing ‘Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs’ (Jm. 5:13; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  Which three are known to be the usual titles of the Scripture Psalms ([Greek & Hebrew] See Ainsworth on the title of Psalm 3).

2. Because these, doubtless, best deserve the title of Spiritual Songs, which were endited by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”


Johann H. Heidegger

A number of factors ought to be taken into consideration in the following quote by Heidegger:

1. Heidegger is explaining how the three terms, ‘psalms’, ‘hymns’ and ‘spiritual songs’ rightly have different connotations (as many theologians likewise so explain on this webpage), and yet he sums up all three of the terms as referring to ‘singing the Psalms’.

2. The context Heidegger is speaking to includes mental and private situations; his scope is not limited to the public worship of the Church.

 3. Heidegger has a fuller discussion of this topic in his Body of Christian Theology, ch. 23, section 101, p. 349, left col.  On the top part of the left column, he says, “‘spiritual’ (a special quality, referring to the author, the Spirit of God from whom they are inspired)”.

4. In explaining the three terms in his Body of Christian Theology, he explains ‘hymns’ by the Hebrew ‘tehila’ and ‘songs’ by the Hebrew ‘shir’, both of which refer in Scripture to the Psalms.  Midway down the left column he says that these verses refer both to private and ecclesiastical songs.

5. Heidegger in the same place then quotes O.T. and N.T. Bible songs approvingly in connection with the Early Church time-frame letter of Pliny to Trajan about singing a ‘hymn’ (‘carmen’ in the Latin original) to Christ regarding his eternity (or divinity).  Heidegger is evidently interpreting that Church history passage as the early Christians singing a Bible-song to Christ.

6. The French reformed churches since their national organization in 1559 through the 1600’s were officially exclusive psalmody in public worship.  While their national synod of 1598 had directed Scripture-songs to be used in families in order to prepare the way for their public usage in the churches, and the authorization thereof by the next Synod (Quick, Synodicon 1.196), yet this authorization never happened at that Synod or any thereafter.  It took a national synod to make such a change in worship (any lesser French, church-court could not make such a change).  See Klauber, Theology of the French Reformed Churches… (RHB, 2014), pp. 92-3.

7. Hence, with the quote below, it appears that Heidegger’s position was exclusive psalmody in the public worship of the Church; and for family worship Bible-song singing was allowed.

8. In the quote below, contra Heidegger, psallontai does not have to mean with instruments, as can be lexically proven.

9. With regards to musical instruments, in the above section Heidegger calls instruments related to worship ‘infantile’, part of the Mosaic economy, and he quotes Thomas Aquinas positively (who was against them).  At the end of section 101, Heidegger says that instruments with regard to worship (organs specifically) are indifferent and may have a circumstantial use.  However, this is far different than most modern churches which hold musical instruments to be elements of worship, as in the Old Testament.


The Concise Marrow of Theology  (1697; RHB, 2019), Locus 23, ‘On the Grace of Sanctification’, section 14, p. 166

“Prayer of any sort is either mental or vocal…  The latter goes outside the mind…  Song is added to this.  “Be full of the Spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms (also through musical instruments, which psallontai are mentioned), hymns (songs of whatever sort), and spiritual songs (constant in singing), singing the Psalms in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

Some prayer is sudden, while some is premeditated and composed, and those either conceived or prescribed.  Some are private, solitary or domestic, others are public, ordinary or extraordinary.”


Cotton Mather

The Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testament, faithfully translated into English metre, for the use, edification, and comfort, of the saints, in public & private. Especially in New-England  (Boston, 1698), ‘To the Godly Reader’, no page number.  The 9th edition of the Bay Psalm Book has the 150 psalms and other inspired Bible songs in it.  On the title page is 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19; James 5:13.  The preface is the same as that in the 1651 3rd edition by Dunster.  This 9th edition was “the first to contain music, [and] included 13 tunes from John Playford’s A Breefe Introduction to the Skill of Musick (London, 1654).” – Wiki

“We knew that these psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, though in other languages (and consequently so in other poetical measures) were inspired by the Holy-Ghost, to holy men of old for the edification and comfort of the Church and people of God in all ensuing ages to the end of the world.  And for these holy ends we have with special care & diligence translated them into such meters as are most usual and suitable for such holy poems, in our own language, having a special eye to the gravity of the phrase of sacred writ and sweetness of the verse.”


Oliver Heywood  d. 1702

While Heywood does not mention Eph. 5:19 or Col. 3:16 below, yet below represents all of the relevant references to the content of sung praise in vol. 4 of his Works.  All of the quotes below about singing ‘psalms’ simply are in the context of the home.  As Heywood believed such to derive from divine obligation, he must have derived that obligation in part from Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, and interpreted those texts accordingly.


A Family Altar Erected to the Honor of the Eternal God; or a Solemn Essay to Promote the Worship of God in Private Houses  in Works, vol. 4, pp. 283-420

p. 319

“Mind it, families in their domestic capacity, as well as in a personal, or national capacity may be alienated from God, and may have a root that beareth gall and wormwood, then see what follows: this is that which makes evil families, when instead of praying, reading scriptures, singing psalms, there is cursing, swearing, mocking at serious godliness, vain or profane talk, at least only worldly discourse.”

p. 345

“You go to bed and rise, one time after another, prayerless; you can keep them up late and call them up early to their work, but never say, ‘Come to prayer’; not a word of God all the day long, not a chapter read, not a psalm sung, not a prayer put up in the family from day to day;”

p. 364

“If the king or a nobleman should promise you five pounds every time that you call your family together, read a chapter, sing a psalm, kneel down and pray to God, would you not strain hard to procure that money? And will not a greater profit from Almighty God prevail with you to perform this exercise to obtain a reward?”

p. 374

“…that we will entertain Christ’s ambassadors in our houses, as Lydia and the jailor did; that we will read scriptures, instruct our families, sing psalms, continue instant in family and closet prayer, that all the rooms of our house may be seasoned…”

p. 393

“Call in divine assistance; the first thing you do, stand up, and implore God’s blessing upon you in the present undertaking (except you find it convenient to begin with a psalm to call the family together) and desire the Lord to unite your hearts unto Him…”


Edwards, Jonathan  (d. 1758)

Sermon Notes on Col. 3:16  in Sermons, Series II, 1736 (WJE Online Vol. 51)

“Teaching and admonishing one another.  This is one way wherein we are to be the means of each others’ instruction and one means whereby the Word of God, particularly that part of the Word that consists in psalms & hymns and spiritual songs is to dwell in us richly in all wisdom.  Singing of Psalms is a Great help to a spiritual understanding of the Psalms.  The mind of the Holy Ghost in the Psalms is often times conveyed while the Psalm is a singing, and as it is a means of a spiritual understanding of that excellent part of the Word of God…

What should be sung, viz. Psalms.  What seems to be here intended, at least chiefly, is the Psalms and spiritual songs that are contained in the Word of God, for the apostle is speaking of the Word of God.  Let the Word of God, says he, dwell in you richly in all wisdom, and then he mentions singing as a means, but then it must be singing some part of the Word of God.”


The Works of Jonathan Edwards  ed. Hickman in 2 vols.  (London, 1834), vol. 1, History of Redemption, Period 1, Part 5, section IV, p. 554

“Another thing God did towards this work at that time was His inspiring David to show forth Christ and His redemption in Divine songs, which should be for the use of the Church in public worship throughout all ages.

This was also a glorious advancement of the office of redemption, as God hereby gave His Church a book of divine songs for their use in that part of their public worship–viz., singing His praises throughout all ages to the end of the world.  It is manifest the Book of Psalms was given of God for this end.

David is called the “sweet Psalmist of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1), because he penned Psalms for the use of the Church of Israel;…  and we find the same are appointed in the New Testament to be made use of in their worship: ‘Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19).”


Samuel Pike

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. iiiPike (1717?–1773) was an Independent minister in London, known for his work on cases of conscience.  He argues for inspired Bible-song singing in the Preface.

“It is well known, that in the last century Mr. Rouse’s and Mr. Barton’s versions of the Psalms were much in use and highly esteemed and recommended by many; several other versions were also in use; but the New England and the Scotch were sung by many congregations, much recommended, being preferred by them as the closest versions and most agreeable to the original.  For 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…”


John Gill

Commentary on Eph. 5:19.Gill (1697-1771) was an English particular Baptist.

“By psalms are meant the Psalms of David, and others that compose the book that goes with that name; and by hymns we are to understand, not such as are made by good men, without the inspiration of the Spirit of God; since they are placed between psalms and spiritual songs, made by men inspired by the Holy Ghost…  but these are only another name for the book of Psalms, the running title of which may as well be the book of Hymns, as it is rendered by Ainsworth…  and by ‘spiritual songs’ are meant the same Psalms of David, Asaph, etc. and the titles of many of them are songs…  These three words answer to Mizmorim, Tehillim, and Shirim, the several titles of David’s Psalms…”


John Brown of Haddington

Self-Interpreting Bible.  Brown (1722-1787) was a minister and professor of the Scottish Secession Church.

“The Holy Ghost hath, under the New [Testament], plainly directed us to the use thereof [i.e., of the Psalms], Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19.  The Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, there recommended, are plainly the same with the Mizmorim, Tehillim, and Shirim, mentioned in the Hebrew titles of David’s Psalms, 3, 4, 5, etc.; 145, 120, 134.”



Quotes in Latin


Robert Rollock

On Eph. 5:19, p. 334  in A Commentary on the the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians  (Geneva, 1606)

Rollock was a very influential, early professor amongst the Scots.  He says that ‘spiritual’, as proceeding from the Spirit, applies to all the terms: ‘psalms’, ‘hymns’ & ‘songs’.  This teaching of Rollock ought likely to be understood to qualify his discussion of the same topic in his English commentary on Col. 3:16, Lecture 31, p. 337.


John Brown of Wamphray

A Tract on the Cause of God Against the Anti-Sabbatarians, vol. 2  (Rotterdam, 1676), bk. 6, ch. 36, ‘Of the Public Exercises of the Lord’s Day’, p. 959.  See the whole of the larger section on the topic, pp. 957-966.

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




Related Pages

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

Psalm Singing

The History of Psalm Singing

The Psalm Singing of the Puritans

Psalters Online

The Westminster Confession and Musical Instruments in Worship

Musical Instruments in Worship