“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
“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.”
“Hezekiah began to reign… and he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done… And said unto them, “…our fathers have… turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord…”… Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness…”
2 Chron. 29:1-2,5-6,30
Unfinished: Under Construction
Order of Contents
The Predominant Exclusive Psalmody of the English & Scottish Churches from the Reformation through the Puritan Era, with a Review of Mark Jones’s Article
About the Puritan Quotes on ‘Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs’
Order of Quotes
The Predominant Exclusive Psalmody of the English & Scottish Reformed Churches from the Reformation through the Puritan Era,
with A Review & Correction of Rev. Dr. Mark Jones’s
Travis Fentiman, MDiv.
Early Anglican Church
The Private Purpose of Hymns
Baynes, Davenant & Ball
The Presbyterians & Ford
Entrance of Hymns: Independency, Leigh, Holmes, Cotton, Burroughs, Goodwin
II. Church of Scotland, Fergusson & McWard
Post-1660, Hymns Take a Foothold, Savoy, Baxter
Presbyterians: Wells, Flavel, Manton
Anglican: Barton, Playford, Introduction of Hymns into Public Worship
Post-1689, Rising Use of Hymns: Henry & Anglicans
Early 1700’s: Still Predominantly Exclusive Psalmody
V. The Slow Rise & Popularization of Hymnody
Watts, 1707 ff.
1700’s American Presbyterianism: Which Psalter to Use?
1800’s American Presbyterianism: the Rise of Hymnody
The Rev. Dr. Mark Jones, in his historical article, ’17th Century Exclusive Psalmody & Hymnody’ (2017) at The Calvinist International, comes to the conclusions that “…the evidence” of earlier Reformed theologians “shows that no firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship”, and that, “In short, there is plenty of evidence that many notable Reformed writers positively argued for the inclusion of hymns, besides Psalms, in corporate worship.” In order to seek to demonstrate this, Rev. Jones quotes nine reformed, English theologians, and one Scottish theologian.
It will be demonstrated that these conclusions do not follow from the evidence that Rev. Jones presents in that for most of the theologians he quotes, it cannot actually be shown that the hymns that they spoke of were actually “in corporate worship” (but were rather intended to be sung privately), and the evidence that does exist only demonstrates that most of those figures practiced “exclusive psalmody in corporate worship”.
It should be noted that Rev. Jones does not quote anyone who holds to the historical view that he is arguing against, that a “firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship” for “[e]arlier [international?] Reformed theologians” during the 17th century. A firm consensus on such an exclusive practice might seem to imply that no reformed church in the 1600’s ever sang a hymn in public worship. However, what historian of worship has ever claimed such a thing? None would, though Rev. Jones easily conquers his opponent.
One of the things wanting in Rev. Jones’s article is significant historical context. Some or many of the historical quotes may leave questions in the reader’s mind as to what that particular theologian’s church actually was singing in public worship. While Rev. Jones largely does not provide that broader information, yet it does exist and it can be uncovered, as it will be in this article, much against his conclusions.
This article will, in some length and detail, sketch trajectories from the primary sources and historians of worship that present a picture of predominate exclusive psalmody in the public worship of the reformed, English and Scottish† Churches from the Reformation through most of the puritan era, from the mid-1500’s to near the end of the 1600’s.
The attempt to show that a significant, though minority practice of hymnody occurred in the public worship of the Church of Scotland after her Reformation in 1560 is not new. It was sought to be argued with more detail than many coming after in the late-1800’s by a leader in the Free Church of Scotland, Dr. Horatius Bonar, at a time when the Free Church of Scotland was moving from exclusive psalmody in its public worship to allowing for, and being taken over by, human, uninspired hymns.
One of the greatest historians of the Scottish Church, David Hay Fleming (1849–1931), responded to Dr. Bonar with a mass of historical documentation, analysis and argument that came to the opposite conclusion. Though more evidence has surfaced since Fleming’s time (some of which will be answered below), yet his conclusions have not been overturned.
While Fleming’s work has remained unanswered, it has not prevented numerous contemporary writers from making the same claims as Dr. Bonar, with much less evidence, not realizing that Fleming thoroughly disproved these claims more than a 100 years ago. This article will but highlight a few things from Fleming’s work and recommend the interested reader to read the whole of it. It has recently been reprinted by Naphtali Press in Shorter Writings of David Hay Fleming, vol. 1 (2007), though that edition is now hard to find. It, however, is available on the net:
Hence, this article will mostly focus on the English side of things. It is believed that this article (with links which are able to be followed), though necessarily brief and but a sketch, is the most detailed and comprehensive monograph inquiring into the predominant exclusive psalmody of the public worship of the reformed, English churches during the puritan era, to date. Where exceptions occur to this pattern, or fire-hydrant let open, they will be largely seen to prove the rule.
The article’s method is largely chronological; the early foundations will set the sage for what comes after. One will be able to see for oneself when hymns began to rise, from whom they came, how they developed and when they became popular. Due to the comprehensive survey, no gap will remain, it is believed, that could fundamentally overturn the overall picture and conclusions of the article (which are simply the accepted conclusions of scholars of English worship).
This article also serves as an introduction, and as contextual background, to the collection of 100 plus, mostly puritan quotes on Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 from 1539-1787 below on this page, almost all of which interpret the phrase, ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ as referring to the book of Psalms, and/or to inspired Scripture songs.
The Biblical Teaching
Though this article is purely historical, it derives its significance not merely from history, but, more importantly, from the teaching of God’s Word respecting what is to be the content of the sung-praise in the Church’s public, worship of God. To summarize the Scriptural teaching:
Praise-song is to be sung (Ps. 92:1; 96:1) in the public assembly by all alike (Ex. 15:20-21; Ps. 118:15; 126:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). The only examples and warrant for sung-praise in Scripture are immediately inspired and were given by persons prophesying (Ex. 15:1,20-21; Jud. 5:1-3; 2 Sam. 23:1-2; Lk. 1:67-79; 1 Cor. 14:14-15,26-32; etc.). Prophets were set to compose and direct the praise-songs at the establishment of the regular public worship in the Temple services (1 Chron. 25:1-7). Though the Church is enjoined to sing a ‘new song’ unto the Lord (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; etc.), yet this does not remove the requirement that it be inspired, and every Biblical example of such new praise songs after those injunctions in the psalms were immediately inspired of the Holy Ghost.
When the Old Testament public worship services had fallen into decay at a later period, Hezekiah did not institute any uninspired songs composed by men to be sung, or even songs of other prophets, but “commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer,” which had been instituted from the beginning for the public services (2 Chron. 29:30). This shows the principle and development of a canon of public worship-song for the Church.
There is a sufficient book of praise-song in the Canon for all times; hence the content of praise-song is religiously significant and is therefore regulated. As the psalms have been given and set forward by God to us, and therefore are chosen of Him for the purpose, so the content of praise song is hence necessarily regulated. As these psalms are commanded to be sung, so they may not be added unto, according to Scripture (Dt. 4:2; Lev. 10:1-2; Prov. 30:6; Mt. 15:9) and the Reformed principle of the Regulative Principle of Worship.
When one gets to Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 (rather late in the revelation of Biblical teaching), these verses may be understood of the Psalms alone, do not necessarily refer to anything else (see WCF 1.6), and ought to be interpreted in accord with the teaching of the 95% of the rest of Scripture, rather than against it.
As persons often argue from liberty in the content of prayer to liberty in the content of worship-song (such as the Scots Robert Boyd and Robert Baillie below), it ought to be noted that God has chosen in his Word to regulate these two distinct, elements of worship differently. In contrast to sung-praise:
Congregational prayer is to be regularly performed by ministers (Ex. 30:1,7-8; Ps. 141:2; Acts 6:2,4; 20:16,18,36; 1 Cor. 14:13-15,26,29) and not by other Church-officers, men, women or children (Num. 16:1,6-9,16-19,32-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-12; 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:11-15; Isa. 3:12; Westminster’s Form of Presbyterial Church Government, ‘Pastors’). Prayer, formally as prayer (in contrast to sung-praise), is spoken (Lk. 11:2; Mt. 26:39,42,44). All persons may, and ought to give their audible, public agreement and witness to the prayer with an ‘Amen’ (Neh. 8:6; Mt. 6:13; 1 Cor. 14:16). While a general form of prayer has been given by our Lord (Mt. 6:9), yet there is no sufficient book of prayers which we are limited to in Scripture; rather, the content of prayer is to include all things we have need of or godly desires unto (Gen. 4:26; Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1-4; WCF 21.4).
While many more Biblical texts could be brought up and analyzed, yet they will all be found, upon an impartial consideration, to be consistent with the principles above. To be introduced further to the Biblical teaching about the Church’s public praise song, see Paul Barth, ‘A Concise Case for Exclusive Psalmody’ (2017). One has not heard the full case for the Biblical teaching, however, until one reads Michael Bushell, The Songs of Zion Buy.
With the voice of God echoing in our ears, let us proceed to the history of our Reformers and the Puritans.
Early English Hymns:
for Private Use
The first influence in England towards reformation was Lutheran, which, following Martin Luther, advocated a strong hymnody. The Ghostly [Spiritual] Psalms & Spiritual Songs¹ of Miles Coverdale, first appearing in 1539, reflected this Lutheran influence. Col. 3:16 and James 5:13 were quoted on the original title page.
¹ In Remains of Myles Coverdale (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1846), pp. 533-590
The volume contained 13 metrical psalms, with metrical versions of the Songs of Mary and Simeon, the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, Decalogue and over a dozen German and Latin hymns. The private purpose of these songs was made clear on the title page in the verses, ‘To the Book’:
“Thou shalt to youth some occasion be
In godly sports to pass their time.”
The preface, ‘Unto the Christian Reader’, elaborates that these songs were meant to be sung in everyday life, and were also likely for educating the common people in the Christian religion. This is further confirmed in that Coverdale recommended to people to sing a few apocryphal songs, which, while not being held as canonical by the Lutherans, yet were held to be ‘wholesome ballads’.
The public worship in England was regulated by the Church and government authorities. As it was still essentially Roman Catholic and would not be first reformed in a major way till 1549 with the first Book of Common Prayer, it is very unlikely that the sometimes ‘rude’ non-psalms in the Ghostly Psalms and Spiritual Songs were used in public worship. Although Lutheranism and its hymnody had an initial popular influence amongst the people in England, yet “the decisive influence leading the directors of parish praise to accept metrical psalmody was Genevan.” (Davies, Worship & Theology, ***get page number***).
The Early, Sung-Praise in the Public Worship of the Anglican Church
The Protestant reformation of worship did not occur in a major way in the Church of England until the institution of the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549. It was not until after the intervening reign of the Romanist Bloody Mary, that the Church of England in 1559, now under Queen Elizabeth, more permanently established its public worship with a slightly revised edition of the Second Book of Common Prayer from 1552.
Those English, reforming puritans that had been exiled under Bloody Mary came back when it was safe under Elizabeth, from such places as Geneva, “and brought with them this practice of psalmody, which the English Church was not slow to adopt…
‘1559, September. The new Morning Prayer at Antholius, London; the bell beginning to ring at five, when a psalm was sung after the Genevan fashion, all the congregation, men, women, and boys, singing together.'”¹
¹ J. Spencer Curwen, ‘The Old Parochial Psalmody’, p. 1 in Studies in Worship Music, First Series: chiefly as regards congregational singing (London, 1901). Curwen provides three more specific instances from the histories of John Strype.
In 1559 Queen Elizabeth gave an Injunction (p.23) allowing songs to be sung “in the beginning or at the end of common prayer”, but not in the midst of it. By 1562 the civil government authorized the Sternhold & Hopkins psalter which came to be known as the Old Version, “and was everywhere adopted… ‘Psalm singer’ was indeed but another name for a Protestant.” (Curwen, p. 2)
Also in 1562, Archbishop Thomas Parker visited Merton College and enjoined them to follow the practice which had recently been instituted:
“…the warden and more part of the fellows have decreed before Hallowtide [Oct. 31 to Nov. 2] last that in the stead of certain superstitious hymns appointed for certain feasts in the hall, English psalms in metre should be sung.”
– Visitation Articles & Injunctions, vol. 3, 1559-1575, ed. Frere & Kennedy (London, 1910), p. 121. The Te Deum in the footnote need to refer to nothing more than a spoken prayer.
Regarding musical instruments, “Organs were only to be found in the cathedrals, and in a few large churches…” (Curwen, p. 4) The contemporary Anglican scholar, Spinks, adds, “Cathedrals and Chapels Royal retained choirs that developed their own repertoire for singing the new services. Most parish churches, however, simply used metrical psalmody.”² The cathedral worship, with its choirs, usually entailed responsive, antiphonal singing, whereas the psalm singing in the country parishes was congregational and simple.º These characteristics would remain a permanent feature of the English scene through most of the 1600’s.ª
² ‘Anglicans & Dissenters’, p. 499
º Davies, Worship & Theology in England, II. 1603-1690, p. 276 in Worship & Theology in England… 1534-1690, Eerdmans, 1996), Ch. VII, ‘Sacred Music: Splendid or Scriptural?’, pp. 253-277.
ª Except where the puritans rose to power in the middle of that century and reformed the cathedral worship and destroyed many of the organs and other sensual and carnal worship mimicking the Jewish ceremonies. For a defense of the Biblical and puritan view, see our webpage: Musical Instruments in Worship.
As opposed to keeping the metrical psalm singing before or after the service, a manuscript-account from 1564 said that “Some keep precisely the order of the [Prayer] book; others intermeddle Psalms in metre.”¹ A recent psalmody scholar, Timothy Duguid, in his dissertation, portrays this practice as having even greater currency at that time:
“…the Book of Common Prayer instituted the reading and recitation of the Psalms. Most churches instead began to sing their psalms as part of the liturgy, both before and after the sermon.”
– Sing a New Song: English & Scottish Metrical Psalmody from 1549-1640, vol. 1 (Univ. of Edinburgh, 2011), p. 250. Duguid cites: Nicholas Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), 1.47‐8
¹ John Strype, Life & Acts of Matthew Parker, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1821), bk. 2, p. 302;
The Book of Common Prayer:
Hooker & Cartwright
Besides the metrical psalms that were sung in addition to the Prayer-Book service, what was actually in the Book of Common Prayer at that time? While one can read the Second Book of Common Prayer (1552) for oneself, yet to see if what is on paper lined up with what happened in practice, testimonies will be given from leading figures in that era.
Richard Hooker (1554–1600) was the most important, early, defender of mainline Anglicanism; his most famed work is his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, where Hooker seemingly defends every minute practice of the via media, ‘the middle way’ of the Anglican Church.
In book five (1597) of that work, section 40, Hooker describes the content of the public praise of the Anglican Prayer-Book service. In this section Hooker only describes the responsive reading or singing† of the psalms and a select handful of various, enumerated, ‘evangelical hymns’, which were, according to him, inspired New Testament Bible songs, such as the Song of Mary (Lk. 1), the Song of Zechariah (Lk. 1), the Song of Simeon (Lk. 2), etc. Hooker does not describe in this section any stand-alone, uninspired songs in the regular, public, Prayer-Book services.
† He, and other Anglican apologists after him, did not distinguish significantly between the reading and singing of the material, likely because it had a chanting quality to it, and, they often argued, if one can sing a psalm in a set form, then one can read a prayer in a set form. The puritans on the other-hand, rightly from Scripture, defended the Biblical distinctions and regulations between the distinct elements of praise, such as between prayer and singing, and their content.
Notably, the whole of Hooker’s Eccleasiastical Laws was organized around responding to the critiques and teachings of puritanism. Hooker’s main opponent was the father of English presbyterianism and Puritanism, Thomas Cartwright. Hooker gives block quotes from Cartwright in the margins of his work.
It should be noted that the ‘evangelical hymns’ or Bible songs, do not appear in the weekly Lord’s Day service, but only in the daily morning and evening services. In those services, tellingly, the liturgy does not actually say that those inspired Scripture texts are to be sung, but only that they ‘followeth’, and hence they could be used simply as prayers.‡
‡ The ‘Reformed Liturgy’ (p. 35) of the ‘presbyterians’ at the Savoy Conference in 1661 explicitly allows for those Scripture texts to be ‘said’.
Cartwright had argued, representing the puritan dissenters, that the New Testament Bible songs ought not to be in the public praise of the Church, precisely because they were, in their original Scriptural context, occasional. The book of Psalms, on the other hand, is the canon of public worship song that the Lord has given to the Church for all ages. Cartwright challenged an opponent of his once, Archbishop Whitgift:
“…that M[aster]. Doctor will not defend the piping and organs, nor no other singing than is used in the reformed churches, which is, in the singing of two psalms, one in the beginning and another in the ending, in a plain tune…”
– A Reply to an Answer made of M. Doctor Whitgift Against the Admonition to the Parliament (1573), p. 133, sections 1 & 2, as quoted in John Whitgift, The Defense of the Answer to the Admonition Against the Reply of Thomas Cartwright. By John Whitgift (1584), Tract 15 in Works of John Whitgift… the Third Portion… (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1853), p. 107
Cartwright speaks of the ‘Bible-songs’ in the Anglican liturgy as ‘prayers’, which suggests that they were being prayed in his day and not sung. Cartwright said of them:
“These thanksgivings [the inspired N.T. songs] were made by occasion of certain particular benefits, and are no more to be used for ordinary Prayers than the Ave Maria [‘Hail Mary’, used by Papists].
So that both for this cause, and the other before alleged of the Psalms, it is not convenient to make ordinary prayers of them.” (p. 241, margin)
The Te Deum
In addition to inspired, New Testament Bible ‘songs’, the daily service included the lone ‘hymn’, Te Deum, traditionally (but probably inaccurately) attributed to St. Ambrose (d. 397 A.D.). The ambiguity in the manner in which the ‘hymn’ is to be performed is striking. The service does not say that it shall be sung, but only that it ‘shall follow’ the first Lesson. Said as a prayer, the Te Deum would not be objectionable on grounds relating to the singing of God’s praise.†
† This distinction is evidenced in the later ‘Reformed Liturgy’ of the ‘presbyterians’ at the Savoy Conference in 1661, which says in the service: “After which may be sung a Psalm, or the Te Deum said…”
Numerous other places in the Prayer Book explicitly state that something may be read or sung. The service itself says that Te Deum may be replaced with the ‘canticle’, Benedicte Omnia, a song from the Apocrypha. The Te Deum was not in the weekly service of the Lord’s Day, which must have been convenient for conscientious, God-fearing persons who carefully chose what they participated in.
A puritan pamphlet of 1584 posed the question to the Archbishops:
“51. Whether men ought to mingle the Apocryphal writings of men¹ with God’s Word, as in order of prayer to put in Te Deum, Benedicte, Athanasius Creed,‡ etc.?”
– ‘Questions to be Answered Concerning the Archbs. Urging of Subscription.’ in The Second Parte of a Register… vol. 1, ed. Peele (1593; Cambridge, 1915), p. 199
¹ Human forms, as such, can’t be objected to in God’s worship if they are purely indifferent and have a legitimate positive benefit in facilitating the Lord’s elements of worship. Some of the Brownists (separatists), Independents and others (wrongly) held at this time and later that all human forms in God’s worship are immoral. However, certain human forms in specific contexts, amidst applicable regulations of Scripture, such as with regard to the content of sung praise, may be contrary to God’s Word. Even if the Te Deum was said as a prayer, there is still the question of the wisdom of using such a human composition in a service where all, or near all the rest of the content is inspired.
‡ For the Biblical, puritan and Westminster case against creeds in Christian worship, see: ‘Creeds are Not an Elements of Worship’.
The Gloria Patri
The only other possible use of uninspired song in the daily or weekly Anglican service was the stipulated practice that the short Gloria Patri (a doxology, ‘Glory be to the Father…”) ‘shall be repeated’ at the end of ‘every psalm throughout the year’, as well as with the Bible songs (including the apocryphal song).
While this Trinitarian custom is often lauded as coming from the ‘Early Church’, it stems from the late-300’s A.D., during the time of the Trinitarian controversies and conflicts, thus showing that it was not originally handed down from the time of the apostles, but that it came much later into the Church (whereas before it was not present), and that precisely at the time that uninspired hymns began to especially proliferate in the Church, in response to the heretical hymns that had preceded.
Hooker defends the use of the Gloria Patri, which he calls ‘the Hymn of Glory’, at the end of section 42 (pp. 245-7), precisely because Cartwright and the puritans rejected it. Cartwright says:
“The like may be said of the Gloria Patri, and the Athanasius Creed. It was first brought into the Church, to the end that men thereby should make an open profession in the Church of the divinity of the Son of God, against the detestable opinion of Arius and his disciples, wherewith at that time marvelously swarmed almost the whole Christendom. Now that it hath pleased the Lord to have quenched that fire, there is no such cause why these things should be used in the Church, at the least, why that Gloria Patri should be so often repeated.” (Bk. 1, p. 137 in Ibid., p. 243 margin)
The Gloria Patri, was not a stand-alone praise-song and was only prescribed to be ‘repeated’ after the psalms were ‘said or sung’ in the daily service; the Gloria Patri was not in the weekly, Lord’s Day service.
There is further reason to believe that the Te Deum and Gloria Patri would have been allowed to be said, as opposed to sung, in that day:
In 1637 the King sought to impose on Scotland the English liturgy of the Prayer-Book service. In the new Scottish Book of Common Prayer, the order at the beginning of the daily morning service says that the liturgy shall be ‘said or sung’. The likely reason for this was one which was common through that era: not every group of (largely illiterate) people could sing together pre-set tunes or chants, or sing together at all.
It is also made clear in that service that the Gloria Patri was distinct from the singing of the psalm and that it was not seen, in all ways, to be a continuation of the psalm. It was not the case that the people sang the psalm, and then without hesitation, continued to sing the Gloria Patri. Rather, after the appointed psalm was ‘said or sung’, the phrase ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’ was to be ‘repeated’ by the minister. Then “the people shall answer, As it was in the beginning…” The service goes on and says that Te Deum ‘shall be said or sung’.
If the saying or singing of parts of the Prayer Book liturgy seeking to be imposed on Scotland was held to be indifferent in 1637, there is some likelihood that the same variation may have been in practice tolerated in England in the late-1500’s (and following), especially when those details were not explicitly prescribed.
This is further confirmed when, later in English history, at the Savoy Conference in 1661, the English presbyterians and independents interpreted the directive in the Book of Common Prayer, that the Gloria Patri be ‘repeated’, that it “was appointed to be said”. (‘The Presbyterian Exceptions Against the Book of Common Prayer’ being Appendix 2 of The Book of Common Prayer as Amended… A.D. 1661, ed. Shields, Philadelphia: Claxton, 1867, p. 155)
Private Dissent & Conformity
It also seems probable that a private person who thought it not right to sing a part of the service would be tolerated without penalty. To state the obvious: It is not always easy to spot someone not singing at a distance, especially if some of the congregation is lethargic and inattentive about participating in the service to begin with. The puritan Nathaniel Holmes in 1644 said, referring to the psalms: “For in all the prelatical persecutions, men were never persecuted for omitting to sing them publicly or privately.”¹ If this was true of singing psalms publicly in the churches, it would seem that the same toleration would apply to other discreet parts of the service.
¹ Gospel Music: or, The Singing of David’s Psalms, etc. in the public congregations, or private families asserted, and vindicated… (London, 1644), p. 19
For those who may have sung the Gloria Patri, yet nonetheless Fleming notes with respect to the later mainline, English historian, George Burnet (1643-1715), the Scottish Westminster commissioner Robert Baillie (1602-1662), and the Scottish, Erastian and prelatic conformist, Robert Edward (c. 1616-1696), that:
“…it is worthy to remark that Baillie, Burnet, and Edward, in pleading for the doxology, maintain that it is founded on Scripture.
And, further, that Baillie, in his conference with those yeomen who refused to sing it, says, ‘We have it [the doxology] but once almost in one spiritual song, for every portion of the Psalm, which is right divided is a full spiritual hymn to us.’ And this [mentioning of the psalm as a spiritual song and spiritual hymn] may be taken as an indication of what that ardent champion of the doxology understood by the words Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.”
– ‘Hymnology…’, part 4, p. 781 in The Original Secession Magazine, vol. 16 (1886)
The Book of Common Prayer Publicly Deviated From
An older Anglican historian, whom modern scholars are still dependent upon, John Strype, provides a primary source manuscript from 1564, which gives a succinct summary of the many ways in which the Prayer Book service was deviated from by ministers: ‘Varieties in the Service and Administration Used’ (Life & Acts of Parker, vol. 1, bk. 2, pp. 302-313). Parker spends the following eleven pages describing examples and details of the puritans that resisted parts of the Prayer Book. Strype, in summarizing, speaks of:
“…the great disturbances in the Church, occasioned by these varieties, and the common omission of what was prescribed by the Queen’s Injunctions… These practices… begetting so much dissension, difference and disorder among Christians…” (Ibid., pp. 306-7)
Spinks, ennumerated numerous ways in which puritans evaded some of the details, or more, of the Anglican Prayer Book. He writes:
“Many of these clergy made their own emendations and reforms to ceremonies and liturgies. Some, like Richard Greenham… had permission from the bishop to dispense with the surplice [a white robe], the cross [a sign made on the baby’s forehead] in baptism, and the ring in marriage [which had Romanist superstitions at the time¹]. Others did so with the connivance of their congregation; still others were less lucky, or more outspoken–such as Arthur Hildersham–and were prosecuted in the church courts and suspended.”
– ‘Anglicans & Dissenters’ in The Oxford History of Christian Worship (Oxfrod, 2006), p. 501
¹ On the history of this, and the Biblical principles that directly applied then in that context, but largely do not now due to the altered context, see our webpage, Wedding Rings.
Spinks then outlines four ways in which evasion was sought through the ‘textual reform’ of the Prayer-Book. In summary, they are:
1. Ad Hoc Emendations. “The minister simply omitted certain parts, such as versicles and responses [responsive readings]…ª it was reputed that Richard Bowler… ‘addeth and diminisheth at his pleasure in the use of the book.’ Eusebius Paget admitted… that he omitted parts of the liturgy that offended his conscience.”
ª For the Biblical, reformed, puritan and Westminster case against responsive readings, contra the Anglican Church, see ‘Responsive Readings in Worship’.
2. Emended Editions of the Book of Common Prayer. The contemporary scholar, “…A.E. Peaston argued convincingly that these were ‘puritan’ editions, with minor, but significant changes, which could go undetected.”
3. Use of the Genevan Form of Prayers. “Already in 1567 and 1568 there were semiprivate congregations in London using the Genevan Form of Prayers… In 1584 and again in 1587, attempts were made to introduce bills into Parliament to replace the Book of Common Prayer with the editions of the Genevan Form of Prayers.”
4. Use of the Liturgies of the ‘Stranger Churches’, 1572. “These were the French, Dutch and Itallian congregations in London and in other British towns… these churches… were allowed to use their own Reformed rites… [Patrick] Collinson aptly comments that ‘they played the part of a Trojan horse, bringing Reformed worship and discipline fully armed into the midst of the Anglican camp.'” (‘Anglicans & Dissenters’, pp. 51-2)
More Puritans, Early-1600’s
To give a further specimen of puritanism, the appointed literary executors of Cartwright’s works were the puritans Arthur Hildersham (1563-1632) and John Dod (1550-1645). Hildersham publicly lectured on why Bible-songs outside of the book of Psalms are not suited, nor were meant for the public worship of the Church:
“…it is worthy the observing that though there were many of God’s holy servants that made songs, and psalms beside David, as Deborah, Jud. 5:1, and Anna, the mother of Samuel, 1 Sam. 2:1, and Solomon, Cant. 1:1, and Mary the blessed Virgin, Lk. 1:46, such as might be used, yet were none of them committed to the musicians to be publicly sung in the temple, but these of David only. In which respect he (by an excellency) is called the sweet Psalmist of Israel, 2 Sam. 3:1.” (152 Lectures upon Psalm 51… London, 1635, Lecture 1, p. 5)
Dod and Robert Cleaver (c.1561-c.1614) often published books together without differentiating which material was from whom. In a joint work of theirs, Four Godly & Fruitful Sermons (London, 1611), in Sermon 3, the preacher describes persons in their day who ‘grudge and murmur’ and ‘are indeed utter enemies unto God’; and yet even such persons are described as those that “resort unto the Word in public, that read it in private, that have prayer and singing of Psalms in their families, etc.” (p. 66)
The notable thing about the singing of psalms, simply, being described in family worship, is that there are only so many Biblical verses that one can use to proof-text it, the most common ones being Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19, which speak of ‘psalms, hymns & spiritual songs”. Of course, if one believes that only psalms are to be used in family worship (compare Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 21, section 6 with section 5), a seemingly necessary implication is that only psalms are to be used in the public worship of the Church.
Speaking of that early English era, the scholar of post-Reformation, English worship, Horton Davies, said that “[i]t was not long before the Puritans were known as ‘the Psalm-roaring Saints.'” (Worship & Theology in England, II. 1603-1690, p. 276 in Worship & Theology in England… 1534-1690, Eerdmans, 1996)
Louis Benson, a standard authority on English hymnology, and a strong supporter of it, summarily wrote:
“…there was no English hymnody in any effective sense until the 18th century. It happened so, in brief, because the Churches in England and Scotland in arranging for the participation of the people in the service of praise, adopted the model set up by Calvin in Geneva as over against that set up by Luther.
The practical effect of this was, in a word, that both the English and Scottish Churches became psalm singers as distinguished from hymn singers.” (The English Hymn: its Development and Use in Worship, Philadelphia, 1915, ch. 1, pp. 21-22)
In fact, he continues:
“The English Church adopted Metrical Psalmody just as effectively [as the Church of Scotland], but less formally, as something not provided for in the Prayer Book system, but yet ‘allowed’ to adhere to the margin of that system.” (English Hymn, p. 26)
The Private Purpose of Hymns
Benson explains how, from the beginning, hymns found in published English psalters, or hymnals, did not significantly affect the public worship of the Anglican Church:
“There was… no hesitation on the part of the compilers of the early Psalters in joining to the Psalm versions matter intended for private use… it appears from the tile pages of the English Psalter [of 1562] that it was intended for use outside of church. The title of the editions of 1561-1562 contained the words: ‘Very mete [meet] to be used of all sorts of people priuately [privately].’ It was not until 1566 that the title page of the Psalter claimed authorization for its use in church.¹
¹ …But in this matter the opinion of many since was voiced by George Wither in his pamphlet, The Scholar’s Purgatory (1624) [p. 39]: ‘that those metrical Psalms were never commanded to be used in divine service, or in our public congregations, by any canon or ecclesiastical constitution, though many of the vulgar be of that opinion. But whatsoever the Stationers [printers] do in their title page pretend to that purpose, they being first allowed for private devotion only, crept into public use by toleration rather than by command.’
It is then obvious that the presence of these hymns in the English Psalter does not of itself imply, either in intention or in fact, their use in the church services.
On the whole these hymns present no more than an insignificant exception to the statement that the Church of England became a psalm singing church.” (pp. 29 & 32)
Wither also implies in his work that the appendages to the psalters (with quite diverse material) was due to popular taste, the discretion of the printer for profit, and though allowed or tolerated by the government, were not at all actually sanctioned by it:
“…they being allowed by Authority, are as fit, I trust, to keep company with David’s Psalms, as Robert Wisdom’s Turk and Pope; and those other apocryphal songs and prayers, which, the stationers add to the Psalm-book for their more advantage: Sure I am, that if their additions shall be allowed of by the most voices…” (p. 35)
Davies, also a strong supporter of hymnody (Worship & Theology, p. 281) concurs and further elaborates. He gives two classifications for the hymns that were written at that time. “One was a handful of hymns written for private devotion… for the reading or singing of the few so inclined.” (Ibid., p. 282)
The first example Davies gives to illustrate this is of a hymn by John Cosin (1594–1672), a friend of William Laud, the notorious persecutor of the puritans. The second and last example Davies gives, is of George Wither (mentioned above), a poet.
Wither attempted to publish the first hymnbook in England in 1623; and sought to “induce the King to sanction his hymns for church use”; he was turned down. (James Lightwood, Hymn-Tunes and their Story, London,  p. 67) The difficult time Wither had in seeing it through the press, and the reception it received from the public, is aptly described by the title of Wither’s subsequent book complaining of the process: The Scholar’s Purgatory in the Stationers’ [Printers’] Commonwealth. Regarding Wither’s hymnal, Davies said that Wither “attribute[d] its unpopularity to the attempt of the Stationers’ [Printers’] Company to quash it…”
Wither followed up that production in 1643 with a second hymnbook entitled, Haleluiah or, Britain’s Second Remembrancer… which was intended “to be sung in families, etc.”
The second classification Davies gives for ‘hymns’ written during that early-1600’s context is that they were actually “sacred poems that were written without any intention of their being used in public or private worship…”† Such divine poems were written by such great poets as George Herbert (1593-1633) and John Donne (1572-1631). It was only in the 1700’s that such persons as John Wesley began to resurrect these poems, highly revise them, and turn them into hymns.
† Davies confirms this in equally strong language, and with more examples, in Worship and Theology in England, I. From Cranmer to Hooker, 1534-1603 in Worship and Theology in England, from Cranmer to Baxter and Fox, 1534-1690 (Eerdmans, 1996), p. 391
In the late-1600’s, when hymnody began to rise and take a foothold in the public worship of some of the English churches, one of the ways it entered was through there being made provision for a hymn of preparation before the Lord’s Supper. Its clear that this practice started with singing hymns for private preparation, but slowly, with time, it moved into the public service. The first indication we have found of this tendency is from 1628. An anonymous Romanist private devotional was published entitled, ‘The Hours of Prayer’. The Independent puritan, Henry Burton (1578–1648), critiques the advocated practice as follows:
“…he setteth down sundry sayings, prayers, Psalms, Hymns, before the recieving of the sacrament… In all which it should seem [he] describeth a new solemn service for the Sacrament. For else what time is there allowed for any man’s private devotion, while he is present at the public administration of the Sacrament? Or would he have a man busied about his private devotions while the minister is in the public service? Or would he have the minister to be mute until evhery man present have said over such lessons, as our Author teacheth?”
– A Trial of Private Devotions. Or, a Dial for the Hours of Prayer (London, 1628), no page numbers
The Dominance of Psalm Singing, Early-1600’s
Benson summarizes the English, post-Reformation practice regarding the churches’ public singing of praise:
“Practically both English-speaking Churches [in England and Scotland] entered upon an era of psalm singing¹ which was to be little disturbed through two centuries.” (p. 26)
¹ Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) was largely responsible for composing the first two editions (1549 & 1552) of the Book of Common Prayer. Cranmer had previously wrote to King Henry VIII in 1544, offering his translation of the Latin hymn Salve Festa Dies (Letter 276, Miscellaneous Writings of Cranmer, Parker Society, 1846), yet even this hymn did not make it in to any edition of the Book of Common Prayer. See Leighton Pullan, History of the Book of Common Prayer (London, 1900), pp. 171-2 for further details.
What were the reasons behind this? For the “Puritans, and their successors the Nonconformists”, amongst other reasons, Davies writes:
“…it was the conviction that metrical Psalms were the Word of God while hymns were human compositions, that restricted their praise to the paraphrases [of Scripture] until the last decade of the [17th] century.” (Worship & Theology, pp. 254-5)
The puritan Nathaniel Holmes wrote:
“If in the matter [of a hymn]… there should be any unsoundness of doctrine, by custom and the music, the people would fall in love with it, and as [Jerome] Zanchi [d. 1590] saith very well, there would be no removing it.” (Gospel Musick, or the Singing of David’s Psalms… (London, 1644), section 6, point 1, objection 2, p. 17)
In a later concluding passage, Davies explains:
“above all, [it was due to] the conviction that in using only the words of the Word of God men believed themselves to be secure from human error.” (Worship & Theology, p. 282)
However, referring specifically to the Anglican ‘ecclesiastical hierarchy’, and specifying the notorious William Laud (d. 1645) in particular, Davies wrote:
“In some quarters, however, Psalm-singing was not at all popular. Strictly speaking, it was illegal to mingle metrical psalmody with the Anglican liturgy [itself] in the seventeenth century, whatever Elizabethan [1558-1603] Injunctions might have permitted.” (p. 280)
The reason why the “intrusion” of such psalm singing “into the Prayer Book services” “produced frowns” by some such persons, was due to its Genevan origin, and in that it was a “Puritan badge of loyalty”. Yet, Davies writes:
“…nonetheless, metrical psalmody had come to stay, it became necessary even for high churchmen to accommodate to it.” (p. 281)
While high Anglican and (English) Roman Catholic musical composers produced voluminous amounts of sacred, choral hymns (not congregational) set to musical scores for an artistic use in society,º yet these ‘hymns’ were not allowed into the Church’s Prayer-Book service, upon pain of non-conformity.¹ So far from the high Anglicans introducing hymns into the public worship of the Church, in general (and ironically) it would later be in the late-1600’s and early-1700’s “the heirs of the fiercest defenders of metrical psalmody who first introduced modern hymnody to their initially unwilling churches in England.” (Davies, p. 285)
º Davies, Worship & Theology, Cranmer to Hooker, pp. 398-402. “Although great music was composed for the Church of England in Elizabethean and Stuart times, the Church played only a minor role in the general musical life of the country.” (p. 391) Some of the leading composers included Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Thomas Morley, Tye, Whyte, Weelkes, Tompkins, Dowland, Bull, Wilbye & Orlando Gibbons. Many of their works can be found on Early English Books Online, TCP.
¹ However, such musical hymn productions appear, at least in theory, to have been allowed before or after the Prayer-Book service, per the wording of Elizabeth’s Injunction (***quote specifics***).
Excepting Romanism,† the separatistic Brownists, Barrowists and the later Quakers, it can be said: “In view of the general practice of the singing of metrical versions of the psalms during the later sixteenth century and the whole of the seventeenth century… Apparently everybody did it, but it was thought that the Puritans overdid it.” (Percy Scholes, The Puritans and Music in England and New England… (New York, 1962), Ch. 17, ‘What the Psalms Meant to the Puritans’, p. 274)
† Romanism had some Latin hymns in its public worship through this whole era, that is, sung by choirs, as congregational singing had long been given up. See Whitley, pp. 103-5.
The early puritan Paul Baynes (c.1573–1617) was a successor to William Perkins and was under the supervision of the established Church and civil government as a preacher and lecturer at Cambridge, before he was subsequently forced out due to non-conformity.
Bayne makes constant references to ‘presbyters’ and ‘presbytery’ in his, The Diocesan’s Trial (1641, a criticism of Episcopacy), yet it does not appear that his affirmations go beyond what an Independent could affirm. The book was published by the Independent William Ames (1576-1633).
Rev. Mark Jones quotes Baynes from his commentary on Ephesians (later published in 1643) as interpreting the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Eph. 5:19 as allowing for uninspired compositions (see p. 334, lt. col.). While this is true, yet Rev. Matthew Winzer had earlier in 2008 shown in the same passage that when Baynes comes to the ordinary and regular worship of the Church, he only mentions the singing of ‘psalms’, and that, ‘a psalm of David’.† Baynes also mentions at the end of the section, “this part of the church service, in the psalmody of the church,” and the “church and house psalms must be sung to God”.
† Matthew Winzer, ‘Westminster and Worship Examined…’ in The Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008), p. 264
Baynes’s commentary on Ephesians was a result of him preaching through the book (see the title page of the 1866 ed.). It is likely that the portion through Eph. 5 was done when he was yet a ‘preacher of God’s Word at St. Andrews, Cambridge’, this phrase appearing on the title page of the 1618 publication of the commentary on the first chapter of Ephesians, and as such a massive series would likely need to be done in a period of relative stability. To confirm this, Baynes speaks of ‘a choir of singing men’ at the end of the section, and that persons fled out of the meeting place when the organ played during the service (p. 335). Such was a known practice of some of the dissenters in the Church of England at that time. As the historian of congregational hymnody, William Whitley, said, “Of course, Dissenters never dreamed of such instruments in their meeting-houses,”¹ or of having choirs.
¹ Whitley, Congregational Hymn-Singing (London, 1933), p. 103
Hence, the order of Baynes’s worship is known: it was the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with the singing of metrical psalms, which Book of Common Prayer did not require that any uninspired texts be sung. Baynes does not mention any actual singing of hymns in Christ’s public worship. Further, the specific reason Baynes was forced out of the Anglican ministry was “for his refusing (absolute) subscription”, that is, to the Book of Common Prayer.¹ Hence, Baynes was not following the Book of Common Prayer exactly when he got forced out of the Anglican ministry, nor was he likely doing so at least some while before that.
¹ Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 1, ed. Stephen & Lee (New York: MacMillan, 1908), p. 1,376
As nothing other than the singing of psalms is mentioned in Baynes’s other works, the evidence does not go further than that Baynes thought that uninspired compositions were acceptable in some context, namely outside of the public worship of the Church.
Rev. Jones follows William Barton’s 1688 work (to be discussed later) in citing the early-1600’s, English bishop, John Davenant (1572-1641) as saying that “it is apparent by ancient writers, that the ancient churches did use Hymns.” This quote, or rather reference (for it is inexact) comes from Davenant’s Exposition of the Epistle… to the Colossians on Col. 3:16 (p. 141, point 1).
Davenant in this passage is understanding such non-inspired hymns to be encompassed in the teaching of Col. 3:16. Notice though, that Davenant, here and elsewhere, does not actually say that he, and those in his context, were singing hymns in public worship. When Davenant comes to speak of that which “is to be adopted in the assemblies of Christians” (p. 143) he speaks only of the non-descript, “custom of singing”. Davenant’s exposition of Colossians was published as early as 1639 in Latin, precisely at the time that sects were arising in England who forbid public singing in the Church altogether (whom he probably had an eye unto).
When Davenant refers to what was actually being sung by his readers, he speaks of only ‘singing psalms’ (p. 143). He then goes on, at the very end of the sermon to make it clear that in considering Col. 3:16, he believes it encompasses the personal recreation of the Christian:
“4. What things are done for cheerfulness and relaxation of the mind by Christians, ought to be of such a kind, as are agreeable to Christ and the Christian religion…” (p. 144)
These precise nuances in what Davenant actually says, of course, are significant. Davenant, as a conformed bishop, was following the Book of Common Prayer, which necessitates no singing of hymns; and it appears that there is no other indication in Davenant’s works in English that support the singing of uninspired compositions in the Church’s public worship of God.
Rev. Jones, at the opening his article, says that John Ball (1585–1640) “argues for the singing of uninspired hymns in his work, A friendly trial of the grounds tending to separation in a plain and modest dispute touching the lawfulness of a stinted liturgy and set form of prayer […] (London, 1640), 54-83.”
Ball (1585-1640), though a puritan dissenter who suffered for it, yet he also went along with Anglican worship in the established Church as long as he could and defended some of the mainline Anglican positions on worship in print. His work on covenant theology was influential on the Westminster Assembly, held only several years later.
What’s interesting is that Ball does not actually argue for the singing of uninspired hymns in the public worship of the Church in this work (or any other work). In the passage that Rev. Jones references, Ball is arguing for the lawfulness of the stinted (brief), responsive forms of prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer service. Ch. 3, the passage referenced, is entitled:
“It is as lawful to pray unto God in a form of words devised by others, as to sing psalms to the praise of God in a stinted form of words prescribed by others.”
Ball says of his separating, sectary opponents that were arising in the 1640’s, that,
“[w]hen in the new Testament we are exhorted to sing psalms (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), they will not say that we are tied to David’s psalms, or other songs given by immediate Divine inspiration.” (pp. 56-8)
Note that Ball is describing the view of his opponents as not tying themselves to inspired songs. Ball then uses this premise of his opponents to further argue against his opponents that a human, non-inspired construction of the form of prayers and singing of psalms (such as in the Anglican Prayer-Book and liturgy) should therefore, on their terms, be allowable.
Ball then goes on to give, again not his own view, but his interpretation of a practice of the early Church: “and if we look to the practice of the times after the apostles, we shall find the church used other hymns, and not scripture-psalms only.”†
† One early church reference Ball gives in the margin is to Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical History, though the reference does not appear to be correct. Ball glosses the reference as: “The primitive church had certain hymns composed and sung to the honor of Christ.” The earliest instance of such is in Pliny’s letter (A.D. 111-112), which says that the Christians were in the habit of meeting “before dawn on a stated day and singing alternately a hymn [in Latin: carmen] to Christ as to God.”
Michael Bushell comments:
“The meaning of the key term carmen (‘hymn’) in this clause has been much debated. On the basis of parallels with the Jewish Sabbath service, C.J. Kraemer and E.C. Ratcliff take it to refer to an Old Testament Psalm. J.B. Lightfoot remarks that the term carmen can be used of ‘any set form of words’ and does not have to presuppose a metrical composition at all. Along the same lines J. Stevenson renders the phrase in question as, ‘recite by turns a form of words.’ In support of this interpretation it is pointed out that the primary meaning of the verb used in the clause (dicere) is ‘to say’ or ‘to declare,’ not ‘to sing.’…
The fact of the matter is that none of the current interpretations of Pliny’s letter requires that we see in it a reference to the singing of uninspired compositions, and there is nothing in the passage to preclude its being seen as a reference to the inspired Psalms…” (Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody Buy (3rd ed., 1999) p. 162)
John Knox and the early, English puritan, John Reading, below, interpreted the term as referring to a psalm.
The only other reference to a ‘hymn’ (excluding hymns of pagans) in Ball’s work is on p. 131, which is a Biblical reference which Ball interprets as having the content of psalms:
“For unto their custom of finishing the Passover with certain psalms, there is not any thing more probable than that the holy evangelist doth evidently allude, saying that after the cup delivered by our Savior to his apostles ‘they sung an hymn and went forth to the mount of Olives.’ [Mt. 26:30]”
When Ball does give his own view of the matter, it is at the beginning of chapter 2, before the passage that Rev. Jones references. In the sustained context of the Anglican public worship, Ball says:
“And if we may sing psalms with the spirit and with understanding, with feeling and joy of heart (1 Cor. 14:14:15) as it is commanded (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) in a form of words stinted and prescribed, it cannot be thought a thing impossible, to pray with affection in a stinted and prescribed form…
In singing psalms penned by the prophet David or other holy men of God, the eye doth lead the heart no less than it doth in a stinted form of prayer…” (pp. 13-14)
It is not explicitly clear whether ‘other holy men of God’ refers to other prophets (in the Book of Psalms or not) or to uninspired men. Yet David is described by Ball as a prophet and it seems the passage alludes to the the inspired ‘holy men of God’ in 2 Pet. 1:21.
What is clear though, is that Ball nowhere in his work says that hymns were being sung in the public Anglican worship service; rather, Ball refers exclusively dozens of times in his work to psalms being sung therein. When Ball comments on the general practice of family worship in his day and context, he speaks of the “singing of psalms… in the family”. (p. 113) Thus, there is no clear evidence in this work that Ball held to anything other than inspired praise-singing, and possibly exclusive psalmody, for the public worship of the Church; nor is any further warrant found in his other works.
The Public Worship of the English Presbyterian Church
English presbyterian worship was fundamentally defined and governed by Thomas Cartwright’s Directory of Church Government (1583/5), the Waldegrave Liturgy (1584/5) and the Middleburg Liturgy (1586). All three of these public forms provide for only psalms as sung praise to God in the public worship of the Church. See background to these three documents and their orders of worship in the subsection, ‘Puritan Orders of Worship’, on our webpage:
These forms were used by the English presbyterians until at least the 1640’s.
The very distinction by a leading presbyterian, Thomas Wilcox (c.1549-1608), that hymns may have their private use confirms the self-conscious presbyterian paradigm that psalms were to be used exclusively for public worship. Wilcox was one of the puritan authors of the 1571 Admonition to Parliament which called for presbyterian Church government (for which he spent a year in jail).
At the end of his book Guide to Eternal Glory… (rep. London, 1755), Wilcox included numerous ‘Holy Breathings’ (pp. 164-180), or ‘Divine Poems’, which he also calls ‘Divine Hymns’. Numerous of them are on the Lord’s Supper. Yet there is no indication that these ‘hymns’ were intended for, or ever used in public worship; and the other various sections of the book in which they are contained are self-evidently for private edification.
Rev. Jones quotes Thomas Ford (1598–1674), a presbyterian and Westminster divine (who was ejected in 1662), to the effect that Ford “seems to make a concession to non-inspired “psalms””. Rev. Jones concludes that Ford “seems to be arguing for inclusive Psalmody, not exclusive Psalmody, even though he exhibits a clear preference for Davidic Psalm singing.” The passage from Ford reads:
“But I return to answer the former objection concerning singing of Psalms composed by an ordinary and common gift, as God in his providence gives occasion.
And to this I say that I am not so much against composing as imposing; when men set up their own new songs, and shut out David’s Psalms. Suppose it lawful for men of spiritual minds to endite a Psalm, and then commend it to others, and sing it; yet it will not follow, that therefore we must not sing the Psalms of David.” – Singing of Psalmes the duty of Christians under the New Testament… (London: 1653), pp. 22-3
However, if one looks back to see what the original objection was on p. 17, it is clear that the objector (likely an Independent sectarian) sought to exclude all of David’s psalms from the public worship service, in preference for persons bringing and singing their own compositions, as in 1 Cor. 14:15-16, 23. Ford (rightly) replies that what was done in Corinth was done by an extraordinary, inspired gift, which has now ceased. This was the standard presbyterian interpretation. Ford then answers the related objection on p. 20 which said that Christ and his disciples did not sing at all, but only spoke such praises. Hence Ford is not dealing with an opponent who desires to add some hymns to the regular psalmody of the worship service, but with one where the only alternative to the regular presbyterian practice is to exclude congregational psalmody altogether.
That there was a rising strand of English Independents, ‘anabaptists’º and other sects who excluded all of David’s psalms from their worship services in that time may be confirmed by other witnesses thereto, such as the presbyterians Samuel Rutherford, Survey of Spiritual Antichrist… (London, 1648), Part 1, p. 10 and Thomas Edwards, The First and Second Part of Gangræna… (London, 1646), pp. 44-45 & The third part of Gangræna… (London, 1646), p. 25, 62, 147, 247.
º ‘Anabaptist’ was often used as a slur. These 1640’s persons would probably be called simply ‘baptists’ today, but, nonetheless, there is a a connected history between the persons and thought of the anabaptists, some of those in London in the 1640’s, and the more mainline baptists that rose out of them.
Later in Ford’s book he goes on to address the topic at hand more specifically. He explicitly directs:
“Sing none but Spiritual Songs, such as David’s Psalms are, and others composed by holy men of God, who spake as they were inspired by the Holy Ghost [2 Pet. 1:21]. These are altogether spiritual [Eph. 5:19] for the author, for the matter, and for the end and use of them.” (p. 143)
He then poses a question and answers it (pp. 143-144 ):
“May we not sing any other song composed by a common gift, so long as it is spiritual for the matter?
It may be of ill consequence many ways, to shut out David’s psalms and take in our own; as:
Secondly… I rather think that such Psalms (if any have them) should be fitter for their own private use than for the churches of God; though for my part, I do not encourage any to the private use of them, with a neglect of David’s Psalms, but rather dissuade them from it.
For other songs (always supposed that there be no vanity, nor filthiness, nor scurrility, nor reflectings upon other men’s good name, which all Christians must be far from) they may be for honest delight and recreation for ought I know, even as a man may play a lesson on a lute or other instrument to refresh his spirits.”
Hence it is clear that when Ford said, as Rev. Jones quoted, “Suppose it lawful for men of spiritual minds to endite [compose] a Psalm, and then commend it to others, and sing it,” that Ford did not mean this of the public worship of the Church. Nor is it clear that Ford held such hymns to be for the use of private worship. It is only clear that Ford, the presbyterian, held such songs to be lawful for a certain recreational use.
It also ought to be noted that, in reference to Ford’s statement, quoted by Rev. Jones, “…I say that I am not so much against composing as imposing; when men set up their own new songs..”: Any putting of a non-inspired praise song into a church’s public worship service is a de facto imposing of it on the church, all the worshippers and on God.
The Entrance of Hymns in Public Worship in the 1640’s:
Rev. Jones said that the ‘preferred ecclesiology’ of the lay-theologian, Edward Leigh (who sat at the Westminster Assembly) “was that of his friend, Archbishop James Ussher, a primitive episcopacy”. The eclectic nature of Leigh’s background is apparent in that he served as a colonel for the Parliamentary Army in the English Civil War, which army had strong influences of Independency in it.
In Leigh’s commentary on the New Testament in 1650, when speaking on Mt. 26:30; Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, he interpreted all of these texts as being consistent with singing psalms and inspired productions (see below on this webpage).
Four years later, in 1654, Leigh expressed the opinion in his Systeme or Body of Divinity (London) that, according to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 (as Rev. Jones quoted):
“…we may lawfully sing Scripture psalms, so also songs and psalms of our own† inditing [composing] (say some) agreeable to Scripture, ‘Sing unto the Lord a new Song’, framed on a fresh occasion, therefore, 1 Cor. 14:26, a Psalm is named among those things which they had for the use of the Church… therefore we may make Songs for our selves agreeable to the Word of God as well as prayers…” (Book 8, ch. 3, ‘Of Singing Psalms’, p. 610)
While the quote above, and its larger context, expresses Leigh’s personal view, yet he notes that his view was said by ‘some’ other persons. The footnote says:
“† Singing of hymns is by some counted an Ordinance, that is, any person of the congregation exercising their own gifts, should bring an hymn and sing it in the congregation, all the rest being silent and giving audience. M[r]. Edw[ards].”
Mr. Thomas Edwards (1599-1647), whom Leigh references, was a prominent and leading presbyterian of the most orthodox variety. The passage of Edwards that Leigh references is found in Edward’s broadside against the Independents at the Westminster Assembly, Antapologia, or, A Full Answer to the Apologetical Narration of Mr. [Thomas] Goodwin, Mr. [Philip] Nye, Mr. [Sidrach] Sympson, Mr. [Jeremiah] Burroughs, Mr. [William] Bridge, members of the Assembly of Divines… (London, 1644), which work Edwards ‘humbly also submitted to the Honorable Houses of Parliament’.
Edwards describes (p. 35) how in Holland, around 1639, two flagship churches of the Independents sprung up, one at Rotterdam and one at Arnhem. At the church at Rotterdam was William Bridge and Sidrach Simpson, and later Jeremiah Burroughs (all of them would shortly become Westminster divines). After a falling out, Simpson removed with some persons and set up another church a ways off (there being no presbytery above them with authority to settle disputes).
The second flagship church at Arnhem had Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye as teachers (both also would be Westminster divines). Here “a controversy arose whether singing should be that of one person or ‘conjoined’ [congregational].” (Curwen, p. 81) Nye was against congregational singing, so it seems that Goodwin may have been for it.
The story gets more interesting. Edwards relates on pp. 36-7, in the passage that Leigh referenced, the instance of hymn-singing coming into the Church as an ‘ordinance’:
“A gentleman of note in that church… did propound in the church, that singing of hymns was an ordinance (which is that any person of the congregation exercising their own gifts, should bring a hymn and sing it in the congregation, all the rest being silent and giving audience); now upon the propounding of this, another gentleman did oppose it (as not judging it an ordinance)…
…At last, after more than half a year’s debate, not being able to bring these differences to an end… do yet run into such strange conceits, and break among themselves thus…”¹
¹ See also Robert Baillie relate this same thing in A Dissuasive from the Errors of the time wherein the tenets of the principal sects, especially of the Independents, are drawn together in one map… (London, 1645), pp. 81, 88, 118
Edwards goes on, on p. 60, saying, “I propound it to you, whether some of you [Independents] have not held out some other public worship than the reformed Churches hold, namely hymns…” Edwards then says, on pp. 58-59:
“Now for the way and practice of our Churches, we give this brief and general account. Our public worship was made up of no other parts than the worship of all other reformed Churches doth consist of. As public and solemn prayers for kings and all in authority, etc., the reading the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; exposition of them as occasion was; and constant preaching of the Word; the administration of the two sacraments, baptism to infants, and the Lord’s Supper; singing of psalms; collections for the poor, etc. every Lord’s day.”
Despite Leigh’s personal opinion (he was no minister that had authority to publicly enact his opinion), yet Leigh is in agreement with Edwards as to what the reformed Churches’ practice had been and was in his day. Leigh says (p. 609):
“Reformed Churches use to begin and end with a psalm, and to sing David’s psalms in order, that the people of God might be acquainted with them all, and professors used to sing psalms in their families, Ps. 118:15.”
The Precursors to the Entrance of Hymns
The novel practice above, be it noticed, was only one person composing an uninspired hymn, bringing it to their Independent church, and then singing it before the congregation (which remained silent), in imitation of the extraordinary and inspired practice of the apostolic Church in 1 Cor. 14. What there is no evidence of yet, is unison, congregational, hymn-singing. In fact, as is made clear by the references supplied, those sectarian churches disallowed singing the psalms of David, and had no other public singing in their worship.
While this ‘ordinance’ definitely grew in popularity from the 1640’s London sects, it was not entirely new. The idea and practice was certainly previously available and practiced by the Brownists, who were the radical wing who had separated from the Cartwright in the 1580’s and continued on into the early 1600’s. It is not a coincidence that through that period the Brownist churches likewise had no congregational singing and yet approved and practiced the lone person singing, in their case, not a composed or arranged song, but an immediately given song through their extraordinary breathings, before the congregation (or as others did it as well).
William Edgar, an 1800’s, Scottish antiquarian, described the views of the Brownists:
“…they rejected altogether metrical versions of the Psalms as an unauthorised union of divine and human, inspired and uninspired elements. One of their chief apostles says, “what I speak against is not that comfortable and heavenly harmony of singing Psalms, but it is the rhyming and paraphrasing of the Psalms as in your church.
The Brownists allowed the singing of psalms in prose but only as a matter of instruction and comfort, whereby God is glorified, and not as an act of immediate praise. All praise as well as prayer, they contended, must be extempore, and not expressed in any set words, whether found in the Bible or not. The singing of hymns, they said, is an ordinance, and any member of the church exercising his gifts is free to bring a hymn of his own and sing it to the congregation, all the rest being silent and giving audience. And it was not the Brownists only that held these opinions, but some of the Independents also…”
In contrast to this, the late-1500’s and early 1600’s separatist groups of Henry Ainsworth and John Robinson sang metrical psalms congregationally, and Ainsworth argues that the 1 Cor. 14 practice was extraordinary and has ceased (Curwen, p. 81).
It is not likely that Robert Browne came up with his ideas from nowhere. His ideas on worship follow in a stream that was current in his time. Whitley writes: “It is seldom recognized how the Anabaptists pioneered in hymn singing.”
The Anabaptist movement started in 1525 on the continent.¹ They were prolific hymn writers with a hymnal coming out by at least 1529, and many more following in the subsequent decades, particularly in the 1560’s and 1580’s.² It is not clear, however, that there is any evidence that the Anabaptists sang congregationally.
¹ John Rempel, ‘Mennonites’ in The Oxford History of Christian Worship (Oxfrod, 2006), p. 545
² Harold Bender, ‘Hymnology of the Anabaptists’ Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956
The Entrance of Hymns into Moderate Independency
It seems that there was a strand of more moderate Independents from the early-1600’s coming from the disciples of William Perkins (1558-1602), a very influential leader of puritanism after Cartwright. Perkins, in his Art of Prophesying, had proof-texted singing from the book of Psalms from Col. 3:16.¹
¹ Works, vol. 2, London: John Legatt, 1631, p. 650
As mentioned, Baynes was a successor to Perkins at Cambridge. William Ames (1576-1633) was tutored by Perkins, influenced by Baynes and also initially took a position at Cambridge. In The Marrow of Sacred Divinity… (London: 1642), Book 2, ch. 9, ‘Of Prayer’, sections 47-8, 53, p. 284, Ames links the singing of psalms, simply, with Col. 3:16 and says that “all do join their voices together”.
Burroughs (1599-1646) was mentioned as following Bridge and Nye at the Rotterdam church (which did not have the story connected to it regarding the novel ‘ordinance’ of individual hymn-singing). In his Gospel Worship (London, 1653), he says that Christ singing a ‘hymn’ in Mt. 26:30 warrants the Church in singing a ‘psalm’ after the Lord’s Supper. (p. 225-6) In the same passage he speaks of the ‘institution’ of singing psalms and gives his auditors directions regarding it.
Goodwin (1600–1680) was also a disciple of Perkins; he was at the Arnhem church and had (presumably) advocated for ‘conjoined’ singing. That church was the one that had the bitter division of individual hymn-singing in public worship. Goodwin, in his commentary on the book of Revelation, from the song in Rev. 5:9-10, says:
“Learn we from hence to frame new matter of praise, and to have fresh affections upon every new occasion.” (Works, 3.14)
This might be a bit of a tenuous deduction, considering that all creatures in the heaven and the earth, in the sea and under the earth (probably all animals and inanimate matter) join in this vocal, linguistic praise (v. 13), but nonetheless Goodwin on the previous page (p. 13) had linked the whole with ‘the spiritual songs’ of Eph. 5:19. On p. 215 (bottom), Goodwin likewise speaks of ‘spiritual songs in Christ’ from an equally symbolic, eschatological text, and, citing the prophet David saying, “I will sing a new song” (p. 216) derives again that we are to “Learn to frame new matter of praise and affections upon every new occasion.”
While we are not prophets, nor did uninspired men compose new songs to be sung in the Temple since David gave those words in the Old Testament, it is suspected that Goodwin may be here seeking to prove the novel doctrine and practice of uninspired men occasionally singing their composures before the congregation in Christ’s worship. There are reasons why the vast majority of puritans derived the worship of the regular, historical Church, from the regular history of the Church in Scripture (such as in the book of Acts, etc.), and not from the visions of the most difficult book in the Bible.
Hymns enter Moderate Independency:
The Treatises of Holmes & Cotton
Two major treatises on psalm singing were published by Independents while Westminster sat. It will be seen how the sectarian practice of an individual singing an uninspired hymn before an assembled congregation in worship entered into more moderate and mainline, psalm-singing, congregationalism.
Nathaniel Holmes (1599–1678) was an English Independent. His treatise on psalm singing, aimed at the sects who denied it, was entitled, Gospel Music: or, The Singing of David’s Psalms, etc. in the Public Congregations, or Private Families Asserted… (London, 1644) It appears not to have been reprinted in that era. In it he allows for the singing of inspired Bible-songs (pp. 2, 20-21).
On p. 23 Holmes allows that ‘upon some special occasions’, if the congregation give him ‘leave’ to do so (as opposed to some who forced it by self-will on the congregation?), a ‘godly brother’ may sing the ‘spiritual song’ he had composed, the congregation silently attending; “yet this cannot infer that always it should be so…”
Taken in an absolute way, Rev. Jones is certainly right that in the 1600’s “the evidence shows that no firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship” for more than this reason. Holmes gives an idea as to what was going on in the worship of the Anglican cathedrals in his time (and likely the whole time since Queen Elizabeth):
“David’s psalms sung in our English meter differ much from cathedral singing, which is so abominable, in which is sung almost everything, unlawful litanies, and creeds, and other prose not framed in meter, fit for singing; battologizing [repeating excessively] and quavering over the same words vainly.
Yea nor do they all sing together, but first one sings an anthem, then half the choir, then the other, tossing the Word of God like a tennis ball. Then all yelling together with confused noise. This we utterly dislike as most unlawful.” (p. 19)
The New England puritan, John Cotton (1585–1652), was also very influenced by William Perkins at Cambridge. Cotton’s work, Singing of Psalms: A Gospel Ordinance… (London, 1647; 1650) was influential on both sides of the ocean. Particularly, the English, conforming puritan, William Barton (who will be important later) said:
“For Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs which Paul commands to be used, Col. 3:16, are proper terms of the O[ld]. Test[ament]. Psalms, as Mr. [John] Cotton fully proveth…”
– Psalms and Hymns Composed and fitted For the present Occasion Of Publick Thanksgiving, October 24, 1651 (London, 1651), Preface
Yet Cotton also allowed that other inspired Bible-songs “may be lawfully sung in Christian churches”. (p. 15) On the same page Cotton allows for the private singing of uninspired material for a person’s “own private comfort”. He goes on:
“Neither do we deny, but that in the public thanksgivings of the Church, if the Lord should furnish any members of the Church with a spiritual gift to compose a Psalm upon any special occasion, he may lawfully be allowed to sing sing it before the Church, and the rest hearing it, and approving it, may go along with him in Spirit and say Amen to it.”
“…we would not call upon men now, to prefer their ordinary common gift, as more fit for the public edifying of the Church, before the extraordinary gifts of the holy men of God in Scripture, who by the Spirit were guided to prepare spiritual songs, suitable to all the conditions and affections and temptations of the Church and people of God in all ages.” (p. 16)
Before the Westminster Assembly in England is examined, it will be necessary to catch up on the history of exclusive psalmody in her northern neighbor, the Church of Scotland.
On the Public Worship of the Church of Scotland
after the Reformation in 1560
The Reformation in worship in Scotland after 1560 was heavily influenced by the worship of Geneva, particularly the 1556 service book of the English refugee congregation at Geneva, pastored by John Knox. The epistle ‘To our Brethren in England…’ prefaced to the 1556 service book, entitled, Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc., used by the Congregation at Geneva: and Approved by the Famous and Godly Learned Man, John Calvin (printed 1562; given in Laing, Knox’s Works, vol. 4, p. 155 ff.), says:†
“But because prayers are after two manner of sorts, that is, either in words only, or else with song joined thereunto; and this latter part… is called by many into doubt, whether it may be used in a reformed church; it is expedient that we note briefly a few things pertaining thereunto. S[t]. Paul giving a rule how men should sing… showing what songs should be sung, exhorteth the Ephesians to “edify one another with psalms, songs of praise, and such as are spiritual…”…
And there are no songs more appropriate than the Psalms of the Prophet David, which the Holy Ghost hath framed to the same use, and commended to the Church, as containing the effect of the whole Scriptures…” (pp. 165-6)
† “This Preface, or Address, is usually ascribed to [William] Whittingham…”, David Laing, Knox’s Works, 4.157.
That 1556 service book was made the basis of the 1564 Book of Common Order which the Church of Scotland ordained to be used in the realm. This Book of Common Order would maintain official status for the worship of the Church until the Westminster era when the Church of Scotland adopted Westminster’s Directory for the Public Worship of God in 1645 (Eutaxia, p. 134).
Unlike the Genevan service of John Calvin though, the Scottish Book of Common Order did not in any way provide for the singing of non-psalm, Bible-songs, the Ten Commandments or the Apostle’s Creed in the worship service, occasionally or otherwise. Rather, the only sung praise that ‘The Order of Public Worship’ enjoined was psalms. Hence, between 1564 and 1645 the Church of Scotland sanctioned exclusive psalmody in its public worship.
To confirm this, the first printing of a complete psalter in Scotland occurred in 1564-5 in Edinburgh. It contained only the 150 psalms.ª This is undoubtedly what the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland referred to in Dec. of 1564 when they:
“…ordained, that every minister, exhorter and reader shall have one of the Psalms books lately printed in Edinburgh, and use the order contained therein…”
– Contained in David Calderwood, The History of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. 2 (Edin.: Wodrow Society, 1842), p. 284
ª In contrast to a similar English psalter from 1562 which contained about 20 hymns. Livingston, Diss. 2, p. 13; compare Duguid, p. 121.
On the ‘Spiritual Songs’ Appended to Some Psalters
After 1564, the first time a hymn came to be appended to a Scottish psalter was in 1575,¹ which psalter contained two hymns (this happening three years after Knox’s death; at least eight other psalters had appeared since then, per the Short Title Catalogue). Certain other editions of psalters contained a few or several hymns and other material (usually things like the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the Songs of Mary and Simeon, the Lamentation of a Sinner,† Veni Creator, etc.). A helpful chronological list of these songs, based on exhaustive information, is given in Cowan, Bibliography of the Book of Common Order, pp. 10-11.
¹ A psalter of 1571 had appended to it three spiritual songs, but none of them were hymns; rather, they were all of inspired material: the Ten Commandments, the Song of Simeon, and the Lord’s Prayer. Fleming, Reformation, p. 306.
† This hymn, appended to the 1575 psalter, was ‘not unlikely’ composed by William Whittingham, a colleague of Knox. (A Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs… ed. Laing, Edin., 1868, p. 217) Whittingham’s expressed view for, and de facto practice of, exclusive psalmody in public worship has been given above.
There were also occasional books of spiritual songs produced. One was by Alexander Hume (1558-1609), who acted as the moderator of the Church of Scotland several times in the early-1600’s. He was both a poet and a musician, and published his Hymns and Sacred Songs in 1599. The subtitle of the work says, “wherein the right use of poesy may be espied”. Eph. 5:19 was on the original title page. ‘The Epistle to the Reader, to the Scottish Youth’, makes clear the private purpose for these spiritual songs, just as they were intended to displace the worldly songs also sung for private and social recreation.
The last two verses of Hume’s poem entitled, ‘His Recantation’, speak clearly of playing such spiritual songs on musical instruments in private. If this were in doubt, his will left a lute and other musical instruments to others.ª Yet, Hume’s Admonition to the Ministry of Scotland, shortly before he died, said (emphasis added):
“…yet the high places are not put away, that is, the preeminence of bishops, their surplice, their organs, their lights, their observing of feasts… which resemble the cicatrices [scars] of an evil-cured wound.” (p. 13)
ª Fleming, p. 539, citing ed. Hew Scott, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae 2.735
In concluding about these spiritual songs, whether appended to psalters or otherwise, Fleming said:
“…not only can no formal sanction of them, for any purpose, be produced; but there is no evidence of their having been used in the services of the sanctuary.” (Fleming, ‘Hymnology’, p. 16)
“…might as well insist that the Alphabet and Multiplication Table are in the Church of Scotland now, because they have so long been printed with the Shorter Catechism!” (Ibid., p. 19)
Neil Livingston in 1864 wrote a standard, scholarly piece on the various editions of the early Scottish psalters. The contemporary psalmody scholar, Timothy Duguid, in surveying recent, serious literature on the subject, said (2011):
“…the most recent monograph to consider Scottish metrical psalmody is Millar Patrick’s 1949 survey [Four Centuries of Scottish Psalmody], which did not eclipse the accuracy or content of Rev. Neil Livingston’s theses…” (Sing a New Song, p. 18)
Duguid further comments that “Though based on incomplete data, Livingston’s discussion remains the most accurate description of reformation Scottish psalmody.” (Ibid., footnote). While Duguid has surveyed nearly all of the early Scottish psalters available (see his bibliography in vol. 1, pp. 319-347), his work does not impinge on the conclusions of Fleming or Livingston, but rather complements and confirms them.º
º See for instance pp. 78, 244, 246 of Sing a New Song, vol. 1
Regarding the ‘spiritual songs’ appended to some of the late-1500’s Scottish psalters, Livingston comes to the conclusion that:
“There seems to be good ground for the conclusion that they were used only for private purposes… It must be remembered that singing of compositions relating to religion–some more strictly devotional and doctrinal, others levelled at the abuses of Popery–was a conspicuous feature in the Reformation movement. But the distinction between the use in worship and private ends seems to have been generally recognized. Even in [Lutheran] Germany, where hymns abounded, only a limited selection was admitted into the books prepared for the Church…
This distinction being understood, it is not surprising that a few things intended for private instruction and edification should, for convenience sake, be appended to the Psalter.”
– Scottish Metrical Psalter of A.D. 1635… (Glasgow, 1864), Dissertation 1, II. Principles Relating to the Poetry, p. 4, lt. col.; G. Wauchope Stewart agreed with this conclusion, Music in the Church (London, 1914), p. 148
Livingston gives four further arguments towards this conclusion. Being summarized, they are:
(1) The Book of Common Order repeatedly prescribes the singing of psalms for public worship, but nowhere does it allude to anything else.
(2) The standard, and near only remaining documentation of many official documents of much of that early period is contained in the eight volume History of the Kirk of Scotland by David Calderwood (1575-1650). No instance of corporate-worship hymn singing appears to be recorded therein.
(3) Evidence in Calderwood exists from 1608, and by implication from an earlier enactment, that parents instruct their children at home in the Lord’s Prayer, the ‘Articles of Beliefe’ and the Commandments; and that ‘all ministers’ examine the children therein. The ‘Articles of Beliefe’, a name for the Apostles’ Creed, was the name of one of the spiritual songs sometimes printed in the psalters.
It is not clear how there would be easy access to such pedagogical documents except that they be appended in numerous of the psalters that every family was required to have. In 1579 the Parliament of Scotland had ordered that every householder, yeoman and burgess of sufficient means own a Bible and a psalm-book, upon pain of a fine. There is evidence that this statute was enforced.¹
¹ John Lee, Memorial for the Bible Societies in Scotland… (Edin., 1824), pp. 40-1; see also Thomas M’Crie, The Life of Andrew Melville… (Edin.: Blackwood, 1819), p. 467 and the order of the Kirk session of Aberdeen in 1610, in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery and Synod of Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1846), p. 40
(4) If hymns were in general use, it is inexplicable how some psalters could dispense with hymns. Yet some psalters in 1599 & 1611, evidently intended for the common people, have no hymns. In 1615 the Song of Moses was first introduced as an appendage to a psalter. The account of the introduction in that psalter “indicate[s] that publishers considered themselves warranted to exercise some amount of discretion in these matters…” (Livingston, Diss. I, p. 4)
William McMillan, published later in 1931, gave three responses to the first three arguments of Livingston. They are summarized below, with counter-arguments provided to them.
(1) “…the Book of Common Order leaves considerable freedom to the individual minister, and this liberty would apply as much to the materials used in praise as to the words used in prayer.” (The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church, London, p. 76)
The issue at hand with the English liturgy was that it didn’t allow for any free-prayer whatsoever; whereas freedom in the content of worship-song, in principle, was never in dispute. While the Scottish Book of Common Order explicitly gives liberty with regards to its prayers (and which of two forms of benediction is used) it never states any such liberty with regard to the psalms that were to be sung. Quotes from ‘The Order of Public Worship’:
“…the minister useth this conession [of sin] following, or like in effect…” “An other Confession and Prayer…” “…and yet commonly used in the Churches of Scotland…” “…the Minister prayeth for th’assistance of God’s Holy Spirit, as the same shall move his heart… Using after the Sermon this Prayer following, or such like.” “Then the people sing a Psalm, which ended, the Minister pronounceth one of these blessings…”
“It shall not be necessary for the Minister daily to repeat all these things before mentioned, but beginning with some manner of Confession, to proceed to the Sermon; which ended, he either useth the prayer for all Estates before mentioned, or else prayeth, as the Spirit of God shall move his heart… but also use some form of prayer, according as the present necessity requireth…”
That the point at issue was maintaining some freedom in prayer has been recognized by many scholars. See Fleming provide a mass of primary source evidence for this in pp. 246-9 of ‘The Moulding of the Scottish Reformation’ in Critical Reviews Relating Chiefly to Scotland (London: Hodder, 1912).
(2.1) “…the Historie of the Estate of Scotland [p. 59] which is believed to be a contemporary document distinctly mentions the ‘Singing of Psalms and Spiritual Songs’ by the Protestants in 1559.” (Ibid.)
This instance was said to happen after the public assembly of the Church was over. The men in question were going through towns and purging churches and chapels of altars and idols “in all places where they come. And so praising God continually , in singing of psalms and spiritual songs, they rejoiced that they Lord wrought thus happily with them.”
It is not clear whether these ‘spiritual songs’ were other inspired Bible songs. There is little doubt though, that non-inspired songs were available at that time. Their actions are consistent with a recreational use of such songs in daily life outside of the Church’s public worship. This is consistent with, five years later, the Church of Scotland as a whole ordaining the psalms (alone) to be sung in the public worship with a careful thought towards reformation and the utmost fidelity.
(2.2) “Bishop [John] Sage, who was born in 1652 [and died in 1711], just two years after the old psalter had been discontinued, and who must have been in touch with many who used it, states that the Reformers used beside the psalms several other hymns in meter. (Fundamental Charter of Presbytery… [Examined and Disproved… (London, 1695)], pp. 357-8)” (Ibid.)
The Episcopal Sage would have had no direct experience with anything before the 1650’s. Regarding the late time when he wrote in the 1690’s, Fleming has documented other persons of that era, who, being dependent on hear-say or otherwise, made other inaccurate and mistaken historical claims. The ‘hymns’ that Sage mentions (mostly inspired Bible-songs) are precisely those that were appended to some of the late-1500’s and early-1600’s psalters. Sage’s information, in fact, appears to be dependent on ‘the old Psalm Book’, which modern scholars have much more collated evidence regarding than he likely had. By ‘Our Reformers’, Sage evidently is encompassing those of the Second Reformation in 1638 ff., especially with regard to the Doxology, which will be addressed below.
As for Sage’s own time and context, which he did have direct experience regarding, he says in reference to the presbyterians:
“The Gloria Patri, recovered from desuetude at the last restitution of Episcopacy [1660-62], and generally used in the Episcopal assemblies these thirty years past, was a mighty scandal to them; so great, that even such as came to Church, hanged their heads and sat silent, generally, when it came to that part of the office.”
(2.3) “Calderwood himself may also be cited as a witness against the view that the hymns might be used in private, but not in public, for arguing against the suggestion that King James’ version [of the psalter] might be used in private, he says that to use one version in private and another in public is a most unprofitable work, because in time the one might displace the other. (Bannatyne Miscellany, I, p. 229 [‘The Psalms of David in Meter Allowed Be the General Assembly Should be Sung in the Kirks of Scotland, as they have been since 1564, for the Reasons Underwritten’, ‘Reasons Against the Private Use’, p. 242]. The work is anonymous, but there is good reason for ascribing it to the church historian.)” (Ibid.)
This paper, with others, has only been said to have been “generally considered to have been compiled” by Calderwood. (p. 231, footnote) The objection itself might hold good if there was not already an understood paradigmatic difference between judging which psalter to use (based on faithfulness, etc.) in private and public, versus discerning the difference between uninspired materials for song in private and the necessity of using only inspired materials for song in the Church’s corporate worship.
The issue may be able to be decided by providing presbyterian Calderwood’s own view. He said in his book-long critique in Latin of the government and worship of the Church of England (translated Fentiman):
“They do not retain the hymns of the Roman Breviary only because, I believe [ut opinor], they lose that elegance of the hymn in translation compared to the Latin meter and rhythm, not, however, because they do not exist in sacred Scripture. For they retain that song Te Deum Laudamus [‘You O God we praise’], which is not held among the songs of Scripture, and they even greatly magnify its prerogative more than that of the Psalms or other songs.”
– The Altar of Damascus, or the Ecclesiastical Polity of Anglicanism Obtruded on the Church of Scotland by Formalists, Delineated, Illustrated & Examined ([No place or publisher,] 1623), ch. 10, p. 628
(3) “Although there are pieces which might be used for the instruction of children, that is no reason why they should not have been sung at services where children were present, as they seem always to have been in the days with which we are dealing.” (McMillan, Worship, p. 76)
McMillan’s argument gives no positive evidence, or even a compelling reason, that these additional songs appended to the psalter actually were sung in the worship services. On the contrary, it is quite sure that numerous of the additional songs were not sung in the worship services.
Those songs appended to the psalter included metrified versions of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments. Yet the Book of Common Order already included spoken versions of the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed in the weekly service. It would be incredible for them to have sung it again, especially when the same reformers often criticized the Anglican liturgy for its numerous repetitions, including that of the Lord’s Prayer.
Further, it is not at all likely that the word ‘psalm’ used in the Book of Common Order, from its usage in that era, encompassed in its meaning the Lord’s Prayer, Creed or the Ten Commandments, nor that those things would be indiscriminately sung here or there in the service at will rather than they being distinct parts of the regular order of the weekly service (which two of them were).
Also, the focused attention towards teaching the children in the corporate-church context was, per the First Book of Discipline, 9th Head, on the Lord’s Day afternoon where the minister would publicly examine the ‘young children’ ‘in audience of the people’.
What were the children to sing in public worship? The Church of Scotland ordained in the First Book of Discipline (1560) that:
“Moreover, men, women and children would be exhorted to exercise themselves in the Psalms, that when the Church conveneth, and does sing, they may be the more able together with common heart and voice to praise God.” (Knox, Works 2.241-242)
Even the use of the few or several hymns that came to be appended to psalters in family worship is questionable. Duncan B. Forrester, a modern scholar, has said: “…the steady practice from the early days was that only psalms should be sung in church and in family worship.”† This would certainly come to be explicitly the case when in 1647 the Church of Scotland adopted the Directory for Family Worship, which only provided for the singing of psalms in family worship (c.f. WCF 21.5-6).
† ‘The Reformed Tradition in Scotland’ in The Oxford History of Christian Worship (Oxford, 2006), p. 480
The Good & Godly Ballads
The earliest, surviving edition of the The Good and Godly Ballads dates to 1567.† Not exactly a psalter, it was a collection with three parts: 1. Doctrinal songs: a catechism and the Apostles’ Creed set to meter, with various spiritual songs; 2. Twenty-Two Psalms with a number of hymns; 3. Secular songs converted from profane to religious poetry. The Good & Godly Ballads were quite popular and went through many subsequent editions.
† David H. Fleming, The Reformation in Scotland… (Hodder, 1910), pp. 305-306
Despite the prominence given to these Good & Godly Ballads in discussions of the content of Scotland’s early praise-song, numerous of the Ballads would not be able to be sung in corporate worship, not being appropriate thereto. To give only one example, in a song headed with ‘Examples Taken out of the Bible’, the song describes Judith and Holofernes (pp. 191-2), characters in the Apocrypha (which the Scots Confession of Faith in 1560, Article 18, had dismissed). The authority in Scottish Church history, David Laing (1793–1878), said of the collection of the Ballads:
“…it neither was authorized by the General Assembly, nor was it known to have ever been employed in the pubic services of the Church.”
– A Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs, Commonly Known as “The Gude and Godlie Ballates.” ed. Laing (Edinburgh, 1868), ‘Preface’, p. xliii) Alexander Mitchell said that the ballads were “no doubt sung in their homes, though they never had formal ecclesiastical sanction.” A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs… ed. Mitchell (Edin.: Scottish Text Society – Blackwood, 1897), p. xvi. For more arguments that the Ballads were very unfit for public worship, see Fleming, pp. 25-34.
However, one could probably have inferred this from what the original title page gives as the Ballads‘ stated purpose:
An Compendious Book of Godly Psalms and Spiritual Songs Collected forth of Sundry Parts of the Scripture, with Diverse Other Ballads Changed out of Profane Songs in[to] Godly Songs, for Avoiding of Sin and Harlotry
Nonetheless, after all of this, it is possible that some church somewhere in Scotland sang some song in worship that was not a psalm. If so, the singers were acting against the 1564 act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the law of the land.
The Romanist Winzet
Perhaps the strongest evidence put forward to show that a human doxology was commonly sung early in the reformed Church of Scotland is the witness of the Scottish, Roman Catholic priest and apologist, Ninian Winzet (1518–1592). In his Book of 83 Questions, publicly challenging John Knox to answers, he wrote in 1563:
“67. Of the Form Glory to the Father, etc., in the end of every Psalm.
Why use ye to sing with us Catholics at the end of every psalm, Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in, etc. seen that godly form was only commanded to be sung in that place by the Pope Damasus [c. 305-384], in the rebuke of heretics?”
– Ninian Winzet, Certain Tractates, Together with the Book of Four Score Three Questions, and a Translation of Vincentius Lirinensis, vol. 1 ed. James K. Hewison (Edin.: Scottish Text Society, 1888), Book of 83 Questions, p. 117
Fleming commented on Winzet’s claim thus:
“Had Knox ever published his intended reply to Winzet, and admitted the truth of this charge, then the contention that the doxology was not used prior to 1575 must have been given up; but the bare word of one who probably never attended a Protestant service in his life is not enough to overturn such a contention…”
– Critical Reviews Relating Chiefly to Scotland (London: Hodder, 1912), ‘Scottish Presbyterian Worship’, p. 490
To this McMillan later replied, “Winzet was as likely to attend Protestant services as any Roman Catholic of his time, and it is quite well known that many such did so (Knox, [Works] I, 321[-323], 389, 392, etc.).” (Worship, p. 87) All of the references that McMillan explicitly cites took place in 1599 before the Reformation was decisively established in 1560, when Protestants and Roman Catholics (especially in the Queen’s party) sometimes attended the same worship service, and all the instances involve the contention of physical conflict. Needless to say, it is still doubtful whether a Roman priest would have attended a settled, protestant worship service.
To settle the issue, though, Winzet gave his own testimony. Speaking of his Questions, he wrote:
“For I had collected them shortly wanting [lacking] books when I was in travel, as they come in my memory of former reading and of conferring with others at that time by the way.” (Winzet, Certain Tractates, ‘Introduction’, p. xxxv)
From a simple skim of the Questions, it is clear what profound misconceptions and ignorance Winzet had of the doctrine and practice of the ‘Calvinian Preachers’. The previous question (#66) had asked how the ‘Calvinian Preachers’ could reprove a heretic who denies the Holy Trinity, seeing as “ye will approve nothing but expressly written… how establish ye your doctrine, seeing their names are not written expressly in Scripture?” Thus, Winzet Q. 67 is not only criticizing them for following the practice of a Pope, but is quick to charge them with inconsistency upon a claimed, universal, public and explicit profession of the Trinity. However, even in these thinly-veiled attacks, it appears Winzet actually is desirous of finding out the Calvinian Preachers’ true practice and thoughts. What is clear, though, is that Winzet’s manuscript was initially aimed for fellow Romanists, as it was first circulated in those circles (Ibid.), in order to gain the easy triumph.
Winzet’s dependence for his knowledge of the Calvinian Preachers’ practice on his memory of reading books (which he did not have with him) and on hear-say from other people is significant. ‘Calvinian’ is a broad term, referring to all those who had been significantly influenced by Calvin’s thought and practice, including the Anglican divines and the Church of England (with whom the Scottish reformers were intimately acquainted and influenced by). All the previous Books of Common Prayer (1549, 1552, 1559) of the Church of England had contained and enjoined the universal practice of repeating the doxology after singing psalms.
Further, the reform-minded leaders and congregations in Scotland from 1550-1560 were using the Book of Common Prayer for their worship.¹ Knox, in 1555, said:
“…I began to declare what opinion I had sometime of the English Book, what moved me from the same, and what was my opinion presently. I had once a good opinion of the Book, I said, but even so, I added, like as yours is at the present that it ought not in all points to be observed… and by contemplation of our estate, which requireth all our doings to have an open defence of the Scriptures (especially in God’s service to admit nothing without God’s Word) I was driven away from my first opinion…”
– Knox, Works, vol 4, ‘A Narrative by Knox of the Proceedings of the English Church at Frankfurt…’, p. 43
¹ William Maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland (Oxford, 1955), pp. 43-45.
In 1557 the Protestant nobles of Scotland enjoined the use of the English Book of Common Prayer “in the parish kirks”† of Scotland. This would last, officially, till it was replaced at 1560. According to Maxwell the Book of Common Prayer “continued in use in some, perhaps many, parishes until well into the 1570’s [possibly by those of the more prelatic bent].” (History of Worship, p. 45) It seems very likely that Winzet, in claiming that the Calvinian Preachers sang the doxology ‘at the end of every psalm’ (an exact quote from the Book of Common Prayer), was dependent on the English Book of Common Prayer and the known practice that the reformed-minded, Scottish preachers and populace had been largely using the English Book of Common Prayer during the previous decade.
The views and practice of Knox and the ‘Calvinian Preachers’, however, were not stationary. Knox’s main contention at the “strangers’ church” in Frankfort, Germany, in 1554-5, was against the ‘ceremonies’ of the English Book of Common Prayer¹ (which included the doxology). When Knox left for Geneva and drew up there his order of service for his congregation in 1556, it did not include the doxology. When the Church of Scotland, in control of the ‘Calvinian Preachers’, adopted the Book of Common Order in 1562 & 1564, based on Knox’s 1556, Genevan order, it did not include the doxology.
¹ See The Liturgy of Compromise used in the English Congregation at Frankfort, ‘Introduction’ in The Second Prayer Book of King Edward the Sixth and the Liturgy of Compromise ed. Wotherspoon & Sprott (Edin.: Blackwood, 1905), pp. 205-229
Hence, as Fleming noted regarding Winzet:
“…the bare word of one who probably never attended a Protestant service in his life is not enough to overturn such a contention, seeing that not one of the known editions of the Book of Common Order, or Psalm-Book, printed before 1575 contains a single doxology. If they had been in common use, they would surely have been printed with the Psalms, at the end of each of which Winzet alleges they were sung in 1563.”
– Critical Reviews, pp. 490-1
Doxologies in the Good & Godly Ballads
The fullest martialling of evidence for the singing of doxologies in the Church of Scotland’s early history is found in the 14 pages of Ch. 6 in McMillan. While McMillan came after Fleming, and critiques him at points, McMillan does not cite any evidence that Fleming was not aware of, or was not likely aware of. McMillan cites a few various works of Fleming, but appears to be unaware of Fleming’s four-part article on ‘Hymnology’, where Fleming treats of the issues in the fullest depth (which was buried in a small denominational magazine from about 50 years before McMillan gave his lectures). Fleming has yet the fullest tracing of the history of the development of the doxology during the Second Reformation era. We will proceed with updating Fleming’s work by handling some of the more conspicuous arguments that McMillan gave.
After giving prominence to Winzet’s testimony, McMillan relates:
“Doxologies were certainly used by the Reformed in the days preceding 1560. Several of the Wedderburn’s songs end with such.” (p. 88)
McMillan footnotes a reference in the Good & Godly Ballads, which have already been noted by David Laing not to have been used in public worship. The Good and Godly Ballads sometimes went under the name of the Wedderburns, as John and Robert Wedderburn (fl. c. 1540) wrote some of the songs contained in it. However the collection of Good and Godly Ballads contained material from various authors. David Laing, an editor of a reprint of the collection, said:
“That either of them was the collector or editor of the volume, or that any considerable portion of it was printed in Scotland prior to the Reformation, are points which seem to be highly improbable.” (Preface, pp. viii-ix)
It has been previously remarked the earliest known edition of the volume is only from 1567. The ‘doxology’ that McMillan cites appears at the end of a song (pp. 126-7) which is plainly intended for going to bed at night. Another doxology that McMillan quotes is from a song about Christ’s nativity (pp. 67-8), or, in the words of McMillan, a ‘Christmas Hymn’. If it is wondered what the official position of the Church of Scotland was on Christmas, the First Book Book of Discipline (1560), ‘First Head’, said:
“…we understand whatsoever men, by laws, councils, or constitutions have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandment of God’s word: such as… keeping of holy days of certain saints commanded by man, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the feasts (as they term them) of apostles, martyrs, virgins, of Christmas… Which things, because in God’s scriptures they neither have commandment nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this realm; affirming further, that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abominations ought not to escape the punishment of the civil magistrate.”
It is clear from both of these ‘doxologies’, by the specific details mentioned in their last lines, that neither of them were transferable to other songs, nor were they intended to be.
A Doxology in 1567?
On the last page of the earliest known edition of the Good and Godly Ballads, from 1567, is printed the title page¹ of a psalter. On the back of that page is printed in meter 16 lines. The first four and last four form a prayer each. The middle eight are a doxology. At the top is written: “Sing these four verses [lines] after every psalm as follows.” Above the eight lines of doxology is written: “And if ye please to sing this Gloria Patri.”
¹ Found after the Introduction in Mitchell, A Compendious Book
McMillan follows Alexander Mitchell in thinking that the psalter at one time had been printed and bound with the Good and Godly Ballads, the psalter following the Ballads in the volume. The theory is that after 1568, when the General Assembly condemned a ‘bawdy’ song appended to a ‘Psalm Book’,² that the book of Ballads was then separated from the psalter, taking with it the title page of the psalter. The psalter was then given a new title page.
² This ‘Psalm Book’ undoubtedly refers to a psalter or to the Book of Common Order bound with a psalter, and not to the Good and Godly Ballads.
Fleming, on the other hand says that “it has been suggested that the leaf [with the title page on it] was utilized in this way to serve as an advertisement of a forthcoming or projected edition of the Psalter,” and that it “has been doubted whether this edition [of the psalter] was ever really printed.” (Reformation, pp. 305-6)
Mitchell’s theory seemed ‘improbable’ to Fleming for two reasons. The first was that “Had the Psalter and the Ballatis been bound up together as one book, surely the Psalter would have received the place of honor [in front of the Ballads].” (Reformation, p. 306, fn.) McMillan responded to this saying, “This argument would have more weight if the Psalms printed in the Gude and Godlie Ballads had occupied that place of honor, but, as has been stated, they did not.” (p. 88, fn.)
McMillan was referring to the fact that in the three sections of songs in the Ballads, the doctrinal content came first (a catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, etc.), then the Psalms, and then secular songs turned into hymns. However, if the Ballads were for private use (to keep people from spending their recreational time in ‘harlotry’, per the title), then this is exactly what one would expect: the doctrinal matter comes first in order to teach people in the Christian faith, then comes the divinely given psalms for the praise of God, and then, only after that, human hymns are provided for further recreational and edifying material.
With regard to volumes intended for public use, the hymns appended to psalters always came after the psalter itself (for the obvious reason that the psalms were regularly used in the Church’s worship). The additional hymns never came before the psalms. On the other hand, if Mitchell’s theory were true, persons would have taken this 1567 hymnal-psalter to worship and would have had to flip through all of the hymns to get to the psalms that they were regularly singing in public worship. Fleming’s argument stands.
To understand Fleming’s second argument, one needs to understand how books were made in that era. The printer would use a large, over-sized piece of paper which would be folded one or more times, depending on the size of the book. Those folded papers would be placed together and bound to form the book. Once the outlying folds were cut, the pages would be ready to read. Hence, the first pages in a book would be part of the front page-folds of the larger paper, and the end pages of a book would be part of the end page-folds, or end half-sheets, of the larger paper. In addition, when books were bound together into the same volume, it was not often done with continuous page numbering or page folding. Rather, it was usually done simply by binding two separate volumes together, each with their own independent page-folding (which also was easier and cheaper). Advertisements for projected books of a publisher were normally placed at the end of the volume, and it is a matter of history that many of them were never completed.
Fleming’s second argument was that, “if the Psalter had been completed [and hence actually bound after the Ballads], or intended to be completed, it is not likely that the title-page [of the psalter] would have been printed on the concluding leaf of a half-sheet.” (Reformation, p. 306 fn.) To this argument McMillan does not respond. If Fleming’s second argument is not of itself determinative, the following is:
WorldCat, the largest, contemporary catalogue of books from across the world’s libraries, lists no other known edition of the purported 1567 psalter except the bare page at the back of the Good and Godly Ballads volume. The notes on the listing say, “Although psalms alone are called for on the titlepage, no separate Scottish edition of the psalms is known this early; see STC 2701 for the first independent edition.” The first known independent edition of a Scottish psalter, according to Short Title Catalogue #2,701 is from 1596.
A third argument will yet be given: The end of the ‘doxology’ has the very individualistic couplet: “Which Godhead never shall remove, Lord God deliver me.” The appropriateness of this as a repetitive conclusion for congregational worship is questionable, though it may have been thought appropriate for private use. As will be further seen, printers often added their own material and advice to these psalters at their own behest. Hence McMillan’s conclusion that “the Gloria if not commanded was certainly allowed” in pubic worship, still has not been established.
The Development of Doxologies
The development of using doxologies, in some context in Scotland, only occurred slowly over decades. A doxology for Psalm 148 (and only that psalm) turned up in a 1575 psalter, not after Psalm 148, but appended to the back of the psalter.ª The very appending of it to the rear of the psalter, out of sight for when persons actually sang psalm 148 in public worship, makes it doubtful whether the doxology was actually used in public worship, especially as others were likely using psalters that did not have that appendix. That doxology was retained in a 1587 psalter.
ª Scottish Psalter, Diss. II, p. 13
“No advance beyond this seems to have been made until”† a fully formed set of doxologies occurred in a psalter of 1595-6, “one adapted to each form of meter; the intention being that each Psalm should be terminated by one of these formulas.”º These doxologies in this edition by Henrie Charteris may be viewed in Livingston, Appendix, V – Conclusions to the Psalms, pp. VI-IX. Subsequent editions are not uniform: “The Conclusions disappear from the editions of 1611 and 1615, but are restored in that of 1633.”¹
† Fleming, p. 36
º Scottish Psalter, Diss. II, p. 14 & App., p. iv
¹ Ibid., App., p. ix
With regard to this mixed evidence, Fleming notes, “Few people will be inclined to lay much stress on the solitary doxology of 1575 & 1587; and as little can really be laid on the multifarious collection of 1595, for various reasons.” (p. 36) Some of those reasons respecting the 1595 edition of the Book of Common Order are that:
– The special title page to the Psalms suggests that all of the appendages to the psalter were exactly that, appendages of the publisher, and not something authorized for, or even condoned for public worship:
The Psalms of David in Metre. According as they are sung in the Kirk of Scotland. Together with the Conclusion, or Gloria Patri, after the Psalme: and also a Prayer after every Psalm, agreeing with the meaning thereof. (Livingston, p. 72, no. 3rd)
– The publisher deliberately made available various portions of the psalter and the prose appendages as separate, smaller volumes so as to make the the portions easier for ‘men in travel’ to carry and for children to buy ‘of easy price’, as ‘the discreet reader’ is told by the printer. (Livingston, p. 14 & App. p. II)
– Fleming relates with regard to the appended features of this edition: “The printers of those days, as has been already shown, took a good deal upon them; and Charteris seems in this edition to have eclipsed them all.” The edition, in five parts, not only containsª the psalter, psalm headings with a summary of each psalm, printed tunes, ‘prayers used in the Kirk’, doctrinal material (including a children’s catechism), a treatise on fasting, the Order of Excommunication, a treatise on excommunication, Bible-songs, hymns and the doxologies, but also a prayer after every psalm ‘agreeing with the meaning thereof’ and an almanac-calendar with a short, quaint, metered poem for each month. The poem for October reads:
“Warm clothes man now prepared be,
Also warm meats are good for thee,
Have good regard they feet be dry,
Thou shall avoid great harm thereby.”
ª This edition is most fully described in Robert Dickson & John Edmond, Annals of Scottish Printing... (Cambridge, 1890), pp. 371-3
“Must it be understood that because these verses are in [an appendix to a psalter appended to] the Book of Common Order they were sanctioned by the Church?… It might be further inferred that the printer was alone responsible for these additions; and this is borne out by the omission of the of the conclusions from so many later editions, and the prayers from all others. It is not reasonable to suppose that the printers would have left out the conclusions, if they had been in general use…” (Fleming, p. 37)
Were Doxologies Ever Officially Sanctioned?
McMillan notes that though there is no evidence that the doxologies were ever officially approved by the Church of Scotland, yet “considering the scanty records of the period in question that is not to be wondered at.” This response, however, is inadequate upon three grounds:
1. The process that brought the paraphrases of Bible-songs officially into the Church was extremely long and drawn out, primarily due to, amongst other reasons, the lack of interest, and that staggering when present. Besides beginning precedents in the mid-1600’s, the notion only got officially brought again in 1706, only to be delayed till 1741. In 1751 the Bible-songs were commended by the Church to be used privately in families. Only in 1781 were the Bible-songs officially allowed to be used in public worship.¹ Needless to say, nothing of the sort occurred for doxologies in the late-1500’s and early- 1600’s.
¹ M’Crie, Public Worship, pp. 278-290
2. If doxologies were ever officially allowed by the Church at that early time, one can be quite sure that persons later in the 1640’s would have appealed to such for the practice. Yet when the practice of singing the Gloria Patri became very common by the 1640’s, and it became a matter of hot dispute not to sing the Gloria Patri amongst the presbyterians in Scotland, no one has been documented being able to appeal to the Church officially sanctioning its use (and Baillie does not in his discussion with the yeomen).
3. When the Church did officially address the practice of the singing of the doxology during the Westminster era, the Church enjoined that it may be allowed to fall into ‘desuetude’. Addressing the practice this way is not what one would expect if the Church had previously, at any time, positively sanctioned the use of doxologies. Another ‘ceremony’ that singing the doxology was paired with was the minister bowing and praying before entering the pulpit, yet this practice was not officially sanctioned either.
(The same may be said for Scripture-songs. Most of the early ‘spiritual songs’ appended to psalters were Scripture-songs. The fact that they were not officially approved for public worship in the Church of Scotland till 1781, reflects on their status previous to that time.)
McMillan then brings an argument from the Church exercising overseeing control of religious literature printed in that era:
“…when one considers that the supreme court [of the Church] (Calderwood, 3.338) claimed and exercised the right of overseeing any work touching ‘religion or doctrine’, it is very difficult to believe that they allowed these to be printed in the Psalter, if they did not approve of them. Judging from the intervention which the Assembly exercised in other matters of church life, it is impossible to hold that they permitted these to be used in public worship without their consent.”
This argument is inadequate, however, for the following reasons:
1. McMillan footnotes the instance of the General Assembly of 1568 censuring and restraining the circulation of a ‘bawdy’ song appended to a Psalm book (Book of the Universal Kirk, 1839, pp. 100-101). This example though, is evidently of a song that the Assembly thought to be inherently immoral, and possibly that it contained false doctrine (it was entitled, ‘Welcome Fortune’; another book of the same printer was also censured at the same time as it appeared to contain false doctrine). This ground for censure is exactly what is spoken to in the Calderwood reference that McMillan provides.
2. Contrary to McMillan’s assumption, there still is no evidence that the doxologies were used in public worship, and hence the regulatory administration of the Assembly’s enactments did not necessarily consent to their use in public worship. It is true that the printing of the doxologies as appendices to the psalter was tolerated, just as hymns were, though singing hymns in public worship was against the Assembly’s Act of 1564. Clearly these things were tolerated as they had the appearance of possibly being used for edification outside of public worship, just as many of the very-inappropriate-for-public-worship, Good and Godly Ballads were. This is sufficient to answer McMillan’s argument that, “It would be equally true to say that there is no evidence that the Assembly made any objection to the use of these additional forms of praise…” (p. 89)
3. McMillan, in his statement, equates toleration with approval, as if there could be no difference. However, toleration without approval of the Church occurred in numerous instances, specifically when, in the 1640’s, the Church officially allowed the practice of the singing of the doxology to fall into ‘desuetude’ without approving it or condemning it.
4. Despite the evidence for some regulation of religious books being printed in Scotland at that time, there is also significant evidence that printers often printed as they willed, such as the 1611 example of a printer introducing for the first time (with his reasons stated, at his prerogative) the song of Moses in meter: ‘The Printer to the Reader’. A modern scholar, William Cowan, who was not friendly to presbyterianism, but did have an exhaustive acquaintance with the available evidence, said:
“A comparison of the contents of the different editions [of the Scottish psalters]… reveals the somewhat remarkable fact that these contents vary considerably, both in regard to the matter included and the order and arrangement of the several items. There seems to be no evidence that these changes were made by authority, or even had ecclesiastical sanction…. and, as a matter of fact, these printers made additions and changes without being called in question for so doing… Charteris… made extensive changes in the arrangement of the book, for which he gives his own reasons without any reference to church authority.”
– A Bibliography of the Book of Common Order and Psalm Book of the Church of Scotland: 1556-1644 (Edinburgh: Privately Printed, 1913), p. 6-7
The contemporary scholar, Duguid, with an equally comprehensive view of the evidence, confirms:
“Variations between the hundreds of psalter editions printed within this time‐span suggest that a strict standardising authority overseeing psalter printing did not exist and that performance practice varied widely.” (Sing a New Song, vol. 1, pp. 253-4)
5. That the existence of a practice, even in public worship, but especially as appended by printers to the Book of Common Order, does not imply that the Church of Scotland condoned it, is amply see in numerous instances. One such instance is that, though about half of the seventy editions of the Book of Common Order from 1560-1644 contained calendars of church seasons and festival days.†
Yet these editions, possibly printed by prelatic sympathizers, went contrary to the established Church law set forth in the First Book of Discipline (1560, First Head: ‘Of Doctrine’) which explicitly called for the abolishing of such holy-days, they having no warrant in God’s Word. The General Assembly, in their letter to Theodore Beza in 1564 (Works of John Knox, vol. 6, pp. 547-8), concerning the Second Helvetic Confession, also excluded such holy-days for the same reason. Calderwood showed that from the beginning of the Reformation to 1618, the Church of Scotland, in various ways, condemned all observation of such holy days except Lord’s Day.‡
Fleming’s argument against Bonar about appended hymns to editions of the Book of Common Order equally applies to doxologies:
“Why, it may well be asked, has Dr. Bonar ignored the Calendar and Fairs which appear in so many editions of the Book of Common Order? Was it because they savor of Prelacy, and so might have destroyed his argument by proving too much?” (p. 469 online)
† John A. Lamb, ‘The Kalendar of the Book of Common Order: 1564-1644’, Scottish Church History Society (1956)
‡ Perth Assembly… ([no place or publisher,] 1619), ‘Reasons Against Festival Days’, pp. 63-64
Doxologies in the Early-1600’s
After the full set of doxologies appended to the 1595/6 psalter, they disappear altogether in the editions of 1611 & 1615, though they would again be restored in some manner in 1633, 1635, and of course with the 1637 Book of Common Prayer that was sought to be imposed on Scotland (which did not go over very well with Jenny Geddes).
If doxologies were common in the early-1600’s, one might expect them to show up in some way, shape or form in a worship service. During this time no mention is made of hymns or doxologies in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery, and Synod of Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1846), though the public ‘singing of psalms’ was prescribed for funerals in 1606 (p. 54). In 1604 the Aberdeen session had ordained:
“…that all men and women in this burgh which can read, and are of famous report and ability, shall have bibles and psalm books of their own, and shall bring the same with them to their parish kirks, thereon to read and praise God, conform to the acts of parliament made thereanent.” (p. 40)
As psalters were commonly appended to the Book of Common Order, even as early as the 1560’s books of Common Order were often or usually simply referred to as ‘Psalm-books’. Hence, in the quote above, the people likely had in hand the Book of Common Order with their psalter; hence the ‘acts of parliament’ which they were to conform to were most likely those given in the Book of Common Order, which were those from the beginning of the Reformation in 1564. Of course, the Book of Common Order provided for nothing in the pubic worship of the Church besides the psalms. When the Aberdeen session records provided an instance of such reform to the public worship service in 1611, in light of the singing of psalms having fallen into disuse (likely due to the difficulty in some places of getting the people to sing together well), the only thing said to be reinstated for sung-praise was the singing of psalms. (p. 75)
The General Assembly of 1608 concluded in this way: “Thanks being given to God… by prayer and singing of psalms, the same was dismissed.” (Calderwood, History, 6.776)
The absence of anything sung besides the psalms is strikingly evident even in Episcopalian controlled worship services at this time. William Cowper (1568–1619) was made bishop of Galloway in 1612. Fleming records:
“…soon after he wrote the Seven Days Conference, in which he has given the fullest description which we now have of the worship of the Church of Scotland in those days. He refers several times to the singing of Psalms, without the slightest reference to hymns or doxologies.” (p. 38)
In describing the service conducted by the preacher, Cowper concluded:
“The preaching being ended, he concludes all with a thanksgiving [in prayer], after which there is a Psalm sung by the whole congregation, and then the minister blesses the people in the name of the Lord, and so demits them: you will see no other thing here.”
– William Cowper, Seven Days Conference between a Catholick christian, and a Catholicke Roman. Concerning some controversies of religion. (London, 1613), ‘The Seventh’, p. 219
Cowper’s conclusion, “you will see no other thing here” is significant in light of the fact that this representative Scottish worship service was being described to a Roman Catholic; Roman Catholics sung the Gloria Patri in their worship as a matter of course.
***Also see Sprott, Book of Common Order, p. xvi about proposed draft, 1616, which sneaks in Patri, but not singing, The British Magazine, 1845-6, vols. 28, p. 31, and vol. 29, by a Rev. Alexander Irwin.***
The episcopalian Articles of Perth (1618) were a major landmark in this era, as they imposed five objectionable worship practices upon the Scottish Church (though they did not touch on the sung praise of the Church). Yet, nonetheless, Walter Foster comments:
“Ordinary Sunday worship was not affected by the Perth Articles, and the great Sunday morning service of prayer and psalm, Scripture and sermon remained the most significant moment in the weekly rhythm of the church’s life.”
– Walter Foster, The Church Before the Covenants: the Church of Scotland, 1596-1638 (Ediburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1975), p. 200
The 1620’s & the Lord’s Supper
In 1620 a minister near Edinburgh was called before the episcopal court of the High Commission over conformity to the articles of Perth. While the specific points at hand were with regard to the administration of the Lord’s Supper and not observing holy-days, the minister’s defense would seem to reflect on the status and practice of psalmody according to Church law:
“Neither is there any warrantable form directed nor approven by the kirk beside that which is in print before the Psalm Book, according to the which, likeas I have always done, so now I minister that sacrament.” (Calderwood, History, 7.422)
Calderwood defended some ‘honest men’ in 1624 who would not attend the ‘Communions’ of certain Episcopal ministers (where kneeling before the Eucharist, according to the Articles of Perth, would be involved, amongst other things). In doing so, he said (again reflecting on the status and practice of psalmody according to Church law):
“…the Kirk of Scotland is bound by the Confession of Faith to maintain the order of ministration which was received in this kirk when the Confession of Faith was first subscribed, which order is registered in the First Book of Discipline, and in our Psalm Books, and is still practiced by two parts at lest of the congregations of Scotland, still opposing to these innovations.” (History, 7.618)
In 1623 Calderwood described in his Altar of Damascus, pp. 776-7 the communion service as it was performed in Scotland, both before his day and during his day. In the detailed description, the only thing he mentions being sung is psalms. Calderwood, in differentiating the strict Scottish practice according to the Word of God from the Anglican service (which used the Gloria Patri after psalms daily), said that the minister:
“…adds nothing to the words of Christ, changes nothing, omits nothing… the Minister delivers the cup to those nearest, repeating the words of Christ, without addition, mixture, change, or omission, and they hand it to those sitting beside them… In this form our Church has now for sixty years celebrated the Holy Supper.”
– This, as well as a portion of the larger passage has been translated in George W. Sprott, Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland… (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1868), pp. xxxix-xl
***Search altar of Damascus further for doxologie, patri, hymns, veni creator and te deum.***
The Book of Common Order confirms that the psalms were the only thing sung in the communion service for the previous 60 years since the Reformation. It it says, “The action thus ended, the people sing the 103 Psalm, ‘My soul, give laud…’ etc., or some other of thanksgiving…” (p. 145) As the psalter at that time had nothing but psalms in it, ‘some other of thanksgiving’ could only have referred to a psalm.
Hence, the Scottish reformers understood Christ to have sung a psalm in Mt. 26:30 after the first Lord’s Supper, insofar as the epistle ‘To the Reader’ appended to the communion service in the Book of Common Order says:
“Finally, the ministration ended, we give thanks again [by singing the psalm previously mentioned], according to his example [in Mt. 26:30]: So that without his word and warrant, there is nothing in this holy action attempted.” (p. 146)
Robert Boyd & Hymns
Robert Boyd (1578–1627), a native Scot, studied under Robert Rollock and taught as a professor of philosophy and theology in French academies for a large share of his life. He was presbyterian by conviction (which he suffered for) and subsequently became the principal at Glasgow University (1615-21) and also Edinburgh University (1622-23). Amongst other things Boyd was a poet and wrote a massive commentary in Latin on Ephesians. The commentary, which was published posthumously in 1652, appears to have been composed from serial lectures that he had given.
William Spang (in 1638) introduced the following quote of Boyd On Eph. 5:19 saying, “after that he has answered punctually all the arguments on the contraire and brought in arguments for his conclusion, thus he infers:”
“Wherefore it is possible from the foregoing that we should thus determine the first question, that it is not only lawful but signally advantageous to the edification of the Christian church, and that according to the sense and scope of the teachings of this apostle, to propone [propose] and permit other hymns and spiritual songs which besides these are contained in holy scripture, composed by men of worthy piety and faith, approved by common vote of the churches of at least one kingdom and language, for varied occasions, to be sung by the faithful in a solemn assembly of the church;
indeed from time to time to add as opportunity offers, new songs to earlier ones, first approved by ecclesiastical authority, which answer to the truth of Christian doctrine, the gravity of Christian profession, the purity of divine worship, the sanctity of the Spirit of Christ; which conduce to the elucidation of the glory of God, to the increase of faith and trust in God, to the encouragement and kindling of pious feeling in us; and which, thirdly, approach as closely as possible to the sense and intention of scripture, and of its norm and form, whether in wording or in content.”¹
¹ Robert Boyd, In Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios Praelectiones… (London, 1652), p. 728 lt. col. F & rt. col. A as trans. by Spang & Mullan in ‘William Spang to Henry Rollock, 1638’, p. 126 in Religious Controversy in Scotland, 1625-1639 ed. David G. Mullan in Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, vol 11 (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998). Boyd’s section on Eph. 5:19, Lecture 140, begins on p. 719, rt. col. A. In Lecture 141, the first question, which Boyd references above, begins on p. 726, rt col. B.
The theological conclusions of a human writer, of course, are only as good as they are able to derive them from the Scriptures. To give an example of how Boyd reasons, he argues on p. 727, rt. col. F, that the liberty of content one has in prayer ought to be granted for the content of public, sung-praise. This has already been shown from Scripture not to follow (in the Intro above). Boyd also infers from David’s exhortations to sing a new psalm that new uninspired material may be used (p. 727, lt. col. A-D), which has also been addressed (and could be addressed much further).
It should be noted that Boyd does not argue above that hymns ought to be regularly sung in the public worship of the Church, but only that hymns may be proposed and permitted to be sung in a solemn assembly of the Church “for varied occasions”. It seems that Boyd may have had in mind a person possibly composing a hymn for a great new providential event affecting the Church or nation. The infrequency of Boyd’s hymn-singing view is confirmed in that he projected hymns to be added to such a collection “from time to time… as opportunity offers”. This is confirmed in that:
By the time of Boyd’s death, the Scottish psalters that did have spiritual songs attached to them, had at most about ten, only half of which were hymns (none of which were officially sanctioned by the Church of Scotland). (Cowan, Bibliography, pp. 10-11, 31-9)
Boyd’s language appears to be very deliberate. His wording that it is ‘lawful’ for the Church to ‘permit’ hymns, as they would be “signally advantageous to the edification of the Christian church”, is not the same as saying that the Church must sing hymns, being absolutely required thereto. This ensures that Boyd is not condemning any of the reformed, exclusively psalm-singing churches. It will also be shown to be relevant in showing how, at the Westminster Assembly, individual persons who may have allowed for hymns in their private (or published) opinions could yet agree by majority vote to a document that only provides for psalms in the public worship of the Church.
Boyd’s argument, though, that composing hymns is lawful and even singularly advantageous for the Church upon certain occasions, is troubling in that it poses the moral, insufficiency of the psalter for all of the various occasions that may arise for the Church. If the Canon of Scripture is sufficient in the applicability of its moral content for every occasions that may arise for the Church, without new Scripture needing to be written, it is not clear why any new praise-songs would need to be written for new occasions when the the applicability of the moral content of the psalter is completely sufficient thereto. The very fact of God choosing not to preserve in the Canon the prophetically given, new, praise-songs in the early Church (1 Cor. 14) further evidences the sufficiency of the psalter for the praise of the Church in all ages.
Boyd’s sentiment was very different from that of the Reformation Church of Scotland. The Church had enjoined in 1564 every minister to “have one of the Psalm books lately printed in Edinburgh, and use the order contained therein…” The Edinburgh psalter of 1564/5 contained no hymns, but it did contain the following sonnet by William Stewart on the sufficiency of the psalter. Speaking of the Church of Scotland’s faithful pastors, it said:
“Out of whose hands (with great thanks) now receive
All David’s Psalms set forth in pleasant verse:
A greater gift of them thou couldst not crave,
Whose endless fruit my pen cannot rehearse:
For here thou hast, for every accident
That may occur, a doctrine pertinent.”
– Knox, Works 6.334
The most significant thing to note about Boyd’s quote though, is that, for whatever his opinion on the matter was, he does not actually say that any church in Scotland was singing hymns in public worship; and with this agrees Boyd’s published poetry and hymns:
Boyd wrote in Latin a poem of 100 stanzas “to Christ the Savior”, entitled, Hecatomb ad Christum Servatorem. The poem apparently was not intended to be sung in churches, as it is in Latin. Nor was it likely to be sung at all, unless one could have found a tune fitting repeating 11-11-11-5 stanzas (they did not have an overwhelming plethora of psalm tunes available in that day).
Boyd’s ‘The Sacrifice of a Sinner, to Christ our Redeemer’ (1628) is in English, though, with a series of 8-8-8-6 stanzas it still is not clear that the average person could have found a tune for it. The 44 stanzas of the poem seem to make it clear that it at least was not meant to be sung all at once (if it was to be sung at all, which might be doubted). It very likely was not sung in public worship given the individualistic character of the poem, and it mentioning things like politicians (stanzas 1,2,10,14,16), not to mention that it was not “approved by common vote of the churches of at least one kingdom and language”.
The first evidence of an independent praise song, besides a psalm, being sung in a Scottish church in public worship (and the opposition to it) will be seen to have been in the 1630’s, though it was an inspired, Scripture-song, and that Scottish church was not actually in Scotland.
The Rise of the Doxology under Episcopalianism, 1617-1637
As will be seen by the evidence, there is no doubt that by the early-1640’s a particular doxology had come to be commonly sung among the presbyterians, with numerous of the Church’s leading lights defending the practice. However, the implications of this for those persons’ theology may not be what one might at first think, as will be seen.
Two main interpretations of the foregoing evidence, and that to come, exists: (1) That doxologies were in common enough use in the Scottish Church since the Reformation in 1560, or at least since 1595, and that their popularity was not due to Episcopalian tendencies;† (2) That the use of doxologies in the Scottish Church since the Reformation was unauthorized and limited at best; and that doxologies probably did not come to grow to be commonly used until the early-1600’s, under Episcopacy, especially between 1617-1637.‡
† The Liturgical Renewal writers of the late-1800’s and early-1900’s, George W. Sprott, Thomas Leishman and William Maxwell, took this view, as well as did McMillan and C.G. M’Crie, who fell somewhere in between these persons and the early worship of the Free Church of Scotland.
‡ Argued by Livingston, Fleming, Thomas Thomson, and briefly mentioned by Laing.
McMillan, taking the first view, argues thus:
“It has also been suggested that the presence of these ‘conclusions’ in the Psalter was due to Episcopalian tendencies,² but that theory may be dismissed when the express statement of Calderwood is remembered, that in 1596, the year after the full series [of doxologies] had been issued [in the edition of Charteris], the ‘Kirk of Scotland was now come to her perfection and the greatest purity that ever she attained… The assemblies of the saints were never so glorious, nor so profitable to everyone of the true members thereof.’
The historian [Calderwood] who may have been ordained in the year mentioned, could not have written as he has done had he thought that the Doxology was something incompatible with Presbyterianism which had been thrust upon the Church, or something newly introduced against the Church’s wish.³
³ History, V, 387. It may be noted that the Doxologies were not printed in the first two Psalters (those of 1611 and 1615) published under Episcopal auspices.”
Thomas M’Crie the younger tells the story of 1596 in short space The Story of the Scottish Church from the Reformation to the Disruption (London: Blackie, 1875), pp. 86-87
Calderwood would take notice of the doxology being forced on the Church, but not necessarily the doings of a single printer, when numerous were around. Calderwood in 1596 was intereted in renewing the National/King’s Covenant, official proceedings in the Church courts, not necessarily a private printer.
Calderwood’s history goes up to 1625, no mention of doxology in it. Calderwood was ordained and installed in 1604 per his bio p. iv and Dictionary. In 1596 probably in Edinburgh around graduation time.
After Charteris 1595/6, there are 49 editions of the Book of Common Order and/or the Psalter.
only 8 of them have conclusions in them, 16%, 5 in Edinburgh, 3 in Aberdeen (1625-33). As those were the only two printers of psalters, see intro, that means there were 41 editions or 84% of the psalters without conclusions.
The ones with conclusions were in: 1617, 1625, 1634, 1635 & 1642.
1636 William Brereton, “on the Lord’s Day they do assemble ‘twixt eight and nine in the morning, and spend the time in singing psalms and reading chapters of the Old Testament.” P. Hume Brown, Early Travellers in Scotland, 1891, p. 146?
Novelties are soon accepted, Sprott, fleming, p. 38
Livingston, contra McMillan does not say that the rise of them was due to episcopalian influences
1638 William Spang in Netherlands, reserved Dictionary of Scottish Church History
Controversies, pp. 125-126
quotes Robert Boyd’s Commentary on Ephesians
Livingston was open to the use of doxologies, not against them theologically (p. 4)
“…in the beginning of 1596, the year after their publication; and adds that in the end of that year began ‘the doleful decay and declining of this Kirk.’ It is more conceivable that they were inserted quietly, on the printer’s own responsibility or that of other private parties; and their disappearance from most of the subsequent editions lends countenance to this conjecture. Even those for common metre are wanting in so important an edition as that of 1615. Very possibly those who had Episcopal leanings had most to do with their first introduction; but the absence of any trace of controversy on the subject warrants the inference that other parties acquiesced, so far at least as to make the use of them a matter of forbearance. It may also be inferred from the state of the psalm books that they were used only to a partial extent till after 1615.” (p. 37)
“but whether they were then introduced gradually or at once–whether their adoption was in compliance with court pressure for approximation to Episcopal practices [as it was standard in the Prayer Book], or from a spontaneous movement of the church, are doubtful questions.” (p. 4)
Calderwood’s history ends when? Maybe it came after that is why does not notice it, include longer summary quote from Livingston that he was a stickler for order.
That the growth of doxologies happened during prelatical times is not a conjecture, its a fact.
as well as David Laing, get quote
Eutaxia p. 132 about no change in book of common order, 1601, with reference to prayers, put in with whether psalm in BCO entails hymns
1596 book of common order, full set of conclusions by charteris, disappear 1611, 1615, restored in 1633,
1637 Scottish English liturgy has the gloria patri, gloria in excelsis for communion
Quote MacWard on doxology/benediction issues, why in service with Knox, because it is a different element.
See also Fleming’s discussion of the same for more arguments in ‘Hymnology’, part 1, pp. 461- 470.
Benson, p. 36, great quote on no evidence in public worship as in Bushell p. 195
Also check more contemporary scottish worship sources
Refute David Stevenson, p. 100.
Baillie’s conference,º probably around 1643, is noteworthy on a few counts. Baillie relates that the yeomen made a distinction between the regulation and content of prayer and the regulation and content of praise-song:
“That it is lawful to conclude every prayer with the matter of this conclusion [doxology] none of you doubts, for it is your daily practice, according to Christ’s pattern. Now, it is strange, if a praise, which you say is lawful and pleases God, [should be unlawful] when it is sung at the back of our praises.”
Baillie on the doxology being a paraphrase, and thus a paraphrase of Scripture.
Yet at Westminster the presbyterians and independents gave it up in order to be close to the text.
Also, as Baillie warns ‘the three or four yeomen’ of his flock against adopting the tenets of Brownism (after the English, radical Separatist Robert Browne, who parted ways with Thomas Cartwright in the 1580’s), it shows that English developments in the previous half century were known to those in Scotland and may have had some influence with persons in Scotland. Yet Baillie does not actually say that his congregants had professed, adopted or even been influenced by Brownism.
º As given from an unpublished document in Neil Livingston, The Scottish Metrical Psalter of A.D. 1635… (Glasgow, 1864), Dissertation 3, section 3, ‘Conclusions’, p. 36-7
Further, many or most of the Brownists were against not only singing the metrical psalms, but were against publicly and congregationally singing anything at all (which Baillie mentions). Yet Baillie says that this was not the case for his congregants.
What Baillie does not mention, is that singing the metrical psalms, but not the doxology, was the view and practice of Thomas Cartwright and much of English presbyterianism. Also, the evidence currently available to us only shows that singing such a doxology only came to possibly have some prevalence in Scotland in 1595-6, 36 years after the Reformation and eight years before Baillie was born. More will be commented on this and sourced below.
Livingston remarks, “Possibly the ‘yeomen’ addressed by Baillie may have represented a considerable portion of the Scottish people who entertained scruples respecting this usage, and this portion would probably be larger at an earlier period.” (p. 4)
Copy and paste from History of psalm singing, on Conclusions about McMillan.
No matter how common or popular it may have been in certain contexts or periods in Scotland, it was against the law of the Church that said to sing from the 1564/5 psalter, which did not have them in it.
Conclusion, fleming p. 34
The committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Session 14, Dec. 6, 1638) – ‘Animadversions on the [Anglican] Service Booke’:
“Ninth, Every day the hymn Te Deum laudamus is appointed to be read or sung; as if an hymn composed by men were holier than all the psalms and hymns dictated by the Holy Ghost.”
ed. James Gordon, History of Scots Affairs, vol. 2 (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1841), bk. 3, ch. 50, ‘Animadversions on the Service Booke’, p. 61
But could they really have understood psalms hymns and spiritual psalms as only referring to those dictated by the Holy Ghost? Yes.
McMillan references James Gordon (1615?-1686) of Rothiemay who wrote vol. 3, p. 250 who says that the doxology fell into desuetude, but probably repeating simply the language of the Church legislation, about 1640, that the doxology was from the reformation is speculative. Graduated 1636 when use was common, was episcopal parson and conformist, not for the National Covenant. Rothiemay in the Northest near Aberdeen.
Fergusson, etc. Mid-1600’s
James Fergusson (1621-1667), a Scottish Covenanter, in his commentary on Galatians & Ephesians (1659), took the phrase in Eph. 5:19 to refer to “David’s Psalms and other scriptural songs”, understanding ‘spiritual’ to refer to all three of the terms, ‘psalms’, ‘hymns’ and ‘songs’. Hence, Ferguson held inspiration to be a requirement for singing praise to the Lord (which was the dominant early Church view).
Fleming p. 54
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.
Rev. Jones references Fergusson in his article in order to support his conclusion that:
Add in MacWard, protestor, who held to that legislation after it was rescinded by Charles II
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), include the group of 26 puritans who endorsed the 1673 Preface to the Scottish Psalter (below).
The Scottish covenanter David Dickson did not hold that that use was for public worship, as he remained exclusive psalmody in his practice thereof, and yet he wrote a song about the Christian life (not a praise-hymn, though it did include sporadic ejaculations of praise), warranting this song, in the original edition, upon the text, Col. 3:16: ‘True Christian Love’ (1655, the beginning of the work makes clear that it was intended to be sung).
Ferguson’s opinion that non-psalm, Scriptural songs may be sung as worship to God must have related to only private practice and not the public worship of the Church, because after 1649 it was contrary to the Church-law of Scotland for anything besides the 150 psalms to be sung in the public worship of the Church. Robert Baillie, another Scottish covenanter, provides the Act of the Commission of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for Nov. 23, 1649 in his Letters (Edin., 1842), vol. 3, p. 548, which says of what would become known as the 1650 Scottish Psalter (which was received from the Westminster Assembly and only includes the 150 psalms), that it was “to be the only paraphrase of the Psalms of David to be sung in the Kirk of Scotland;” and that they were “discharging the old paraphrase, and any other than this new paraphrase, to be made use of in any congregation or family after the first day of May in the year 1650.”
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) above?.
Give conclusion of David Hay Fleming on Scotland.
Mirabello, Mark Linden – Ch. 8, ‘The Worship of the Established Church’ in Dissent and the Church of Scotland, 1660-1690, pp. 153-167 PhD dissertation check this for stuff
late 1600s, presbyterians against doxology, Thomas Morer, 1715 Appendix, ‘A Short Account of Scotland’, p. lxviii in Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery and Synod of Aberdeen. See also in 1662, p. 267
Bushell, p. 191, no evidence of debating hymns at Westminster, only which psalters and lining out
Zachary Boyd, Winzer and fleming, p. 22
Westminster Confession (1645) 21.5 states:
“The… singing of psalms with grace in the heart… are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:”
It uses as proof-texts for this statement: Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13. Whatever Westminster understood to be ‘psalms’ in this passage can fairly be said to manifest its interpretation, as a body, of the phrase, ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19.
The following historical article strongly argues from the specific context of Westminster that its Confession is an exclusive psalmody document:
Winzer, Matthew – Westminster and Worship Examined: a Review of Nick Needham’s Essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Teaching Concerning the Regulative Principle, the Singing of Psalms, and the Use of Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God from the Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008) Buy 13 pages, pp. 253-266
Part of Rev. Winzer’s conclusion is that (p. 260):
“It has been demonstrated that the Church of England, in conscientiously pursuing covenanted uniformity with the Church of Scotland, sought to make provision for that part of worship called “the singing of psalms” by preparing and authorising a book of metricated Old Testament Psalms to be used throughout the kingdom.
They made no further provision for the singing of any other materials in the Church of England. When this is taken in connection with the fact that nothing was to be used in public worship but what was authorised by public authority, it becomes clear that the covenanted Church of England adopted the same exclusive psalm-singing practice as the covenanted Church of Scotland.”
Hence, the covenanted consensus of the Westminster Assembly as a body (whatever variation of opinion may have existed amongst its particular members) in its public declaration and practice was that the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 only referred to the book of psalms.
Davies, Worship & Theology in England, etc., p. 276, “The duty of Psalm-singing was canonised in the Westminster Directory for both public and private worship.” The Worship of the English puritans, p. 168,
“The position of the presbyerians does not demand further considerations, since that is represented by the official approval given to metrical psalmody by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in which Presbyterians were an overwhelming majority.”
Its what most everyone could agree on, and more not allowed in order to not break unity. Lowest Common Denominator.
especially as those Independents represented at Westminster and composing about half of its committee for the Directory for Public Worship, psalm singing appeared to be dominant. Bible songs they would not be able to agree on, and even the hymns occassionally allowed by the Independents were not necessarily and ordinance, much less of congregational praise-song.
Those who did sing hymns, in all this evidence, it seems that they could sing hymns, not that they must sing hymns, such is nowhere clearly to be found and an anachronism.
It is possible to interpret Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19 as allowing for hymns in the terms, and yet that those terms are fulfilled by only singing psalms insomuch as psalms are included in those terms.
Also a difference between the theory that Col & Eph allowed for hymns in WCF, and there is evidence that they actually sang hymns in public worship, the latter seems there is no evidence for.
Variation of opinion of members is somewhat irrelevant: Philip Nye, and Independent, opposed all the singing of psalms. Check and link Sprott.
An old interpreter such as G.W. Sprott does not even raise the question that psalm might mean hymn. Check Ward and others on West. commentaries page, and in contemporary works.
Also in the 1640’s ordinance of one person singing a hymn to congregation, Baillie Dissuasive and Edwards, Gangrene, Holmes p. 19 argues against it.
The English Presbyterians After Westminster, Late-1640’s
While the Church of Scotland shortly went on to adopt the Westminster standards, strangely enough, the English presbyterians did not.† Part of the reason for this is that, while presbyterianism was fully developed in Scotland, and so could act efficiently with concord, in “England presbytery had yet to be organized, and at every step it encountered conflicting and neutralizing influences.”‡
Yet presbyterianism held the dominance in the Long Parliament and in 1647 Parliament ordained that “all parishes within England and Wales be brought under… the form of presbyterial government agreed upon by the Assembly of divines at Westminster.” (Ibid.) This ‘form’ was not ‘Form of Presbyterial Church Government’ (1644), that was adopted by the Church of Scotland (which speaks of the singing of psalms as an ordinance), with which many are familiar. Rather, Westminster had a year later in 1645 produced another document similar to this, entitled, A Directory for Church-Government and Ordination of Minsters. This Directory also speaks of the singing of psalms as an ordinance of worship, and it was sent to the Church of Scotland in 1647 to be adopted, though it never was.
Upon this latter Directory was drawn up by Parliament the presbyterian document that would govern English presbyterianism from 1647-1662, The Form of Church Government to be Used in the Church of England and Ireland… After Advice had with the Assembly of Divines (printed 1648). This Form prescribes the singing of a ‘psalme’ in the service for an ordination (p. 24), and mentions the singing of ‘praise’ elsewhere, but it does not have an explicit list of the regular worship ordinances that the Directory had, and it no where else mentions the singing of psalms, though it occasionally mentions all the other regular elements of worship together.
As a product of this Form, twelve presbyteries were set up in London and their biannual synod was called the London Provincial Assembly.¹ In 1648 the London Provincial Assembly petitioned Parliament to ordain and enjoin the ‘Confessions and Catechisms’ so “that they may be publicly taught and learned throughout the whole Kingdom.” (M’Crie, p. 182 fn.) The civil establishment of these psalm-singing documents did not occur.
¹ A.H. Drysdale, History of the Presbyterians in England... (London, 1889), p. 310
At the end of 1648, the presbyterian Long Parliament was purged by Army (filled with Independents and sects) and came to be called the Rump Parliament, which henceforth was dominated by Independents. The Rump Parliament would last until 1653, when it was dissolved and replaced by the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, an Independent (and a Familialist, according to Samuel Rutherford; Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, 1648). Cromwell would rule till his death in 1658.
The execution of King Charles I by the Rump Parliament in 1649 seemed to open up a new eschatological horizon for an ambitious, new and radical political sect called the Fifth Monarchy Men. There having been four monarchies in the Book of Daniel, they thought that the fifth, their own (one of the saints), would usher in Christ’s personal reign on earth. They would reach the height of their political power just as the rest of the Rump Parliament in 1653 dissolved that body so that the Fifth Monarchy Men wouldn’t take over.
“…composed hymns deliberately to embody their doctrines. These were given out from the pulpit, usually after the sermon which they summarized… This is a point that… gives the key to this new departure, the re-invention of the homiletical hymn… this group of preachers provided hymns to respond to the sermon. The novelty was quickly taken up, especially by the preachers with novel doctrines…”
– W.T. Whitley, Congregational Hymn-Singing (London ), p. 92
The Fifth Monarchy Men appear to be the first documented English group that practiced true, congregational hymn-singing. Whitley calls their practice the ‘re-invention of the homiletical hymn’. The first invention of the homiletical hymn, the index of her book indicates, was with Luther and the Lutheran churches in Germany after the Reformation, who did not hold to what is now called the Regulative Principle of Worship.
Another strange event occurred in 1649, but among the London presbyterians. No doubt due to pressure from the newly purged Rump Parliament (many of which sectarians desired no public, congregational singing in churches at all), the London Provincial Assembly agreed that “singing of psalms shall not be ennumerated among the substantials of Church government.” (M’Crie, p. 181-2 fn.)
Note that this was not a removal of the psalms from worship services, but it was only a refraining of mentioning them publicly in order to prevent offense from others (such as some of, many or most of the Independents), and that only with regard to the ‘substantials’ of Church government.
The 1650’s, Jus Divinum & the Bay Psalm Book
To back up a few years, in 1646, ‘sundry London ministers’ had published a book from London during the Westminster context which argued, amidst opposing forms of Church government, the divine right of presbyterian Government. It was entitled, Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, or the Divine Right of Church Government. In that Westminster context it had asserted that the “[S]inging of psalms is a divine ordinance…” and proof-texted this with Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19 (p. 58). This major work was reprinted in 1647 and 1654. This third, augmented edition was considered by the authors to be a refined presentation of their view; it included the affirmation about singing psalms.
The London Provincial Assembly, also in 1654, put out a second major work, with the similar name of: Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici, or The Divine Right of the Gospel-Ministry. The previous work was about the leading and distinctive elements of the whole of presbyterianism; this work focuses in on simply the Gospel-ministry. The reason for the difference is the difference in context: with Independency swarming London, laypersons were commonly held to be able to preach, if not administer the sacraments. The work defended the Biblical teaching that only ordained ministers are to do so.
This work, however, being produced by the London Provincial Assembly (and not simply a group of individual ministers), does not mention any regular singing of psalms by the congregation as an ordinance. The only place in which it mentions the singing psalms is in respect to 1 Cor. 14:26-30, to prove that that instance in the worship of the apostolic Church was extraordinary, miraculous and inspired (the normal presbyterian interpretation), contrary to the ordinary, non-inspired view (pp. 98-99) which hymn-singing sectaries and Independents often held to.
Leigh’s work reprinted in the 1650’s check, influential
Sydenham, Cuthbert – A Gospel-Ordinance Concerning the Singing of Scripture Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs Buy 1654 122 pp. English Presbyterian
Francis Roberts, London, 1657 God’s Covenants, was a presbyterian see wiki
Clapham, Jonathan – A Short and Full Vindication of that Sweet and Comfortable Ordinance, of Singing of Psalms. Together with some profitable rules, to direct weak Christians how to sing to edification. And a brief confutation of some of the most usual cavils made against the same. Published especially for the use of the Christians… ToC 1656 an english historian and poet
The Bay Psalm Book of New England in 1640 had only included the 150 psalms with a preface on psalm singing. The third edition in 1651 (ed. Dunster) included some Bible songs and changes to a grounding on inspiration.
Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (1948; Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), p. 167,
“In the main it was a revision of Rous’s version. It had… a lasting influence upon the psalmody not only of North America, but also of England and Scotland. Sufficient proof of its popularity and influence is to be found in the fact that it passed through eighteen English and twenty-two Scottish editions.”
Probably some evidence that psalm singing took a rise in the 1650’s among the Independents, Curwen, pp. 83-4
While there are not many references to anything being sung in
Minutes of the Manchester Presbyterian Classis [1646-1660], Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 ed. William A. Shaw Chetham Society, vols. 20, 22 & 24
Minutes of the Bury Presbyterian Classis, 1647-1657, Part 1, Part 2 ed. William A. Shaw Chetham Society, vols. 36 & 41 (1896/98)
Some of the few primary source documents that have been published for English presbyterianism for that period, yet none of them mentions hymns, and all of the sung worship in private, family or public refers to psalms, for instance ‘the congregation sung a psalme’, see:
Samuel Langley (fl. 1649-1660) was appointed to the Swettenham, Cheshire parish by the puritan and presbyterian House of Lords in 1648 and was a non-conformist at the Restoration in 1660. He maintained a long-held friendship with the presbyterian Henry Newcome (bap. 1627-1695).
Rev. Jones goes on to say of Ball, “[e]vidently, his work influenced Samuel Langley who wrote uninspired hymns for public worship (see A catechisme shorter then the short catechisme compiled principally by Mr. Ball out of which this (for the most part) was taken, … also a spirituall song for the Lords Supper, or Communion, put into an ordinary tune […] together with two other hymns or psalms […] London, 1649).”
The specific title page to the “Spirituall Song or an Affectionat Hymne” refers to it being, not for churches or public worship, but “for the use Christians in the Celebration of the Communion’. The preface to the hymn, again, does not speak of it being for the purpose of being sung in public worship. Rather, it says:
“The design aimed at in the composing of this song, is to affect the soul [singular] with melting joys and thankful mournings according to the nature of the Lord’s Supper. It is made public to save the labor of often transcribing it for the benefit of those [persons?] for whose use it was particularly at first intended. Besides it is hoped other sincere Christians whom may see it, if they make use thereof, may have cause to glorify God…”
All of this is consistent with persons using the hymn to privately prepare for the Supper, whether that be the night before, the morning of, etc. Is it likely that every person in a church would buy a copy of the catechism the hymn is bound with, and bring it with them to the place of worship to sing out of, in addition to holding onto their Prayer-Book?
The purpose of the remaining two hymns in the volume is given on p. 16, “To fill up the remaining vacant pages, these two following hymns are added.”
During the Protectorate with Cromwell, 1653-1659
“…the [Anglican] liturgy being abolished… the fanaticism of the times led many to think… that no singing but the singing of David’s Psalms was to be tolerated in a church that pretended to be forming itself into the most perfect model of primitive sanctity.” A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, vol. 4 (London, 1776), p. 56
After the Restoration in England, 1660
After the Protectorate of the Independent Cromwell through the 1650’s came the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, establishing an Erastian Episcopacy in the Church of England again. Paving the way for what was to come, in 1662 the Great Ejection defrocked some 2,000 puritan ministers from the Anglican Church.
1662 ff. presbyterians left without doctrinal standards, a form of government or a directory for worhsip, and hence acted very indpendently amidst the Independents.
Yet, in all of this, the post-Restoration government and Church sought “the reinstatement of Congregational psalmody in parish churches”, which “was effected with some difficulty” in the dilapidated conditions. (Benson, p. 75)
For the Anglican churches, adopted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer service, while revised, yet substantially the same. Good quote for them and non-conformists in John Durel a conformist Anglican, A View of the Government and Publick Worship of God in the Reformed Churches beyond the Seas: wherein is shewed their conformity and agreement with the Church of England, as it is established by the Act of Uniformity (London : J.G. for R. Royston, 1662), p. 183.
The Rise of Hymnody, 1660 and Following:
The Savoy Conference, 1660
Benson says that, in tracing the rise of English hymn singing, that “we have also to take account of the advances… on that Puritan side of the Church… under the leadership of such men as [William] Barton, [Richard] Baxter and [John] Mason†”. (p. 82)
† Mason (1646?-1694) was a conformist, Anglican, Calvinist minister “and somewhat of a Fifth Monarchy man.” (Whitley, p. 99) He likely suffered from mental illness at the end of his life, but that did not stop him from fervently preaching on the imminent return of Christ to reign for a thousand years on earth, attracting a cult following on his property in doing so. His followers held to believed in his immortality, even after his corpse was exhumed and showed to them.
Whitley says of him: “He published in 1683 a volume of Spiritual Songs, which ran to twenty editions, though it is not clear that the songs did actually pass into congregational use.” (p. 99)
One of the few theologians whom Rev. Jones references who clearly did advocate for singing hymns in the public worship of the Church was the congregationalist, Richard Baxter,¹ though Rev. Jones did not actually reference Baxter for this point specifically.
¹ Besides the below, see also Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (1948, SDG 1997) Appendix A, p. 263; Baxter, The Reformation of the Liturgy (1661) & Mr. Richard Baxter’s paraphrase on the Psalms of David in metre with other hymns (London, 1692), especially the Preface.
Baxter played a significant role at the Savoy Conference (1661), which was called by King Charles II just after the Restoration in order to confer with 12 leading independents and presbyterians (called in that context often simply ‘presbyterians’) on how the Book of Common Prayer might be revised for the Anglican Church going forward. The ‘presbyterian’ divines allowed Baxter solely to write up the ‘Reformed Liturgy’, which, when it was “read by the ministers, was generally approved of”.‡
‡ Edward Calamy, the younger, An Abridgment of Mr. Baxter’s History of his Life and Times, vol. 1 (London, 1713), ch. 8, p. 158
The ‘Reformed Liturgy’ was then proposed by the ‘presbyterians’ to the 12 bishops at the Conference.
The order of the weekly worship of the ‘Reformed Liturgy’, says, after the minister reads a chapter from the Old Testament:
“And after that the 67 or 98 or some other Psalm, may be sung or said, or the Benedictus [Song of Zechariah], or Magnificat [Song of Mary].”
The allowance of Bible-songs outside of the psalter, here proposed at Savoy to be sung as praise to God in the regular, public worship of the Church, was a departure from the prescription of Westminster in its Confession and Directory of Public Worship.
Interestingly it is given as an alternative to singing psalms. That is, exclusive psalm singing ministers and congregations could acquiesce in the liturgy proposed for all of England, without ever singing praise to God in public worship outside of the Psalter. It is also noteworthy that the liturgy says that the Bible songs may be ‘said’, that is as prayers.
After the close of the regular weekly service, the ‘Reformed Liturgy’ says:
“Here are also adjoined… a Hymn to be used at the discretion of the minister either after sermon, or at the Communion, or on other days.” (p. 36)
The lengthy ‘hymn’ follows on pp. 44-46. The ‘Reformed Liturgy’ makes clear Communion was not held weekly. (p. 36) The end of ‘The Order of Celebrating the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ’, just before concluding with the ‘Blessing’, says this:
“Next sing some part of the Hymn in meter, or some other fit Psalm of Praise (as the 23, 116, or 103, or 100, etc.)” (p. 58)
Notice though, that the ‘Reformed Liturgy’ says that use of ‘the Hymn’ is at ‘the discretion of the minister’, and that singing of a psalm may be used instead. Hence, use of ‘the Hymn’ was allowable, but optional. Exclusive psalmody ministers and congregations in England would still be allowed in public worship to sing only the 150 psalms.
As the ‘Reformed Liturgy’ does not speak of ‘a hymn’, but rather ‘the Hymn,’ the term appearsº to refer to the lengthy hymn that the liturgy had provided, which has four parts to it.
º Benson says that ‘the hymn’ refers to a hymn from the Old Version of the psalter (Sternhold & Hopkins), entitled, The Lord be Thanked for his Gifts’, but he does not cite his authority for this.
It is noteworthy that ‘the Hymn’ is simply a string of various Scripture verses set to meter and conjoined together. This explains another peculiar phrase that the ‘presbyterian’ party at Savoy used in an exception of theirs against a place in the Book of Common Prayer, which reads: “We desire that some psalm or scripture hymn may be appointed instead of that apocryphal [song].”¹
¹ ‘The Presbyterian Exceptions Against the Book of Common Prayer’ being Appendix 2 of The Book of Common Prayer as Amended… A.D. 1661, ed. Shields (Philadelphia: Claxton, 1867), p. 156
This ‘scripture hymn’, being distinguished from a ‘psalm’, thus, more than likely refers to singing inspired texts, arranged at will. Such a use of ‘hymn’ by the presbyterians at Savoy shows:
(1) How ‘hymns’ began to be conceived and developed in reformed thought for public worship;
(2) That the terms ‘psalm’ and ‘hymn’ must have commonly had a different connotation, insofar as they were distinguished from each other at Savoy;
(3) That, as those terms likely had not radically changed in the English context in the previous 15 years or so, so Westminster, in only affirming ‘psalms’ to be sung, did not intend, by their word choice, to include hymns; and
(4) That the ‘presbyterians’ at Savoy had made a departure from the prescribed exclusive psalmody of of Westminster by allowing for inspired texts outside of the psalter to be used in public worship.
The Savoy Conference, however, “was to break up without consensus, and Baxter’s liturgy was relegated to the history of ‘what might have been if only.'” (Spinks, p. 513)
The general character of the public sung praise amongst the Independents after the Restoration may be seen by a testimony of their leading representatives. In 1663, Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye and Joseph Caryl met privately with King Charles II and said to him, respecting the Independent churches, that “…we have in our churches all parts of worship, as preaching, praying, reading, and singing of psalms, and the sacraments…”º
º A letter of William Hooke, in John Waddington, Congregational History, 1567-1700… (London, 1874), ch. 15, p. 579
However, Benson writes on Baxter’s larger significance in the opposite direction, that he:
“…was in fact the leader… of the movement to introduce hymn singing into the [non-conformist] churches. He was… ‘the only begetter’ of William Barton’s Centuries of Hymns, which began to appear in 1659, but he occupied ground far in advance of Barton’s ventures.” (pp. 84-5)
“…behind the early Nonconformist hymn singing there was no Independent leader before Watts so influential and so outspoken as Richard Baxter…” (p. 88)
The Book of Common Prayer, 1662
The Book of Common Prayer was revised in 1662. The revised edition said that in the weekly service, a new uninspired hymn, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, “may be sung”. After certain prayers, the service continues: “And then, a hymn having been sung, will follow the Sermon…” (p. 43) After the Sermon, if there is to be no Communion, then the minister “will conclude the service with a prayer and hymn suited to the Sermon, and with the Benediction.” (p. 44)
While the unspecified hymns mentioned likely could have allowed psalms, yet it seems very possible that they allowed and encouraged uninspired hymns. In the cathedrals and large town churches, the choir could have prepared something for their performance. In the parish churches, the hymn could have been lined out by a precentor or memorized by the congregation.
See also preface to a Playford book late-1500’s that may indicate these people were singing hymns publicly.
The Dissenters, 1660’s to the 1680’s
During the era of persecution that followed, till 1688, Benson believed that the non-conformist churches “doubtless satisfied their craving for a purer version of the Psalms by employing some one of the current Psalters of the more literal type.”
Nonetheless, Benson says elsewhere that the “singing of hymns in Independent meeting-houses began in the last quarter of the 18th century,† introduced there as elsewhere by divines who had become restless under the limitations of an Old Testament psalmody.” (p. 104)
† Benson footnotes this with a reference to a minister in Rothwell named Mr. Browning, whose pastorate ended in 1685, who used hymns “at the Lord’s Table”. However, Browning was a baptist; and the baptist history of hymns, which does not fit within our scope, had quite the checkered past. Browning’s baptist successor was Richard Davis. Benson, not helpfully, speaks of Davis, a hymn writer, as an ‘Independent’ (on p. 105).
Benson continues regarding the Independents:
“With the right of each congregation to regulate its own worship and the prevalence of the practice of lining out the words [without needing books], the use of hymns in manuscript required merely the agreement of pastor and people.
With the fraternization of Independents and Presbyterians, and the frequent occupancy of Independent pulpits by Presbyterian divines, it would be difficult to distinguish a separate origin of hymn singing in either body. It would be still more difficult to show that the impulse came from the Independent side.
During the last decade of the century hymn singing reached the stage that called for printed hymn books.”
Rise of Congregational Hymnody Amongst the Baptists
Give something of Keach, and link article.
Give curious description of John Bunyan practice, Whitley, p. 97
1689 London Baptist Confession, I believe, adds ‘and hymns’
John Wells & John Flavel
The later English presbyterian John Wells (1623-1676) is another example of one who interprets the phrase ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ to allow for uninspired compositions, and yet when he comes to speaking of the Church’s actual, regular worship, the evidence is likewise in accord with exclusive psalmody. See his sermon, ‘How We may make Melody in our Hearts to God in Singing of Psalms’, in Puritan Sermons.
The puritan and presbyterian, John Flavel (c.1627–1691), it is known, has a ‘hymn’, based upon Rom. 5:6-11, in his Works, vol. 6, pp. 469-70. However, it is not clear that the original manuscript of Flavel had ‘hymn’ written upon it (as later editors often add such titles). There is no evidence that this piece was sung in public worship, or that it was even intended to be sung at all; it may have been simply a written poem, expressing his prayerful thoughts. Perhaps it was intended to be similar to the death-bed ‘song’ of the early reformer, Wolfgang Musculus (d. 1563), which Flavel gives an account of in Works, vol. 3, pp. 96-7?
What is known is that Flavel is on record as saying that ‘the singing of Psalms is an ordinance of Christ’, proof-texting this statement, and one in another place of a similar nature, with Col. 3:16. Flavel has three more clear passages which speak simply of ‘psalms’ when describing the singing of God’s praise, two of which are in the domestic context. We have searched thoroughly and have found no instances in Flavel’s six volumes of Works of non-psalms being sung as God’s praise in families or in the worship of the Church. The documentation is below under his name.
An example of only singing the psalms in this period, 1674-5, Broadmead Records (ed. Underhill, London, 1847), p. 226
Thomas Manton held, theoretically, that hymn singing may be acceptable for public worship (Works, 19.412, 1680’s; Rev. Jones quotes Manton on James 5:13, 1653, to a similar effect). While Manton was a presbyterian, he appeared to have quite the first-hand familiarity with Indpendency.
Manton was a chaplain to ‘The Protector’, Oliver Cromwell, an arch-Indepenent and persecutor of presbyterians. Manton also took part in the Savoy Conference (1661), where both presbyterians and indpendents were known as ‘presbyterians’, in that independents also held to rule by presbyters (though only at the local level, their synods of presbyters not having ecclesiastically-binding authority). Manton also, numerous times, had cooperative workings with the congregationalist Richard Baxter, including in being a representative at the Savoy Conference.
Yet Manton still held that Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 ‘do plainly point us to the Book of Psalms’ (Ibid.), and, commenting on James 5:13, that “Scriptural psalms… are fittest to be sung.” (Works, 4:442) In William Harris’s Memoirs of Manton (at the beginning of Manton’s Works), Harris relates that Manton:
“…was a strict observer of family religion… Notwithstanding the labors of the Lord’s-day, he never omitted, after an hour’s respite, to repeat the heads of both his sermons to his family, usually walking, and then concluded the day with prayer and singing a psalm.”
Manton went on to say on Eph. 5:19 that:
“Scripture psalms in most respects are fittest to be used in the church, as being indited [composed] by an unerring Spirit, and of a more diffusive concernment than any private composure of a particular person… Nor can it be easily presumed that others can devise better addresses to God by way of praise and thanksgivine than these did…
Therefore, since here we are safe, we need the less to seek further. Certainly we should not cavil at the present practice of many of the churches of Christ, who only content themselves with these forms, being instructed out of the gospel how to apply them to our redemption and deliverance by Christ.
Austin saith, Scriptuae tuae sunt castae deliciae meae — The holy scriptures are my chaste delights, especially the psalms, which seem to be composed for the use of all persons.”
– Works, vol. 19 (London: James Nisbet, 1874), Sermon 24 on Eph. 5:1-27, p. 412
Barton & the Development of Anglican Hymnody
Rev. Jones references William Barton numerous times as supporting his thesis that “the evidence shows that no firm consensus existed on exclusive Psalmody in corporate worship” amongst reformed theologians in the 17th century.
Barton (1598–1678) was a conforming, puritan minister in the Anglican Church in London who wrote a versification of the Psalter which was considered by the Westminster Assembly (though passed up by them). Barton published numerous volumes of ‘hymns’ between 1659 and 1688, his final volume containing over 600.
In the ‘Epistle to the Reader’ of that final volume, Six Centuries of Select Hymns (London, 1688), Barton seems clearly to interpret ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in Col. 3:16 as being inclusive of the hymns contained in his volume. In the quote that Rev. Jones provides from this same ‘Epistle’, Barton says that hymns are “fittest to be sung in God’s worship”:
“Hymns especially taken out of the Holy Scriptures… certainly such as are thence aptly composed and keep nearest to the original Text are the most spiritual and fittest to be sung in God’s worship.”
While the key phrase is somewhat ambiguous (it could refer to singing hymns as worship in private or family worship), yet we will demonstrate that it likely refers to the Church’s public worship, and that Barton changed his view, slowly, from exclusive psalmody in the 1640’s and mid-1650’s, to more fully and explicitly arguing for hymns in the public worship of the Church by 1688. Barton’s path roughly corresponds to the larger changing outlook in the Anglican context that he partook of, and in this respect tracing his history in a bit of detail will be helpful in further illustrating the pattern of the rise of hymnody in the Anglican scene.
In 1651 Barton published Psalms and Hymns Composed and fitted For the present Occasion Of Publick Thanksgiving, October 24, 1651, which had prefaces in it written to the English Parliament and Lord, Oliver Cromwell. Given the title of the work, it may seem like the three ‘hymns’ contained in this volume were designed for the public worship of the Church. However, each of the hymns are more-or-less paraphrases of explicitly indicated Scriptures (and hence are ‘Scripture-songs’ in some respect).
In the preface, ‘To the Courteous Reader’, when Barton explicitly speaks to our topic, in reference to “that Ordinance of Psalm-singing”, he says that:
“lest the amendment of the Psalm Book, and of the times themselves by universal and powerful reformation, should reduce Christians to that primitive duty of singing Psalms, Satan hath suggested some witty scruples amongst godly spirits… I shall hope… fully to answer.”
Barton continues, arguing against worship songs not out of the Scriptures:
“III. Some object that more pertinent expressions may be used by Psalms composed on purpose, and of our own invention, as they did in the primitive times. 1 Cor. 14:26.
Answ[er]. 1. You cannot show so much Scripture that they used unscriptural Psalms, as we can that they did use Scriptural; For Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs which Paul commands to be used, Col. 3:16, are proper terms of the O[ld]. Test[ament]. Psalms, as Mr. [John] Cotton fully proveth in his defence of this Ordinance…. whereas they have not a word to intimate the custom of unscriptural Psalms.”
In 1656 Barton wrote a work entitled, A View of Many Errors and Some Gross Absurdities in the old translation of the Psalms in English metre… showing how the Psalms ought to be translated… (London, 1655 [i.e. 1656]). In the preface, ‘To the Courteous Reader’, Barton argues throughout for exclusive psalmody (and not just exclusive Bible-song singing) in the Church’s public worship:
“From which words [Col. 3:16] follow also these conclusions:
1. That Scripture psalms (even David‘s Psalms, called in Hebrew by the name of Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs) and no other, should be used in the Church; for no other are the word of Christ, and consequently cannot have that certainty, purity, authority and sufficiency that the Scripture psalms have.
2. That these Psalms of David must as well be translated into verse for singing… that the Church might be fully furnished.
3. …to those ends for which God hath ordained and indited [composed] a Psalm book, in his Word, for the edification of his Church.”
The psalter that Barton had versified in 1644 at the time of the Westminster Assembly, The Book of Psalms in metre close and proper to the Hebrew… (London, 1644), which was, in some measure, for the benefit of the public worship of churches (as is known from later statements he made), had contained only the 150 psalms (despite previous psalters that appended additional material).
A new phase in Barton’s thought more explicitly appears in 1659 (at the end of Cromwell’s governance) in his A Century  of Select Hymns (London). Dedicated to the Parliament and England’s ministers, especially those about London, Barton explicitly argues in a Preface, “That the ancient Churches used not only David’s Psalms, but other portions of Scripture, chosen ad libitum [to their liking], to be put in Song for their edification.”
These ‘hymns’ may have been intended for public worship, as Barton says in another Preface:
“Indeed I would gladly annex to these Hymns some select places, and whole Psalms touching the most spiritual and concernable matters of praise and public worship, exhortation, and consolation…”
The 100 hymns in the volume are not equivalent to modern hymns: most or all of them are short metaphrases of explicitly stated Scriptural passages. Whereas Lutherans wrote compositions for worship right out of the gate of the Reformation that resemble modern hymns, a trend for hymns deriving from the psalm-singing, reformed context, was for them to be styled directly out of Scripture, and hence more falling under the warrant of resembling the inspired, ‘Word of Christ’ (Col. 3:16).
In 1670 Barton released, Two centuries of select hymns and spiritual songs…, which had a recommendatory preface by Richard Baxter (pp. 94-5). According to Whitley, “There is no probability that they were ever used by public congregations.” (Ibid.)
By 1688, in the ‘Epistle to the Reader’ to his volume of 600 hymns, Barton still seems to understand ‘hymns’ to be in some sense the Word of God, and hence within the limits of Col. 3:16 (emphasis in the original):
“Of what account then should Hymns be among Christians? Hymns especially taken out of the Holy Scriptures? Scripture-Hymns then may challenge the preeminence, for St. Paul calleth it the Sword of the Spirit, for it is the Word of God; whereby we may gather that the Hymns used anciently were composed out of the Sacred Scriptures…”
The ‘hymns’ in this volume still generally partake of the character of those in the previous volumes. It is also clear that in the ‘Epistle’ Barton is giving arguments contrary to the very arguments he used in support of exclusive psalmody for the Church’s public worship in the early to mid-1650’s. For instance, previously he had argued for the sufficiency and superiority of the singing of the Davidic psalms for the Christian life, but by 1688 he is arguing that hymns are more suited every condition of the Christian life and have a ‘preeminence’.
While Barton had said that his hymns were suited in their content for public worship, and that hymns were “fittest to be sung in God’s worship”, yet it still has not been seen that Barton’s hymns were actually publicly sung alongside the Anglican Prayer-Book liturgy (and Rev. Jones provides no such evidence).
The Introduction of Hymns into the Corporate Worship of the Church of England
Following Benson in sketching the history (who gives many more details), John Playford (1623–1686/7), a London music publisher and the clerk of an Anglican church, lead a movement to introduce hymn-singing into the corporate, public worship of the Anglican Church. “for a quarter of a century the leading music-publisher” (Whitley, p. 95)
In 1671 Playford published his Psalms & Hymns in Solemn Musick… It did not include a full psalter and it interspersed the 17 newer hymns amongst psalms which were not in numeric order. What was the reception of this Psalter-Hymnal?
“None of these hymns was introduced into church use by means of Playford’s book, which was not kindly received… Playford’s general proposal of substituting a selection of ‘Psalms and Hymns’ for the accepted system of Psalmody was too precipitate.” (p. 76)
With a new view to better accommodating his target market, Playford then published in 1677, The Whole Book of Psalms: with the Usual Hymns and Spiritual Songs… Only one of the previous 17 hymns appears in this volume. The ‘usual hymns and spiritual songs’ referred to the matter appended to the late-1500’s editions of the Sternhold & Hopkins psalter, also known as the ‘Old Version’. In the “preface he still maintains the parity of psalms and hymns”. Benson gives the practical significance of this newly constructed Psalter-Hymnal. It:
“…showed how slight a hold hymns of any sort had upon the people. The actual influence of Playford’s book was by way of prolonging the period of psalm singing… it… reaching its twentieth edition in 1757. During this long period… his psalter was carried to church by great numbers of people.
But it cannot be affirmed that they made much more use of the new hymns than their fathers had made of the hymns originally printed in the Psalters. An addiction to the continued use of [this edition by Playford of] the Old Version became, in fact, the particular form in which indifference or opposition to hymns expressed itself.” (p. 78)
After the Glorious Revolution of 1689, non-conformists
Benson gives as a general summary for this period amongst the non-conformists:
“In the failure to establish any church organization, no general principle regulated the congregational song, and no book was provided for common use by the congregations. Psalm singing prevailed, and the Scottish Psalms of David in meeter of 1650 seems to have been adopted pretty generally.
The pastors were free to supplement the psalms with hymns… Amongst the ministers of the later or meeting house era of Presbyterianism there was much diversity of sentiment and practice in the matter of hymn singing.” (p. 86)
Matthew Henry, such a later English presbyterian, allowed for some ‘hymns’ in private and family worship, though all of the collection he made of them,† except for the last ‘hymn’ (Hymn 110, Te Deum) are paraphrased portions of inspired Scripture.
† ‘Family Hymns…’ (1695) in Works, vol. 1 (New York, 1855), p. 704-734
This basic position of preferred, inspired Scripture singing, using the term ‘hymns’ in such a way, is reflected in Henry’s commentary on Colossians, ch. 3, verse 16, where he interprets the key phrase as:
“the Psalms of David, and spiritual hymns and odes, collected out of the scripture, and suited to special occasions…”
Henry’s biographer, speaking of the period from 1687-1712 and referring to the public worship of the church that Henry led, says that:
“…on the Sabbath… [i]n singing he used David’s Psalms, or sacred hymns, of which (Dr. Watts’s not being then published) he compiled a suitable and arranged collection.
He preferred scriptural psalms and hymns, to those which are wholly of human composition; the latter being generally liable to this exception, that the fancy is too high, and the matter too low; and sometimes such as a wise and good man may not be able, with entire satisfaction, to offer up as a sacrifice to God.” (J.B. Williams, Memoirs of the Life, Character, Writings… 3rd ed. (London, 1839), ch. 10, pp. 146-7)
Late 1600’s Anglican
Davies cites two other English hymn writers from the late-1600’s. The Anglican Thomas Ken (1637–1711), ‘one of the fathers of modern English hymnody’, was a non-juror, one who would not swear to the new protestant English king in 1689 because he was dedicated to the succession of the previous reign of the Romanist, James II, who persecuted the puritans.
The second and last cited hymn writer was the Anglican minister, Samuel Crossman (1623–1683). Crossman initially was sympathetic to the puritan cause, however in 1665 he renounced his puritan affiliations. Davies concludes, “[t]he majority of these hymn writers were the clergy of the Church of England, with the exception of the Roman Catholic priest, [Richard] Crashaw [c. 1613–1649)].” (p. 283) Davies says in a footnote that “the Church of England did not officially authorise hymns in worship until 1821…”ª
ª Citing Erik Routley, Hymns and Human Life (1952), p. 8.
In 1700 a marked change occurred with the publication of A Supplement to the New Version of Psalms by Dr. Brady & Mr. Tate (London, ed. 1717), which contained 16 hymns. This supplement to the new version of the Psalter was authorized by the Queen in 1703 for use in churches, and it “became a very popular little book, often reprinted”. Benson describes the work’s significance:
“These hymns… if they did not spring up immediately and if they did not multiply, they, at all events, were not trodden under the feet of the psalm singers…
This group of hymns in the Supplement marks the limit of anything in the nature of an authorized provision for hymn singing in the Church of England during period under review [1671-1708]. It was sufficient to establish the principle that hymns were allowable as supplementary to the psalms.
The actual practice of parochial hymn singing which it represents must seem small, when we remember that [the] Tate and Brady [psalter, to which it was designed as a supplement] was only then making headway into London churches, and for long afterward was hardly known beyond the bounds of that diocese ” (pp. 80-1)
Henry’s Family Hymns was reprinted in 1702. The five hymnals found in the advertisement list of the publisher at the end of the volume “was substantially a catalogue of the earliest hymn-books of the Independents, as also of the presbyterians”, according to Benson. (p. 105) Two of the hymn-books were by anonymous authors, the others were by William Barton, John Mason, Joseph Boyse and Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739, an English Independent).
Given our close sketch of the rise of English hymnody, Benson’s summary of roughly 1690-1706 may be a bit surprising. Speaking of Isaac Watts, Benson says:
“We have indeed his own testimony that some ministers had already commenced to use ‘evangelical hymns.’ But such use was exceptional; the books marking the tentative efforts of progressive individuals rather than the general practice. In the great body of the meeting houses the singing of psalms obtained exclusively, though not perhaps very jealously.” (p. 106)
Early 1700’s Dissenters
Benson gives further examples of the times, including that of James Pierce (1674-1726) of Exeter, a minister who served in English presbyterian and independent churches. Before his sub-orthodox views on the Trinity (following George Bull) later came out, he, and his church, held and practiced exclusive psalmody and discontinued the use of the Doxology.
Both of these positions, however, may have been more due to the Christological perplexities he felt in his context, as singing the psalms allowed Pierce to take refuge in the determined hermeneutical ambiguity of resting in simple Scripture statement instead of making his views more explicit and clear through such newly written and popular hymns. Pierce seemed exceptional for his times.
“The temper and tone of current English Presbyterianism was better represented in the persons of the Presbyterian divines of Dublin and the south of Ireland… By his hymn writing [Joseph] Boyse is entitled to a place among the predecessors of Dr. Watts… To each volume [of his hymns] is prefixed the recommendation of six Dublin ministers…
Of Boyse’s resolute Presbyterianism there can be no question. But if we take the whole body of Nonconformist meeting houses in England at the beginning of the 18th century, it is by no means easy to make partition of them between Presbyterians and Independents… Presbyterianism was not destined to establish itself in England, and its meeting houses were about to fall into the control of men of Arian theology. The congregational song of these meetings was first to come under the domination of Dr. Watts, and then to develop into a Unitarian Hymnody.
Apart from this stream of Church Song [represented by Boyse], thus diverted from its original channel, the early Presbyterian hymn singing seems to have no part or representation in the great Hymn Movement of the 18th century, which it is customary to trace to its source in Independency.” (pp. 87-8)
Isaac Watts, 1707
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), an Independent minister, was probably the most influential hymn writer of all time. His initial project, though, a bit more suited to his target audience, was an ‘improvement of psalmody’. His professed designs would grow much bolder with time.
The first publication of the body of Watts’s ‘psalms’ and hymns for congregational use was, Hymns & Spiritual Songs… (1707). It included 210 selections: The first 78 were paraphrases of psalms, 110 ‘free composures’ of hymns followed, with 22 hymns for the Lord’s Supper succeeding. In a preface to the work entitled, ‘A Short Essay Toward the Improvement of Psalmody’, Watts gives his views and goals for his project. Some choice quotes follow:
“First, They [the psalms] ought to be translated its such a Manner as we have reason to believe David would have compos’d ’em if he had lived in our Day…”
“…and the Language of Judaism is chang’d into the Style of the Gospel; the Form and Composure of the Psalm can hardly be called inspired or Divine: only the Materials or the Sense contain’d therein may in a large Sense be called the Word of God, as it is borrowed from that Word.”
“…there are some Scriptural Hymns in the Book of Revelations that describe the Affairs of the New Testament… I rejoice that the Bible hath any such Pieces of Christian Psalmody in it; lest everything that is Evangelical should utterly be excluded from this Worship, by those who will sing nothing but what is inspired; but how seldom are these Gospel-Songs used among our Churches? how little respect is paid to ’em in comparison of the Jewish Psalms? how little mention would ever be made of them, if it were not to defend the Patrons of Jewish Psalmody from the gross Absurdity of an entire Return to Judaism in this Part of Worship?”
“…there is not a Set of Psalms already prepared that can answer all the Varieties of the Providence and the Grace of God.”
These sentiments (quite different from those of the puritans) give an indication for how Watts loosely paraphrased the psalms and ‘made David speak like a Christian’‡ in his Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Applied to the Christian State and Worship (1719; Newbury-Port, 1781).
While Watts’ ‘psalter’ would become quite popular in time (even becoming later known as the old, faithful standby), there were still those who sought to be faithful to the Word of God in singing psalms. Samuel Pike (1717?–1773) was a godly, Indpendent, London minister (known for his work on cases of conscience). In writing a version of the psalter that sought to be as faithful to the Hebrew as much as possible, without necessarily making it rhyme, he wrote in the Preface:
“It is well known, that in the last century… it was then the concurrent judgement of the dissenting churches, that nothing ought to be sung in public worship but those psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which God has provided his Church with in his inspired Word.
But of late years these versions have been much despised by some, and laid aside by many congregations which formerly used them; because of the roughness of the lines… and other versions, or rather paraphrases on the psalms are made use of by them. Many others use hymns of mere human composure as preferable to the inspired ones.
But there are yet many serious Christians, and some churches, that adhere to the sentiments of our godly ancestors in preferring Scripture psalms, hymns and songs to any mere human composures, lest they should incur the guilt of bringing strange fire to God’s altar…”
– The Book of Psalms in Metre. Fitted to the Various Tunes in Common Use: wherein closeness to the text, and smoothness of the verse are preferred to rhyme… (London, 1751), ‘The Preface’, p. iii-iv
Move to next section before civil war – — As late as the early-1800’s in America, Thomas Clark and James Harris, critiqued Watts ‘psalms’ in the respective two tracts:
Plain Reasons why neither Dr. Watts’ Imitations of the Psalms, nor his other poems, nor any other human composition, Ought to be used in the Praises of the Great God our Savior, but that a meter version of the book of Psalms, examined with wise and critical care by pious and learned divines, and found by them to be as near the Hebrew meter Psalms as the idiom of the English language would admit, ought to be used ([Albany, NY?], 1828) 12 pp.
A Supplement to the Ploughman’s Letter, in Answer to Some Inquiries on Psalmody by his Young Friends (Charlotte, NC: 1827) 15 pp.
American Presbyterianism Psalmody & the Entrance of Hymns
As the flowering of English hymnody began with Watts, it is not our purpose to sketch the development of his influence in detail; but lest his initial impact be overestimated, in closing, and for the interest of the reader, we will summarize, first, from Michael Bushell, how hymnody only slowly came into Christ’s sung, public praise in the Church in early American presbyterianism:
“…in 1729… the practice of exclusive psalmody was neither challenged nor even seriously debated in American Presbyterian churches… The psalmody question did not become a really divisive issue in the Presbyterian church until the latter half of the eighteenth century.”
“Controversy over the psalmody question reached a peak in the 1780’s.”
“It must be kept in mind that throughout most of the eighteenth century, the debate in the Presbyterian church centered on the question of which psalter version was to be used [either the older literal psalters or Isaac Watts’ new interpretative paraphrased psalter]. On the surface of the matter at least, the question of the use of uninspired or non-canonical materials was not even involved. It is true, as [Louis] Benson complains, that
‘there was indeed no general desire to sing hymns among colonial Presbyterians. The progressives asked no more than liberty to choose their own Psalm book; and it was not till the beginning of the nineteenth century that the church formally authorized the use of any designated hymn book [in 1831].’ (The English Hymn, 1915, p. 179)’
…Given the pragmatic and pietistic tenor of the times and the determination of the judicatories of the denomination to settle the matter by popular preference rather than by the scriptural principles involved, it was only inevitable that an inspired psalmody should fall by the wayside…”
– ‘The Development of Psalmody in American Presbyterianism’, pp. 204, 207-9 in Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody Buy (3rd ed., 1999)
The Rise of Hymnody in American Presbyterianism
It is notable, even after the uninspired praise of God entered American presbtyerianism in its public worship, how long (especially in comparison to other denominations) predominant psalmody continued in presbyterianism before the songs of men nearly completely eclipsed the songs that were sung by our Savior in this life. The following is a summary of the data found in ReformedWorship.org’s article, ‘We Used to Sing Only Psalms — What Happened?’ (1987):
Until the Civil War the various Presbyterian bodies used psalms predominantly, singing hymns only now and then, especially in informal gatherings. Their songbook, Psalms and Hymns, had a clearly defined psalter section.
After the Civil War the use of hymns increased greatly. In the Presbyterian Hymnal, published in 1874 by the northern branch of the Church, psalms were mixed in with hymns. The 1901 Psalms and Hymns of the southern Church followed suit.
The rest is history. And that is how the divinely given book of Psalms, an all-sufficient canon of inspired praise-song for Christ’s bride on earth, in all ages, was prized as such by the predominate share of the early English and Scottish puritans, being reformed according to the Word of God, and consequently how human wisdom added unto it, it thereafter falling into neglect by the American presbyterian Church.
“And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.”
How is the gold become dim!”
“Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it!… and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.”
To summarize in the order that Rev. Jones presented references to theologians:
John Ball was a conforming, though dissenting, English puritan. His theoretical position on the content of the Church’s public worship song is unclear, and he gives no evidence that there were anything but psalms being sung in the Anglican Prayer-Book service.
Samuel Langley was educated in England and published hymn(s) that are consistent with the private exercise of Christians before the Lord’s Supper.
Thomas Ford, a presbyterian and Westminster divine, was a strong advocate of psalmody and said that non-inspired compositions “should be fitter for their own private use than for the churches of God”.
Edward Leigh, an English layman and Wesminster divine, held to a primitive episcopacy, and that hymns, from Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, could be sung, but he does not attribute singing hymns as an ‘ordinance’ of the Church as his own view. Rather, it was the view of rising Independents, in contradistinction to the presbyterians, as the English presbyterian Thomas Edwards evidences.
The relatively late, English presbyterian, Thomas Manton seemed to theoretically allow for hymns in the public worship of the Church, yet he said, “Scripture psalms in most respects are fittest to be used in the church…”
The early English puritan Paul Baynes was open to Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 allowing for uninspired compositions, yet the evidence in his commentary on Eph. 5:19 is consistent with public worship that is de facto exclusive psalmody.
No evidence was presented by Rev. Jones that the many hundreds of hymns produced by the English, conforming puritan, William Barton (1598?–1678) were ever sung in public worship. On the contrary, a scholar of English hymnology, Louis Benson has shown that hymns only came to begin to receive a foothold in the public worship of the Anglican Church in the post-Restoration era (1661 ff.), and that “there was no English hymnody in any effective sense until the 18th century.”
Regarding Rev. Jones’s references to the Early Church, he got them from Barton’s ‘Epistle to the Reader’ in his Six Centuries of Select Hymns (1688). Needless to say, we have much more full and accurate scholarship on the worship-song of the Early Church than what Barton had access to, and the early quotes he provides are not without the need of interpretation. For numerous full resources on the history of the content of worship-song in the Early Church, see the subsection ‘The Early Church’ on our page, ‘The History of Psalm Singing’.
Davies, 1st half, p. 390-1, evidently did not consider Te Deum a song, nor necessarily the Gloria Patri in Book of Common Prayer
“One question remains: why was popular praise limited to metrical psalmody? Why were there so few hymns produced in the Tudor age in England and those not of a popular character? …in successive editions [in 1662 and after] of the Book of Common Prayer the only hymns included were translations of the Veni Creator in the Ordinal [ordination service]. Translations of ancient hymns were no new phenomenon, either…
Did the growing influence of Calvinism repress the production of hymns?¹ This is a strong possibility… What is indubitable is that the Sternhold and Hopkins Old Version [of the psalter] quickly acquired an almost canonical authority, and dominated the field to the virtual exclusion of experiments on the Lutheran or Latin models, which had seemed promising only two decades before…
¹ This is the view of C.S. Phillips, in Hymnody Past and Present, p. 153; and H.A.L. Jefferson, in Hymns in Christian Worship, p. 32.
Perhaps the decisive reason for the failure of hymns to develop was the strong sixteenth century sense in nascent Protestantism of ‘the Bible and the Bible only’ as the liturgical, doctrinal and moral criterion. To develop original hymns of Christian experience would have seemed a human impertinence when God had already provided approved forms of praise in the Psalms.”
“The chief source of modern hymnology may, therefore, be clearly traced to a German origin.” David Laing, Preface, p. xxvii
It will be demonstrated that these conclusions do not follow from the evidence that Rev. Jones presents, and trajectories will be sketched which present a picture of predominate exclusive psalmody in the public worship of the English and Scottish Churches during most of the puritan era.
For a careful exegesis of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16, see John Murray’s Minority Report on Song in the Public Worship of God.
For an example of where all three of the Greek terms occur in a psalm title, see the heading of Ps. 75 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation that the Ephesians and Colossians would have been using of the Hebrew Old Testament; the psalm is #76 in the KJV). See also this chart which specifies every place in the Greek Septuagint’s Psalter where these Greek terms occur in the psalm titles.
For articles from the puritans on psalm singing, see the subsection at our webpage:
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.
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.
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 new meaning 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 Rev. Winzer’s excellent article as well as from a list historic quotes at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church: ‘Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)’.
More of the Puritans
While it is possible to hold that Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 refer to more than the book of psalms and yet still hold to exclusive psalmody (if those passages do not refer to the regular corporate worship of the Church, and if there are further restrictions that Scripture places on public worship in relation to a canon of public praise-songs), yet often those that hold to exclusive psalmody for the public worship of the Church interpret Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 as referring only to the psalms. In that respect, for more puritan material on psalmody and Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16, be sure also to see our pages on:
Order of Quotes 100+
Scottish Psalter, Preface, 26 puritans
Taylor, T. Wilson
Dutch Annotations Young
Bay Psalm Book Roberts
London Ministers Craghead
Cotton Mather, C.
Barton Brown of Haddington
Fergusson In Latin
Stalham Brown of Wamphray
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
‘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…”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…”
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 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’,
“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.
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…”
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
’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.
Edmund Calamy [the son of the Westminster divine]
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.”
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
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.”
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).”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
Translation of 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.”
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
“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.”
“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…”
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.
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…”
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.
“…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.
“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]”
“…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…”
“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…”
‘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.”
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…”
“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
“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?”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
Gospel Musick, or, The Singing of David’s Psalms (London: Printed for Henry Overton, 1644)
“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…”
“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.”
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…”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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:”
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.”
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
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.
‘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.”
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.”
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.
A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (1656-1674; London, 1841), p. 239 & 365
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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 Psalms, Hymns, 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)…”
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.”
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.”
“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…”
“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;”
“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?”
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’.
“…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…”
“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.”
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.”
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…”
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.“
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
“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.”
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…”
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.”
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…”
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.
“…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.’
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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;”
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.
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
“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…”
“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.”
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!”
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…”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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;”
“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?”
“…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…”
“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).”
The Book of Psalms in Metre. Fitted to the Various Tunes in Common Use: wherein closeness to the text, and smoothness of the verse are preferred to rhyme… (London, 1751), ‘The Preface’, p. iii. Pike (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…”
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
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.”