Singing of Psalms

“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.”

Ps. 95:2

“Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him”

Ps. 105:2

“Is any merry?  Let him sing psalms.”

James 5:13




Psalters Online

Familiar Tunes for Singing Psalms

The History of Psalm Singing

The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing

The Puritans and Psalm Singing 

Historic Quotes of Praise on the Psalms

Do We Sing Christ’s Name in the Psalter?

The Imprecatory Psalms



Order of Contents

Where to Start?
Spiritual Helps to Singing the Psalms
Puritan Era Treatises
How to Use a Split-Leaf Psalter
A Case of Conscience



Where to Start?

God tells us in his Word to sing psalms with joy (1 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 95:2; 105:2; Jam. 5:13).  Listen to the voice of God and start singing the Psalms:

The Scottish Metrical Psalter, 1650  Buy

All the psalms are set to Common Meter, which means that if you know the tune to ‘Amazing Grace,’ you can sing the whole psalter.  Here are several handful more tunes you may know to help you start singing the songs that Jesus sang.  Once you get a little better, try the traditional tunes that the Scottish covenanters sang long ago!

Barth, Paul – ‘A Concise Case for Exclusive Psalmody’  2017



Spiritual Helps to Singing Psalms

Bayly, Lewis – Rules to be Observed in Singing of Psalms, 1636, 6 paragraphs, being pp. 207-209 of his Practice of Piety, 1719 edition, London

The puritan Bayly (†1631) gives 5 brief rules on how to profitably sing the psalms, along with recommendations on which psalms to sing under 12 different circumstances and conditions.

Roberts, Francis – Directions for the Right Singing of Scripture Psalms  PDF  1675, 12 pages, being pp. 128-131 of his larger The Key of the Bible: Unlocking the Richest Treasury of the Holy Scriptures.  This is an updated and easier to read edition than the original.

Roberts (1609–1675) was an influential puritan who wrote a very large introduction to the Bible, from which this work is taken.  Roberts gives 8 very helpful directions on how to sing the psalms with the most spiritual profit.  Print out these directions as a pamphlet to help fellow saints be encouraged in the Lord. 

Wells, John – How We may make Melody in our Hearts to God in Singing of Psalms  late-1600’s, 32 pages, this is a sermon from Puritan Sermons, 1659-89, re-typeset, re-formatted and re-edited, with an Introduction and explanatory footnotes.

If the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), how much more does He love a cheerful worshipper?  Indeed, He tells us to sing psalms to Him with joy (Ps. 95:2)!  Let us, with the psalmist, stir ourselves up to this pleasure; this sermon will help us. It is a treasure. You will not find anything like it in modern Christian literature.




Binnie, William

The Use of the Psalms under the Old Testament, six pages, starting on p. 355, a chapter from his The Psalms: their History, Teachings and Use

The Music of the Synagogue and of the Early Church, four pages, starting on p. 361, a chapter from his The Psalms: their History, Teachings, and Use

Bushell, Michael – New Songs, 1993, 7 paragraphs, from his The Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody, p. 95-97

This article addresses the question of what the Bible means when it says “sing a new song to the Lord.” (Ps. 98:1)

Fentiman, Travis – Do We Sing Jesus Christ’s Name in the Psalter?  2015  50 paragraphs

The answer is Yes, the proof of which is overwhelmingly documented from the Hebrew.

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

Isbell, Sherman – The Singing of Psalms, no date, 167 paragraphs

This excellent article responds to all objections to exclusive psalmody current up to its day since the publication of Bushell’s work, including those of Vern Poythress, Greg Bahnsen, Leonard Coppes, Stephen Pribble and others.  It does this through quotes and arguments of puritan writers such as Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, John Owen, Thomas Gataker and others.  Isbell also gives a detailed historical analysis of John Calvin’s Biblical belief and practice that inspiration was a requirement for praise songs.

Williamson, G.I. – The Singing of Psalms in the Worship of God, no date, 58 paragraphs

A good introduction to the subject.



A Collection

Myers, Andrew – ‘We Have a Lot of Early American Presbyterian Resources on Psalmody on our Website’   2017  at Log College Press  Being 14+ articles and books on psalm singing from early American presbyterian history




Bushell, Michael – Songs of Zion,  Buy  1993, 329 pages

This is the best and most exhaustive book arguing for the majority, historic, reformed practice of exclusive psalmody.  Until one has read this book they have not fully considered the issue.  Bushell addresses and responds to all objections to exclusive psalmody that were current up to the publication of his book.  Bushell’s survey of psalm singing through church history is also priceless.

Gibson, James – The Public Worship of God: its Authority and Modes, Hymns and Hymn Books1869, 186 pages

This book argues for the Biblical practice of exclusive psalm singing from a day when hymns were beginning to be brought into the Free Church of Scotland.  Gibson first shows that scripture regulates the worship of God, then applies it to singing praise, then answers alleged arguments for hymns, reviews the history psalmody in the church and the entrance of hymns, argues against musical instruments in worship, and then reviews numerous hymn books from his own day.

Reformed and United Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia – The True Psalmody: the Bible Psalms the Church’s Only Manual of Praise, 1883, 212 pages, with prefaces by Henry Cooke, John Edgar, and Thomas Houston.  This book was recommended by the Free Church of Scotland ministers James Begg, John Kennedy, and Thomas M’Lauchlan as well as others.

The chapters are (1) The Book of Psalms: a Complete Manual of Praise, (2) The Book of Psalms has the Seal of Divine Appointment, Which No Other Has, (3) No Warrant for Making or Using any Other Hymns in the Worship of God, (4) Objections to the Use of the Psalms Considered, (5) Remarks Upon the ‘Scottish Version’ of the Psalms



For a very full chronological collection of books online about psalm singing, see Books Online at



Puritan Era Treatises

The Puritans and Psalm Singing 



How to Use a Split-Leaf Psalter

Isbell, Sherman – How to Use a Split-Leaf Psalter: a Book Review, no date,  15 paragraphs

Isbell enumerates the practical advantages of using a split-leaf psalter and gives helps in how to use one.



What Should a Psalm Singer do in a Hymn Singing Church?

John Delivuk – Reformed Presbyterians in Hymn Singing Churches, 1982, 4 paragraphs.  Delivuk is a professor at Geneva College, PA.  This is an excerpt from his Master’s Thesis, “The Doctrine and History of Worship in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America”

The noted theologian, J.G. Vos, answers that one should not sing.  Regarding the question of psalm singing pastors preaching in hymn singing services the 1886 Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America gives three directives entailing that the minister is able to preach in such a church with the understanding that it does not sanction the use of hymns, while another elder lead those parts of the service.




“The psalter was the prayer-book of Him who is our only consolation in life and in death, so long as He, the Son of Man, sojourned on this earth.”

F.W. Krummacher

“The most celebrated hymns of uninspired men were, like Job’s friends, ‘miserable comforters,’ when compared with the experience of Christ, in the days of humiliation of which the Book of Psalms is the true prophetic picture.”

Henry Cooke

Preface to The True Psalmody, 1883




Related Pages

Musical Instruments in Worship