Rules to be Observed in Singing of Psalms

Practice of Piety: Directing a Christian How to Walk that He May Please God,  1636, Bayly died in 1631.  This is from the 1719 edition, London, p. 207-209.

At evening when the due time of repairing to rest approaches, call together again all your family; read a chapter in the same manner that was prescribed in the morning; then, in a holy imitation of our Lord and his disciples, sing a psalm: but in singing of psalms, either after supper, or at any other time, observe these rules:

Rules to be observed in Singing of Psalms.

1. Beware of singing divine psalms for an ordinary recreation, as do men of impure spirits, who sing holy psalms intermingled with profane ballads: They are God’s word: take them not in your mouth in vain.

2. Remember to sing David’s psalms with David’s spirit (Matt. 22:43)

3. Practise St. Paul’s rule, “I will sing with the spirit, but I will sing with the understanding also.” (1 Cor. 14:15)

4. As you sing uncover your heads (1 Cor. 11:4), and behave yourselves in comely reverence as in the sight of God, singing to God in God’s own words; but be sure that the matter make more melody in your hearts (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) than the music in your ear; for the singing with grace in our hearts is that which the Lord is delighted withal, according to that old verse:

“Non vox, sed votum; non miisica chordula, sed cor:

Non clamans, sed amana, psallit in aure Dei.”


“‘Tis not the voice, but vow;

Sound heart, not sounding string;

True zeal, not outward show,

That in God’s ear does ring.”


5. You may, if you think good, sing all the psalms over in order, for all are most divine and comfortable; but if you will choose some special psalms, as more fit for some times and purposes, and such as, by the oft usage, your people may the easier commit to memory.


Then sing:

In the morning, Psalm 3, 5, 16, 22, 144; In the evening, Psalm 4, 127, 141.  For mercy after a sin committed, Psalm 51, 103.  In sickness or heaviness, Psalm 6, 13, 88, 90, 111, 137, 146.  When you are recovered, Psalm 30, 32.  On the Sabbath day, Psalm 19, 92, 95.  In time of joy, Psalm 80, 98, 107, 136, 145.  Before sermon, Psalm 1, 12, 147, the 1st and 5th parts of the 119th.  After sermon, any Psalm which concerns the chief argument of the sermon.  At the communion, Psalm 22, 23, 103, 111, 116.  For spiritual solace, Psalm 15, 19, 25, 46, 67, 112, 116.  After wrong and disgrace received, Psalm 42, 69, 70, 140, 144.

After the psalm, all kneeling down in a reverent manner, as is before described, let the father of the family, or the chiefest in his absence, pray thus…




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