Big P little p? WCF 21.5

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by NaphtaliPress, Mar 28, 2007.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    In his online tome Brian Schwertely makes the statement below, but I am not recalling who he is thinking of when he makes this claim. If it is Frame, of which this is a review, I would think he'd have said that. How often and by whom has a general meaning for psalm as spiritual song been advocated because of a lower case "p"? I don't need a critique of either the argument or of Schwertley, but just need to know if anyone actually argues this?
    “Advocates of neo-presbyterian worship like to point out the fact that the word psalm is not capitalized, as if this proves the word is used in some vague, generic sense. The problem with this argument is the simple fact that the authors [of] the Westminster Standards only capitalized the word Psalms when it was used as a title of the whole book.[FONT=&quot][1][/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot][1][/FONT] Brian Schwertley, Sola Scriptura And the Regulative Principle of Worship: Appendix B. The Neo-Presbyterian Challenge to Confessional Presbyterian Orthodoxy: A Biblical Analysis of John Frame’s Worship in Spirit and in Truth. This is online at
  2. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    I didn't go to college, but I did attend a class or two in my time. One of them was a music class in a Bible college. In that class the students were given an assignment to write a psalm according to the outline they had made which defined what a psalm was according to their study of the Psalms. I had missed the study on the Psalms, but attended a few classes while they were working on composing their own psalms. I read a few of them, and got to know some of the guidelines they instructor had led them to in their studies.

    I can't remember them, and the notes I took are probably lost. But here is a case where there clearly was a difference between the big "P" and the little "p". And it was being taught in a Reformed Bible college.
  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Not really relevant John as the context is folks arguing about the WCF and I simply would like to know who does that; but thanks for sharing.
  4. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I'm sorry, Chris. I guess I misread your question.
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Someone on another forum pointed me to Stephen Pribble's article who for a number of reasons I'm confident is the person Schwertley had in mind. If anyone comes across someone else who argues this way please do let me know, but soon. I've expanded the presentation by nearly double which I made regarding original intent of the Westminster Assembly at WCF 21.5 which, Lord willing, will run in some fashion in the 2007 forthcoming Confessional Presbyterian journal.
  6. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Have you checked Needhams footnotes?
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    For material such as Pribble's you mean? No; and I'm sharing the copy; but I can certainly check.
  8. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    I haven't heard of anyone arguing that the intention of the "p" was to advocate the use of spiritual songs. We've discussed in class though how leaving it a "p" rather than "P" gave more people leeway to subscribe to the Confession, particularly those Divines who were not EP. The "p" was more flexible. It was a consensus document after all. So the issue would not necessarily be about what is advocated, but what is allowable and yet still hold full subscription to the Confession. Both non-EP and EP folks could agree with the phrase in good conscience. :2cents:
  9. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks Patrick; it is good to know that this is actually being done. I guess my problem is with the apparent assumption that a lower case "p" is the original text. How was that confirmed or was it just assumed from the modern texts which have more modern usage on capitalization?
  10. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    All versions of the original I have seen have the lower case p. But our professor quoted a version which had it capitalized, without realizing it. I inquired about it in class and he didn't even notice until I pointed it out. I don't know if it was a typo or if he was using a modified version which an EP denomination may have altered. The lower case p makes more sense given the historical context. :2cents:
  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Not sure what you mean by original. Seventeenth century editions tend to capitalize it. The Assembly's private edition with the Scripture proofs added does so. I don't track incidentals generally in my critical text work given the sometimes meaningless overuse of capitals in the earlier works, but I made a quick survey this morning. While there may be exceptions prior, it seems the conventioin of going to lower case, not just for psalms, but for a whole host of words which had otherwise been capitalized, occurs in the 1756 Edinburgh edition by E. Robertson, which as I show, is a key edition in how the text as we have it has come down to us today (what I call the traditional text). Prior to that, key editions such as Dunlop (1719) and the three Lumisden & Robertson editions (1728; 1736; 1744) retained the capitalization. On the editions via which the traditional text came down to us, see my article on "Examining the Work of S. W. Carruthers," in The Confessional Presbyterian 1 (2005). I would surmise that mid 18th century there had been a shift away from the tendency to overcapitalize and this, or that Mr. Robertston lacked enough capital letter type, may explain the move to strip the text of the original capitalization out of his edition, and the later editions simply copied him in that.
  12. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    As Chris indicated, capitalization rules back then were a little different than what we use today (as well as spelling!). I no longer have the CD from Old Paths Publications with the original facsimile of the Westminster Standards; that could clear this up quickly. (I'm assuming, with all the work you're doing creating a critical text for the Confession, that you have something like that, Chris.)

    However, in my SWRB CD's, there is a facsimile of the Directory for the "Publique" Worship of God. Every time the word "psalm" is used, it is capitalized. Hence:

    "Wee commend also the more frequent reading of such Scriptures, as hee that readeth shall think best for edification of his Hearers; as the Book of Psalms, and such like" (p. 13, "Of Publique Reading of the holy Scriptures").

    "When the Minister, who readeth, shall judge it necessary to expound any part of what is read, let it not be done untill the whole Chapter, or Psalm be ended: And regard is alwayes to be had unto the time, that neither Preaching or other Ordinance be straitned, or rendred tedious. Which Rule is to be observed in all other publique performances" (ibid.).

    "After Reading of the Word (and singing of the Psalm) the Minister who is to Preach, is to endeavour to get his own, and his Hearers hears to be rightly affected with their sins, that they may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full Confession of Sin, with shame and holy confusion of face; and to Call upon the Lord to this effect;" (p. 14, "Of Publike Prayer before the Sermon").

    "Ordinarily, the subject of his Sermon is to be some Text of Scripture, holding forth some principle or head of Religion; or suitable to some speciall occasion emergent; or hee may goe on in some Chapter, Psalme, or Booke of the holy Scripture, as hee shall see fit" (p. 28, "Of the Preaching of the Word").

    "The Prayer ended, let a Psalme be sung, if with conveniency it may be done. After which (unless some other Ordinance of Christ that concerneth the Congregation at that time be to follow) let the Minister dismisse the Congregation with a solemne Blessing" (pp. 38, 39, "Of Prayer after the Sermon").

    "That what time is vacant, between, or after the solemne meetings of the Congregation in publique, be spent in Reading, Meditation, Repetition of Sermons; (especially, by calling their families to an account of what they have heard,) and catechizing of them, holy conferences, Prayer for a blessing upon the Publique Ordinances, singing of Psalmes, visiting the sick, relieving the poore, and such like duties of piety, charity and mercy, accounting the Sabbath a delight" (p. 57, "Of the Sanctification of the Lords Day").

    "So large a portion of the Day, as conveniently may be, is to be spent in Publique Reading, and Preaching of the Word, with singing of Psalmes fit to quicken affections suitable to such a Duty; but especially in Prayer, to this or the like effect" (p. 76, "Concerning Publique Solemne Fasting").

    "And because singing of Psalmes is of all other the most proper Ordinance for expressing of Joy and Thanksgiving, let some pertinent Psalme or Psalmes be sung for that purpose, before or after the reading of some portion of the Word suitable to the present businesse" (p. 81, "Concerning the Observation of Dayes of Publique Thankesgiving").

    "The Sermon ended, let him not only pray, as at other times after preaching is directed, with remembrance of the necessities of the Church, King, and State, (if before the Sermon they were omitted) but inlarge himself in due and solemn Thanksgiving for former mercies and deliverances, but more especially for that which at the present calls them together to give thanks: with humble petition for the continuance and renewing of Gods wonted mercies, as need shall be, and for sanctifying grace to make a right use thereof. And so, having sung another Psalme suitable to the mercy, let him dismisse the Congregation with a blessing, that they may have some convenient time for their repast and refreshing" (pp. 81, 82, ibid.).

    "When the Congregation shall be againe assembled, the like course in praying, reading, preaching, singing of Psalmes, and offering up of more praise and thanksgiving, that is before directed for the morning, is to be renewed and continued so far as the time will give leave" (p. 82, ibid.).

    "OF SINGING OF PSALMES. (Note.---Here, the word "Psalmes" employs a smaller font of capitalization for "salmes" than for the "P," thus still following the same capitalization rule preceding and following.)

    "It is the duty of Christians to praise God publiquely by singing of Psalmes together in the Congregation, and also privately in the Family.

    "In singing of Psalmes, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered: but the chief care must be, to sing with understanding, and with Grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.

    "That the whole Congregation may joyne herein, every one that can reade is to have a Psalme book, and all others not disabled by age, or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to reade. But for the present, where many in the Congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the Minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other Ruling Officers, do reade the Psalme, line by line, before the singing thereof" (pp. 83, 84, "Of Singing of Psalmes").

    If someone can get that CD (or the book) from Old Paths, or quote it here, hopefully that rumor of "the Westminster Assembly used lower-case 'p'" can finally be put to rest. But I hope that this suffices.


    And, yeah. Chris answered my question already. :D
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2007
  13. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, I have the CD; its what I reference above as the Assembly's private edition with the Scripture proofs; as you noted, there is not a distinction in usage as far as case in the Directory, which I find consistent in the MS of the section on Singing of Psalms I have, which was the MS sent to the House of Lords.
    What edition of the Directory is it that the SWRB CD has?
  14. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    Not sure. The publishing info at the bottom of the title page says, "London: Printed for the Company of Stationers. 1645." It appears to have "Geo: Danson" or "Daneson" or something written at the top, and "AM" written on the page giving the order from Parliament to have it published.
  15. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Can you send me a jpeg of the t.p. and any order for printing? I'm curious.
  16. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    That is interesting to know. Thank you. I'll have to keep it in mind. The "orignial" edition I have is the Free Pres edition with the pic of Westminster on the cover. I also have the version in reormed confessions 3.0 and Reformed Confessions Harmonized by Beeke. All have the lower case p. Do you know which critical version these follows? I guess if the capitalization wasn't an issue, then it has no factor in the debate at all and we're back to intent of the Assembly.
  17. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    That's what I was thinking you meant. In this discussion, "original" does not mean "1646 version vs. 1789 version" -- it means one of the originals actually printed in the 1640s. If you read anything actually printed from that period, you'll quickly find that spelling, punctuation, and capitalization follow few standardized rules. Overuse of capitalization, overuse of punctuation (especially commas), and using different spellings for the same word -- in the quotes I supplied from the Directory, they usually spell "Public" as "Publique," but once spell it as "Publike" (and also referred to both "Psalms" and "Psalmes").

    But, yeah. "Psalms" is capitalized in the original... which doesn't tell us much. :D
  18. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The FPP edition except where they updated to follow Carruthers critical text (as opposed to Carruthers transcription of the Burges MS; two different texts) is a reprint of the Johnstone & Hunter edition of 1855, the Library edition. I don't know about the confession but two variants I found in Beeke's Harmony indicates the Larger Catechism text is the text published in pb by the FPs, which is a new resetting where they have corrected a few long standing errors but certainly not all. I probably knew what the Confessions 3.0 was but no recall now. Probably built using one of the online texts, and I suspect when those were done they relied on the FP edition.

    I have to agree that we should not rest any argument on capitalization. Capitalization points toward the psalter as the referent, but the style or inconsistency of the time is sufficient to not want to rest on that.

  19. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Someone has reported that Rowland Ward made this argument.

    This argument (that the Westminster divines must not have been EP because they used a lower case 'p' when referring to the psalms in WCF 21.5) has been made before on the PB.

    See this thread (note posts 16 and following).
  20. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Prior deleted post said:

    "Daniel Ritchie deals with the upper case P / lower case p objection to the WCF's teaching on exclusive psalmody in The Regulative Principle of Worship: Explained and Applied, pp. 174-176."

    Ritchie is fine for an introductory work which is what he admits it is; but it is not fine on this issue. Schwertley, and Ritchie who follows him and takes it a step even further, and Pribble whom Schwertley is opposing, all assume capital or lower case usage without checking any early authoritative editions or the MSS. All their speculation is incorrect, whatever they think they are arguing for. It is a non issue and not something to be relied upon as determining anything. All points already made above.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2007
  21. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Here's what was used for the WCF in Reformed Confessions 3.0:

    The above is from the page "About the Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms".
  22. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Yes; those are the main sources I would have guessed; in fact, I think the same person was responsible for both texts, the American on the OPC, and the 'original' at
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