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Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by NaphtaliPress, Oct 26, 2006.
Do the Westminster standards teach Exclusive Psalmody? Explain why if you like.
Yes. If they didn't then men wouldn't have to take exception to that portion of the WCF.
WCF, Chapter XXI, "Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day", section V:
The Directory for the Public Worship of God communicates what this means. The Westminster Standards do not even mention any other singing or music in this context.
It's also important to note that this list of authorized elements of worship (which does not include non-Psalm hymns, or musical instruments for that matter) is in the context of the regulative principle which was enunciated a few paragraphs before:
It is also important to note that the Assembly produced a psalter not a psalter-hymnal.
The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing
Thomas Ford (member of the Westminster Assembly), Singing of Psalms: The Duty of Christians Under the New Testament
Also note the opinion (1673) of some contemporaries of the Westminster Assembly, including John Owen, Matthew Poole, Thomas Watson and Thomas Manton (author of the Epistle to the Reader Commending the Westminster Standards) and Edmund Calamy the Younger (son of Edmund Calamy the Elder, Westminster Divine):
1673 Puritan Preface to the Scottish Metrical Psalter
The older usage of "psalms" includes other scripture songs and songs of human composition. This is the sense in which the word is used in the WCF as any careful reading of primary sources will show.
The error of reading the modern definition of "psalm" back into the 17th century texts' use of the word "psalm" is called temporal provincialism. A common mistake by non-historians when using historical texts for other purposes i.e. theological.
Can you provide any primary sources that would substantiate your claim?
Even if you could demonstrate that this were true in some circumstances, the subsequent practice of the Church of Scotland is epexegetical of how they understood the standards--that is exclusive psalmody. As has been mentioned in other threads before, the Scots were willing to give up singing the "Amen" at the end of the Psalm because of how strictly the English were applying the RPW. Thus, even if "psalm" could mean religious song, in the 17th century, it is clear that this is not how the Westminster Standards were understood by the body that received them.
Yes, the Psalter was produced to further, in part, the uniformity of worship. This is something I think we are prone to forget in an age where sadly uniformity in worship (as well as doctrine, government and discipline) is no longer a priority among many Presbyterians.
Not even remotely historically or theologically accurate.
This is exceedingly wrong.
You would need to go back and read some of the puritans and the divines on this subject.
"Psalms" did not mean "anything goes" (i.e. songs of other compositions), but strictly the Psalter. They are quite blatant on the subject, so I am unsure either exegetically or theologically who you "are reading."
This is why I love historical theology so much, and am research professor of Church History for Whitefield - you can't change history. You simply have to report on it. It is not only wrong to think they were not exclusive psalmists, but it is impossible to demosntrate using thier own writings. One would have to either simply say "no" and neglect the evidence of history, or they would have to rewrite history. In either case, its negligence.
Even though I am coming closer to the "Old School" way, I think this statement is quite uncharitable. Everyone loves uniformity, if it means that the other side is the one changing to their position, but if they are the ones who have to change, it becomes an issue of purity and not unbiblically binding consciences etc.
Mr. Godwin, forgive me for the appearance of being uncharitable. I can assure you, this was not my intention. My point was not that everyone who disagrees with me is seeking to be schismatic! That would indeed be unfair. Rather, I was expressing a personal opinion that there seems to be a different emphasis in many modern presbyterian bodies from what the Westminster Assembly was trying to do. Because the Assmebly desired a uniformity of doctrine, worship, government and discipline, they produced documents and sought ways of bringing this unity about visibly and practically. Maybe I was being too sweeping with my assertion but I do think some people forget that the Scottish Metrical Psalter is a marvelous tool for expressing unity within a denomination and across denominational boundaries. It, and (as far as I know) it alone was the only authorised song book for many years in the Church of Scotland. (Someone correct me if I am wrong). Today it seems that many (note: I am not saying all) denominations are quick to publish their own song books and even tolerate other songs/song boooks in worship other than what the highest court of that church has authorised. But I think I may be getting somewhat off topic with this line of thought.
Now I certainly would not want to be "exceedingly wrong" or guilty of "negligence" so I will offer a brief defense. I realise that it will be hard for me to be even "remotely ...accurate" since I am responding from work without my own books at hand so please be gracious if my citations a not up MLA standards.
So some Puritains & divines who (appear to) misunderstand their own position (as defined by modern presbyterians) are:
1) Thomas Manton. Author of the famous "Epistle to the Reader" in some editions of the WCF said (I am paraphrasing from memory) 'we do not forbid other songs, if pious & grave.'
2) Johnathan Edwards. (again a paraphrase) 'I know of no reason to confine ourselves to it (the psalter).'
3) John Flavel. Often quoted for his colourful descriptioin of the ruin that followed 'innovations in worship' also wrote hymns.
4) Ralph Erskine. Author of popular hymns.
5)William Cunningham. On his deathbed asked to have a copy of the WCF and "Onley Hymns" brought to him.
It is also worth mentioning that most (all?) editions of the Paraphases included hymns and the universal practice seems to have been to sing the "gloria patria" after all Psalms sung in Scotch churches. Now this practice was suspended out of a desire for uniform practice with the English church, however it was not argued at the time that scripture or the RPW demanded it.
Ralph Erskine, Jonathan Edwards, and William Cunningham did not live in the 17th Century.
And to answer your question Chris...yes.
Thomas Manton has this to say on the page following the quote you cited.
Commentary on James, p.443
There is a differecne between having other hymns that are used as part of family worship outside the corporate environment, and what is sung ONLY in corporate worship.
Manton and Flavel (and myself) would not have a problem writing and singing other songs outside of corporate worship.
Are you sure Thomas Manton was referring to the public worship of God?
An EP adherent could very well sing Hymns. But he won't sing those hymns in the public worship of God now will he?
I know and Edinburg ain't in In.
As I said I don't have access to the sources whilst at work. I was limited to who was on the 'top of my mind'.
BTW as great a man of God as I think G.I. Wiliamson is and as much as I have been blessed by his work, he is not a historian.
Whether G.I. Williamson is a historian or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the Westminster Assembly commissioned the translation of, and authorized the use of a Psalter to be used in the Reformed Churches of the three kingdoms.
Thanks, Greg! How did you do that BTW? I thought it was from his com. on James but I was not certain.
The Question under discussion was not did the divines like the hymns of their day, or did they prefer the Psalms of David, but do the standards teach the EP position.
I know that the EP partisans take this to be an open & shut case, esp the ones from the US. However the scholarly consenses seems to be against them.
We're still waiting for your examples of the scholarly consensus and the primary sources that would substantiate your claim.
It would seem to me that the best scholars on the interpretation of the WCF on this issue would be the divines themeselves (since they actually wrote the confession!). Following this, the context of their views in their private writings would carry much more weight then later scholar's trying to interpret the confession apart from the views of the divines.
I will look some up tonight & post something tomorrow.
The problem arises then when we ask "what was the definition of 'Psalm' as used by the divines?"
Thomas Manton sure made a clear distinction between "Psalms" and songs of "private composure", did he not?
I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago.
This is the exact point I was getting at. In THEIR writings they make the distinction between songs sung outside coporate worship (which can inlcude non-inspired hymns) and the Psaltar that was used IN corporate worship.
This is why I am baffled at the use of the phrase "scholars say"....
What scholars? Who? Where?
The writings of the Puritans themselves attest explcitely to exclusive psalmody in corporate worship.
Even the ministers on this board who disagree with the Reformed church at LEAST give way at that point and say "Yes, they did - they meant EP."
I would suggest reading "Worship of the American Puritans" and "Worship of the English Puritans" by Davies. It quotes all sorts of primary sources for those who don't own all the sets.
I can't believe this is even being debated.
dont kill the thread, this is very helpful.
I bet you thought I was saying no to the main question.
Yes, WCF does teach EP.