Do the Westminster Stds teach Exclusive Psalmody?

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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Yes. If they didn't then men wouldn't have to take exception to that portion of the WCF.

Chapter 21:
V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,17 the sound preaching18 and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence,19 singing of psalms with grace in the heart;20 as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:21 beside religious oaths,22 vows,23 solemn fastings,24 and thanksgivings upon special occasions,25 which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.26
 

jaybird0827

PuritanBoard Honor Roll
WCF, Chapter XXI, "Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day", section V:

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.
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.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
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.
:agree: 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:

Chapter 21. Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.
1. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.a But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.b

a. Josh 24:14; Psa 18:3; 31:23; 62:8; 119:68; Jer 10:7; Mark 12:33; Acts 17:24; Rom 1:20; 10:12. • [/b]b. Exod 20:4-6; Deut 4:15-20; 12:32; Mat 4:9-10; 15:9; Acts 17:25; Col 2:23.[/b]
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):

Now though spiritual songs of mere human 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 useth (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
1673 Puritan Preface to the Scottish Metrical Psalter
 
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Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
No.

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.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
No.

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?
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
No.

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.
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.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
:


It is also important to note that the Assembly produced a psalter not a psalter-hymnal.
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.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
No.

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.
Not even remotely historically or theologically accurate.

This is the sense in which the word is used in the WCF as any careful reading of primary sources will show.
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.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
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.
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.

CT
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
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.

CT
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.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
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.
 

PresReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
And to answer your question Chris...yes.

G. I Williamson, American Presbyterian: “[An] element of true worship is “the singing of psalms with grace in the heart.” It will be observed that the Confession [21:5] does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the use of modern hymns in the worship of God, but rather only the psalms of the Old Testament. It is not generally realized today that Presbyterian and Reformed Churches originally used only the inspired psalms, hymns and songs of the Biblical Psalter in divine worship, but such is the case. The Westminster Assembly not only expressed the conviction that only the psalms should be sung in divine worship, but implemented it by preparing a metrical version of the Psalter for use in the Churches … we must record our conviction that the Confession is correct at this point. It is correct, we believe, because it has never been proved that God has commanded his Church to sing the uninspired compositions of men rather than or along with the inspired songs, hymns and psalms of the Psalter in divine worship” (The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes [Philadelphia: P & R, 1964], p. 167).
 

PresReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Kevin,
Thomas Manton has this to say on the page following the quote you cited.

Scripture psalms not only may be sung, but are fittest to be used in the church, as being indited by an infallible and unerring Spirit, and are of a more diffusive and unlimited concernment than the private dictates of any particular person or spirit in the church. It is impossible any should be of such a large heart as the penmen of the word, to whom God vouchsafed such a public, high, and infallible conduct; and therefore their excellent composures and addresses to God being recorded and consigned to the use of the church for ever, it seemeth a wonderful arrogance and presumption in any to pretend to make better, or that their private and rash effusions will be more edifying. Certainly if we consult with our own experience, we have little cause to grow weary of David's psalms, those that pretend to the gift of psalmony, venting such wild, raw, and indigested stuff, belching out revenge and passion, and mingling their private quarrels and interests with the public worship of God. But suppose men of known holiness and ability should be called to this task, and the matter propounded to be sung be good and holy, yet certainly then men are like to suffer loss in their reverence and affection, it being impossible that they should have such absolute assurance and high esteem of persons ordinarily gifted as of those infallibly assisted. Therefore, upon the whole matter, I should pronounce, that so much as an infallible gift doth excel a common gift, so much do scriptural psalms excel those that are of a private composure.
Commentary on James, p.443
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
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.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
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.
Quick note.

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?
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Kevin,
Ralph Erskine, Jonathan Edwards, and William Cunningham did not live in the 17th Century.
I know and Edinburg ain't in In.:lol:

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.
 

PresReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
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.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Kevin,
Thomas Manton has this to say on the page following the quote you cited.



Commentary on James, p.443
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.
 

PresReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
We're still waiting for your examples of the scholarly consensus and the primary sources that would substantiate your claim.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
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.
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.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
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.
:agree:

The problem arises then when we ask "what was the definition of 'Psalm' as used by the divines?"
 
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C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
:agree:

The problem arises then when we ask "what was the definition of 'Psalm' as used by the divines?"
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.
 
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