Do the Westminster Stds teach Exclusive Psalmody?

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tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Related to this issue, of those presbyterian bodies which are de facto hymn singers, have any of them authorized de jure the use of hymns in addition to the Psalms? (Do the PCA or OPC require hymn-singing office holders to take an exception to WCF 21?)

The PCA BCO states in chapter 47 that the proper elements of worship include "singing of psalms and hymns,.", but chapter 47 does not have "full constitutional authority" according to the preface to the Directory of Worship.

The PCA reaffirmed its commitment to (non-exclusive) psalmody when it encouraged congregations to sing psalms, and authorized the production of the Trinity Psalter.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Related to this issue, of those presbyterian bodies which are de facto hymn singers, have any of them authorized de jure the use of hymns in addition to the Psalms? (Do the PCA or OPC require hymn-singing office holders to take an exception to WCF 21?)

The PCA BCO states in chapter 47 that the proper elements of worship include "singing of psalms and hymns,.", but chapter 47 does not have "full constitutional authority" according to the preface to the Directory of Worship.

The PCA reaffirmed its commitment to (non-exclusive) psalmody when it encouraged congregations to sing psalms, and authorized the production of the Trinity Psalter.
The OPC does not require exception to be taken, because it's not an exception -- and I'm quite sure that the OPC Directory says that Psalms should/ought (don't know which) "to be sung frequently." There are, incidentally, already plans in the making for the creation of a Psalter/Hymnal (so that all the Psalms would be placed in the front, like what our Dutch brethren have been doing for years).
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
For all that has been said to say that the WCF, WLC, and WSC teach EP, what is missing is that if they meant "only", then why did they not say "only"? May I suggest that you are all misunderstanding what the Confessional standards DO say?

I don't mind a church or person arguing for EP as a temporary rule, on the authority of the RPW, to keep good order and purity of worship during a time of great musical saturation and/or ignorance. It is quite proper. Without the proper analysis of what actually went wrong with the growth of these 'great hymns of faith', we do tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But with an understanding use of the RPW, an policy of EP is quite commendable in our time.

What I will not agree with is an EP imposed as doctrine upon the reason of it being an application of the RPW. That undermines the RPW and the doctrine of the Word (WCF ch I.)

To me the point at issue is not the doctrine of which songs are acceptable. The Bible is clear enough about that. It is about a proper respect for the sole authority of the Word to govern teaching and practice. That means that we must have a clear understanding of what "good and necessary consequence" is, and not go beyond it.

So, I have a question about the RPW then: Is it permissible to invoke a new rule, one which is not in the Word or the Confessions, based upon the tenet that "what is not commanded is forbidden"? May we say, "Well, this is not commanded, therefore we may make a commandment that this is forbidden, even though it is not explicitly in the Bible, because our reasoning dictates it to us"? Is this the intent of the RPW, when it says, "what is not commanded is forbidden"?

I will stand on the very reasons that those who say "yes" give to say "no, the Westminster standards do NOT teach EP." The basis is this: if they were so adamant, it should have been stated clearly in the the confessional standard. I suggest that they are saying that we should not neglect the singing of the Psalms, and nothing more than that. All those quotes from Puritans and Westminster contemporaries only underlines their zeal and discipline not to impose more than what the Bible imposed. I am certain of this: they would not use the RPW to break the RPW. These quotes assure me of that. They stop where the Bible stops. They do not rely upon man's conclusions to form doctrine. That is not what "good and necessary consequence" means, and how well they knew that!

They would not ignore how the use of songs to teach and admonish, to memorize the Bible, and to unify the congregation, is blessed by God. They would not ignore that we are encouraged by God to put our praises in the form of song, so that we may joyfully share the way God has blessed the Church throughout her history, both in OT times and in NT times. The use of composed music and song is not condemned, but blessed. They were not legalists.

So I stand upon the very evidences that the "yes" side gives to say, "no".
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
John,

I love you man, so please don't take this the wrong way, but have you read ANYTHING on the RPW or Exclusive Psalmody? I just don't have ANY idea how one could form the opinions you are expousing from the Westminster Standards, or any historical understanding of the RPW.

Again, I mean no offense to you as an indiviudual, but there are some major differences (in definitions, understanding of history etc., etc.) going on here.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Jeff:

No offence taken.

I have read the Westminster Confessions. I've read other stuff, but this is all I need. I know what the RPW is, and I know what "good and necessary consequence" is. The fact that I differ with what seems to be a majority here does not deter me from the historic teachings about the Word as sole authority for doctrine and life. This is not in contrast to Church authority, but rather that Church authority compliments the Bible's authority.

What I've seen, Jeff, is a man stand on the pulpit teaching "adiaphora", matters of personal conscience but NOT doctrine, as doctrine. He was convinced, and that was good enough to say that the Bible taught it and imposed it. The Church didn't say so, only individual men apart from the Church, on their own. This is not a whole lot different. It is the Church that must decide, clearly and without doubt. The Westminster Assembly did teach something about the songs of the church, clearly and without doubt, but it was not EP. They could easily have done so, but they refrained. And I know why: it's because they shared the same principle of limits that I have espoused here.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Section 1 of chapter 23 of the WCF provides a clear statement of the regulative principle. What follows are the "ordinary parts" of worship which the divines believed to be warranted by the holy Scriptures; and these are distinguished from other parts that are special. There can be no doubt that the divines were providing a complete list of all that they thought was warranted by the Word of God to be done in public worship. There was no need to add the word "only" in order to indicate exclusivity. Does anybody seriously think the divines intended to leave open the possibility that the Apocrypha could be read in public worship because they didn't put the word "only" before "the reading of the Scriptures?"
This only shows me that I did not make a mistake. They exclude the Apocrypha for the same reason that they refrained from making a new commandment. They full well knew that the Bible did not say "only", so neither did they.

Please be careful here. No one is saying that we should not sing the Psalms. Neither is anyone saying that we should be careless about the songs we do sing. Nor are we commissioning everyone to be a hymnwriter who thinks he has a word to speak. Everyone is advocating great care. I have seen the RPW trounced upon for the sake of a man's own personal convictions. And I am against that.

What I am saying is that I am opposed to undermining the RPW. I think that standing an EP doctrine on the RPW does just that.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
I don't mind a church or person arguing for EP as a temporary rule, on the authority of the RPW, to keep good order and purity of worship during a time of great musical saturation and/or ignorance. It is quite proper.
Call me ignorant if you like, but the above is my basis for EP.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Call me ignorant if you like, but the above is my basis for EP.
Well, Scott, I've said enough. I'm not going to call anyone any names. Just believe me that I had to be very prepared for my trial, and that I am well grounded in the RPW, as well as the limits of office and authority. I am well qualified to say what I said. All I ask is, show me 'necessity'. Not philosophical necessity, for that is an entirely different thing. Show me Biblical necessity. Don't show me that the Westminster Assembly "meant" EP, show me they explicitly and clearly (the way they wrote every other Biblical doctrine) "said" EP.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
John,
Sorry for my ambiguous statement; Just to clarify, what I meant is that I agree with you. It may be ignorance on my part, but it is good enough for me to hold to the EP position.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
You mean, Scott, that you advocate a policy of EP for the sake of the times we live in, for the sake of the confusion over singing that we live in. If so, then I'm with you all the way. I agree whole-heartedly. I'm also for a proper and scholarly approach to answer the difficulties that face us with the singing of hymns, because I know the great value they had in my spiritual life in supporting and strengthening me in times of trouble.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I believe that Psalm singing is prudent and a safer option for the man of God.
Considering what is going on in a lot of churches, I think you're right. The old hymns and the genre of gospel music itself have fallen on bad times. The "teaching and admonishing" is watered down to "praise for whatever". And "whatever sells, whatever attracts, whatever moves, whatever is the most current trend, that's what we go by" seems to be the rule. Or, "you may sing along if you like, but the majestic organ's sound is the real praise to God." Or,... well, I don't need to go on. I think you're right.

But I have personally gone through a time when all those values that we hardly talked about, which we took for granted, were called upon to sustain me at a time when I was abandoned as a believer. They were my solace, remembering the teachings and prayers and praises of God's people in a time when I was refused the ordinary means of grace. I know well their value in both public and private worship. I know that the EP discussions are far from addressing those values. I do hope that while we take a fallback stance on EP that we are brave enough to face the real issues involved, so that we may recapture the spirit and life of the church which was lost to the inundation of contemporary music.
 

PresReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
So, I have a question about the RPW then: Is it permissible to invoke a new rule, one which is not in the Word or the Confessions, based upon the tenet that "what is not commanded is forbidden"? May we say, "Well, this is not commanded, therefore we may make a commandment that this is forbidden, even though it is not explicitly in the Bible, because our reasoning dictates it to us"? Is this the intent of the RPW, when it says, "what is not commanded is forbidden"?
John...I'm going to have to agree with Jeff that it doesn't seem like you understand the RPW. The RPW is explicitly taught in Scripture, so applying that principle would mean that if it isn't commanded to be used in worship then it is forbidden.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
John...I'm going to have to agree with Jeff that it doesn't seem like you understand the RPW. The RPW is explicitly taught in Scripture, so applying that principle would mean that if it isn't commanded to be used in worship then it is forbidden.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

The difference over the whole debate is exactly what is commanded not whether one holds to the RPW. Hymn advocates believe their hymns to be commanded by Paul as "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." EP argues that Paul meant "Psalms." Either way they are basing their view on the RPW. It's a matter of what is commanded in the element of song.

I think we can safely say that EP was the majority position of the Westminster Assembly. But let us not forget that there were also Anglicans there. And we know that Flavel and Baxter both wrote liturgies including hymns later on. I refer any interested folks to Davies book on The Worship of the English Puritans and the article by Nick Needham called "Westminster and Worship" in The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century Vol 2.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
John...I'm going to have to agree with Jeff that it doesn't seem like you understand the RPW. The RPW is explicitly taught in Scripture, so applying that principle would mean that if it isn't commanded to be used in worship then it is forbidden.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
.

Well, I beg to differ. But that's OK. This is a discussion board. Its good to work these things out in a free forum.

In response, though, let me just say that this does not answer the question. Whether or nor I know what I'm talking about does not matter. The question is about a point of doctrine, not about my intellect. Does the RPW allow the adding of commandments by men on the basis that some things are not explicitly commandd in the Bible? Does the RPW endorse a breaking of itself in order to enforce itself? Is that what it was meant to do?

Or was it rather to keep men from adding commandments that are not in the Bible? For example, does the RPW rule that men may not preach matters of personal conscience as doctrine? Or may they make rules so that they may use the RPW to enforce their own views of what the Bible says, even though the Church has never commanded it, or ever recorded it as a clear teaching of Scripture? Does the RPW differentiate between the opinions of even the most godly men and the decisions of church councils? Does it distinguish between the conclusions of men's own studious efforts and revealed doctrine? Is it not true that the doctrine of the Word is intrinsic to a proper application of the RPW?

Again, may we impose as a commandment what has never been commanded? Did Christ forget something in His Word, that we have to fill it out? May the RPW be used to invoke a commandment that is not commanded in the Bible, nor in the Confessions?

Is it not just possible that we are misunderstanding something? If we see a contradiction in something the Bible enjoins, then is that not a good clue that we're missing what the Bible is saying?

I know that this is an expansion of the original question. I'm just trying to clarify the original question, that's all.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
.

Does the RPW allow the adding of commandments by men on the basis that some things are not explicitly commandd in the Bible? Does the RPW endorse a breaking of itself in order to enforce itself? Is that what it was meant to do?
I realise that these are meant to be rhetorical questions. Nevertheless if this is what you think the EP position is doing, it makes me wonder 1. How well you understand the EP argument and 2. If we are using the same working definition of the RPW.

For the sake of clarity, do you agree with the way the RPW is formulated in the WCF XXI.1 " But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by 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 representation or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture"? The import of this is, as I understand it, whatever is not commanded in God's word (either expressly or by deduction from good and necessary consequence) is forbidden. I think if we can all agree to this definition of the RPW it would help in future discussion. Do you have a different understanding of the RPW?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
At the risk of irritating everyone, discussing what the RPW is for the umpteenth time here on PB is fine, but could someone please split that off to another thread? My interest is in this particular historical question. Let's stay on track if we can, and do so with forbearance and patience with each another in our disagreement, as we should.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
If I can explain my question some. I have no problem recognizing that the Westminster Standards authorize the exclusive use of the Psalms of David in public worship. The question I ask is do the Stds "teach" the position of exclusive psalmody as the reason for this?
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
If I can explain my question some. I have no problem recognizing that the Westminster Standards authorize the exclusive use of the Psalms of David in public worship. The question I ask is do the Stds "teach" the position of exclusive psalmody as the reason for this?
And the correct response is...no. The principle question we must deal with is what was the 17th century definition of Psalm as used by the Divines? Did they use it as a 'term of art' to mean any "Holy Metre" as Poole clearly did (and many others) or did they use it as so many PB members use it to mean "only Psalms of David".

This is the question. And repeatedly begging it adds much heat but little light.

Quoting this or that divine or puritain blasting contemporary hymns is not germaine. Everyone is in agreement that hymnody was a unpopular option at the time (to say the least). Citing long lists of quotes about the superiority of Psalms also does nothing for your view. We also all agree that the overwhelming majority of 17th century reformers loved the Davidic Psalter and held it in the highest regard.

What we must learn is what did they mean by "Psalm"? Many EP advocates take this as a tautology; Psalm = Psalm. In this they remind me of the old arminian response to limited atonement; 'All means all and that is all, all means'. Although this will provoke a few amens from the choir it is not an arguement.

So start by reading Nick Needham in 'Westminster confession of faith into the 21st century vol 2" deal with his sources. A glance down the list whilst saying to yourself "He agrees with me, so does he, so does he..." is not a proper handling of sources. I realise that this could (will) take months. The 70 to 100 page article that you produce at the end will be worth it.

In your article you can show how Needham misused his sources, and establish that every time a Divine used the word 'psalm' with a degree of latitude that includes more than the Davidic Psalter there exist good reasons to doubt either the authenticity of the source or put forward your own theory as to why he used "psalm" to mean "hymn" in this place but in the WCF he only used "psalm" to mean "psalm of David"

I look forward to reading it.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
And the correct response is...no. The principle question we must deal with is what was the 17th century definition of Psalm as used by the Divines? Did they use it as a 'term of art' to mean any "Holy Metre" as Poole clearly did (and many others) or did they use it as so many PB members use it to mean "only Psalms of David".

This is the question. And repeatedly begging it adds much heat but little light.
Well, I tend to agree with "No"; that they could not be intent on defending an EP theory that didn't fully develop till much later. And I do agree that the question is the meaning of psalm. If I've begged that question, you need to show that to me; I'm pretty sure I have not.

Quoting this or that divine or puritain blasting contemporary hymns is not germaine. Everyone is in agreement that hymnody was a unpopular option at the time (to say the least). Citing long lists of quotes about the superiority of Psalms also does nothing for your view. We also all agree that the overwhelming majority of 17th century reformers loved the Davidic Psalter and held it in the highest regard.
I agree.
What we must learn is what did they mean by "Psalm"? Many EP advocates take this as a tautology; Psalm = Psalm.
Maybe so. Again, I do not, nor do I think the position I hold falls into this.

So start by reading Nick Needham in 'Westminster confession of faith into the 21st century vol 2" deal with his sources. A glance down the list whilst saying to yourself "He agrees with me, so does he, so does he..." is not a proper handling of sources. I realise that this could (will) take months. The 70 to 100 page article that you produce at the end will be worth it.

In your article you can show how Needham misused his sources, and establish that every time a Divine used the word 'psalm' with a degree of latitude that includes more than the Davidic Psalter there exist good reasons to doubt either the authenticity of the source or put forward your own theory as to why he used "psalm" to mean "hymn" in this place but in the WCF he only used "psalm" to mean "psalm of David"

I look forward to reading it.
The primary question to ask and answer first, is whether it is even necessary to go beyond the context of the Assembly's documents and work to determine what they meant by the term psalm. If Nick Needham is persuasive that it is, then it may well be the burden you indicate rests on those who say psalm must be used in the specific sense rather than the general. If he is unpersuasive, then it is not.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
The Puritan Preface to the Psalms in Metre

"Good Reader,

‘TIS evident by the common experience of mankind, that love cannot lie idle in the Soul; For every one hath his oblectation (way of enjoyment) and delight, his tastes and relishes are suitable to his constitution, and a man's temper is more discovered by his solaces than by any thing else: Carnal men delight in what is suited to the gust (taste) of the flesh, and Spiritual Men in the things of the Spirit; The promises of God's holy Covenant, which are to others as stale news or withered flowers, feed the pleasure of their minds; and the Mysteries of our Redemption by Christ are their hearts' delight and comfort: But as joy must have a proper object so also a vent: for this is an affection that cannot be penned up: the usual issue and out-going of it is by singing: Profane spirits must have Songs suitable to their mirth; as their mirth is Carnal so their Songs are vain and frothy, if not filthy and obscene; but they that rejoice in the Lord, their mirth runneth in a spiritual channel: Is any merry let him sing Psalms, saith the Apostle, James 5.13. And, Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage, saith holy David, Psa. 119.54. Surely singing, 'tis a delectable way of instruction, as common prudence will teach us. Aelian (Nat. Hist., book 2, ch.39) telleth us that the Cretians enjoined their Children, To learn their Laws by singing them in verse. And surely singing of Psalms is a duty of such comfort and profit, that it needeth not our recommendation: The new nature is instead of all arguments, which cannot be without thy spiritual solace. 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, Ephes. 5.19, Col. 3.16. But then 'tis meet that these Divine composures should be represented to us in a fit translation, lest we want David, in David; while his holy ecstasies are delivered in a flat and bald expression. The translation which is now put into thy hands cometh nearest to the Original of any that we have seen, and runneth with such a fluent sweetness, that we thought fit to recommend it to thy Christian acceptance; Some of us having used it already, with great comfort and satisfaction."
Thomas Manton, D.D.​

Henry Langley, D.D.​

John Owen, D.D.​

William Jenkyn.​

James Innes.​

Thomas Watson.​

Thomas Lye.​

Matthew Poole.​

John Milward.​

John Chester.​

George Cokayn.​

Matthew Meade.​

Robert Francklin.​

Thomas Dooelittle.​

Thomas Vincent.​

Nathanael Vincent.​

John Ryther.​

William Tomson.​

Nicolas Blakie.​

Charles Morton.​

Edmund Calamy.​

William Carslake.​

James Janeway.​

John Hickes.​

John Baker.​

Richard Mayo.​
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
:judge: Case closed!
I wish, Jeff! I cited the same thing on page 1 of this thread and here we are on page 2.

BTW, for those who may be interested, I have provided a brief biographical sketch for most of the signers of the Puritan Preface which can be found in the church history forum.
 
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