EP only in corporate/public worship?

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by deathtolife, Jul 19, 2017.

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  1. deathtolife

    deathtolife Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello there brethren-

    As I have been studying and reading about exclusive psalmody, I have learned that some, today and in the past (i.e. John Kennedy of Dingwall), advocate and defend exclusive psalmody only in public worship. Does anyone here hold to this position? If so, may you please explain it to me?

    What about family worship? Some are adamant that Psalms are only to be sung in every sphere of called worship, such as family worship and private worship. Though, I think I read somewhere that Matthew Henry also sang versified Scripture songs in family worship as well. Yesterday, I read in the Reformation Heritage Study Bible an article on family worship explaining that we should primarily sing the Psalms, but not neglect good and sound hymns. It seems that the editors believe singing other songs than the Psalms outside of public worship is Scriptural. (Interesting, because my understandings is most of the men involved with this study Bible serve in EP denominations.) How does one explain, from Scripture, an EP position only for corporate worship, but allow for other songs in other kinds of specific worship ?

    Someone explained to me that because when the church gathers together we are the living temple of God, and therefore worship is strictly regulated. Thoughts?

    I apologize for all the questions. Thanks for your help.
  2. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    The RPCNA has always sung psalms.
    If you go to the Crown and Covenant web site you will find several resources that will be helpful.
  3. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Wherever the RPW governs worship, Psalms are commanded. The Directory for the public worship of God helps here.


    Family & private worship falls under this restriction.


    The only time I believe one can sing whatever they prefer is when they are not in actual worship. All of life is not worship, hence songs can be sung outside of worship-the question to ask is why would u want to sing anything but the Psalms?


    Some helpful quotes:
    "A number of godly men have composed spiritual songs for this purpose with a variety of melodies. It appears that Luther has been the first one to do so during the Reformation. His songs are still sung today with edification by the Lutherans in their churches, as well as privately by us . . . The decision of the Dutch Synods has been very correct indeed, namely, that none other but the Psalms of David are to be used in the churches."

    - Wilhelmus a Brakel

    "Now though spiritual songs of mere humane 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)."

    - Preface to the 1650 Psalter

    “We do not deny that a private individual, filled with the spirit, is able to compose new hymns, for his own edification and that of others; but it does not follow that a song of this sort ought to be sung in the public assemblies of the Church.”

    - John Brown of Wamphray

    "We grant also, that any private Christian, who hath a gift to frame a spiritual Song, may both frame it privately, for his own private comfort, and remembrance of some special benefit, or deliverance. Nor do we forbid the private use of an Instrument of Musick therewithall: So that attention to the Instrument, does not divert the heart from attention to the matter of the Song." -

    - John Cotton

    "When all this is said and done, it may be useful to highlight that none of this is mean to discourage the writing or singing of songs which are in praise of God. Many such songs -- for example, 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross' -- have found their way into the affections of many of the Lord's people and, providing the content is honouring to God, the writing of such songs and their performance can be seen as the valid exercise of a valid gift. However, the questions at issue concern when, where and how such songs are to be used.

    After all, it is the Reformed understanding of worship that worship takes place when we draw near to God by calling upon his name. This worship consists of an act, or a series of acts, in which God speaks to us (in reading, preaching, and sacraments) and in which we present our offerings to God (in song and prayer - sometimes accompanied with vows and fasting). It is also the historic Reformed understanding that nothing is to be offered to God as worship without his explicit appointment - and that the songs which he has appointed which he has appointed to be offered in the context of worship are the Psalms!"

    - Kenneth Stewart

    Here's a Facebook thread on the subject:
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  4. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    Is not family worship, worship? Is He not the same God on both occasions, both privately and publicly? Similarly in the covering of the head, the injunction remains true in both instances.
  5. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    These quotes seem to perpetuate a misunderstanding of what Paul means by "filled with the spirit" and "spiritual song" in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3. There is no such thing as a spiritual song of merely human composure; and no song of human composition can be said to edify as the word of God does.

    I'm kind of surprised at the encouragements from these men to compose our own songs for private use...

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  6. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    This is a somewhat confusing area in that the two areas of worship entail both the specific (corporate, private) and the generic or general (which is a worshipful attitude in all of life). Where many get confused, myself included, is when we think the specific is the same as the generic or general. I think maybe these men composing songs were maybe thinking of the area of generic or general worshipful attitude and not specific worship.
  7. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Correct. All of life is not worship. I would suspect that if a man wrote a poem about God, and never sung it, it would be fine-no complaints from anyone. If he sings it, it is always considered worship by many. If the person's mind shifts to worship, i.e. personal, that may be the crux of the issue. If u are able to keep your mind away from personal worship during the singing (which I acknowledge, would be difficult), there would be no sin.
  8. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior


    I haven't fully resolved this question for myself yet. However, from a practical standpoint, family worship is the perfect setting in which to learn the Psalms and tunes so that we can be better equipped for public worship, and so that we can have them in our hearts for our own private use.

    I approach the issue of head-covering the same way. My daughters learn to be comfortable with their head coverings in family worship so that they are not unduly distracted by them in public worship.

    On a side point, are you perchance coming to the family conference next month?

    One more random thought: You mentioned the RH Study Bible. Bear in mind that the Dutch brethren who put that together are not so firmly convinced of exclusive Psalmody as one might think, given their practice. See here a brief critique of Exclusive Psalmody from the FRCNA website: https://frcna.org/messenger/messenger-articles/item/8566-
  9. deathtolife

    deathtolife Puritan Board Freshman

    The quote you shared by Kenneth Stewart is interesting...

    "When all this is said and done, it may be useful to highlight that none of this is mean to discourage the writing or singing of songs which are in praise of God. Many such songs -- for example, 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross' -- have found their way into the affections of many of the Lord's people and, providing the content is honoring to God, the writing of such songs and their performance can be seen as the valid exercise of a valid gift. However, the questions at issue concern when, where and how such songs are to be used."

    Would you agree with this?

    It seems to me many good hymns, when sung, do stir the heart to greater affections to the Lord. The fruit that it produces can be good, and honoring to the Lord. If the affections and heart are stirred and moved "Christward" does this become specific worship? Is it sinful?

    Someone once told me hymns are okay if there is no direct praise to God. Is this confusing specific worship with general worship?:think:
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
  10. deathtolife

    deathtolife Puritan Board Freshman


    Thank you for your advice. Family worship is the best time to learn the Psalms , and head-coverings etc... You are right in this. As you can tell I am still working through, and learning about EP including all its ramifications.

    The Free Reformed Churches and Heritage Reformed Churches are not EP? Was Hugh Cartwright critiquing the practice of hymn singing in family worship and other social gatherings?

    Would be good if Rev. Jerrold H. Lewis could speak on this....
  11. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I wouldn't. My position is that if the song was intended for worship, thats a break right out of the shoot.

  12. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I think you will find a variety of views in those churches. Officially, their practice is exclusive Psalmody (or something close to it), however, I think that many of them are simply following what they see as healthy church legislation. That is to say, they are happy to go along with it, but it isn't necessarily what they'd be doing if they were in a different denomination.

    I don't mean to put words in anyone's mouth. This is simply the impression I get from things I have read and heard from HRC and FRCNA folks. I'll be happy to be corrected if Rev. Lewis or anyone else can weigh in.

    I should also add that I think there would probably be men in both groups that hold to a strong EP position.
  13. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    "Meditation" can take the form of a song (Psalm 119). It is possible to sing a song--even one with religious lyrics--without offering it up in specific worship of God. Specific worship requires a drawing near and a bowing down of the whole person, which meditation does not. Although affections may be stirred in both, there is a difference both in intent and in action between specific worship and meditation.

    I would also point out that various acts of generic worship may lead to the affections being stirred to perform acts of specific worship.

    Because "family worship" and "private worship" can be defined as the authority setting it aside may choose (the head of house in the former, the individual in the latter), it is possible that other songs might be sung during those times--just not as specific worship (I'm just saying what may be possible; I'm not necessarily recommending such practices.). If "family worship" and "private worship" refer to a time when only specific actions of worship will be offered, then obviously, other songs and actions are excluded. However, if "family worship" and "private worship" are defined as a period of time of religious exercise and instruction, during which specific acts of worship will also be performed by the family or individual, then there is freedom to include other actions so long as they are not done as acts of specific worship. We are more strictly regulated in corporate worship because of liberty of conscience and the limited authority of office bearers.
  14. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    On the 'all of life is not worship' idea; is this a push-back against the Gospel Coalition-y idea of cooking being worship (for instance)?

    If so I can agree with the phrase 'all of life is not worship.' Yet, in regards to the question of using songs of human composition to sing about God or things related to God (and how could singing the ones addressed to God not be worship) I think of two passages of Scripture- Romans 12:1, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" and Hebrews 13:15, "By him [Christ] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." To be about composing our own songs for use, songs which fall short of these commands (do you agree) seems to me a huge waste of time and substituting the poor and deficient for the excellent and truly useful. Even if it's not sin per se to do so, why not be more negative about a practice which, it seems to me, can only lead to less use of and attention to the Psalms? Human nature does love its own devisings.

    I can't imagine such a practice as encouraging church members to compose their own songs about or to God would have been given recognition as an "ok" thing to do by the apostles.

    Just to add a thought- I do believe there's a difference between writing a poem not intended for singing and writing a song. Singing is different; it's more of a community thing? We're wired somehow for singing to teach and share common experiences and truth. I haven't ever sat down to think this through so as to articulate but I think there does need to be more attention paid to it.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  15. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not specifically

    I don't know if I agree with your assessment of these verses referring to worship. This would, if you are correct, have to fall under private worship. The bible commands that we sing the Psalms in worship. We see no positive command to sing anything other. In that, If I wrote a song about God and found it edifying, I would not consider it worship but just entertainment or self edification, like reading a good book about God. For example, the other day I was listening to a CD by Brent Bourgeois. It was edifying. It was about God and the believers walk. I was singing one of the songs. It was NOT worship. I enjoyed it.
  16. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    As an FRCNA minister, and a contributor to the RHB Study Bible, I can attest to both EP on the Lord's Day and in family worship (no versified scriptural texts). I know several of my FRCNA brother minsters feel the same way. It seems that more and more, the denomination is in function EP, even though the Belgic Confession (1561) states that the 10 Commandments, Apostles Creed, Songs of Mary and Simeon, and the Lord's Prayer are also permitted. Permitted does not mean you must use them. I never have, and by the Lord's grace, never will. EP is waxing, not waning in the FRCNA.
    I agree with my FC brother that family worship is the perfect place to practice for corporate worship as a family by singing the Psalms. While we do not make this a rule, it is encouraged because Sabbath School and Catechism classes require memorization of plaster selections each Lord's Day. I personally do not believe that scriptural songs or good hymns are wrong in family worship, even though this is not our personal practice.
  17. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I guess it would, according to the divisions of generic and specific worship being discussed here. (Question 1: when and how did the thinking on these divisions develop? The standards don't seem to address it.) I certainly believe in the RPW and its strict application in private, family, and corporate worship. Concerning the singing of Psalms, I'm just not so sure we're 'free,' as has been maintained, to compose hymns for times of generic worship. (I'm not really thinking about Christian singer/songwriter type songs here.)

    Question 2: I was reading the Standards on worship, which state that "A lawful oath is part of religious worship." How does this imply (or not imply) that regulated worship isn't confined to the times when we draw near to God as described during specific worship?
  18. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    in my opinion, 'a lawful oath' is prayer based, hence, falls under private worship.
  19. richardnz

    richardnz Puritan Board Freshman

    I think Pastor Lewis is referring to the Church Order of Dordt (1618) which says in Art69. “In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the 12 Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon shall be sung. It is left to the option of the churches whether to use or omit the song, “O God, who art our Father. All other hymns shall be kept out of the churches...” (The hymn they kept was an old traditional prayer-song by Utenhove sung before the sermon). The historical practice of Continental Reformed Churches is to follow Calvin in restricting congregational singing to the Psalms of David and a few canticles or liturgical songs. There was always a resistance to introducing hymns, not in principle but for practical reasons. Hence a Brakel said, "Now though spiritual songs of mere humane 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)." This is Calvin’s argument: Psalms are better. He also said,
    “The decision ofthe Dutch Synods has been very correct indeed, namely, that none other but the Psalms of David are to be used in the churches.”
    In reading this it should be noted that what he meant by “none other than the Psalms of David” was in fact “None other than the Psalms of David plus the canticles”. Note also that he approved of the private use of hymns. He just did not want them in public worship. It was common for Continental Reformed Christians to sing hymns outside of church because there is no objection to them in principle in church or at home.
    There is another argument for exclusive psalmody which for want of a better description I call the Presbyterian Regulative Principle Argument. This argument, I believe, came from Presbyterian ministers resisting the displacement of Psalms by hymns in public worship, and my best estimate is that it came into being around 1850. It is a separate argument to Calvin’s argument, and has able exponents on the PB. A principle of any kind naturally leads to certain logical conclusions, and so I believe that the logical conclusion of this Principle is that it would be wrong to sing hymns at home. I may not like the conclusion but I respect the commitment to principled reasoning.

    Matthew Henry was mentioned in the OP as singing versified scripture songs in family worship. In his “Family Hymns” he sang Psalms (which he also calls hymns), he sang sections of Psalms blended together, he sang the Song of Mary, Song of Zecharias, Song of Simeon, songs from the book of Revelation, and the Te Deum.
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