Walter Marshall on Singing

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Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
This quote is from The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Direction XIII for those who care) and seems to indicate that not all ministers thrown out of their livings in 1662 were conscientious upholders of exclusive psalmody.

This is not to start an argument, merely to point out an interesting fact.

Another means appointed of God, is singing of psalms, that is, songs of any sacred subject composed to a tune, hymns or songs of praise and spiritual songs of any sublime spiritual manner, as Psalm 45 and the Song of Solomon. God has commanded it in the New Testament (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5: 19 ), though now in these days many question whether it is an ordinance or not. And there were many commands for it under the Old Testament (Ps. 149:1-3; 96:1; 100).

Moses and the children of Israel sang before David's time (Exod. 15). David composed psalms by the Spirit, to be sung publicly (2 Sam. 23:1, 2), yea, privately too (Ps. 40:3; 2 Chron. 29:30; Ps. 105:2). Other songs also were made upon several occasions and used, whether they were parts of the Scripture or not, as Solomon made a thousand and five (1 Kings 4:32 ). And they made songs upon occasion, which teaches that it is lawful for us to do so, if they be according to the Word (Isa. 38:9-14).

The matter of Scripture may be sung (Ps. 119:54). Christ and His disciples sung a hymn (Matt. 26:30), supposed to be one of David's psalms; and they were written for our instruction, as well as other parts of Scripture (Rom. 15:4), and so to be used now in singing. They speak of the things of the New Testament, either figuratively or clearly, and we may understand them better now than the Jews could under the Old Testament (2 Cor. 3:16 ; Gal. 2:17 ).

Christians before practiced this duty as well as Jews (Acts 16:25). Hence their antelucani hymni [the hymns they sang before daylight] were noted by Pliny a heathen. These songs or hymns may be used at all times, especially for holy mirth or rejoicing (James 5:13). But this text is not to be taken exclusively in singing, any more than in prayer (Ps. 38: 18; 2 Chron. 35:25).

But the right manner of this duty is chiefly to be noted. And here, (i) Trust not upon the melody of the voice, as if that pleased God, who delights only in the melody of the heart (Col. 3:16). Neither let the recreating your senses be your end, which is but a carnal work: Non musica chordula, sed cor; non clamans, sed amans, psallit in aure Dei: 'Not a musical string, but the heart; nor crying, but loving sounds in the ear of the Lord.' This spiritual music was typified by musical instruments of old. (ii) You must use it for the same end as meditation and prayer, according to the nature of what is sung, that is, to quicken faith (2 Chron. 20:21, 22; Acts 16:25, 26), and joy and delight in the Lord, glorying in Him (Ps. 104:33, 34; 105:3; 149:1, 2; 33: 1-3). You are never right until you can be heartily merry in the Lord, to act joy and mirth holily (James 5:13 ; Eph. 5:19 ), and also to get more knowledge and instruction in heavenly mysteries, and in your duty, teaching and admonishing (Col. 3:16). Many psalms are Maschils (as their title is), that is, psalms of instruction.

Thus we are to sing such psalms as speak in the first person, though we cannot apply them to ourselves, as words uttered by ourselves concerning ourselves; and in this we do not lie. David speaks of Christ as of Himself, as a pattern of affliction and virtue, to instruct others; and we sing such psalms, not as our words, but as words of our instruction. And therein we do not lie, any more than the Levites, the sons of Korah, or Jeduthun or other musicians bound to sing them (Ps. 5; 39; 42). Though it is good to personate all the good that we can, yet we have so much liberty in the use of psalms that though we cannot apply all to ourselves, as speaking and thinking the same, yet we shall answer the end if we sing for our instruction, as in Psalms 6, 26, 46, 101 and 131.

And psalms have a peculiar fitness for teaching and instructing, because the pleasantness of metre, said or sung, is very helpful to the memory (see Deut. 31:19, 21). And there is a variety of curious artifice in the placing of words in the psalms upon this account, and there are some alphabetical psalms, as Psalms 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145. And by the melody of the sound, the instruction comes in with delight, as a physical dose sugared, and sorrow is naturally allayed to fit the mind for spiritual joy, and distempered passions appeased (2 Kings 3:15; 1 Sam. 16: 14-16). So Orpheus, Amphion and others were famous for civilizing rude and barbarous people by music.

This can be found online.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Recent discussions have helped me to realize that there are many things about music that I could do some more careful thinking on. This quote from Walter Marshall reflects some of the things that have come up. Thanks for posting this for us to ruminate upon. And thanks for the link. There are a few things here that will broaden my reflection on song, singing, and its relationship to worship.
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