WCF 21.5 - "singing of psalms with grace in the heart"

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Brian R.

Puritan Board Freshman
Greetings, All. Would value any input you might offer here. I'm wrestling with this: How do we (non-EP folks) claim adherence to WCF 21.5 if our worship service includes three hymns, but no Psalms? Do we technically have to take exception to this section of the WCF? I wouldn't think so, but it seems pretty clear, at least to the Westminster divines, that psalmody must be part of true worship.

Not necessarily looking to start another EP debate; just hoping for some wisdom/comfort in this vitally important area. Thanks!
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
J. V. Fesko in his The Theology of Westminster Standards:

At first glance the Confession appears to support the views of exclusive psalmody (Dickson), not the inclusive view (Leigh), because the Confession states that the “singing of Psalms with grace in the heart”is an acceptable practice in worship, and the divines cite Colossians 3: 16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”However, when one digs a bit deeper, the evidence points in the opposite direction for a number of reasons. First, Leigh and Dickson both appeal to Colossians 3: 16, which shows that there were at least two divergent readings of this verse. The former argues that psalms are included but that “hymns and spiritual songs”refer to non-inspired musical compositions; and the latter contends that the verse refers only to psalms. 78 The assembly’s Annotations embrace Leigh’s understanding of the verse in question and explain that psalms are the psalms of David, hymns are certain “ditties”composed on special occasions, and spiritual songs were not composed before hand but were “prick’t before them with musical notes, but such as men endited by an extraordinary gift.”79 In other words, spiritual songs were composed extemporaneously. Second, the DPW endorses the propriety of psalmody in worship and states that it is the duty of Christians to praise God publicly and corporately, as well as privately in the home. 80 However, the DPW states only that the psalms should be sung, not that they should be sung exclusively. The DPW is silent regarding the use of non-inspired songs in worship. Third, when one considers how the word psalm was used by seventeenth-century exegetes, the evidence shows that the term encompassed both the Psalms of David and uninspired scriptural songs. Recent research surveying the views of a number of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century theologians, such as John Daillie (1584–1670), Matthew Poole (ca. 1624–1679), and Thomas Manton (1620–1677), confirms the broad use of the term psalm to denote scriptural and extra-scriptural religious musical compositions. 81 Poole notes that even though the Septuagint uses the three terms that Paul employs in Colossians 3: 16 to denote different types of songs within the Psalter, other places in Scripture, such as Luke 24: 44, use the term translated “psalms”more generically. 82 Given these three reasons—the different interpretations of Colossians 3: 16, the absence of a prohibition against non-inspired scriptural songs in worship, and the varied definition of the term psalm—the most likely scenario is that the Standards promote the inclusive use of psalmody in worship as a necessary element but are silent regarding the use of non-inspired scriptural songs in worship. 83 This conclusion appears sound when one compares the DPW with the Church Order approved by the Synod of Dort, which states, “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.”84 Dort’s position is basically one of exclusive psalmody, whereas the DPW is inclusive and silent regarding the use of other songs in worship.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
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The whole tenor of the work of purging the assembly's psalter of anything but the psalms, the works and words of individual divines writing at the time and after the assembly (Baillie, Ford) and many other reasons, point to the fact the assembly was only authorizing the psalms for singing in public worship. That means anything else was not authorized. That's the point of the regulative principle of worship after all. It was not the common practice of the Independents nor the Presbyterians to sing anything other than psalms. The hymn question came up after the assembly's time and there is every indication it never occurred to the assembly they needed to address the question; it wasn't the puritan's practice then. Thomas Ford, the Westminster divine, writing shortly after the assembly and John Brown of Wamphray, Rutherford's student and contemporary, take a stance for only the psalms.
 

Brian R.

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks, Guys. This is all helpful input. But I sense the black and white clarity I'm hoping for might be out of reach. So I'll continue praying and studying.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
It seems to me that an honest reading of the Confession, along with the Directory should convince one that its position is exclusive psalmody. Nothing I've read has led me to believe that this was a hotly debated topic in its time: Psalms were the default standard.
If there needs to be exception taken, do so, but be leery of reinterpreting the Confession to fit another view, Douglas-esque.
I'd rather see exceptions taken than making its meaning so vague that it can fit multiple views.

So yes, if your service does not include psalms, it seems clear that it doesn't square with the intent (and literal wording) of WCF 21.5
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I'm not sure where Dr. Fesko gets his view of Leigh. Leigh says the following in the 1650 edition of the annotations according to Matthew Winzer's piece at the link below. "Edward Leigh stated the matter in the exact same words: 'as the Apostle exhorteth us to singing, so he instructeth what the matter of our Song should be, viz. Psalmes, Hymnes, and spirituall Songs. Those three are the Titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himselfe.' 31 Edward Leigh, Annotations upon all the New Testament (London: 1650), 306.
http://www.puritanboard.com/showthr...Lord-s-Song-in-a-Strange-Land?highlight=Leigh
This is confirmed by looking at the 1650 text. I don't see any footnotes to Fesko so do not know what he is citing of the 3 distinct editions of the annotations.
Teaching and admonishing one another in Psalmes, and Hymnes, and spirituall Songs] See Ephes. 5.19. In both which places, as the Apostle exhorteh us to singing, so he in∣structeth what the matter of our Song should be,*viz. Psalmes, Hymnes, and spirituall Songs. Those three are the Titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himselfe; some of them are called Mizmorim Psalmes; some Tehil∣lim Hymnes; some Shirim Songs, Spirituall Songs.
Psalmes] Were sung on the voyce, and Instrument both, Psal. 108.1. Dan. 3.7.
Hymnes] Were Songs of thankesgiving, for a particular benefit received, Matth. 26.30.
Songs] Wherein we give thankes for generall blessings; as when David praiseth the Lord for the workes of creation, Psal. 104 3.
This is online here but warning, it is a large download.

 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Looks like Fesko is citing Leigh's later body of divinity (1654), but the page needed to check the text cited is blocked in google books. I have a copy or had a copy of Fesko somewhere but it is not at hand. I was trying to find a list of the known writers of the Annotations. The 1650 seem to indicate Leigh did the writing in that volume? I know others were involved but am not hitting a list on Google.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
And looks like I have my Leighs and Leys mixed up. Featly did Paul's letters; he was the only Episcopalian in the assembly and was booted early on. I had thought his pieces were replaced later but it could be only a disclaimer was added.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Greetings, All. Would value any input you might offer here. I'm wrestling with this: How do we (non-EP folks) claim adherence to WCF 21.5 if our worship service includes three hymns, but no Psalms? Do we technically have to take exception to this section of the WCF? I wouldn't think so, but it seems pretty clear, at least to the Westminster divines, that psalmody must be part of true worship.

Not necessarily looking to start another EP debate; just hoping for some wisdom/comfort in this vitally important area. Thanks!

This is a good question, in that many churches that say they are confessional sing only hymns and ignore what they profess. This is sad because such churches do not do what Our Lord commands.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Here are the sources from the quoted portion of Dr. Fesko's book:

_______

78 Cf. Rollock, Colossians, comm. Col. 3: 16 (p. 337); Davenant, Colossians, comm. Col. 3: 16 (pp. 140– 41).

79 Annotations, comm. Eph. 5: 19.

80 Directory for the Publique Worship of God, 40.

81 Nick Needham, “Westminster and Worship: Psalms, Hymns? And Musical Instruments?,” in The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, ed. J. Ligon Duncan, 3 vols. (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2003–2009), 2: 223– 306.

82 Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible: Wherein the Sacred Text Is Inserted, and Various Readings Annexed, Together with the Parallel Scriptures, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers,), comm. Col. 3: 16 (p. 725), comm. Eph. 5: 19 (p. 676); cf. John Daillie, XLIX Sermons upon the Whole Epistle of the Apostle St. Paul to the Colossians (London: Thomas Parkhurst, 1672), serm. 41, Col. 3: 16 (pp. 95– 96); Thomas Manton, A Practical Commentary; or, An Exposition with Notes on the Epistle of James (London: Luke Fawne, 1658), comm. James 5: 13 (pp. 568– 69, esp. 572). Needham, “Westminster and Worship,” 249– 50, 258, 269.

83 Needham, “Westminster and Worship,” 281.

84 DeRidder, Church Orders of the Sixteenth Century, § 69 (p. 555).

_________

I'll edit the footnote numbers back into the original post.
 
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johnny

Puritan Board Sophomore
Greetings, All. Would value any input you might offer here. I'm wrestling with this: How do we (non-EP folks) claim adherence to WCF 21.5 if our worship service includes three hymns, but no Psalms? Do we technically have to take exception to this section of the WCF? I wouldn't think so, but it seems pretty clear, at least to the Westminster divines, that psalmody must be part of true worship.

Not necessarily looking to start another EP debate; just hoping for some wisdom/comfort in this vitally important area. Thanks!

This is a good question, in that many churches that say they are confessional sing only hymns and ignore what they profess. This is sad because such churches do not do what Our Lord commands.

I also know of churches where the psalms are mandated, so there must be at least one psalm sung in every service,
our last church held this position. However, I am very happy to attend an EP church now. :)
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Denominations that sing hymns don't hold to the Westminster Confession but hold it as modified by them some way. The distinction is between original intent and adopting intent. See Dr. Alan Strange's article on the subject here: http://www.pncnopc.org/media/2009_Animus_Conference/Lecture 1 - Strange.doc

In reading the article my question would still be why it is not mandated to have at least one psalm sung every service by the GA or by at least particular presbyteries. Is there such a thing in the PCA or OPC?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I can't speak to the OPC but the PCA does not have a directory for worship that is binding other than some chapters on the Lord's Supper. Someone might recall if there have been overtures passed commending more psalms; the PCA did produce a small psalter to promote more psalm singing. But mandating is not likely going to happen in the PCA. The PCA doesn't even mandate important things in the Confession of Faith.
In reading the article my question would still be why it is not mandated to have at least one psalm sung every service by the GA or by at least particular presbyteries. Is there such a thing in the PCA or OPC?
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Note that the Westminster Assembly worked on a Psalter, which was intended to be the uniform book of praise in the three Kingdoms which signed the Solemn League & Covenant. It did not include any uninspired material.

This Psalter was afterward refined by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and is today known as the Scottish Metrical Version of 1650 (published under the title The Psalms of David in Metre).
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
I haven't read every response in the thread, but before I became EP, when I was being examined by my session to become a RE at my OPC church, I did take an exception to WCF 21.5 for the very reason you are stating Brian. Looking back I think my session at the time thought that odd of me, but I agree with you - the WCF pretty plainly states Psalms should be sung in worship and if they're not, then one would be "outside" of the WCF.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I can't speak to the OPC but the PCA does not have a directory for worship that is binding other than some chapters on the Lord's Supper. Someone might recall if there have been overtures passed commending more psalms; the PCA did produce a small psalter to promote more psalm singing. But mandating is not likely going to happen in the PCA. The PCA doesn't even mandate important things in the Confession of Faith.

Indeed, we (PCA) churches may be mandated to use wine (it does) but that mandate is not enforced and In my most humble opinion the current state of our denomination precludes this from happening at this time. A fear I have is if this issue is brought up to the GA official allowances would be made to allow exclusive use of grape juice for The Lord's Supper.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
It would seem odd to find a presbyterian church that does not include psalms in worship as a reading or through the 100 or so hymns in the Trinity Hymnal based in the psalms.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
It would seem odd to find a presbyterian church that does not include psalms in worship as a reading or through the 100 or so hymns in the Trinity Hymnal based in the psalms.

The issue here is that:

1)Reading through the text does not satisfy the biblical mandate to sing. And it takes away from the intent and purpose for why there are psalms. These are songs, not just literature.
2)Unfortunately, the OPC doesn't enforce much when it comes to what we ought to do in worship. We are a "system" subscription denomination. We have a mixed bag of people that (although not formally) practically take exceptions to all sorts of places in the confession.
3) Believe it or not, I know quite a few officers in the OPC that are ignorant of what the confession means and teaches on this subject.

You hear much about the PCA but the OPC isn't any better.
 

Grant Van Leuven

Puritan Board Freshman
I highly recommend this article by Matthew Winzer per these links (and have referred to it on this specific topic during our membership class on WCF 21:5 to recognize and "correct" Dr. Fesko's comments quoted above in his overall very excellent book from which I have benefited greatly):
http://www.cpjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Winzer-NeedhamReviewf.pdf (scroll to bottom right of pg. 253 for the review article)
https://www.cpjournal.com/articles-...tive-principle-the-singing-of-psalms-and-the/ (a quick synopsis of the above pdf link which also provides that link)
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
It would seem odd to find a presbyterian church that does not include psalms in worship as a reading or through the 100 or so hymns in the Trinity Hymnal based in the psalms.

The issue here is that:

1)Reading through the text does not satisfy the biblical mandate to sing. And it takes away from the intent and purpose for why there are psalms. These are songs, not just literature.
2)Unfortunately, the OPC doesn't enforce much when it comes to what we ought to do in worship. We are a "system" subscription denomination. We have a mixed bag of people that (although not formally) practically take exceptions to all sorts of places in the confession.
3) Believe it or not, I know quite a few officers in the OPC that are ignorant of what the confession means and teaches on this subject.

You hear much about the PCA but the OPC isn't any better.

Unfortunately Van Dixhoorn's guide to the confession has not helped matters either. In my experience the OPC is more inclusive of psalmody than the PCA (the Psalter-hymnal project would also support that) and they are at least tolerant of the one (or is it two now?) EP congregation(s) in the denomination, but you're right that it's not a whole lot better.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The ARP has an explanatory note for 21.5 that basically adds "hymns" to 21.5.

When the ARP stopped being EP in 1946 they understood 21.5 to teach EP and changed the Standards accordingly.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Brian, as a deacon, do you have to formally take an exception to a standard or is that only for elders?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Unfortunately Van Dixhoorn's guide to the confession has not helped matters either. In my experience the OPC is more inclusive of psalmody than the PCA (the Psalter-hymnal project would also support that) and they are at least tolerant of the one (or is it two now?) EP congregation(s) in the denomination, but you're right that it's not a whole lot better.

May I fear that this statement is really true? Do those that "tolerate" EP really believe it is a sin to enforce EP?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Matthew Winzer reviewed Chad's book and has noted some of the problems from an historical, at least from a non American POV. As to sin, while I have not heard this about other denominations, I have read anecdotally (I think here on PB) of OPC elders insisting that it was a breaking of membership vows to not sing whatever they deigned was right to put in the order of worship.
Unfortunately Van Dixhoorn's guide to the confession has not helped matters either. In my experience the OPC is more inclusive of psalmody than the PCA (the Psalter-hymnal project would also support that) and they are at least tolerant of the one (or is it two now?) EP congregation(s) in the denomination, but you're right that it's not a whole lot better.

May I fear that this statement is really true? Do those that "tolerate" EP really believe it is a sin to enforce EP?
 

Brian R.

Puritan Board Freshman
Brian, as a deacon, do you have to formally take an exception to a standard or is that only for elders?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Jeri, Yes, years ago when ordained the session did ask me about exceptions, but at that time I was a bit weak on WCF 21. Not relevant today since I'm no longer an active deacon having moved from Georgia to South Carolina.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Matthew Winzer reviewed Chad's book and has noted some of the problems from an historical, at least from a non American POV. As to sin, while I have not heard this about other denominations, I have read anecdotally (I think here on PB) of OPC elders insisting that it was a breaking of membership vows to not sing whatever they deigned was right to put in the order of worship.

So what exactly would an elder do then? (not really asking BTW) :)The practical implications where membership vows are required to be a member of a church is sad, as demonstrated here.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
Matthew Winzer reviewed Chad's book and has noted some of the problems from an historical, at least from a non American POV. As to sin, while I have not heard this about other denominations, I have read anecdotally (I think here on PB) of OPC elders insisting that it was a breaking of membership vows to not sing whatever they deigned was right to put in the order of worship.
Unfortunately Van Dixhoorn's guide to the confession has not helped matters either. In my experience the OPC is more inclusive of psalmody than the PCA (the Psalter-hymnal project would also support that) and they are at least tolerant of the one (or is it two now?) EP congregation(s) in the denomination, but you're right that it's not a whole lot better.

May I fear that this statement is really true? Do those that "tolerate" EP really believe it is a sin to enforce EP?

Yes, it is sometimes viewed as a violation of the fourth membership vow, that of submitting to the government of that particular church. Nevermind that the WCF expressly condemns implicit faith.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Not surprisingly, a more serious error than the alleged error of thinking one should only sing the psalms.
Matthew Winzer reviewed Chad's book and has noted some of the problems from an historical, at least from a non American POV. As to sin, while I have not heard this about other denominations, I have read anecdotally (I think here on PB) of OPC elders insisting that it was a breaking of membership vows to not sing whatever they deigned was right to put in the order of worship.
Unfortunately Van Dixhoorn's guide to the confession has not helped matters either. In my experience the OPC is more inclusive of psalmody than the PCA (the Psalter-hymnal project would also support that) and they are at least tolerant of the one (or is it two now?) EP congregation(s) in the denomination, but you're right that it's not a whole lot better.

May I fear that this statement is really true? Do those that "tolerate" EP really believe it is a sin to enforce EP?

Yes, it is sometimes viewed as a violation of the fourth membership vow, that of submitting to the government of that particular church. Nevermind that the WCF expressly condemns implicit faith.
 

Grant Van Leuven

Puritan Board Freshman
While preparing to teach on Ch. 21 this week in our enquirers/communicant membership class, I read this by David Dickson in the earliest and "contemporary" commentary on the WCF, Truth's Victory Over Error, in his chapter on WCF 21, which I thought was something relevant to share here: “ ... the singing of psalms was commanded under the Old Testament, and that not as a type of any substance to come, nor for any ceremonial cause. Neither is it abrogated under the New Testament, but confirmed (Psa. 30:4; 149:I)." (Banner of Truth, 152).

Also, I was reminded of the following:

* “... it will be observed that the Confession 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.” G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith: for Study Classes, 167.

* Dr. Richard Bacon’s critique of Dr. Gary Crampton’s Trinity Review article, “Exclusive Psalmody”, in which Dr. Crampton wrote against exclusive psalmody by opening with the assertion that the Westminster Divines did not intend exclusive psalmody by “singing of psalms”: Richard Bacon, “Review of Exclusive Psalmody” (Rowlett, Texas: First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett, 1996), at http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/crampton.htm.
 
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