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Monday, 19 November 2012

Over a dozen reasons why the argument for Exclusive Psalmody doesn't stand up, Part 11

11. The Puritans did not all believe in Exclusive Psalmody

The impression is often given by those who promote exclusive psalmody that every Reformed stalwart of the past was an exclusive psalmist. This could not be further from the truth. Many of the great and good men of the past who were reformed in doctrine did not hold to the exclusive singing of the Psalter. 

Some prominent examples:
1. Matthew Henry. In his commentary on Ephesians 5:19 the renowned and much loved expositor had this to:
By psalms may be meant David's psalms, or such composures as were fitly sung with musical instruments. By hymns may be meant such others as were confined to matter of praise, as those of Zacharias, Simeon, &c.
On Colossians 3:16 his commentary reads: 
Singing of psalms is a gospel ordinance - the Psalms of David, and spiritual hymns and odes, collected out of the scripture, and suited to special occasions, instead of their lewd and profane songs in their idolatrous worship.
Matthew Henry does not evidently subscribe to the notion that the terms psalm, hymns and spiritual songs are divisions of the Psalter. It is clear that he looked upon the compositions of Zacharias and Simeon as hymns. Not an exclusive psalmist position!

2. Thomas Manton. Among his many works is an excellent commentary on the book of James. Manton makes some interesting commentary upon James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms:
Others question whether we may sing scripture psalms, the psalms of David, which to me seemeth to look like the cavil of a profane spirit. But to clear this also. I confess we do not forbid other songs; if grave and pious, after good advice they may be received into the Church. Tertullian, in his Apology, showeth that in the primitive times they used this liberty, either to sing scripture psalms or such as were of a private composure.

But that which I am to prove, that scriptural psalms may be sung, and I shall, ἐκ περισσοῦ, with advantage over and above, prove that they are fittest to be sung.

1. That they may be sung may be proved by reason; the word limiteth not, and therefore we have no reason to make any restraint. They are part of the word of God, full of matter that tendeth to instruction, comfort, and the praise of God, which are the ends of singing; and therefore, unless we will bring a disparagement upon the scriptures, we cannot deny them a part in our spiritual mirth

Manton believed that 'other songs' could be sung. He also makes reference to the comments in Tertullian's apology supporting this position from Church history.

3. Matthew Poole - In his commentaries on Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 we discover that Poole is not convinced of the exclusive pslamist's position. 

Ephesians 5:19 - In psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; under these names he comprehends all manner of singing to mutual edification and God's glory. The particular distinction of them is uncertain, but most take psalms to be such as anciently were sung with musical instruments; hymns, such as contained only matter of praise; spiritual songs, such as were of various matter, doctrinal, prophetical, historical, &c.: see on Col 3:16.

Colossians 3:16 - Then the use of the word, and the manner of expressing their thankfulness to God amongst themselves, is in singing to his praise psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs. He doth not say, teaching and admonishing from these, (as elsewhere, Acts 8:35 28:23), but in them; implying it is a peculiar ordinance of Christ for Christians to be exercised in holy singing, as James 5:13, with an audible voice musically, Psalms 95:1,2; 100:1,2; Acts 16:25, as foretold, Isaiah 52:8, with Romans 10:14. 

Some would distinguish the three words the apostle here useth from the manner of singing, as well as the matter sung; others, from the Hebrew usage of words expressed by the seventy, in the book of Psalms; yet, whoever consults the titles of the Psalms and other places of the Old Testament, they shall find the words used sometimes promiscuously; compare Judges 5:3; 1 Chronicles 16:8,9; 2 Chronicles 7:6, 23:13, 29:30; Psalm 39:3, 45:1, 47:1, 48:1, 65:1, 105:1,2; Isaiah 12:2,4, 42:10; or conjunctly to the same matter, Psalms 30:1-12, 48:1-14, 65:1-13, 66:1-20, 75:1-10, 83:1-18, 87:1-7, titles. 

Hereupon others stand not open any critical distinction of the three words, yet are inclined here to take psalms by way of eminency, Luke 24:44; or more generally, as the genus, noting any holy metre, whether composed by the prophets of old, or others since, assisted by the Spirit extraordinarily or ordinarily, Luke 24:44; Acts  16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:15,26; James 5:13. 

Here for clearness' sake two modes of the psalms, viz. hymns, whereby we celebrate the excellencies of God and his benefits to man, Psalms 113:1-9: Matthew 26:30; and odes or songs, which word, though ordinarily in its nature and use it be more general, yet here synecdochically, in regard of the circumstances of the conjoined words, it may contain the rest of spiritual songs, of a more ample, artificial, and elaborate composure, besides hymns, Revelation 14:2,3, 15:2,3; which may be called spiritual or holy songs from the efficient matter, or end, viz. that they proceed from the Holy Spirit, or in argument may agree and serve thereto; being convenient they be so called from the argument, as opposed to carnal, sensual, and worldly ditties.

4. Jonathan Edwards. This is the man who saw revival twice in New England. He certainly didn't believe in exclusive psalmody either. Writing upon the subject of the revival of religion in New England in volume one of his works he has this to say about the use of hymns:
But what is more especially found fault with, in the singing that is now practised, is making use of hymns of human composure. I am far from thinking that the book of Psalms should be thrown by in our public worship, but that it should always be used in the Christian church to the end of the world: but I know of no obligation we are under to confine ourselves to it. I can find no command or rule of God’s word that does any more confine us to the words of the Scripture in our singing, than it does in our praying; we speak to God in both. And I can see no reason why we should limit ourselves to such particular forms of words, that we find in the Bible, in speaking to him by way of praise, in metre, and with music, than when we speak to him in prose, by way of prayer and supplication

And it is really needful that we should have some other songs besides the Psalms of David. It is unreasonable to suppose that the Christian church should for ever, and even in times of her greatest light, in her praises of God and the Lamb, be confined only to the words of the Old Testament, wherein all the greatest and most glorious things of the gospel, that are infinitely the greatest subjects of her praise, are spoken of under a veil, and not so much as the name of our glorious Redeemer ever mentioned, but in some dark figure, or as hid under the name of some type. And as to our making use of the words of others, and not those that are conceived by ourselves, it is no more than we do in all our public prayers; the whole worshipping assembly, excepting one only, makes use of the words that are conceived by him who speaks for the rest

Jonathan Edwards make some strong remarks here about the limited light that there are in the psalms and the need for other hymns and songs.
No doubt other prominent men from the Puritan era could be quoted who held the same view.

Previous posts on this subject:
1. The terms 'Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs' inEphesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 do not refer to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms.
2. Old Testament and New Testament saints did not live by this exclusive psalmist rule.
3. The angels and glorified saints did not sing the psalms.
4. There are possible remnants of hymns/canticles/doxologies quoted in the New Testament.
5. Progressive Revelation argues against Exclusive Psalmody.
6. Exclusive Psalmody leads to different levels of worship.
7. The Exclusive Psalmist's position requires them to reject ever singing the 'very best song' in public worship.
8. If 'inspired praise' is required then an equally valid argument could be made for 'inspired praying' and 'inspired preaching' in public worship.
9. The early New Testament Church did not believe in Exclusive Psalmody.
10. The Reformers at Geneva did not believe or practice Exclusive Psalmody.

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