From around the time of the compiling of the Westminster Confession of Faith [1643-46] there is abundant evidence to be gleaned that the term 'psalm' in the chapter 21 section 5 is not referring exclusively to the Psalter. This section of the Confession reads:
The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.
The men who compiled these worthy documents of the Westminster Standards could not be shoehorned into the exclusive psalmist camp.
If the Confession of Faith were an exclusive psalmists document then why would a man like Thomas Manton, write his own 'epistle to the reader' as a preface and also be one of the 44 signatories to the preface? Manton's views on what should be sung are clearly known. They are quoted at length in the previous post on this subject. They can be summarised in the statement:
I confess we do not forbid other songs; if grave and pious, after good advice they may be received into the Church. [Taken from Manton's commentary on James 5:13]
Not only did Manton not have any problem with singing uninspired hymns but he uses the word 'we' in this statement. He is evidently implying that others of his puritan brethren are of the same opinion. He is not a lone voice in the wilderness! While it is true that Manton was a fervent believer in singing psalms he was not an exclusivist psalmist. He saw no conflict between adhering to the regulative principle as endorsed by the Westminster Confession and singing uninspired hymns.
The irony can hardly be missed that this document so beloved to be quoted in support of their shibboleth by exclusive psalmists has a preface written by a defender of uninspired hymns. To add insult to injury Manton's, 'epistle to the reader', is still normally bound with printed editions of the Confession.
Another prominent member of the Westminster Assembly was John Lightfoot. In a sermon on 1 Corinthians 14:26 he makes known his view of the term 'psalms, hymns and spiritual songs'. In his opinion these terms were referring both to the Psalms of David, and also other songs in Scripture. He particularly mentions the 'song of Moses' and the song of the Lamb, in Revelation 15:3.
Can it seriously be argued that these men signed the Westminster Confession of Faith when it contained statements that they had fundamental disagreement with? Would a man who had such a fundamental disagreement with the contents be asked to pen an epistle to the reader?
An excellent article was written by Nick Needham highlighting the usage of the term 'Psalm' by the Westminster divines. This article was published in Volume 2 of The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century.
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.
11. The Puritans did not all believe in Exclusive Psalmody.