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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Over a dozen reasons why the argument for Exclusive Psalmody doesn't stand up, Part 13

13. Scottish Presbyterianism has not always believed in Exclusive Psalmody. 

The impression is often given that adhering to exclusive psalmody is being true to our Scottish Presbyterian roots. To adopt any other position is therefore portrayed as a denial of this rich heritage that we enjoy. 

This is the furtherest from the truth and a gross misrepresentation of the practices and beliefs of Scottish Presbyterianism over the centuries. 

1. John Knox [1514-1572], the father of Scottish Presbyterianism, was evidently not an exclusive psalmist in the present sense of the term. John Knox was among a number of exiles who lived in Geneva. During his time there he worked on the Geneva Bible and its marginal notes. These marginal notes comprise nearly 300,000 words, or nearly one-third the length of the Bible itself, and they are justifiably considered the most complete source of Reformed Protestant religious thought then available.

If these men of a Reformed persuasion believed in exclusive psalmody surely you would expect to find it in the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible.  The notes, however, have this to say against Colossians 3:16: 
By "psalms" he means all godly songs which were written upon various occasions, and by "hymns", all such as contain the praise of God, and by "spiritual songs", other more special and artful songs which were also in praise of God, but they were made fuller of music.
These words are not the language of exclusive psalmody by any stretch of the imagination! See fuller article upon the Geneva Bible & Psalter

As we also know the Genevan Psalter contained a metrical translation of 'The Ten Commandments'; 'The Canticle of Simeon' and 'The Apostles' Creed' for use in singing. This was the praise book of John Knox!

2. During Knox's life a Scottish songbook was published. It is stated that it contained among other things: The Ten Commandments, The Lord's Prayer & The Creed in prose and sixteen paraphrases of Scripture portions, plus some Psalms from the Psalter. 

3. Subsequent editions of the Scottish Psalter contained material other than the 150 psalms. The first edition of the Scottish Psalter appeared in 1564. It is correct to say that there were no other items of praise in this publication other than the 150 psalms. However, in subsequent editions that principle changed. The 1575 edition had 4 other items of praise; the 1595 edition had 10; the 1634 edition had 13. This is a growing number. Were these added but never sung? Were these added yet the people were practicing exclusive psalmists? It is hard to tell but at the very least it highlights a willingness to publish material other than the 150 psalms in the Scottish psalter.

The General Assembly of 1647 gave instructions recommending that Zachary Boyd should: be at pains to translate the other Scriptural Songs in metre and to report his travels also to the Committee of Assembly, for the consideration of his work by the Presbyteries the following year. This is hardly the actions of an exclusive psalmist Assembly!

4. Other Scottish ministers argued against exclusive Psalmody: 

i. Rowland S. Ward in his book entitled: The Psalms in Christian Worship: A Doctrinal, Historical, and Expository Guide recounts the incident of Robert Boyd of Trochrigg, who died around 1627, who rebuked his ministerial colleagues for not signing 'new songs' in a commentary he wrote on Ephesians. His exact words are:
But yet we only sing ancient songs; no new song is heard from our mouth in the Church. Why then do we turn a deaf ear to the admonition of David so often repeated?

ii. David Dickson, who died in 1663, believed in the singing of hymns. He wrote a number of hymns. 

iii. The Covenanter James Ferguson [1621-1667] who ministered in Ayrshire and who is best known for his series of commentaries upon the epistles of Paul. C H Spurgeon said these commentaries are those of: a grand, gracious, savoury divine. In his Expositions of the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, published in Edinburgh in 1656, James Ferguson interpreted the phrase: 'psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' in Colosians 3:16 to refer to all the songs of Scripture:
The Psalms of David, and other Scriptural songs in the Old Testament, may, and ought to be sung in this part of gospel-worship

iv. Ralph Erskine [1685–1752] wrote many, many hymns and paraphrases. He believed in adapting the words of Old Testament songs to a New Testament dispensation. 

v. At the end of his life it is known that Dr William Cunningham [1805–1861] asked for the Westminster Confession of Faith and a copy of the Olney Hymns to be near his bedside. 

vi. Robert S. Candlish, [1806-1873] who in the opinion of Dr Gordon was pre-eminently the preacher of the Free Church of Scotland, said of singing Psalms only: There is as much prayer as praise in the Psalms. I see no room whatever for saying that the Psalms is purely a Psalmodical book. It contains prayers as well as praise
Again he stated: I cannot understand how we should be more hampered and fettered as regards the use of our words in the one part of divine worship than in the other.
Among Robert Candlish's last words were a hymn: Jesus, my Lord, I know His name; His name is all my boast; Nor will He put my soul to shame, Nor let my hope be lost.

The names of Robert M McCheyne, Horatius Bonar could also be included in the list of those Scottish divines who wrote hymns. 

5. The Scottish Paraphrases. As far back 1741 it was first suggested to prepare a series of Scriptural paraphrases. This was hindered by political developments and it was not until 1781 that what became known as the Scottish Paraphrases appeared. These paraphrases eventually became a selection of 67 paraphrases in metrical verse of different Scripture portions covering both Old and New Testament. These paraphrases were collected and prepared by a committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in order to be sung in churches. Although never officially adopted by any Church Assembly, the paraphrases had significant use in succeeding years, mainly in the lowlands of Scotland.

6. It was in acknowledgment of the prevalence of hymn singing that Dr John Kennedy sought to restrict the exclusive singing of psalms only to public worshipWhen speaking in a debate on this very issue in the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland in 1872, he said:
Some desire them [hymns] because of an experience of enjoyment in using them, in private or in social Christian conference, to express their feeling of sorrow, hope, or gladness. Let these continue so to use them; I will yield to none in my desire to have them as a vehicle of any strong spiritual feeling that stirs my heart; but to use them in the worship of God in the sanctuary is quite another thing.

The exclusive psalmist position of today is not the same as that which prevailed among many Reformed believers in Scotland in the past!

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.
12. The Westminster Divines did not believe in Exclusive Psalmody.

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