Quotes on Psalm-Singing: Part 2



Here is a compilation of quotes I have collected. This is part 2. I hope you are encouraged, strengthened, and intellectually challenged for the glory of God and His worship.


“Concerning the early Church, Bushell notes that, “The introduction of uninspired hymns into the worship of the Church was a gradual process, and it was not until the fourth century that the practice became widespread.” G.I. Williamson further points out that a “second noteworthy fact is that when uninspired hymns first made their appearance, it was not among the orthodox Churches but rather the heretical groups… If the Church from the beginning had received authority from the Apostles to make and use uninspired hymns, it would be expected that it would have done so. But it did not. Rather it was among those who departed from the faith that they first appeared.”” – Reg Barrow, Psalm Singing in Scripture and History


“As we reach the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century we find that “the same clericalism which denied the Bible to the common people eventually denied them the Psalter as well and replaced congregational singing with choral productions in a tongue unknown to the vast majority of the worshippers.” As the Reformation progressed we encounter an almost complete return to exclusive Psalmody (excluding the Lutherans, who had not extended the principle of sola Scriptura to their worship). Bushell states,

The Scottish Reformer John Knox not surprisingly followed Calvin in this matter, and the Reformed Church as a whole followed their lead. “This meant that at a stroke the Reformed Church cut itself loose from the entire mass of Latin hymns and from the use of hymnody in general, and adopted the Psalms of the Old Testament as the sole medium of Church praise.”Hence forth to be a Calvinist was to be a Psalm-singer. For some two and a half centuries the Reformed churches as a rule sang nothing but the Psalms in worship…. The metrical Psalter was born in Geneva where it was nurtured and cherished by all who embraced the principles of Calvinism.

Furthermore, the importance that Calvin placed on Psalm singing can be seen in the following account,

When Calvin and Farel were banished from Geneva (April 23, 1538) for refusal to submit to the liturgical practices which the Council had taken over from Bern, they appealed their case to the Synod which met at Zurich on April 29, 1538. At that time they presented a paper drawn up by Calvin containing articles specifying the terms upon which they were willing to return to Geneva. They admitted that they had been too rigid and were willing to concede a number of the disputed practices… But on several other points they stood firm. They insisted on… the more frequent administration of the Lord’s Supper… and the institution of the singing of Psalms as a part of public worship.

This was an extremely bold stand for truth, and, as we know, Calvin returned to Geneva, and Psalm singing commenced. As he matured, Calvin insisted on, and instituted, the practice of the exclusive (acappella) singing of Psalms in Geneva’s public worship. Another interesting historical note concerning the development (and strength) of Calvin’s arguments against uninspired hymns is placed in context by the following conclusion reached by Bushell,

Calvin knew, as well as we ought to know, that in the last analysis a “counsel of prudence” and a “case of conscience” amount to the same thing. In worship-song, as in other things, God deserves the best that we have to offer. No pious man can in clear conscience offer up one sacrifice of praise to God when prudence dictates that another would be better. Calvin says as much in the passage which we just quoted. How one can read Calvin’s conclusion that “no one can sing things worthy of God, unless he has received them from God Himself” and yet conclude that “he had no scruples of conscience against the use of human songs” is quite beyond our comprehension. These sentiments, which Calvin borrows from Augustine (on Psalm 31, sermon 1) and takes as his own, are at the very heart of all arguments against the use of uninspired hymns in the religious worship of God. Calvin’s own practice, his insistence on the inspired superiority of the Psalms, and his defense of the Regulative Principle, all point toward the unavoidable conclusion that Calvin limited himself to the Psalms… because he thought it would have been wrong to do otherwise. The Reformed Church as a whole followed him in this belief and clung to it tenaciously for over two centuries. Modern Presbyterian worship practice has no claim to Calvin’s name at this juncture. Calvin would have wept bitterly to behold the songs sung today in those churches which claim to have followed in his footsteps… the fact remains that in practice the Genevan Reformer was as strict a Psalm-singer as ever there was.”        -Reg Barrow, Psalm Singing in Scripture and History


“Louis DeBoer’s review of the (modern) Trinity Hymnal notes that “the Trinity Hymnal has 742 selections yet very few of these are actually psalms. It does not even come close to having a complete Psalter. Scores of Psalms, totaling a majority of the 150 Psalms, inspired by the Holy Spirit and given by Christ to his church, have been deleted as unworthy of the church’s use. They have been replaced by hundreds of uninspired compositions, many from dubious sources, that have usurped their place, because in the opinions of men they were considered superior to the word of God….Many of the included hymns have serious theological errors. Many more have sentimental theological mush whose sentiments are logically incomprehensible. They are designed to stir the emotions rather than teach divine truth or ascribe proper praise to God. While the Holy Spirit and the authors that he inspired have for the most part been edited out of this hymnal, heretics and errorists, from Roman Catholics, to Arminians, to Unitarians, have fared much better. They dominate this hymnal and their words are prized more highly than the words of God. For example, the Unitarian Isaac Watts has 36 compositions in the Trinity Hymnal. He fares better than does David, whom the Scriptures declare to be the sweet psalmist of Israel, and who wrote his compositions under divine inspiration….

Out of 150 Psalms a total of 50 psalms have been entirely deleted….

Most of the psalms that are represented are incomplete. The 150 psalms of the inspired Psalter contain a total of 2461 verses. Most of these, it seems, have not survived the editors’ cut. If one rejects a hymn that claims a tenuous relationship to some psalm, or a loose paraphrase replete with many human interpolations, as representing God’s word then not much is left. The 41 psalm and psalm portions, that are metrical translations of the original psalms, contain only 370 verses of those originals. An astounding 85% of the Psalter has vanished.” — Louis DeBoer, “Hymns, Heretics & History,” pp. 148-151 (“Review of the Trinity Hymnal”)


“Additionally, these Psalms are not kept together in a separate subsection of this Hymnal. Rather they are interspersed throughout. This has several effects. First it is makes it hard to find them and select a specific Psalm to be used in worship. Secondly, and this may be the reason for the sorry state of organization of this hymnal, it disguises the fact that there are so few Psalms, that many have been assigned to the trash bin, and that many are incomplete. And finally, this totally obliterates the distinction between those songs that are inspired and those that are of human origin.” — Ibid, p. 149


‘That man cannot be trusted with placing songs of praise on the lips of God’s people week after week is demonstrated by the Trinity Hymnal, the manual of praise developed and published by the “conservative” Reformed denomination the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Many consider the Trinity Hymnal to be the best hymnal ever produced. Out of the 742 selections in the hymnal very few are actually Psalms. Out of the 150 inspired songs of the Psalter at least 50 have been completely omitted. Most of the others are gross paraphrases or hymns based on the Psalms. “If one only considers those selections that are categorized as a metrical translation of a psalm or a psalm portion…then there are only 41 psalms represented in this hymnal…. [and most] of the psalms that are represented are incomplete. The 150 psalms of the inspired Psalter contain a total of 2461 verses. If one rejects a hymn that claims a tenuous relationship to some psalm, or a loose paraphrase replete with many human interpolations, as representing God’s word then not much is left. The 41 psalm and psalm portions, that are metrical translations of the original psalms, contain only 370 verses of those originals. An astounding 85% of the Psalter has vanished” (Louis F. DeBoer, Hymns, Heretics and History: A Study in Hymnody [Sanderstown, RI: American Presbyterian Press, 2004], 150-151). Tragically, the Trinity Hymnal’s editors following human wisdom were not satisfied with detracting from what God has commanded but also thought it wise to add many popular hymns written by heretics: Unitarians, Roman Catholics, Arminians and feminists. Thus, the leaders of the O.P.C. and other Reformed denominations (e.g. P.C.A.) are directly responsible for exposing covenant families to heretical propaganda week after week. Everyone with knowledge of church history knows that uninspired hymns have repeatedly driven out the Psalms. These uninspired hymns have been very detrimental to God’s people because people are usually completely unaware that they are repeatedly saturating their minds with false, dangerous doctrines and philosophies.’ – Brian Schwertley, “A Review of Iain H. Murray’s The Psalter—The Only Hymnal?”


“I was present at the Denver Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1956, when the list of songs was presented to the Assembly for inclusion in the proposed new hymnal. I still remember the fascinating debate about the content of many of these uninspired hymns. Again and again a delegate would stand up and object to the content — and teaching — of such and such an hymn. Often the objections were formidable in my eyes. Yet over and over the objection was denied. I felt that popularity was really the overruling factor.” Rev. GI Williamson (OPC)

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