Quotes on Psalm-Singing: Part 3


Here is a compilation of quotes I have collected. This is part 3. I hope you are encouraged, strengthened, and intellectually challenged for the glory of God and His worship.



Philo ( 20 BC – 50 AD), a first century Jewish philosopher, always uses the word “hymn” when referring to the Psalms of the Old Testament.


Tertullian (160 – 225) on the Letter of Pliny (61 – 112) and the singing of Psalms to Christ,”David ille apud nos canit Christum, per quern, se cecinit ipse Christus,” which maybe freely rendered thus: That David, of whom I have been speaking, sings among us Christ, by whom Christ himself has sung (or celebrated) himself. Found in Tertullian’s treatise, De Carne Christi


Athanasius, (c. 295-373 AD) Wrote: “…the entire Holy Scripture is a teacher of virtues and of the truths of faith, while the Book of Psalms possesses somehow the perfect image for the soul’s course of life”


“…the Book of Psalms is like a garden of all these kinds, and it sets them to music….in addition to the other things in which it enjoys an affinity and fellowship with the other books [of the Bible], it possesses, beyond that, this marvel of its own– namely, that it contains even the emotions of each soul (Athanasius)


“The Psalms, he wrote, become like a mirror to the one singing them, “so that he might perceive himself and the emotions of his soul.” He warned:‘Do not let anyone amplify these words of the Psalter with the persuasive phrases of the profane, and do not let him attempt to recast or completely change the words…For as much better as the life of the saints is than that of other people, by so much also are their expressions superior to those we construct and, if one were to speak the truth, more powerful as well [because] the Spirit who speaks in the saints, seeing words inspired by him in them, might render assistance to us’ (Athanasius 1980, 127).” (RPCNA Synod 2004, The Psalms if The Worship of The Church)


Eusebius (c. 260–c. 340), bishop of Caesarea said, “The command to sing Psalms in the name of the Lord was obeyed by everyone in every place”


No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. [Canons of Laodicea, Canon 59, quoted by (Bushell 1993, 159)]


Council of Laodicea (360), it was decreed that no psalms composed by uninspired men should be used in the Church service. The compositions thus excluded are styled in the language of the Council, “psalmoi idiotikoi,” which means psalms not pertaining to the canon of Scripture, or at least not the direct product of supernatural inspiration. In 563, the Council of Laodicea was reaffirmed in Braga,”Ut extra psalmos vel canoni-carum Scripturarum Novi et Vctcris Tcstamenti nihil podice compositum in ecdesia psallatur.” first Council of Braga, held A. D. 563, no poetic composition be sung in the Church except the Psalms of the sacred canon..



“Learn to sing psalms, and thou shalt see the delightfulness of the employment. For they who sing psalms are filled with the Holy Spirit, as they who sing satanic songs are filled with an unclean spirit.”

–  Homily XIX on Eph 5:15-17, NPNF1-13

“The grace of the Holy Ghost hath so ordered it, that the Psalms of David should be recited and sung night and day. In the Church’s vigils—in the morning—at funeral solemnities—the first, the midst, and the last is David. In private houses, where virgins spin—in the monasteries—in the deserts, where men converse with God—the first, the midst, and the last is David. In the night, when men sleep, he wakes them up to sing; and collecting the servants of God into angelic troops, turns earth into heaven, and of men makes angels, chanting David’s Psalms.”



“The Donatists reproach us with our grave chanting of the divine songs of the prophets in our churches, while they inflame their passions in their revels by the singing of psalms of human composition.”

–  Letter to Januarius, NPNF01-1

“The clouds of heaven thunder out throughout the world that God’s house is being built; and the frogs cry from the marsh, We alone are Christians. What testimonies do I bring forward? That of the Psalter. I bring forward what you sing as one deaf: open your ears; you sing this; you sing with me, and you agree not with me; your tongue sounds what mine does, and yet your heart disagrees with mine. Do you not sing this?” – Exposition of Psalm 96 [encouraging the congregation to understand that the psalms they sing point to the reign of Christ over the church]



“The Dutch Reformed Churches followed the pattern of the Early Church and reaffirmed the sole singing of Psalms:

The Psalms of David, in the edition of Petrus Dathenus, shall be sung in the Christian meetings of the Netherlands Churches (as has been done until now), abandoning the hymns which are not found in Holy Scripture. –National Synod of Dort, 1578, Art. 76.

Only the Psalms of David shall be sung in the church, omitting the hymns which one cannot find in Holy Scripture. –National Synod of Middelburg, 1581, Art. 51.

The Psalms of David shall be sung in the churches, omitting the hymns which one does not find in Holy Scripture. –National Synod of Gravenhage, 1586, Art. 62.”


William Perkins (1558-1602), the “father of English Puritanism:” “[The Book of] Psalms contains sacred songs suitable for every condition of the church and its individual members, composed to be sung with grace in the heart (Col. 3:16)” (The Art of Prophesying, p. 14).


“Of Singing of Psalms.

IT is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.

In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.

That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.”  -Westminster Standards, 1645


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… (Westminster Confession of Faith 21:5, 1647, emphasis added)


“A variety of Church councils over the next three centuries, including the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), reiterated this rule, indicating both the continuing impulse to introduce uninspired songs in worship and the Church’s effort to combat their use.

Since the middle 1700’s, however, there has been a progressive abandonment of the Psalter by Reformed churches. First, there were Isaac Watt’s imitations of the Psalms (e.g. “Joy to the World” paraphrasing Psalm 98), and then newly composed uninspired hymns. Churches concluded that the Psalms were insufficient for Christian worship and that uninspired hymns were superior to Psalms for their worship. In this judgment, they erred. As we have shown, the messianic, missiological, eschatological and spiritual nature of the Psalter makes Psalm singing a feast of God-centered praise for the New Testament Church. In addition, as we have shown, the New Testament contains an actual command to Christians to sing the Psalms. There is always wisdom in God’s commands. Consider some ways in which the Psalms are superior to uninspired hymns for the Church’s worship of God.” (RPCNA Synod 2004, The Psalms if The Worship of The Church)






Credit: (For some of the church father quotes) Devan Meade

10 Quotes on Psalm Singing by the Early Church Fathers

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