Gillespie: Magistracy to Exercise Coercive Powers

This excerpt is taken from the 5th Edition of the Confessional Presbyterian.

“The third opinion [of liberty of conscience] is that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, requires. This as it was the judgment of the orthodox ancients (vide Optati opera, edit. Al Baspin, p. 204, 215), so it is followed by our soundest Protestant writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius and Monfortius, in a particular treatise, De Haereticis a Magistratu Puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand, and other Lutheran writer, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all heretics without distinction are to be put to death: the truth is, they themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom they take for adversaries in this question, that is, that heretics are to be punished by mulcts [fines], imprisonments, banishments, and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of others, then to be put to death. What is it else that Calvin teaches, when he distinguishes three kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and such as ought not to separate brethren; others not to be tolerated, but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity; a third sort so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the highest punishment?

And lest it be thought that this is but the opinion of some few, that the magistrate ought thus by a strong hand, and by civil punishments suppress heretics and sectaries: let it be observed what is held forth and professed concerning this business, by the Reformed Churches in their public confessions of faith…

II. The arguments whereby this third or middle opinion is confirmed (that we may not build upon human authority) are these.

1. First, the law (Deut. 13:6-9), concerning the stoning and killing of him, who shall secretly entice people, saying, “Let us go after other gods.” If it said, that this law did bind the Jew only, and is not moral or perpetual, I answer, Jacobus Acontius, though he is of another opinion concerning this question than I am, yet he candidly and freely confesses that he sees nothing in that law which does not belong to the New Testament, as well as the Old; for, he says, the reason and ground of the law, the use and end of it, is moral and perpetual (v. 11): All Israel shall here and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness, as this is among you. But yet, says Acontius, this law does not concern heretics, who believe and teach errors concerning the true God or his worship; but only apostates who fall away to other gods. In this I shall not much contend with him; only thus far, if apostates are to be stoned and killed according to the law then surely seducing heretics are also to receive their measure and proportion of punishment. The moral equity of the law requires this much at least, that is we compare heresy and apostasy together, look how much less the evil of sin is in heresy, so much and no more is to be remitted of the evil of punishment, especially the danger of contagion and seduction, being as much of rather more in heresy then in apostasy; yea, that which is called heresy being oftentimes a real following after other gods. But the Law (Deut. 13), for punishing with death, as well whole cities as particular persons, for falling away to other gods, is not the only law for punishing even capitally gross sins against the first table. See EX. 22:20, He that sacrifieth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. Ex. 31:14, Every one that defileth the sabbath, shall be put to death. Lev. 24:16, And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death. Deut. 17:2-5, If there be found among you within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man and woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord they God, in transgressing his covenant, and hath gone and served other gods and worshipped them… Thou shalt bring forth that man or that woman unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shall stone them with stones till they die.

It will be asked, “But how does it appear that these or any other judicial laws of Moses do at all appertain to us, as rules to guide us in like cases?” I shall wish him who scruples this, to read Piscator’s appendix to his observations upon the 21-23 chapters of Exodus, where he excellently disputes this question, whether the Christian Magistrate is bound to observe the judicial laws of Moses, as well as the Jewish Magistrate was. He answers by the common distinction, he is obliged to those things in the judicial law which are unchangeable, and common to all nations: but not to those things which are mutable, or proper to the Jewish Republic. But then he explains this distinction, that by things mutable, and proper to the Jews, he understands the emancipation of an Hebrew servant or handmaid in the seventh year, a man’s marrying his brother’s wife and raising up seed to his brother, the forgiving of debts at the Jubilee, marrying with one of the same tribe, and if there be any other like to these; also ceremonial trespasses, as touching a dead body, etc. But things immutable, and common to all nations, are the laws concerning moral trespass, sins against the moral law, as murder, adultery, theft, enticing away from God, blasphemy, striking of parents. Now that the Christian magistrate is bound to observe these judicial laws of Moses, which appoint the punishments of sins against the moral law, he proves by these reasons.

(1.) If it were not so, then is it free and arbitrary to the Magistrate to appoint what punishments he pleases. But this is not arbitrary to him, for he is the minister of God, (Rom. 13:4) and the judgment is the Lord’s (Deut. 1:7; 2 Chron. 19:6). And if the Magistrate is keeper of both tables, he must keep them in such manner as God has delivered them to him.

(2.) Christ’s words (Matt 5:17), Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill, are comprehensive of the judicial law, it being a part of the law of Moses. Now he could not fulfill the judicial law, except either by his practice, of by teaching others still to observe it; not by his own practice, for he would not condemn the adulteress (Jn. 8:11), nor divide the inheritance (Luke 12:13-14). Therefore it must be by his doctrine for our observing it.

(3.) If Christ in his sermon (Matt. 5), would teach that the moral law belongs to us Christians, in so much as he vindicates it from false glosses of the scribes and Pharisees; then he meant to hold forth the judicial law concerning moral trespasses as belonging unto us also; for he vindicates and interprets the judicial law, as well as the moral (Matt. 5:38), An eye for an eye, etc.

(4.) If God would have the moral law transmitted from the Jewish people to the Christian people; then he would also have the judicial laws transmitted from the Jewish Magistrate to the Christian Magistrate: there being the same reason of immutability in the punishments, which is in the offenses. Idolatry and adultery displease God now as much as then; and theft displeases God now no more than before.

(5.) Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4), and what shall the Christian Magistrate learn more from those judicial laws, but the will of God to be his rule in like cases? The ceremonial law was written for our learning, that we might know the fulfilling of all those types, but the judicial law was not typical.

(6.) Do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 5:16). How shall Christian Magistrates glorify God more than by observing God’s own laws, as most just, and such as they cannot make better?

(7.) Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). Now when the Christian Magistrate punishes sins against the moral law, if he does this in faith and in assurance of pleasing God, he must have his assurance from the Word of God, for faith can build upon no other foundation; it is the Word which must assure the conscience: God has commanded such a thing, therefore it is my duty to do it; God has forbidden such a thing; therefore I am free to do it. But the will of God concerning civil justice and punishments is no where so fully and clearly revealed as in the judicial law of Moses. This therefore must be the surest prop and stay to the conscience of the Christian Magistrate.

These are not my reasons (if it be not a word or two added by way of explaining and strengthening), but the substance of Piscator’s reasons. Unto which I add, 1. Though we have clear and full scriptures in the New Testament for abolishing the ceremonial law, yet we no where read in all the New Testament of the abolishing of the judicial law, so far as it did concern the punishing of sins against the moral law, of which heresy and seducing of souls is one, and a great one. Once God did reveal his will for punishing those sins by such and such punishments. He who will hold that the Christian Magistrate is not bound to inflict such punishments for such sins, is bound to prove that those former laws of God are abolished, and to show some scriptures for it.

2. That judicial law for having two or three witnesses in judgment (Deut. 19:15; Heb. 10:28), is transferred even with an obligation to us Christians, and it concerns all judgment, as well ecclesiastical as civil (Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1), and some other particulars might be instanced, in which are pressed and enforced from the judicial law, by some who yet mind not the obligation of it. To conclude therefore this point, though other judicial or forensical laws concerning the punishments of sins against the moral law may, yea, must be allowed of in Christian Republics and Kingdoms; provided always, they are not contrary or contradictory to God’s own judicial laws; yet I fear not to hold with Junius, De Politiae Mosis, that he who was punishable by death under the judicial law, is punishable by death still; and he who was not punished by death then, is not to be punished by death now. And so much for the first argument from the Law of God…

IV. But now after all this debate upon the question in hand, and after all these arguments for the affirmative and for the negative, some will happily desire and expect some further modification and explanation of the matter in certain positive conclusions or distinguishing assertions. For those whose satisfaction I say, First, there are five sorts of toleration proceeding from five different principles. 1. Of indifferency. 2. Of policy. 3. Of pretended conscience and equity. 4. Of necessity. 5. Of charity…

The fifth and last is that kind of toleration whereby the Magistrate when it is in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, yet having to do with such of whom there is good hope either of reducing them by convincing their judgments, or of uniting them to the Church by a safe accommodation of differences, he grants them a supersedeas [forbearance]; or though there be no such ground of hope concerning them, yet while he might crush them with the foot of power, in Christian piety and moderation, he forbears so far as may not be destructive to the peace and right government of the Church, using his coercive power with such a mixture of mercy as creates no mischief to the rest of the Church. I speak not only of bearing with those who are weak in faith (Rom. 15:1), but of sparing even those who have perverted the faith, so far as the word of God and rules of Christian moderation would have severity tempered with mercy: that is (as has been said) so far as is not destructive to the Church’s peace, nor shakes the foundations of the established form of church government, and no further; these last two kinds of toleration are allowed; the first three are wholly condemned.

My second distinction is concerning the punishments inflicted by the Magistrate upon heretics. They are either exterminative, or medicinal. Such as blaspheme God or Jesus Christ, or who shall fall away themselves and seduce others to idolatry, ought to be utterly cut off according to the law of God. But as for other heretics, they are to be chastened with medicinal punishments as mulcts [fines; forfeiture], imprisonments, banishments, by which, through God’s blessing, they may be humbled, ashamed, and reduced. Not that I think the proper end of civil and coercive punishments to be the conversion and salvation of the delinquent (which is the end of the church censures and of excommunication itself), but that the right method of proceeding does require that the Magistrate inflict the smaller punishments first, that there may be place for the offenders bringing forth of fruits worthy of repentance, and he may be at least reduced to external order and obedience, being persuaded by the terror of civil power, which may and does (when blessed of God) prove a preparation to free obedience, as the needle is to the thread, or the law to the gospel, servile fear to filial fear; and that the Magistrate step not up to the highest justice till other punishments have proved ineffectual: which made Constantine punish the heretics of his time not with death, but with banishment, as is manifest by the Proem of the Council of Nicea. In such cases it may be said to the heretic of the Magistrate, He is the minster of God to thee for good, more good I am sure, than if the golden reins of civil justice should be loosed, and he suffered to do what he list [likes]. Therefore Augustine likens this coercive punishing of heretics to Sarah’s dealing roughly with Hagar, for her good and humiliation. I conclude, convenience and indulgence to heretics is a cruel mercy: correction is a merciful severity, and a wholesome medicine, as well to themselves as to the Church.”

[Anonymous], George Gillespie, Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty (1645) Wing g765; new edition printed in An Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature 4 (Dallas, Tex: Naphtali Press, 1991) 181-183; 193-195. Cited from The Anonymous Writings of George Gillespie (Naphtali Press, 2008) 52-58; 76; 78-79.

Antinomianism: Some Errors

The following may be considered as a series of antinomian errors, constituting a sketch of such a system as has been approximated in the course of history:

1. The law is made void by grace. Justification by faith alone renders good works unnecessary.

2. Since good works are unnecessary, obedience to the Law is not required of justified persons.
Continue reading “Antinomianism: Some Errors”

The Sabbath: Remember

“To be guilty of desecrating the Holy Sabbath is therefore no light matter, my reader. The violation of the Fourth Commandment is a sin of the gravest and blackest kind; yet, sad to say, the profanation of the Lord’s Day has become one of the most common crimes of our perverse generation.”1

-A.W. Pink

The Sabbath is a day in which we should enjoy and rest from all our earthly employments and recreations. As the Westminster Larger Catechism rightly states: “The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose, and seasonably to despatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.”

This day should be a delight to our hearts. Yet, today we see many who not only have a disdain for the Lord’s Day, but openly rebel against the Lord by finding an excuse to obey Him. We should always look forward to this day, and remember to remember this day, and keep it holy.

The Sabbath Command: Remember


When asked, where do you find the Sabbath command? You find the command in many places, but the first passage we will attend to is in Exodus twenty. “8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Ex. 20).

There are many parts to this command that must be given attention. We are told to do many things from remembering, to keeping, labor, and work. We are also told to cease from our work. Yet, there is an order that takes place in this command. The first thing we are commanded to do is to remember the Sabbath. “The first is, what it is to remember or (as it is infinitively set down) remembering to remember. This is prefixed and would look rather like the inferring of something commanded already, than the new instituting of a command, and so indeed it seems to suppose a day formerly instituted and set apart for God (as was hinted before) which by this command his people are put to mind. It does beside impart these four with a respect as it were to four times.

(1) A constant and continued duty at all times, and in all days, that is, that we would remember that God has set apart a seventh day for himself, and therefore every day we would remember to cast our affairs so, as they may not be impediments to us in the sanctifying of that day, and we would endeavor always to keep our hearts in such a frame as we may not be discomposed, when that day shall come. And this affirmative part of this command binds semper or always, and its negative ad semper, on other days as well as on the Sabbath.

(2) It imports a timely preparing for the Sabbath, when it is a coming, or when it draws near. This remembering calls for something to be done in reference to it. Before it comes, a man by this is obliged to endeavor to have a frame of heart, that he may be ready to meet the Sabbath, and enter kindly to the duties of it when it shall come. Otherwise, if it comes on him while he is in his common or coarse frame, and not fitted for it, it will say he has not been remembering it before it came.

(3) Remembering imports an intenseness and seriousness in going about the duties of the day, when it comes, and that it should be with all carefulness sanctified, and that men should be mindful of the duties called for, lest their hearts divert from them, or slacken, bensil and grow formal in them, whereby men’s inclination to forget this duty, or to be superficial in it, is much hinted at. This word we take to be moral, being a means for furthering the great duty aimed at of sanctifying the Lord’s Day or Sabbath coming.

(4) Remembering may import this, that the Sabbath even when it is past, should not be soon forgotten, but that we should look on the Sabbath past to remember it, lest by loosing the fruits of it, when it is by, we make ourselves guilty of profaning it.”2

We should prepare ourselves every week for the Lord’s Day. This is not just some one hour or one night thing. We should continually, from Monday to Saturday, look forward in anticipation to the Lord’s Day. It is sad and frightening to know that we are prone to forget this day. It should not be forgotten, but remembered. Israel would forget such a day, and when they did, God brought judgment upon them.

They (as well as us) need to be continually reminded to remember the Sabbath day. “A particular memorandum put upon this duty: Remember it. It is intimated that the sabbath was instituted and observed before; but in their bondage in Egypt they had lost their computation, or were restrained by their task-masters, or, through a great degeneracy and indifference in religion, they had let fall the observance of it, and therefore it was requisite they should be reminded of it. Note, Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect. It also intimates that we are both apt to forget it and concerned to remember it. Some think it denotes the preparation we are to make for the sabbath; we must think of it before it comes, that, when it does come, we may keep it holy, and do the duty of it.”3


  1. Pink, Arthur Walkington. The Holy Sabbath. Pensacola, FL: Mt. Zion Publications, 2001. Print.
  2. Durham, James. “The Fourth Commandment Part 2: The Particular Morality of This Commandment.” Naphtali Press, n.d. Web. 29 June 2016.
  3. Henry, Matthew. “Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible [Volume Index].” – Christian Classics Ethereal Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2016.

Social Covenanting: Resources 1

“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.”

Josh. 24:25

“And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord‘s people; between the king also and the people.”

2 Kings 11:17

“They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.”

Jer. 50:5



The Two Sons Of Oil -Samuel B. Wylie

De Regno Christi -Martin Bucer

On The Duty of Covenanting/Permanent Obligations of Religious Covenants -Roberts

The Duty of Social Covenanting -Edited by Rev. David Scott

The Duty of Social Covenanting Illustrated and Enforced -Thomas Sproull

John 8:1-11, Part 2

The Pharisees

“the net which they hid is their own foot taken” –Psalm 9:15


In my last post, I addressed the question of whether it would be right for Jesus to stone the woman. The address was to a very specific question, and not the passage as a whole. Here I want to address the passage as a whole.

Caught in the Act

Interestingly, the passage starts out by having the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman caught in the act of adultery. “3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8). Matthew Henry takes note: “during the time of the feast of tabernacles, when, it may be, their dwelling in booths, and their feasting and joy, might, by wicked minds, which corrupt the best things, be made occasions of sin.”1 Other than this, we do not have anything in the text to say how they caught her or where. Were they looking for someone to bring Christ? Or was this a common occurrence?

The Law of Moses

Next, when they bring the woman to Jesus, they tell Him that the woman is to be stoned. “5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou” (John 8). Now, even though I will be quoting Matthew Henry, it should be noted that Matthew Poole says the same thing. “They produce the statute in this case made and provided, and upon which she was indicted, v. 5. Moses in the law commanded that such should be stoned. Moses commanded that they should be put to death (Lev. xx. 10; Deut. xxii. 22), but not that they should be stoned, unless the adulteress was espoused, not married, or was a priest’s daughter, Deut. xxii. 21. Note, Adultery is an exceedingly sinful sin, for it is the rebellion of a vile lust, not only against the command, but against the covenant, of our God. It is the violation of a divine institution in innocency, by the indulgence of one of the basest lusts of man in his degeneracy.”2

Interestingly, Matthew Henry talks about the same issue that was brought up in my previous post. There must be a judge (magistrate) in order to declare a sentence of the guilty party. “The crime for which the prisoner stands indicted is no less than adultery, which even in the patriarchal age, before the law of Moses, was looked upon as an iniquity to be punished by the judges, Job xxxi. 9-11; Gen. xxxviii. 24.”3


One thing you can see in this interaction is the test they were trying to put on him. “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him” (John 8:6). There are multiple things that the Pharisees could accuse Him. “They pray his judgment in the case: ‘But what sayest thou, who pretendest to be a teacher come from God to repeal old laws and enact new ones? What hast thou to say in this case?’ If they had asked this question in sincerity, with a humble desire to know his mind, it had been very commendable. Those that are entrusted with the administration of justice should look up to Christ for direction; but this they said tempting him, that they might have to accuse him, v. 6. [1.] If he should confirm the sentence of the law, and let it take its course, they would censure him as inconsistent with himself (he having received publicans and harlots) and with the character of the Messiah, who should be meek, and have salvation, and proclaim a year of release; and perhaps they would accuse him to the Roman governor, for countenancing the Jews in the exercise of a judicial power. But, [2.] If he should acquit her, and give his opinion that the sentence should not be executed (as they expected he would), they would represent him, First, As an enemy to the law of Moses, and as one that usurped an authority to correct and control it, and would confirm that prejudice against him which his enemies were so industrious to propagate, that he came to destroy the law and the prophets. Secondly, As a friend to sinners, and, consequently, a favourer of sin; if he should seem to connive at such wickedness, and let it go unpunished, they would represent him as countenancing it, and being a patron of offences, if he was a protector of offenders, than which no reflection could be more invidious upon one that professed the strictness, purity, and business of a prophet.”4

His Answer

Jesus’ answer is breath taking. He answers their trap by giving them an answer pertaining to their own hearts. “When they importunately, or rather impertinently, pressed him for an answer, he turned the conviction of the prisoner upon the prosecutors, v. 7.

[1.] They continued asking him, and his seeming not to take notice of them made them the more vehement; for now they thought sure enough that they had run him aground, and that he could not avoid the imputation of contradicting either the law of Moses, if he should acquit the prisoner, or his own doctrine of mercy and pardon, if he should condemn her; and therefore they pushed on their appeal to him with vigour; whereas they should have construed his disregard of them as a check to their design, and an intimation to them to desist, as they tendered their own reputation.

[2.] At last he put them all to shame and silence with one word: He lifted up himself, awaking as one out of sleep (Ps. lxxviii. 65), and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

First, Here Christ avoided the snare which they had laid for him, and effectually saved his own reputation. He neither reflected upon the law nor excused the prisoner’s guilt, nor did he on the other hand encourage the prosecution or countenance their heat; see the good effect of consideration. When we cannot make our point by steering a direct course, it is good to fetch a compass.

Secondly, In the net which they spread is their own foot taken. They came with design to accuse him, but they were forced to accuse themselves. Christ owns it was fit the prisoner should be prosecuted, but appeals to their consciences whether they were fit to be the prosecutors.

  1. He here refers to that rule which the law of Moses prescribed in the execution of criminals, that the hand of the witnesses must be first upon them (Deut. xvii. 7), as in the stoning of Stephen, Acts vii. 58. The scribes and Pharisees were the witnesses against this woman. Now Christ puts it to them whether, according to their own law, they would dare to be the executioners. Durst they take away that life with their hands which they were now taking away with their tongues? would not their own consciences fly in their faces if they did?
  2. He builds upon an uncontested maxim in morality, that it is very absurd for men to be zealous in punishing the offences of others, while they are every whit as guilty themselves, and they are not better than self-condemned who judge others, and yet themselves do the same thing: “If there be any of you who is without sin, without sin of this nature, that has not some time or other been guilty of fornication or adultery, let him cast the first stone at her.” Not that magistrates, who are conscious of guilt themselves, should therefore connive at others’ guilt. But therefore, (a.) Whenever we find fault with others, we ought to reflect upon ourselves, and to be more severe against sin in ourselves than in others. (b.) We ought to be favourable, though not to the sins, yet to the persons, of those that offend, and to restore them with a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves and our own corrupt nature. Aut sumus, aut fuimus, vel possumus esse quod hic est—We either are, or have been, or may be, what he is. Let this restrain us from throwing stones at our brethren, and proclaiming their faults. Let him that is without sin begin such discourse as this, and then those that are truly humbled for their own sins will blush at it, and be glad to let it drop. (c.) Those that are any way obliged to animadvert upon the faults of others are concerned to look well to themselves, and keep themselves pure (Matt. vii. 5), Qui alterum incusat probri, ipsum se intueri oportet. The snuffers of the tabernacle were of pure gold.
  3. Perhaps he refers to the trial of the suspected wife by the jealous husband with the waters of jealousy. The man was to bring her to the priest (Num. v. 15), as the scribes and Pharisees brought this woman to Christ. Now it was a received opinion among the Jews, and confirmed by experience, that if the husband who brought his wife to that trial had himself been at any time guilty of adultery, Aquæ non explorant ejus uxorem—The bitter water had no effect upon the wife. “Come then,” saith Christ, “according to your own tradition will I judge you; if you are without sin, stand to the charge, and let the adulteress be executed; but if not, though she be guilty, while you that present her are equally so, according to your own rule she shall be free.”
  4. In this he attended to the great work which he came into the world about, and that was to bring sinners to repentance; not to destroy, but to save. He aimed to bring, not only the prisoner to repentance, by showing her his mercy, but the prosecutors too, by showing them their sins. They sought to ensnare him; he sought to convince and convert them. Thus the blood-thirsty hate the upright, but the just seek his soul.”5


When the Pharisees bring the woman to Jesus, we see that they are trying to entrap Him. There issues in this passage are multifaceted. We see that they were not doing things according to the Law nor were they being sincere. Jesus answers them by showing the wickedness of their heart. It seems to me that “the net which they hid is their own foot taken”.




  1. Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible: Genesis to Revelation. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. 7 May 2016. <;. Par., 6.
  2. , Par., 10
  3. , Par., 8
  4. , Par., 11
  5. , Par., 13-18

Would Jesus Have Been Right In Stoning the Woman? (John 8:1-11)

Lego Moses melting Lego Golden Calf


Jesus was not a magistrate during His earthly ministry (making a distinction since He has now been given all authority to act as judge, which we see in other passages). If He picked up a stone to stone the women, acting as a judge, He would have disobeyed the Law. Moses was a magistrate and acted as such (for example Ex. 32 and the Golden Calf). The issue is a categorical error. We should note that God has created the magistrate to uphold His justice (Rom. 13:1-2) and the church to proclaim salvation (Matt. 28:19-20). Does the church talk about justice and cry out for justice? Absolutely. Do they deploy or enact justice? No. The Westminster Standards make a distinction between the kingdom of grace and kingdom of power.

Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, (which is, Thy Kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrates; that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.
Matt. 6:10; Eph. 2:2-3; Ps. 68:1, 18; Rev. 12:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:1; Rom. 10:1; John 17:9, 20; Rom. 11:25-26; Ps. 67:1-7; Matt. 9:38; 2 Thess. 3:1; Mal. 1:11; Zeph. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Acts 4:29-30; Eph. 3:14-20; Rev. 22:20; Isa. 64:1-2; Rev. 4:8-11; Eph. 6:18-20; Rom. 15:29-30, 32; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Thess. 2:16-17.


(WCF Ch. 25) II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
Psa 2:8; Rom 15:9-12; 1 Cor 1:2; 12:12-13; Rev 7:9. • Gen 3:15; 17:7; Ezek 16:20-21; Acts 2:39; Rom 11:16; 1 Cor 7:14. • Isa 9:7; Mat 13:47. • Eph 2:19; 3:15. • Acts 2:47.

To say that Christ had all the right and authority to stone her misunderstands the point. God has ordained the magistrate to carry out His justice (1 Pet. 2:13-14), not the Church. Christ was not a magistrate during His earthly ministry. So, what is the duty of the magistrate?

(WCF Ch. 23)III. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.

2 Chr 2:8 • Isa 49:23 • 2 Chr 19:8

A Brief Review: Why Our Church Sings Hymns (As Well As Psalms) by Pastor Larry Wilson


I have answered almost all objections that Larry Wilson brings up in my review with Lee Irons (See Here). This article will be brief. There is only one objection that Wilson brings up that has not necessarily been answered. The objection that Wilson uses against exclusive psalmody is an argument that was made popular back in the 80s and 90s.1

Wilson gets right to the point: “Where did our Lord actually command his church, including the old covenant church, to sing the Psalms in public worship? It does not appear to me that Scriptural commands to “sing psalms” (e.g., 1 Chr. 16:9 KJV; Ps. 105:2 KJV) use the term in the technical sense of songs or prayers from the canonical book of Psalms; they seem to use it in a more generic sense, as in “sing praises to God.” That is, it seems to me that these verses command the element of congregational singing, but they do not necessarily specify the form of the words that will be used in congregational singing.”2 Interestingly, my last post dealt with this complaint. There are in fact commands to sing the praises (psalmos). A quick word study will show that the commands in the book of Psalms to sing the praises of God is a reference to the Psalms themselves. “psalmós – a psalm (“Scripture set to music”). Originally, a psalm (5568 /psalmós) was sung and accompanied by a plucked musical instrument (typically a harp), especially the OT Psalms.”3

Lastly, these things have been dealt with in many writings, sermons, books, etc. However, Brian Schwertley does an excellent job:

“1. Specific Commands

The book of Psalms contains several commands to praise Jehovah with the singing of Psalms. “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the LORD with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a psalm, With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King” (Psalm 98:4-6). “Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!” (Psalm 105:2). “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2; cf. Psalms 81:1-2; 100:2).

  1. Designed by God for Singing

That the book of Psalms is clearly designed by God to be sung is indicated by the musical terminology found in the Psalm titles and throughout the Psalms themselves. There is the mention of chief musicians and various types of musical instruments as well as the names of melodies by which certain Psalms were to be sung. The Psalms are constantly referred to as songs, psalms (melodious songs), and hymns. While it is true that the Psalms can be read, chanted, prayed, and so on, they were and are clearly intended to be sung by God’s people.

  1. Historical Examples

There are several biblical historical examples of Psalms used in public worship recorded in the Bible (cf. 1 Chr. 16; 2 Chr. 5:13; 20:21; 29:30; Ezra 3:11). “There are, in fact, numerous indications in the Scriptures that the Psalms or their contemporary (inspired) counterparts were not only performed by the Levitical choirs before the people of God but taught diligently to the ‘common’ people as well (e.g., Ex. 15:1; 2 Sam. 1:18; 2 Chr. 23:13; Ps. 30:4; 137:1 ff.; Mt. 26:30; Jas. 5:13).”9

  1. Placed in the Canon

The fact that God has placed within the canon of inspired Scripture a collection of 150 worship songs itself proves that God requires these songs to be used in public worship. Bushell writes, ‘The Lord has given to us in Scripture a whole book of inspired psalms and then has commanded us to ‘sing psalms.’ Quite apart from the question of whether or not we may sing other songs in worship, is it not the height of foolishness and impiety to stare the Lord in the face, as it were, and insist that we have no obligation to sing the particular psalms that He has been gracious enough to place in our hands?… We would argue that the inclusion of a collection of songs in the canon of Scripture, without any demonstrable limits to their use, constitutes a divine command to use the whole of that book in services of worship. If the Lord hands us a book of psalms, as He has done, and commands us to sing psalms, we have no right, without further instruction, to exclude certain psalms from those that are made available to the Church’.

Those who argue that the placing of an inspired hymnbook in the middle of the canon is not significant and is not a clear indication of what God intends to be used in the church’s worship “might as well argue that the composition of the canon provides no specific indication that the sixty-six books in the canon are those to be used when the word of God is read in the church’s worship.”

  1. Only Inspired Songs Used

A careful examination of the Scripture passages which discuss the songs used in worship and how worship songs were composed reveals that God only authorizes and accepts divinely inspired songs for the praise of Himself. “If when the Bible speaks of the source of worship song, it portrays the text as one produced by divine inspiration, then inspiration is a biblical norm for this ordinance as well.” There are so many examples in the Bible which show the connection between writing songs of praise for the church and prophetic inspiration that it is astounding that this point has been largely ignored by those who claim to hold to the regulative principle. There is the example of the prophetess Miriam who, by divine inspiration, composed a song to celebrate God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Ex. 15:20-21). We also have the inspired song of Deborah the prophetess (Jdg. 5). There are the Spirit-inspired songs of the prophet Isaiah (e.g. 5:1, 26:1 ff., etc.) as well as the divinely inspired song of Mary (Lk. 1:46 ff.). If 1 Corinthians 14:26 refers to Christians composing songs for public worship, these songs were “as is universally admitted, charismatic songs and therefore products of the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” (The question of whether the new covenant church should sing divinely inspired songs outside of the book of Psalms is dealt with below.)

The Old Testament saints whom God used to write the Psalter wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Note once again that prophetic inspiration and the writing of songs of praise go hand in hand. King David, whom the Bible calls a prophet (2 Chr. 29:25-30), wrote his songs by a special gift of the Holy Spirit (2 Sam. 23:1, 2; Ac. 1:16). The New Testament repeatedly refers to David as a prophet when it quotes his songs (cf. Mt. 22:43-44; Mk. 12:36; Ac. 1:16-17; 2:29- 31; 4:24-25). The worship of the temple musicians and singers is referred to as prophecy in Scripture (1 Chr. 25:1-7). This designation, when applied to song content, obviously means that what they sang was the product of divine inspiration. Thus, the temple musicians and singers who were involved in writing songs for worship did so under the special operation of the Spirit. Heman (who was appointed by David as a worship leader of the sanctuary) is called a “seer” (1 Chr. 25:5) in Scripture; a term synonymous with the word “prophet.” Bushell writes, “Prophetic titles and roles are consistently attributed to the chief temple musicians and singers. Asaph, for example, one of David’s principle musicians (1 Chr. 6:39; 15:17; 16:5 ff.; 2 Chr. 5:12), appointed by him over the service of song and by Solomon in the Temple service, is also called a ‘seer’ and placed alongside David as far as authority in Temple music is concerned (2 Chr. 29:30). Nor ought we to miss the significance of the fact that some 12 of the Old Testament Psalms (50, 73-83) are attributed to Asaph, thus confirming his role as a writer of inspired worship song. Jeduthun, another chief temple singer, is also called a ‘seer’ (2 Chr. 35:15; cf. 25:1; and Pss. 39, 62, and 77 titles).”

The writing of worship songs in the Old Testament was so intimately connected with prophetic inspiration that 2 Kings 23:2 and 2 Chronicles 34:30 use the term “Levite” and “prophet” interchangeably. The worship of Jehovah is so important that nothing less than infallible Spirit-inspired lyrics are acceptable for praise in the church. James A. Kennedy writes,

‘What is praise? The word is derived from the word “price.” But who knows God’s price or value? To prepare a complete and sufficient manual of praise one must know, on the one hand, all the divine excellences, for they are to be set forth in sufficient measure and due proportion; and, on the other hand, the whole range of human devotional feeling called forth by contemplating the divine perfections. But such vast knowledge is only possible to one to whom a divine revelation has been made. And to give adequate expression to this knowledge, divine inspiration is an absolute prerequisite…. God evidently deemed it necessary to have His praises prepared thus, for as a matter of fact He inspired David, Asaph, and others to compose them. And He never puts forth divine power unless it is necessary. God kept the manual of praise strictly under His control. Why should he be indifferent to this matter now? And why should we be put off without a divine book for this dispensation? Are we not as worthy of such a perfect book as the Old Testament Church? ‘

There have been attempts (by opponents of exclusive Psalmody) to refute the assertion that divine inspiration was a requirement for the composition of worship songs to be used by the church. One author argues that the Scripture only requires theological accuracy in the composition of worship songs. The problem with his argument is that he does not offer any scriptural texts or examples to back up his claim—not one. Another author quotes several examples of worship songs that are not found in the book of Psalms as proof that divine inspiration was not necessary. The problem with this person’s argument is that every song he refers to was given by divine inspiration (e.g. Ex. 15:20-21; Jdg. 5; Is. 5:1; 26:1 ff.; Lk. 1:46 ff.; 1 Cor. 14:26). His own argument is self-refuting.

Another author quotes from Isaiah 38:20 (“The Lord was ready to save me; therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord”) as proof that uninspired songs were used in public worship in the Old Testament era. This author assumes that since these songs, written by King Hezekiah, were never inscripturated into the canon, therefore they must be uninspired. This argument falls to the ground when we consider that many prophecies and inspired writings did not make it into our Bibles. (There are Old Testament prophets named of whom we have no surviving oracles. There is the missing letter of Paul to the Corinthians as well as the volumes of sayings, proverbs, and teachings that Christ spoke to His disciples, etc.). The fact that Hezekiah’s songs (except the one recorded in Is. 38) did not make it into our Bible does not tell us at all whether or not they were inspired. In fact, the passage under discussion, if anything, indicates that his songs were inspired. Note the transition from the singular (“me”) to the plural (“we”). The king identifies himself with the Levitical choir of the Temple, which as noted above functioned as a musical prophetic guild. In any case, there certainly is not a shred of evidence that Hezekiah composed uninspired songs. That assertion is assumed, not proven.

There are “Reformed” pastors who argue that the fact that every instance of worship song in the Bible is divinely inspired holds no significance for today’s church. They reason that since worship songs are in the Bible, which in itself is divinely inspired, they of necessity must also be inspired. This reasoning is fallacious for two reasons. First, the Bible contains many infallibly recorded statements of uninspired people speaking. The Bible records people lying, people with bad theology, and even Satan lying to Jesus. No one would argue that Satan’s lies were divinely inspired. Second, and even more significant, is the fact that the Holy Spirit emphasizes that worship songs came not from anyone who decided to write a song, but only from seers and prophets. The only way to argue against the sole use of divinely inspired songs in the church is to abandon the regulative principle of worship, either explicitly or by subterfuge. Abandoning the scriptural laws of worship places one outside of Reformed Christianity (with regard to worship) and sets him squarely in the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Anabaptist camp.

  1. The Psalms and Apostolic Worship

The Bible teaches that the Psalms were sung for public and private worship in the apostolic church. The singing of divinely inspired songs in worship is not only an Old Testament worship ordinance, but also a new covenant era ordinance.

Matthew 26:30

In fact, it was Jesus Himself who specifically used the Psalms for praise when He introduced the New Testament ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Both Matthew and Mark tell us that immediately after the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus and the apostles sang a hymn. “And when they had sung a hymn [lit. ‘when they had hymned’], they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mt. 26:30; cf. Mk. 14:24). The majority of commentators believe that the word “hymn” here refers to a Psalm or Psalms from the “Hallel” (i.e., Ps. 113-118). James Morison writes, “Or Psalm, as it is in the margin and the Geneva: or very literally, And when they had hymned (humnesantes). The word does not imply that it was but one hymn or psalm that was sung or chanted. And if the tradition, preserved among the Jews, is of any weight in such a matter, the hymning at the conclusion of the supper would embrace Psalms cxv., cxvi., cxviii., which constitute the second part of the Jewish Hallelujah, or Hallel, as they call it. The other part of the Hallel consisted of Psalms cxiii., cxiv., which it was customary to chant at the commencement of the feast.”

Matthew Henry points out (in his commentary on the passage) that if Jesus and the disciples had departed from the normal Jewish practice of singing the Psalms after the Paschal meal, it probably would have been recorded in the Gospel accounts, for it would have been a new practice. He then writes, “Singing of psalms is a gospel-ordinance. Christ’s removing the hymn from the close of the passover to the close of the Lord’s Supper, plainly intimates that he intended that ordinance should continue in his church, that, as it had not its birth with the ceremonial law, so it should not die with it.” The Holy Spirit tells us that the Lord of glory sang Psalms at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Bushell writes, “Psalmody and the Lord’s Supper are no more separable now than psalmody and the Passover ritual were in Old Testament times. There is thus no instance of Scripture that shows more clearly than this the abiding significance of the Old Testament Psalms for the New Testament Church.” Does your church follow the example of Jesus Christ and the Apostles by singing the Spirit-inspired Psalms of Scripture whenever you partake of the body and blood of our precious Savior?

It is providential that when Jesus was about to enter the humiliation, torture, agony, abandonment, and darkness of Golgotha He had the words of victory upon His lips:

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. God is the Lord, and He has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Ps. 118:22-29).

If the head of the church choose the Spirit-inspired Psalms for praise, comfort, and edification, should not His bride do likewise? Who are we to set aside the ordinance of the Son of God?

Acts 16:25

In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are cast into “the inner prison” (v. 24) as a result of mob influence upon the civil magistrates at Philippi. Luke records that “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 25). The verb used in this passage (humneo) translated as “singing hymns” (NKJV, NIV, RSV), “sang praises” (KJV), “sang hymns” (ASV), “singing hymns of praise” (NASB) is the same word used to describe Psalm singing in Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:24 (cf. also the section below on Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16). Given the fact that pious Jews often committed many of the Psalms to memory for devotional use, many commentators believe Paul and Silas were singing from the book of Psalms. Kistemaker writes, “Paul and Silas not only edify and strengthen themselves, but also provide a witness and a source of encouragement to the other prisoners who listen to their prayers and psalms (compare Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13).” Lenski writes, “What hymns they sang we, of course, do not know, but the psalms of David have ever been dear to those who suffer, especially also to those who suffer wrong.” Hackett writes, “Their worship consisted chiefly of thanksgiving, the language of which they would desire more or less from the Psalms.” Alexander says, “Praying, hymned (or sang to) God, seems to express, not two distinct acts…but the single act of lyrical worship, or praying…by singing or chanting, perhaps one or more of the many passages in the Book of Psalms peculiarly adapted and intended for the use of prisoners and others under persecution.” Although there is no way for us to know conclusively what Paul and Silas sang, given the fact that there is not a shred of evidence for uninspired hymnody within the New Testament, it is very likely that they were singing Psalms. ‘In any event, there is certainly no evidence here requiring the supposition that materials other than Biblical Psalms would have been used—quite the reverse’….

James 5:13

James 5:13 says “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” The verb translated “sing psalms” in the KJV can also legitimately be translated “sing praise.” The phrase “sing praise” (psalleto) itself does not identify the content of what is used to sing praise. Therefore, one must let Scripture interpret Scripture in order to determine its meaning. In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 the noun form of this word (psalmois) refers to the Old Testament Psalms. In 1 Corinthians 14, it refers either to Old Testament Psalms or to divinely inspired songs not preserved in the New Testament canon. In Romans 15:9, it is used in a citation from the Septuagint version of Psalm 18:49. This citation alludes to the Messiah praising God among the nations. When Christ praised Jehovah during his earthly ministry He used the Old Testament Psalms (cf. Mt. 26:30). There is not a shred of biblical evidence that James 5:13 refers to uninspired praise. All the scriptural evidence points in the opposite direction: Spirit-inspired praise. Therefore, this passage cannot be used as a proof text for uninspired materials in worship.”4

I have already addressed Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:26, and the Revelation songs in my previous article. It should go without saying that these have already been answered and deny the scriptural command to sing the song book God has so graciously given us.



  1. For example, Stephen Pribble’s The Regulative Principle and Singing in Worship (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1995; originally published in The Harbinger, January-February, 1994)
  2. Wilson, Larry. Why Our Church Sings Hymns (As Well As Psalms). 2012. Web.
  3. Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007. Print. Forms of the word “Psalmos” are used in Luke 20:42; Luke 24:44; Acts 1:20; Acts 13:33; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16. James 5:13 uses the word “Psaletto” which also means “praise”.
  4. Schwertley, Brian. Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense. 2002. Web.

Review: Exclusive Psalmody or New Covenant Hymnody? By Lee Irons

Before the review begins, I want to stress the importance of accurately representing the opposing position. As Christians we are to be truthful, thoughtful, and take care in how we represent others. In Lee Irons article, we are shown a lack of careful and thoughtful interaction. This is a response to his article to show that he is inaccurate in his claims.

A Response To Lee Irons

The beginning of the article starts with the definition of the regulative principle: “One of the most important aspects of Reformed worship is its insistence that whatever God has not commanded to be done in worship is forbidden. This is known as the regulative principle of worship, a principle that is warranted by the second commandment” (Irons).  Here we should commend Irons for getting most of this right. The regulative principle, to an extent, is “whatever is not commanded is forbidden” (Irons). In other words, there must be warrant for anything we do in worship. This does not just include what we do and use but how we do these acts.

However, there are two particular errors I want to correct. He limits this idea to the 2nd Commandment. Although this is the prominent force or command, we have many instances in scripture that would be sufficient to help us understand the regulative principle (Cain and Abel, Golden Calf, Sons of Aaron, Uzziah, John 4, Matt. 15, Col. 2).  The second point is described in the first subsection.

The Regulative Principle

It is important to understand what the regulative principle is and is not. “The false version of the regulative principle that is used is: ‘If it is not commanded, it is forbidden.’ In other words, there must be an explicit divine imperative for every worship ordinance in the church. Fundamentalist Baptists argue in this manner when they say, “Where are we commanded in the Bible to baptize infants?” Seventh-day Adventists follow this tactic when they say, ‘Show us where God commanded the apostolic church to rest and worship on Sunday instead of Saturday!’ Anti-regulativists use arguments such as: (a) the worship of the synagogue was never commanded by God; (b) Christ and the apostles attended and approved of synagogue worship; therefore, Christ and the apostles rejected the regulative principle. Once a person understands the true definition of the regulative principle, he will immediately recognize that the objections to Reformed worship offered by Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and anti-regulativists are not based on Scripture, but on an ignorance of the regulative principle itself. Although it is not uncommon to see a regulativist give a statement such as ‘if it is not commanded, it is forbidden’ as a brief statement or summary of the principle, the Westminster Confession and virtually all Reformed authors define the regulative principle in a much broader fashion. The regulative principle refers not just to explicit commands of Scripture, but also to approved historical examples within the Bible and to good and necessary consequence, i.e., a particular worship practice or ordinance is inferred from many passages of Scripture.” (Schwertley, Regulative, Pg.62)

Dispensational Hermeneutics and the Sufficiency of the Psalter

I am picking individual statements because they seem to portray the whole argument. Statements that he makes seem logical, but when we examine them they fall short. Irons says the arguments for exclusive psalmody (EP) is “dismissed by those whose dispensational hermeneutic has ingrained within their consciousness a deep-seated distrust of any appeal to the OT to find moral standards governing the NT believer. Since the Psalter belongs to the OT canon, it is assumed without argument that it cannot be binding on the NT church.” (Irons)  I found this statement fascinating because he goes against this idea later in the article.

He will point out that the psalms alone are not sufficient for us because of furthering redemptive events that will require us to praise God (which I will discuss in light of what is required for composing song in worship). Here I want to directly address the concerns of sufficiency. (To further the point, See Carl Trueman Here)

The Psalms are not only sufficient for New Testament worship, but they are all encompassing of who Christ is, what He has done, and what He will do. “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). Brian Schwertley goes more in depth at this point. “The Psalter reveals such a clear portrait of Christ and His work that any suggestion that they are inadequate in their exposition of Christ’s work shows a lack of understanding regarding their content. The Psalms teach Christ’s divinity (Ps. 45:6; 110:1), His eternal sonship (Ps. 2:7), His incarnation (Ps. 8:5; 40:7-9), His mediatorial offices as Prophet (Ps. 40:9-10), Priest (Ps. 110:4), and King (Ps. 2:7-12; 22:28; 45:6; 72; 110:1). The Psalms give us Spirit-inspired details regarding Christ’s betrayal (Ps. 41:9), His agony in the garden (Ps. 22:2); His trial (Ps. 35:11), His rejection (Ps. 22:6; 118:22), His crucifixion (Ps. 22; 69), His burial and resurrection (Ps. 16:9-11), His ascension (Ps. 24:7-10; 47:5; 68:18), and His second coming and judgment (Ps. 50:3-4; 98:6-9). They also tell us of the victory of Christ’s kingdom (Ps. 2:6-12; 45:6 ff.). Some Psalms reveal so much vital information regarding Christ’s person and work that they are called messianic Psalms (Ps. 2, 8, 16, 22, 40, 45, 69, 72, 110).” (Schwertley, Pg.19)

It should be noted that when one says the psalter is insufficient, they are using a dispensational hermeneutic which says the old testament is insufficient for new testament believers. Yet, Christ Himself refutes this point. Not only does He refute this point in Luke 24:44 but he calls them fools (a few verses back) and slow of heart that think they are insufficient. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).


“Might it not be possible that the Scripture regulates song more like it regulates preaching?” (Irons)  Irons blurs the line. Not only has it always been taught that singing is regulated more like the reading of scripture, but he does not understand the purpose of the Psalms in the Canon. The very fact that the song book is in the canon constitutes us to use it in worship.

“The fact that God has placed within the canon of inspired Scripture a collection of 150 worship songs itself proves that God requires these songs to be used in public worship. Bushell writes,

‘The Lord has given to us in Scripture a whole book of inspired psalms and then has commanded us to ‘sing psalms.’ Quite apart from the question of whether or not we may sing other songs in worship, is it not the height of foolishness and impiety to stare the Lord in the face, as it were, and insist that we have no obligation to sing the particular psalms that He has been gracious enough to place in our hands?… We would argue that the inclusion of a collection of songs in the canon of Scripture, without any demonstrable limits to their use, constitutes a divine command to use the whole of that book in services of worship. If the Lord hands us a book of psalms, as He has done, and commands us to sing psalms, we have no right, without further instruction, to exclude certain psalms from those that are made available to the Church.’

Those who argue that the placing of an inspired hymnbook in the middle of the canon is not significant and is not a clear indication of what God intends to be used in the church’s worship “might as well argue that the composition of the canon provides no specific indication that the sixty-six books in the canon are those to be used when the word of God is read in the church’s worship.” (Schwertley, Pg. 5-6).


Prophecy and Inspired Prophets are the Requirements For Writing Songs

“30 Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.” (2 Chron. 29)

“Inspiration is a necessary qualification for writing worship song…. The bible specifies a source for worship song.” (Rev. Robert McCurley)

“There is a biblical connection between prophecy and praise.” (Rev. Robert McCurley)

There is no warrant in scripture for the use of uninspired human composition for song in worship. Zero warrant. However, there is warrant for using inspired compositions in the worship of God. This warrant not only comes from direct command, but implicitly through the writers of these songs who were prophets. Here I want to show the biblical evidence that the song writers were prophets.

David The Prophet

What the following verses will demonstrate is that David is a prophet. When the reformation of Hezekiah happened, Hezekiah not only reformed back to the book (scriptures) but reformed back to biblical worship, giving praise to God using the “words of David, and of Asaph the seer”(V.30).

“Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, 2 The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. 3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (2 Sam. 23)

“29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2)

“16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.” (Acts 1)

When going back to 2 Chronicles 29, we should note something. This event was a reformation back to the book or the scriptures. Included in this reformation is the restoration of biblical worship. When Hezekiah commanded reform, he commanded the Levites “to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer” (v.30).

There are other men mentioned for the task of writing or composing songs. These men are also prophets. (2 Chron. 29:30 – Asaph the Seer, 2 Chon. 35 – Jeduthin, 1 Chron. 25:5 – Heman)

What is a seer?

1 Sam. 9:9 – A seer was a prophet.  “9 (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is nowcalled a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)”

Also, Samuel called himself a seer. “19 And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that isin thine heart” (9:19).

Prophecy Producing Song

1 Chron. 25:1-7 – Here we see that prophecy is producing worship song. “Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was: 2 of the sons of Asaph; Zaccur, and Joseph, and Nethaniah, and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under the hands of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king. 3 Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord. 4 Of Heman: the sons of Heman; Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth: 5 all these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. 6 All these were under the hands of their father for song inthe house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. 7 So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight.”

Individual Prophets Who Wrote Songs

Deut. 31:19-21 – Moses, as a prophet, was commissioned by God to write a song to be sung for Israel. “19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. 20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. 21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.”

Judges 4:4 – Deborah was a prophetess. “4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.”

Exodus 15:20 – Miriam was a Prophetess. “20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.”

The point of these are to demonstrate that the prophetic office was necessary for writing song for worship. There is no biblical warrant within scripture for the use of uninspired human compositions in the worship of God. However, all of these point to the fact that there is warrant for inspired song in worship. I do not think I have to labor much more with the Isaiah and Habakkuk texts. It should go without saying that both of these men are prophets.


New Testament Examples

Luke Passages

When Lee Irons uses the Luke passages to portray them as songs, he is not careful. They were not sung, nor is there evidence that they are songs. What do the passages actually say?

Luke 1:46 – “46 And Mary said

Luke 1: 67 – “67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying

Luke 2: 13-14 – “13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Luke 2: 28 – “28 then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said

Hymn Fragments

In regards to the “hymn fragments” in Colossians and Philippians it should be noted that these are not songs, Paul is not said to have sung them, and there is not command to sing. “A common method for arguing against exclusive Psalmody is to appeal to the existence of hymnic fragments within the New Testament. The existence of these hymnic fragments, we are told, teaches us that the apostolic church was engaged in hymn writing, and thus we also ought to compose our own hymns. The problem with this argument is that it is not based on solid scriptural evidence, but is basically the speculation of modernistic theologians and commentators. The Greek scholar Delling writes, “Attempts have been made to identify various primitive Christian hymns or hymnal fragments in the N.T. But such identifications must remain hypothetical, particularly as there is in the N.T. no attempt—and this is a point worth noting in itself—to use the Greek style of metrical hymns…. The pieces in the N.T. which take the form of praise are in general so little controlled by any discernable laws that for the most part judgment as to their character as hymns can claim only limited validity.” A study of the literature which speaks of these so-called hymnic fragments reveals that the methodology for determining what is and is not a hymn fragment is totally subjective and unreliable. Subjective speculation does not provide a biblical foundation for church practice, especially in light of the biblical evidence in favor of exclusive Psalmody.

Furthermore, if hymnology flourished in the apostolic church, as many suppose, “it is indeed remarkable that not a single one of these hymns has survived intact outside the New Testament writings. Nor is there a single shred of undisputed historical evidence suggesting the use of such hymns in the Church in the second century. It is just as astounding that not a single one of these ‘hymns’ is identified as such in the New Testament writings themselves.” Since Scripture never identifies the poetic or rhythmical passages as songs or hymns fragments, and since there is not a shred of evidence that these fragments were used for worship songs in the apostolic church, or even in the second century, we can refer to the hymn fragment argument against exclusive Psalmody as the grasping after invisible straws argument.” (Schwertley, Pg. 17)

1 Corinthians 14

Lee Irons goes to 1 Corinthians in order to use this as an argument. His lack of carefulness to the text shows. “In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul deals with revelatory gifts and the need for intelligibility in the assembly for the edification of the body. He also deals with the closely related issue of proper order in public worship. In this context Paul speaks of the praise as practiced at Corinth: “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (v. 15), “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (v. 26). Although there are writers who believe that these passages refer to Old Testament Psalms, the majority of interpreters believe that Paul is referring to a type of charismatic hymnody. That is, there were believers at Corinth who received songs of praise by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Whatever position one holds to regarding these passages, one thing is certain: divine inspiration was a prerequisite for writing worship songs at Corinth. Therefore, this passage cannot be used to support the uninspired hymnody practiced today. Since in God’s providence none of these inspired songs were inscripturated, their use was limited to the first century prior to the close of the canon.

These passages, however, are often used to raise a question regarding the sufficiency of the book of Psalms for praise in the new covenant era. If the book of Psalms is sufficient for praise in new covenant churches, then why were other inspired songs of praise used? These passages do not disprove exclusive Psalmody for two reasons. First, these passages do not refer to congregational singing, but rather to a single individual who speaks in tongues or prophecies while singing. Since the revelatory gifts have ceased, this practice is no longer a part of congregational worship. Second, the churches in the apostolic age had to function without a complete New Testament to interpret the Old Testament, thus direct revelation was needed.

Bushell writes,

‘The Old Testament psalms are in a sense insufficient for the worship needs of the Church in this dispensation, but only in the sense that they require the interpretation of completed New Testament canon to be properly understood, used, and sung. God may well have given the Corinthians such charismatic songs to ‘fill the gap’ until this need was met. This was, in fact, what the charismatic gifts were all about. So the presence of charismatic singing in the early days of the Church cannot be offered as justification for composing new songs now, any more than the exercise of prophetic gifts in the same context can be seen as suggesting the need for new prophetic oracles in the present day.’

Furthermore, even if one accepts the interpretation that 1 Corinthians 14:15, 26 proves that churches today can sing other songs besides the book of Psalms, these passages would only permit the few inspired songs given in Scripture that are not in the book of Psalms and no others. When the revelatory gifts ceased with the death of the apostles, so did the possibility of divinely inspired hymnody.” (Schwertley, Pg. 14-15)

Revelation Songs

The songs in Revelation are not meant for congregational worship. These songs do not mean what you think they mean. Here is Brian Schwertley to explain: “The Book of Revelation contains a number of examples of worship song (e.g., 4:8, 11; 5:9-13; 7:10-12; 11:17-18; 14:2-3; 15:3-4; 19:1, 2, 5, 8). A question that needs to be answered regarding these songs is: “Do these allusions to worship in heaven teach us anything regarding what we are to sing in public worship and how we are to conduct public worship at the present time?” No, they clearly do not.

The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, and therefore was not meant to be a literal guide or pattern for public worship. If it was, we would all be Romanists, for Revelation describes an “altar” (6:9; 8:3, 5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:18; 16:7); “incense” (8:4); “trumpets” (1:10; 4:1; 8:13; 9:14); “harps” (5:8; 14:2; 15:2) and even the “ark of the covenant” (11:19). We also would have to be mystics, for Revelation has every creature, including birds, insects, jellyfish, and worms, etc., praising God (5:13). Apocalyptic literature uses figurative language and dramatic imagery to teach spiritual lessons. “The important thing in watching a drama is not the props, but the message they help to portray.” “The Book of Revelation is filled to overflowing with obscure rites, with thrones and temples, and with a whole host of liturgical acts that cannot possibly relate to our own circumstances of worship. The attempt to derive elements of worship from such apocalyptic literature can only lead to liturgical chaos.” Furthermore, even if one wanted to take the apocalyptic scenes of worship in heaven as normative for the church today, they still would not authorize the use of uninspired hymns, for the songs sung by the angels, four living creatures, and sinless heavenly saints “are in the nature of the case inspired compositions, proceeding as they do from heaven itself and the very throne and presence of God.” But (as noted) the apocalyptic worship scenes with their altar, incense, harps, and other ceremonial images clearly cannot be applied to the new covenant church without Scripture contradicting itself, which is impossible.

Some writers appeal to the “new song” mentioned in Revelation 14:3 as scriptural authorization for the composing of “new songs” today. A study of this phrase in Scripture, however, will prove that the biblical phrase “new song” has nothing to do with composing new uninspired songs after the close of the canon. The phrase “new song” in the Old Testament can refer to a song which has as its theme new mercies or new marvels of God’s power (e.g., 40:3; 98:1). But keep in mind that this phrase is only used to describe songs written under divine inspiration. This fact limits “new songs” to the inspired songs of the Bible. Since the phrase “new song” is only used to describe songs written by people who had the prophetic gift, and did not apply to just any Israelite, it therefore certainly does not apply to Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, or any other uninspired hymn writer.

Another meaning of “new song” refers not to a song describing new mercies, but rather to singing a song anew; that is, with a thankful, rejoicing heart; with a new impulse of gratitude. The song may in fact be very old, but as we apply the inspired song experimentally to our own situation, we sing it anew. This is probably the meaning of “sing a new song” in the Psalms, which use the phrase, yet do not discuss new mercies. For example, Psalm 33 uses the phrase “sing a new song,” and then discusses general well-known doctrines: creation, providence, and hope and trust in God. Also, there is a sense in which all the Old Testament songs are “new songs” for the new covenant Christian, in that we sing the Psalms with an understanding and perspective unknown to Old Testament believers. Because of God’s expression of love in and by Christ, Jesus and the Apostle John can even refer to a well-known Old Testament commandment (Lev. 19:18) as a “new commandment” (Jn. 13:34; 1 Jn. 2:7; 2 Jn. 5)” (Schwertley, Pg. 16).

 Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16

These two passages seem to be the focal point of his argumentation. If his understanding of these two passages are correct, then his argumentation will follow. However, his first statement discards the rest of his argument. Lee Irons says “according to Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19, the church is commanded to compose hymns” (Irons). Here Irons is flat out wrong. What do the texts actually say? To compose?  Or something else?

Eph. 5:19 – “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”

Col. 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”

Furthering the point and others, Brian Schwertley labors in these two passages. “Two passages which are crucial to the exclusive Psalmody debate are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. These passages are important because they are used as proof texts by both exclusive Psalm singers and those who use uninspired hymns in worship. Paul writes, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18-19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

Before we consider the question of how these passages relate to public worship, we first will consider the question “what does Paul mean by psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?” This question is very important, for many advocates of uninspired hymnody (who claim to adhere to the regulative principle) point to this passage as proof that uninspired hymns are permitted in public worship by God. When examining passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, one should not make the common mistake of importing our modern meaning or usage of a word, such as hymn, into what Paul wrote over nineteen hundred years ago. When a person hears the word “hymn” today, he immediately thinks of the extra-biblical non-inspired hymns found in the pews of most churches. The only way to really determine what Paul meant by “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” is to determine how these terms were used by Greek-speaking Christians in the first century.

When interpreting religious terminology used by Paul in his epistles, there are certain rules of interpretation that should be followed. First, the religious thinking and worldview of the apostles was essentially from the Old Testament and Jesus Christ, not Greek heathenism. Therefore, when Paul discusses doctrine or worship, the first place to look for help in understanding religious terms is the Old Testament. We often find Hebrew expressions or terms expressed in koine Greek. Second, we must keep in mind that the churches that Paul founded in Asia consisted of converted Jews, Gentile proselytes to Old Testament Judaism (God-fearers) and Gentile pagans. These churches had a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. When Paul expressed Old Testament ideas to a Greek-speaking audience, he would use the religious terminology of the Septuagint. If the terms hymns (humnois) and spiritual songs (odais pheumatikais) were defined within the New Testament, then looking to the Septuagint for the meaning of these words would be unnecessary. Given the fact, however, that these terms are rarely used in the New Testament and cannot be defined within their immediate context apart from a knowledge of the Old Testament, it would be exegetically irresponsible to ignore how these words are used in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.

When we examine the Septuagint, we find that the terms psalm (psalmos), hymn (humnos), and song (odee) used by Paul clearly refers to the Old Testament book of Psalms and not ancient or modern uninspired hymns or songs. Bushell writes, “Psalmos…occurs some 87 times in the Septuagint, some 78 of which are in the Psalms themselves, and 67 times in the psalm titles. It also forms the title to the Greek version of the psalter…. Humnos…occurs some 17 times in the Septuagint, 13 of which are in the Psalms, six times in the titles. In 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah there are some 16 examples in which the Psalms are called ‘hymns’ (humnoi) or ‘songs’ (odai) and the singing of them is called ‘hymning’ (humneo, humnodeo, humnesis)…. Odee…occurs some 80 times in the Septuagint, 45 of which are in the Psalms, 36 in the Psalm titles.”25 In twelve Psalm titles we find both “psalm” and “song”; and, in two others we find “psalm” and “hymn.” “Psalm seventy-six is designated ‘psalm, hymn and song.’ And at the end of the first seventy two psalms we read ‘the hymns of David the son of Jesse are ended’ (Ps. 72:20). In other words, there is no more reason to think that the Apostle referred to psalms when he said ‘psalms,’ than when he said ‘hymns’ and ‘songs,’ for all three were biblical terms for psalms in the book of psalms itself.” To ignore how Paul’s audience would have understood these terms and how these terms are defined by the Bible; and then instead to import non-biblical modern meanings into these terms is exegetical malpractice.

One of the most common objections against the idea that in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 Paul is speaking of the book of Psalms is that it would be absurd for apostle to say, “sing psalms, psalms, and psalms.” This objection fails to consider the fact that a common literary method among the ancient Jews was to use a triadic form of expression to express an idea, act, or object. The Bible contains many examples of triadic expression. For example: Exodus 34:7—“iniquity and transgression and sin”; Deuteronomy 5:31 and 6:1—“commandments and statutes and judgments”; Matthew 22:37—“with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (cf. Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27); Acts 2:22—“miracles and wonders and signs”; Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16—“psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” “The triadic distinction used by Paul would be readily understood by those familiar with their Hebrew OT Psalter or the Greek Septuagint, where the Psalm titles are differentiated psalms, hymns, and songs. This interpretation does justice to the analogy of Scripture, i.e. Scripture is its own best interpreter.”

The interpretation that says that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to the inspired book of Psalms also receives biblical support from the immediate context and grammar of these passages. In Colossians 3:16 we are exhorted: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….” In this passage the word of Christ is very likely synonymous with the word of God. “In 1 Pet. 1:11 it is stated that ‘the spirit of Christ’ was in the Old Testament prophets and through them testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow. If, as is definitely stated, the Spirit of Christ testified these things through the prophets, then Christ was the real Author of those Scriptures. Prominent among those prophecies, which so testified concerning Christ, is the Book of Psalms, and therefore Christ is the Author of the Psalms.” After Paul exhorts the Colossian church to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly, he immediately points them to the book of Psalms; a book which comprehends “most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible;” a book far superior to any human devotional book, which Calvin called “an anatomy of all parts of the soul;” a book which is “a compendium of all divinity.” Do we let the Scriptures, the word of Christ dwell within us when we sing uninspired human compositions in worship? No, we do not! If we are to sing and meditate upon the word of Christ, we must sing the songs that Christ has written by His Spirit—the book of Psalms.

The grammar also supports the contention that Paul was speaking of the book of Psalms. In our English Bibles the adjective “spiritual” only applies to the word songs (“spiritual songs”). In the Greek language, however, when an adjective immediately follows two or more nouns, it applies to all the preceding nouns. John Murray writes,

‘Why does the word pneumatikos [spiritual] qualify odais and not psalmois and hymnois? A reasonable answer to this question is that pneumatikais qualifies all three datives and that its gender (fem.) is due to attraction to the gender of the noun that is closest to it. Another distinct possibility, made particularly plausible by the omission of the copulative in Colossians 3:16, is that “Spiritual songs” are the genus of which “psalms” and “hymns” are the species. This is the view of Meyer, for example. On either of these assumptions the psalms, hymns, and songs are all “Spiritual” and therefore all inspired by the Holy Spirit. The bearing of this upon the question at issue is perfectly apparent. Uninspired hymns are immediately excluded.’

If one wants to argue that spiritual does not apply to psalms and hymns, then one must answer two pertinent questions. First, why would Paul insist on divine inspiration for songs, yet permit uninspired hymns? We can safely assume that Paul was not irrational. Second, given the fact that “psalms” refers to divinely inspired songs, it would be unscriptural not to apply spiritual to that term. Furthermore, since we have already established that the phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to the divinely inspired book of Psalms, it is only natural to apply “spiritual” to all three terms. Since the book of Psalms is composed of divinely inspired or spiritual psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we obey God only when we praise Him using the biblical Psalter; uninspired hymns do not meet the scriptural criteria for authorized praise.

Another question that needs to be considered regarding these passages is: “Do these passages refer to formal public worship services or to informal Christian gatherings?” Since Paul is discussing the mutual edification of believers by singing inspired songs in private worship situations, it would be inconsistent on his part to allow uninspired songs in the more formal public worship settings. “What is proper or improper to be sung in one instance must be seen as proper or improper to be sung in the other. Worship is still worship, whatever its circumstances and regardless of the number of people involved.” “If psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are the limits of the material of songs in praise of God in less formal acts of worship, how much more are they the limits in more formal acts of worship?” (Schwertley, Pg. 10-14).

Historical Witness on Eph. 5 and Col. 3

What did reformers of the first and second reformations or even the next generations think about “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”? They made no distinction between them and knew they were a reference to the book of Psalms.

John Calvin: “Now St. Paul sets down here songs, psalms, and hymns, which scarcely differ at all from one another, and therefore there is no need to seek entertainment for ourselves in setting forth any subtle distinction among them.”(Sermons on Ephesians (5:18-21), pp. 552-553)

Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622), English Puritan, scholar in Hebrew and Rabbinics, commenting on Psalm 3: “There be three kinds of songs mentioned in this book: 1. Mizmor, in Greek psalmos, a psalm: 2. Tehillah, in Greek humnos, a hymn or praise: and 3. Shir, in Greek ode, a song or lay. All these three the apostle mentioneth together, where he willeth us to speak to ourselves with ‘psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,’ Ephesians 5:19.”

John Cotton (1584-1652), New England Congregationalist theologian: “In both which places (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16), as the apostle exhorteth us to singing, so he instructeth us what the matter of our song should be, to wit, Psalmes, hymnes, and spirituall Songs. Now these three be the very titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himself: some of them are called Mizmorim, that is Psalmes; some Tehillim, that is Hymnes; some Shirim, that is Songs, spirituall Songs.  Now what reason can be given why the apostle should direct us in our singing to the very titles of David’s Psalms, if it were not his meaning that we should sing them? … The words of David and Asaph, as they were the words of Christ in the mouth of David and Asaph: so they were the words of Christ also in the mouths of the sonnes of Corah, or any other singers in the Temple.”

David Dickson: “The reason of the Precept is from those better fruits which spiritual joy produceth, such are all sorts of spiritu∣al Songs, especially those which are in the holy Scriptures, with which they should mutually edifie one another, and glorifie God from their heart or spiritual affection. A Psalm is a sacred song in general, especially that which is by playing on the harp. A Hymn properly contains Gods praise. An Ode or Song, is a common name.”(Commentary on Eph. 5)

John Gill: “By psalms are meant the Psalms of David, and others which compose the book that goes by that name, for other psalms there are none; and by “hymns” we are to understand, not such as are made by good men, without the inspiration of the Spirit of God; since they are placed between psalms and spiritual songs, made by men inspired by the Holy Ghost; and are put upon a level with them, and to be sung along with them, to the edification of churches; but these are only another name for the Book of Psalms, the running title of which may as well be the Book of Hymns, as it is rendered by Ainsworth; and the psalm which our Lord sung with his disciples after the supper, is called an hymn; and so are the psalms in general called hymns, by Philo the Jew; and songs and hymns by Josephus; and, “songs and praises”, or “hymns”, in the Talmud: and by “spiritual songs” are meant the same Psalms of David, Asaph and the titles of many of them are songs, and sometimes a psalm and song, and song and psalm, a song of degrees; together with all other Scriptural songs, written by inspired men; and which are called “spiritual”, because they are indited by the Spirit of God, consist of spiritual matter, and are designed for spiritual edification; and are opposed to all profane, loose, and wanton songs: these three words answer to the several titles of David’s Psalms”(Commentary on Eph. 5)

Matthew Henry: “We must admonish one another in psalms and hymns. Observe, Singing of psalms is a gospel ordinance: psalmois kai hymnois kai odais—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. Religious poesy seems countenanced by these expressions and is capable of great edification. But, when we sing psalms, we make no melody unless we sing with grace in our hearts, unless we are suitably affected with what we sing and go along in it with true devotion and understanding. Singing of psalms is a teaching ordinance as well as a praising ordinance; and we are not only to quicken and encourage ourselves, but to teach and admonish one another, mutually excite our affections, and convey instructions.”(Commentary on Col. 3)

John Gill: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you…The Alexandrian copy and Arabic version read, “the word of God”; by which may be meant the whole Scripture, all the writings of the Old and New Testament, which are by inspiration of God, were endited by the spirit of Christ, speak and testify of him, and were written for his sake, and on his account, and therefore may be called his word; and are what should be searched into, carefully attended to, diligently read, and frequently meditated upon; and which are able, under a divine blessing, to furnish with all spiritual wisdom, or to make men wise unto salvation: or by the word of Christ may be meant more especially the Gospel, which Christ is the author of as God, the preacher of as man, and the subject matter of as God-man and Mediator: it is the word concerning him, his person and offices; concerning peace and pardon by his blood, justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation through his obedience, sufferings and death….psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; referring very probably to the title of several of David’s psalms, (lykvm) ; “Maschil”, which signifies giving instruction, or causing to understand; these psalms, and the singing of them, being appointed as an ordinance, of God to teach, instruct, admonish, and edify the saints”. (Commentary on Col. 3)

Thomas Manton (1620-1677): English Puritan, commenting on Ephesians 5:19: “The learned observe, these are the express titles of David’s Psalms, mizmorim, tehillim, and Shirim, which the Septuagint translate, psalmoi, humnoi, and odai, ‘psalms, hymns, and songs,’ [and] seem to recommend to us the book of David’s Psalms.”



I do not find any real need to further discuss this particular point. The argument goes as follows: We are shown that a new song is written in every redemptive event. Thus we need to write new songs for the redemptive events of the New Covenant church. First, to follow this to its logical conclusion would be impossible. We cannot write every single redemptive act. The argument is based upon the assumption that inspiration by the Holy Spirit is not required. I have demonstrated the contrary. Yet, there seems to be a misunderstanding of the continuity between the Old and New Testaments. “Our view of progressive revelation is not different than that of any other writer who approaches Scripture from a Reformed perspective. Revelation has ‘progressed’ from the Old Testament to the New in the sense that there has been movement from type and shadow to fulfillment in Christ. But that does not mean that the Old Testament had been superseded or that it has become obsolete. The truth of the matter has never been said better than in the old pedagogical phrase: ‘The New is in the Old contained. The Old is in the New explained.’ The Old Testament was reborn with the revelation of Christ. It was not rendered obsolete or irrelevant for New Testament worship. In fact, with the coming of Christ, the Old Testament has finally become fully comprehensible. That is why the New Testament is written using typical language of the Old Testament. It is why the New Testament contains some 344 direct quotes from the Old Testament and some 2,335 identifiable verbal parallels with the Old Testament verses. This is why the ‘progress of revelation’ of which Gordon speaks does not require ‘a corresponding progress in the production of devotional material.’ The new is contained in the old. The ‘progress in production of devotional material’ that Gordon thinks is necessary took place when the light of the New Testament illuminated the Psalter. The Psalter was reborn” (Bushell, Pg. 66-67).

The second thing I must mention is that the term “new song” has been dealt with briefly. However, here are some further remarks:

“There are 9 new song references in the scriptures 6 of which are found in the Psalms alone: Psalms 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9 & 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9 & 14:3.

1) In every reference the command or the description is that of a “new song,” (singular) not new songs (plural). This would appear to be significant in that new songs would refer to an ongoing collection of songs to be written whereas new song would refer to a particular song with its own particular elements and requirements.

2) This is supported by the command that accompanies these descriptions. The new song is to be sung, not composed. The new song must then be provided by God Himself: that is an inspired source other than the singer or singers who are called to praise God.

3) This is demonstrated in the Psalms, where the phrase “new song” is primarily placed at the beginning (not the end) of the Psalm suggesting that it is, in fact, the content of the new song.

4) In Psalm 144:9 (where this is not the case) David says “I will sing a new song” (emphasis mine). Of course this does not necessarily rule out others from joining in, but the context indicates that the previous statement is a personal one: “the one who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David his servant” (emphasis mine). In any case there is no command here to compose a new song. David by the inspiration of the Spirit is the composer; we are the choir.

5) We see this clearly in Psalm 40:3 which reads “He has put a new song in my mouth.” In this verse David, who was the “sweet Psalmist of Israel,” acknowledges that the new song has been given to him by God.. This could not more clearly refer to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

6) In Isaiah 42:10, the prophet borrows the idea of a new song from the Psalms and applies it to a new people, namely to the Gentiles (“from the ends of the earth” cf. vs. 6 where Israel will be a light to the Gentiles). This could either mean that, with the inclusion of the Gentiles new songs would have to be written to celebrate the creation of a “new man” (Ephesians 2:15), or the ‘old’ songs would take on new meaning by being sung by the Gentile converts. It would seem the latter is the case since in Psalm 96 the Psalmist speaks of singing to the Lord a new song in vs. 1 and then calls upon the nations in vs. 7ff. to join him in his praise of God).

7) In fact the singing of Psalms (as a canonical book) is more suitable to the new covenant church than it ever was to the old. The Psalms prolepticaly anticipate the day when Japheth will dwell in the tents of Shem. So the language of Israel’s faith as applied to the Gentiles becomes a ‘new song’ i.e. new in meaning without being newly written. In fact it is impossible that a ‘new song’ could only refer to a new situation (i.e. the necessity of songs to be written as the Gentiles were enfolded into Israel) since Israel was commanded to sing a new song before the inclusion of the Gentiles.

8) This understanding of new song meaning an old song sung with new meaning is reinforced by Luke 24:44-45: “How must the words of Psalm 2, or 22, or 45, or 110, or 118 have sounded like new songs to those who had been accustomed to singing them in the shadows of unrevealed realities! The effect of the light of the Gospel upon the remnant of Israel redeemed by His grace was to cause them to sing “as it were, a New Song” unto the Lord – not “new” in substance or content, but “new” in richness of meaning and fullness of glory to the God and Savior of men! Seen in this light, the song of the redeemed, which was “as it were, a new song,” and which could only be learned by them, shows us the wonderful way in which the Psalms come alive with meaning in the full light of Christ’s redemption to those whose eyes are opened to see their testimony concerning Jesus.” Douglas Comin, Worship from Genesis to Revelation

9) In Revelation (5:9 & 14:3) a “new song” is sung in the heavenly realm where the saints are ‘contributing’ to the prophetic whole of the book. It is not a new song in terms of being written by someone for a particular occasion (as with an uninspired hymn). Rightly then G.I. Williamson has noted: “To learn a new song, taught by the Lord, is very different from writing a new song of our own” (The Singing of Psalms in Worship). Furthermore the song in Revelation 14:3 cannot even be learned except by the redeemed of God. That the church is a mixed multitude here below reinforces that this song cannot be an example of new compositions in the militant church for we are not all redeemed in the here and now.

10) The new Jerusalem descends from above; it is heavenly in origin and God’s creation (Revelation 21:2). Likewise the new song does not originate with man but with God (see Michael Bushell, Songs of Zion, page 96).

11) Furthermore there are many examples of new ‘things’ in scripture, none of which require that something entirely new or fresh be made or recognized but only that which was old be renewed or restored to its former glory.

There is a “new commandment” John 13:34; a “new covenant” 2 Corinthians 3:6-7; Hebrews 8:8; we are a “new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17 and a “new man” Ephesians 2:15 and there is a “new heavens and earth” 2 Peter 3:13. In each of these instances we do not have something entirely new but the old or previously existing commandment, covenant, character and creation renewed, revived and reclaimed. For example, R.L. Dabney argues from John 13:34 that Christ’s new commandment “was only ‘the old command renewed,’ only a re-enactment with an additional motive: Christ’s love for us” (Systematic Theology, page 357).” (Rev. Daniel Kok)



Irons’ article shows a lack of concern for exegeting these passages. He says they say one thing, when I show that they say another. Not only this, but he does not understand basic principles of the Regulative Principle or Exclusive Psalmody. One should be careful in how they represent a position as fact. If you mispresent a position, knowing there is a wealth of information on the topic out there, you are in fact bearing false witness. Please consider that these things have been discussed, written, preached, and held. Exclusive Psalmody is the historical reformed (and early church) position.



Kok, Daniel. Psalmody and Other Songs in Scripture. 2015. Web.

Schwertley, Brian. Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense. 2002. Web.


Bushell, Michael. Songs of Zion: The Biblical Basis for Exclusive Psalmody. Norfolk, VA: Norfolk, 2011. Print.

Schwertley, Brian. Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship. 2000. Web.

McCurley, Robert. “The Singing of Psalms.” The Doctrine of Scripture. Greenville Presbyterian Church. 11 Sept. 2013. Lecture.

Irons, Lee. “Exclusive Psalmody or New Covenant Hymnody?” 1997. Web. 7 Apr. 2016.


For Further Reading:


Books To Read:

Bushell, Michael. Songs of Zion: The Biblical Basis for Exclusive Psalmody. Norfolk, VA: Norfolk, 2011. Print.

LeFebvre, Michael. Singing the Songs of Jesus: Revisiting the Psalms. Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2010. Print.

Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, and Westminster’s View



Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16:

A Special Exegesis of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 –Prof. John McNaugher, D. D., LL.D

Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense – Brian Schwertley

Minority Report of the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God Submitted to the Fourteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church -John Murray and William Young

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) -A Collection

“Psalms” & Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs -Rev. Daniel Kok

Of Psalms, Hymns, And Spiritual Songs And The RPW -Rev. Gavin Beers (via R Scott Clark)


Westminster’s View:

Westminster and Worship Examined: A Review of Nick Needham’s essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s teaching concerning the regulative principle, the singing of psalms, and the use of musical instruments in the public worship of God. -By Matthew Winzer. An Extract From The Confessional Presbyterian (2008) 253–266.

Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense, Appendix The Westminster Confession and Psalmody -Brian Schwertley

The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing -A Collection and Further Study




“The first-century (apostolic) church used the LXX more than any other form (translation) of the Old Testament. .. At the top of the Psalms in the LXX were titles or superscriptions. Those superscriptions described each Psalm, they categorized the psalms in 4 classes or groups: ψαλμος [Psalms], συνεσις; [understanding], υμνος [Hymns], ωδη [Ode/Song]. .. Paul invokes them in Colossians 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom (σοφίᾳ), singing psalms (ψαλμοις) and hymns (υμνοις) and spiritual songs (ωδαις πνευματικαις), with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” .. If Paul was invoking familiar categories that pre-existed the NT church by 250-300 years then we must account for that in our interpretation and application of these two passages.”

– Dr. Scott Clark


“Among the psalm headings in the Septuagint the terms psalmos [psalms] and odee [song/spiritual song] occur together 12 times in a variety of formats: ‘a psalm of David, a song,”a song of David among the psalms’, ‘a psalm of a song’, and ‘a song of a psalm.’ Psalmos and humnos (hymns) appear conjoined twice as ‘a psalm of David among the hymns.’ Humnos seems to function as a collective term of some kind. In the Psalm headings it is used only in the plural, always as part of the phrase ‘among the hymns.’ Psalm 75(76) contains all three terms together. The heading for that Psalm reads: ‘For the end, among the hymns [humnos], a Psalm [psalmos] for Asaph, a song [odee] for the Assyrian.’ Psalm 136(137):3 is especially interesting: ‘For there they that have taken us captive asked of us the words of a song [odeen], and they that had carried us away asked a hymn [humnon], saying, ‘sing us one of the songs [odeen] of Zion.’ The combination of singing and psalming, as in Ephesians 5:19, is found in other forms in several places in the Psalter (e.g. Psa 26:6, 56:8, 104:2, 107:2).”

– Michael Bushell, Songs of Zion, p. 228. Norfolk Press (2011)


Bushell also says:One of the most common objections against the idea that in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 Paul is speaking of the book of Psalms is that it would be absurd for apostle to say, “sing psalms, psalms, and psalms.” This objection fails to consider the fact that a common literary method among the ancient Jews was to use a triadic form of expression to express an idea, act, or object. The Bible contains many examples of triadic expression. For example: Exodus 34:7—“iniquity and transgression and sin”; Deuteronomy 5:31 and 6:1—“commandments and statutes and judgements”; Matthew 22:37—“with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (cf. Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27); Acts 2:22—“miracles and wonders and signs”; Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16—“psalms and hymns and spiritual song.” “The triadic distinction used by Paul would be readily understood by those familiar with their Hebrew OT Psalter or the Greek Septuagint, where the Psalm titles are differentiated psalms, hymns, and songs. This interpretation does justice to the analogy of Scripture, i.e., Scripture is its own best interpreter.


“Good Reader,

’Tis evident by the common experience of mankind, that love cannot lie idle in the soul. For every one hath his oblectation [way of enjoyment] and delight, his tastes and relishes are suitable to his constitution, and a man’s temper is more discovered by his solaces than by any thing else: carnal men delight in what is suited to the gust [i.e., taste] of the flesh, and spiritual men in the things of the Spirit. The promises of God’s holy covenant, which are to others as stale news or withered flowers, feed the pleasure of their minds; and the mysteries of our redemption by Christ are their hearts’ delight and comfort. But as joy must have a proper object so also a vent: for this is an affection that cannot be penned up: the usual issue and out-going of it is by singing. Profane spirits must have songs suitable to their mirth; as their mirth is carnal so their songs are vain and frothy, if not filthy and obscene; but they that rejoice in the Lord, their mirth runneth in a spiritual channel: “Is any merry? let him sing psalms,” saith the apostle (James 5:13). And, “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage,” saith holy David (Ps. 119:54).

Surely singing, ’tis a delectable way of instruction, as common prudence will teach us. Aelian (Natural History, book 2, chapter 39) telleth us that the Cretans enjoined their children to learn their laws by singing them in verse. And surely singing of Psalms is a duty of such comfort and profit, that it needeth not our recommendation: The new nature is instead of all arguments, which cannot be without thy spiritual solace. Now though spiritual songs of mere human composure may have their use, yet our devotion is best secured, where the matter and words are of immediately divine inspiration; and to us David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by those terms of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” which the apostle useth (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). But then ’tis meet that these divine composures should be represented to us in a fit translation, lest we want David, in David; while his holy ecstasies are delivered in a flat and bald expression. The translation which is now put into thy hands cometh nearest to the original of any that we have seen, and runneth with such a fluent sweetness, that we thought fit to recommend it to thy Christian acceptance; some of us having used it already, with great comfort and satisfaction. (Thomas Manton D.D., Henry Langley D.D., John Owen D.D., William Jenkyn, James Innes, Thomas Watson, Thomas Lye, Matthew Poole, John Milward, John Chester, George Cokayn, Matthew Meade, Robert Francklin, Thomas Dooelittle, Thomas Vincent, Nathanael Vincent, John Ryther, William Tomson, Nicolas Blaikie, Charles Morton, Edmund Calamy, William Carslake, James Janeway, John Hickes, John Baker, Richard Mayo.”) – A Preface to the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter


Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622), English Puritan, scholar in Hebrew and Rabbinics, commenting on Psalm 3: “There be three kinds of songs mentioned in this book: 1. Mizmor, in Greek psalmos, a psalm: 2. Tehillah, in Greek humnos, a hymn or praise: and 3. Shir, in Greek ode, a song or lay. All these three the apostle mentioneth together, where he willeth us to speak to ourselves with ‘psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,’ Ephesians 5:19.”


Thomas Manton (1620-1677), English Puritan, commenting on Ephesians 5:19: “The learned observe, these are the express titles of David’s Psalms, mizmorim, tehillim, and Shirim, which the Septuagint translate, psalmoi, humnoi, and odai, ‘psalms, hymns, and songs,’ [and] seem to recommend to us the book of David’s Psalms.”


“No authority has been given to make or sing in the praise of God other songs besides those contained in the Bible. Such authority has been claimed, and the present practice of the large majority of professing Christians in the world would seems to indicate that there must be some good ground on which to base the claim. In this intentionally brief article, we cannot even note all the considerations that have b;en advanced in favor of using hymns of human composition in the worship of God. Most of these are of little moment, and do not at all touch the vital question of authority. In these late days that question is rarely referred to. The right to make and use hymns in worshiping God is assumed. When the question of authority is introduced, the reference is to Eph. v. 19, and the parallel passage in Col. iii. 16. It may be safely said (hymn-singers themselves being judges) that if there be not authority in these two texts of Scripture, for making and singing hymns in Gcd’s worship, the authority is not in the Bible. We therefore quote the passages, and consider them. In Eph. v. 18, 19, Paul says : “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The parallel passage in Col. iii. 16 is, ” Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” That these passages do not authorize the making and singing of hymns in the worship of God, seems to us to be clear from such considerations as these : (1) The word ” Psalms,” refers to the psalms of the Bible. This is so generally admitted by commentators that it may be regarded as a point settled. (2) The presumption is therefore that the terms ” hymns” and ” spiritual songs ” likewise refer to the Scripture psalms. It can hardly be believed that the Apostle would link compositions of men with those of the Spirit of God; put them on the same level; assign to them the same use as matter of God’s praise, and give to them the same efficiency in filling believers with the Spirit, and equal virtue as matter with which believers are to exhort one another. All this we must believe he has done, if ” psalms ” means the psalms of the Bible, and ” hymns and spiritual songs” mean the uninspired compositions of men. (3) The three terms used by the apostle, have corresponding terms in the Hebrew psalter— psalms, hymns, songs. Those to whom the Apostle was writing were familiar with these in the Greek version of the Scriptures. They would readily understand him as referring to these. (4) The very Greek words which he employs are in the titles to the psalms in the Septuagint or Greek version. Paul and those to whom he wrote, no doubt, familiarly used this version. It is, therefore, morally certain that he referred to the scripture psalms, fs) The word “spiritual” qualifying “songs,” is properly that which is produced by the Spirit. So Dr. Hodge regards it in every instance in which it occurs in the books of the New Testament on which he has commented, except in /his single instance. Mr. Barnes might be referred to as sustaining the same view. (6) The apostle is urging the right use of the ” Word of Christ —that is, the Bible. Hymns and songs made by men are not the word of Christ. (7) If the reference in ” hymns and spiritual songs,” be to the compositions of men, then the apostle enjoins Christians without exception to make as well as sing these—an injunction with which the vast majority of Christians could not possibly comply. (8) It is inconceivable that the apostle would make it the imperative duty of the members of the Church at Ephesus and Colosse to make hymns with which to praise God. The most of them were just out of heathenism. What a hopeless task would our missionaries now assign their new converts, if they would impose on them the making of hymns of praise ! (9) If a work so important as making songs with which to praise God, has been assigned to the Church, it is amazing that no promise of the aid of the Spirit has been given for this end. We have the promise of help in prayer; but we have no promise of assistance in making hymns. (10) If the Church was commanded to make and sing her hymns, it is unaccountable that we have no record of an early attempt on her part to fulfil this obligation. Certainly no serious effort was made in the days of the apostles, or for a length of time after them. No hymns of those days have come down to us. Mr. Barnes candidly admits this. The oldest Christian hymn known to be in existence was written some two hundred years after Christ. In view of all these considerations, we submit that there is not authority in these passages of Scriptare for making and singing hymns in the worship of God. The great God whom we worship has given us hymns in his Word with which to praise him. He has not authorized uninspired men to make others. In the whole history of the Church given us in the Bible, there is no evidence that God was ever praised with an uninspired hymn. It is not his will that he should be so praised.” – W.W. Barr, The Psalms and Their Use

The Regulative Principle of Worship: Resources and Quotes


“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

Deut. 4:2

“In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Mark 7:7

“Nadab and Abihu… offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not.   And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord… the Lord spake, saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”

Lev. 10:1-3




The Regulative Principle:


The Scriptural Regulative Principle of Worship

– G. I. Williamson


Sola Scriptura a nd the Regulative Principle of Worship

– Brian Schwertley


A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies

– George Gillespie



– Jeremiah Burroughs


Gospel Liberty, RPW is Freedom from being Forced to Worship God in ways Devised by Human Invention

– Michael Daniels


RPCNA Worship Position Paper



The Regulative Principle in Worship: A brief article.

– Dr. C. Matthew McMahon



– Greg Price


Biblical Worship

– Kevin Reed


The Scriptural Law of Worship

– Carl W. Bogue


The Reformers and The Regulative Principle

-William Cunningham


The Right Manner of Worship and Drawing Nigh Unto God

-Jeremiah Burroughs


John Calvin:

It must be regarded as a fixed principle, that all modes of worship devised by man are detestable. [Institutes I.XI.4]

The Lord cannot forget himself, and it is long since he declared that nothing is so offensive to him as to be worshipped by human inventions. [Institutes IV.X.17]

The doctrine of the true worship of God is not to be sought from men, because the Lord has faithfully and fully taught us in what way he is to be worshipped. [Institutes IV.X.8]

He has been pleased to prescribe in his Law what is lawful and right, and thus restrict men to a certain rule, lest any should allow themselves to devise a worship of their own. [Institutes I.XII.3]

“We know that elsewhere there are many other ceremonies which we deny not to be very ancient, but because they have been invented at pleasure, or at least on grounds which, be these what they say, must be trivial, since they have been devised without authority from the word of God, and because, on the other hand, so many superstitions have sprung from them, we have felt no hesitation in abolishing them, in order that there might be nothing to prevent the people from going directly to Jesus Christ. First, whatever is not commanded, we are not free to choose. Secondly, nothing which does not tend to edification ought to be received into the Church. If anything of the kind has been introduced, it ought to be taken away, and by much stronger reason, whatever serves only to cause scandal, and is, as it were, an instrument of idolatry and false opinion, ought on no account to be tolerated.” (“The Form of Prayers and Ecclesiastical Chants with the Manner of Administering the Sacraments and Solemnizing Marriage, according to the Custom of the Ancient Church”, 1542 John Calvin)



Other Quotes:

“Not to Command is to Forbid” (Samuel Rutherford, The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication (London, 1646) 96.)

“Nothing ought to be added to public worship concerning which God has given no command.” (John Lasco; 1499-1560)

“The only infallible rule of faith and practice, no rite or ceremony ought to have a place in the public worship of God, which is not warranted in Scripture, either by direct precept or example, or by good and sufficient inference.”(Samuel Miller, Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolical Constitution of the Church of Christ, “The Worship of the Presbyterian Church” (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1835) 64-65.)

“The Holy Scripture prescribes the whole content of worship. By this is meant that all elements or parts of worship are prescribed by God Himself in His Word. This principle has universal reference to worship performed by men since the fall. In other words, it has equal application to the Old and the New Testaments. It is also universal in that it is regulative of all types of worship, whether public, family, or private.” (William Young, “The Second Commandment,” in Frank J. Smith and David C. Lachman, eds., “Worship in the Presence of God,” p. 75)

“What About the Regulative Principle in the New Testament?

For those in love with their human traditions (that they have added to God’s ordained worship), an obvious way to circumvent the clear meaning of the Old Testament passages discussed would be to assert that the regulative principle was meant only for an immature old covenant church. It is asserted that because the old covenant people of God did not have the Spirit of God in the same manner or fullness as new covenant believers, God had to prescribe all their worship ordinances in minute detail. But with the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost: “The Church, it may be said, has passed from childhood to years of maturity where it can exercise discretion and liberty in determining its own worship.” This argument (although common) is fallacious—for the New Testament teaches the exact same principle of worship as does the Old Testament. Christ held strictly to the regulative principle before and after His resurrection and the apostle Paul adhered strictly to the regulative principle many years after Pentecost.

1.Jesus and the Regulative Principle

“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’ He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition’” (Matt. 15:1-3)?

The Pharisees were the respected religious leaders of the Jewish people. They believed that they had the liberty to add to the commandments of God. The law of God did contain various ceremonial washings to signify the unclean becoming clean. The Pharisees simply added other washings to emphasize and perfect the law of Moses. There is no express commandment forbidding these ceremonial additions except the regulative principle (e.g., Deut. 4:2; 12:31). These additions have no warrant from the word of God.

Jesus Christ is the champion of the regulative principle. He strongly rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for adding to God’s law. What happens when sinful men add rules and regulations to God’s law? Eventually manmade tradition replaces or sets aside God’s law. “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). The ancient Christian church added its own rules and ceremonies to the worship of God and degenerated into the pagan and idolatrous Roman Catholic church. If we do not draw the line regarding worship where God draws the line, then, as history proves, the church will eventually degenerate into little better than a bizarre pagan cult. Christ’s rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees applies today to virtually every (so called) branch of the Christian church. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). Calvin says: “Christ has faithfully and accurately given the meaning, that in vain is God worshiped, when the will of men is substituted in the room of doctrine. By these words, all kinds of will-worship (ethelogescheia), as Paul calls it (Col. 2:23), are plainly condemned. For, as we have said, since God chooses to be worshiped in no other way than according to his own appointment, he cannot endure new modes of worship to be devised. As soon as men allow themselves to wander beyond the limits of the Word of God, the more labour and anxiety they display in worshiping him, the heavier is the condemnation which they draw down upon themselves; for by such inventions religion is dishonored.”

2. The Great Commission

After Jesus Christ’s resurrection He gave orders to His church to disciple all nations: “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Note that Christ gave the church a very limited authority. Only those things taught in the word of God are to be taught to the nations. Therefore, whatever the church teaches by way of doctrine, church government and worship must come from the Bible alone. The church does not have the authority to make up its own doctrine or worship or government. William Young writes: “The charter of the New Testament Church at this point is expressed in identical terms as those of the Mosaic economy which we have seen so expressly to exclude the inventions of men from the worship of God. No addition to or subtraction from Christ’s commands may be allowed in the New Testament any more than with respect to the commands given on Mount Sinai in the Old…. We have no more right to alter that divinely instituted pattern of ordinances for the New Testament Church than Nadab and Abihu, Saul, Jeroboam, or any others in the Old…. The will of God, not the will of man, is the rule of the worship of the New Testament Church.”

“The apostles obeyed Christ and taught the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). One can search carefully in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revelation for divine authorization for many of today’s church practices (e.g., holy days such as Christmas, the liturgical calendar, the use of musical instruments in worship, the use of uninspired human songs in worship, music soloists, choirs, etc.), but there is no biblical warrant at all. Most pastors and teachers are not just teaching what Christ commanded but are also teaching many human traditions. Christians who want to honor Christ as the only King and head of the church must refuse to observe these man-made additions to what our Lord commanded.”

3. Paul Condemns Will Worship

Paul in his epistle to the Colossians concurs with both the Old Testament’s and Christ’s teaching on worship. Paul condemns those who seek to impose Judaical food laws and holy days upon the church (Col. 2:16). (Because the ceremonial laws were shadows that pointed to the substance—Jesus Christ—they are done away with.) They are no longer authorized and therefore forbidden. Paul’s warning regarding human philosophy is the backdrop of his condemnation of false worship and manmade laws (legalism) in the same chapter. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Paul condemns manmade doctrines and commandments. “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why as though living in the world do you subject yourself to regulations—Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23). Paul says that any human addition to what God has commanded is self-imposed religion, or as the King James version says, “will worship.” The Greek word used by Paul (ethelothreskeia) signifies worship that originates from man’s own will. “This is worship not enjoined by God, but springing out of man’s own ingenuity—unauthorized devotion…. The worship referred to is unsolicited and unaccepted. It is superstition….” “The gist is that these ordinances are forms of worship or religious service chosen by man (according to the will of man), not means chosen by God. This is the essence of corrupt worship, when men seek to establish their own forms of religious service. We might call it free-will worship, since the advocates of man-made worship are claiming that men possess the right (or freedom) to institute acceptable means to worship God.”Furthermore, Paul says that adding to God’s word is a show of “false humility.” It is “will-worship” religion instead of God’s will religion. Manmade laws take away the liberty we have in Christ. God’s moral law is perfect. It does not need additions. Manmade rules and regulations are “not in any honor” to the believer.

God has given His church a Psalm book and a holy day (the Lord’s day). Can man improve upon the worship and service that God has instituted? Of course not. It is the height of arrogance and stupidity to think that sinful men can improve upon God’s ordinances. “It is provoking God, because it reflects much upon His honor, as if He were not wise enough to appoint the manner of His own worship. He hates all strange fire to be offered in His temple (Lev. 10:11). A ceremony may in time lead to a crucifix. Those who contend for the cross in baptism, why not have the oil, salt and cream as well.”” (Brian Schwertley, Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship)

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

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)