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Psalmody Question

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  • sixredheads@juno.com
    I am curious as to which of the off-shoot Presbyterian churchs (of Covenanter heritage) first abandoned exclusive psalmody. And what circumstances served as
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 3, 2005
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      I am curious as to which of the off-shoot Presbyterian churchs (of
      Covenanter heritage) first abandoned exclusive psalmody. And what
      circumstances served as impetus to this defection?

      Cordially in Christ,
      DDG
    • thebishopsdoom
      ... Unless I am either mistaken or am forgetting some details... From Knox s return to Scotland to the 1640s, there were only Psalms, but into the early 1600s,
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 5, 2005
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        --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, sixredheads@j...
        wrote:
        >
        > I am curious as to which of the off-shoot Presbyterian churchs (of
        > Covenanter heritage) first abandoned exclusive psalmody. And what
        > circumstances served as impetus to this defection?
        >
        > Cordially in Christ,
        > DDG

        Unless I am either mistaken or am forgetting some details...

        From Knox's return to Scotland to the 1640s, there were only Psalms,
        but into the early 1600s, the doxology began to be added as an end to
        the Psalms. In the 1640s, this briefly came to debate and reached a
        head, upon which it was decided to be dropped, and within 10 years
        generally seen as having been a misguided practice of the church
        brought in during the early 1600s when there was a pressing towards
        more uniformity with the prelatic church in England and several
        controversial decisions by GA in favour of erastianism (see for
        example some of the first acts mentioned in the Universal Book for
        the year 1610).
        1640s, there was a Scripture songs project under the direction of
        Zachary Boyd, but it is not clear that these were intended at least
        for ecclesiastical usage. That's something much debated, tho the fact
        that there was no communication that I know of with England for
        working on this project as with the psalter, and the press for
        uniformity in worship song between the kingdoms, along with the lack
        of the matter being finally taken before GA for a vote on what to do
        with the project, it's somewhat in the realm of speculation, though I
        think the fact that the project was purely Scottish whereas the
        Psalter had to go thru both kingdoms and several revision committees
        on both sides and be accepted by all prior to its approval for use
        tends to be somewhat strong against the idea of an assumption of
        ecclesiastical usage. At the same time, I wouldn't argue that all the
        ministers of Scotland were in theory opposed to other inspired songs
        from outside the Psalter being used "if" first approved by a GA,
        though they would have all argued against their necessity. The
        project was abandoned during Cromwell's attacks into Scotland.
        The seceders picked up on the idea of the project, but the
        covenanters did not, and usually set their defenses of inspired song
        as being Psalms versus uninspired songs, but without always
        definitively making a statement on other songs (however, there are
        occasionally hints that "inspired only" was equated in many peoples
        minds with "Psalms only" anyway). There was no attempt to my
        knowledge of following the seceders in this issue, and given that
        there were plenty in Scotland who were set against even the idea of
        adding new tunes, it is likely that the idea of adding more songs was
        so low a possibility that it was not really necessary for them to
        worry about making a more formal delineation of the principle since
        it would have no effect on the practice. The seceder attempts to
        revive such a project, however, failed to come to fruition for some
        time. The Burgher seceders attempted in 1748, but as of 1827, the
        project was still unfinished, and when the Burgher seceders decided
        in light of that to simply emit a doctrinal statement defending other
        inspired songs, this was immediately met by a condemnation by the
        Anti-Burgher seceders, who emitted a definitive statement on the
        psalms as the church's canonical hymnal to the exclusion of historic
        prophetic songs that were delivered for sundry other occasions but
        not placed under divine guidance into the canonical Psalter in its
        final form.
        In Scotland, a merger between seceders with the Relief Church had
        brought express permission for uninspired hymnody in 1851, though in
        America, the UPC defended the Anti-Burgher position. I forget how
        that position was eventually changed, but I thought it had somewhat
        to do with mainline influence.
        The mainline Church of Scotland brought up the Scripture songs
        project in 1707, and decided to abandon the project. This was done in
        conjunction with an act against innovations, leading to the query
        whether it was regarded an innovation, but probably minds were
        divided somewhat. In 1708 there were still presbyteries giving in
        their consideration to the songs, according to William Annan, who
        also argues that the Assembly expressly made the assertion that they
        held the GA of the 1640s to have intended the project to be added to
        the Psalter and used in the churches.
        Such a project was again agitated in 1741 and commissioned in 1742,
        and yet again in 1744 after no report was made by the appointed
        committee. In 1745, a draft was completed and was ordered to be
        printed for consideration of the presbyteries. After no report for 4
        years (perhaps due to preoccupations with an uprising of the
        Jacobites, the supporters of the Stuart line to the throne), the
        general assembly considered the matter again. Two years later, in
        1751, it was given an approval for use, but only in private by
        individuals and families, with no approval for ecclesiastical usage.
        A few congregations without authorization from the general assembly
        allowed the 1745 draft into public use in the public worship of the
        congregation, leading to a request in 1775 by the Synod of Glasgow
        and Ayr for the translations to be in fact authorized for public use.
        There was opposition at least to the paraphrastic nature of the
        translations, but 67 paraphrases and 5 uninspired hymns (45
        paraphrases from the 1745-1751 project plus an additonal 22, and the
        five hymns) were permitted for use on June 1, 1781, pending receipt
        of comments of Presbyteries. However, even at this, there has
        apparently been some debate whether the entire collection was given
        approval - especially with respect to the 5 uninspired hymns, which
        some have argued there to be evidence that it was never approved,
        though I do not recall particular evidences offhand. I think the
        hymnal was printed up prior to the receipt of presbyteries, and
        simply began being used, without actual receipts and legislation
        passed (?). I won't vouch for that, that's just what I thought the
        idea was. It was an act of the courts in 1861 that led to the formal
        recognition of uninspired hymnody.
        I'll get back to Scotland in a moment.
        In America,
        "The Synod of New York and Philadelphia, now the General Assembly of
        the Presbyterian Church, had continued to employ the scripture
        psalms, and in that version used in the Church of Scotland. But the
        Imitation of Watts began to agitate their congregations. 'Questions
        connected with the subject of Psalmody were repeatedly presented to
        Synod.' Sundry members and congregations within their bounds
        expressed a preference for Watts' to the Bible Psalms, as 'most for
        edification,' and in 1763 made inquiry whether the use of the
        Imitation would be allowed. An answer to the inquiry was declined.
        Want of acquaintance with the production of Watts prevented, for the
        time, either a permission or prohibition, farther than the making of
        no objection to its use by those who preferred it, till the farther
        consideration of the subject.
        "In 1764 the subject was again before them, and was postponed. Next
        year, 1765, it was again discussed. A committee, composed of Dr.
        Finley, and Mr. M'Dowell, to whom the subject had been committed,
        made their report, which was adopted, and which indicates the leaning
        of their supreme judicatory at that time. The report is in these
        words: 'The Synod judge it best, in present circumstances, only to
        declare that they look on the inspired Psalms in scripture to be
        proper matter to be sung in divine worship, according to their
        original design, and the practice of the Christian churches; yet will
        not forbid those to use the imitation of them, whose judgment and
        inclination lead them to do so.'...
        "The Imitation continued to agitate the church. By appeal the subject
        was, in 1773, again brought up. The report of a committee on it was
        adopted. This report advised to abstain from judging 'the merits of
        the appeal, and there not being time to consider the several versions
        of the Psalms in question, as congregations had been allowed to
        settle this matter according to their own choice, with this allowance
        there should be no interference.' The parties are advised to
        moderation and peace. The matter was still agitated. In 1785 an
        overture was presented, complaining that 'the using different books
        of Psalmody is matter of offence not only to presbyterians of
        different denominations, but also to many congregations under our own
        care'—the care of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia. The
        proposal was made of composing a version with the assistance 'of all
        the versions' to which they had access, more suitable to
        their 'circumstances and taste' than any which they yet had. The
        committee appointed to this laudable work, next year, 1786, reported
        progress; but the whole affair was superseded by the action of next
        year, 1787, in the adoption of the following resolution: 'The synod
        did allow, and do hereby allow that Dr. Watts' imitation of David's
        Psalms, as revised by Mr. Barlow, be used in the churches and
        families under their care.' Thus the affair was left, and so it
        remains" (quoted from Gilbert McMaster's Apology for the Book of
        Psalms in Five Letters; McMaster himself seemed personally open to
        the view advocated by the Burgher Seceders, but without pressing for
        the matter so like the seceders).
        In England, a few of the presbyterians there held out to the
        theoretical allowance of uninspired song, without generally making an
        issue of it (Baxter might have made an issue over it; puritans in
        England prior to the covenanted reformation were a little more
        divided over the issue in theory - I know John Ball did not hold to
        EP - but in practice most were probably practicing EP). Some of the
        independents early on began to use other songs as I understand,
        though some of these were more among the whacko groups (enthusiasts
        and antinomians, for example) than the more mainstream inpedendents.
        After Watts, there was a quicker decline there on the matter.
        Now you asked specifically about what covenanter churches went first
        in the matter, and I wasn't sure if you intended by this RP churches,
        so I will mention that so far as I am knowledgeable. There was a few
        ARP congregations - one in PA I think and a few in NY, who left to
        join the mainline presbyterians in 1822. I thought they may have been
        the 1st, but I realized that these were all previously seceder
        congregations, not covenanters. But even before that, it might be
        noted that some of the covenanter prisoners landing in New Jersey
        took part in the formation of the Tennent church, which may thereby
        mark the first group to abandon the belief and practice in following
        the direction of the mainline churches.
        In Scotland, the main body of the RPCS merged I think it was with the
        Free Church (don't have the date in front of me and don't recall
        offhand). The Free Church authorized uninspired hymns in the early
        1870s, but however widespread or not the practice became, my
        recollection is that around the turn of the century the courts
        removed some legislation that had accumulated since the 1870s,
        including the decision to authorize uninspired hymnody.
        Hope that helps a little.
        -thebishopsdoom
      • jmcovenanter
        ... Perhaps what follows will at least supply an answer to the circumstances . Although I cannot respond with the historical insight of thebishopsdoom, by
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 6, 2005
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          --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, sixredheads@j...
          wrote:
          >
          > I am curious as to which of the off-shoot Presbyterian churchs (of
          > Covenanter heritage) first abandoned exclusive psalmody. And what
          > circumstances served as impetus to this defection?
          >
          > Cordially in Christ,
          > DDG


          Perhaps what follows will at least supply an answer to
          the "circumstances". Although I cannot respond with the historical
          insight of thebishopsdoom, by following Iain Murray's, "The Psalter-
          The Only Hymnal?" (Banner of Truth, 2001)there may be an answer. In
          it he cites men of such learning as Thomas Manton, John Flavel, and
          even David Dickson. If these citations are accurate (which we have
          no reason to doubt) I trust at least the circumstances will be
          understood.

          The citations seem to point out that these men did not hold to
          exclusive psalmody. This is a point with which I am ignorant. Murray
          contends that although the men certainly preferred the Psalms, and
          would not have approved much of what passes as hymns today, they
          nonetheless did not ban all uninspired songs from worship. On page
          14 of the booklet he quotes Manton as writing, "I confess we do not
          forbid other songs; if grave and pious, after good advice they may
          be received into the Church." Murray also writes on page 15, "David
          Dickson, the Scots Puritan leader, likewise wrote hymns 'to be sung
          with any common tunes of the Psalms.'"

          Perhaps this helps understand "what circumstances served as impetus
          to this defection". For if these men of great influence at least
          allowed the possibility of singing "uninspired songs", it is easily
          understood how Presbyterian churches began to allow them at large.

          I would be quick to add, I have not checked the context of the
          quotations above in their original setting, and would instantly take
          back this possible "circumstance" if the quotations prove to be out
          of context.
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