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Re: Psalmody Question

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  • 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 1 of 3 , Jan 5, 2005
      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, sixredheads@j...
      > 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.
    • 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 2 of 3 , Jan 6, 2005
        --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, sixredheads@j...
        > 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

        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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