The Puritans on Exclusive Psalmody, Edited by C. Matthew McMahon
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It cannot be denied by any student of historical theology, church history or of the Westminster Standards, that the Puritans taught Exclusive Psalmody. In the following compiled works the student of Reformed Theology will find able directives for Exclusive Psalmody, as well as a number of arguments they might not have thought about before. These works are a treasure trove of bible doctrine and able exegesis (by Thomas Ford, Cuthbert Sydenham, Nathaniel Holmes and John Cotton). The student would do well to take their time and digest the lucid thoughts and arguments that these men penned for the good of the church. They did not, in their age, teach anything that was not widely accepted. They are formulating no new doctrine. They are simply defending the truth of psalm singing from those who erroneously began to creep into the church to overthrow what God had originally commanded in the word.
This is the first time in the history of the church that these four works are now available to be read (much less read together). May this book be a breath of fresh air for the serious student of God’s worship. Such truths direct those who are hungry for the truth of the word to Jesus Christ, who requires our obedience in the supreme human act of His sacred worship.
This work is not a scan or facsimile and has been made easy to read with an active table of contents for electronic versions.
The following works are compiled in this one volume:
Singing of Psalms the Duty of Christians – by Thomas Ford (1598–1674)
When churches take “exceptions” to being confessional and jettison various aspects of the Westminster Confession, it is always important to go back to what the Westminster divines meant when they wrote on a specific subject. In other words, if we talk about “covenant” and what the Westminster Divines thought on the subject, past the confession, we would read various works by the divine who wrote individually on a subject. That aids in clarifying what they thought. This work by Thomas Ford is important since this is one of the only works on Psalmody that the Westminster puritans wrote individually on the subject.
The Puritans believed in Exclusive Psalmody – and the Westminster Confession demonstrates their position. However, there are few works that were written as a whole explaining why this is so. This work by Thomas Ford does just that. As a member of the Assembly his views demonstrate the majority view in Christendom up and until his era, and he sits in company with the best theologians and preachers through church history on the subject. He covers, 1. That we must sing. 2. What we must sing. 3. How we must sing. And, 4. Why we must sing. His main text is Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” This is an extremely valuable treatise dealing with the worship of the Living God – something Christians should take seriously so that their worship is true, regulated and taught to them by God.
Gospel Music or the Singing of David’s Psalms by Nathaniel Holmes
This famous 17th century work is a demonstration of the nature and necessity of singing the Psalms of David in private (at home) and in corporate worship (with the congregation). Holmes covers six areas that teach the church how to think about Psalm singing: 1) the warrant that we have coming from the word of God to do so; 2) its unquestionable nature through the history of the church; 3) the ancient use of singing; 4) the usefulness of singing the Psalms of David, and 5) the objections of unjust men against psalm singing. He also adds in as an appendix the manner in which the New England churches sang Psalms. This is a very helpful introductory work to aid the Christian to think soberly about how Psalmody is handled in the word of God and for the church of Jesus Christ.
A Gospel-Ordinance Concerning the Singing of Scripture Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs – by Cuthbert Sydenham
Many churches today sing and worship God according to their own traditions. Most churches don’t sing Psalms at all even though it is commanded we do so. This work will be a great help in aiding the church to understand God’s prescription for worship.
This work on psalm singing is one of the few complete puritan treatments of the subject. Since singing psalms is a Gospel command, Cuthbert teaches this topic very seriously, and covers important objections that are often raised against psalmody – something the Westminster Puritans taught without exception. In seven chapters Cuthbert explains both Ephesians and Colossians concerning “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,” as well as topics such as the lawfulness of Psalm Singing as an ordinance, the translation of the Psalms to be sung, the abuses of the Roman and Episcopal Church on psalm singing, how we teach and admonish one another with psalms, and important notes about how we are to sing with a mixed multitude in corporate worship. This is a valuable treatment of the subject and is well worth time and consideration on a doctrine almost completely forgotten in our day.
Singing of Psalms a Gospel Ordinance – by John Cotton (1585-1662)
John Cotton (1585-1662) was an English Reformed clergyman and colonist who left Puritan England for the “new world.” He was a principal figure among the New England Pilgrim ministers, and because of his popularity and previous Puritan leanings, he was invited to attend the Westminster Assembly of Divines (though he did not attend).
This work is one of the foundational reformed documents on singing psalms, both from a biblical perspective and an exegetical one. It follows the same biblical and theological ideas that the Westminster Assembly determined that all Reformed churches in the world have a duty “to praise God publicly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.” Cotton is quoted many times in the works of the Puritans for this masterful treatise on the subject. He covers how to sing with a lively voice (clearing all objections that might be against this), who ought to sing psalms (individuals or the whole congregation), whether women may sing as well as men, whether carnal men may sing, as well as godly Christians, the manner of singing, and objections against the practice. This is a classic work that ought not to be missed by all Christians willing to study what God says in determining the manner in which sinners are to approach him in worship.