Early English Hymn Writers—Why Did They Decide To Go From Psalms To Hymns?

Discussion in 'Worship' started by Rutherglen1794, Jul 8, 2019.

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  1. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Junior


    Does anyone know of any primary sources from early English hymn writers discussing why they decided to go from psalm singing to hymn singing?

    Leaving aside the argument of whether hymns are biblical or not, I’m curious to know why they decided to put Psalms aside.

    Secondly, may I please have some recommendations on the best hymn book for Reformed Baptists? I already have a Psalter.

    Thank you!
  2. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I don't know about the specific English advocacy, but Robert Boyd (Scots. Presbyterian) argued for hymns in his Latin Commentary on Ephesians, first published in 1652 but delivered 20 or more years earlier to students like Robert Baillie. From early in the Reformation there existed those advocating hymondy, inspired praise (not just from the psalms), and exclusive psalmody, evidenced by the preface to the Constance hymnal (1533, 3rd ed. 1540), which identified the three stances.
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  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Is not the answer simply "preference"? My favorite question to those who prefer hymns over psalms is "Why?". Have not received a satisfactory answer, and all I have asked dare not answer, knowing it shows a preference of men's words over God's.
  4. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

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  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

  6. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

  7. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    They gave the same reasons then that many give today:
    1. "'Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' need not exclude man-made songs."
    2. "The Psalms are not for the New Testament age."
    3. "We want to sing about Jesus, but the Psalms don't mention him."
  8. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    The description says, "That the earliest followers of Jesus wrote poetry and hymns is evident in the New Testament." I'm curious what that might be.

    Does the book give evidence that these hymns were sung in the churches?
  9. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    The Trinity hymnal is a standard that even Baptists use. I don't know of any sources about your initial question, sadly. I have some books on hymns, if I ever come accross something I'll let you know. It seems like Tom's first point is probably the main point. There are various ways to interpret the passages dealing with that topic.
  10. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Have you really found people to ask that question of?

    I would think it would be much easier to find folks who prefer hymns as well as psalms.
  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Yes I have. It is easy to ask anyone who thinks it is OK to sing hymns over psalms.

    Watch....So why does anybody here on the PB prefer hymns over psalms?

    BTW this is like asking if one prefers Augustine's The City of God over scripture. :)
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    It is the mindset that I have termed Davidphobia.
  13. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    A majority of Christians today have never sung a psalm, nor are they even aware of the existence of psalmody. When they hear of it they are shocked. ("Sing the psalms? What a novel idea!") I was one.
  14. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Two different things. The first is limited to only those who do prefer hymns over psalms. The second is a question directed to the world at large to identify any members of this board to whom the first question might be asked. (Had any luck with this one yet?)

    And this one needs a bit of translation into the vulgar tongue to be comprehensible.
  15. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    First let me translate the last part. I am saying it is not OK to prefer hymns over psalms.

    To the second part it is much like the first....any person who think it is OK to sing hymns before a psalm (non EP) is showing a preference. In other words,'s those who think it is OK to sing hymns (in corporate worship) prefers hymns over psalms which is a simple fact.
  16. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    I prefer to sing Psalms, but sing hymns as well. Edward's point is that singing one does not exclude the other.
    To the OP: the Trinity Hymnal (the old one; the new one is pathetic) is pretty standard in Reformed Baptist churches. There is a Baptist edition which substitutes the hymns about baptizing infants to other things, and they've added a lot of Psalm selections as well. While I wish there were more Psalm selections in the original Trinity, I think they're pretty well represented. I also think our church should have a complete Psalter as well as the Trinity, in order to not leave any Psalms out.
    All that to say, I think the original Trinity Hymnal is still the best hymnbook you can get.
  17. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    The scanned introduction was a bit taxing to me, so I do not know if this familiar standard quote by Watts was in the text. But here is a distilled summary of Watts view of the Psalms. This from a letter I wrote to a pastor. Watts' rational brings tears of sadness to my eyes. The Psalms bring tears and joys of every sort and address every facet of human emotion without distortion. Oh, how I love them. I could never find adequate words to tell you how they have delighted my soul.

    Has God so changed his program of grace in these days that you believe, like Isaac Watts did, that many of the Psalms are not fit for Christian consumption. Below are Watts’ words from an introduction to an early edition of his hymns:

    I have long been convinc’d, that one great Occasion of the Evil arises from the Matter and Words to which we confine our Songs. Some of ’em are almost opposite to the Spirit of the Gospel: Many of them foreign to the State of the New-Testament, and widely different from the present Circumstances of Christians…Far be it from my Thoughts to lay aside the Book of Psalms in public worship…But it must be acknowledged still, that there are a thousand lines in it which were not made for a Church in our Days, to assume as its own: There are also many Deficiencies of Light and Glory, which our Lord Jesus and his Apostles have supply’d in the Writings of the New Testament…You will always find in this Paraphrase dark expressions enlighten’d, and the Levitical Ceremonies and Hebrew Forms of Speech chang’d in to the Worship of the Gospel, and explain’d in the Language of our Time and Nation…After this manner should I rejoice to see a good part of the Book of Psalms fitted for the Use of our Churches, and David converted into a Christian…
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  18. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    As per my point that one ought to "exclude" hymns simply, because to sing them (hymns) shows a preference. :)
  19. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    That is not true. Most laymen sing what has been chosen for the liturgy as they are trusting/submitting to their Sessions who have hopefully ordered the worship upon their biblical convictions. To allege that if a laymen sings a hymn he must prefer them to Psalms fails to recognize this scenario. So it may be more accurate to say “to pick them for the liturgy over a Psalm is to show a preference, but i still don’t find this helpful for the OP’s inquisitional intent.

    I may eat a taco from Taco Bell and quite enjoy it; however I much prefer having a street taco from Mexico. Similarly, I prefer the NKJV over the ESV, however my Pastor uses the ESV. When I listen to him read the word and I read the ESV verse on the screen, this in no way means I prefer the ESV to the NKJV. So I am not sure your assessment is exactly fair to those who do prefer Psalms, but likewise feel hymns are permissible in corporate worship, thus singing them in their church’s liturgy. I say this as one who, like @Tom Hart, grew up never being told or taught that the Psalms were meant to be sung by the church. I also say this as one who holds that David’s Psalms are sufficient for corporate worship and they alone should be sung in the corporate gathering. Further, I also currently remain silent, but still reverent, during the hymn selections in corporate worship.:detective:

    @Ben Zartman , based on your reply, you might enjoy the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal. They place a full Psalter before the hymns, which in my opinion signals a preference (sent you a PM with a link).:detective::detective:
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  20. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    I find this claim astonishing. I remember that you used to attend Willow Creek in Orlando. Did you ask anyone there? If so, did they really 'dare not answer'? As others have noted in this thread, the vast - vast - majority of Christians in the US would have no problem at all explaining why they prefer to sing hymns (or Hillsong or Bethel, et al) over singing Psalms. It amazes me that 'all' you have asked have had such reverence for God's Word that they couldn't 'dare' to articulate why they sing what they sing - and like it.

    EDIT: I am not defending such people - only acknowledging that they exist, and in great measure throughout the church in America. Further, while many of them may have never considered singing Psalms (other than the versions of some that cropped up in the Jesus Movement), they do prefer modern songs, believing that they 'resonate' more with them. Again, not taking their position - just amazed that you didn't encounter any of them!
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
  21. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    I feel bad because I know this thread is getting de-railed, and I honestly don't have an answer to the OP. But I wanted to respond to your post because I agree with it.

    I know an ARP minister who holds to EP, but will sing hymns in worship. Why? because he submits to his session, who are not EP. He views it not as a thing to divide over. So I agree, many if not the vast majority of congregants sing hymns not because they are consciously aware that they prefer them over Psalms, but because they are simply singing what the worship leader has included in the liturgy for that Sunday. Most of the congregation are implicitly trusting the rightness of what has been selected.

    Now, as for those who SELECT the songs, that's another story. But even then, I think the issue is not so much that those people prefer hymns over Psalms, but that most simply are not well-enough acquainted with the Psalms.

    Once you start singing the Psalms and realizing how sufficient they are, you will realize that they are excellent, praiseworthy, and the 'best' that we can offer to God.
  22. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Folks, honor the OP request not to venture into the topic proper of exclusive psalmody and attending issues. I would like to see a new thread on this topic if anyone else finds it astonishing. If one is really EP, how in the world do you do something in clear conscience that would be by consequence sin?
  23. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Junior

    I’m just sitting back and taking notes. Thanks for the responses.

    I also grew up without knowing the Psalms were to be sung.

    But now I just cannot understand why a church would choose exclusive hymnody. It seems as though churches are either EP or EH, with no middle ground. Is that other peoples’ experience as well?

    If another thread is going to be started, who’s starting it?
  24. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    This is all too common. However, thankfully there are many new books encouraging inclusive Psalmody. The Trinity Psalter and ARP Psalter are slim volumes, primarily designed for the PCA and ARP respectively, to be included in existing pew racks. They include all 150 Psalms. There is also the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal which includes all 150 Psalms in it (joint effort of OPC and URC; I've also already heard of ARP and PCA churches using it). The former Trinity Psalter includes many good Psalm versions, but it does not include the entire Psalter in a singable form.
  25. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

    There have been plenty of threads on this already. I will be happy to post links on here to save the trouble.
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