WCF XXI:V

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daveb

Puritan Board Sophomore
"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: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner"

Sorry if this has been discussed before, I did not find it on the board.

I'm wondering what the divines meant by "singing of psalms". Did they mean EP specifically? What is the historical context in which this was written? Were all of those at the assembly practicing EP in their churches?
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by daveb
Were all of those at the assembly practicing EP in their churches?

Were there any at the assembly who dissented on this issue? If so, what was their position?
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Personally, I have not found that anyone was opposed.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong. :scholar:

I can't recall a difference of opinion on that.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
I too am not acquainted with any dissenting voices at the Assembly on this issue, although someone more familiar with the minutes than myself could perhaps clarify this point.

The 1673 preface to the 1650 Scottish Psalter is another helpful resource which goes to show the consensus that once existed regarding exclusive psalmody in the Reformed churches of England.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I have my ideas on this which others with respectable knowledge of the Assembly do not agree with. But for what it is worth, of the three views EP (psalms only), inspired praise (adds content from outside the book of psalms), and uninspired song (adds content that is not scripture), the original Westminster Stds are EP in practice. I believe when they say "œpsalm" they mean the Psalms of David. While individuals may have held differing views on what else might be sung, there does not appear to be any record of any discussion or debate about this. When one of the Divines wrote on psalm singing a few years after the Assembly (Ford I believe), if I recall correctly he writes as though he´d never thought about other content to be sung for worship song before which indicates it simply did not come up at the Assembly as an issue. You do find all three positions expressed by individuals in works leading up to the Assembly, but I'm not of the opinion this fact alone should be used to interpret the Westminster Stds on this point as if by psalm they meant merely "œsong". Others are of this opinion. I am of the opinion the actions of the Assembly argue that all they intended to authorize were the psalms, whether every one of the divines held to EP in theory or not. An organized EP theory developed over time as controversy over expanding worship song errupted, mainly from the 18th century forward. Someone has told me one of the entries in the most recent Westminster Confession into the 21st century volumes supports an opposing view to mine, but I've not seen this so cannot comment on it. Sorry I'm not giving documentation; this is just a quick and sloppy presentation.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Another interesting contemporary resource on this subject is David Dickson's Truth's Victory Over Error (1684), the first published commentary on the Westminster Confession.

Truth´s Victory Over Error was the first published commen­tary on the Westminster Confession of Faith. It was written by a contemporary of the Westminster Assembly, and a close ministe­rial associate of the Scottish commissioners to the Assembly. David Dickson (1589"‘1662) was the son of a wealthy Glasgow mer­chant. He studied at Glasgow College under the great exegete Robert Boyd of Trochrig, and in 1610 was elected regent to in­struct in Greek. He became minister of Irvine, in Ayrshire, in 1618, but in 1622 was suspended by Archbishop Spottiswood because he refused to conform to the Articles of Perth. These were an attempt by the king to impose Episcopalian worship on Scotland. The articles to which Dickson refused to conform provided for kneeling rather than sitting at the Lord´s Supper, private com­munion, baptism not withheld longer than one Sunday and adminis­tered privately where necessary, the participation of bishops in confirmation, and the observance of church holy days such as Christmas and Easter.

In 1622 Dickson was sent into exile in the North of Scot­land, but within about a year was permitted to return to Irvine, where a notable revival began. Dickson began preaching on the street on market day, and many were brought under conviction of sin. One of the fruits of Dickson´s pastoral labors was "œThe Sum of Saving Knowledge," a presentation of the gospel which he co"‘authored with James Durham, and which is still printed in Scot­tish editions of the Westminster Standards. It was a model used by ministers in catechising their flocks.

Resistance to the king´s efforts to dictate a ceremonial worship culminated in the Glasgow Assembly of 1638, and the signing of the National Covenant. Dickson was a prime mover in the preparations for the Assembly, drafting a paper insisting that representative ruling elders should be commissioned to the Assembly along with the ministers. He was moderator of the General Assembly in 1639, when the king made important conces­sions to the popular uprising.

In 1640 Dickson was appointed Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University. In 1650 he was transferred to the corre­sponding chair of theology at Edinburgh University, which he held until his death in 1662. A large proportion of the Church of Scotland´s ministers in the era of the Westminster Assembly thus received their theological training from Dickson. Dickson also contrived a scheme for ministers of the church to publish plain expositions of portions of Scripture, and so together to provide a commentary on much of the Bible. The Banner of Truth has made a number of these expositions available once more: George Hutchi­son on John, James Ferguson on the Epistles of Paul, Alexander Nisbet on I and II Peter, James Durham on the Song of Solomon, and Dickson on Matthew, Hebrews and the Psalms; the commentary on Psalms (1653"‘1654) is a superb exposition of Christian experience.

It was in the first two years at Edinburgh, 1650"‘1652, that Dickson delivered his lectures on the Westminster Confession of Faith. These were apparently the basis for his printed commen­tary on the Confession, which was published posthumously in 1684. The book has not been reprinted since 1726. Dickson died soon after the Restoration of the Stuart monarchs. Charles II was sweeping away the legislation that had established Presbyterian worship and church government. But Dickson knew the cause was not lost: "œWhat is come of all the blood and prayers of many years, now when all is overturned? Says he "‘ There is the Con­fession of Faith and Catechisms; and these are more worth than all the blood or prayers that have been!"

Excerpted below are Dickson´s comments respecting the regu­lative principle, and its application to matters of worship and polity. Note that in commenting on the Confession´s reference to "œthe singing of psalms," Dickson identifies the inspired charac­ter of these psalms when he refers to them as "œbeing a part of Scripture."

....

Is the singing of Psalms with grace in the heart a part of the ordinary worship of God? Yes (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19, James 5:13). (1) From the practice of Christ and his apostles, Matthew 26:30. From the example of Paul and Silas, Acts 16:25. From Moses and the Israelites, Exodus 15. (2) Because the singing of Psalms was commanded under the Old Testa­ment, and that not as a type of any substance to come, nor for any ceremonial cause. Neither is it abrogated under the New Testament, but confirmed, Psalm 30:4, 149:1. (3) From the gener­al and universal commands in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, I Corinthians 14:15.

(4) Because the apostle James says, "œIs any man afflicted, let him pray. Is any man merry, let him sing Psalms," James 5:13. The meaning is not, that none should sing but such as are merry: for then none should pray but such as are afflicted. (5) Because by singing of Psalms we glorify God, we make his praise glorious. We edify others with whom we sing, as well as we edify ourselves. So the end to be proposed in singing is teaching and admonishing one another, in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, Colossians 3:16. Lastly, we cheer and refresh ourselves by making melody in our hearts to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19, which ariseth first from our conscientious going about it, as a piece of worship to God, and in so doing we are accepted in that. Secondly from its being a part of Scripture, appointed for his praise whether it agree with our case or not. That being the end wherefore it was designed to be sung is a sufficient warrant for our joining in the singing thereof.

Source: PRC Magazine Summer 1992
 

daveb

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is good stuff guys. I will check into other commentaries on the confession but I do not expect them to differ. It is good to have such an early account by Dickson.

Originally posted by NaphtaliPress
When one of the Divines wrote on psalm singing a few years after the Assembly (Ford I believe), if I recall correctly he writes as though he´d never thought about other content to be sung for worship song before which indicates it simply did not come up at the Assembly as an issue.

Wow, very interesting.

I am of the opinion the actions of the Assembly argue that all they intended to authorize were the psalms, whether every one of the divines held to EP in theory or not.

I agree, although I'd like to hear the "other side".

Someone has told me one of the entries in the most recent Westminster Confession into the 21st century volumes supports an opposing view to mine, but I've not seen this so cannot comment on it.

Can anyone comment on this?
 
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