The Singing of Psalms

Sherman Isbell

As the persuasion again becomes more common among Presbyterians that the Reformed Church of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was right to make the Book of Psalms the church’s manual of worship song, objections are raised. Some who would retain uninspired hymns are convinced that the Bible teaches the confessional Reformed principle that the form of worship must be limited to what God has prescribed in his Word. And so they seek a rationale for the use of uninspired compositions which would be compatible with this regulative principle. Their arguments will be examined, and denials that the regulative principle is relevant to the question will be tested.

The biblical regulative principle is formulated in the Reformed confessions in opposition to the Lutheran and Anglican rule that anything may be introduced into God’s worship which the Scriptures do not expressly reject. The regulative principle of worship is repeatedly taught by John Calvin.(1) The Westminster Confession of Faith enunciates the principle and its corollaries,(2) and demonstrates its confidence in the specificity of Scripture by enumerating the parts of worship and institutions of church government which Scripture warrants.(3)

The argument begins with the unique inspiration of Scripture as the Word of God. The reading of the Scriptures is an element of the church’s worship, and the only permissible text for this exercise is that found in the canon. God’s provision of a canonical text implies a restriction that allows the use of no other text. Similarly, God has by inspiration provided us with a text for worship song, and we are thereby laid under obligation to use it. We may no more bring to the church’s worship the singing of noncanonical texts in place of the Scriptures, than we may substitute noncanonical texts for the public reading of the Word of God. The reading of Scripture and the singing of Scripture are acts of the church’s worship in which the Lord has prescribed a canonical text. This consideration might have no force if the canon included only materials for reading. But the Lord has also provided within the canon materials designed to be sung in the worship of God, and has designated them as such in the biblical narrative. And so the argument touching the use of canonical reading material in the church’s worship is also true concerning the materials for song.

We shall treat in turn each of those objections which are at heart a denial that the regulative principle is applicable to the question of a prescribed text for worship song, and we shall also assess attempts to implement the regulative principle which are accompanied by a claim that the use of uninspired song in worship is positively authorized by Scripture.

Chapter I: Is Singing Of Psalms A Worship Ordinance?

Worship Ordinances and Worship Functions

It has become common to object that the regulative principle is not applicable to the question of a text for worship song, on the ground that singing is not a separate element of worship. The argument posits that only the ends, goals and general functions of worship, such as praise and instruction, are commanded in Scripture. Therefore the action of singing, being nothing more than a means of reaching those goals, is not governed by the regulative principle.

This objection appeared in 1974 in an article by Vern S. Poythress, who is now Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Writes Poythress, “One basic difference between the exclusive-psalmody position and the didascalia-position is this. The exclusive-psalmody position tends to see ‘singing’ as a separate ‘element’ of worship alongside prayer and preaching. The didascalia-position [“words that communicate the teaching of Scripture” may be used] sees singing as another means, alongside poetic speech and prose speech, of praying, praising, confessing, teaching, preaching, admonishing, etc. In this latter case, singing does not actually need a separate justification at all. It is justified simply by the fact that praying, praising, confessing, teaching, etc., are justified.”(4)

The argument was repeated in an exchange concerning psalmody in the pages of Antithesis, a magazine published by Covenant Community (Orthodox Presbyterian) Church of Orange County, California. Writing as “Advocate 1,” Orthodox Presbyterian minister Greg Bahnsen declared that “since it is not a separate element of worship, singing does not require a separate Biblical justification.” “Singing is rather just one of the many legitimate means of pursuing the various elements of worship. Prayer, praise, exhortation and teaching, are among the proper elements of worship (as regulated and restricted by the word of God). But all of these can be pursued by various means: meditation (e.g., silent prayer, reflection on Scripture), plain speech (e.g. praying aloud, preaching a sermon), or in song (i.e., with increased melody and rhythm). Singing, you see, is just one of the ways in which we pray, or praise, or exhort, or teach one another.”(5) Bahnsen identifies singing as “one ‘circumstance’ by which we perform various elements of worship (praise, prayer, instruction, testimony).”(6)

Scripture, however, commands more than only the general functions of worship, such as praise or instruction. Scripture commands the specific observances we are to use in the pursuit of those functions. The Westminster Confession plainly asserts this. Having named “prayer, with thanksgiving,” as “one special part of religious worship” (XXI.iii), the Confession identifies the other actions which are to be observed as ordinances in the worship of God: “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: besides religious oaths and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon several occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner” (XXI.v). The Confession provides biblical proof texts for each of these distinct parts of worship.

Several worship ordinances serve a teaching function. Among them are the reading of the Scriptures, the preaching of the Word, the singing of Psalms, baptism and the Lord’s supper. Inasmuch as Scripture institutes each of these parts of worship, the regulative principle descends to the level of these actions, requiring the use of them specifically, and excluding any others from the church’s worship.

We may note some of the positive biblical authorization for a number of the ordinances. Baptism is a washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19-20); if any of this content were omitted, it would not be Christian baptism (Acts 19:1-5). In the Lord’s Supper bread and wine are given and received, to show forth the Lord’s death (Matt. 26:26-29, I Cor. 11:23-29). The reading of Scripture and the preaching of the Word are distinct parts of worship, the first being the recitation of the words of the Bible itself (Exod. 24:7, Deut. 31:9-13, II Kings 23:2, Neh. 8:1-8, Luke 4:16-20, Col. 4:16, I Thess. 5:27), and the second being an explanation of the sense, and an exhortation of the hearers in terms of the message of the canonical text (Neh. 8:7-8, Acts 13:14-43, 20:7, I Tim. 4:13, II Tim. 4:1-2). Alongside these is the singing of Psalms (II Chron. 29:30-31, Matt. 26:30, I Cor. 14:26, Col. 3:16), and prayer to God (Nehemiah 9, Acts 4:23-31, Phil. 4:6, I Tim. 2:8).(7)

Now if the regulative principle is not applicable to the means by which the teaching function is carried out, we can imagine what other means men might introduce as a teaching device. If the church judges that additional sacraments would be beneficial for teaching or praise, why may not men institute such? But of course Scripture does regulate which actions may be used in carrying out worship functions, for as soon as the Bible institutes specific ordinances, such as preaching the Word and singing of Psalms, then the regulative principle comes into play, and we may use no other means than those authorized in God’s Word. Officers in Presbyterian churches, by virtue of their subscription to the Westminster Confession, have undertaken a commitment concerning what the Scriptures require in this matter.

Cultural Relatives

Another form of the same objection is found in an unpublished paper by Leonard J. Coppes, an Orthodox Presbyterian minister and a published author in Old Testament studies. “Exclusive Psalmody and Progressive Revelation: A Response” has circulated since 1989, and was recently cited as providing a significant rationale for using uninspired songs in the worship of God.(8)

Coppes argues that as long as the biblical message is preserved, no special warrant is required for the use of singing in worship. He regards song as an art form, whose only test is beauty, and declares that because the music is not given in the Bible, there is nothing there which significantly distinguishes singing from other forms of communication. Coppes says that it is not scriptural to make an exact distinction between the functions of words (“prophecy, preaching or teaching, praise, and prayer”), and song as a form of communication. He concludes that the only criterion for the content of a form of communication is faithfulness to the revealed message.(9) What Coppes has done is to exempt any particular worship form from the restrictive force of the regulative principle.

The obvious answer to Coppes is that we do not need to have the Bible supply us with the tunes in order to grasp what singing is, and to understand that such an act is different from the sound preaching of the Word. Instead, a text is supplied to us in the Psalter, and the Bible tells us that it is for singing.

Coppes seeks to demonstrate the validity of his objection by arguing that “singing played the same role in Israel’s worship that it did among her cultural relations.”(10) Because singing permeated all ancient Near Eastern worship, and Israel was a part of that cultural pattern, singing did not require a specific justification in Israel’s worship. Coppes points out similarities between the societal patterns and laws of Abraham and Moses, and those of their contemporaries in the surrounding nations. “Ugarit knew some of the same sacrifices” as Moses; “to be sure, such matters are distinguished and molded by the influence of monotheistic religion, but the similarities cannot be denied.”(11) The structure of the songs in Exodus 15 bears a resemblance to norms of good poetry in Ugaritic. This leads him to plead that it was to be expected that Israel would use song in worship, given its widespread use among Israel’s cultural relatives.

However, Israel’s neighbors were not her religious relatives, for no other nation had God’s Word. “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them.” (Ps. 147:19-20) The Lord plainly declares that the worship of Israel’s neighbors was an abomination to Him, and places many restrictions upon Israel to dissuade His people from following the pattern of the other nations. The separation of Israel is one of the most pervasive themes in the Old Testament. It was in this very context of separation that expression was given to the regulative principle in worship (Deut. 12:29-32). While Coppes suggests that songs were not introduced into worship in response to God’s command, but simply as norms of human culture, Exodus and Leviticus repeatedly teach that everything in worship must be done in accordance with the divinely revealed pattern. With respect to music in particular, we are told of the specific authorization and provision, through prophets and seers, which lay behind the arrangements for its use in the temple (II Chron. 29:1-2, 25-30; 35:15; Ezra 3:10).

Coppes appeals to the absence of a recorded command of God to compose the songs found in Exodus 15, or to present them in worship. “Yet they are received by him without judgment. Therefore, to introduce song into worship was not viewed by God as a violation of the nature of worship even though He has not specifically commanded that they be so introduced.”(12) “God voiced no principial objection to the human introduction of song.”(13) What Coppes misses is that not all of the commands God gave to His people in redemptive history are recorded in Scripture.(14) We have a similar situation in the biblical account of the sacrifices made by Abel and Noah; the narrative makes no mention of a preceding divine institution of sacrifices. Did these early worshipers have instruction from God about how to worship? The question goes to the heart of our concept of the worship which is acceptable to God.

In contrast to Coppes’ contention that “God neither commanded nor judged” the introduction of song into his worship, and that song as a form was not related to the regulative principle,(15) Calvin’s comments about worship in early redemptive history illustrate the Reformed concept of worship as an act of faith based upon some word of divine institution. Writing on Gen. 8:20, Calvin says: “But here it may be asked, by what impulse Noah offered a sacrifice to God, seeing he had no command to do so? I answer: although Moses does not expressly declare that God commanded him to do it, yet a certain judgment may be formed from what follows, and even from the whole context, that Noah had rested upon the word of God, and that, in reliance on the divine command, he had rendered this worship, which he knew, indubitably, would be acceptable to God.

“We have before said, that one animal of every kind was preserved separately; and have stated for what end it was done. But it was useless to set apart animals for sacrifice, unless God had revealed this design to holy Noah, who was to be the priest to offer up the victims. Besides, Moses says that sacrifices were chosen from among clean animals. But it is certain that Noah did not invent this distinction for himself, since it does not depend on human choice. Whence we conclude, that he undertook nothing without divine authority. Also immediately afterwards, Moses subjoins, that the smell of the sacrifice was acceptable to God. This general rule, therefore, is to be observed, that all religious services which are not perfumed with the odour of faith, are of an ill-savour before God. Let us therefore know, that the altar of Noah was founded in the word of God. And the same word was as salt to his sacrifices, that they might not be insipid.”(16)

John Owen teaches the same concept of the nature of worship in A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God (1667). There he says that a principal way by which we sanctify the name of God in his worship is “When in every ordinance we consider his appointment of it, and submit our souls and consciences unto his authority therein; which if we observe any thing in his worship but what he hath appointed we cannot do. Not formality, not custom, not the precepts of men, not any thing but the authority and command of God, is to be respected in this obedience. This is the first thing that faith regards in divine worship; it rests not in any thing, closeth not with any thing, but what it discerns that God hath commanded, and therein it eyes his authority as he requireth it.”(17)

Jonathan Edwards says the same thing in respect to worship practice early in redemptive history. “Sacrificing was not a custom first established by the Levitical law, for it had been a part of God’s instituted worship from the beginning. We read of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, offering sacrifice, and before them Noah, and Abel. And this was by divine appointment; for it was part of God’s worship in his church, which was offered up in faith, and which he accepted. This proves that it was by his institution; for sacrificing is not part of natural worship. The light of nature doth not teach men to offer up beasts in sacrifice to God; and seeing it was not enjoined by the law of nature, to be acceptable to God, it must be by some positive command or institution; for God has declared his abhorrence of such worship as is taught by the precept of men without his institution. (Is. 29.13)

“And such worship as hath not a warrant from divine institution, cannot be offered up in faith, because faith has no foundation where there is no divine appointment. Men have no warrant to hope for God’s acceptance, in that which is not of his appointment, and in that to which he hath not promised his acceptance: and therefore it follows, that the custom of offering sacrifices to God was instituted soon after the fall; for the Scripture teaches us, that Abel offered ‘the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof,’ Gen. 4.4. and that he was accepted of God in this offering, Heb. 11.4.”(18)

Also significant is the Westminster Assembly’s judgment that prior divine sanction for worship practice may be rightly demonstrated from biblical example: “Some examples show a jus divinum and the will and appointment of God; as in the Old Testament the building of altars to the Lord and offering of sacrifices by the fathers from Adam to Abraham, which was done in faith and acceptance, for which there is no foregoing precept recorded in Scripture. In all which examples, as we have cause to believe that the fathers at the first had a command from God for those things whereof we now find only their example for the ground of their posterity’s like practice for many generations, so likewise, though we believe that Christ, in the time that He conversed with His disciples before and after His resurrection, did instruct them in all things concerning the kingdom of God, yet nothing is left recorded to show His will and appointment of the things instanced in, but the example and the practice of the apostles and the churches in their time.”(19)

Coppes argues that the regulative principle of worship asks nothing more than that a form of communication faithfully convey the biblical message.(20) Does not this position postulate a freedom to express the truths of revelation in worship actions of our own invention? Is the form of worship itself unregulated by Scripture, and aesthetic beauty to have free play so long as the message communicated is that of the Bible? Can it be seriously argued that the Westminster Confession means nothing more than keeping to a biblical message when it declares, “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy scripture” (XXI.i)? But Scripture does dictate the very forms of worship, as our Confession teaches (XXI.iii and v). The argument advanced by Poythress and Coppes is that the regulative principle does not govern the specific means by which biblical functions of worship are carried out. But this is precisely the Lutheran and Anglican principle of worship; in other words, the argument is an abandonment of the Reformed regulative principle.

Three or Four Englishmen

In considering the case which contemporary Presbyterians make for uninspired hymns, we may for a moment consider the notions about worship and revelation which we find in the English dissenting minister Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Both as a hymn writer and as an essayist advocating man-made songs, Watts is perhaps more responsible than anyone else for removing the singing of Psalms from the Christian church in the English-speaking world.(21) It is noteworthy that Watts argued that little in New Testament worship was based on biblical prescription.

Watts, in his Rational Foundation of a Christian Church (1747) addresses the question of “Whether a christian church may not appoint or determine circumstances and ceremonies of worship and order, which are left undetermined in the New Testament, and require them to be observed?” Watts seems to defer to the regulative principle of worship, saying that a church has no license, either by the light of reason or Scripture, to invent new ceremonies of divine worship. However, his primary concern seems to be for toleration, and for respect for the conscience: “Nor has it a right to impose on the consciences of men any such self-invented modes or circumstances of worship, so as to make them holy things, or to oblige any single Christian to comply therewith.”(22)

A most remarkable element in his teaching about worship, and one which distances him from the great dissenter of a previous generation, John Owen (1616-83), is the role given to reason in determining the features of the church’s worship, and the limited place which he assigns to a word of institution in the Scriptures. Christian churches, he writes, are to be raised in the same manner as any other civil society, “upon the plain nature and reason of things.”(23)

“So natural a scheme of social religion as this, does not need long and express forms of institution, after the great doctrines and duties of the christian faith and life are plainly revealed and received. All that is found in the New Testament relating to christian churches, so happily corresponds with these dictates of the light of nature, and the affairs of the civil life, that it has made these rules much more plain, and easy, and practicable, than those of the jewish religion, or perhaps of any other religion, that pretends to divine revelation. This scheme is built on the eternal reasons and relations of things, as well as the word of God. The particular positive prescriptions relating to christian churches are but few, while the general duties of christian fellowship are such as the light of nature and reason seem to dictate to all societies whatsoever.”(24)

To illustrate how far a church is formed by the light of nature, Watts proposes an extended “similitude,” in which three or four Englishmen residing in China, determining “to behave as becomes Englishmen, agree to meet once a week, to pay some special honours to their absent king. The day which they appoint for their assembly, is the day of the accession of their king to the throne, in its weekly return. They agree therefore to choose one person amongst them, who shall spend an hour or two every week, in setting before them what honours they owe to the king of England. Besides this, once in a month, suppose they meet together, according to an appointment of their prince, to eat a morsel of bread, and drink a glass of wine together, in memory of some great benefit which the whole nation of England received by a difficult and bloody enterprise of the king’s son, when, in former years, he took a voyage from England to China. “(25)

Obviously there is a wide divergence between what Watts thought reason could be relied upon to teach about appropriate worship, and the positive sanctions which the Westminster Assembly found in the Bible. The most serious consequence of Watts’ reliance upon reason was his lapse into a form of unitarianism. Watts judged that the single divine essence implies that the three persons have no distinct minds or wills. To explain the pre-temporal undertaking by which Christ agreed to do the work of a redeemer, Watts concluded that Christ’s human soul existed before the incarnation. In the judgment of Jonathan Edwards, “According to what seems to be Dr. Watts’ scheme, the Son of God is no distinct divine person from the Father. So far as he is a divine person, he is the same person with the Father. But how does this confound our minds, instead of helping our ideas, or making them more easy and intelligible!”(26)

The most influential consequence of Watts’ confidence in reason was the diminished role given to biblical sanctions in the church’s worship. Says Watts, “Under the New Testament the ceremonies distinct from natural religion, whether real actions or mere modes and circumstances of action, are few and easy, such as the washing with water in baptism, and eating bread and wine at the Supper of the Lord, to which we may add the observation of the first day of the week, in memory of our risen Saviour.”(27) When Watts thought that so little was regulated by the Scriptures, it is small wonder that he thought men were free to introduce uninspired songs into the church’s worship.

One can see how great a shift had taken place in the space of a generation, when we read Owen addressing this very question of what sanctions for worship are found in the New Testament. “Whereas sundry of these things are founded in the light and law of nature, as requisite unto all solemn worship, and are, moreover, commanded in the moral law, and explications of it in the Old Testament, how do you look upon them as evangelical institutions, to be observed principally on the authority of Jesus Christ? They are to be observed on the account of his authority and command only. The principal thing we are to aim at, in the whole worship of God, is the discharge of that duty which we owe to Jesus Christ, the king and head of the church. If we perform any thing in the worship of God on any other account, it is no part of our obedience unto him, and so we can neither expect his grace to assist us, nor have we his promise to accept us therein; for that he hath annexed unto our doing and observing whatever he hath commanded, and that because he hath commanded us: Matt. 28:20. This promised presence respects only the observance of his commands.

“Some men are apt to look on this authority of Christ as that which hath the least influence into what they do. If in any of his institutions they find any thing that is suited or agreeable unto the light of nature, – as ecclesiastical societies, government of the church, and the like, they say, are, – they suppose and contend that that is the ground on which they are to be attended unto, and so are to be regulated accordingly. The interposition of his authority they will allow only in the sacraments, which have no light in reason or nature; so desirous are some to have as little to do with Christ as they can, even in the things that concern the worship of God!”(28) Owen also writes about specific New Testament prescriptions,(29) and about the extent of the regulative principle’s control over new covenant worship.(30)

The Circumstances of Worship

Bahnsen’s argument that singing in worship requires no distinct biblical justification assigns a different meaning to the terms used by the framers of the Westminster Confession in defining what the Bible allows in divine worship. Whereas “element” or “part” designated for them the particular ordinances, such as “singing of psalms,” Bahnsen uses “element” to indicate the broad functions of worship. And while Bahnsen declares that a circumstance of worship does not require a biblical justification, the confessional teaching is that only those circumstances which are devoid of religious significance require no warrant from the Scriptures. Bahnsen says, “Is singing a separate ‘element’ of worship or a ‘circumstance’ of worship? If the latter, it does not require Biblical warrant according to the regulative principle. I have argued that singing is simply one means to (one circumstance through which to) pray, praise, exhort or teach – rather than an element of worship itself.”(31)

It will be instructive to compare the remarks on the regulative principle which John Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary, composed for the 1946 report of the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God, of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). In that year the Committee delivered a partial report, in which the regulative principle was defined; this partial report won the support of all members of the Committee.(32) In 1947 the Committee submitted two reports. The 1947 majority report sought to show that the regulative principle does not entail the rejection of uninspired hymns; a minority report, written by Murray,(33) argued that “there is no warrant in Scripture for the use of uninspired human compositions in the singing of God’s praise in public worship.”(34)

It is significant that Murray was also responsible for that portion of the Committee’s 1946 report which provides the fundamental statement of the regulative principle. That Murray wrote the opening section, headed “The teaching of the Subordinate Standards respecting the Regulative Principle of Worship,” is clear from the manuscript text and cover letter, both in Murray’s handwriting, which are preserved among his papers in the archives of Westminster Seminary. In the letter to the other members of the Committee, Murray says: “I thought it necessary to enter into some detail in view of questions raised at our last meeting.” This statement of the Reformed regulative principle deserves recognition in the corpus of Murray’s writings.(35)

Murray emphasizes three qualifications which, according to the Confession, must be met if anything is to be exempted from the regulative principle’s sweeping prohibition. The relevant passage in the Confession ( reads: “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.”

Murray says that the exception stated in the Confession “cannot apply to anything that enters into the worship itself but only to certain conditions under which the worship is given or conducted.” In other words, the exception does not apply “to any substantial part or element of the worship,” but only to circumstances. Further, “the exception stated applies only to some circumstances. The effect of this restriction is to allow” that not only the elements, but also certain religiously-significant circumstances of worship, may be mandated in God’s Word. And finally, the exception stated applies only to the circumstances which are “common to human actions and societies,” namely, those “circumstances that are not peculiar to worship.” Murray instances “order and length of service, for since human societies are mentioned it is natural for us to think of the meetings of such societies in this connection.” Murray concludes that “the authority of Scripture is necessary for the whole content of worship.”(36)

At this point in his argument, Murray inserted a paragraph from George Gillespie (1613-48), which appears in Murray’s manuscript, but was dropped from the Committee’s 1946 report.(37) The words which Murray quoted from Gillespie are germane to any consideration of what the authors of the Westminster Confession meant by its reference to the circumstances of worship. The manuscript paragraph reads: “It is of interest to quote from George Gillespie in this connection: ‘Besides all this, there is nothing which any way pertaineth to the worship of God left to the determination of human laws, beside the mere circumstances, which neither have any holiness in them, forasmuch as they have no other use and praise in sacred than they have in civil things, nor yet were particularly determinable in Scripture, because they are infinite; but sacred, significant ceremonies, such as cross, kneeling, surplice, holidays, bishopping, etc., which have no use and praise except in religion only, and which, also, were most easily determinable (yet not determined) within those bounds which the wisdom of God did set to his written word, are such things as God never left to the determination of any human law.’ (The Presbyterian’s Armoury, vol. I, p. xii).”(38)

The quotation is from Gillespie’s A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies.(39) First published in 1637, the book asserts that the Anglican worship practices not commanded in Scripture are neither necessary, expedient, lawful nor indifferent. In 1643 the Church of Scotland sent Gillespie to the Westminster Assembly, where he became famous for his contributions to the Assembly’s debates and negotiations about the government and worship of the church. He also was among the few who from the beginning had a hand in the writing of the Westminster Confession. While “the chief authorship of the Confession of Faith” may be assigned to the seven English divines on the drafting committee, the four Scottish commissioners, Gillespie, Rutherfurd, Baillie and Henderson, “were appointed as equal partners in every stage of the Confession’s preparation. They participated on the original large committee for the Confession of Faith; they worked on the drafting committee; and at least one to be consulted by the wording and perfecting committee before reporting any changes to the Assembly.”(40) Some of the language and thoughts of sections v and vi of the Confession’s first chapter are closely paralleled in Gillespie’s posthumously published Treatise of Miscellany Questions, where Gillespie handles several of the subjects he debated at the Assembly.(41)

Gillespie says that the mere circumstances of worship which are not governed by Scripture are those things which “have no other use and praise in sacred than they have in civil things, nor yet were particularly determinable in Scripture, because they are infinite.” Now, the text of worship song certainly falls within the category of things which are of sacred significance, “which have no use and praise except in religion only.” Further, it is obvious that the text of worship song is something which Scripture might readily determine, namely by the provision of a collection of songs within the canon. We shall shortly consider the validity of arguments that God has left the church to use its own words in worship song, as in prayer. For the moment, it is important to observe that the words of worship song belong to the substance of worship, and therefore whether or not the church is confined to a canonical text is something which God appoints in the Scriptures.

Confirmation of what the Westminster Confession does and does not allow by the exception in chapter I, paragraph vi, is apparent from contemporary discussions by other men who labored on the drafting committee. Jack B. Rogers has observed that none of them wrote so extensively regarding circumstances common to human actions and societies as did Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661),(42) whose Divine Right of Church Government was published in the spring of 1646, while the Confession was being prepared. In its pages, Rutherford rebutted the Anglican apologists who urged that a biblical warrant was no more required for the manner of implementing worship actions than for executing functions in civil society. Rutherford answered them by identifying in worship a regulative role for Scripture, which it did not have in civil affairs.(43)

Rutherford writes: “But Formalists say, If man’s will and authority cannot appoint crossing, holy human-days, surplice, and such – the decent expressions and incitements of devotion – in the kind of arbitrary, mutable and ambulatory worship, but they must be therein guilty of adding to the doctrine of piety and religion in the first table, by that same reason they cannot make human civil and positive laws in war and peace, to be means of conserving justice and mercy toward human societies in the kind of duties of righteousness and sobriety towards ourselves and neighbors. I answer: The case is not alike. We cannot be agents in the performing of any worship to God, nor can we use any religious means for honoring God, which belong to the first table, but in these we are moral agents, doing with special reference to conscience. And therefore in these we are precisely ruled by the wisdom of God, who hath in his Word set down what worship, and what means of exciting devotion and decoring of his worship, pleaseth him, and hath not left men to Lord-will, or Lord-wit.

“But in many actions that belong to human societies, we are not moral agents, but often agents by art, as in military discipline, trades useful for man’s life, economy and policy in kingdoms and cities, in sciences, as logic, physic, mathematics. In these the end of the work is operation according to the principles of arts and policy, and we are not in them moral agents, and so not to be regulated by God’s Word. For the Scripture giveth not to us precepts of grammar, of war, of trades and arts, teaching us to speak right Latin, to make accurate demonstrations.”(44)

Having separated worship as a sphere regulated in a unique way by God’s Word, Rutherford goes on to speak of some circumstances of worship which are not moral or religious circumstances, and gives examples of these. “Conclusion: In actions or religious means of worship, and actions moral, whatever is beside the Word of God is against the Word of God. I say in religious means, for there be means of worship, or circumstances physical, not moral, not religious, as whether the pulpit be of stone or of timber, the bell of this or this metal, the house of worship stand thus or thus in situation.”(45)

Rutherford insists that the only circumstances of worship in which there need be no biblical prescription are those which are empty of any religious significance. “Now the house or church, as such, is no monument nor useless instrument in worship, as is a surplice, a human holy day. For it hath, as such, being a thing of walls and timber, no other than that very same physical influence in worshipping either the true God, or a saint, that it hath in civil use, in our ordinary dwelling, to wit, to fence our bodies, in religious, in natural, in civil actions, from injuries of heaven, clouds, and sin. The adjuncts of the church, as crucifixes, images, altars, ravels, Mass-clothes, and the like, are properly monuments and instruments of idolatry, because these are not necessary, as is the material house, nor have they any common and physical influence in the worship, as the temple hath. Yea all the necessity or influence that they have in the worship is only religious and human, flowing from the will of men, without either necessity from our natural constitution of body, or any word of Scripture. And therefore they are to be removed upon this ground, because they are unnecessary snares to idolatry.”(46)

In an earlier work Rutherford speaks of “things merely physical, not moral, having no influence in God’s worship at all, as such a day for meeting of an assembly of the church, Wednesday rather than Thursday, a cloak when you pray in private, rather than a gown. These have, or contribute of themselves, no moral influence to the action, as in what corner of your chamber you pray in private. These are merely indifferent, and tolerance in these I would commend. It is true, there is a strict connection often betwixt the physical and the moral circumstances, so as the physical circumstance doth put on, by some necessity, a moral habitude and respect, and then the physical circumstance becometh moral. As, in what corner of your chamber you pray, it is merely physical and indifferent. But if that corner that you pray in cast you obvious to the eyes of those who are walking in the streets, that they may see and hear your private prayers, then the place putteth on the moral respect of a savour of some Pharisaical ostentation, that you pray to be seen of men. And so the circumstance now is moral, and is to be regulated by the Word, whereas the circumstance that is merely physical is not, as it is such, in any capacity to receive scriptural regulation; nothing is required but a physical convenience for the action.”(47)

The year before the ordinance of Parliament which summoned the Westminster Assembly, an English translation of the influential Marrow of Sacred Divinity by William Ames (1576-1633) was published “by order from the honorable the House of Commons.” In explaining those circumstances of worship “which are common adjuncts of religious and civil acts,” Ames refers to the same proof texts which the Assembly cites respecting circumstances “common to human actions and societies.”

“The outward circumstances are those which pertain to order and decency. I Cor. 14:40. Let all things be done decently and in order. But the general rule of these is that they be ordered in that manner which maketh most for edification. I Cor. 14:26. Of this nature are the circumstances of place, time, and the like, which are common adjuncts to religious and civil acts. Therefore although such like circumstances are wont to be called of some rites, and religious or ecclesiastical ceremonies, yet they have nothing in their nature which is proper to religion, and therefore religious worship doth not so properly consist in them. However the holiness of religious worship is in some sort violated by the neglect and contempt of them, because that common respect of order and decency which doth equally agree to religious and civil actions cannot be severed from religious worship, but the dignity and majesty thereof is in some sort diminished.

“Such like circumstances, therefore, which of their own nature are civil or common, are not particularly commanded in the Scriptures, partly because they come into men’s common sense, and partly because it would not stand with the dignity and majesty of the law of God that such things should be severally prescribed in it. For by this means many ridiculous things should have been provided for by a special law, as for example, that in the church assembly one should not place himself in another’s bosom, spit in another’s face, or should not make mouths in holy actions. Yet they are to be accounted as commanded from God. 1. Because they are commanded in general under the law of order, decency and edification. 2. Because most of them do necessarily follow from those things which are expressly appointed by God. For when God appointed that the faithful of all sorts should meet together to celebrate his name and worship, he did consequently ordain that they should have a fit and convenient place wherein they may meet together, and an hour also assigned at which they may be present together. When also there is a minister appointed by God, to teach others publicly, it is withal appointed that he have a seat, and that situation of his body, which is meet for such an action.”(48)

An indication of the congruence between the thought of the Westminster divines and Ames on this matter is found in the following passage from Rutherford: “Time, place, pulpit, table-cloth, are new (physically) often, not new morally or religiously. They have no spiritual influence in worship. A civil declamation hath the same time, place, pulpit, with a preaching. For then, if for application you call them religious, as Dr. Ames saith well, An hill whereon a preacher preacheth, a judge persuadeth a law, a captain speaketh to his soldiers, is both a sacred, a judicial, a military hill.”(49) And Gillespie writes: “Wherefore sacred significant ceremonies shall never be warranted by the precept of order and decency, which have no less in civility than in religion.”(50) These passages represent the Westminster view of such worship circumstances as require no biblical justification.

The Anglicans claimed that circumstances which did not touch the substance of worship are innocent. The Westminster divines replied that if a thing or action takes on a sacred significance, it matters not whether it be called an element or a circumstance, for it must have a divine prescription. Here is an example of Gillespie’s identification of those things which are used in religion only: “Bishop Andrews avouches that ceremonies pertain to the church only, and to the service of God, not to civil solemnities. But so much, I trust, he would not have said of circumstances which have place in all moral actions, and that to the same end and purpose for which they serve in religious action, namely, for beautifying them with that decent demeanor which the very light and law of natural reason requires as a thing beseeming all human action. For the church of Christ being a society of men and women, must either observe order and decency in all the circumstances of their holy actions, times, places, persons, forms, etc., or else be deformed with that disorder and confusion which common reason and civility abhors. Ceremonies, therefore, which are sacred observances, and serve only to a religious and holy use, and which may not, without sacrilege, be applied to another use, must be sorted with things of another nature than circumstances.”(51)

Rutherford is similar in his teaching that everything of a religious character in worship must find authorization in the Bible, regardless of whether men call it essential or accidental to the performance. “It is a vain and unwarrantable distinction to divide worship into essential, which hath God’s particular approving will to be the warrant thereof, and worship accidental or arbitrary, which hath only God’s general and permissive will, and hath man’s will for its father. If the general must be warranted by the Word, so also specials under the general, else men’s will may make a horned bullock a decent sacrifice to represent Christ already come in the flesh. For if the written Word warrant not the specials of religious observances, a door is open for all human inventions.”(52)

And again, “For circumstances clothed with religious positive goodness, such as are the Sabbath day, the holy of holiest, the temple, these are not mere circumstances, but worship itself. So a religious habit, as an ephod or a surplice, is not a mere circumstance or a mere habit, but a worship, or such a part or limb of worship as must be warranted by the Word of truth, else it is nothing but a will-device and a forgery, and so to be rejected.”(53)

John Owen, writing in 1662, gives the common Puritan judgment against the imposition of a liturgy of set prayers. In that year two thousand ministers of the Church of England left their charges rather than conform. In his Discourse Concerning Liturgies and Their Imposition, Owen rejects religious additions to God’s worship which masquerade under the name of circumstances. “There are also some things, which some men call circumstances, also, that no way belong of themselves to the actions whereof they are said to be the circumstances, nor do attend them, but are imposed on them, or annexed unto them, by the arbitrary authority of those who take upon them to give order and rules in such cases; such as to pray before an image or towards the east, or to use this or that form of prayer in such gospel administrations, and no other. These are not circumstances attending the nature of the thing itself, but are arbitrarily superadded to the things that they are appointed to accompany. Whatever men may call such additions, they are no less parts of the whole wherein they serve than the things themselves whereunto they are adjoined.”(54)

Owen’s comments are especially pertinent because the context in which he writes is a controversy as to whether we should follow a text of human prescription in prayer. He says that this issue is not a thing indifferent, but is regulated by direction given in God’s Word. “That their will and wisdom may have a share (some at least) in the ordering of his worship, is that which of all things they seem to desire. All making to ourselves is forbidden, though what we so make may seem unto us to tend to the furtherance of the worship of God. It is said men may add nothing to the substance of the worship of God, but they may order, dispose, and appoint the things that belong to the manner and circumstances of it, this is all that is done in the prescription of liturgies. Of circumstances in and about the worship of God we have spoken before, and removed that pretence. Nor is it safe distinguishing in the things of God where himself hath not distinguished. Indeed, there is nothing in its whole nature, as it belongs to the general being of things, so circumstantial, but that if it be appointed by God in his worship, it becomes a part of the substance of it; nor can any thing that is not so appointed ever by any be made a circumstance of his worship. “(55)

Finally, the OPC majority report speaks of the fewer and simpler ordinances in the New Testament pattern of worship, as compared with the ceremonies of the Old Testament. The report declares that in the New Testament, “because of the greater liberty bestowed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, fewer circumstances of worship are prescribed than in the Old.”(56) This plea is apparently intended to buttress an argument in the following paragraph of the report, to the effect that the Lord has authorized the New Testament church to compose uninspired songs for use in worship. But while it is true to say, with the Confession (, that the New Testament does not have as many religious observances as the Old, it is contrary to the Confession to argue that such differences allow the church today a wider latitude in things which touch the substance of worship.

Here are Gillespie’s words about the regulative principle in the worship of the Old and New Testaments: “And whilst Bishop Lindsey says, that in the particular circumstances of persons by whom, place where, time when, and of the form and order how, the worship and work of the ministry should be performed, the church has power to define whatsoever is most expedient, and that this is a prerogative wherein the Christian church differs from the Jewish synagogue; they do but speak their pleasure in vain, and cannot make it appear that the Christian church has any more power to add to the commandments of God than the synagogue had of old.

“But as for the ceremonies which are proper to God’s holy worship, shall we say that the fidelity of Christ, the Son, has been less than the fidelity of Moses, the servant (Heb. 3:2)? which were to be said, if Christ had not, by as plain, plentiful, and particular directions and ordinances, provided for all the necessities of the Christian church in the matter of religion, as Moses for the Jewish? Or, if the least pin, and the meanest appurtenance of the tabernacle, and all the service thereof, behooved to be ordered according to the express commandment of God by the hand of Moses, how shall we think, that in the rearing, framing, ordering, and beautifying of the church, the house of the living God, he would have less honor and prerogative given than to his own well-beloved Son, by whom he has spoken to us in these last days, and whom he has commanded us to hear in all things? Or that he will accept, at our hands, any sacred ceremony which men have presumed to bring into his holy and pure worship, without the appointment of his own word and will revealed unto us? Albeit the worship of God and religion, in the church of the New Testament, is accompanied without ceremonies, very few in number, very easy to observe, most remarkable in meaning (as Augustine speaks of our sacraments), yet we have in Scripture, no less particular determination and distinct direction for our few, easy, and plain ceremonies, than the Jews had for their many heavy and obscure ones.”(57)

To the same effect, William Cunningham writes: “There is no force in the presumption, that, because so little in regard to the externals of the church is fixed by scriptural authority, therefore much was left to be regulated by human wisdom, as experience might suggest or as the varying condition of the church might seem to require. For, on the contrary, every view suggested by Scripture of Christianity and the church, indicates, that Christ intended His church to remain permanently in the condition of simplicity as to outward arrangements, in which His apostles were guided to leave it. Men, under the pretence of curing the defects and shortcomings, the nakedness and bareness, attaching to ecclesiastical arrangements as set before us in the New Testament, have been constantly proposing innovations and improvements in government and worship. The question is, How ought these proposals to have been received? Our answer is, There is a great general scriptural principle which shuts them all out. We refuse even to enter into the consideration of what is alleged in support of them. It is enough for us that they have no positive sanction from Scripture.”(58)

Chapter II: May Worship Ordinances Be Distinguished From One Another?

Mixing and Matching

A second objection frequently raised is that there is not sufficient distinction among the various actions of worship to justify restriction to an inspired text in one action, while leaving us with freedom to use our own words in another. Advocates of hymnody have often assumed that if we may draw upon our own words in prayer and preaching, then surely there is no prescribed text for worship song. By arguing that two worship actions serve a similar function, legitimacy is sought for assimilating the content and circumstances of one action to that of another.

This objection is given a large place in the majority report which the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God presented to the fourteenth General Assembly of the OPC, in 1947. After the Committee’s majority report was adopted by the OPC, the chairman of the Committee, Robert S. Marsden, presented to a wider public his justification for the production of a hymnal. “The committee bases its argument that the singing of songs other than the Psalms is authorized in Scripture, in accordance with the regulative principle, first of all, upon the analogy with prayer. Songs and prayers have a very close affinity in Scripture; some songs are prayers, and some prayers are songs. The Psalms themselves abound in prayers, and some of the Psalms are called prayers. But, it may be contended, singing is one part of worship; praying is quite another. It may be contended that while the Scripture does not restrict our praying to a set form of words, it does so restrict our singing. But are singing and praying two such distinct exercises of worship? It would appear that we are not warranted in making a sharp distinction between the word spoken and the word sung. Sometimes, in the Hebrew services, and, later, in the Christian church services, parts of the Bible were sung, and at other times they were read or recited. Sometimes prayers were spoken in an ordinary tone of voice, and at other times they probably were chanted or sung.”(59)

The majority report rightly says that no fixed form of prayer is given to us in Scripture. “We are not limited in our prayers, for example, to the words of the prayer of Hannah, to the words of the prayers of David, as given in the Book of Psalms, or to the words of any other prayer given in the Scriptures – even to the words of the special rule which our Lord has provided for us.”(60) Then the question is posed, whether the regulative principle prohibits us from taking such freedom with respect to the words used in other ordinances, such as worship song. The report endeavors to answer this question by requiring that Scripture “clearly and specifically prohibit our taking that freedom in connection with those other elements.”(61)

The crux of the matter here is that when Scripture institutes a worship ordinance, it gives us the content and religiously-significant circumstances of that ordinance. The essence of the regulative principle is that the Bible is specific in providing us with a pattern of worship. We may not dissociate from a worship ordinance any of the content pertaining to it in the biblical prescription, nor may we attach to it a moral or religious circumstance when the Scriptures have not done so. As Murray writes in the minority report: “Because of this distinction we may not say that the offering of prayer and the singing of praise to God are the same thing and argue from the divine authorization we possess respecting the one to the authorization respecting the other. The question of the divine prescription regarding the songs that may be sung in the public worship of God must be answered, therefore, on the basis of the teaching of Scripture with respect to that specific element of worship.”(62)

One religiously-significant circumstance which the Scriptures attach to the preaching of the Word is that the ordinance is not to be performed by women (I Cor. 14:34-37, I Tim. 2:11-12). But what pertains to one action in worship may be inappropriate with respect to another. The preaching of the Word and the singing of Psalms are both means of instruction, but they are distinct ordinances, and it would be improper to argue that since women may sing in the church, they may also preach. A distinction with respect to who may perform the act is an assertion of specificity in the biblical prescription for the ordinance.

Likewise, the reading of the Scriptures is to draw exclusively upon the canonical text; the biblical license to use our own words in prayer and preaching constitutes no justification for setting aside the canon in those worship ordinances for which a text has been prescribed. Writes OPC elder Michael Bushell, “Simply because two particular acts or elements of worship have a number of functional similarities, it does not follow that they are covered under a single biblical warrant. Nadab and Abihu [Lev. 10:1-2] may well have argued that their offering, by virtue of its close functional relationship to other rites of a similar nature, had a divine warrant.”(63)

The prohibition against taking the religiously-significant circumstances of one ordinance and introducing them into another is found in the Bible’s distinct authorization of each worship ordinance. The Word of God provides us with sufficient specificity that nothing of sacred significance is left to man’s determination. Certainly this is the hermeneutic manifested in chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession, where the parts of worship are listed and discriminated, and in chapter I, paragraph vi, where we are told that any circumstances of worship left to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence may not be religious observances. But the method used by the majority report to avoid a prescribed text in worship song is to blur the distinction between two institutions of worship: “If the Scripture itself calls psalms prayer, may we not regard it as reasonable to think that the freedom of content granted in the one case is to be taken in the other also and not to be denied because of certain external or secondary points of difference?”(64)

What Marsden’s objection overlooks is that the Bible makes a different provision with respect to worship song than it does for prayer and preaching. We are given only models for prayer (Matt. 6:9) and for preaching (Acts 2:14-40), together with the promise of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing assistance in forming our prayers (Zech. 12:10, Rom. 8:26-27), and spiritual gifts for those in each generation who are commissioned to preach the Word (Eph. 4:7-14). If the majority report can say that “this freedom” to draw upon our own words “in relation to prayer is not regarded by the Scripture as incompatible with the regulative principle,”(65) the reason is that Scripture is not silent, but is specific enough to direct us to use our own words in prayer (Matt. 6:9, Phil. 4:6). But a canonical text is supplied for the reading of the Scriptures and for worship song.

The Argument from Analogy

It is worth noting that the OPC’s current reprint of the Committee on Song reports, entitled Our Songs in God’s Worship, is misleading in one important respect. The report of 1946 (in which the entire Committee concurred) and the majority report of 1947 are printed as one report. This obscures the fact that in 1946 the Committee seemed to arrive at unanimity in their definition of the regulative principle, and that most of the 1946 report was written by the men who composed the minority in 1947. The fact is that the majority report of 1947 does not commence until the middle of section III of the reprint, with the paragraph beginning “Although it is true that the Scripture teaches. ” The three paragraphs at the end of section III in the reprint represent the majority’s clarification in 1947 of what they understood about the specificity of biblical prescriptions, and their introduction of an argument from analogy.

The majority report of 1947 declares that the Scriptures indicate, by good and necessary consequence, what is appropriate respecting the content of worship song.(66) The report also pleads that “the Word of God makes provision for the exercise of a measure of liberty as regards the content of worship.”(67) Apparently the majority use the expression “content” to indicate the message of song, and the reference to “liberty in the content of worship” is a claim that the Lord defines the use of our own words as appropriate in worship song, so long as the message continues to be that of Scripture. In order to substantiate this claim, an analogy with prayer is constructed: “In the absence of any specific statement in the Bible to the contrary, the freedom granted in the case of prayer is certainly to be regarded as obtaining also in the case of songs used in worship. “(68)

The first step in an argument from analogy is the assertion that Scripture is vague on such matters as a text, so that we must fall back on what might be suggested by a parallel with other ordinances. At the second step it is claimed that arguing from analogy is an appropriate method of deducing from Scripture a good and necessary consequence; this makes it appear that the argument is seeking to derive an answer from Scripture. But upon closer examination it will be seen that the argument is another relinquishment of the regulative principle.

The first step consists in a denial that Scripture says anything specific to the question; the consequence of this is that since nothing is prescribed, no alternatives are excluded. The second step proceeds on the basis of the Lutheran and Anglican principle of worship, when it is argued that unless Scripture expressly prohibits an appeal to parallels with other ordinances, such appeals are appropriate. Both steps are used to escape any restriction. The antipathy to the regulative principle is observed in the failure to reach any exclusive specification. What one reaches is an open door. But the essence of the regulative principle is that something specific is commanded, and all other things are thereby prohibited. The “usefulness” of an argument from analogy is that somewhere we can find a parallel in another ordinance which will allow us to escape a restriction; what one ends up with is a general permission, and no definite requirement. And that is precisely the Lutheran and Anglican rule.

Gillespie, one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, observed: “How absurd a tenet is this, which holds that there is some particular worship of God allowed, and not commanded? What new light is this which makes all our divines to have been in the mist, who have acknowledged no worship of God, but that which God has commanded? Who ever heard of commanded and allowed worship?”(69)

The unbridled character of the argument from analogy becomes apparent when one considers the multitude of consequences which may be drawn, many of them in opposite directions. Under this guise, a biblical license to use our own words in prayer and preaching provides an analogy for worship song to follow; but just as surely, the Bible’s requirement that a canonical text be employed for the reading of Scripture provides a parallel to song which leads to a different conclusion. Which alternative does one choose? The point is that the argument from analogy does not provide what the Westminster Confession ( calls a “necessary consequence” from Scripture; one is left open to all manner of speculative suggestions for correspondence, but no actual requirement. The defect in the argument is that Scripture does not require the consequences which are claimed; there is no single and inescapable conclusion which the argument necessitates. And because they are not necessary consequences from Scripture, they do not depend on God’s Word, but on the suggestions of men. The majority report exhibits all of these flaws.

The authors of the Confession were well aware that speculative reasoning might pretend to be a good consequence deduced from Scripture. Gillespie insists upon the value of necessary consequences inferred from Scripture: “Other instances may be given, but these may suffice to prove that what doth by necessary consequence follow from the law must be understood to be commanded or forbidden in the text of Scripture.”(70) But the second sentence of his discussion is a caution against presumed deductions. He writes that the assertion of necessary consequence “must neither be so far enlarged as to comprehend the erroneous reasonings and consequences from Scripture which this or that man, or this or that church, apprehend and believe to be strong and necessary consequences.”(71)

As Rogers has observed, “The divines were quick to point out erroneous deductions from Scripture. The following incident related by Thomas Gataker offers an illustration of the Westminster Divines’ problems with erroneous deductions made by the Antinomians.”(72) Gataker (1574-1654) was a member of the drafting committee responsible for writing the Confession. In the spring of 1646, while the committee was at work, Gataker published the following account: “I remember to have visited sometime a religious Lady whom I found somewhat perplexed; the ground thereof arising from some conference that had newly passed between her and a grave Divine of great repute, but in some things warping a little the way that these men now run. Who questioning with her about her estate, upon delivery of such principles as she supposed to have good ground from God’s Word for the trial of her faith and interest thereby in Christ, began to chide her, and told her that she went needlessly about the bush, when she had a nearer and readier way at hand.

“Then being demanded what course he would advise her to take, he told her she must thus reason, God will save sinners. But I am a sinner. Therefore God will save me. I told her she might with as good ground thus reason: God will damn sinners. But I am a sinner. Therefore God will damn me. And the conclusion, I doubt not, in this latter, however it follow from the premises, for twenty to one at least, will by woeful experience prove the truer of the twain.”(73)

While Gataker could say that “a conclusion necessarily deduced from Scripture is a divine truth, as well as that [which] is expressly found in Scripture,”(74) Rogers cites a passage in which “Gataker accuses his opponent of drawing conclusions which are not based on God’s Word at all, but only on his own reason. Gataker says: ‘Let us see what stays and supports for men’s souls this author himself, therein like the spider that weaves her web out of her own bowels, hath spun us, not out of God’s Word but out of his own brains.’ “(75)

Distinctions, Inferences and Metaphors

We have shown with what care the Westminster divines distinguished among things that differ respecting the worship of God. In contrast to this is the energy with which American Presbyterians have applied themselves in our generation to wiping out those distinctions. We have already reviewed Poythress’ claim that the various elements of worship cannot be distinguished. It is instructive to observe how freely he uses the argument from analogy, and with what results.

Poythress makes the common attempt to justify taking circumstances specific to one ordinance, and transferring them to ordinances where the Bible has not attached them. The rationale which is pleaded is that the activities have some functional similarities. “Paul puts singing in the same general functional category as prophesying and teaching,” and therefore Paul “applies to them the same principles for verbal utterance in worship.”(76) This resembles the claim we met with in Coppes, that there is nothing in the Bible which significantly distinguishes singing from other forms of communication.

Because Poythress does not use the confessional hermeneutic, which finds in Scripture a distinct warrant for each action of worship, he suggests that if one insists on a canonical text for worship song, it is as easy to demand one for preaching the Word. “From the exclusive-psalmist viewpoint, the same literalistic, narrow-regulative-principle arguments used to prove exclusive psalmody can be used with (superficially) excruciating successfulness to prove exclusive-canonical-words preaching.”(77) The reason this is invalid is because, as we have noted, the argument from analogy has no basis in Scripture. But Poythress imagines the “literalists” asking whether an approved example in Scripture can be found, in which uninspired words are preached; what Poythress doubts is a content-specific warrant from the Scriptures. But one obvious instance is Neh. 8:7-8, which represents part of the long tradition of the Levites teaching the people by interpreting a law which had already been given (Lev. 10:8-11; Deut. 17:8-13; 24:8; 31:9-13; 33:8-10; II Chron. 15:3; 17:7-9; 19:8-10; 30:22; 35:3; Ezra 7:1-11; Ezek. 44:15, 23-24; Hos. 4:6; Mal. 2:1, 5-8).(78) That this was to continue after the apostles and prophets had laid a further foundation, is evident from the provision of pastors and teachers who are to preach the Word to subsequent generations, by expounding the prophetic word formerly deposited in the church (II Timothy 1:13-14; 2:2, 15; Titus 1:9; 2:1). In both Testaments there were inspired prophets who delivered revelation with infallible utterance, and also uninspired expounders of Scripture.(79)

As he continues to erase distinctions, Poythress goes on to devalue a discrimination between translations of Scripture and sermons. “The Bible does not allow for a rigid distinction between words of a translation on the one hand and words of preaching and counseling on the other. We believe that the difficulty here is similar to the difficulty above of drawing a clear-cut line between singing and preaching. Both the translation of Scripture and words of preaching and counseling are phases or aspects of application of the canonical word of God to people.”(80)

However, as Bushell observes, translations of Scripture have a nearness to Scripture which sermons do not; we are never to appeal to the words of a preacher in the same way that we defer to an accurate translation of Scripture. It is imperative that the church have a Bible translation characterized by great faithfulness to the original, and whenever this is acknowledged, we have granted that the recitation of the text of Scripture, albeit in translation, is quite a different thing from preaching. “The difference is not simply one of applications. The same method which Poythress uses to blur the distinction between preaching or teaching and singing is thus used to blur the distinction between Scripture and commentary.”(81)

Leaving no stone unturned, Poythress next argues that it is linguistically difficult to distinguish between speaking and singing. “Singing is a kind of speaking with extra-systematic pitch and rhythm patterns. Few non-linguists realize that English along with all other human languages has a complex intonational system and rhythmic system. Deviation from this norm toward ‘song’ is a matter of degree, not of ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The series speaking – responsive reading – chanting – singing can be filled in with infinitesimal gradations of pitch and rhythmic pattern.”(82)

Bushell continues his exposure of the defects in Poythress’ argument: “The very existence of the spectrum of which Poythress speaks, however, proves that singing and speaking are distinct and clearly distinguishable acts. In the same way one could imagine continui between light and dark, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, and so on. But the existence of such continui does not mean that the terms are not under most circumstances clearly distinguishable. Similar arguments have been used from time immemorial to relativize the discipline of ethics. One might argue that because there is a system of infinitesimal gradations between good and evil, we can never condemn a given act as ‘wrong.'”(83)

“When the linguistic shuffle is finished and the verbal smoke is cleared, what we are left with is this: there are no more distinct elements of worship, only various ‘means’ of performing various ‘acts’ which in the last analysis are not really distinguishable anyway: there is no more Word of God to be read as an act of worship before the congregation, only a series of applications of a mysterious ‘canon’ that is not really accessible either. Consistently followed, such an approach would eventually demolish the efforts of the Reformed Church for over four centuries to restore the Church to Biblical patterns of worship, patterns which after all are based on the very distinctions swallowed up in Poythress’ approach. Such zeal to defend the use of uninspired hymns in worship can only desecrate God’s Word and leave His Church in distinctionless confusion.”(84)

Poythress has an additional form in which he presents the argument from analogy. He plays down the exegesis of passages which directly address the question of what the New Testament church should sing,(85) and decries a concern with precepts about worship,(86) in order to elicit a worship pattern from reflections on the believer’s union with Christ. Poythress declares that all of the present prophetic ministry of Christ is Christ singing. The heavenly activity of Christ before the Father, the witness, singing and preaching of the church, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the writing of the law on our hearts, are all Christ singing, Poythress says.(87) Since our preaching amounts to Christ singing in us, the argument runs, and since those who are in Christ may sing in worship anything that Christ sings, then we may use the same sentences in singing that we use in preaching.

The novelty which Poythress gives here to the analogy argument lies in his doubling of the analogy; he suggests an analogy not only between two worship ordinances, but also between what Christ does and what his people are to do. However, like other forms of the argument from analogy, it is presupposed that Scripture does not specifically address the question, so that we have little alternative but to turn to analogies. Moreover, it is said that because Scripture fails to prohibit us from appealing to an analogy, the appeal is appropriate.

We have seen the failure of the argument from analogy to reach any exclusive specification, or to present necessary consequences from Scripture. When so wide a variety of phenomena, ranging from preaching by ministers, to the inspiration of Scripture and regeneration, are all identified by Poythress as Christ singing, we might wonder how anything of a definite character could be determined about worship practice, while using such a model. But this is a construction which is looking for ambiguity; the very purpose of the argument is to represent everything as imprecise, for where there is no stipulation, there is no restriction. This is what an argument from analogy is all about.

Poythress’ more elaborate form of the argument from analogy only clarifies what occurs in all such analogy arguments. The Reformed regulative principle is laid aside as the rule for determining acceptable worship practice, and in its place is substituted a new theological method, which is usually defended as just a means of drawing inferences from Scripture. But instead of the Westminster Confession’s requirement of “necessary consequence” (, Poythress wishes to have any surmises stand unless they violate what Scripture teaches. This, again, is the Lutheran principle that we are permitted to invent actions of worship if God’s Word does not prohibit them. Poythress says: “We do not think that Scripture gives us grounds for dismissing informal inferences from Scripture, purely on the ground that they are ‘mere’ inferences. To break the force of an inference, one must give reasons, supported by Scripture, for thinking that the inference is invalid.”(90)

In contrast, the confessional Reformed hermeneutic recognizes that God has instituted in the Scriptures those particular sacraments, worship ordinances, church offices, and religious symbols which are to be used in his worship, rather than leaving us to construct a pattern of worship through reflection on the theological data contained in Scripture. With Poythress’ method, worship practice is derived neither from divine commands nor apostolic example, but from the supposed implications of the mystical union between Christ and his people. The confessional hermeneutic finds a great deal more directness in Scripture, as indicated by the Confession’s enumeration of the worship ordinances and church offices; in this setting, the role of inference is in discerning the necessary consequences of the biblical words of institution. The method Poythress proposes will set the church loose to develop worship forms out of its study of themes in biblical theology.

The disparity between Poythress’ argument and the regulative principle is also seen in that, while the confessional principle has the commandment of God as its starting point, Poythress leaves the practice of the church today as the ultimate starting point; this rationale chases its own tail. Poythress equates Christ’s singing with our preaching in order to argue that, because we may sing what Christ sings, therefore we may sing anything we may preach.

This leads us to a further difficulty in Poythress’ argument. Though he argues that Christ somehow takes up in his singing the words that we use in preaching, Poythress himself has to acknowledge that the singing of Christ he contends for is not literal, but metaphorical.(91) But he does not reckon with the implications of a diversity between the metaphorical kind of singing and preaching which he ascribes to Christ, and the singing and preaching which are worship ordinances in Christ’s church. How can a figure of speech provide the answer to a question about such particulars as the text to be used in the church’s worship song? Christ is not actually using the words we use, and this use of the same verbal content is what the argument is all about.

When Paul in Rom. 15:16 uses the language of sacrifice, comparing the presentation of the Gentiles to an acceptable offering, the common element in the two offerings, and the point of the comparison, is simply that they are both acceptable to God. The metaphor in Rom. 12:1, 15:16, Phil. 4:18, Heb. 13:5-6, and I Pet. 2:5 was never intended to provide clues as to the particulars of the sacrifices ordained for the Old Testament worship, or of Christ’s sacrifice. What implications for the ordinances of worship, the doctrine of salvation and the nature of God would men not spin from enlarging upon the metaphorical speech found in God’s Word? The Scriptures give us precept or apostolic example to warrant particular actions of worship in the church, such as washing with water in the name of the Trinity, or the singing of Psalms. But Poythress would break down the distinction between diverse worship ordinances, on the strength of a figure of speech.

The Canon as Prescription

The question we have been discussing is whether the biblical mandate for the ordinance of worship song is so specific as to prescribe a text. The OPC majority report misjudges the point when it passes over the canonical provision to declare: “The content of song is not expressly limited in the New Testament, and accordingly we deduce it from the New Testament by good and necessary consequence.”(92) What the report fails to take into account is the obvious consideration that, inasmuch as the Lord has provided us with a select collection of songs in the canon of Scripture, and in the biblical narrative has designated these materials as designed to be sung in his worship, we have the specification of a text. Such a divine provision in the Bible constitutes a prescription.

Overlooking the church’s obligation to utilize what the Lord has provided, the majority report was regarded as a justification for the production of the Trinity Hymnal (1961). However, this hymnal does not enable a church to discharge its responsibility to use the canon’s collected book of songs. The great bulk of the Psalter is omitted from the Trinity Hymnal, including even messianic passages in Psalms 16, 22 and 69 which are prominently referred to in the gospel narratives or in the apostolic proclamation of Christ (Matt. 23:38; 27:34-35, 39, 43, 46, 48; Mark 15:23-24, 29, 34; Luke 23:34; John 2:17; 19:23-24, 28; Acts 1:20; 2:27-31; 13:35-37; Rom. 11:9-10; 15:3).

Much confusion has arisen in our day because the church has ceased to think about worship ordinances with the specificity which is captured in the Westminster Confession’s exposition of biblical requirements. In this regard, Bushell’s cautionary words simply reflect the language of the Confession (XXI.v): “Strictly speaking, it is undesirable to insist that prayer, preaching, and singing, considered abstractly apart from their verbal content, are distinct or separate elements of worship. What we do insist upon is that the singing of Psalms, the preaching of the Word, and the reading of the Scriptures, are all separate and distinct elements of worship, or, as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, parts of the ordinary religious worship of God. It is not at all difficult to show that the singing of Psalms is a distinct element of worship. The existence of the Psalter in the canon of Scripture proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Poythress should be challenged ‘to prove from Scripture, rather than assume’ that the singing of uninspired hymns is a prescribed element of New Testament worship.”(93)

The use of canonical materials for worship song presents a likeness to the reading of the Scriptures. It is no recourse to a speculative argument from analogy when we point out this resemblance, because such arguments from analogy attach to a particular worship action a specification which the Scriptures themselves have not made concerning that action. But the comparison between worship song and the reading of the Scriptures arises from the Bible’s own provision of a canonical text in the case of the two ordinances.

Earlier we delved into the Puritan view of distinctness in worship requirements. Bushell is conforming to those confessional criteria when he states the implications of the Bible’s content-specific prescriptions. “It is argued that singing is a prescribed element of worship but that the specific content of the words which are sung is a circumstance of the act of singing which therefore lies within the realm of the discretionary power of the church. The problem with such reasoning is that it assumes that the church has the authority to determine all circumstances of worship, which is certainly not the case. Such reasoning also fails to recognize the fact that the specific content of worship song is determinable from Scripture, while the specific content of preaching is not. If there is a parallel to be drawn, it is between the reading of Scripture and the singing of Psalms, not between preaching and singing considered as mere abstractions. The reading of Scripture is certainly a prescribed element of worship, and yet the words which are read, even if they be circumstances of the act of reading, are restricted to those of the inspired canon. Which portion of Scripture is read lies within the power of the minister to determine, because it is not determinable from Scripture, but the collection from which he may choose is very strictly circumscribed. The same is true, we would suggest, of praise in song. Singing as an act of worship is the musical counterpart of reading as an act of worship. The presence of the Psalter in the canon of Scripture demands this conclusion. In both of these cases the content of the utterance, even if it be circumstantial to the act itself, is limited to certain portions of Scripture. So it does the advocate of uninspired hymns no good to argue that the content of the songs sung in worship is a ‘mere’ circumstance unless he can show that it is a circumstance not already prescribed in Scripture, a task which the presence of the Psalter in the canon of Scripture renders quite impossible.”(94)

Chapter III: What Is The Qualification For Writing Worship Song?

Worship Song and Prophecy

It is commonly assumed, and sometimes expressly stated, that inspiration is not a necessary qualification for writing worship song. Churches often pay little regard to the identity of the song writer, and much less is it asked whether the writer possessed the gift of prophecy. On the other hand, it is widely understood that the reading of the Word of God in worship employs a text which originated as inspired prophecy. Inspiration and canonicity of the text is indispensable to qualify it for use in that ordinance; the institution of that worship action is specific as to the text. If, when the Bible speaks of the source of worship song, it portrays the text as one produced by divine inspiration, then inspiration is a biblical norm for this ordinance as well. What does the Bible say about the source and quality of the text for worship song?

The objection that inspiration is not a necessary qualification for writing worship song has been stated by Leonard J. Coppes. Coppes is unwilling to grant that the song offered in ancient Israel’s worship was invariably inspired, though this was the period when Israel was the recipient of special revelation. Coppes suggests that David did not make such distinctions respecting the materials for worship. “It is unimaginable to this writer that he was concerned about whether or not his songs were inspired before he sang them to God. Indeed, as song writers of all ages he was probably concerned about beauty and clear expression of his thoughts. And as a godly person he was concerned to praise God in a way pleasing to Him, i.e., with theological accuracy. Songs used in worship met the users’ standards of beauty and truth and may or may not have been inspired.”(95) In endeavoring to advance specifications other than inspiration, Coppes gives a definition of song which presupposes that inspiration is not pertinent. Distinguishing the song’s form from its subject matter, Coppes asserts that the criterion for the song’s form is aesthetic beauty, and the only test for its content is harmony with the biblical message.(96)

This objection fails to take into account the extensive biblical data depicting the text of worship song as given through inspired prophecy. We may begin with David’s affirmation that the Spirit of God speaks by him, and note the reference he makes to his psalms in this connection:(97) “Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel: The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God .” (II Sam 23:1-3, RSV.) This poetic oracle shows a number of thematic links with the Davidic psalm which immediately precedes it, in II Samuel 22.(98) The meaning of the Hebrew noun ne’um is well captured when the RSV twice renders it in II Sam. 23:1 as “oracle.” The noun is found 360 times in the Old Testament. “This root is used exclusively of divine speaking. Our noun occurs only as a formula declaring the divine origin and authority of the message so described. The noun ought to be rendered something like ‘a revelatory utterance of Jehovah’.”(99) The word is customarily appropriated for claims by the prophets that their words are given to them by God (Jer. 23:31, Ezek. 13:7). Accordingly, the New Testament calls David a prophet when it cites his songs (Acts 2:29-31; cf. Matt. 22:43-44, Mark 12:36, Acts 1:16-17, 4:24-25).

A constant feature of Israelite prophecy is that the Lord’s messenger was conscious of speaking under inspiration, as is evident with David. “The psychological conviction which they themselves had that God had actually spoken to them” is something which Edward J. Young says “characterized the entire history of the prophetic movement.”(100) “There is a wondrous ease with which they speak forth in the assurance that Jehovah has first spoken to them. They came before the nation, not as religious leaders who have a word to speak in their own name, but rather as those who are compelled to give utterance to a word which has come to them from Jehovah.”(101)

David acted as a prophet not only in writing worship song, but also in conveying God’s appointments for the music of the sanctuary. David instructed certain families of the Levites to undertake the service of song in the house of the Lord (I Chron. 6:31-32; 15:14-22, 27; 16:4-7, 37-42; 23:25-28, 30; 25:1-7). Thereafter, kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah restored the worship to the pattern which the Lord had ordained through David, and this purity of worship included the use of the song texts written by the prophets: “And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets .Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.” (II Chron. 29:25, 30; cf. 5:11-14; 7:6; 8:14; 23:18; 35:2-5, 15; Ezra 3:10-11; Neh. 12:24-29, 36, 40-47.) In these passages, David is numbered among the prophets, or the equivalent designation “man of God” is accorded him. These appointments for worship song in the temple are but one element in the comprehensive directions which God gave through David for the subsequent worship of Israel (I Chron. 28:11-13, 19).(102)

Moreover, it was not David alone who wrote as a prophet in the production of worship song. The appointed temple singers are themselves regularly designated as seers. Asaph was a seer (II Chron. 29:30; cf. Matt. 13:35), and the Psalm titles attribute to him or his family Psalms 50 and 73-83. Jeduthun, who is named in the titles to Psalms 39, 62 and 77, was another seer (II Chron. 35:15), as was Heman (I Chron. 25:5).(103) Three Hebrew words, as well as the expression “man of God,” are used in the Old Testament to designate prophets and seers. The word used of the musicians, hozeh, “preserves awareness that God sometimes made revelation to the prophets by visions.”(104) That the seer should be identified with the prophet, nabi’, is indicated in II Kings 17:13, Amos 7:12, and Isa. 29:10, and hozeh is used as a title for individual prophets in II Sam. 24:11, I Chron. 21:9, II Chron. 9:29 and 29:25. The verb form is used in seventeen passages to describe the activity of the prophets (I Chron. 17:15, II Chron. 32:32, Lam. 2:9, Hab. 1:1, etc.).(105)

Using a different term, ro’eh, “of near identical meaning,”(106) the Scriptures tell us that Samuel was a seer, and that this term was an early name for the prophets of Israel (I Sam. 9:9, 19; cf. I Chron. 26:28; II Chron. 16:7-10). This word is used of Samuel when he is mentioned together with David as those who ordained the ministries in which the Levites are to engage (I Chron. 9:22). Elsewhere, in II Chron. 29:25, we are told that the musical service in the temple was divinely instituted, through David, Gad the king’s hozeh, and Nathan the nabi’. The words hozeh and ro’eh are used synonymously in Isa. 30:10, and all three words for the prophet or seer are found in I Chron. 29:29. Edward J. Young comments: “The word nabhi stresses the active work of the prophet, in speaking forth the message from God. The principal word used to designate the prophets was nabi’. Two other words are also used, namely ro’eh and hozeh, which are practical synonyms. Both stress the method of receiving revelation, namely, seeing. At the same time, the function of those who are designated by these terms is that of declaring the word of God. The three words, therefore, are used to designate the same individual, namely the prophet.”(107) Alfred Jepsen reviews the biblical evidence that a vision is “an event in which words are received,” citing such texts as I Sam. 3:1; II Sam. 7:4, 17; Ps. 89:19; Isa. 2:1 and Obad. 1 (and cf. Nah. 1:1, where a vision issues in a written book).(108)

The activity of these singers, who produced worship song and sang it in the temple, is expressly ascribed to prophecy (I Chron. 25:1-7): “Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals the sons of Asaph under the hands of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king. Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord. Of Heman: All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn. All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps. So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight.” David Petersen is one of many scholars who have drawn attention to the Chronicler’s “depiction of the Levitical singers as prophets. The singers of David’s time were labeled in the same fashion as were the court prophets Gad and Nathan. Furthermore, Levitical singers throughout Israelite history were often described as having performed classical prophetic functions. Even the essential work of the singers, the cultic song, was, according to the Chronicler, prophetic performance.”(109) Simon De Vries calls Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun “revelational instruments coordinate in authority with the prophets.”(110) More recently, Roger Beckwith comments that the Chronicler “seems to imply that they not only performed inspired psalms but composed them. The prophetic language is repeated and varied, and there seems to be no reason why it should not be given its full weight.”(111)

B. B. Warfield reminds us of what was involved when a man prophesied: “That which gives to prophecy as a mode of revelation its place in the category of visions, strictly so called, and dreams, is that it shares with them the distinguishing characteristic which determines the class. In them all alike the movements of the mind are determined by something extraneous to the subject’s will, or rather, since we are speaking of supernaturally given dreams and visions, extraneous to the totality of the subject’s own psychoses. A power not himself takes possession of his consciousness and determines it according to its will. That power, in the case of the prophets, was fully recognized and energetically asserted to be Jehovah Himself or, to be more specific, the Spirit of Jehovah (I Sam. 10:6, 10; Neh. 9:30; Zech. 7:12; Joel 2:28-29). The prophets were therefore ‘men of the Spirit’ (Hos. 9:7). What constituted them prophets was that the Spirit was put upon them (Isa. 42:1) or poured out on them (Joel 2:28-29), and they were consequently filled with the Spirit (Mic. 3:8), or, in another but equivalent locution, that ‘the hand’ of the Lord, or ‘the power of the hand’ of the Lord, was upon them (II Kings 3:15; Ezek. 1:3; 3:14, 22; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1), that is to say, they were under the divine control. This control is represented as complete and compelling, so that, under it, the prophet becomes not the ‘mover,’ but the ‘moved’ in the formation of his message. The apostle Peter very purely reflects the prophetic consciousness in his well-known declaration: ‘No prophecy of scripture comes of private interpretation; for the prophecy was never brought by the will of man; but it was as borne by the Holy Spirit that men spoke from God’ (II Pet. 1:20-21). To be ‘borne’ is not the same as to be led, much less to be guided or directed: he that is ‘borne’ contributes nothing to the movement induced, but is the object to be moved.”(112)

It is therefore not surprising to find that the Levitical temple singers were not confined to prophesying by music, for Jahaziel, one of the sons of Asaph, delivered an oracle by the Spirit, in answer to the prayer of King Jehoshaphat (II Chron. 20:14-19), just as other prophets gave answers to the same king in I Kings 22 and II Kings 3. There is a remarkable sequel to this prophecy by a temple singer. Upon hearing Jahaziel’s words, the Levites stood up to praise the Lord, and the king encouraged Judah to believe God and his prophets. The oracle was actually fulfilled when the king appointed singers unto the Lord, going out before the army, and saying, “Praise the Lord, for his mercy endureth for ever,” whereupon the Lord set ambushments against the enemy, who destroyed one another (20:20-28). Thus in the Chronicler’s account of Josiah’s reform of the temple worship, narrative material is taken from II Kings, but “the priests and the Levites” is used at II Chron. 34:30 as a substitute for “the priests and the prophets” in II Kings 23:2.(113) In a major study of the biblical canon, Anglican evangelical Roger Beckwith comments that whatever authority was accorded to the prophetic order, more than to those “rulers, courtiers, Temple officials and wise men” who wrote Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ezra, and Nehemiah, yet “as the divine inspiration of psalmists and wise men came to be recognized (II Sam. 23:1-3; I Chron. 25:1, 5; II Chron. 29:30; Ecc. 12:11-12), the distinction would have ceased to have very much significance.”(114)

Though the Psalm titles designate David himself as the author of seventy-three of the Psalms, we have seen that the Levitical families assigned to musical service in the temple are associated with many of the other songs. The sons of Korah (I Chron. 6:31-38, II Chron. 20:19) are responsible for Psalms 42, 44-49, 84, 87 and 88. Over forty references are made to the temple musicians in the Books of Chronicles. Impressed with this institutional status of the temple singers in the Books of Chronicles, Old Testament scholars from a number of theological traditions have come to speak of “prophetic guilds” attached to the temple and responsible for the production of inspired psalmody.(115) Roland de Vaux concludes, with respect to the Levitical singers, that “the Chronicler considered them as ‘inspired’ and he may have done so merely because the writing and singing of psalms required a kind of inspiration,”(116) and William Schniedewind, in a recent study of prophecy in Chronicles, concurs: “This opinion is substantiated by I Chron. 25:1-6. The production of psalms was apparently considered an inspired act.”(117) Schniedewind observes that “The prophetic title hozeh given to Asaph in II Chron. 29:30 relates to his position making music in the temple. All the contexts which employ the title hozeh for the levitical singers are intimately tied with the making of music.”(118) Sara Japhet writes: “The singers are called ‘seers’ first of all because they are regarded as composers of the Temple psalmody, probably already seen as the product of divine inspiration. Thus in II Chron. 29:30: ‘to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer’.”(119) And Beckwith notes that “The inspiration of David, Asaph and Heman the Psalmists is taught in II Sam. 23:1f. (cp. ch. 22); I Chron. 25:1f., 5; II Chron. 29:30. The Psalms were, of course, used in a somewhat different way from the other Scriptures, but it is certainly as Scripture that they were used.”(120)

The tent of meeting and the ark of the covenant had long been the special venue for divine revelation. Moses was told to resort to the tabernacle to receive instruction from God (Exod. 25:21-22, 33:6-11, Num. 7:89, 12:4-10), and it was there that God gave him a song to write, which would be a witness in the mouths of the children of Israel (Deut. 31:14-15, 19-26). When the high priest went into the holy place, he wore the Urim and the Thumim (Exod. 28:29-30), and by these obtained an answer from God, in the generations after Moses (Num. 27:21; I Sam. 14:18, 36-42; 28:6). It was at the tabernacle in Shiloh that the Lord revealed himself to Samuel, speaking to him (I Sam. 3:1-14, 21; cf. I Chron. 13:3).(121) The musical prophesying by Levitical families in the Solomonic temple is the perpetuation of such communication from God at the ark of the covenant. The Levites had been charged with the care of the ark. We are told that when the deposit of the ark in Jerusalem freed the Levites from the burden of carrying it, they were reassigned to the task of prophesying in song in the presence of the ark (Deut. 10:8; I Chron. 6:31; 15:2, 16-28; 22:19 with 23:25-32; II Chron. 35:3-4, 14-15); one form of ministry related to the ark and the sanctuary is exchanged for another.(122) (See Appendix A: The Levitical Ministry at the Ark.) Thus David’s procession, with the Levites conveying the ark to its final resting place in Jerusalem, is the commencement of the Levites’ musical service at the ark (I Chron. 15:16-22, 27-28; 16:4-7, 37-42).(123)

Full of interest is the outbreak of prophetic song just before David. The band of prophets associated with Samuel were engaged in musical prophesying. In I Sam. 10:5-7 (cf. 10:9-13), Samuel gives Saul a sign of his call to be king: “After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.” E. J. Young observes that “the actual act of prophesying took some form of singing or ecstatic utterance.”(124) Later, when David seeks refuge from Saul, he associates himself with Samuel and the company of the prophets prophesying (I Sam. 19:18). Heman, one of David’s Levitical temple singers, was the grandson of Samuel (I Chron. 6:33-38; cf. I Sam. 1:1, 8:2). Later, in the incident in II Kings 3:11-16 when King Jehoshaphat seeks divine counsel, Elisha calls for a minstrel to play, so that he may deliver the word of the Lord. Geerhardus Vos draws an interesting connection between the musical prophesying among the group-prophets, and revelatory tongue-speaking in the New Testament, and remarks concerning the phenomena of Samuel’s day: “That the collective bodies were recipients of supernaturally-communicated truth is plain, nevertheless. They ‘prophesied,’ and this can scarcely mean anything else than that they had been touched by the Spirit in a supernatural manner. As regards music, it is interesting to note that, according to I Chronicles 25:1, the temple-singers by their singing ‘prophesied’.”(125)

A prelude to this musical activity is found in the days of the Judges, when Deborah appears as a prophetess (Judg. 4:4), and delivers the song recorded in Judges 5. Consistent with this overlap of worship song and prophecy, several of the prophets outside the temple service have psalms in their inspired literary production, as, for example, Nahum 1 and Habakkuk 3 (cf. verse 19). And when we go back to the earliest worship song in Israel, we find that Psalm 90 bears the title “A prayer of Moses the man of God” (cf. Deut. 31:19-22). Moses of course stands at the head of a series of prophets (Deut. 18:15-19); the term “man of God” is used of Moses when reference is made to his prophetic utterances (Deut. 33:1, Josh. 14:6, II Chron. 30:16, Ezra 3:2), and is also found in connection with the prophetic oracles in such passages as I Sam. 2:27-30, 9:6-10, I Kings 12:22-24, 13:1-5, 17:24, II Kings 5:8, 6:8-12, 7:17, 8:7-13, II Chron. 11:2-4, and 25:7-10.(126) At the commencement of song in Israel, Exod. 15:20-21 tells us that Miriam, who led the women in song after the deliverance at the Red Sea, had the status of a prophetess (cf. Num. 12:1-2, 5-8; Micah 6:4).(127)

The New Testament canon includes no book of collected worship song. Any worship song given by the Spirit in the New Testament church is either unrecorded in Scripture, or is remarkable for its sparsity there, in contrast to the great wealth of the Psalter. Nevertheless, the New Testament does confirm what we have learned in the Old Testament about the source of worship song. The one passage in the New Testament which provides any extensive context for the question is I Corinthians 14.

When the apostle exhorts his readers in Corinth to use the gift of tongues for the edification of one another, he speaks of praying, singing, blessing God and giving thanks (I Cor. 14:14-17). Because tongues are unknown to the hearers, they must be interpreted in order that this praise may be understood by fellow worshippers. In using the word “mystery” (I Cor. 14:2), Paul alerts us that tongues are a mode of divine revelation, “for the term is a central one in Paul’s vocabulary for revelation. It emphasizes that what is revealed is inaccessible to human effort and disclosed by God unilaterally. Consequently, ‘mysteries’ specifies the inspired, revelatory nature of tongues as well as prophecy.”(128) It was by revelation that God made known to Paul the mystery of Christ, now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Eph. 3:2-6; cf. 3:8-10, Rom 16:25-26, 11:25, Col. 1:25-27, I Cor. 2:7-10, 13:2, 15:51-52). Richard Gaffin concludes that “for tongues, as well as prophecy, a revelatory aspect is at the core of the gift and inseparable from it.”(129)

Tongues are a form of prophecy (Acts 2:4, 16-18; 19:6). George W. Knight comments that prophecy itself appears in I Cor. 14:29-31 as the same phenomenon known to the Old Testament prophets, and he observes: “Not only does Paul use the key term ‘revelation’ within his discussion of prophecy, but he uses it as the key word to describe the entire phenomenon of prophecy in verse 26.”(130) It was the Spirit of God who spoke through the New Testament prophets, just as with prophecy under the old covenant (Luke 1:67; Acts 2:4, 16-18; 11:27-28; 13:1-2; 19:6; 21:10-11; I Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; I Pet. 1:10-12; II Pet. 1:19-21). “Prophetic proclamation,” writes Gaffin, “is Spirit-worked speech of such a quality that its authority resides just in that inspired origin.”(131) Gaffin finds confirmation of this in I Cor. 14:14 (cf. 14:2, 15-16), endorsing a translation which identifies the Holy Spirit as the originator of the words of prayer and song: “the Spirit in me prays, but my intellect lies fallow.”(132)

Gaffin has also noted the functional similarity between this singing in the Spirit and the Book of Psalms: “Paul says that ‘one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God’ (I Cor. 14:2) and that tongues involve ‘praying,’ ‘singing,’ and ‘giving thanks’ to God (14:14-17). An argument sometimes raised against the revelatory nature of tongues at Corinth is that this Godward direction of tongues is not the direction of revelation. Such an appeal, however, overlooks the Psalms and other doxological portions of Scripture. Are we to say that because they are addressed to God and not to men, they are therefore not revelation? On the contrary, with their Godward direction they are inspired revelation and recorded in Scripture in order that they may edify his covenant people, and this is precisely what (interpreted) tongues also are to do (14:5).”(133)

The apostle’s teaching in I Corinthians 14 attributes the same revelatory character to worship song as belonged to the song texts which the Spirit gave through temple singers, seers and men of God under the old covenant. Respecting other worship ordinances, the New Testament tells us about speech that is not revelatory. There are pastors expounding a text that has already been deposited by prophets (II Tim. 1:13-14; 2:2, 15; Titus 1:9; 2:1). Even at Corinth, not all believers were given revelatory gifts for prayer and prophesying (I Cor. 12:4-11, 15-19, 27-30; cf. Rom. 12:3-8). But wherever the New Testament refers to the reading in the synagogues or in the churches (Luke 4:16-19, Acts 13:14-15, 15:21, Col. 4:16, I Thess. 5:27, Rev. 1:3), it is from inspired literature.(134) And wherever New Testament writers comment on the source of worship song, it is the singing of canonical literature, or singing which arises from prophecy. It is sometimes suggested that the doxologies by Elisabeth, Mary, Zacharias, Simeon and Anna, recorded in Luke 1 and 2, were intended for use as worship song in the churches. Whether or not this be so, Luke represents these men and women as prophesying by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41-42 with 67; 2:25-28, 36-38).

At the conclusion of this study we will examine Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. Suffice it to say at present that the Scriptures themselves provide the most relevant data for determining the identity of the worship song to which the apostle refers in those texts. The New Testament’s allusions will be misapprehended if we overlook what both testaments alike tell us about worship song as prophecy. Just as the household baptisms (Acts 16:15, 33; I Cor. 1:16) are not to be explained apart from the long-established status of children as recipients of the sign of the covenant of grace, so Paul’s allusions to psalms, hymns and spiritual songs scan a history of revelation in which the words used in worship song are nothing less than the oracles of God. In that long history, worship song is as much the Word of God as are ethical legislation, historical narrative and prophetic oration. Though apologists for uninspired hymns disconnect the Psalter’s biblically-assigned function as a book of worship song from its divine inspiration, the only worship song which the Bible knows is that which comes by prophetic revelation. Accordingly, when the apostle calls for the use of such songs of praise as he designates “spiritual,” he enlists a word which in all but one of its twenty-five occurrences in the New Testament refers to what belongs to or is determined by the Holy Spirit; never does the word designate merely a religious function, or what is produced by the human spirit.(135) When the word is used of men, as in I Cor. 2:15, 3:1, and Gal. 6:1, it indicates men savingly renewed and led by the Spirit. But when the term is applied to words and texts, as it is in Rom. 7:14 and I Cor. 2:13, it plainly denotes Spirit-indited, in the sense of revelatory prophecy;(136) the only other instances in which it is used with respect to words and texts are Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16.

The Normative in Apostolic Worship

The majority report (1947) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God gave what has become an influential argument for disregarding inspiration as a criterion for the selection of worship song. This argument by the majority may be divided into four elements for consideration. First, the majority report pleads that an argument based on the distinction between inspired and uninspired song “sometimes fails to take due account of the fact that the New Testament deals with conditions in the early church which have not been continued and which cannot be our present norm. Any singing by the apostles could be considered ‘inspired’; and charismatic singing, also ‘inspired’, was then prevalent. But the apostles had no successors and the charismata have ceased. To adopt the distinction ‘inspired’ and ‘uninspired’ may thus introduce the fallacy of arguing from the temporary practice of the early church to our permanent duty. It is better to use a distinction which can be employed without this confusion in a statement of the permanent requirements of Scripture for the Christian church.”(137)

The majority report assumes that the inspired texts of the early church cannot be our present norm because the charismata have ceased. However, the report has wrongly stated what is normative about the apostolic church. Arguing from the inability of the church today to engage in charismatic singing, the report draws the unwarranted conclusion that inspired texts produced during the period of revelation are no longer normative. But the church’s present inability to produce inspired texts does not justify a departure from the use of inspired texts previously given.

After all, the church possesses in the canon of Scripture a deposit of inspired materials functionally equivalent to the prophecy known in the apostolic church. When the Holy Scriptures provide us with a text, and direct us to employ that text for a certain act of worship, whether reading or singing, the deposit of inspired materials permanently holds a unique and authoritative status. The absence of prophetic gifts in the modern church does not affect this principle in the least. It is a telling omission that the majority report never considers the bearing of canonicity upon the selection of worship song. Writing in the minority report, John Murray pointed out the implications of a canonical provision: “But the Scripture does prescribe for us the way in which we are to worship God in the conditions that are permanent in the church. We are to restrict ourselves to those inspired materials made available to us by the Scripture itself.”(138)

Secondly, committee chairman Robert Marsden contended that since any text found in the Bible is divinely inspired, the inspired record of song texts carries no implications for what is normative in the church’s singing of praise. In the pages of The Presbyterian Guardian, Marsden sought to explain differences between the two parties on the committee: “The primary objection which has been offered is that we have no evidence in Scripture that there is warrant for singing uninspired compositions. The difficulty in dealing with this argument will immediately be apparent. What these brethren would ask is the impossible – that we cite from Scripture the use of an uninspired song. The very fact that it is in the Scripture guarantees that any song we cite from Scripture is inspired! Who could possibly find an uninspired song in Scripture, and would the Lord demand the completion of so impossible a task before He would permit the singing of uninspired songs to His praise? It would thus be impossible to prove that uninspired songs are authorized in the Scripture, and to demand such proof before one can in good conscience sing uninspired songs is to demand the impossible!”(139)

It should be granted that the biblical text includes the report of such things as the lying statements of the devil, and the conversations of men who spoke without the gift of prophecy. In these cases, the Holy Spirit inspires the accurate recording and the appropriate interpretation of what was said. However, Marsden’s objection is misguided because it fails to consider the biblical testimony that it was through prophesying that worship song first came into being. Rather than only the later report of these songs being inspired, the Scriptures declare that the text of worship song possessed an inspiration from the outset, when these songs were first delivered to the church by the seers and prophets. Thus, while the minority report noted that the only worship song known to the Bible is that produced by divine inspiration,(140) Marsden discounted this, insisting that the pattern of inspired song in Scripture could not be taken as normative for us.

Marsden’s argument indicates that he had not fully taken into account the proscriptive character of the regulative principle. Marsden says that it would “be impossible to prove that uninspired songs are authorized in the Scripture,” but instead of recognizing that this means that uninspired hymns cannot be justified under the regulative principle, he dismisses the central question of whether inspiration is a criterion, and looks for suggestions which might yet favor the cause of an uninspired hymnody.(141)

The majority report offers a third reason for not restricting worship song to inspired texts. A primary thesis of the report is that there are texts in the New Testament which were used for song in the apostolic church, and that the presence of these songs indicates “that our song should embrace the whole extent of God’s revelation in Scripture,” including the progression of revelation in the New Testament. On these grounds, it is urged that “the distinction between ‘inspired’ and ‘uninspired’ song may fail to take into consideration all the Biblical evidence.”(142) In other words, the Bible leads us to conclude that songs are needed which reflect distinctively New Testament revelation, and this necessity allows us to lay aside inspiration as a requirement. The report argues that the song texts of the Bible may appropriately be supplemented from outside the canon, in order that worship song can reflect progression of revelation.

The starting point for this thesis is the assertion that hymn texts sung in the worship of the apostolic church are found in the New Testament Scriptures. Besides pointing to the Book of Revelation’s accounts of singing in heaven,(143) the report says that certain prayers and poetic sections of the New Testament may have been songs used in the church. “There is in the New Testament an expansion of song in adjustment to the wider limits of revelation. New songs were used in praise, songs fitted for the new dispensation, and not confined to the words of the Old Testament. Such was the hymn of Mary, recorded in Luke 1:46-55. The songs of Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79) and Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) introduce New Testament elements. A further example of a song containing New Testament elements may occur in I Tim. 3:16. The Greek in this verse actually does present the appearance of poetry. ‘The short unconnected sentences in which the words are similarly arranged, and the number of syllables almost equal, while the ideas are antithetically related, are so suitable to religious hymns that we find all these characteristics in a series of later hymns used by the Greek and Latin church’. Lock cites three reasons why it is at least a quotation: the rhythmical form, the use of words not found elsewhere in Paul (‘manifested,’ ‘believed,’ ‘received’), and the statement of ideas which go beyond the requirements of the text. Thus while there cannot be dogmatic certainty there is at least strong assurance that the best of all suggested interpretations is that which regards this passage as a hymn of praise, customarily employed in early Christian worship. If so, it is again an example of song, the materials of which are derived explicitly from the New Testament revelation.”(144)

The first problem with this line of argument is that the New Testament itself nowhere tells us, either explicitly or by any necessary inference, that the so-called Lucan canticles and alleged hymnic fragments were songs, much less that they were so used in the church’s worship. Though the majority report appeals to poetic or rhythmical passages in the New Testament, and surmises that they were used for song in the apostolic church, never does Scripture make any such identification of their function.

The significant point here is that propositions which fall short of being a necessary inference from Scripture do not amount to a Scripture authorization for worship practice. Anything less than a necessary consequence from Scripture is not something taught by Scripture, for only the necessary meaning of Scripture is the truth of Scripture. To deny this is to abandon the Westminster Confession’s definition of the regulative principle (, and to give the character of divine truth to speculative suppositions. The majority report is careless in contenting itself with men’s suggestions in matters about which Scripture is silent. It is common for advocates of uninspired hymns to imagine what use might have been made of rhythmic texts, and to make these suppositions the pillar on which to rest a warrant for worship practice. However, the majority report is forced to fall back on claims of probability, precisely because Scripture does not require the conclusions which are claimed.

The starting point for the majority’s progression-of-revelation thesis is a speculation concerning the use of these texts, and therefore the terms of the regulative principle are evaded in the premise on which the thesis is contingent. Because the thesis begins with what is conjectural, it cannot establish a sanction from Scripture. There is an obvious contrast when we turn to the Bible’s testimony concerning the Psalter, for we have biblical narrative showing the Psalter’s place in public worship, and the Psalter itself contains directions that it be used as worship song.

A passage to which the majority report does not appeal is I Corinthians 14, with its references to revelatory tongues in the form of singing. If an attempt were made to demonstrate from Scripture statements that the singing referred to in I Corinthians 14 contained a revelation with distinctively New Testament content, the passage nevertheless indicates that this song bore the qualities of inspired prophetic utterance known in the generation of the apostles. Any argument against the sufficiency of the Old Testament Psalter must still defer to the biblical norm of an inspired text for worship song.

John Murray pointed out the major fallacy at this point in the majority’s argument. A claim for the necessity of songs with a characteristically New Testament content does not entail the suggested consequence that inspiration may be set aside as a criterion of song, though this is incautiously assumed by the report. The presumption in the majority’s argument is that in order to obtain songs with distinctively New Testament content, we should be free to draw upon uninspired materials. This is obviously not a necessary consequence. The majority plead that there are hymnic texts in the New Testament, but they are not satisfied to use these inspired texts. The majority declare that their argument is for New Testament content, but the conclusion they draw goes further, claiming that the supposed necessity to go outside the Old Testament allows us to go outside the canon.(145) However, the biblical testimony is that the text of worship song is given through revelatory prophecy; it is gratuitous to discover a warrant for laying aside this Scripture norm by appealing to the progression-of-revelation principle.(146)

Later in this study we shall examine at length the bearing which progression of revelation has upon the sufficiency of the Old Testament Psalter. At the moment, however, it should be noted that God has supplied us both with a canonical Psalter, and also with a completed canon with which to interpret the fullness of meaning found in the inspired words of the Psalter. The second of these functions is explicitly illustrated in such New Testament passages as Matt. 5:5, 17-19 (Ps. 37:11); 13:10-15, 34-35 (Ps. 78:2); 21:4-16 (Pss. 8:2, 118:25-26); 21:33-45 (Ps. 118:22); 22:41-46 (Ps. 110:1); 26:63-64 (Ps. 110:1); 27:35-46 (Pss. 22:1, 7-8, 18; 109:25); Mark 12:35-37 (Ps. 110:1); 15:24, 34 (Pss. 22:1, 18); Luke 1:41-55 (Pss. 35:9, 107:9); 1:67-79 (Pss. 41:13, 72:18, 89:52, 106:10); 19:35-40 (Ps. 118:25-26); 20:41-44 (Ps. 110:1); 22:66-71 (Ps. 110:1); 23:34 (Ps. 22:18); 23:46 (Ps. 31:5); 24:27, 44-47; John 2:13-17 (Ps. 69:9); 6:30-33 (Pss. 78:24, 105:40); 10:30-36 (Ps. 82:6); 12:12-16 (Ps. 118:25-26); 13:18-21 (Ps. 41:9); 15:21-25 (Pss. 35:19, 69:4); 19:24 (Ps. 22:18); 19:31-36 (Ps. 34:20); Acts 2:25-36 (Pss. 16:8-11, 110:1); 4:10-12 (Ps. 118:22); 4:24-28 (Pss. 2:1-2, 146:6); 13:30-37 (Pss. 2:7, 16:10); Rom. 4:4-8 (Ps. 32:1-2); 8:35-39 (Ps. 44:22); 15:8-12 (Pss. 18:49, 117:1); I Cor. 10:25-27 (Ps. 24:1); 15:22-27 (Ps. 8:6); Eph. 1:20-23 (Ps. 8:6); 4:7-13 (Ps. 68:18); Heb. 1:3-14 (Pss. 2:7, 45:5-6, 97:7, 102:25-27, 110:1); 2:5-12 (Pss. 8:4-6, 22:22); 4:1-11 (Ps. 95:7-11); 5:1-10 (Pss. 2:7, 110:4); 7:11-28 (Ps. 110:4); 10:1-14 (Pss. 40:6-8, 110:1); and I Pet. 2:4-8 (Ps. 118:22).

The Old Testament Psalter is the only canonical book of worship song, but it is to be understood through the light thrown upon it by the completed canon. If it could be shown that the revelatory song spoken of in I Corinthians 14 embraced a progression of revelation, the obvious explanation for this inclusive reach of content is not adverse to the argument for canonical psalmody. Tongues and prophecy were exercised in the worship of the apostolic church as a transient divine provision to fill the gap until the New Testament revelation had been committed to writing. With the completion of the canon, the exercise of extraordinary prophetic utterance, whether in prose or in song, was withdrawn from the church, and the church’s worship was left dependent on the sufficiency of the written canon, both for song texts and for the interpretation of those song texts.(147)

Fourth, the majority report dismisses inspiration as a criterion by appealing to the nature of worship as a response of the church to divine revelation.(148) It is certainly true that the exercise of singing praise is a response to God. But the report fails to recognize that it is a further question whether the text of the song we sing is itself revelation, or a production subsequent to revelation. The biblical testimony is that God provides the text of worship song to the church through revelatory prophecy, and the church employs the divine revelation. The majority report assumes that God makes his revelation, and then the church responds with words of its own. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s recent reprint of the committee reports is given a title which reflects this perspective: Our Songs in God’s Worship.

The Sufficiency of the Biblical Canon

Implicit throughout the argument presented by the majority report (1947) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God is the notion that the use of uninspired texts which carry a biblical message can be preferable to the use of many inspired texts, in one of the very functions of worship for which God provided the inspired texts. This overlooks the transcendent qualities of truth, authority and wisdom which are unrivaled in an inspired text. We recall the effort by Poythress to minimize the distinction between Scripture and commentary, which is a natural corollary of the argument favoring uninspired hymnody above texts given by inspiration of God for use as worship song.(149) James Bannerman (1807-68) put the matter in perspective when writing against the nineteenth-century downgrade of biblical inspiration: “The divine fulness of thought and truth found in Scripture distinguishes it in a marked manner from other books. I refer to those truths which are contained in Scripture, implicitly rather than by express or formal assertion, and which are found underlying the words rather than exhibited on the surface of them. There are divine ideas and truths underlying the surface of Scripture language, and really contained in its statements, which are not expressly or directly stated; but which are a part of the mind of God as much as any that are formally and articulately uttered. Scripture inferences, rightly drawn from Scripture, are as much a part of revelation as its express letter. What is contained in the Word of God under the form of implied truth, is, no less than the words themselves, a fruit of inspired wisdom. Nothing else could be expected when the mind of the Infinite Intelligence was embodied in human language. Beneath and within the letter of such a revelation, there is a length and breadth, and height and depth of divine wisdom inexhaustible, looking out upon us from its words with a fulness which the words cannot contain. Far under the surface of its language there is a well of truth springing up unto everlasting life; and it needs but that we should draw from its depths, to learn that it is divine and unfathomable.”(150)

Hugh Martin (1822-85) followed Calvin and Owen in reflecting upon the incomparable relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Scriptures he authored, so that they are faithful to his mind and accompanied by his omnipotent efficacy as no other writings could be. “For the Spirit enters into his own Word. He expresses himself by means of it. He can do so without compromise of his own mind, or constraint upon his own thoughts or feelings, because it is his own Word. It expresses what the Spirit of Christ doth ‘signify’ (I Pet. 1:11). It does full justice to his meaning. He will not disown it, therefore. And it will not dishonour him. He and his own utterances – the Spirit and the Word – are wholly consentient. Their living coalescence, therefore, is possible. And it is guaranteed. Their divulsion is, in fact, inconceivable. And the Word is thus quick and powerful by the Spirit. The Spirit is intelligible by the Word.”(151)

However, the case for the church confining its worship song to the text of Scripture is not based simply on the superior qualities of an inspired text, but on the sufficiency of Scripture for the purposes for which the Lord has given the canonical text. The Lord has appointed the ordinance of worship song for the church of the Old and New Testaments, and in the canon of Scripture has supplied us with a collected book of worship song; thus one of the functions which the Lord intends Scripture to fulfill is to act as a text for worship song. The Bible does not represent prayer or preaching as the recitation of a set text, but there is a striking contrast with respect to song texts, which the people were taught to recite so that they would have the Lord’s own witness in their mouths (Deut. 31:19-22). Texts were given for repeated use in the temple (I Chron. 16:4-43, II Chron. 29:27-30, and fifty-five Psalms bearing the caption “To the chief musician”), culminating in the Book of Psalms as a textual collection which enjoys canonical authority. Where then is the sufficiency of Scripture for religious practice, when it is argued that the Bible’s song texts may be supplemented from outside the canon, to supply a religious function for which the canon itself undeniably intends to make provision?

John Murray’s minority report for the OPC committee set forth this sufficiency of Scripture with respect to canonical psalmody: “But the Scripture does prescribe for us the way in which we are to worship God in the conditions that are permanent in the church. We are to restrict ourselves to those inspired materials made available to us by the Scripture itself.”(152) The majority report contends that while Scripture prescribes an orthodox message for worship song, it does not require that the text of worship song possess the quality of divine inspiration.(153) However, the normative status of the biblical canon means more than that we must submit to the message of Scripture. It is also a matter of the unique propriety of the biblical text itself for those acts of worship for which the Lord has patently provided a text for recitation.

The canon has a twofold function with respect to worship ordinances. Not only does the canon serve as an authoritative rule of what practice is permitted in worship, but it also supplies the text to be recited in certain specified acts of worship. From the first existence of the Mosaic legislation, that body of writing was to be read to the people as a part of worship. The words of the covenant were given not only to institute acceptable worship actions, but also to serve as the text to be read in worship (Exod. 24:3-8, Deut. 31:9-13 and 19-22, II Kings 23:1-3, II Chron. 34:29-32, Neh. 8:1-8, 8:18-9:3, 13:1-3, Luke 4:16-20, Col. 4:16, I Thess. 5:27).(154) Meredith Kline appropriately notes that the text of the Psalter provided Israel’s worship with the vehicle for confessing the Lord’s acts of covenant faithfulness, “responses suitable for recitation in ceremonies of covenant reaffirmation where those acts were memorialized (cf. Deut. 26:1ff.; Josh. 24:16-18).”(155)

Some may say that the regulative principle should be brought to bear upon novelties which outrage the church’s sensibilities, but that the regulative principle is strained when it operates to restrict worship song to a canonical text. However, closer consideration shows the intrinsic relevance of the regulative principle to this issue. A select and sufficient canon is the indispensable presupposition for the operation of the regulative principle. The limitations enunciated in the regulative principle are dependent upon the restriction inherent in an authoritative canon; there is a like confinement, reflecting the sufficiency and perfection of Holy Scripture. The regulative principle excludes worship forms not prescribed in Scripture, and this function is grounded in turn upon the normative character of the select books in the biblical canon.

Moreover, the specific exegetical warrant for the regulative principle is closely bound up with the Bible’s declarations respecting the canon. In the writings of Moses, the ten commandments are announced as a canon to which nothing may be added by men (Deut. 5:22). The completion of the Mosaic legislation is a further step in the canon (Deut. 4:2): “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” The Mosaic legislation specifically ties the worship of God to the concept of a select canon; in Deut. 12:28-13:5, instruction about worship is undergirded by a warning against false prophets who add a word not from God. Here we may observe the regulative principle of worship taking its rise from the unique authority of the biblical canon: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. If there arise among you a prophet saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams.”(156)

Given that the Lord has instituted worship song as a permanent ordinance for his church, the inclusion of the Book of Psalms in the canon of Scripture demonstrates that the provision of a text for this ordinance is a divinely intended function of the canon. Advocates of uninspired hymns need to consider anew the restrictions which are inherent in a canonical collection, with respect to the functions for which the collection was provided. To dismiss such considerations will bear directly upon our view of Scripture as uniquely normative for religious practice, which is what the regulative principle is all about. What must be pondered is the makeup of the canon, the divine authority behind that content and arrangement, and the prescriptive significance which the canon’s makeup has for worship. The canon’s one collected book of worship song is found in the Old Testament; no new psalter was provided in the New Testament portion of the canon. Because the canon has normative authority for the church, the Old Testament Psalter is the appropriate text for worship song. Respect for the composition of the canon will entail learning from Scripture what benefits are to be expected from worship song, and surrendering notions unwarranted in Scripture concerning the purpose of song in the church’s worship.

The majority report recognizes that God has given the Book of Psalms for use in the church’s worship song, but avers that the canon makes only a partial provision. Moreover, the majority report presumes that the church is free to supply the supposed deficiency by producing a subsidiary collection to accompany the canonical materials.(157) Instead of deferring to the normative status of the canon, the use of the canonical text itself is curtailed, to make way for the introduction of other materials. This is a violation of the concept of a select canon, such as occurs when non-canonical materials are introduced as substitutes for the public reading of the Word of God in the church. In this connection, we may note James Bannerman’s observation with respect to a non-canonical text appointed for use in worship: “And in the catalogue of human inventions introduced into the worship of the sanctuary in the Church of England, certainly not the least, or the least offensive, is the appointment of Apocryphal books to be read occasionally as part of the ordinary service, ‘for example of life and instruction of manner.’ Although she does not ascribe to these spurious writings the character of inspired Scripture, as Popery does, the Church of England cannot be considered without serious blame in introducing them into the public worship of God as an occasional part of her services. It is an exercise of power, in regard to public worship, that very greatly offends against the authority of the Word of God as the sole rule of worship, to the exclusion of anything not expressly warranted by itself, and more especially to the exclusion from the service of the sanctuary of writings that pretend to the same authority with itself.”(158)

In a recent discussion of psalmody, Stephen Pribble, a minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, claims that while the Bible authorizes the practice of worship song, it does not indicate any particular text to be used in worship song.(159) His argument is designed to deny a specific divine appointment, because where there is a specific appointment of worship elements or religiously-significant circumstances, the biblical regulative principle would exclude additions. This objection not only fails to appreciate that the biblical narrative specifically declares that the Psalms composed by David and the seers are for use in worship song,(160) but it also overlooks the canonicity of the Book of Psalms. The very inclusion of the Psalter in the canon constitutes a divine prescription for its use in the church’s worship song. It is passing strange to assert that the Lord has not indicated any particular text for use in worship song, when the Lord has given the church, in the canon of inspired Scripture, a collected book of one hundred fifty worship songs. Such assertions question whether the contents of the biblical canon are a reliable indication of what God intends to be used in the church’s worship; one might as well argue that the composition of the canon provides no specific indication that the sixty-six books in the canon are those to be used when the Word of God is read in the church’s worship.

The biblical testimony is that worship song is a divine ordinance, that the text of worship song is a divine provision through inspired prophets, that the Lord has deposited such a text in the canon of Scripture, and that the canon is sufficient for the religious functions for which it was given. Already in 1904, Louis F. Benson, the Presbyterian historian of hymnody, used the expression ‘exclusive psalm-singing’ to designate the practice of a principled exclusion of uninspired songs from the church’s worship song.(161) A more descriptive expression, because it refers to the principle behind the practice, is ‘canonical psalmody.’ An advantage in the use of this term is that it immediately indicates the fundamental question at issue.

The Only Songs Worthy of God Are Received From Him

Finally, it is instructive to consider John Calvin’s argument that the inspired Word of God should serve as the text for worship song. Concurring with Augustine’s belief that the only songs worthy of God are those received from him, Calvin urged the use of the canonical songs written by the Holy Spirit.

The Articles which Calvin presented to the city council of Geneva in 1537 called for four actions by which to bring the church into greater conformity with Scripture and apostolic practice.(162) One of these was the singing of Psalms in worship. Congregational psalmody had been introduced by Martin Bucer to the German-language churches of Strasbourg in 1524,(163) and when Calvin became pastor of the French congregation in Strasbourg in 1538, he acted quickly to compile a French psalter.(164) Respecting Calvin’s 1539 psalter, Charles Garside(165) says: “Calvin had edited it; of that there is no doubt. It contained nineteen psalms in French translation, all but one of which (No. 113) were rhymed. Thirteen of these were by Clément Marot, and Calvin was responsible for the remainder. The versions of the Song of Simeon, the Decalogue, and the Credo are his also, so that this, his first psalter, unlike later versions, is peculiarly his book.”(166)

Calvin’s most thorough discussion of psalmody comes in his “Epistle to the Reader” for The Form of Prayers and Ecclesiastical Songs (1542, with additional material in 1543).(167) Calvin, like Luther and Bucer before him, was impressed with the effects of music,(168) and prominent in this “Epistle to the Reader” is Calvin’s concern that when words are united with music in singing, the text must be produced by the Holy Spirit. Garside comments: “Now the fact that it is a combination of the two poses a very nearly insoluble problem: ‘It is true that every evil word (as Saint Paul says) perverts good morals, but when the melody is with it, it pierces the heart that much more strongly and enters into it; just as through a funnel wine is poured into a container, so also venom and corruption are distilled to the depth of the heart by the melody’. He had begun the addition to the Epistle by asserting that music was a gift of God. Shortly thereafter he had vented his concern for its capacity to alter men’s moral disposition or change their hearts. Now he denounces it for its power to enhance and intensify evil words. This being the case, should not music, as Calvin understands it here, be eliminated from worship entirely? On the other hand, if melody could so greatly magnify the impact of evil words, could it not perform a like function with good words? And if so, was not then the question of the words to be sung more crucial than ever? That is precisely the conclusion toward which Calvin has been so carefully and so consciously aiming: the text, in fact, is all-important. ‘What is there then to do?’ he asks, and confidently replies: sing the Psalms of David. If one accepts the proposition of Saint Augustine, as Calvin does, that ‘no one is able to sing things worthy of God unless he has received them from Him,'(169) then the most exhaustive search will yield ‘no better songs nor more appropriate to the purpose than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him.’ The words, far from being evil, are demonstrably good and cannot be otherwise for they are of divine origin. Moreover, men are assured of this fact, for ‘when we sing them, we are certain that God puts the words in our mouths, as if He Himself were singing in us to exalt His glory.’ The psalms will serve as a talisman against the power of music, and melody, with all its capacity for intensification, will now accompany the words which are made and spoken by the Holy Spirit, even by God Himself, with the result that men will have ‘songs not only seemly, but also holy, which will be like spurs to incite us to pray and to praise God, to meditate on His works in order to love, fear, honor, and glorify Him.’ The solution reached in theory, Calvin proceeds to urge the universal adoption of the psalms to the exclusion of all other songs. ‘Only let the world be so well advised that in place of songs in part empty and frivolous, in part stupid and dull, in part obscene and vile, and in consequence evil and harmful, which it has used up to now, it may accustom itself hereafter to singing these divine and celestial hymns with the good King David.’ “(170)

Calvin had reflected upon the diversity of religious song in Strasbourg, and despite his indebtedness to Bucer, maintained certain reservations. He had embraced Bucer’s proposal that throughout society “all secular songs be eliminated and replaced by religious ones; with this sweeping substitution Calvin clearly was in essential agreement. He adopted it, however, with one profoundly significant qualification. Bucer had spoken throughout the Foreword [to the Strasbourg Song Book (1541)](171) of psalms and sacred songs or spiritual songs, and in doing so, as he himself more than once acknowledged, he was following the tradition established by Luther of permitting all kinds of music and all kinds of texts to be sung in church as well as outside it. But what was variety for Luther and Bucer was promiscuity for Calvin. The psalms alone were sacred. For God and His angels as well now as for the world below, nothing else was, or even could be, appropriate, and with that decision Calvin’s valuation of vernacular psalmody had reached its apogee.”(172)

Garside concludes that Calvin turned to canonical psalmody not as a mere preference, but because the Word of God is the only suitable text for singing in worship: “When Calvin proposed to re-order the whole vocal-musical life of the Christian community around the singing of the psalms, it was because the words of the psalms were God’s words, put by God in the mouths of the singers, just as He had put them first in the mouth of David. Calvin’s vernacular psalmody in the last analysis is nothing other than a formulation, in uniquely musical terms, of the Reformation principle of sola scriptura.”(173) “Only the psalms of David were to be used during worship; no other texts were to be introduced. The psalms were simply to be rendered into the vernacular and versified; the function of the poet was reduced thereby to translating and re-shaping an existing text.”(174) That Calvin treated the metrical Psalm texts as Scripture was further indicated when he preached a series of sermons before 1548 on those particular Psalms which already had been rendered into metrical versions.(175)

Other of the most distinguished, contemporary students of church music in the early Reformed church make a similar assessment of Calvin’s statements. Nicholas Temperley says: “There was nothing in French-speaking Europe analogous to the solid German tradition of geistliche Gesänge which could be taken over for religious purposes. French popular song was secular, largely erotic, and often obscene or superstitious. Nor did Calvin feel any special liking for the Latin liturgical hymns, which, to him, showed only how easily errors of doctrine can arise if texts of human composition are allowed into the service. He therefore came down strongly in favour of using only the words of God – that is, the songs of biblical origin, consisting of the psalms and a few lyrical passages from other parts of the Scripture.”(176) Walter Blankenburg comments: “Finally, according to Calvin, the task of the service song necessitated a strong tie to the only text admissible in the service, the text of the Bible. This resulted in the exclusive use of psalms for singing, in addition to a few other biblical excerpts.”(177)

Sometimes it is suggested that Calvin, after all, did not think that inspiration was necessary in worship song, because it has been claimed that Calvin was the author of the non-canonical hymn “Salutation à Jésus Christ,”(178) which appeared in the Strasbourg psalters of 1545 and 1553, though without an attribution.(179) In 1867 the editors of the Calvini Opera included the hymn in their collection.(180) Two years later, Philip Schaff, promoting a liturgical expansion in the Reformed church, ascribed the piece to Calvin when he placed a translation of it in a hymnal he edited.(181) However, there is no evidence that Calvin was the author of the hymn, and the historians of the Geneva Psalter have been skeptical of these claims. Orentin Douen observed: “This item is not at all, one sees, a translation of the Bible, but a free composition which does not fit Calvin’s manner, and of which Garnier is perhaps the author.”(182) Pierre Pidoux, who has compiled an exhaustive collection of documents, texts and tunes pertaining to the history of the Geneva Psalter, lists the authorship of the hymn as “unknown,” and comments: “Attributed to Calvin by the editors of the Calvini Opera, and to Jean Garnier by Douen. The first attribution is very improbable for reasons of style; the second is hypothetical.”(183)

Pidoux notes that the hymn was reportedly in the 1545 Strasbourg psalter, was left out of the Strasbourg psalter of 1548, and appears a second time in the Strasbourg psalter of 1553.(184) The one Strasbourg psalter in which Calvin had a hand was that of 1539, for which he supplied metrical versions of several Psalms. Calvin left Strasbourg on September 2, 1541(185) and arrived back in Geneva on September 13,(186) four years before the hymn was first published. The hymn never appears in the Genevan psalters, or in any psalter on which Calvin worked.

The most likely supposition respecting the authorship of the “Salutation à Jésus Christ” is that it was produced by the man who bore primary responsibility for the only two psalters in which it was included. The editors of the Calvini Opera, and the historian François Ritter, judged that the 1545 Strasbourg psalter was published at the initiative of Jean Garnier, who came to Strasbourg on June 22, 1545 and was pastor of the French congregation in that city until 1555.(187) This involvement leads Pidoux to suggest that Garnier might be the author of the hymn.(188) Douen agrees that the 1545 Strasbourg psalter “was undoubtedly published by Jean Garnier,” a scholar esteemed by Bucer, Bullinger, Calvin and Farel,(189) and notes that the 1553 Strasbourg psalter (in which the hymn appears again) was also the work of Garnier, who revised the psalter’s translation and prepared the preface.(190) The title-page of the 1553 Strasbourg psalter bears the device of Garnier.(191)

Pidoux notes that the Strasbourg tradition of psalters maintained an independence from the emerging hegemony of the Genevan tradition. That independence is illustrated by the borrowing in the Strasbourg psalters from the Lutheran liturgy of the German-language churches in the city.(192) For example, the 1548 and 1553 Strasbourg psalters contain the Te Deum and the 1548 edition has the Veni Creator Spiritus.(193) It is therefore not surprising that the non-canonical hymn “Salutation à Jésus Christ” found a place in two Strasbourg psalters, while it is absent from the psalters produced in Geneva. Similarly, Douen observed that the retention of the Kyrie eleison at the end of the metrical version of the ten commandments in the Strasbourg psalters is a vestige of Lutheran influence in the Strasbourg tradition.(194) Robin A. Leaver notes: “From 1539 the French congregations in Strasbourg used Calvin’s metrical version of the commandments, which owes much to Luther’s version ‘Dies sind die heil’gen zehn gebot,’ which the German congregation in Strasbourg had been singing since 1525. Both Luther and Calvin end each stanza with ‘Kyrieleison‘.”(195) While the church of Geneva retained the singing of the ten commandments (a practice which Calvin derived from Bucer’s liturgy at Strasbourg), the Genevan psalter of 1542 suppressed the Kyrie eleison at the end of the ten commandments.(196)

Noting Calvin’s statement in 1543, that “when we have looked thoroughly everywhere and searched high and low, we shall find no better songs nor more appropriate to the purpose than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him,”(197) Garside remarks that “the phrase may perhaps be autobiographical. While at Strasbourg, Calvin was exposed to the wide variety of texts used in the liturgy there, and after three years of testing, as it were, the efficacy of both non-Scriptural sacred and spiritual songs and vernacular versions of the psalms, he was confirmed in his decision, reached in 1537, to restrict his congregational psalmody to the latter.”(198) Pidoux writes: “The Psalter of Geneva contains only versifications that remain faithful to the biblical prose text. We do not find in them commentaries, paraphrases, nor meditations inspired by a certain passage. Neither do we find attempts to actualize them, as can be found in German hymns of the same period. In the Psalter, that strove for the greatest possible faithfulness to ‘Hebraic truth’, such elements would create the impression of pure human additions, which would open the door to dangerous inventions.”(199)

Moreover, it is difficult to reconcile authorship of a hymn with Calvin’s subsequent statement that, with the exception of a Latin poem whose text is identified, he had not composed lyrics. In a letter to Conrad Hubert, on May 19, 1557, Calvin wrote: “By nature I was inclined to poetry, but I have bid it farewell, and for twenty-five years I have composed nothing, except at Worms, following the example of Philipp and Sturm, I was lead to write for diversion that poem that you read.”(200) The poem to which Calvin refers is his “Epinicion Christo Cantatum,” a Latin polemic against the papacy, written at Worms in January 1541 and published at Geneva in 1544.(201) From the period of his conversion, Calvin tells us, he had laid aside composition in verse, apart from a single piece which is manifestly not intended for congregational singing.

There can be little doubt about what was actually sung in the Genevan church. The Genevan psalter of 1549 introduced a “Table for finding the Psalms, according to the order in which they are sung in the church of Geneva,” assigning Psalms or portions of Psalms to be used in the Sunday morning and afternoon services, and in the Wednesday service. On the days the Lord’s Supper was observed, the song of Simeon from Luke 2 was sung, and the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20.(202) The epistle to the readers in the 1553 psalter is accompanied by an expanded table: “Considering that Wednesday is appointed for solemn prayers, we have selected from the Psalms, for singing on that day, those which contain more explicit prayers and requests addressed to God, and have reserved for Sunday those which contain thanksgiving and the praise of the Lord our God and of his works, as shown in the following table.”(203) By following the final form of this table as found in the 1562 edition and all later editions, the church, over the course of six months, sang through the complete Psalter in the three weekly services.(204) Pidoux notes that “The minister had to keep this schedule,”(205) and Blankenburg says that “This order was so binding that the division, for service use, of most psalms into two or more sections is marked by the word ‘Pause’ (intermission) or by asterisks or other signs in countless editions of the Genevan Psalter up to the 19th century.”(206) While the Strasbourg psalter of 1539 and the Geneva Psalter included the Apostles Creed, it should be remembered that it was widely believed at the time that the Creed was composed by the apostles themselves. It is also noteworthy that from 1562, when the Geneva Psalter was expanded to include all the one hundred fifty Psalms, most editions ceased to supply accompanying melodies for the text of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed, and Clément Marot’s prayers for before and after a meal, and none of these texts ever appear on the tables of songs used in the Genevan church.(207)

Moreover, for some time after Calvin’s death in 1564, the church at Geneva persisted in singing only texts of divine inspiration. Peter Lillback states that “the Huguenot Synod of Montpellier (1598) authorized the singing of some of the hymns composed by Beza.”(208) However, Beza’s sixteen songs authorized by the French Reformed Church in 1598 were in fact all metrical versions of Scripture texts. They were published in 1595 as “Sacred Songs gathered from the Old as well as the New Testament.”(209) The collection consisted of versifications of Deut. 26:3, “a song of Moses” in Exodus 15, “another song of Moses” in Deuteronomy 32, Judges 5, “the song of Hannah” in Samuel 2, “the lamentation of David” in II Sam. 2:19, “a song of David,” “a song of David” from II Samuel 23, “the song of Isaiah” from Isaiah 5, “a song of Isaiah” from Isaiah 12, “a song of Isaiah” from Isaiah 26, “the song of King Hezekiah” from Isa. 38:10, “the song of Jonah” from Jon. 2:3, “the song of Habakkuk” from Habakkuk 3, “the song of the blessed virgin Mary” from Luke 1:46, and “the song of Zacharias” from Luke 1:68.(210)

Pidoux notes that on June 15, 1594 the national synod of Montauban took the following action: “Monsieur Beza will be requested, in the name of the assembly, to put into French verse the songs of the Bible, to be sung in the church with the Psalms.” Care was evidently taken with respect to the introduction of new materials into worship, for the national synod of Saumur on May 13, 1596 remitted to the next synod to resolve whether these canticles newly versified by Beza should be introduced into the church.(211) The national synod at Montpellier declared on May 26, 1598 that there would not be any change in the liturgy of the churches, neither in the singing of Psalms, nor in the catechetical formulas; “the songs of the Bible” which had been versified by Beza at the request of many synods might be sung in families, to train the people, and to prepare for the public use of these songs in the churches, but this arrangement would continue only until the next national synod.(212)

In sum, in the words of the 1543 epistle which continued to be published in successive reissues of the Geneva Psalter,(213) Calvin urged that the appropriate text for worship song is the Word of God: “Now what Saint Augustine says is true, that no one is able to sing things worthy of God unless he has received them from Him. Wherefore, when we have looked thoroughly everywhere and searched high and low, we shall find no better songs nor more appropriate to the purpose than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him. And furthermore, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts the words in our mouths, as if He Himself were singing in us to exalt His glory.”(214)

Appendix A: The Levitical Ministry at the Ark

When the ark came to rest in Jerusalem, there was a shift in the task assigned to the Levites. Instead of bearing the ark from place to place, they were to sing the Lord’s praise in the sanctuary. M. Gertner argues that with the alteration of Levitical duties, a term that had designated the Levites’ responsibility in transporting a physical load took on additional significance.(215) In translating the account in I Chronicles 15 of David’s procession with the ark, the principal English versions describe the role of Chenaniah as “master of song” for the Levites (vv. 22, 27). Nowhere else in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word massa, rendered “song.” John Kleinig presents a cogent interpretation: “The primary sense of massa here is ‘transportation’, as in II Chron. 35:3 and Num. 4:15, 19, 24 and elsewhere. In Numbers it is a technical term for the duty of the Levites to carry the ark and its furnishings. Since the Septuagint interprets the term musically, some scholars hold that it refers both to the transportation of the ark and to the music of the singers. The ambiguity, however, probably arises, because Chenaniah was in charge of the ceremonial procession for the occasion. He was therefore responsible for both the physical and musical ‘transportation’ of the ark. The RSV, which represents the consensus of many scholars, implies that he was the choirmaster. Chenaniah, however, turns up later in I Chron. 26:29, where he is not in charge of musicians but of Levitical officials with duties outside the temple. The problem here is the sense of massa. In context, it could mean either transportation or performance of music. Now, if Chenaniah was the head of the procession, it would suggest that he arranged the whole procession with the transportation of the ark and the performance of music. His brief would then have been to devise and execute the ceremonies for the occasion, so that they would be ritually appropriate and properly coordinated.”(216)

The musical dimension of Chenaniah’s oversight is apparent from a word in I Chron. 15:22 which is used in I Chron. 25:7-8 and II Chron. 34:12 to describe the skill of the Levites in music.(217) Thus Gordon Carr observes: “The titles of several of the psalms suggest that certain tunes and instrumentation were to be used on specific occasions, and the comment in I Chron. 15:22 that Chenaniah should direct the music ‘for he understood it’ bears out the view that complex musical forms and/or arrangements were part of the cultic pattern.”(218) Petersen surveys several interpretations of I Chron. 15:22 and 27, and opts for the translation “leader of the music of the singers” in verse 27, as do most scholars.(219) Beckwith argues that when fifty-five Psalms were given titles with musical directions “For the chief musician/choirmaster,” the reference was to the original performer, and that Chenaniah is to be identified as this choirmaster.(220)

Kleinig connects the two stages of Levitical ministry: “The temporary responsibility of the Levites for the transportation of the ark was part of a larger and more permanent duty to minister to the Lord who sat enthroned above it and met with his people there. This ministry, which was performed ‘in’ or ‘with the Lord’s name’ (Deut. 18:5, 7), was carried out by the Levites as they proclaimed that name to the people in songs of praise. I Chronicles 15 suggests that the performance of sacred song was in some way ritually similar, if not equivalent, to the transportation of the ark. The Levites then were chosen as musicians, because their performance of music was to be a ‘ministry’ akin to their care of the ark.”(221) On the ministry of the Levites before the ark, cf. Num. 1:50-51; 3:6-9; 8:13-26; 16:8-9; Deut. 10:8; I Sam. 3:1-4; I Chron. 6:31-32; 15:2; 16:4-5, 37, 41-42; II Chron. 8:14; 23:4-7; 31:2.

The Old Testament often uses the word massa to refer to the vision in which the word of the Lord came to his prophets. With this import, the word is rendered “burden” (RSV: “oracle”) in Isa. 13:1, 14:28, 15:1, 17:1, 19:1, Jer. 23:33-38, Lam. 2:14, Nah. 1:1, Hab. 1:1, Zech. 9:1, 12:1, and Mal. 1:1. This is the sense which Sigmund Mowinckel urges for I Chron. 15:22 and 27, offering the translation “oracle.”(222) At I Chron. 15:27, the Vulgate says that Chenaniah was “leader of prophecy among the singers” (princeps prophetiae inter cantores). Likewise Joseph Blenkinsopp: “The use of a term massa, which generally means ‘oracle,’ may well point to the prophetic or inspired character of liturgical music.”(223) Apparently the English versions followed the Septuagint in placing a construction on the word which corresponds to the musical context in I Chronicles 15, and this would be correct, so far as it goes. But if massa indicates here an oracle, the word implies that the song was a form of prophecy, and this would be an anticipation of I Chron. 25:1-7. The ASV and Edward J. Young give the translation “oracle” when the word is used at Prov. 30:1 (cf. 31:1).(224)

With respect to the use of double meanings in the Old Testament, Raymond Tournay comments, “It is necessary to recall that the wise men of Israel readily sought out expressions which were ambiguous or capable of carrying multiple meanings, in order to stimulate the curiosity of the reader. The historical writers do not shy away from ambiguous terms and expressions. In I Chron. 15:22 and 27, the word massa can have several senses. Are we to understand that Chenaniah, the leader of the Levites, directs the transportation of the ark, or is it that he lifts up his voice in giving the pitch (as the Septuagint understands it)? Or does the word indicate the proclamation of a prophetic utterance? It is known that the activity of the Levitical cantors is often defined as an activity inspired by the Spirit of the Lord and quasi-prophetic. In the prophetic books, the word massa serves as a title to many oracles. Jer. 23:33-40 thoroughly exploits this ambiguity: ‘burden’ (literal sense), ‘oracle’ (figurative sense). Many Hebrew roots are semantically complex; many look alike and allow for multiple plays on words.”(225) William McKane argues that what we have are two words, rather than several meanings of the same word. He points out that the Jewish scholars Ibn Janah (11th century), Rashi (d. 1105) and Kimchi (d. 1235) traced the word play in Jer. 23:33 to the use of homonyms, one meaning “utterance,” and the other “burden,” and claims for this view the lexicons of J. D. Michaelis and W. Gesenius, and more recently that of L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, and that of F. Brown, S. R. Driver and C. A. Briggs.(226)

(1) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.viii.5, IV.viii.13, and IV.x.8, 11, 16-17, 23-25. Cf. idem, “The Necessity of Reforming the Church,” in Calvin’s Tracts (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1844-51), 1:128-29, 132-33, and 151-53; idem, Commentaries on the Last Four Books of Moses (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1852-55), 3:305 and 406; idem, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1846-49), 1:300-301, 305-306, 365-66, and 451-52, and 4:196-97.
(2) Westminster Confession,, XVI.i, XX.ii, and XXI.i; cf. Larger Catechism 109 and Shorter Catechism 51.
(3) Westminster Confession, VII.v and vi, XXI.ii through viii, XXII, XXV.ii through iv, and XXVII through XXXI.
(4) Vern S. Poythress, “Ezra 3, Union with Christ, and Exclusive Psalmody,” Westminster Theological Journal 37 (1974-75): 231; cf. pp. 224 and 225-26.
(5) Greg Bahnsen, “Exclusive Psalmody,” Antithesis 1, no. 2 (March-April 1990): 49; cf. pp. 51 and 53.
(6) Ibid., p. 53.
(7) Cf. John Murray, “The Worship of God in the Four Gospels,” in The Biblical Doctrine of Worship, ed. Philip W. Martin, John M. McMillan and Edward A. Robson (Pittsburgh: Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, 1974), pp. 97-98; idem, “Worship,” in Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), 1:165-68.
(8) W. Gary Crampton, “Exclusive Psalmody,” Trinity Review, no. 92 (October 1992), p. 3.
(9) Leonard J. Coppes, “Exclusive Psalmody and Progressive Revelation: A Response” (unpublished), pp. 1-2.
(10) Ibid., p. 3.
(11) Ibid., p. 2.
(12) Ibid., pp. 3-4.
(13) Ibid., p. 5.
(14) Cf. John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (1850-53, reprint ed., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), 13:467 and 448-50.
(15) Coppes, “Exclusive Psalmody and Progressive Revelation,” p. 9.
(16) John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis (1847, reprint ed., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 1:282; cf. pp. 192-93, on Gen. 4:2.
(17) Owen, Works, 15:456.
(18) Jonathan Edwards, A History of the Work of Redemption, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Edward Hickman (1834, reprint ed., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 1:537.
(19) Alexander F. Mitchell and John Struthers, eds., Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1874), pp. 237-238, resolutions on June 1, 1646. This is an example of Assembly resolutions which were not incorporated into the Confession’s text, but which serve as a significant background to the Confession’s statements. Cf. Owen, Works, 13:467.
(20) Coppes, “Exclusive Psalmody and Progressive Revelation,” pp. 1-2 and 9.
(21) Robin A. Leaver, “Isaac Watts’s Hermeneutical Principles and the Decline of English Metrical Psalmody,” Churchman 92, no. 1 (1978): 59.
(22) Isaac Watts, The Works of Isaac Watts, selected by [David] Jennings and [Philip] Doddridge, comp. George Burder (1810; reprint ed., New York: AMS Press, 1971), 5:706.
(23) Ibid., p. 701.
(24) Ibid., pp. 703-4.
(25) Ibid., pp. 701-3.
(26) Edwards, Works, 2:509.
(27) Watts, Works, 5:709.
(28) Owen, A Brief Instruction In The Worship Of God, in Works, 15:478-79.
(29) Ibid, pp. 477-78 and passim.
(30) Ibid, pp. 449-50, 462-65 and 467-71.
(31) Bahnsen, “Exclusive Psalmody,” p. 51. Cf. pp. 49 and 53.
(32) William Young, “Introduction,” in The Scriptural Warrant Respecting Song As Stated In The Minority Report Of The Committee On Song (Vienna, Va.: Publications Committee, Presbyterian Reformed Church, 1993), p. i.
(33) Ibid.: ” it was written entirely by Prof. Murray.”
(34) John Murray, “Minority Report of the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God,” Minutes of the Fourteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, May 22-28, 1947, p. 65.
(35) The section appears on pp. 101-105 of Minutes of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, May 21-28, 1946, and on pp. 4-7 of the current OPC reprint, Our Songs in God’s Worship (Philadelphia: Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, n.d.). The cover letter is found in the John Murray Papers, Montgomery Library, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. William Young, who signed the Committee’s minority report in 1947, writes in a letter of May 25, 1993, to the present writer: “Section A of the 1946 report is clearly the work of John Murray. Section C is evidently based on parts of my report on the scripture proof of the regulative principle, except for the addition to C in the 1947 report, in which I did not concur.” Thus, the largest proportion of the 1946 report defining the regulative principle was composed by the two men who dissented from the majority’s argument in 1947.
(36) Murray, “Minority Report,” pp. 101-2.
(37) The deleted sentences would have appeared at the close of section I on p. 102 of the Minutes of the Thirteenth General Assembly, or after section A on p. 5 of the reprint, which has restyled the sections.
(38) John Murray Papers, Montgomery Library, Westminster Seminary.
(39) George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, ed. Christopher Coldwell (Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1993), p. xli.
(40) Jack B. Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 176.
(41) Ibid., pp. 316-19 and 333-37. Cf. Benjamin B. Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and its Work
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1931), pp. 175-76.
(42) Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession, pp. 360-62.
(43) Cf. Westminster Confession, XX.ii.
(44) Samuel Rutherfurd, The Divine Right of Church-Government and Excommunication (London: John Field for Christopher Meredith, 1646), pp. 107-108. George K. Fortescue, Catalogue of the Pamphlets, Books, Newspapers, and Manuscripts Relating to the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and Restoration, Collected by George Thomason, 1640-1661 (London: British Museum, 1908), 1:424, gives March 3, 1646 as the date either of publication or of the book coming into Thomason’s possession. Cf. David Dickson, A Brief Exposition of the Evangel of Jesus Christ According to Matthew (1647, reprint ed., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1981), p. 207: “That which otherwise is lawful in itself while it abides within the limits of civil fashions may be left undone, and be discountenanced, when it is set up in state within the limits of religion.”
(45) Rutherfurd, Divine Right of Church Government, p. 109.
(46) Rutherfurd, “A Dispute Touching Scandall and Christian libertie,” pp. 63-64, in Divine Right of Church Government. Cf. p. 7, and Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies, pp. 290-91.
(47) Samuel Rutherfurd, The Due Right of Presbyteries, (London: E. Griffin for Richard Whittaker and Andrew Crook, 1644), p. 373 (Aaa3 recto).
(48) William Ames, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London: Edward Griffin for Henry Overton, 1642), pp. 318-19. The order from the House of Commons appears on the title page. A recent translation is The Marrow of Theology, ed. and trans. John D. Eusden (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1968); see p. 285 for the passage quoted. Cf. Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship (London: Peter Cole, 1653), pp. 8-9, or reprint ed. (Ligonier, Penn.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), pp. 13-15; Owen, Works, 15:35.
(49) Rutherfurd, Divine Right of Church Government, p. 137, quoting from Ames, A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship.
(50) Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies, p. 259. Cf. Gillespie, A Treatise of Miscellany Questions, (Edinburgh: Gedeon Lithgow for George Swintoun, 1649), p. 197: “For our part, except it be a circumstance such as belongeth to the decency and order which ought to appear in all human societies and actions whether civil or sacred, we hold that the church hath not power to determine anything belonging to religion.” The passage is on p. 83 of the Edinburgh, 1844, edition.
(51) Ibid., p. 282.
(52) Rutherfurd, Divine Right of Church Government, pp. 118-19.
(53) Rutherfurd, “Dispute Touching Scandall,” p. 6.
(54) Owen, Works, 15:35-36.
(55) Ibid., p. 40. Cf. 16:471.
(56) “Report of the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God,” Minutes of the Fourteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, May 22-28, 1947, p. 51.
(57) Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies, pp. 290-91. Cf. Miscellany Questions (1649 edition), p. 241, or p. 102 in the 1844 edition; Owen, Works, 13:483-84 and 15:38-39; James H. Thornwell, The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell (1875, reprint ed., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 4:183-84 and 253-55.
(58) William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (1862, reprint ed., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967), pp. 34-36.
(59) Robert S. Marsden, “Song in the Public Worship of God: A Study of Committee Reports,” The Presbyterian Guardian 17, no. 5 (March 10, 1948): 72-73.
(60) “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 51.
(61) Ibid., p. 52.
(62) Murray, “Minority Report,” p. 59.
(63) Michael Bushell, The Songs of Zion, 2nd ed. (Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant Publications, 1993), p. 48.
(64) “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 52.
(65) Ibid.
(66) Ibid., pp. 55-56.
(67) Ibid., p. 51.
(68) Ibid., p. 52.
(69) Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies, p. 258. Cf. Rutherfurd, Divine Right of Church Government, p. 118: “It is a vain and unwarrantable distinction to divide worship in essential, which hath God’s particular approving will to be the warrant thereof, and worship accidental or arbitrary, which hath only God’s general and permissive will, and hath man’s will for its father.” Rutherfurd discusses the distinction at length, pp. 118-24.
(70) Gillespie, Miscellany Questions (1649 edition), p. 243, or p. 102 in the 1844 edition. For the Westminster Assembly’s use of necessary consequence, cf. John R. de Witt, Jus Divinum: The Westminster Assembly and the Divine Right of Church Government (Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1969), p. 130. Important discussions of the role of necessary consequences in the interpretation of Scripture are found in James Bannerman, Inspiration: The Infallible Truth and Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1865), pp. 582-88, and Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, topic I, question XII (“The Use of Consequences”) (Phillipsburg, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1992-), 1:37-43. Cf. Owen, Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, in Works, 2:379; Owen, Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 3:147, in Works, 20:147; William Cunningham, Theological Lectures (London: James Nisbet and Company, 1878), pp. 457-58; James Bannerman, The Church of Christ (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1868), 2:409-13; Benjamin B. Warfield, Westminster Assembly, pp. 226-27; John Murray, Christian Baptism (Phillipsburg, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1980), p. 69; Edwards, Works, 2:94.
(71) Ibid., p. 238.
(72) Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession, p. 334.
(73) Thomas Gataker, A Mistake or Misconstruction, Removed (London, 1646), pp. 26-27; quoted in Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession, p. 335. Fortescue, Catalogue of the Pamphlets, 1:434, gives April 21, 1646 as the date either of the publication of Gataker’s book, or of Thomason’s purchase of it.
(74) Thomas Gataker, Shadowes without Substance, or Pretended New Lights (London, 1646), p. 82; quoted in Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession, p. 334. Fortescue, Catalogue of the Pamphlets, 1:463, assigns the date September 11, 1646 to this volume by Gataker. The Westminster Assembly thanked the author, on September 14, for copies of his book presented to the members of the Assembly, as noted in Mitchell and Struthers, Minutes of the Westminster Assembly, p. 281.
(75) Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession, p. 341, quoting Gataker, Mistake or Misconstruction, p. 32.
(76) Poythress, “Ezra 3,” p. 220.
(77) Ibid., p. 233.
(78) Cf. John Owen, Biblical Theology (Pittsburgh: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994), pp. 534-35.
(79) Cf. O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), pp. 74-78, and Richard B. Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: Studies in New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979), pp. 72 and 93.
(80) Poythress, “Ezra 3,” p. 227; cf. p. 221.
(81) Bushell, Songs of Zion, p. 51.
(82) Poythress, “Ezra 3,” p. 226.
(83) Bushell, Songs of Zion, p. 50.
(84) Ibid., p. 51.
(85) Poythress, “Ezra 3,” p. 74.
(86) Ibid., p. 83.
(87) Ibid., pp. 84, 87 (n. 11), 92 (n. 15), 219-21, and 224-25.
(88) Ibid., p. 87, n. 11.
(89) Ibid., pp. 219-20.
(90) Ibid., p. 232.
(91) Ibid., p. 87, n. 11.
(92) “Report of the Committee on Song,” pp. 55-56; cf. p. 58.
(93) Bushell, Songs of Zion, p. 49.
(94) Ibid., p. 135; cf. pp. 64-65.
(95) Leonard J. Coppes, “Exclusive Psalmody and Progressive Revelation,” pp. 7-8.
(96) Ibid., p. 1.
(97) On the reference to David as “sweet psalmist,” see Raymond J. Tournay, “Les ‘Dernières Paroles de David’ II Samuel, xxiii, 1-7,” Revue Biblique 88 (1981): 485-86; cf. P. A. H. De Boer, “Texte et Traduction des Paroles Attribuées a David en 2 Samuel xxiii 1-7,” in Volume du Congres: Strasbourg 1956, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, vol. 4 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1957), p. 49.
(98) Tournay, “Les ‘Dernières Paroles de David,’ ” pp. 502-503.
(99) Leonard J. Coppes, “na’am,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris et al. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:541-42. Cf. Tournay, “Les ‘Dernières Paroles de David,’ ” pp. 481-92; De Boer, “Texte et Traduction des Paroles,” pp. 48-49; David N. Freedman, “Pottery, Poetry, and Prophecy: An Essay on Biblical Poetry,” Pottery, Poetry, and Prophecy (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1980), pp. 17-18.
(100) Edward J. Young, My Servants the Prophets (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952), pp. 161-162.
(101) Ibid., p. 161. Cf. Benjamin B. Warfield, “The Biblical Idea of Revelation,” in Revelation and Inspiration (New York: Oxford University Press, 1927), pp. 19-20.
(102) Simon J. De Vries, “Moses and David as Cult Founders in Chronicles,” Journal of Biblical Literature 107 (1988): 620-35, esp. 626 and 635.
(103) The antiquity of the Psalm titles is discussed in Robert D. Wilson, “The Headings of the Psalms,” Princeton Theological Review 24 (1926): 1-37, 353-95, and Roger Beckwith, “The Early History of the Psalter,” Tyndale Bulletin 46(1995): 10-17. On the equivalence of the names Ethan and Jeduthun in I Chron. 6:44, 15:17-19, 16:41-42, 25:1-6, II Chron. 5:12, 29:14 and 35:15, see John W. Wright, “The Origin and Function of First Chronicles 23-27” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1989), pp. 164-65.
(104) Robert D. Culver, “haza”, in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris et al. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:275.
(105) Alfred Jepsen, “chazah,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974-), 4:282.
(106) Culver, “haza,” 1:275.
(107) Young, My Servants the Prophets, pp. 65-66. Cf. Warfield, “The Biblical Idea of Revelation,” pp. 30-31.
(108) Jepsen, “chazah,” p. 283; cf. Warfield, “Biblical Idea of Revelation,” pp. 20-21.
(109) David L. Petersen, Late Israelite Prophecy (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1977), pp. 98-99.
(110) De Vries, “Moses and David as Cult Founders,” p. 630.
(111) Beckwith, “Early History of the Psalter,” p. 4.
(112) Warfield, “Biblical Idea of Revelation,” pp. 22-23. Cf. pp. 15-28 for a discussion of modes of revelation.
(113) The reference to priests and Levites reappears in II Chron. 35:18, with verse 15 providing the context of prophetic activity in song.
(114) Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), p. 67.
(115) Aubrey R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel, 2nd ed. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1962), pp. 69-72; Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 2:80-82, 97; Tournay, “Les ‘Dernières Paroles de David,’ ” pp. 487-88; Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), p. 254.
(116) Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1961), p. 385.
(117) William M. Schniedewind, The Word of God in Transition: From Prophet to Exegete in the Second Temple Period (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), p. 173.
(118) Ibid., p. 172.
(119) Sara Japhet, I and II Chronicles (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 440.
(120) Beckwith, Old Testament Canon, pp. 139, 145.
(121) Menahem Haran, “From Early to Classical Prophecy: Continuity and Change,” Vetus Testamentum 27 (1977): 386-88.
(122) Japhet, I and II Chronicles, p. 156.
(123) Cf. ASV for I Chron. 16:42: “instruments for the songs of God”, and John W. Kleinig, The Lord’s Song: The Basis, Function and Significance of Choral Music in Chronicles (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 52.
(124) Young, My Servants the Prophets, p. 70; cf. p. 86.
(125) Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948), p. 219; cf. William Binnie, The Psalms: Their History, Teachings, and Use, new ed., rev. and enl. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1886), pp. 23-24. Cf. Joseph Blenkinsopp, Prophecy and Canon: A Contribution to the Study of Jewish Origins (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), p. 134: “The emphasis in the Chronicler’s work on liturgical poetry and music as an aspect of prophecy links up with the ecstatic nebi’im in the early days of the monarchy who sang and danced to the sound of pipe and drum in the country shrines and, in due course, in the temple of Jerusalem.” Blenkinsopp, pp. 134 and 186 (n. 40), goes on to observe that “this kind of liturgical prophecy” is also reflected in I Corinthians 14.
(126) Rolf Rendtorff, “Nabi’ in the Old Testament,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
1964-76), 6:809.
(127) Cf. Young, My Servants the Prophets, pp. 42 and 49.
(128) Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, pp. 79-80; cf. pp. 60-62.
(129) Ibid., p. 81; cf. pp. 80-82.
(130) George W. Knight, Prophecy in the New Testament (Dallas: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1988), p. 12. Cf. pp. 10-14; Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 60; Oscar Cullman, Early Christian Worship (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1953), p. 20.
(131) Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 72. On the nature of prophecy, cf. O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993) and Victor Bugden, The Charismatics and the Word of God, 2nd ed. (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1989).
(132) Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 77; cf. pp. 73-78.
(133) Ibid., p. 80. Cf. Beckwith, Old Testament Canon, p. 64. It is just this edifying role among the people of God which Paul ascribes to psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in Col. 3:15-16.
(134) Cf. Herman N. Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures, 2nd rev. ed. (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1988), pp. 23-24.
(135) Benjamin B. Warfield, “Notes on Pneumatikos and its opposites in the Greek of the New Testament,” Presbyterian Review 1 (1880): 561. The occurrences are Rom. 1:11, 7:14, 15:27, I Cor. 2:13, 2:15, 3:1, 9:11, 10:3-4, 12:1, 14:1, 14:37, 15:44, 15:46, Gal. 6:1, Eph. 1:3, 5:19, 6:12, Col. 1:9, 3:16, and I Pet. 2:5.
(136) John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1967), 1:254.
(137) “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 56.
(138) Murray, “Minority Report,” p. 65.
(139) Marsden, “A Study of Committee Reports,” p. 73.
(140) Murray, “Minority Report,” p. 65.
(141) Cf. G. I. Williamson, “Trinity Hymnal, or The Content of the Book of Praise in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,” in The Biblical Doctrine of Worship, ed. Philip W. Martin, John M. McMillan and Edward A. Robson (Pittsburgh: Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, 1974), pp. 273-74.
(142) “Report of the Committee on Song,” pp. 56-57.
(143) Ibid., p. 54.
(144) Ibid., pp. 57-58.
(145) Ibid., pp. 56-57.
(146) Cf. Murray, “Minority Report,” p. 65.
(147) Cf. Michael Bushell, The Songs of Zion, p. 81.
(148) “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 58.
(149) Poythress, “Ezra 3,” p. 227; cf. p. 221.
(150) Bannerman, Inspiration, pp. 582-83.
(151) Hugh Martin, Christ’s Presence in the Gospel History, second edition (Edinburgh: John Maclaren, 1865), p. 138.
(152) Murray, “Minority Report,” p. 65.
(153) “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 58.
(154) On the reading of canonical literature in worship during the Old Testament period, cf. Beckwith, Old Testament Canon, pp. 64-65, 83.
(155) Meredith Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, revised ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 63.
(156) This connection between the regulative principle and the canonical principle was observed by Samuel Rutherfurd, who declared that the invention of worship forms which go beyond biblical example and injunction is tantamount to enlarging the canonical text of Scripture. Rutherfurd, Divine Right of Church Government, pp. 98-99: “All additions to God’s Word are unlawful, Deut. 4:2, Deut. 12:32, Prov. 30:6, Rev. 22:18, John 20:31, Luke 16:29-30, II Tim. 3:17, Psalm 19:7-8. But human rites are additions to God’s Word. It is God’s prerogative to add canonical Scripture to the five books of Moses, and [to add] the New Testament and the doctrine of the sacraments which cannot be syllogistically deduced out of the Old Testament, Matt. 28:19-20, John 21:31, Heb. 3:2, Rev. 1:19, and these are perfecting and explaining additions. Therefore men may by as good reason add canonical Scripture to the [Book of] Revelation, as add new positive doctrines like this, ‘The holy surplice is a sacred sign of pastoral holiness,’ ‘Crossing is a sign of dedicating the child to Christ’s service’.”
(157) “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 58.
(158) Bannerman, The Church of Christ (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1868), 1:369.
(159) Stephen Pribble, “The Regulative Principle and Singing in Worship,” The Presbyterian Advocate 3, nos. 9-10 (November-December 1993): 25-26, 29.
(160) The section of the majority report dealing with the Old Testament material, apparently written by Edward J. Young, acknowledges that the biblical narrative identifies specific song texts used in worship, but Young does not consider the implications of this biblical specificity for the operation of the regulative principle. “Report of the Committee on Song,” p. 53: “We know definitely from I Chronicles 16 that the content of some of our present psalms was used in worship. It is obvious from other psalms that they were intended for use in the public worship of God; see Pss. 95:2, 27:6, and 100:4. Another reference which clearly gives an indication as to the content of song is II Chron. 29:30, where Hezekiah expressly commanded the use of the words of David and Asaph the seer for a certain occasion of worship.”
(161) Louis F. Benson, “President Davies As A Hymn Writer,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 2 (1904): 281: “He belongs to that generation of American Presbyterians who began the movement of revolt against the established ordinance of exclusive psalm-singing, who first tested and then welcomed the Imitations of Dr. Watts and, later, his Hymns.”
(162) Charles Garside, The Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music: 1536-1543, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 69, pt. 4 (Philadelphia, 1979), pp. 7, 10, 17; Ioannis Calvini Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia, edited by W. Baum, E. Cunitz, and E. Reuss (Brunswick: C. A. Schwetschke and Sons, 1863-1900), vol. 10, pt. 1, col. 12.
(163) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, pp. 11-12.
(164) Ibid., pp. 14-15.
(165) No scholar has given such careful consideration to Calvin’s views about music in worship as has Charles Garside, who taught modern history for thirty years at Yale and Rice Universities, until his death in 1987. His other publications on the Reformers and music are Zwingli and the Arts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966); “Calvin’s Preface to the Psalter: A Re-Appraisal,” The Musical Quarterly 37(1951): 566-77; “Some Attitudes of the Major Reformers toward the Role of Music in the Liturgy,” McCormick Quarterly 21(1967): 151-68.
(166) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, p. 15.
(167) Ibid., p. 16. The text of the “Epistle” in La Forme des Prieres et Chantz Ecclesiastiques is given in Calvini Opera, 6:165-72; an English translation is provided in Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, pp. 31-33.
(168) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, pp. 22-23.
(169) Calvin’s reference is to Augustine’s Enarratio In Psalmum XXXIV, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, ed. J. P. Migne (Paris: 1844-64), 36:323: Nemo illi cantat digna, nisi qui ab illo acceperit quod cantare possit.
(170) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, pp. 23-24; Calvini Opera 6:169-72.
(171) An English translation of Bucer’s Vorrede to the Strassburger Gesangbuch is found in Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, pp. 29-31.
(172) Ibid., p. 26. Cf. Louis F. Benson, “The Liturgical Position of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 8(1897): 422: “The people’s share in the Church’s praise had been won for them at the Reformation; but here, as at so many points, the Lutheran and Calvinistic Reformers had parted company. The Lutheran encouraged the use of hymns in the nature of folk-songs, and adopted also the versions of the ancient Latin hymns; the Calvinistic turned to the inspired songs of the Holy Scriptures as the only proper subject-matter of praise.”
(173) Ibid., p. 29.
(174) Garside, “Attitudes of the Major Reformers,” p. 162.
(175) T. H. L. Parker, “Editor’s Introduction,” in John Calvin, A Commentary on the Psalms (London:
James Clarke and Company, 1965), 1:5.
(176) Nicholas Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 1:20.
(177) Walter Blankenburg, “Church Music in Reformed Europe,” in Friedrich Blume, Protestant Church Music: A History (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1974), p. 517. Cf. Walter Blankenburg, “Johannes Calvin,” in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Kassel: Bärenreiter Verlag, 1952), 2:660: “From the indispensable linkage of song with the words of Scripture, Calvin recognized the unique qualification for worship of the Psalms produced by the Holy Spirit himself”; Richard Arnold, The English Hymn: Studies in a Genre (New York: Peter Lang, 1995), p. 3: “However, Calvin’s enthusiasm for singing was subject to a crucial qualification: he restricted what was to be sung exclusively to the Psalms – these were, he writes in 1543, the songs provided by God and dictated by His Holy Spirit, and it would be presumptuous and sacrilegious for humankind to sing any words or arrangements of his or her own devising”; O. Douen, Clément Marot et Le Psautier Huguenot (Paris: L’Imprimerie Nationale, 1878), 1:271, 278; Leon Wencelius, L’Esthétique de Calvin (Paris: Société d’Edition “Les Belles Lettres”, 1937), pp. 273-74; Anne Harrington Heider, “Preface,” in Claude Le Jeune, Les Cent Cinquante Pseaumes de David, Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance, vol. 98 (Madison, Wisconsin: A-R. Editions, 1995), p. x.
(178) John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 148, calls the hymn Calvin’s “best poem,” but provides no justification for attributing it to Calvin, and erroneously asserts that the hymn originally appeared in a Genevan psalter. McNeill’s assertions are repeated by Peter A. Lillback, “Introduction,” in Our Songs in God’s Worship (Philadelphia: Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, n.d.), p. 2. A translation of a portion of the hymn appears as number 135 in the Trinity Hymnal (1961).
(179) Pierre Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle: Melodies et Documents, v. 1: Les Mélodies (Basel: Bärenreiter, 1962), p. 150.
(180) Calvini Opera 6:223.
(181) Philip Schaff, Christ in Song: Hymns of Immanuel Selected From All Ages, With Notes (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph and Company, 1869), 678-80. Cf. Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns: The Handbook To the Hymnal Of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (St. Louis: Eden Publishing House, 1952), pp. 306-09.
(182) Douen, Clément Marot et Le Psautier Huguenot, 1:452.
(183) Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle, 1:150.
(184) Ibid.
(185) Douen, Clément Marot et Le Psautier Huguenot, 2:649.
(186) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, p. 16.
(187) Calvini Opera 6:xvi; François Ritter, Histoire de L’Imprimerie Alsacienne aux XVe et XVIe Siècle
(Strasbourg: F.-X. Le Roux, 1955), p. 577.
(188) Pierre Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle: Melodies et Documents, v. 2: Documents et Bibliographie (Basel: Bärenreiter, 1962), p. 30.
(189) Douen, Clément Marot et Le Psautier Huguenot, 1:451; cf. 2:650.
(190) Ibid., 1:557.
(191) Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle, 2:65.
(192) Ibid., 1:vi-vii.
(193) Ibid., 1:209-10.
(194) Douen, Clément Marot et Le Psautier Huguenot, 1:350.
(195) Robin A. Leaver, The Liturgy and Music: A Study of the Use of the Hymn in Two Liturgical Traditions (Bramcote, England: Grove Books, 1976), p. 11.
(196) Douen, Clément Marot et Le Psautier Huguenot, 1:314; cf. p. 271.
(197) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, p. 33; Calvini Opera 6:171-72.
(198) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, pp. 23-24, n. 134.
(199) Pierre Pidoux, “The History of the Origin of the Genevan Psalter I,” Reformed Music Journal 1(1989): 4.
(200) Calvini Opera 16, no. 2632, col. 488: Ad poeticen natura satis eram propensus: sed ea valere iussa, ab annis viginti quinque nihil composui, nisi quod Wormaciae exemplo Philippi et Sturmii adductus sum, ut carmen illud quod legisti per lusum scriberem.
(201) Calvini Opera 5:417-28. For the identity of the poem to which Calvin refers in the letter to Hubert, cf. 16:488, n. 6; Émile Doumergue, Jean Calvin: Les hommes et les choses de son temps (Lausanne: Georges Bridel and Company, 1899-1927), vol. 2, app. 6: “Calvin Poete,” pp. 742-43; Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, p. 5, n. 7.
(202) Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle, 2:44.
(203) Ibid., 2:61-62.
(204) Ibid., 2:135.
(205) Pierre Pidoux, “The History of the Origin of the Genevan Psalter II,” Reformed Music Journal 1(1989): 32.
(206) Blankenburg, “Church Music in Reformed Europe,” p. 531.
(207) Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle, 2:134; cf. 1:144.
(208) Lillback, “Introduction,” p. 2.
(209) Les Saincts Cantiques Recueillis tant du Vieil que du Nouueau Testament, Mis en Rime Françoise par Theodore de Besze; Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle, 2:167.
(210) Pidoux, Le Psautier Huguenot Du XVIe Siècle, 1:225-31.
(211) Ibid., 2:167.
(212) Ibid., 2:169.
(213) Pidoux, “History of the Origin of the Genevan Psalter II,” p. 32.
(214) Garside, Origins of Calvin’s Theology of Music, p. 33; Calvini Opera 6:169-72.
(215) M. Gertner, “The Masorah and the Levites,” Vetus Testamentum 10 (1960): 252-53.
(216) Kleinig, The Lord’s Song, pp. 47, 50.
(217) Japhet, I and II Chronicles, p. 304. Cf. the musical ability spoken of in II Chron. 30:21-22 (ASV and RSV).
(218) Gordon L. Carr, “The Claims of the Chronicler for the Origin of the Israelite Priesthood” (Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1973), p. 154. Cf. Beckwith, “Early History of the Psalter,” p. 3.
(219) Petersen, Late Israelite Prophecy, pp. 62-64 and 89 (nn. 31-39). Cf. Joseph Blenkinsopp, Sage, Priest, Prophet: Religous and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), pp. 97-98.
(220) Beckwith, “Early History of the Psalter,” p. 12.
(221) Kleinig, The Lord’s Song, pp. 34, 91.
(222) Sigmund Mowinckel, “Cult and Prophecy,” in Prophecy in Israel, ed. David L. Petersen (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), pp. 86-87. Cf. on II Chron. 24:27, Raymond B. Dillard, 2 Chronicles (Waco: Word Books, 1987), pp. 186-87, 194.
(223) Joseph Blenkinsopp, Prophecy and Canon, p. 186. Cf. Raymond J. Tournay, Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms: The Prophetic Liturgy of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), pp. 36-37.
(224) Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, rev. ed. reset (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), p. 317, and The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 2:408, n. 1.
(225) Raymond J. Tournay, Quand Dieu Parle aux Hommes le Langage de l’Amour: Études sur le Cantique des Cantiques, Cahiers de la Revue Biblique, vol. 21 (Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1982), pp. 116-19. Cf. Gerhard von Rad, Das Geschichtsbild des Chronistischen Werkes (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1930), p. 110. For further literature about word play in the Old Testament, see Tournay, Quand Dieu Parle aux Hommes, p. 122, n. 34.
(226) William McKane, “Massa in Jeremiah 23:33-40,” in Prophecy: Essays presented to Georg Fohrer, ed. J. A. Emerton (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980), pp. 38-39.