Exclusive Psalmody, Reformed doctrine and the PB rules  

Posted by panta dokimazete

I have had an on-again, off-again "relationship" with the Puritanboard, particularly around my view of Psalmody and specifically around the practice of Exclusive Psalmody. Recently a new sub forum was created to address the overall practice in context - this is the introdution to my request for some clarifying discussion. I pray it is edifying.

My apologies if this violates the requirements of this sub-forum, but for the sake of clarity and preciseness, I would like to respectfully request some dialog around the inferences of this sub-forum description and what it means in terms of EP debate on the PB:

A capella Exclusive Psalmody Sub-forum dedicated to the discussion of non-instrumental worship and the exclusive use of the Psalms per the Reformed Confessions. Participants are reminded to be respectful of the Reformed Confessions and to avoid ad hominem labels of Pharisaism simply because a brother is more scrupulous.
If it is not deemed too contentious, I would request that a non-EP'er among the moderators also participate in the dialog.

I use the word "dialog" purposefully, because I believe this discussion would serve the greater needs of the board in terms of acceptable parameters to approach this important subject, as well as a useful resource of reminder when the parameters have been violated.

First a couple of thoughts:

I personally consider the PB a "proving ground" of sort for a range of discussions that serve to refine and reform ideas, presuppositions and potential misconceptions within a pre-established framework - namely Reformed doctrine.

That being said, I believe that this approach aligns with the principle of Semper Reformanda and am discouraged when it seems the board rules and moderator actions discourage discussion and frank debate around unresolved or non-binding issues.

Let me qualify with this statement - I do believe that tone and approach matter and should certainly be moderated. As a passionate and direct person, I appreciate the character and intent of our moderators and have learned much in the way of modulating my words and implications to be more irenic when irenic is appropriate.

I am also aligned with closing threads that have served their purpose - that is - each viewpoint has been presented, clarified and refined and the dialog has become repetitious or overly contentious in nature. I believe the nature of a discussion board is to extract bits and pieces of prior discussion and work them through, with an eye toward the law of diminishing returns.

So, to the point:

It is my impression that EP was not monolithic doctrine among the Confessionally Reformed ("Truely" and "Broadly"), otherwise one would have to take exception to all the accepted confessions in this area, so I am confused as to why EP seems to be presented as the "default" position for the PB as well as the implication that an EP'er is more scrupulous than a non-EP'er?

Thanks in advance for allowing this clarifying discussion to occur.

Your brother in Christ,


Did the Westminster Divines require unconditional Exclusive Psalmody?  

Posted by panta dokimazete

I thought this article - while very polemic in nature - gave a good answer:

Let me come to the Westminster divines. A greater collection of godly and learned men was never assembled since the times of the apostles. Their view on the cardinal doctrines of the gospel is not to be dismissed lightly.
The impression given by the advocates of “psalms only”, undoubtedly, is that they have the full support of these great men for their views. But is that true?

Thomas Manton stood head and shoulder above those giants. He was chosen to represent the assembly of divines who authored the Westminster Confession of Faith, when he was asked to write the epistle to the reader, placed at the very gateway to this historic document. I believe that we can consider him to be the embodiment of the views held by at least the majority of the divines who co-produced the Westminster Confession of Faith.

What was his view on this matter? It is found in his comments on the verse “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms,” James 5:13, and is very clear.

“Others question whether we may sing scripture psalms, the psalms of David, which to me seemeth to look like the cavil of a profane spirit. But to clear this also. I confess we do not forbid other songs; if grave and pious, after good advice they may be received into the church. Tertullian, in his Apology, showth that in the primitive times they used this liberty, either to sing scripture psalms or such as were of a private composure.”

Two things are clear from this statement.
In advancing his case for the singing of psalms:—

[1] Thomas Manton did not forbid the singing of spiritual songs other than the psalms;

[2] He considered the singing of hymns of “private composure” to have been the practice of the early church and refers to Tertullian as his source for believing that.


I am entitled to ask the question that if Thomas Manton were here expressing something quite contradictory to the Regulative Principle and to the mind of the Assembly divines on the important matter of the public worship of God, would he have been permitted to represent the divines by writing the epistle to the reader at the front of their great work, the Westminster Confession of Faith? I am very confident that the answer would be “No”.

Thomas Manton’s views on this subject were representative of the thinking of the Westminster divines and we conclude that the Westminster divines were no advocates of “exclusive Psalmody.”