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.”

This entry was posted on 01 November 2008 at Saturday, November 01, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Hear all 150 psalms sung with little to no instrumentation.


January 18, 2010 at 11:57 PM

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