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Church Councils on Exclusive Psalmody by Carlos Gonzalez

Church Councils on Exclusive Psalmody

This weekend I was able to attend the Exclusive Psalmody debate between Dr. Gordon and Dr. Prutow. It was a great debate. You can listen to it here:

Gordon-Prutow Psalmody Debate

One thing that I wish was discussed more is Exclusive Psalmody in church history. In this post, I want to share some quotes from church councils and confessions.  This is not a complete list but just ones that are pretty clear. There are many quotes from church fathers and reformers but I might save those for future posts. I am missing a quote from the Council of Chalcedon of 451 but that also rejected the singing of uninspired songs in worship.

Council of Laodicea (343-381), canon LIX: “No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments.”

Council of Braga (563): “no poetic composition be sung in the Church except the Psalms of the sacred canon..”

National Synod of Dort, 1578, Art. 76.: “The Psalms of David, in the edition of Petrus Dathenus, shall be sung in the Christian meetings of the Netherlands Churches (as has been done until now), abandoning the hymns which are not found in Holy Scripture.”

National Synod of Middelburg, 1581, Art. 51: “Only the Psalms of David shall be sung in the church, omitting the hymns which one cannot find in Holy Scripture.”

National Synod of Gravenhage, 1586, Art. 62: “The Psalms of David shall be sung in the churches, omitting the hymns which one does not find in Holy Scripture.”

Westminster Confession of Faith 21:5 (1646): “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 [Col.3:16; Eph.5:19; James 5:13]; 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 special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.”

The Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God: “Of Singing of Psalms
It is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.
In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.
That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof. ”

Meeting Minutes of the Westminster Assembly. April 15, 1646: “Ordered, That the Book of Psalms, set forth by Mr. Rous, and perused by the Assembly of Divines, be forthwith printed in sundry volumes: And that the said Psalms, and none other, shall, after the first day of January next, be sung in all Churches and Chapels within the Kingdom of England, Dominion of Wales, and Town of Berwick upon-Tweede; and that it be referred to Mr. Rous, to take care for the true printing thereof.—The Lords concurrence to be desired herein.”

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