Some thoughts from a defender of hymnody:
“We thus defend the use of hymns, but we should remember the following:
1. In Holy Scripture we do not find a separate collection of prayers, but we do find a separate collection of psalms.
2. The spiritual depth of the psalms exceeds by far anything that afterward was composed as a church hymn and was sometimes claimed to be even more spiritual.
3. Whenever hymns came into the churches, they always seemed, first, to push back the psalms, and then to supplant them.
4. The psalms have always echoed the enduring, eternal keynote of the pious heart, while hymns usually had a temporary quality and were marked by what was popular at the moment.
5. Hymns in most cases led to the singing by choirs, with the congregation becoming listeners.
6. In the struggle between hymn and psalm, all nominal members favored the hymns over the psalms while the truly pious members were much more inclined to use the psalms rather than the hymns.
Of course, we do not mean to say that everyone who favored hymns could no longer be called pious. After all, who would want to exclude Luther? Yet, it seems to us that the six points mentioned above do express what experience has shown to be true.
The almost exclusive preference for the singing of psalms in our Reformed churches during the Reformation was prompted by the many abuses that had accompanied the introduction of hymns.
Has our experience since the Reformation not proven clearly that there was a measure of wisdom in this way of thinking? Non-Reformed churches freely accepted hymns to be sung in their churches, but what was the result? Undoubtedly many beautiful, pious hymns were written, so that now we find some gems of spiritual poetry among the German hymns as well as the English that also move the Reformed soul, and refresh, edify, and comfort it.
But, alas, one sad consequence was that so many of the old abuses crept back into the church. Almost everywhere the hymns drove out nearly all singing of the psalms, and very few psalms were included in the songbooks, and even those were seldom sung. In addition, through the introduction of choirs, singing became more superficial, the organ was used more to direct the singing, and the religious character was changed into an aesthetic expression.” — Abraham Kuyper, “Our Worship,” pp. 39-41