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Exclusive Psalmody in History by Joe Harper.

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Below is a list of quotations from theologians in history regarding the singing of Psalms in worship and the exposition of Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. These two verses of Scripture state that we should sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, which refer to the titles of the Psalms of David. The Hebrew words that are used as the titles of the Psalter is Mizmor, Tehillah, and Shir. The Greek equivalents are psalmos, humnos, and ode which are the titles of the psalms in the Greek Septuagint. These words are translated as psalms, hymns, and songs. This shows that Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19 are referring to the titles of the 150 psalms found in the Old Testament. This exegesis of these passages has been affirmed by some of the most brilliant theologians in the history of the Church. Once this interpretation is established, then the case for exclusive psalmody quickly becomes established. If Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19 are referring to the psalms as well as other passages such as Matthew 26:30 and James 5:13, then it is quickly realized that there is no mention of singing uninspired songs of human composition anywhere in the New Testament. Matthew 26:30 which speaks of the Christ and the disciples singing a “hymn” during the Passover is referring to the Hallel which is composed of Psalms 113-118. The Hallel was sung by the Jews on the night of the Passover meal which the disciples were celebrating with Christ. Other New Testament references to hymns are referring to inspired hymns found in the Psalter and not songs written by men for public worship.

An examination of Church history reveals that the singing of Psalms has been at the center of public worship for all of Church history. Intense debate has raged about when the use of uninspired hymns began to be sung but the best historians date its beginning in the fourth century. It has been proven beyond all doubt that the Gnostic sects began to write man made hymns in that era. Even after hymns of human composition began to be used, they were still vigorously opposed by the Church as a whole for centuries.

In the Reformation era, John Calvin greatly loved the psalms, and they were at the center of the reformed worship services in Geneva. The Genevan Psalter is a testament to the place of psalmody in the city of Geneva in those days. Calvin’s Church did not sing uninspired hymns. Some opponents of exclusive psalmody have tried to minimize Calvin’s views on the psalms in worship by pointing out that Calvin’s Church recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed during worship services. Other songs found in Scripture such as the Magnificat of Mary were also sung in the services under Calvin. While it is conceded that these practices are inconsistent with the position of exclusive psalmody this in no way puts Calvin in the camp of the “uninspired hymnists.” Calvin has correctly been called the father of Reformed Psalmody due to his use of the Psalms at Geneva.

Exclusive Psalmody was the majority position of the Puritans. The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Directory of Public Worship, and the Savoy Declaration all explicitly affirm the position of Exclusive Psalmody. A few members of the Westminster Divines did believe in the use of uninspired hymns, but their views did not carry the day at the Westminster Assembly. For example, Thomas Manton at one point in his writings does appear to affirm the use of hymns although he did correctly see that Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19 were referring to the Psalms of David. John Owen called the Prince of the Puritans affirmed the position of Exclusive Psalmody. Exclusive Psalmody without instrumentation was by far the most widely held understanding of the Regulative Principle advocated by the Puritans.

John Gill and Jonathan Edwards are two theologians listed below who exegeted Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19 to be referring to the Psalms of David. Both of these men did allow for the use of uninspired hymns during their ministries. John Gill overall saw the central place of the psalms in worship as is seen from his section “On Singing Psalms” found in his Body of Divinity. Gill lays many of the arguments for Psalmody in that portion of his writings although at one point he concedes the use of man-made hymns. A history of Gill’s Church during his ministry reveals that the Church went through periods of only singing only the Psalms and other periods of singing the Psalms as well as humanly written hymns. George Ella describes this position of Gill’s Church in his biography on John Gill. This history of Gill’s Church gives clarity to a statement found in Gill’s theological confession which says,

“We also believe, that singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs vocally, (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) is an ordinance of the Gospel, to be performed by believers; but that as to time, place, and manner, every one ought to be left to their (James 5:13) liberty in using it.” (Goat Yard Confession 1729)

It will be noted that many of the advocates of Exclusive Psalmody in Church history have been Presbyterians. Amongst the Baptists the position has not been nearly as widely held. Benjamin Keach (1640- 1704) pushed for the use of the psalms and uninspired hymns during his ministry in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Keach’s influence on the Baptists eventually led to the Baptists adopting hymnody in their singing during worship. Before this, many of the seventeenth century Particular Baptists believed that the regulative principle called for no singing at all. Other Particular Baptists were exclusive psalmists while still others believed in the use of humanly written hymns. The spectrum of thought amongst the Particular Baptists is seen in the wording of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. The Confession reads,

“The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord's supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner.” (Second London Baptist Confession 1689)

The confession is intentionally worded to allow for multiple understandings for what ought to be sung by Churches. Keach’s influence on the Baptists as well as the influence of Isaac Watts on singing in Churches across denominations led to hymns becoming widespread amongst the Baptists just as they became widespread amongst other denominations. It should be noted that exclusive psalmody is not a position exclusively held by Presbyterians. John Owen was a famous independent theologian who held to the exclusive use of Psalms. Owen theological views were not radically departed from the Baptists. Other Congregationalists who were theological cousins to the Baptists were also exclusive psalmists. Today, there are Baptists pastors, theologians, and Churches who hold to Exclusive Psalmody although they are in the minority compared to those who use hymns. Belief in exclusive psalmody does not automatically entail a belief in infant baptism, presbyterian covenant theology, or presbyterian church government. In the same manner, belief in the use of hymns does not necessitate believers’ baptism, independence of the local church, or regenerate Church membership. Theologians oftentimes fall into the trap of conflating different theological issues together due the understandings of different theological traditions in history. It must be recognized that we see in part and know in part. Reformed Truther Ministries is a Baptist ministry which holds to believers’ baptism, regenerate Church membership, and the independence of the local Church. Reformed Truther Ministries also holds to the position of exclusive psalmody. We find that our Baptists principles and belief in exclusive psalmody do not contradict each other but are both expressions of the teaching of Scripture.

Church Fathers

Basil the Great (c.330-379) bishop of Caesarea, author of a famous work on the Holy Spirit: “He devised for us these harmonious melodies of the psalms, that they who are children in age or even those who are youthful in disposition might to all appearances chant but, in reality, become trained in soul. For, never has any one of the many indifferent persons gone away easily holding in mind either an apostolic or prophetic message, but they do chant the words of the psalms even in the home, and they spread them around in the market place, and if perchance someone becomes exceedingly wrathful, when he begins to be soothed by the psalm, he departs with the wrath of his soul immediately lulled to sleep by means of the melody.”

Synod 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.”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407) bishop of Constantinople, the golden-mouthed preacher: “The grace of the Holy Ghost hath so ordered it, that the Psalms of David should be recited and sung night and day. In the Church’s vigils—in the morning—at funeral solemnities—the first, the midst, and the last is David. In private houses, where virgins spin—in the monasteries—in the deserts, where men converse with God—the first, the midst, and the last is David. In the night, when men sleep, he wakes them up to sing; and collecting the servants of God into angelic troops, turns earth into heaven, and of men makes angels, chanting David’s Psalms.”

Puritan Era Documents

The Annotations of the Dutch Bible (1637) ordered and appointed by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) on Ephesians 5:19:

“These three sorts of spiritual singing serve for one end. Namely to recreate the spirit; and are by some thus distinguished, that Psalms are all kind of spiritual songs, which are exercised, not only with the voice, but also with stringed instruments of music. Hymns, thanksgivings unto God, or metrical celebrations of God’s grace to us: and spiritual songs such indicting as contains all manner of spiritual doctrines. See also Col. 3:16, and these several names seem to be taken from the several inscriptions of the Psalms of David” (spelling modernized).

The Preface to The Bay Psalm Book (1640),

the first book to be printed in New England: “… the whole Church is commanded to teach one another in all the several sorts of David’s psalms, some being called by himself Mizmorim: psalms, some Tehillim: hymns, some Shirim: spiritual songs. So that if the singing of David’s psalms be a moral duty and therefore perpetual; then we under the New Testament are bound to sing them as well as they under the Old: and if we are expressly commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), then either we must sing David’s psalms, or else may affirm they are not spiritual songs: which being penned by an extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, for the sake especially of God’s spiritual Israel, not to be read and preached only (as other parts of holy writ) but to be sung also, they are therefore most spiritual, and still to be sung of all the Israel of God: and verily as their sin is exceeding great, who will allow David’s psalms (as other scriptures) to be read in churches (which is one end) but not to be preached also, which is another end so their sin is crying before God, who will allow them to be read and preached, but seek to deprive the Lord of the glory of the third end of them, which is to sing them in Christian churches.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 22. Par. 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; 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.”

Westminster Directory of Public Worship, On Singing Psalms, (1646-1647):

“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.”

Savoy Declaration, Ch. 22. Par. 5, (1658):

“The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, singing of psalms; as also the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear. Solemn humiliations, with fastings and thanksgivings upon special occasions, are in their several times and seasons to be used in a holy and religious manner”

The twenty-six Puritan signatories of the Preface to the 1673 London edition of the Scottish Metrical Psalter:

“… to us David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by those terms of ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,’ which the apostle useth (Eph. 5.19; Col. 3.16)” (the signatories include John Owen, Thomas Manton, Matthew Poole, Thomas Watson, Thomas Vincent and William Jenkyn).

Reformation and Post Reformation Era Quotations

John Calvin (1509- 1564), Commentary on the Psalms:

“There is no other book in which there is to be found more express and magnificent commendations, both of the unparalleled liberality of God towards his Church, and of all his works; there is no other book in which there is recorded so many deliverances, nor one in which the evidences and experiences of the fatherly providence and solicitude which God exercises towards us, are celebrated with such splendour of diction, and yet with the strictest adherence to truth; in short, there is no other book in which we are more perfectly taught the right manner of praising God, or in which we are more powerfully stirred up to the performance of this religious exercise.”

William Perkins (1558-1602), the “father of English Puritanism:” “[The Book of] Psalms contains sacred songs suitable for every condition of the church and its individual members, composed to be sung with grace in the heart (Col. 3:16)” (The Art of Prophesying, p. 14).

Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622), English Puritan, scholar in Hebrew and Rabbinics, commenting on Psalm 3: “There be three kinds of songs mentioned in this book: 1. Mizmor, in Greek psalmos, a psalm: 2. Tehillah, in Greek humnos, a hymn or praise: and 3. Shir, in Greek ode, a song or lay. All these three the apostle mentioneth together, where he willeth us to speak to ourselves with ‘psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,’ Ephesians 5:19.”

John Robinson (c.1576-1625), the minister of many of the Congregationalist settlers who journeyed to Plymouth Colony, New England: “What is required touching singing of psalms in the church? That they be such as are parts of the Word of God, formed by the Holy Ghost into psalms or songs, which many may conveniently sing together, exhorting and admonishing themselves mutually with grace in their hearts (Matt. 26:30; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).”

Nicholas Byfield (1579-1622), English Puritan, commenting on Colossians 3:16:

“The matter is here three ways to be considered: First, in the ground, foundation, or authority of the psalms we use, viz., they must be the word of Christ, that is, contained in the Scriptures. Secondly, in the kinds of psalms. There are many sorts of psalms in Scripture, the psalms of Moses, David, Solomon, and other prophets; but all are here referred to three heads; they are either psalms, specially so called, or hymns, or songs … But I think there needs not any curious distinction. It may suffice us that there is a variety of psalms in Scripture, and God allows us the use of every kind. Thirdly, the property of the psalms: they are “spiritual,” both because they are indited by the Spirit, and because they make us more spiritual in the due use of them.”

John Cotton (1584-1652), New England Congregationalist theologian:

“In both which places (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16), as the apostle exhorteth us to singing, so he instructeth us what the matter of our song should be, to wit, Psalmes, hymnes, and spirituall Songs. Now these three be the very titles of the Songs of David, as they are delivered to us by the Holy Ghost himself: some of them are called Mizmorim, that is Psalmes; some Tehillim, that is Hymnes; some Shirim, that is Songs, spirituall Songs. Now what reason can be given why the apostle should direct us in our singing to the very titles of David’s Psalms, if it were not his meaning that we should sing them? … The words of David and Asaph, as they were the words of Christ in the mouth of David and Asaph: so they were the words of Christ also in the mouths of the sonnes of Corah, or any other singers in the Temple.”

John Daille (1594-1670), French Huguenot commenting on Colossians 3:16:

“The apostle names three sorts of them [i.e. ‘divine canticles’], psalms, hymns, or praises, and odes, or songs … You have various examples of them all in the book of Psalms … It is with these sacred lyres, of which the word of Christ affords us both the matter and the form, that the apostle would have us solace ourselves. St. James gives us orders for it: ‘Is any among you merry? let him sings psalms,’ James 5:13. The apostle calls all these sonnets spiritual, both on account of their author, who is the Holy Spirit, and also of their matter, which concerns only divine and heavenly things, the glory of God, and our salvation …”

John Lightfoot (1602-1675) member of the Westminster Assembly:

“The constant and ordinary psalms that [the Jews] sang were these:

On the first day of the week, the Four-and-twentieth Psalm, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, etc. On the second day of the week, the Forty-eighth Psalm, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of God, etc. On the third day, the Eighty-second Psalm, God standeth in the congregation of the mighty, and judgeth among the gods, etc. On the fourth day, the Ninety-fourth Psalm, O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, etc. On the fifth day, the Eighty-first Psalm, Sing aloud unto God our strength, make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob, etc. On the sixth day of the week, the Ninety-third Psalm, The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty, etc. On the Sabbath-day they sang the Ninety-second Psalm, which bears the title of A Psalm or song for the Sabbath-day. These were the known and constant and fixed psalms that the singers sang, and the music played to, on the several days of the week … This saying over of the Hallel is acknowledge by the Jews to be an institution of the scribes; and the reason of the picking out of these psalms for that purpose was because of their beginning or ending with Hallelujah, and partly because they contain, not only so high and eminent memorials of God’s goodness and deliverance unto Israel … but also several other things of high and important matter and consideration; for the Hallel, say they, recordeth five things: the coming out of Egypt, the dividing of the sea, the giving of the law, the resurrection of the dead, and the lot of Messias.”

Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664), English Puritan:

“Whether may not Christians lawfully sing David’s or Moses’s psalms? And how it may appear? Answered affirmatively: Ephesians 5:19, where, under those three heads of Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, David’s Psalms are contained.”

John Owen, (1616- 1683), English Puritan, Works of Owen, Vol. 16, A Letter Concerning Excommunication, p. 219:

“They do also attend unto divine worship in their own assemblies: and herein they do practice all that is agreed on by all Christians in the world, and nothing else; for they do not only make the Scripture the sole rule of their worship, so as to omit nothing prescribed therein to that purpose, nor to observe anything prohibited thereby, but their worship is the very same with that of the catholic church in all ages; nothing do they omit that was ever used by it, nothing do they observe that was ever condemned by it. And this must be the principle and measure of catholic union in worship, if ever there be any such thing in the earth; to expect it in any other observances is vain and foolish Offering prayers and praises to God in the name of Jesus Christ, reading the holy Scripture and expounding of it, singing of psalms to God, preaching of the word, with the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, in a religious observation of the Lord’s day unto these ends, all according as God doth enable them by his Spirit, is the sum and substance of the worship of the catholic church, wherein all Christians are agreed. These things the Scripture doth prescribe, and these things the church in all ages hath observed. All differences about this worship, which have filled the world with inhuman contentions, arose from men’s arbitrary addition of forms, rites, modes, ceremonies, languages, cringings, adorations, which they would have observed in it; whereof the Scripture is silent and primitive antiquity utterly ignorant. And it may be it will be one day understood, that the due observance of this catholic worship, according as God enableth any thereunto (leaving others at liberty to use such helps unto their devotion as they shall think meet), is the only communion of worship in the church which the Scripture requires, or which is possible to be attained. About the imposition of other things, there ever were, since they were, and ever will be, endless contentions. Wherefore, these dissenters practising nothing in the worship of God but what is approved by all Christians, particularly by the church of England, omitting nothing that either the Scripture or catholic tradition directs unto, they are, notwithstanding this pretended excommunication, secure of communion with the catholic church in evangelical worship.”

Thomas Manton (1620-1677), English Puritan, commenting on Ephesians 5:19:

“The learned observe, these are the express titles of David’s Psalms, mizmorim, tehillim, and Shirim, which the Septuagint translate, psalmoi, humnoi, and odai, ‘psalms, hymns, and songs,’ [and] seem to recommend to us the book of David’s Psalms.”

Matthew Poole (1624- 1679), English Puritan, commenting on Colossians 3:16: “is in singing to his praise, psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs. He doth not say, teaching and admonishing from these, (as elsewhere, Acts 8:35 28:23), but in them; implying it is a peculiar ordinance of Christ for Christians to be exercised in holy singing, as Jam 5:13, with an audible voice musically, Psalm 95:1,2 100:1,2 Ac 16:25, as foretold, Isaiah 52:8, with Romans 10:14. Some would distinguish the three words the apostle here useth from the manner of singing, as well as the matter sung; others, from the Hebrew usage of words expressed by the seventy, in the book of Psalms; yet, whoever consults the titles of the Psalms and other places of the Old Testament, they shall find the words used sometimes promiscuously; compare Judges 5:3 1 Chronicles 16:8,9 2 Chronicles 7:6 23:13 2 Chronicles 29:30 Psalm 39:3 45:1 47:1 48:1 65:1 105:1,2 Isa 12:2,4 42:10; or conjunctly to the same matter, Psalm 30:1-12,48:1-14,65:1-13,66:1-20, Psalm 75:1-10,83:1-18,87:1-7, titles. Hereupon others stand not open any critical distinction of the three words, yet are inclined here to take psalms by way of eminency, Luke 24:44; or more generally, as the genus, noting any holy metre, whether composed by the prophets of old, or others since, assisted by the Spirit extraordinarily or ordinarily, Luke 24:44 Acts 16:25 1 Corinthians 14:15,26 Jas 5:13. Here for clearness’ sake two modes of the psalms, viz. hymns, whereby we celebrate the excellencies of God and his benefits to man, Psalm 113:1-9 Matthew 26:30; and odes or songs, which word, though ordinarily in its nature and use it be more general, yet here synecdochically, in regard of the circumstances of the conjoined words, it may contain the rest of spiritual songs, of a more ample, artificial, and elaborate composure, besides hymns, Revelation 14:2,3 15:2,3; which may be called spiritual or holy songs from the efficient matter, or end, viz. that they proceed from the Holy Spirit, or in argument may agree and serve thereto; being convenient they be so called from the argument, as opposed to carnal, sensual, and worldly ditties.”

George Swinnock (1627-1673), English Puritan, commenting on Colossians 3:16: “The Holy Ghost when he commandeth that the word should keep house with us, doth also enjoin us to ‘teach and admonish one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.’ (which are the titles of David’s Psalms, and the known division of them, expressly answering to the Hebrew words, Shurim, Telhillim, and Mizinurim, by which his Psalms are distinguished and entitled, as the learned observe.) ‘singing and making melody with grace in our hearts to the Lord,’ Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19, Jam. 5:13.”

John Flavel (1628-1691): “You [Anabaptist opponent] … are found in the sinful neglect of a sweet and heavenly gospel-ordinance, viz. the singing of psalms, for which you have both precept and precedent in the gospel, Col. 3:16, James 5:13, I Cor. 14:26” (Works [Edinburgh: Banner, 1982], vol. 6, p. 357).

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711): “The decision of the Dutch Synods has been very correct indeed, namely, that none other but the Psalms of David are to be used in the churches” (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout [USA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995], vol. 4, pp. 34-35).

Dr. John Gill (1697-1771), English Baptist, commenting on Ephesians 5:19: “By psalms are meant the Psalms of David, and others that compose the book that goes with that name; and by hymns we are to understand, not such as are made by good men, without the inspiration of the Spirit of God; since they are placed between psalms and spiritual songs, made by men inspired by the Holy Ghost … but these are only another name for the book of Psalms, the running title of which may as well be the book of Hymns, as it is rendered by Ainsworth … and by spiritual songs are meant the same Psalms of David, Asaph, etc. and the titles of many of them are songs … These three words answer to Mizmorim, Tehillim, and Shirim, the several titles of David’s Psalms …”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): “Another thing God did towards this work at that time was His inspiring David to show forth Christ and His redemption in Divine songs, which should be for the use of the Church in public worship throughout all ages. This was also a glorious advancement of the office of redemption, as God hereby gave His Church a book of divine songs for their use in that part of their public worship–viz., singing His praises throughout all ages to the end of the world. It is manifest the Book of Psalms was given of God for this end. David is called the “sweet Psalmist of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1), because he penned Psalms for the use of the Church of Israel; and we find the same are appointed in the New Testament to be made use of in their worship: ‘Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19).”

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787), Scottish Presbyterian, author of the Self-Interpreting Bible: “The Holy Ghost hath, under the New [Testament], plainly directed us to the use thereof [i.e., of the Psalms], Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19. The Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, there recommended, are plainly the same with the Mizmorim, Tehillim, and Shirim, mentioned in the Hebrew titles of David’s Psalms, 3, 4, 5, etc.; 145, 120, 134.”

John Murray (1898-1975), professor at Westminster Theological Seminary: “Paul’s usage will show that the word ‘Spiritual’ is derived from the Holy Spirit. ‘Spiritual words’ (I Cor. 2:13) are words taught of the Holy Spirit. The ‘Spiritual man’ (I Cor. 2:15) is the man indwelt and controlled by the Holy Spirit. ‘Spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) are songs indicted by the Holy Spirit. ‘Spiritual understanding’ (Col. 1:9) is the understanding imparted by the Holy Spirit (cf. also Rom. 1:11; I Cor. 3:1; 10:3-4; 12:1; 15:44, 46; I Pet. 2:5)” (Epistle to the Romans, vol. 1, p. 254).

Church History

Dr. Philip Schaff, American church historian (1819-1893):

(1) The “Book of Psalms is the oldest Christian Hymn Book; inherited from the ancient covenant … The Councils of Laodicea (360) and of Chalcedon (451) prohibited the ecclesiastical use of all uninspired or private hymns.”

(2) “[The church] long adhered almost exclusively to the Psalms of David, who, as Chrysostom says, was first, middle, and last in the assemblies of the Christians; and it had, in opposition to heretical predilections, even a decided aversion to the public use of uninspired songs. The Council of Laodicea, about 360, prohibited even the ecclesiastical use of all uninspired or ‘private hymns,’ and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 confirmed this decree.”

John McNaugher:

“Let it be supposed that the Book of Psalms alone had been used in the Christian Church up to the present, that it had taken root in the affections of the people, and that in the Authorized Version of the Bible and the popular praise-manuals its one hundred and fifty odes were styled psalms, hymns, and songs. Suppose next that a pastoral letter was dispatched to our congregations, advising the people to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. What would be understood by the exhortation? The question answers itself. But these were precisely the conditions among the churches of Asia Minor. According to the principles of historical criticism, therefore, the evidence is ample and decisive that these passages reproduce the technical Psalter designations of the Septuagint.”

“Among the authorities upholding the foregoing interpretation of these passages [Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19 as referring to the 150 biblical Psalms] may be mentioned the following: Clement, the celebrated Greek Father who presided over the Catechetical School at Alexandria (Paidagogos, book 3, chapter 4); Jerome, the most learned of the early fathers of the Latin Church (Com. on Eph.); Beza, the friend and ablest coadjutor of Calvin (Com. on Col.); John Owen, the prince of English divines in the seventeenth century (Preface to a metrical edition of the Psalms published in 1673 for use among the Independents and Dissenters of England); Jean Daille, d. 1670, a celebrated French Protestant minister (Expos. of Col.); Cotton Mather, d. 1728, the well-known New England author; Thomas Ridgley, a standard English writer on theology (Body of Divinity, edition of 1819, Vol. 4, p. 134); Jonathan Edwards, d. 1758, the noted American divine and metaphysician (Hist. of Redemption, Period 1, Part 5); John Gill, a learned Orientalist and Baptist theologian of the eighteenth century (Body of Divinity and Com. on Eph.); John Brown of Haddington, Scotland, professor of divinity in the Associate Synod of Scotland, d. 1787 (Dictionary of the Bible); William Romaine, an eminent author of the eighteenth century in the Church of England; Walter F. Hook, d. 1875, an Anglican dean and ecclesiastical historian (Church Dictionary); The Encyclopaedia Britannica, article on Hymns, by the Right Hon. The Earl of Selborne; William Binnie, of Scotland (The Psalms: Their History, Teachings and Use. London 1877); H. C. B. Bazely, of Oxford, England, d. 1883 (Biography); E. L. Hicks, Hon. Canon of Worcester, Church of England (Biography of Henry Bazely); Edmund Reuss, of Strasburg, the great Alsatian Protestant Theologian, d. 1891 (History of the New Testament); Taylor, for many years professor of Greek Language and Literature in Union College, Schenectady, N. Y. (The Bible Psalmody); Philip Schaff, of Union Theological Seminary, New York City, the distinguished Church historian, d. 1893 (Hist. of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, p. 463); and the late John A. Broadus, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Com. on Matt.).

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