Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part IX & X & Conclusion

Last in a Series on EP in the ARP Cont…


We have in addition to all the above two plain, positive, unmistakable commands in the New Testament to sing the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs of the inspired Psalter.

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns an4 spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. (Eph. 5:19.)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Coloss. 3:16.)

We not only affirm, but have the highest authority for regarding it as an admitted fact, that the songs here referred to are the psalms and hymns of the inspired Psalter. But inasmuch as these passages are sometimes quoted in support of songs of praise other than the Psalms, we will consider them more fully under Part III of this discussion, Question 4th.


As a concluding argument, let it be remembered that the New Testament knows no book of praises other than the inspired Psalter, there is no intimation whatever that another book of songs is needed or would ever be given to the church. There is neither a direction given to any man to furnish such a book, nor a single promise of the influence of the Holy Spirit to assist any man in preparing one. When Jesus “ascended on high and received gifts for men,” he bestowed upon His church all the gifts necessary for her edification to the end of time. He gave some evangelists, some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body o£ Christ. Now, if it had been necessary for the edification of His church, is it not reasonable to suppose that among other gifts He would have conferred the Spirit of Psalmody? But in vain do we look for the gift of a Psalmist or the spirit of Psalmody. No such office as hymnist is named. The apostles and all who believed through their word had, and still have, the promise of the Holy Spirit to help their infirmities in prayer, and in everything that enters into Christian service save the preparation of songs of praise. There is a promise of the Spirit’s help in the offering of praise, for Paul says: “I will sing with the Spirit;” but there is absolutely no promise of his assistance in the composition of matter to be used in praise. Seek for such pledge from the beginning to the end of the New Testament, and you will seek in vain. There is no promise made for the substitution of another system for that contained in the Book of Praise.

If the collection of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, which had been the church’s sufficient manual of praise for many generations, had been inadequate to the needs of the saints in the gospel dispensation, then He who inspired a John and a Paul to make a fuller and clearer revelation of the doctrines of grace would also have touched the lips and tuned the harps of other Davids and Asaphs. The absence of, such provision may be accepted as proof of the sufficiency of the existing book of songs to meet and satisfy every possible want in this important part of God’s worship.

The conclusion is inevitable. This Book of Praise is the only one that bears the sign manual of the church’s Lord. It is the only, one that can point to the sanction of God as the basis of its claim upon the Church of Christ, and thereby it is the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church declares that “It is the will of God that the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs contained in the Book of Psalms be sung in His worship, both public and private, nor, shall any other songs be used in worship by members of the Associate Reformed Church.”


X. (1.) Dr. Owen, and twenty-five others, signed a preface to the Westminster version of the Psalms published in 1673, in which they said: “To us, David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by these terms of Psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, which the apostle useth.”

(2.) Ridgely, in his Body of Divinity, expresses the same view, and says, “It cannot be denied that the Psalms of David are called indifferently by these names.”

(3.) Dr. Gill, the learned Calvinistic divine of the Baptist school, in the introductory remarks to his commentary on the Book of Psalms, says, “To these several names of this book, the apostle manifestly refers in Eph. v:19, and Colossians iii:16. In his exposition of Eph. v:19, thus expresses himself, “The hymns are only another name for the Book of Psalms,” and “by spiritual songs are meant the psalms of David, Asaph, etc.”

(4.) Calvin, according to Doddridge in his note to Col. iii:16, “thinks all these words refer to David’s poetical pieces.”

(5.) Dr. Broadus on Matt. xxvi:30, says, “The term ‘hymn’ must not here be taken in our common sense as differing from a Psalm, nor is there any radical distinction between the two in Col. iii:16 and Eph. v:19.”

(6.) The Right Hon. Lord Selborne, F.R.S., in the Standard work, The British Encyclopedia says: “The modern distinction between psalms and hymns is arbitrary. The former word was used by the LXX as a generic distinction, probably because it implied an accompaniment by the psaltery or other instruments. The cognate verb ‘psaltere’ has been constantly applied to hymns, both in the eastern and western Church; and the same compositions which they described generically as ‘psalms’ were also called by the LXX ‘odes’ (i.e. songs) and hymns. All the words thus used were applied by the LXX to the Davidical Psalms.”

(5th.) Again it is asked: “Is not the position of our Church a very narrow and exclusive one?”

We answer: No more so, we believe, than the Word of God and the teaching of the Presbyterian Standards. In the words of Dr. Russell:

“It is the narrowness of protection, the exclusiveness of the great dyke, which keeps back the threatening tide of sentimentalism, and saves true worship from being submerged by the dribbling rhapsodies of uninspired men. That some breakwater is needed against this tide, is the constant testimony of those who are leaders in our sister denominations. Our principle is that dyke; our declaration is a standing protest against the view that anyone may prepare matter of praise for the Church; that any and everyone may bring incense for the service of the sanctuary from any garden of spices where imagination may chance to roam; and that any Christian, in moments of spiritual exaltation, may indict the songs which shall supplant God’s own word.”


We have now finished our argument and shown a Scriptural warrant for the position of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on the subject of Psalmody. Our appeal has been to the Scriptures and to the Presbyterian Standards as interpreting them. Any arguments in favor of the use of “other songs” in the ordinance of praise must be derived from the same sources, or they are to be regarded as unworthy of answer. We have carefully avoided all side issues and arguments “ad hominem,” and confined our attention exclusively to the Scripture as the sole and sufficient arbiter on this subject. All questions, of human taste and wisdom, of history, experience or of expediency, are subordinate to this fundamental inquiry; what is the will of God? We claim that divine authority and warrant have been shown for the use of the inspired Psalter in the worship of God.

Now if any other songs are to be used we have a right to demand that similar authority be furnished. Here the burden of proof rests on those who introduce other songs in addition to what we have proved to be given by divine appointment. Let it be shown that they too have been divinely “authorized, appointed, prescribed and instituted” by Almighty God. Let it be shown that such compositions bear the direct and unmistakable impress of Christ’s authority, an impress so clear that he who refuses to use them, limiting himself to the inspired Psalm, is guilty of despising an ordinance of Christ.

Can such a case be made out? Can it be shown that I am bound to sing the songs any poet may choose to write and offer as devotional matter? Can the poet himself make such a demand upon me? Can the minister impose any obligation upon his hearers to sing any songs he may choose to announce from his pulpit? Can the Church enforce the reception and use of any hymn book she may select? Now when men are called upon to unite in praising God in the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, of the Scriptures, upon which he has impressed the sanction of his own authority, we can no more decline to respond without sin than we can refuse to read His Word or wait upon the ministry which He has appointed.

But I might have in my possession for half a century unopened and unused any one of the thousand and one hymnals now offered the public, and yet be guiltless before God. But how can this be if God has “authorized, appointed and prescribed their use” in his worship? “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.”

“Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part VII & VIII

Series on EP in the ARP Cont…

VII. The New Testament commands us to sing Psalms.

The duty of praise is very distinctly recognized in the New Testament. ‘By him,’ says the Apostle to the Hebrews, ‘let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.’ (Heb. xiii:15.) And again, ‘Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.’ (James v:13.)

In what sense is it reasonable to suppose, that the primitive Christians would understand the Apostolic direction, ‘Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.’ To assist in determining what is the proper answer to this inquiry, let us propose another question. When our Lord said to his hearers, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ in what sense is it to be supposed that this direction would be understood? No one will pretend that our Lord designed that His hearers should understand Him as instructing them to prepare writings, the matter of which was to be taken from the Bible, which they might consult for their improvement, instead of searching the Holy Scriptures for their edification. Equally unreasonable would it be to suppose that the apostolic directions, with regard to singing psalms, could be understood by the primitive Christians, as authorizing them to prepare psalms to be used in the worship of God, instead of those which He Himself had provided in His Word. As the command of Christ, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ supposes that there were in existence sacred writings with which those to whom the command was addressed, were acquainted, so the apostolic direction, ‘sing psalms’ supposes that these psalms were in existence, which those to whom the direction was given were to use. Those Christians to whom the words of the Apostle James were originally addressed, knew full well that among the sacred writings which God had given to his church there was a ‘Book of Psalms.’ And the exhortation to sing psalms would naturally be understood by them as a direction to make use of the psalms which the Spirit of infinite wisdom had already provided. And to this may be added this truth that the Psalms are much more suitable and appropriate now than they were under the Old Testament; for much of the language employed in them respecting Christ and his kingdom must have conveyed but a dim and shadowy meaning to Old Testament saints. But in the clearer light of the New Testament these shadows disappear and the rich, golden truths contained in these Psalms shine forth with a beauty and splendor which delight the eye and ravish the hearts of every enlightened student and lover of God’s Word.

VIII. We have the example of our Lord and His apostles who sang the songs, hymns and psalms of the inspired Psalter.

In the gloomy precincts of a dungeon, Paul and Silas at the hour of midnight prayed and sang praises unto God, and at the close of the last Passover and institution of the Lord’s Supper, Christ and His disciples sang a hymn. (Matt. 26:30.)

Were it admitted, or proved, that this “hymn” was made for the occasion by our Saviour or by one of the apostles, what authority would thus be furnished for the making of hymns by mere men, and these uninspired!

Certainly, none at all. But this “hymn,” it is now almost universally acknowledged, was the “Great Hallel,” consisting of a number of consecutive Psalms, and always sung at the close of the Paschal feast. Says Dr. Clarke: “As to the hymn itself, we know from the universal consent of Jewish antiquity, that it was composed of Psalms 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118, termed by the Jews Hallel, from Hallelu—Jah, the first word in Psalm 113th. These six Psalms were always sung at every paschal solemnity.”

Says Dr. Broadus: “It is interesting to read these Psalms (113-118) in this connection, remembering that Jesus himself took part in the singing. The term ‘hymn’ must not be here taken in our common sense as differing from a Psalm, nor is there any radical distinction between the two in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19.”

Albert Barnes says: “There can be no doubt that our Saviour and the apostles also used the same Psalms in their observance of the Passover.”

That the Saviour Himself used the Psalms in worship, no Christian scholar will deny. Their being sung by the Redeemer’s tongue confers a glory and wealth upon them above anything human. If they were sufficient for Him in worshipping His Father, they ought to be sufficient for His followers until He furnishes them something else.

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part V & VI

Series on EP in the ARP Cont…

V. The completeness, fulness and sufficiency of the Bible Psalter as a manual of praise gives to it a supremacy and permanency such as can be predicted only of that Word of God which liveth and abideth forever.

Containing an absolute purity of doctrine and freedom from words which engender division and foster sectarian strife because edited by God and therefore free from the transient and partial views of men; revealing so fully the character of God; describing so accurately the place and character of man; dealing so clearly with the method of salvation, and being so full of Christ, His face seen on every page, His voice heard in every tone and the pulsing of His heart felt in every strain; showing God’s relation to His Universe and furnishing man, as nature’s priest, with the incense of praise with which to bless God for His creating and sustaining power, abounding in songs that tell of universal dominion for the Gospel and anthems that shall serve as battle cries and shouts of victory for the church militant; Zion’s songs, like the mountains which first rang with their majestic strains, stand unmoved, and shall endure until the heavens be no more.

Volumes might be filled with the testimony drawn from every age, and from almost every conceivable source, showing the perfection of the Psalter. as a complete manual of praise. For three thousand years has it been tested, and never has it failed. These Spirit-indicted songs have sounded the depths of human sorrow, scaled the heights of human joy, run the gamut of human needs, and upborne the prayers and praises and adorations of the saints of the Most High in all ages and climes. But it is enough to say that because they are inspired of God they must he divinely complete, perfectly adapted and entirely sufficient to fulfill the design of the gracious Giver. They must be better—incomparably better—than the highest products of human wisdom or skill, and therefore ought to be the one medium of Christian praise.

VI. There are express commands in God’s Word to sing these songs.

(a.) “And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord and to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel.”

“Then on that day David delivered first this psalm, to thank the Lord, into the hands of Asaph and his brethren.”

“Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.”

“Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.” (1 Chron. 16: vs. 4, 6-9.)

The song here referred to is also the one hundred and fifth number in the inspired Psalter.

(b.) “Moreover Hezekiah, the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord, with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.” (II Chron. 29:30.)

(c.) “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”

“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” (Ps. 95:1-2.)

But why multiply texts, when these Divine songs abound with ascriptions of praise to God, and with urgent calls addressed not only to the church in her collective capacity, but to all classes of men, to engage in this delightful exercise: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise thy God, O Zion! Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.”

But some, while admitting the positive command to sing the Psalms under the former or Mosaic dispensation, may claim that there was a limitation as to the time of their appointment to the Church’s Psalmody. But where is the suggestion of such a limitation? They were not written for the Mosiac dispensation alone, for but few of them were written until that dispensation was 400 years old. The book was not completed until it was 1,000 years old. Nearly two-thirds of that age had passed before this system of song had reached completion. Surely there is in this fact the suggestion, that these psalms were intended rather for the Christian than for the Jewish Church. In spirit and in matter they are immeasurably in advance of the times that produced them; aye, far beyond the times which we have reached, in some of their revelations. They, and they alone, are emphatically the songs of all ages. No one can find in them the mark of limitation.

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part IV

Series on EP in the ARP Cont…

IV. The matter and structure of these divine songs are peculiar, and indicate the particular end for which they were intended. They are full of praises to God for what he is Himself, and for His wonderful works in creation, providence and redemption. They are written in the peculiar style of

As the peculiar character of the contents of any composition manifests the end for which it was intended, so from the matter of the Book of Psalms, we learn that its peculiar design is the celebration of God’s praise, and that it was given to the church to be employed peculiarly for that purpose. Says Dr. Jonathan Edwards, “God inspired 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. The main subjects of these sweet songs were the glorious things of the Gospel; for whereas before, for many ages, there was but here and there a prophecy of Christ in many ages, but here he is spoken of by David, His ancestor, abundantly, in multitudes of songs, speaking of His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, His satisfaction and intercession, His prophetical, kingly and priestly office, and His glorious benefits in this life, and that which is to come. All these things and many more concerning Christ and His redemption, are abundantly spoken of in the Book of Psalms. This was a glorious advancement in the affairs of redemption, as God hereby gave His church a book of Divine songs for their use in that part of their public worship, namely, 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.”

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part III

Series on EP in the ARP Cont…

III. The titles which the Holy Spirit has employed to designate these divine hymns indicate the particular use for which they were intended.

(a.) They have been entitled by the Holy Spirit the “Book of Psalms,” or Book of Praises. By this title they are referred to repeatedly in the New Testament. For example, our Lord, when speaking with reference to this portion of divine revelation, says: “David himself saith in the Book of Psalms.” (Luke 20:42.) And in accordance with this is the language of the Apostle Peter: “It is written in the Book of Psalms.” (Acts 1:20.)

The word “psalm” is of Greek derivation, and comes from a word which signifies to sing Psalms, then, are songs which are to be sung. And by giving to this collection of sacred songs the title of “Book of Psalms,” the Holy Spirit recognized them as songs of praise to be sung in the worship of God.

(b.) The same purpose is indicated by the title of many of the Psalms, in which they are inscribed to the chief musician; that is, to the man that was appointed to be the leader of divine songs in the temple, in the public worship of Israel.

(c.) They are called the “Songs of the Lord.” (1 Chron. xxv:7), which, like the expressions, “Table of the Lord,” “Supper of the Lord,” “Day of the Lord,” implies Divine authority and appointment.

(d.) They are called the “Songs of Zion” (Ps. cxxxvi:3), which implies that they were designated for the use of the church.

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part II

For those who are unaware until 1946 (for reasons immediately unknown to this writer) the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod (of which I am a member), the ARP was one of the few remaining Presbyterian denominations (do not forget that EP was the understanding for 95% of Presbyterian churches prior to the 19th century) that held to Exclusive Psalmody. The following excerpts from the article/paper I am posting was written at the turn of the 20th Century by an ARP minister by the name of the Rev. John T. Chalmers, D.D. of the First ARP church of Charlotte, NC. I post this first to present the historical argument from an ARP perspective, second to stimulate responses on the individual points presented by Rev. Chalmers.

Part Two from Rev. Chalmers Paper:

II. This reasonable expectation has been entirely realized in the fact that we have a Book of Praise, written, named and appointed by the Holy Spirit to be used in the church’s service of song. Why were the Psalms collected into a book by themselves?

They were written by various authors and at different times; some of them are to be found in other portions of the Old Testament; but they have all been arranged in one book, and that book is called the Book of Psalms, or Divine praises. Here we find selection and arrangement. There must have been some purpose in this. What was that purpose? What could it have been, except that these Psalms were adapted to the worship of the church, and that they were designed and collected to be used in the worship of the church?

Moreover, it is a fact, which deserves particular notice, that some of the songs, contained in the Book of Psalms, are likewise found in other parts of the Bible. The eighteenth Psalm is found in the Second Book of Samuel, and the ninety-sixth, and the parts of some other Psalms, are found in the Second Book of Chronicles. Other songs, such as the song of Moses at the Red Sea, the song of Deborah and Barak and others, found in different parts of the Bible, are not transferred to the Book of Psalms. And the question naturally arises: Why is this distinction made? Why are some of these songs, which are found in other parts of the Bible, introduced likewise into the Book of Psalms, while others have no place in that collection? The answer is, that the book of Psalms being designed for permanent use in the worship of God, those songs have a place in this book, which, in the estimation of Infinite Wisdom, were best adapted to the edification of the church in all ages.

For the whole of Rev. Chalmers Article see here.

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP

For those who are unaware until 1946 (for reasons immediately unknown to this writer) the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod (of which I am a member), the ARP was one of the few remaining Presbyterian denominations (do not forget that EP was the understanding for 95% of Presbyterian churches prior to the 19th century) that held to Exclusive Psalmody. The following excerpts from the article/paper I am posting was written at the turn of the 20th Century by an ARP minister by the name of the Rev. John T. Chalmers, D.D. of the First ARP church of Charlotte, NC. I post this first to present the historical argument from an ARP perspective, second to stimulate responses on the individual points presented by Rev. Chalmers.

Part One from Rev. Chalmers Paper:

I. From the reasonableness of the expectation or the strong presumption that God would give such a manual of praise to his church.

To understand this proposition clearly, let us ask what it is to praise God?

Let it be borne in mind that the main object of praise is to declare and magnify the excellencies of the divine character, as well as to give expression to every variety of devotional feeling which the contemplation of these perfections is designed to quicken and call forth. Such a task requires a perfection of knowledge of God and humanity which is beyond the natural capacity of the highest angel, much more of such ignorant, fallible men as the best of God’s saints are, even when enlightened by the word and ordinary influence of the Spirit of God, as much beyond their ability as the writing of one of the epistles or other books of the Bible would be. “What man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God”—because the Spirit, and he only, “searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.”

“To praise God is to exalt Him in words of song; to magnify Him, to glory His perfections and the infinite excellence of His words and works. What man can do this? Who is sufficient for these things?” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared him.” Who can tell us what God is? Who can describe His glorious majesty? Who can teach us how to praise Him and frame words fit to magnify His name? Who but God Himself? “God is a Spirit,” His own Son has told us. What of Spirit life and Spirit nature can these dull senses of ours describe or comprehend, that we should think ourselves sufficient to write the praise songs that are due to Him?

What man lives now, or has ever lived with native power sufficient fully to comprehend and rightly to magnify so great a God as our God? Only one who knows God, who understands Him, who comprehends Him in all His infinite perfections, has any reason to think that he is sufficient to assume the task of writing hymns of praise. Such attainment is necessary if the attempt be made without a call to this office and without the aid of inspiration.

In the very nature of the case, understanding what praise is, and to whom it is to be rendered, the thoughtful mind will find good reason to expect a manual of praise ready prepared and put into His people’s hands by the Lord Himself.

For the whole of Rev. Chalmers Article see here.