“At his [Charles Spurgeon’s] request Dr. Kennedy gave out a paraphrase to be sung, probably the first time he ever did so in his life.”

Rev. Dr. John Kennedy

In the nineteenth century, Rev. Dr. John Kennedy of Scotland enjoyed a friendly relationship with Charles Spurgeon. Dr. Kennedy invited Mr. Spurgeon to preach at the opening of a new church facility in Dingwall Scotland. I found the following quote to be of interest because it takes notice of the fact that a Paraphrase was sung at this assembly instead of a Psalm.

“When it was announced in 1870 that the great Baptist preacher [Charles Spurgeon] was to open Dr Kennedy’s new church in Dingwall there was much public satisfaction, not unmingled with astonishment. Mr Spurgeon’s name drew together an immense crowd. The church, of course, could only accommodate a limited number; but in the evening there was a large concourse in the open air. Mr. Spurgeon’s earnestness and eloquence were combined with a brightness and vivacity which contributed to the charm of his preaching. At his request Dr Kennedy gave out a paraphrase to be sung, probably the first time he ever did so in his life.” (From a Memoir of Dr Kennedy which appeared in the newspaper Inverness Courier in 1893. Mrs Kennedy regarded it as the best account of her late husband that had appeared in any form.) here online

I was quite disappointed to read that this concession was made for Mr. Spurgeon. It distresses me because it seems to overlook a great truth that should be notice about the singing of Psalms. Every Christian can come together to sing the Psalms, the same cannot be said of hymns and paraphrases. I wonder if Dr. Kennedy’s congregation joined in singing the paraphrase?

I will see if I can find some of the details of the service…

This is the building that was dedicated in 1870 in Dingwall

6 thoughts on ““At his [Charles Spurgeon’s] request Dr. Kennedy gave out a paraphrase to be sung, probably the first time he ever did so in his life.””

  1. Of course the Church of Scotland was badly hampered if not compromised in its defence of purity of worship by the fact that it countenanced the UNAUTHORISED Scottish Paraphrases which had been slipped into the Kirk during the late 1700s under the guise of an experiment but one that subsequently took sentimental possession of even some of the most conservative Kirk presbyterians. These survived into the Free Kirk, still without any authorisation of any Church Court. Dr Kennedy therefore probably felt he was doin nothing untoward in charitably agreeing ( as he would have seen it) to Spurgeon’s request. However the inconsistency of the paraphrases amongst the conservatives cannot be condoned and ever since has been cited by anti-EP innovators as excuse for their position. It also led to a slight degree of ambivalence amongst the post 1900 Free Kirk conservative minority in that they would not explicitly enforce ‘exclusive psalmody’ but only ‘inspired materials of praise’ in the 1932 Act. If this were to accommodate extra Psalter Biblical songs it might just be acceptable but if it is used to permit paraphrases it is surely tacitly allowing a body of song that has been illicitly womme

  2. …a body of song illicitly wormed into the Church’s practice. Of course in the post 1900 Free Church the singing ofsuch paraphrases was the rare exception to the EP rule and confined to one or two isolated congregations in the Lowland south where the Free Kirk and its EP ethos were virtually wiped out.

  3. I believe Kennedy was acknowledging that traditional Psalmody was not the only way to worship God, though he argued to keep it pure in the Scottish churches – blessed paradox of a spiritual mind. Why fight about it today when we have no preaching with unction, which is actually vital to the church’s life? Oh! for a Spurgeon or Kennedy in our day.

  4. If you believe in progressive revelation ,then you need more than the psalms to express the fulness we have in Christ

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