Some new updates for the website:
“Let us consider the vanity of the contrary opinion [distinguishing between Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs], in regard it utterly makes way for will worship, which they seem to be so much against. For first, I am commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns, Songs; The Old and New Testaments speak of no other Psalms than of David and Asaph and of such like inspired persons; and they are called by Christ and his Apostles, but you must not sing them (say they). I ask what Psalms then must you sing? There is no light in Old or new Testament to warrant any other; either you must fancy a Psalm, and say Christ meant this way, when he spake of the Book of the Psalms, and devise a new way of worship out of your own brains, or else sing the Psalms which Christ and His Apostles call Psalms. Besides, how can any man persuade himself, or others, when he sings, that he sings a Psalm, when he doth not sing that which Scripture has only called a Psalm? Or how can any man distinguish, now I sing a Psalm, now a Hymn, now a Song, where there is not one word in the New Testament to distinguish them from one another, or the two latter from the Book of Psalms? If any man from the New Testament can distinguish a Psalm from a Hymn, or a Hymn from an Ode or a Song, or any one from another, but as they borrow it from the Old Testament, he shall be an Oracle.”
by Cuthbert Sidenham, from A Christian, sober and plain exercitation on the two grand practical controversies of these times : infant baptism and singing of psalms (1654), page 188-189 found here
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…
“What is there now to do? It is to have songs not only honest, but also holy, which will be like spurs to incite us to pray to and praise God, and to meditate upon his works in order to love, fear, honor and glorify him. Moreover, that which St. Augustine has said is true, that no one is able to sing things worthy of God except that which he has received from him. Therefore, when we have looked thoroughly, and searched here and there, we shall not find better songs nor more fitting for the purpose, than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit spoke and made through him. And moreover, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts in our mouths these, as if he himself were singing in us to exalt his glory. Wherefore Chrysostom exhorts, as well as the men, the women and the little children to accustom themselves to singing them, in order that this may be a sort of meditation to associate themselves with the company of the angels.”
From the Preface to the 1565 Geneva Psalter by John Calvin
“It was said that the Rev. John Newton was a great lover of cats. Once he possessed a mother cat and a kitten. In the kindness of his heart, and to prevent the too frequent interruption of his studies by waiting on the cats, he had two holes cut in the door of his house, one for the old cat, and a smaller one for the kitten. It had not occurred to the good man that the hole that would admit the larger cat would admit also the kitten, indeed would admit not only two cats but any number of cats. When you have made an opening in the door of God’s house large enough to admit songs of praise which God has not authorized, that same hole will admit the worship of the Virgin Mary, prayers to St. Peter, confession to the priest, holy water, kissing the pope’s toe, and the whole brood of pollutions and monstrosities from which the Church escaped in the tremendous revolution and reformation of the sixteenth century. The great principle that only what is commanded has a place in the worship of God was one of the cornerstones of the Reformation; without it the great battle of Protestantism against Romanism could never have been fought out and won. In asserting this doctrine we are simply calling the Church back to one of the great attainments of the Reformation, when purity of worship and the inspired songs of God’s Word had the right of way in all the Reformed Churches.” by the Rev. William H. Vincent, D. D., Allegheny, Pa. The Scriptural Law of Worship, ch3 from The Psalms in Worship, edited by John McNaugher, full text The Psalms in Worship CH3 The Scriptural Law of Worship by William H Vincent