Sunday, April 7, 2013

Psalmody: A Forgotten Gem of Praise and Piety

PSALMODY: A Forgotten Gem of Praise and Piety

Psalm 89

Our church, in addition to singing out of the Trinity Hymnal1, has started singing Psalms2 set to metrical tunes. Though I dearly love hymns, there is something entirely different and special about singing the psalms of scripture. Most definitely I'm a proponent of Psalmody, but not exclusive Psalmody, since scripture says that there is a place for hymns ( Eph. 5:19 and Col 3:16 ). Psalm singing has been much neglected over the past few hundred years, and in our neglect, we've missed a most beneficial food for our souls, and a certain richness in our corporate worship

One of the major differences in hymns vs. psalms, is that hymns were/are penned and inspired by men, and Psalms were written by men, yet divinely inspired by God. When you meditate on the fact that these are the words that the apostles would have sung when they met to worship, after Jesus had ascended into heaven, you can't help but be in awe when you sing these beautiful words set to such glorious and fitting tunes. I love the fact that the tunes which the Psalms are usually set to, are; quite complex and majestic in nature and yet simple and modest. All of which collectively display, so vividly, the many divine and holy attributes of our God.

I found, quite incidentally and yet providentially through some reading I was doing, that I am not alone in my love for the Psalms and Psalmody. I've collected a few quotes to share on the subject that I hope will inspire others to discover some of the encouragement, wisdom and exhortation that the Psalms can bring to a person when sung.


John Calvin: a godly puritan pastor, teacher, father, friend, husband and author 

Like preaching and the sacraments, Psalm singing disciplines the heart's affections in the school of faith and lifts the believer to God”3

The Psalms can stimulate us to raise our hearts to God and arouse us to an ardor in invoking as well as in exalting with praises the glory of His name.”

John Calvin was so deeply impressed with the importance of the Psalms that he wrote a 5 volume commentary on them, and spent 25 years of his life immersed in the study of the Psalms as a pastor, teacher and commentator. 

Calvin thought that the singing of the Psalms was so important, that he said this:

There is no other book [ Psalms ] 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 exercise of piety”

Calvin gave 3 reasons why God would have us sing songs to Him during corporate worship:
  1. To glorify God
  2. To instruct the congregation
  3. To comfort true believers

Douglas Wilson: pastor, husband, father, musician and author

In Wilson's foreword to his congregational music book for singing; Cantus Christi 4, says that one of the reasons we must sing the Psalms and strong reformed hymns is so that we can equip ourselves for the battle (Ephesians 5:19). If we are to fight, we must have weapons.

“ ...Need for an hour of reformation in the church; we discover in such a reformation that the doctrine of Christ encompasses all that is true all that is good and all that is lovely.”

Wilson quotes “ Reformation affects everything from moving to cooking......and at the center of this Reformation is the public worship of God, and this obviously relates to the music we sing.”

In scriptural or metrical versions, the Psalms together with the stately tunes to which they were early set, are clearly the soul of Reformed piety”

-T. Hartley Hall

1 Trinity Hymnal Revised Edition copyright 1990
Published by: Great Commission Publication Inc. 
Revisions made by: Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America 
2 The Book of Psalms for Singing copyright 1973,1998
Compiled by: Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
3 All quotes by John Calvin were taken from: Puritan Reformed Spirituality by: Joel R. Beeke
4 Cantus Christi copyright 2002
Complied by: Doug Wilson and Louis Schuler for Christ Church in Moscow Idaho

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