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James Dodson

Title page of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in New England.

Title page of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in New England.


“We declare, that it is the will of God that the songs contained in the Book of Psalms be sung in His worship, both public and private, to the end of the world; and in singing God’s praise, these songs should be employed to the exclusion of the devotional compositions of uninspired men.”—Article XVIII, Of Psalmody, The Testimony of the United Presbyterian Church of North America.(1858)



Preface to the Bay Psalm Book.-1640-Richard Mather (1596-1669).-An essay affixed as a preface to the Bay Psalm Book (1640), almost certainly the work of Richard Mather (one of the translators), explaining the philosophy of translation employed together with reason why literalism is to be preferred over smoothness in metrical psalmody.

Singing of Psalms a Gospel-Ordinance.-1650-John Cotton (1584-1652).-An excellent treatise on Psalm singing by an eminent New England Puritan. Cotton gives a good overview for the arguments for only singing Psalms together with a spirited defense of the use of metrical psalmody.

A Discourse on Women Prophesying and Headcoverings.-1665-Joseph Mede (1586-1639).-An interesting discourse on 1 Cor. 11:5 explaining what Paul meant when he spoke of women prophesying.  In the course of the discussion, he throws some light on the function of precentors and the antiphony between the preceptor and the congregation (much like lining of the Psalms). Pointedly, he also discusses what Paul meant to teach respecting headcoverings or veils for women in the worship of the church.

Ancient Usage in Praising God.-1838-Anonymous.-An article from The Reformed Presbyterian Magazine defending the practice of lining of the Psalms when they are sung in congregational settings as the most ancient usage of the church.

The Psalms of Holy Scripture, the Only Songs of Zion, an Appeal to the Churches in Behalf of this Ordinance of God.-1840-Donald Campbell McLaren.-An excellent primer on the subject of Psalmody wherein the author painstakingly explains why only the inspired Book of Psalms should be used in the worship of God.

Review of Ralston's Inquiry -1848-John T. Pressly.-This is Pressly’s spirited response to Ralston's attack on those who only sing Psalms in the worship of God. Pressly examines his claims to a divine warrant for making and using hymns of human composure in worship.

A Catechism on Praise.-1849-Alexander Blaikie (1804-1885).-An Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister defends the practice of a cappella psalmody by way of catechetical exercises.

A Reply to Morton on Psalmody: To Which is Added A Condensed Argument for the Exclusive Use of an Inspired Psalmody.-1851-Robert J. Dodds (1824-1870).-This is the last salvo in a series of 19th century books on the war over exclusive psalmody amongst various groups of Presbyterians. Dodds takes up the cause of God and truth against hymn singer George Morton and examines the merits of his criticisms on John T. Pressly’s work on behalf of Psalmody.

An Apology for the Book of Psalms, in Five Letters.-1852-Gilbert McMaster.-A comprehensive view of the benefits of the use of the Psalms in the worship of God together with the importance of retaining them in order to bring genuine ecclesiastical union and communion.

Discourse on Scripture Psalmody in Praising God; and Against Instrumental Music in Public Worship.-1859-Hugh Brown.-Two discourse on purity of worship. The first examines and defends the exclusive use of the inspired Psalms in the praise of the church; the second explains why the use of instrumental music in the worship of God is not warranted under the New Testament.

Imprecations in the Psalms Warrantable.-1859-Anonymous.-An interesting article which discusses the propriety of translating the imprecatory (cursing) Psalms, as some have done, merely as predictive rather than preceptive. After explaining why these Psalms are preceptive, he explains their use and place in the prayers of Christians.

Ancient and Modern Mode of Singing the Psalms.-1862-Anonymous.-An article from The Associate Presbyterian, an North American Anti-burgher Seceder magazine, which canvasses the history of psalm singing in an effort to determine the mode in which the church has always sung Psalms.

The Hymns of David.-1869-Anonymous.-An excellent article that shows that the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word “hymn,” appears throughout the Old Testament and that is refers to the Psalms of David.

“REVISED PSALMS,”-1873-David Steele.-In this brief article, Mr. Steele raises the question of revising the metrical Psalter. He identifies the craftiness of those who subvert the worship of the church and challenges their authority. This includes an interesting discussion on the need for historical succession to be comprised of both faith and practice.

NEW VERSION.-1873-David Steele.-In this article, the defects of the “new version” of the Psalms, produced by the United Presbyterian Church, is subjected to scrutiny in a couple of serious points. The theme is the difficulty of danger of undertaking any revision of the Psalter without proper theological and confessional moorings.

Are Hymns Idols?-1874-Anonymous.-An article taken from the Reformation Advocate magazine which asks a much needed question about hymns and why they are so difficult for people to abandon in order to sing the inspired 150 Psalms collected in the Bible’s hymnal.

Continuous Singing in the Ordinary Public Worship of God,-ca. 1885-David Steele.-A defense of the practice of lining in the singing of the Psalms. Mr. Steele explains how the principle of charity ought to work in the public worship of the church.

Exposition of the Psalms.-1887-Thomas Sproull.-An excellent lecture on the practice of giving an exposition to the Psalms that are sung in the congregation. In this exercise, the first Psalm to be sung in congregational worship was usually chosen for an extended exposition that sometimes lasted as long as the sermon (from 20 minutes to nearly an hour). In this way, people are encouraged to sing with the understanding as well as the Spirit.

Ten Reasons Why the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church Adheres to the Exclusive Use of the Inspired Psalter in the Worship of God.-1900-John T. Chalmers (1860-1902).-Mr. Chalmers explains the principles, merit and authority behind the exclusive use of the Psalms in the public worship of the people of God in easy to understand language and drawing clear conclusions.