Reformed Churches are Scripture-Singing Churches

If your congregation is in a confessional Reformed denomination/federation but it isn’t a Scripture-singing congregation, there’s a problem. Wes Bredenhof reminds us of the old Reformed Church orders:

Synod of Dort, 1578, article 76:  “The Psalms of David in the edition of Petrus Dathenus, shall be in the Christian meetings of the Netherlands churches (as has been done until now) sung, abandoning the hymns which are not found in Holy Scripture.”

Synod of Middelburg , 1581, article 51:  “Only the Psalms of David shall be sung in the church, omitting the hymns which one cannot find in Holy Scripture.”

Synod of ‘s Gravenhage, 1586, article 62: “The Psalms of David shall be sung in the churches, omitting the hymns which one does not find in Holy Scripture.”

Synod of Dort, 1618-19, session 162:  “In the Church only the 150 Psalms of David shall be sung.  The 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon, the hymn ‘O God who is our Father,’ and so on, shall be left in the freedom of the churches, whether they want to use them or not, as they see fit.  The rest of the songs shall be taken out of the church, and similarly any which have previously been imported into the church shall be omitted in the most decent way possible.”

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  1. Tell that to some of our reformed churches and you will be deemed a troublemaker and accused of inciting controversy in their church. If only the leaders of our churches had the gall to practice what our forefathers preached. Forgive me, this is a sore subject to my ears.

  2. You’re right Victor. Instrument playing and uninspired hymn singing (and offering taking, and “special music” singing, and “offertory” playing and choirs) are sacred cows in many of our congregations.

    We’re usually “conservative” but we’re often conserving the wrong things and time. What interest have we in the 1950s? What did we learn about worship in the 1920s (when the CRC started singing hymns and using organs) that we didn’t know and reject in the 16th and 17th centuries? Why are so many of our services indistinguishable from the local evangelical and Baptist congregations? Why are some of our services indistinguishable from the local charismatic congregations?

    Why are we so resistant to measuring ourselves against the old church orders?

    I’ve posted on this before and it produced quite a reaction.

  3. It is pleasant and, of course, encouraging to find ourselves in so much agreement with you on things that are important to us but at which we are at odds with our church session (how offering should be taken, inspired song, not reciting creeds in worship, pastoral search committees being composed of elders, instruments in worship). Thank you, sir, for your good work on all topics. We enjoy your blog and visit it frequently.

  4. As one who has traveled through many Protestant denominations, I have seen the abuses of allowing non-Psalms hymns dominate congregational singing. It leads to “anything goes” where the standard for approval is the excitement of the congregation rather than the soundness of doctrine content of the lyrics. Pastors assume a “hands-off” attitude to the choices of the music directors.

    There is an article written at the Reformation21 web site titled “Rediscovering the Psalms” by Joe Holland that is located at

    Here are some of the reasons listed in the article for singing Psalms:

    “When you sing psalms you literally sing the Bible.

    When you sing the psalms you interact with a wealth of theology.

    When you sing the psalms you are memorizing Scripture.

    When you sing the psalms you guard against heresy.

    When you sing the psalms you engage a collection of songs that address the full range of human emotions.

    When you sing the psalms you praise the person and work of Jesus Christ.

    When you sing the psalms you are training for spiritual warfare.

    When you sing the psalms you are engaging the communion of saints.”

  5. I really enjoy singing the psalms. I would be interested to see how you would respond to some questions I have.

    (1) Where in the OT was Israel forbidden from singing uninspired songs?

    (2) Who wrote Ps. 93 and if we don’t know how do we know it was inspired?

    (3) P. 78 is a song that recounts the history of Israel, why can the Church not compose its own songs to recount it’s own history of God dealing with it etc?

    (4) If redemption from Egypt brings forth a song of redemption (cf. Ex. 15) why should the Church not compose its own songs celebrating its redemption by the death and resurrection of Jesus?

    (5) Is Rev. 4 & 5 a picture of worship on earth?

  6. I really don’t have much of a choice when it comes to what to sing in praise to our Triune God. I don’t have the spiritual luxury that so many other Christians seem to enjoy. I’m so desperately in need of Jesus Christ and His perfect infallible, inerrant Word that I can’t risk singing words written by anyone other than Him, inspired by His Holy Spirit. He’s provided His people with 150 perfect songs that reflect every aspect of what it means to praise God in song. Since He loved me enough to die for me, and He gave me a song book to praise Him for being not only the almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, but also for being that man who lived and died and rose again for me — why would I want to use anything else to praise and thank God The Father, Son and Holy Spirit than that which He gave me? Can anyone really argue that mere men can compose even one song that is on the same level as any of the song written by God himself? Singing the Psalms is singing Christ.

    To answer Richard’s question, my response would be:

    (1) You have the RPW backwards, where in the OT is Israel commanded to sing uninspired songs? Answer: Nowhere, so only inspired songs could be be sung. The question is not “What does God forbid?”, the question is “What does God command?”.
    (2) The Epistle to the Hebrews is does not speak to its authorship, do you deny it’s inspired? The Book of Psalms was complete before the time of Christ and the Apostles. His and their witness (as found in the Gospels and Epistles) is sufficient to believe the Psalms (all 150) are the Word of of God.
    (3) Psalm 78 is inspired, now the canon is closed. We have everything we need. God’s Holy Spirit inspired Psalm 78, it wasn’t just the church recounting it history, it was God directing that recounting. Psalm 78 is without error, who now can write a song without error?
    (4) Same thing that song in Ex 15 was inspired and authorized for that purpose. The canon is now closed, therefore the church has no one that can compose songs that are free from error.
    (5) Rev 4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven. Hopefully you aren’t contemplating a carnal meaning for the phrase sing a new song. If you are, then reading (or better yet singing) Psalm 98 might help bring understanding as to what is really meant by singing a new song.

  7. Great post, Andrew.

    Recently I read that the term “new song” means “victory song”. I don’t know how accurate this is, but if true it would put a stop to the talk that we need to make new songs for worship. The Psalms have several victory songs. Another feature of this new commentary–by some Westminster prof–can’t remember who–is that Christ is “the Divine Warrior”. Apparently this term is in vogue right now. I’m happy calling him the King (a King who went/goes to battle) as so many of the Psalms call Him.

  8. Hi Andrew, thanks for your response and I apologise in my late reply, I only stumbled upon you comment today. I will compose a reply so please be patient (I need to recall what I was going on about!).

  9. Andrew, some questions if I may:

    1. Where does God command singing?
    2. Where does God command that these songs are inspired?

    i.e. please demonstrate that inspiration is a necessary requirement of sung praise?

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