How The Dutch Reformed Lost The Psalms

The king’s arbitrary actions roused very little public dissent. Most clergy were happy to get paid regularly again and their parishioners welcomed the restoration of the national church, even if it was subject to closer government control. Opposition against the new regime came only from a few orthodox local congregations and a small group of intellectuals.

In the countryside, passive resistance arose when the first national synod to meet under the revised structure mandated pastors in each worship service to select one or more hymns from the new hymnal, called De Evangelische Gezangen, which included 192 gospel songs to augment the traditional Genevan Psalms. The Synod had adopted this hymnal in 1807 and recommended it to the churches but did not make its use obligatory. When that changed in 1816 some “stijf kops” [ed. note: lit. “stiff heads” or stubborn fellows] refused to sing the “man-made songs,” which they thought smacked of Arminianism. They stood silently, or put on their caps, or even marched out of the church until the singing was over. A few sympathetic ministers defied the ruling and selected only the Psalms, but they were subject to discipline.

Robert P. Swierenga, Elton J. Bruins, Family quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches in the Nineteenth Century: The Pillar Church Lectures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 12.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Food for thought. Should I put on my hat while the ecclesiastical garage band plays Hillsong? Stiif kops of the world, unite! Shake off your chains of doggerel!

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