Sunday, October 26, 2008

The WCF Into the 21st Century:

But Not Without Confusion on the Regulative Principle of Worship, Psalmody and Musical Accompaniment.
(From a Dec. 2005 review revised, corrected and updated through 2/1/09)

A Long Overdue Review in Part 
The Westminster Confession of Faith in the 21st Century, Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly,
Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, (Vol. 1, 2003, 443 pages), Vol. 2, 2004, 540 pages.

This symposium on the Westminster Confession of Faith flows from the 350th anniversary of the 1643 Assembly at Westminster Abbey. While the actual lectures given at that commemoration in 1994 are perhaps better known (See To Enjoy and Glorify God, BoT, 1994), the introduction to the WCF in the 21st Century (WCF21) tells us that the purpose of the essays enclosed is to inform, challenge, evaluate and commend the Assembly and its theology to today’s church (p.x), a most (note) worthy goal. While not outstanding, on the whole the two volumes are worthwhile. Particularly in the second volume, the focus of this review, Ryken on the pastoral ministry of Oliver Bowles, the oldest member of the Assembly and J.L. Duncan, the series editor, on the consensus between Calvin and the Westminster Assembly regarding the Lord’s Supper are good efforts. (Unfortunately the proposed translation of Bowles’ Puritan classic on the pastoral ministry, A Treatise on the Evangelical Pastor is on hold.)

Drs. Kelly and Needham
That said, the essays by Drs. Kelly and Needham on the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) - the good and necessary consequences of the Second Commandment as confessed in the reformed catechisms and creeds - and its application to the singing of psalms and musical instruments in worship, fall short of the mark and leave much to be desired, if not that their shortcomings should corrected in the planned third volume. Of the two, Needham’s is by far the longest, if not the centerpiece of all the essays in WCF21 at 116 pages with the next closest in length being Fesko’s 50 pages on Calvin, the Confession and supra/infralapsarianism, while Kelly's at 36 pages is seventh of fourteen articles and about average in length.

General Error and Negligence
Whatever their respective lengths though, the general error of Kelly and Needham is a twofold negligence of the primary sources and the secondary literature. 

Primary Sources 
 While Needham takes a stab at it, both fail to really consider the the Westminster Standards as a whole, instead of just the Confession of Faith. Nevertheless the Westminster Confession is not the only part, but rather instead, the “chiefest part (emph. added)" of that "uniformity in religion, confession of faith, form of church government, directory for worship and catechising” called for in the first head of the Solemn League and Covenant (SL&C) in 1643 which gave the Assembly its charge and direction under the Long Parliament. (Previously the Assembly had only been responsible for revising the Anglican 39 Articles.) Consequently we might reasonably assume that the Assembly's Directory of Public Worship (DPW) - as well the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (LC, SC) and the Form of Church Government (FCG) - would hold up the hands of the Confession, as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses (Ex.17:12) rather than contradict it.

Likewise, both Needham and Kelly fail to consult the historical record in the actual day to day Minutes of the Westminster Assembly (archived online) as available in print today (1874, rpt. 1991, SWRB). Though this version of the Assembly Minutes is somewhat incomplete/imperfect, it is still sufficient to throw much more light on the question of the regulative principle and its application than either essay gives us. This is even before the Westminster Assembly Project publishes a critical full edition of a transcript of the original minutes, only recently located in manuscript.

Secondary Literature
Needham and Kelly also fail entirely to mention, much more refute in substance, Michael Bushell’s Songs of Zion, A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody (C&C, 1980, 1993) which is the contemporary classic on the question, blackballed and blacklisted for all practical purposes and unanswered, if not unanswerable. Bushell is a ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), which on the whole is not a psalm singing denomination, being the orthodox secession from the northern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) in 1936. His title however, is published by Crown & Covenant, the publishing arm of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA) which never left off the historic confessional presbyterian practice of singing the inspired psalms in the public worship of the church.

Further, while Needham does list Girardeau’s Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (IMPWC, 1888, rpt. 2006, PR) in his bibliography, and agrees with it practically, but not principally, Kelly however, does not, essentially dismissing it out of hand as "basically dispensational (WCF21, p.97)". Still Girardeau’s title is the American, if not Southern Presbyterian classic on the question and was favorably reviewed by R. L. Dabney in its day (IMPWC, p.165). This is of note because the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) claims to be the continuing church of Thornwell and Dabney, separating as it did, from the old southern mainline Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in 1973. Both Kelly and Duncan, the WCF21 editor, have close ties to the PCA and serve as professors at the Reformed Theological Seminary (WCF21, pp. 537,9), which seminary not only encouraged this symposium, but which is also closely aligned with the PCA and its strength and location is in the south where the PCA is largely located.

The Subsequent Question
Consequently, we might wonder if Needham’s essay, as well as Kelly’s, is somewhat of a sop thrown to those staunch Southern Presbyterian conservatives cum confessionalists in the PCA, who have discarded the RPW if not as well the Assembly's Directory of Public Worship and who might appear to be largely influenced by revivalism in welcoming uninspired hymns and musical instruments, as well as ecclesiastical feast days into public worship. While there has been a virtual renaissance and explosion of literature among the English speaking P&R churches in recent years, not only as regards the reformed faith, but specifically worship (see the survey "The Regulative Principle of Worship; Sixty Years in Reformed Literature (1946- 2007)", in The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. 2, & 3), Kelly still plainly tells us:
[T]he majority of Reformed Churches today, even those professing the Westminster Confession of Faith, do not agree that the regulative principle requires either non-instrumental music or exclusive psalmody (WCF21, p. 79).
While we agree that Kelly has correctly stated the majority opinion in modern/moderate reformed churches today, and notwithstanding reasons for encouragement in those same churches (including the PCA and OPC), we cannot agree with him that this majority position is correct; that it is the majority position of presbyterian and reformed churches in history.

Of course, it is true in all this, that the Assembly divines may have been wrong on the RPW and its application for exclusive psalmody and against instrumental music, but the first question is what did they actually teach on these questions and why, before going on to necessarily disagree with it. However popular the latter is, Needham and Kelly unfortunately, unnecessarily and inexcusably only continue to promote the typical misconceptions about the Assembly, its Standards and what both approved of in worship.

I. "The Puritan Regulative Principle and Contemporary Worship
More specifically, Dr. Kelly’s “The Puritan Regulative Principle and Contemporary Worship (WCF21, II:63-98)” while not without some merit, makes a couple of fundamental errors, if not promotes some confusion:

1. Calvin and the Regulative Principle of Worship
On the one hand, early in his essay, Kelly might seem to agree with Olds and Packer, supposedly quoting Davies on the English Puritans, that the Puritans went further than Calvin, much more that the regulative principle is not found at all in Calvin's theology according to Olds. In his Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite of the 16th Century (1992), Olds denies three times that the Reformers held to the view that 'whatsoever is not commanded is forbidden in worship ' which is the popular characterization of the RPW (pp. x, 102, 283). Kelly for his part, only quotes the last two instances:
The Reformers did not intend to make a choice between 'what is not forbidden is allowed' and 'what is not commanded is not allowed.'

The principle of 'what is forbidden is allowed' as well as its opposite, 'what is not commanded is forbidden', were equally unacceptable. They were determined to find a third principle, the reform of the church 'according to God's Word' (WCF21, pp.71,72).
Later though, Kelly says that the regulative principle is taught in Calvin's theology:
Writers on the regulative principle have done serious exegetical work in establishing the canon that only what God prescribes (explicitly or implicitly) is acceptable in worship. . . . John Calvin does so, particularly in Institutes, book IV, chapter 10, and to some degree in chapter 19, as well as in “the Necessity of Reforming the Church” and “Reply to Sadoleto.
All of these theologians properly focus on the significance of the Second Commandment with its prohibition of graven images, and on such incidents as the death of Uzziah and Hadab and Abihu for tampering with God's clearly prescribed way of worship They also emphasize the significance of Christ's once-for-all Lordship and the sufficiency of Scripture, with the prohibition not to add to or take away from the divinely imposed covenant words (WCF21, p.80).
Which is it? Does or does not Calvin affirm the regulative principle? What exactly is the point of bringing up someone of the stature and reputation of Olds, who denies that the RPW is part of Calvin's theology in the first place? This blunts Kelly's affirmation of Calvin on the RPW later and would seem to be less than a clear blast on the trumpet, particularly when more time is spent on Olds and Packer's view of Calvin than Calvin himself. If nowhere else, the appendix to Brian Schwertley’s Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship (Reformed Witness, n.d., pp. 143-72) lists the mentions of the RPW in Calvin’s works; again if nowhere else in his commentaries on Lev. 10:1, Deut. 12:32, Jer. 7:31, Matt. 15:1 or Col. 2:22,3.

Calvin, on Jer. 7:31 and the Jews burning their children in the high places of Tophet “which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart” says:
This reason ought to be carefully noticed, for God here cuts off from men every occasion for making evasions, since he condemns by this one phrase, “I have not commanded them”, whatever the Jews devised. There is then no other argument needed to condemn superstition, than that they are not commanded by God: for when men allow themselves to worship God according to their own fancies, and attend not to his commands, they pervert true religion. And if this principle was adopted by the Papists, all those fictitious modes of worship, in which they absurdly exercise themselves, would fall to the ground. . . Were they to admit this principle, that we cannot rightly worship God except by obeying his word, they would be delivered from their deep abyss of error. The Prophet’s words then are very important, when he says, that God had commanded no such thing, and that it never came to his mind; as though he had said, that men assume too much wisdom when they devise what he never required, nay, what he never knew (italics added).
Call it what you will, Calvin affirms the principle that we are to worship God according to how he has commanded us and that something is not commanded by God is sufficient to determine the question in the negative, much more is a 'perversion of true religion'.

But that is not to say, that Calvin doesn’t touch on the matter in his Sermons on 2nd Samuel 1-13 (BoT, 1992) translated by Kelly himself. In Sermon 18 on 2 Sam. 6:12-19 entitled “Humble David and Proud Michal”, Calvin says:
Now one could raise the question whether today it would be legitimate for us to follow the standard of David both in the linen ephod and in all the rest. My first response is we must always go back to the difference which our Lord has put between us and the ancient people. For otherwise, we would create terrible confusion, which would serve to corrupt and divert the worship of God. Now that depends on an even higher principle, namely, that is not for us to invent things which may occur to our fancy as a mode of worshipping God. Rather we should seek to worship him by observing what he has ordained, as has been declared previously. Therefore, it is up to God to give us the rule for worshipping him properly, and his authority is that which distinguishes between the good and the bad (p.265, italics added).
Calvin may not refer explicitly to or use the term, “the regulative principle of worship”, but the essence arguably can be found in his theology, contra Kelly who should know better rather than to damn it with faint praise as he certainly seems to do in his essay.

2. The Minutes of the Westminster Assembly and the Synagogue
More onerous than any equivocation over Calvin and the regulative principle, is Kelly's failure to establish the Westminster Assembly’s view of synagogue worship. The Minutes of the Westminster Assembly (1874, rpt. 1991, SWRB) in the debate surrounding church government, give us a record of the divines’ conclusions about the ways by which the will and appointment of Jesus Christ - jus divinum or "divine law" - is set out in Scripture. The Assembly determined that not only 'express words' and 'necessary consequences' give us God's law, but also that “Some examples show a jus divinum and the will and appointment of God”. In other words, the "good and necessary consequence" of WCF 1:6 is not a "Confessional Modification[s] of the RPW" as one of Kelly's subtitles has it following Cunningham (WCF21, p.76), it is necessarily, part and parcel included in it.

The minutes for June 1, 1646 continue further, saying:
Resolved upon the Q., The like we may say of Jews having synagogues and worshipping God in them and in particular their reading of Moses and the prophets there every Sabbath-day. . . . . . In all of which examples, as we have cause to believe that the fathers at the first had a command from God for those things whereof we now find only their example for the ground of their posterity’s like practice for many generations (pp.237,8).
The Assembly understood that not only are there explicit commands in Scripture regarding worship, there are also approved examples in Scripture of worship; examples of obedience to a divine command, though we do not have the command explicitly given to us in the Scripture. In other words, the existence and mention of the synagogue and its worship in scripture is a demonstration of the appointment and will of God for it.

This denies the contemporary pseudo P & R argument of those like Frame as quoted by Kelly (WCF21, pp. 81,2) who as notoriously latitudinarian in worship, would like to drive a wedge between the application of the RPW to the ceremonial and typical worship of the Old Testament temple and the worship of the synagogue to which the RPW does not apply at all. Rather Frame wants to relegate the synagogue worship to the realm of circumstance, in which essentially nothing is divinely commanded or required. As WCF 1:6 states, there are:
(S)ome circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word.
Frame according to Kelly, tells us that the synagogue worship is "without a divinely revealed Directory. It is worship which simply applies the general principles of the word to various human circumstances." The problem of course, is that previously Kelly has told us that Frame interprets the regulative principle "in such a way as to allow for the possibility of drama in worship as a circumstance or "mode" of preaching (WCF21, p.79)". Who knows how far Frame will go in that not only has he cut the RPW loose of the Second Commandment (see his Worship in Spirit and Truth, 1996, pp. 37-9), but the worship of the synagogue from the RPW, as above supposedly according to WCF 1:6 regarding those "circumstances . . . common to human actions and societies" and "the general rules of the word". (We do know at this point and can gather from subsequent statements of Frame in his Doctrine of the Christian Life (pp.250-263) on pictures of Christ and the Second Commandment, that his arguments would be hard pressed to find some reason not to admit the blasphemous idolatry of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ into the reformed service of worship.)

Girardeau and Dabney's View of the Synagogue
Yet all of this could be resolved and cleared up if both Kelly and Frame would pay more attention again to Girardeau's Instrumental Music in the Worship of the Church (1888, rpt. 2006, PR) as well Dabney's favorable review of it. Therein Dabney states Girardeau's thesis:
God set up in the Hebrew Church two distinct forms of worship; the one moral, didactic, spiritual and universal, and therefore perpetual in all places and ages—that of the synagogues; the other peculiar, local, typical, foreshadowing in outward forms the more spiritual dispensation, and therefore destined to be utterly abrogate by Christ’s coming. . . . But the Christian churches were modelled upon the synagogues and inherited their form of government and worship because it was permanently didactic, moral and spiritual, and included nothing typical (pp.166,7).
Further Girardeau tells us:
In the first place, no element in the synagogue-worship was typical and temporary. This is too evident to require argument. The reading and exposition of the divine Word, hortatory addresses, the singing of psalms, and the contribution of alms, are elements of worship which cannot be regarded as types foreshadowing substantial realities to come. They belong to the class essential and permanent.

In the second place, the essential and permanent elements of worship, as fundamental to all public religious service, entered of course into the temple-worship. In this respect there was no difference between the worship of the temple and that of the synagogue (p.34).
In a word, "the essential and permanent elements of worship, as fundamental to all public religious service" were not only present in both the temple and the synagogue, they were and are divinely commanded either by express instruction, necessary consequence or approved example. That the OT ceremonial worship was more highly prescribed and typical and now discarded takes nothing away from the classic reformed view of the synagogue and its worship. Nor does it find the same to be largely circumstantial. It is moral, didactic and centered on the Word read, preached and sung. Frame's argument is only in order to throw off the confessional RPW in favor of a more popular style of worship where anything goes, be it contemporary karaoke Christian pop music or plays and skits according to the general sensibilities of whomever is the master of ceremony at the moment resulting in chaos and confusion, however much its adherents and enthusiasts might care to characterize it as freedom and liberty.

In other words, according to the Westminster divines - contra Frame as quoted by Kelly - there are not two strains of worship in the Bible, one regulated and one unregulated. Rather Frame's view as entertained by Kelly could not be more foreign from and contrary to the divines' views and is the nose of the camel in the tent in light of all those like Jordan and Schlissel who explicitly, if not implicitly follow Frame's lead on the RPW, the Second Commandment, good and necessary consequences and the example of synagogue worship and further assault reformed worship in principle and practice.

3. Psalmody
While Kelly tells us that “primary songbook of both the ancient and Reformed Church was clearly the 150 Psalms of David”, as well that “the Psalms should comprise the bulk of the church's praises (WCF21, p.96)”, he is in favor of other inspired and uninspired songs as well in public worship. Suffice it for now to note that it is a weak argument that the supposed hymnic fragments scattered through out the New Testament ought to necessarily supplement the distinct OT Book of Psalms. The inspired writers of the New Testament did not see a new inspired songbook as a necessity, otherwise the Holy Spirit would have graciously provided one. (Neither again, as above, does the RPW only apply to the OT ceremonial worship as over and against synagogue worship, which for Frame and his ilk, means that after the demise of the temple worship, we are free to sing whatever unregulated and uninspired songs we care to in the worship of God. That is when we are not dancing and miming.) Rather Calvin and other reformed theologians and churches - who we shall return to below - believed that the Psalms, as one of the most quoted books in the New Testament by Christ and the apostles, adequately prophesied and talked about the life, death, resurrection and redemption of Christ. Consequently there was no need to supplement, much more replace the Psalter as the songbook of the New Testament church.

That new revelation and redemption were opportunities for new songs and psalms in Scripture also does not necessarily mean that after the close of canon, the church can likewise institute new songs of praise. Rather it assumes that gift of charismatic inspiration necessary for the songs in the scriptural canon continues after the close of that canon, which is hardly a reformed argument or position. So too that “the saints and angels are singing a new song above” in the Book of Revelation, is hardly sufficient ground for the still to be glorified and perfected “believers below to sing new songs based on his completed work and continuing ministry (WCF21, p. 97)”. As Calvin below, this is to confuse heaven and earth.

Further the old songs of the Old Testament were new songs if sung with a regenerated spirit which enlightened one's eyes to see Christ in them. That David is the sweet psalmist of Israel lifted up on high, of whom the Holy Spirit spoke by his tongue (2Sam. 23:1,2), automatically disqualifies uninspired hymns and hymnwriters, who are lifted up nowhere as high, much more if the bulk of the church's praises is again to consist of the psalms, how can they consistently share the throne with uninspired songs without their inspiration suffering detraction?

Bushell particularly sees the argument for uninspired hymns to not only be contrary to the RPW, but also necessarily the inspiration of the divine songbook, leading to a further downgrade in the doctrine of Scripture. After quoting from Romaine's Essay on Psalmody (1775) "I want a name for that man who should pretend that he could make better hymns than the Holy Ghost. . . .", Bushell continues:
[T]he sufficiency and divine origin of the psalter are in themselves adequate arguments for its exclusive use in worship . . .[T]hat the Bible contains a book of inspired psalms immediately places worship song in the same category as the authoritative reading of the Scriptures in worship (Songs of Zion, p. 29).
There is nothing new under the sun though, and the argument that sidesteps the inspired psalter and claims that singing is on par with and has the same liberty as praying or preaching is very common even in Presbyterian and Reformed circles. We shall see it again below, when Needham essentially repeats Ian Murray on the question; that what is sung is merely a circumstance, just as the substance of the prayers or sermon in public worship. Yet in this day of what is supposed to be universal literacy, the reading of Scripture does not seem to be given its due as a distinct element of worship and singing - of the inspired psalms - is seen as the odd man out that must be necessarily lumped in with the ordinances of preaching and prayer and their accompanying liberty to depart from a strict verbatim repetition/recitation of the inspired Scripture.

4. Musical Instruments
To argue that Girardeau basically employs a dispensational argument in connecting musical instruments with the ceremonial worship of the temple which has passed away in Christ and with the coming of Pentecost by claiming as Kelly does, that there is not that much “clear cut discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments (WCF21, p. 97)”, is preposterous, if not to basically ignore Girardeau's arguments. More to the point, Kelly has previously quoted Calvin at length on his Commentary on Hebrews and Institutes 2:9-11, IV:14-17 regarding the finished work of Christ, our high priest, which, according to Kelly again, only leaves the major elements of apostolic worship in Acts 2:42 (WCF21, pp.83-86). Exactly. The ceremonial shadows and typical worship of the Old Testament temple has been finished and done away with in Christ.

For that matter, Calvin tells us pretty much the same thing, regarding 2 Sam. 6:5, as translated again by Kelly himself:
There is a difference, however, concerning the instruments of music. It would be nothing but mimicry if we followed David today in singing with cymbals, flutes, tambourines and psalteries. In fact, the papists were seriously deceived in their desire to worship God with their pompous inclusion of organs, trumpets, oboes and similar instruments. That has only served to amuse the people in their vanity, and to turn them away from the true institution which God has ordained. We must, at the same time, be aware of all the privileges which we have in common with the fathers who have lived under the Law and, on the other hand, be aware of the things wherein they are separated from us. All those things which we have in common with them are lasting, and must be maintained unto the end of the world. But we are not to keep observing these things which were only for the time of the Law, unless we want to make a confused mixture which confounds heaven with earth. In a word, the musical instruments were in the same class as sacrifices, candelabra, lamps and similar things. . . .
As I have said, we must notice that what God has instituted for the time of symbols (before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ) must be put aside and not enforced today. It is true that God ought to be heartily praised, both by musical instuments and by mouth. But it is another matter when we conduct the worship of God in church. If we want to sing praises in the name of God, we would do much better to have psalms instead of common dissolute songs. We sing in order to give him thanks - and not in order to produce a solemn ceremony as a meritorious work that we do for God. Those who take this approach are reverting to a sort of Jewishishism, as if they wanted to mingle the Law and Gospel, and thus bury our Lord Jesus Christ. When we are told that David sang with a musical instrument, let us carefully remember that we are not to make a rule of it. Rather, we are to recognize today that we must sing the praises of God in simplicity, since the shadows of the Law are past, and since in our Lord Jesus Christ we have the truth and embodiment of all these things which were given to the ancient fathers in the time of their ignorance or smallness of faith. They did not have such revelation as we have it today in the Gospel (Sermons on 2nd Samuel 1-13, pp.241,2, emph. added)
Calvin says what God instituted for the "time of symbols before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, must be put aside". "Musical instruments are in the same class as the sacrifices, candelabra, lamps" and other paraphernalia. Those things that were for the time of the Law are not to be mingled with the Gospel, unless we want to 'confound heaven and earth'. Consequently to dismiss Girardeau's statement of the classic reformed position - that if the bloody and typical sacrifices of the temple were fulfilled in Christ at Calvary, so too the musical accompaniment to those bloody sacrifices, typical of the joy of the Holy Spirit and fulfilled at Pentecost- is less than persuasive, if not rather evasive, as well that it contradicts Calvin, without a rebuttal of any real substance.

Likewise, the argument from the presence of musical instruments in the Book of Revelation proves too much. Calvin from the same passage above again says: "But we are not to keep observing these things which were only for the time of the Law, unless we want to make a confused mixture which confounds heaven with earth (p.241)". To argue from Revelation for musical instruments is to confound heaven with earth, if not the typical OT dispensation with the New. If instruments are lawful, then so too, white robes and crowns, incense and candles. In short, to resort to the ceremonial worship of the Old Testament in the New Testament era, is to judaize ala the papists whom Calvin says, have shown themselves "in every possible way to be apes without any discretion (p.242)". It is not the historic presbyterian and reformed point of view which sees the simple, plain and didactic worship of the synagogue emphasizing the reading, preaching and singing of the Word along with prayer continuing into the NT era with the addition of the two sacraments. On the other hand, the ceremonial and elaborate cult of the temple is fulfilled at Calvary and Pentecost, however much John refers to aspects of it in describing his vision of the indescribable worship of heaven in Revelation.

5. The Assembly's Directory of Worship and the Church Year
While Kelly properly and confessionally wants to see a return to the centrality of the Lord's Day in the worship of the church, which he acknowledges might make the church year superfluous(!), he also sees something to be said for Calvin's celebration of Christmas and Easter. While he recognizes Knox and the Scotch General Assembly qualified their acceptance of the Second Helvetic Confession in 1566, excepting the celebration of the six dominical holidays of Christmas, Circumcision, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost (WCF21, pp.93-6), Kelly inexcusably fails to mention that the Westminster divines were hardly silent about their opinion of what Scripture taught. “AN APPENDIX, Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship” to the Assembly's DPW clearly states that:
There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath.
Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.
Again the Westminster Confession is hardly self begotten, conceived in a vacuum or unaccompanied by other doctrinal standards on worship and government which categorically tell us what the Assembly's considered opinion is on the church year. While Kelly quotes Olds against the church year (WCF21, p.95), for some reason the at least historically authoritative and authentic testimony of the DPW's Appendix is entirely and again, inexcusably ignored.

While Kelly thankfully does major on preaching, prayer and the sacraments and advocate the recovery of the Lord’s Day or Christian Sabbath, when it comes to the confessional elements of worship, there is unfortunately more than enough unnecessary equivocation and confusion brought in on the topic of the regulative principle and its application to the synagogue, psalmody and musical accompaniment, as well as Calvin's position on it. Neither is there any appeal to the classic standards and literature on the question of feast days as for example, Gillespie’s Dispute Against English-Popish Ceremonies (1637, rpt. 1993, Naphtali), much more again Bushell on psalmody or Girardeau substantially on musical instruments. Consequently, Kelly’s effort leaves the door open for the current assault on reformed worship to continue from those at least nominally themselves within the reformed camp, such as Frame, Schlissel and Gore as regards the RPW itself, if not its application. This is unacceptable for a symposium which aims to commend the Westminster Confession and its theology to the presbyterian and reformed church of the 21st century.

II. "Westminster and Worship: Psalms, Hymns? And Musical Instruments?"
Prof. Needham’s “Westminster and Worship: Psalms, Hymns? And Musical Instruments (WCF21, II:223-301)?” consists of essentially four parts. The first two sections contain an adequate survey of the regulative principle in the Westminster Confession and catechisms (pp. 233-240) and its biblical/theological justification (pp. 240-247) - though we have yet to see any exposition of the RPW for or against that explicitly acknowledges WCF 2:2; that to God “is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them". The two remaining sections explore how the Regulative Principle of Worship is to be applied to the "singing of psalms with grace in the heart” of WCF 21:5 (pp. 247-290) and likewise whether musical instruments are lawful in the worship of God (pp.290-302). The bibliography of primary and secondary references, the only one in WCF21, runs four pages (pp.303-306). Unfortunately Needham in his largest section of the essay descends to special pleading and question begging as to what the Westminster divines actually meant by the “singing of psalms” of WCF 21:5. His appeal to the commentaries of that day rather than first to thoroughly examining the Standards as a whole and then the actual Minutes of the Assembly themselves for the answer is a fatal turn in his argument and consequently prejudices, if not forecasts his incorrect answer.

Moreover, his rambling historical survey is given to judicious omission, if not that as much weight is given to the exceptions as to the rule. For that matter, the exceptions to the predominant psalmody of the reformed churches are just that and comparatively minute as regards the other inspired songs of scripture, never mind what reasonable connection there is between the inspired songs in scripture outside of the Psalter and uninspired hymns, but it is one of the common non sequiturs of those in favor of uninspired hymnody. It would seem that once the restriction to singing only the psalms is breached and other inspired songs admitted, wishes become horses, beggars may ride and presbyterians somehow also get to sing uninspired hymns to boot in the bargain.

Yet while Calvin and the Synod of Dordt made some room for the inspired songs of Scripture other than the psalms in the public worship of God, the Westminster Assembly shut the door on anything but the 150 Psalms of David. Needham goes on to beg the question regarding what circumstances are in worship, wanting to consider what is sung on par with what is preached, but this again betrays a misunderstanding of the Assembly’s implicit understanding of the elements of worship and the respective qualities and distinctions that surround the question.

1.The "Singing of Psalms" and the Westminster Standards as a Whole
To his credit Needham does begin by mentioning the last chapter in the DPW, “Of the Singing of Psalms”. This is to the point in that again we might reasonably assume that the Directory, along with the Catechisms and the FCG, as integral and interlocking parts of the covenanted uniformity called for in the SL&C, would sustain, if not clarify the testimony of the Confession, rather than contradict it, a threefold cord being not quickly broken (Ecl. 4:12).

The "Singing of Psalms" and the Form of Church Government
The Assembly’s FCG makes this clear in requiring any ministers to sign/take the SL&C if they were to be examined and properly ordained by a presbytery; to wit, he that is to be ordained is to “bring with him a testimonial of his taking the Covenant of the three kingdoms". (This as per the authoritative reprint of the Standards containing Carruthers' corrected text of the Confession published by the Free Presbyterian Church, WCF, rpt. 1997, p.413). In other words, contra what is usually asserted, subscription from the beginning was to the Westminster standards as a whole, not just the Confession and catechisms and that long before the Form of Subscription of 1693 in the Scotch Revolution Settlement Church. In a day and age when “system”, if not “good faith” subscription has been upheld in at least the PCA, a return to the practice of the Assembly would clean a lot of house, if not clarify the original intent of the Assembly and its Standards as to exactly what was permitted in worship, as we shall see below.

For that matter, while the DPW will be the main emphasis below, the FCG does explicitly consider the “singing of psalms” to be one of the Ordinances in a particular Congregation and under the 9th head under the 9th rule in the Rules for Ordination, we are told that "singing of a psalm" is to conclude an ordination service (WCF, pp.404, 415).

The "Singing of Psalms" and the Directory of Public Worship
Further, there are eight references to the “singing of the psalm” or “psalms” in the Directory for Public Worship, as well as the two mentions above in the FCG. Starting with the third chapter of the DPW, the first mention of the "singing of psalms" is the opening line to Of Public Prayer before the Sermon , "After reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm), the minister who is to preach..." The second line to the end Of Prayer after Sermon reads, "The prayer ended, let a psalm be sung, if with conveniency it may be done," which is the only other example Needham cites (p.248) prior to quoting the last rubric in full. The closing paragraph of Sanctification of the Lord's Day says: "That what time is vacant, between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation in publick, be spent in reading, meditation...singing of psalms..." Publick Solenmn Fasting reads: "So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in publick reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms...(WCF, pp. 376, 382, 386, 391, emph. added)".

The section entitled Concerning the Observation of Days of Publick Thanksgiving says:
And, because singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing joy and thanksgiving, let some pertinent psalm or psalms be sung for that purpose, before or after reading some portion of the word suitable to the present business...
The sermon ended, let him not only pray. . . And so, having sung another psalm, suitable to the mercy, let him dismiss the congregation with a blessing. . . When the congregation shall again be assembled, the like course in praying, reading, preaching, singing of psalms, and offering up more praise and thanksgiving, that is before directed for the morning, is to be renewed and continued, so far as the time will give leave . . . (pp.392,3, emph. added)
We note, among other things, that the Westminster divines did not believe that the ordinance of exclusive psalmody was oppressive or burdensome, but rather that the "singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing joy and thanksgiving"! Unfortunately, this does not by any means, seem to be what most presbyterians (or baptists) would say about the matter today. Rather it might seem they are "apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder (WCF 24:6)" what the divines have joined together; if not the WCF 21:5's "singing of psalms" and the Book of Psalms, at least psalmody, joy and thanksgiving and that we think to their and the church's loss.

As for the last rubric or section of the DPW, Of Singing of Psalms, we quote it entirely.
It is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by the singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.
In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.
That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof (p.393, emph. added).
Compare this with the concluding paragraph in the DPW's second section, Publick Reading of Holy Scripture:
Besides publick reading of the holy scriptures, every person that can read, is to be exhorted to read the scriptures privately, (and all others that cannot read, if not disabled by age, or otherwise, are likewise to be exhorted to learn to read,) and to have a Bible (p.376, emph. added).
Alexander T. Mitchell in his The Westminster Assembly, Its History and Its Standards, (1883, rpt. 1992, SWRB), clarifies the origin of the parallel.
A few verbal alterations were suggested by the House of Lords and adopted by the Commons. The most important of these was, that to the direction in the section of singing of Psalms 'that every one that can read is to have a Psalmbook.' their Lordships proposed to add the words, 'and to have a Bible.' The Commons, improving on the suggestion, proposed to transfer the words to the section of the public reading of the Scriptures and developed them into a paragraph similiar in form to the one in the section of singing of Psalms (p.217).
For that matter, two paragraphs previous, the same section in the DPW reads:
We commend also the more frequent reading of such scriptures as he that readeth shall think best for the edification of his hearers, as the book of Psalms and such like (p.376, emph. added).
In other words in all this, there is an explicit approved parallel between the Psalter and the Bible. (That is why many bibles of the day included a psalter bound in and even to this day, the Trinitarian Bible Society offers the English version of the Reformation Bible, the Authorized or "King James" bound up with the Scottish Psalter of 1650.) Can we seriously argue that the divines might think uninspired hymns ought to be held in the same respect as the psalms or the scripture? To ask is to answer, we think, if not that we doubt it. While all the references to psalms in the DPW and FCG do not explicitly mention the 150 of David, taken as a whole, much more the testimony below of the Minutes of the Assembly regarding Rouse’s psalter, we think it only too obvious what the divines meant.

2. Rouse's Psalter and the Minutes of the Assembly
Yet again, the glaring and inexcusable omission to all this is Needham’s failure to consult the Minutes of the Westminster Assembly (1874, rpt. 1991) on the question. While Needham does mention that the Scottish Psalter 1650 was a further revision of the Assembly’s own psalter, which was their revision of Rouse’s psalter (pp.277,8), Needham fails to mention that the Assembly had actually commended their own revision for public use on Nov. 14, 1645 in answer to a request by the House of Lords to consider Barton’s psalter.
Ordered – That whereas the Honble House of Commons hath, by an order bearing the date the 20th of November 1643, recommended the Psalms set out by Mr. Rouse to the consideration of the Assembly of Divines, the Assembly hath caused them to be carefully perused, and as they are now altered and amended, do approve of them, and humbly conceive that if may be useful and profitable to the Church that they be permitted to be publicly sung.
Rouse’s amended psalter was then subsequently published on Jan. 25, 1646 by the House of Commons though the Scotch General Assembly had not yet officially approved it. Barton was still not satisfied and petitioned the House of Lords on March 20th, 1646 to also allow the use of his psalter, which House then requested the Assembly to reconsider the matter. On April 22, 1646, the Assembly pointedly and decisively replied:
That whereas on the 14th of November 1645, in obedience to an order of this Honourable House concerning the said Mr. Barton's Psalms, we have already recommended to this Honourable House one translation of the Psalms in verse, made by Mr. Rouse, and perused and amended by the same learned gentleman, and the Committee of the Assembly, as conceiving it would be very useful for the edification of the Church in regard it is so exactly framed according to the original text: and whereas there are several other translations of the Psalms already extant: We humbly conceive that if liberty should be given to people to sing in churches, every one the translation which they desire, by that means several translations might come to be used, yea, in one and the same congregation at the same time, which would be a great distraction and hindrance to edification (emph. added).--Journals of House of Lords, vol. viii. pp.283, 284 (Minutes, fn. pp.221, 222).
Note, the Assembly says that despite there being several other translations of the Psalms available, they still only recommended one, that of Rouse as amended by the Assembly. A multitude of psalters, never mind hymnbooks, was the furthest thing from their mind. Two, WCF 1:8 states that:
[B]ecause the original tongues [of Hebrew and Greek] are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope (emph. added).
Consequently the Reformation practice of Reformed Churches was to not only translate the Scripture, but also the Psalms in a psalter that men might 'worship God in an acceptable manner'. Rouse's translation was just that as was the Assembly's committee work of 'persuing, altering and amending' them from Nov. 1643 through Nov. 14, 1645 and later the Scotch Church from July 8, 1647 till November 23, 1649 until they were finally approved for use on May 1, 1650 (Millar, Four Centuries of Scottish Psalmody, 1946, pp. 91,97,99).

It is passing strange, if not begs reasonable belief that as per Needham the Assembly would allow, intend or mean uninspired hymns in WCF 21:5 when they were so insistent on exactly what translation of a psalter they would recommend, Rouse's and not Barton's. Either that, or Needham must show that said psalter contained other inspired or uninspired songs officially approved by the Assembly and not something slipped in by the printer as happened at other times and with various editions of the Scotch church's psalter.

Regarding the last, Needham though at least acknowledges that "competent historical authorities agree that these supplements apparently had no direct authorization from the Church itself through its General Assembly". Here, he seems to be alluding to D.H. Fleming, who, in his "Hymnology of the Scotch Reformation" (1884, rpt. 1991, Naphtali, pp.223-46) demonstrates - contra H. Bonar who asserted in his day that uninspired hymns were permitted by the Scotch church at the Reformation, like Needham today of the Assembly - that these additions to the Scotch psalter before and after the Westminster Assembly were not the intention of the Scotch church in its best moments and soundest days. Granted at times, prelacy and its practices crept in, if not printers took it upon themselves to include what they saw fit, but that is not what advocates of uninspired hymnody acknowledge and except. Needham does admit though, "In actual liturgical practice, the Reformed Church of Scotland was exclusively psalm-singing (p.274, emph. added)". He unfortunately will not go on to say the same of the Westminster Assembly and Standards, but instead spends most of his time ignoring the obvious and conducting an exercise in diversion.

The Psalms as Religious Songs and Uninspired Hymns
Unfortunately in response to all this in the historical and confessional record, which Needham seems to be entirely unaware, he essentially begs the question of what the Assembly actually meant by “psalms” by taking a false turn in quoting Poole, Baxter, Daille, Cartwright, Bayne, Byfield, Elton, Manton, Lightfoot, Boyd, Ferguson, Cotton and the so called Westminster Annotations (they were never approved by the Assembly though some who were members worked on them), all of which understand the proof texts of WCF 21:5, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16 and James 5:10 to include other scriptural songs besides the Psalms, if not uninspired hymns. The examples of Geneva, the French, German and Dutch Reformed Churches are also cited as to their practice of singing or allowing for not only other scriptural songs than the psalms, but also uninspired song, as well the supposed exceptions to the rule of exclusive psalmody in the Scotch church.

The Explicit Authorization in the Confession
Yet Needham tells us when he begins to discuss psalmody that,
We begin with the following important assumption: in light of the Confession's full-blooded commitment to the regulative principle, we must take it for granted that the acts of worship the Confession explicitly authorizes are the only acts for which it finds scriptural justification. . . The only logical assumption we can make is that what the Westminster actually sets down as the acts of worship authorized by God in Scripture are the only acts the Westminster divines believe were thus authorized (pp.247,8, emph. added).
He goes on to say again regarding musical instruments that:
[W]e must take it for granted that the acts of worship the Confession explicitly authorizes are the only acts for which it finds and claims scriptural justification. This is axiomatic - indeed, it is the only logical assumption we can make, in light of Westminster's committment to the regulative principle as the hermeneutic of acceptable worship. If we grant this, it settles in advance the question of instrumental worship. Thus, what the Westminster divines actually set down in the Confession as the acts of worship authorized by God in Scripture, were the only acts they believed were thus authorized; and they did not set down the playing of musical instruments as an act of worship authorized by God in Scripture for His New Testament Church. The Confession is deafeningly silent on the issue. So are all the other Westminster documents. Clearly the Westminster divines did not believe in the validity of instrumental worship (p.291, emph. added).
One might easily enough reply 'physician heal thyself', if not 'thou art the man'. Would that Needham recognized the consistency regarding any other songs than the psalms, whether inspired or not, as well as musical instruments. The WCF, as seen in the context of the DPW and the FCG, much more the Minutes, only and explicitly authorizes the "singing of psalms" as well as a "psalmbook" whatever Needham's efforts to redefine the terms. While "psalm" may mean any uninspired religious song, that is hardly the scriptural use of the term and the generally accepted understanding. On the other hand, the Confession, as all the other Westminster documents, is deafeningly silent on the singing of hymns. (The "hymn" of Matt. 26:30 is generally understood to be one of the Hallel psalms, 113-117.) In other words, they did not set down the singing of uninspired hymns as an act of worship authorized by God in Scripture for His New Testament Church. Should it not be axiomatic that we would take them at their word? To ask might seem to be to answer.

Needham's Conclusion
Needham eventually concludes his essay in part by saying that not only does he “think uninspired hymns are in principle lawful;” but that “ I incline to think that the Confession’s authorization of “singing of psalms” does not exclude uninspired hymns (WCF21, p.290. emph. added)”. We think this only possible if he ignores the testimony of the Minutes of the Assembly above wherein we find a pretty authoritative indication of what exactly the divines meant by the ‘singing of psalms’ of WCF 21:5 when the Assembly twice exclusively recommends their revision of Rouse’s psalter over Barton's. Again, can Needham then demonstrate from the historical record that the Assembly’s Psalter contained other inspired songs than the Psalms or even much more uninspired songs approved for public singing? That is the question and all the rest surrounding the question which he brings up is only so much pomp and circumstance. He may care to take up the pursuit of finding inspired or not additions to the Assembly’s approved psalter, but we are inclined to think it on the order of the quest for the so-called holy Grail.

The Contrary Opinions of Other Expert Witnesses and Competent Historical Authorities
Even further Needham's assertions run the risk of contradicting other experts and commentators on the question. For one, S.W. Carruthers, the 20th century editor of the authoritative/critical text edition of the Westminster Confession, in the chapter entitled “The Metrical Psalms” in his Everyday Work of the Westminster Assembly (1943, rpt. 1994, RAP,) says:
After the Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism, the best known piece of work by the Divines is what is usually called the "Scotch Metrical Psalms." They were neither originated, nor were they finally completed by the Assembly, but it was due to their adoption by that body that they came, as a part of the proposed uniformity of worship, to be used in Scotland, and their singing by the Covenanters endeared them to the heart of that nation (pp.161-8).
This as excerpted from a reprint of Carruthers, edited by the very same editor of the WCF in the 21st Century series, J. L. Duncan, who specifically calls attention to this reprint of Carruthers in his “Introduction” to the first volume of the series (WCF21, I:xi), but who also tells us in the second volume that "Needham's conclusions will enlighten and, perhaps, surprise many (WCF21, II:xiii)". Indeed Needham's conclusions do, but hardly in the manner that the editor seems to assume. Rather we are surprised to see such special pleading in print, much more the stated purpose of the company it is found in, that of furthering the Westminster Confession and its theology.

B.B. Warfield, in his Westminster Assembly and Its Work (1931) - which is not only listed in Needham’s bibliography, but is also called a “masterful treatment of the history and work of the assembly” by David Calhoun in the same WCF21 volume as Needham (II:306, 38) - says, contra Needham’s conclusions, though B.B. is no psalm singer himself:
One of the sections of the Directory is given to the Singing of Psalms, and declares it "the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by Singing of Psalms together in the Congregation, and also privately in the family." This rubric manifestly implied the provision of a Psalm Book, and it was made part of the function of the Assembly in preparing a basis for uniformity in worship in the Churches of the three kingdoms, to supply them with a common Psalm Book (p.52, emph. added.).
At the very least again, Needham needs to prove that the Assembly’s psalter like the Anglo-Genevan, Sternhold and Hopkins or Tate and Brady contained other inspired songs than the psalms, if not also uninspired and that these were approved by the Assembly and not merely inserted by the printer and intended for private use.

3. Psalmody in Reformed History
To his credit, Needham does at least quote Calvin’s preamble to the 1542 Genevan service book:
As for public prayers, there are two kinds: the one consists simply of speech, the other of song. . . Now, what Augustine says is true, namely that no one can sing anything worthy of God, which he has not received from him. Therefore, even after we have carefully searched everywhere, we shall not find better or more appropriate songs to this end than the Psalms of David, inspired by the Holy Spirit. And for this reason, when we sing them, we are assured that God puts the words in our mouth, as if he himself were singing through us to exalt his glory (WCF21, p.256, emph. add.).
This is high praise indeed of the Psalms, but this only as an orphaned quote from Calvin with out any real exposition or comment to follow from Needham. That Calvin quotes Augustine with approval, when he says there are not "better or more appropriate songs" to the end of praising God "than the Psalms of David, inspired by the Holy Spirit" is not anything Needham really cares to deal with. Rather he evasively rushes on to appeal to the commentaries of Calvin on Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19, having previously noted the inclusion of the Nunc Dimittis and the Ten Commandments in the Genevan and French psalters - which at least are inspired portions of Scripture contra Needham's thesis that uninspired hymns are lawful in public worship. Yet in all this, Needham fails to do full justice to the full scope of and reference to psalm singing in the corpus of Calvin’s writing. Two examples might suffice.

Calvin and Psalmody
It is true, even Parker at first, the greatest living authority on Calvin, in his first brief Portrait of Calvin (1954, p. 31) glided over the fact that a return to congregational psalm singing , i.e. “hymnsinging”, was one of the four things asked for by Calvin, Farel and Corauld of the Geneva city council. Yet later in his more thorough John Calvin: A Biography (1975, pp. 62, 87, 88), he clarifies the matter. The Articles of Church Organization and Worship of 1537 led to Calvin’s exile to Basel in 1538 before he returned via Strasbourg to spend the rest of his life in Geneva in 1541. Regarding psalmody the same Articles say:
Further, it is a thing very expedient for the edification of the Church, to sing some psalms in the form of public devotions by which one may pray to God, or to sing his praise so that the hearts of all be roused to and incited to make like prayers and render like praises and thanks to God of one accord . . . On the other hand there are the psalms which we desire to be sung in the church, as we have it exemplified in the ancient Church and in the evidence of Paul himself, who says it is good to sing in the congregation with mouth and heart. We are unable to compute the profit and edification which will arise from this, except after having experimented. Certainly as things are, the prayers of the faithful are so cold, that we ought to be ashamed and dismayed. The psalms can incite us to lift up our hearts to God and move us to an ardour in invoking and exalting with praises the glory of his Name. Moreover it will be thus appreciated of what benefit and consolation the pope and those that belong to him have deprived the Church; for he has reduced the psalms, which ought to be true spiritual songs, to a murmuring among the themselves without any understanding.

This manner of proceeding seemed specially good to us, that children, who beforehand have practiced some modest church song, sing in a loud distinct voice, the people listening with all attention and following heartily what is sung with the mouth, till all become accustomed to sing communally (Calvin: Theological Treatises, 1954, pp.53,4).
This revival of congregational singing, much more psalmody in place of the Romish choirs and silence of the congregation was a hallmark of Calvin’s reformation of worship and deserves to mentioned as such, though there were a few other songs included in the Genevan Psalter. That the Apostles’ Creed is uninspired - Calvin considered it apostolic - yet a metrical version was included in the Genevan Psalter of 1542, but not in the authoritative and final version of 1562, is hardly an across the board argument for uninspired hymns (cf. Bushell, p.180).

The second example is from Calvin’s lengthy preface to his commentary on the Psalms. While the "varied and resplendent riches which are contained in this treasury it is no easy matter to express in words; so much so, that I well know that whatever I shall be able to say will be far from approaching the excellence of the subject"; still in order to give his readers a "taste, however small" of the book, he tells us that he calls it "An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul", as well as an "unerring rule for prayer". Further as regards the praise of God in song, he says,
Besides, there is also here prescribed to us an infallible rule for directing us with respect to the right manner of offering to God the sacrifice of praise, which he declares to be most precious in his sight, and of the sweetest odor. There is no other book in which there is to be found more express and magnificent commendations, both of the unparalleled liberality of God toward His Church and of all His works; there is no other book in which the evidences and experiences of the fatherly providence and solicitude which God exercises toward us, are celebrated with such splendor of diction, and yet with the strictest adherence to truth; in short, there is no other book in which we are more powerfully stirred up to the performance of this religious exercise. (1557, rpt. 1989, Baker, IV: xxxviii-xxxix, emph. added).
Now certainly, to say that the Psalms are an 'infallible rule for the sacrifice of praise' is high praise indeed, but somehow that got left out of Needham’s survey, as well that there is "no other book in which we are more powerfully stirred up to the performance of this religious exercise" of praise - not even a hymnbook. Further, as we see time and time again in the question begging that surrounds the issue, that Calvin arguably used other Scriptural portions or songs is no argument per se for uninspired hymnody, with the Apostles Creed being the only uninspired piece sung and that because Calvin thought it - what else? - apostolic. While there were exceptions, for all practical purposes, Calvin and Geneva predominantly sang the psalms. At the time of the Assembly, the presbyterian practice was declared to be exclusive psalmody. To further point to the inspired exceptions, if not the only uninspired item, the Apostles’ Creed, in Geneva to essentially make the case for Amazing Grace and any other uninspired hymn evangelicals care to sing is to border on disingenuousness.

In short, Warfield, an authority on the theology of not only the Assembly, but also Calvin, says:
We say nothing, again, of his reorganization of the worship of the Reformed Churches. and particularly of his gift to them of the service of song: for the Reformed Churches did not sing until Calvin taught them to do it. There are many who think he did few things greater or more far-reaching in their influence than the making of the Psalter - that Psalter of which twenty-five editions were published in the first year of its existence, and sixty-two more in the next four years; which was translated or transfused into nearly every language of Europe; and which wrought itself into the very flesh and bone of the struggling saints throughout all the "killing times" of Protestant history (Calvin and Augustine, 1956, rpt. 1971, p. 20.)
Bushell asserts that psalmody was integral to the piety and vigour of the reformed churches, so much so that the Genevan psalter was outlawed in parts of France as early as 1550. Eventually by 1662 psalm singing had become a felony (Songs of Zion, p.186), if not that Protestantism itself was outlawed later in France at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes 1685. That, however, is not anywhere close to the conclusion that we might gather of Needham’s on Calvin, if not the reformed church. Needless to say, history does not agree.

The Genevan Book of Order
Needham also appeals to the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible (1560, rpt. 1969) as translated by Knox and Whittingham, that the "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs of Col. 3:16 essentially do not refer exclusively to the Davidic psalter (WCF21, p.262), however much that a metrical psalter did accompany the Genevan Book of Order (1556, rpt. 1993, PHP) and the Scottish Church which took over that Book of Order was a psalmsinging body. As quoted by Needham, that same Genevan Book of Order says, under the chapter heading of "What Songs We Ought To Delight and Use", that: "There are no songs more meet than the Psalms of the prophet David, which the Holy Ghost has framed to the same use, and commended to the church, as containing the effect of the whole scripture. . . " . The passage continues, by saying:
that hereby our hearts might be more lively touched, as appears by Moses, Hezekiah, Judith, Deborah, Mary, Zacharias, and others, [The proof texts in the margin at this point read: Ex. 15:1-19, Isa. 38:10-20, Judith 16:1-22, Judges 5, Lk. 1:46-55, 68-79.] who by songs and metre, rather than in their common speech and prose, gave thanks to God for such comfort as he sent them.
It then mentions the format or metre of the Psalms which lends them to versification or rhyming for song, saying:
Here it were too long to treat of the metre, but forasmuch as the learned doubt not thereof, and as it is plainly proven that the Psalms are not only metrical, and contain just cesures [metrical pauses, divisions], but also have grace and majesty in the verse more than any other places of the scriptures, we need not to enter into any probation [proof]. For they that are skillful in the Hebrew tongue, by comparing the Psalms with the rest of the scriptures, easily may perceive the metre. And to whom is it not known, how the Holy Ghost by all means sought to help our memory, when he fashioned many Psalms according to letters of the alphabet; so that every verse begins with the letters thereof in order. Sometimes "A" begins the half verse, and "B" the other half, and in other place, three verses, yea and eight verses with one letter, even the Psalm throughout, as if all men should be inflamed with the love thereof, both for variety of matter, and also briefness, easiness, and delectation. . .(emph. added, pp.32,3)
Mark that, the Psalms, according to the Preface which agrees with John Calvin, contain "the effect of the whole scripture" with more "grace and majesty . . . than any other places of the scriptures". Neither are the examples of Moses, Hezekiah etc. appealed to in support of singing other inspired or even uninspired hymns, but rather the singing of the Psalms of David is commended, "which the Holy Ghost has framed to the same use. . .that all men might be inflamed with the love thereof, both for variety of matter, and also briefness, easiness, and delectation!" Consequently the Anglo-Genevan Book of Order compiled by the likes of Knox and Whittingham and approved by Calvin was accompanied by a metrical psalter.

Needham makes much of the fact that supposedly Whittingham appended a metrical version of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer to this psalter. Regardless, not only was the Genevan Book of Order as authored by John Knox and the other Marian exiles, adopted by the Scotch Church in 1564, so too the Scottish psalter of 1564 was largely based on the Anglo-Genevan psalter and was originally purged of any additions besides the psalms according to Needham (WCF21, p. 274). In other words, the Scotch Church was largely, if not exclusively, a psalm singing church even before the Westminster Assembly and its Standards. That the Scottish General Assembly asked Zachary Boyd to versify other portions of Scripture in was all that they did at the time they revised and approved of the Westminster Assembly psalter and proves nothing per se, other than they did exactly nothing with the report once they had received it. The provisional implementation of any Scriptural paraphrases in Scottish presbyterianism did not take place until well afterward in the late 1700's, much more the same were never uninspired hymns, which is where again Needham really ends up after perusing reformed history.

The English Bible Annotations

Likewise Needham makes much of the Westminster or English Annotations (1645) on the Bible for Eph. 5:19 to the same conclusion (WCF21, p.276). While the English Annotations, which was first published in 1645, and the Assembly, were both commissioned by the Long Parliament in 1640 and 1643 respectively, and though six of the thirteen responsible for those Annotations were members of the Assembly, it was not an official production of the Assembly (See Scripture and Worship, Muller, P&R, 2007, pp. 4,5,19-26). Yet the "Argument" or introduction to the Book of Psalms in the English Annotations speaks to the sufficiency of the Psalms, saying that:
This Book is by some called, the Anatomy of the soul: And that not unfitly, for herein we see all the affections of God's servants lively expressed in excellent patterns. We finde them sometimes grieving for sin, and troubles: otherwhiles, rejoycing in deliverances: Now praying to God, then praising of God: Putting forth one while their desire of God, and dependance on him: another while, their joy in God, and care to please him. And all these and many other are set out in excellent expressions.
It continues, appealing to two of the proof texts for the "singing of psalms" of WCF 21:5, Col. 3:16 and James 5:16.
This varietie of Hymns is left to us upon record, that we might in Gods publike service, and in private by singing, make use of them, according to several occasions, Matth. 26.30 Colos.3.16. James 5.13. This (besides the often reading and meditating on them) is the right use of the Book of Psalms.
In other words, just as much extraneous material might be cited one way or another on the question, once we are cut loose from the primary sources of the Standards themselves and the Minutes to the Assembly as to the original intent of the divines on the singing of psalms. Reid in his Memoirs of the Westminster Divines, (1811, rpt. 1982, I:302) quotes Calamy's son to the effect that Featley was responsible for the notes on Paul's epistles and Casaubon on the Psalms. Yet while Casaubon never attended the Assembly, Featley did, but he was thrown in prison by the Parliamentary party (Cyclopedia of Bibl. Theo. and Eccl. Literature, McClintock & Strong) and his name is absent from the "List of the Divines who met in the Assembly at Westminster" at the front of the WCF (pp.15,6) and any biographical mention by Reid. In short again, any mention of the English Annotations or any other Bible commentator short of those who actually attended the Assembly (never mind the Assembly's comments themselves on the question) is something of a red herring and needless confusion, which is basically what Needham's essay consists of.

The Favorite Puritan Divine of Presbyterian Hymn Singers
As for the Puritans and Presbyterians of the British Isles, again Needham’s survey seems to partake more of the exception than the rule, as it was for Ian Murray in his The Psalter- The Only Hymnal? (BoT, 2001) which Needham’s effort resembles in other ways as well. For just one example, Needham fails to mention the English Puritan preface to a reprint of the Scotch Psalter in 1673 signed by Manton, Owen, Poole, Watson, Vincent, Jenkyn, Meade and 19 others, including Calamy, a Westminster divine. It concludes by saying in the last of its three paragraphs:
Now, though spiritual songs of mere human composure may have their use, yet our devotion is best secured, where the matter and words are of immediately divine inspiration. And to us, David's Psalms seemly plainly intended by those terms of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, which the apostle useth, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16. But then, 'tis meet that these divine composures should be represented to us in a fit translation, lest we want David, in David, while his holy ecstasies are delivered in a flat and bald expression. The translation which is now put into thy hand cometh nearest to the original of any that we have seen, and runneth with such a fluent sweetness, that we thought fit to recommend it to thy Christian acceptance, some of us having used it already, with great comfort and satisfaction (emph. added).
Not only do we have a clear statement in favor of psalmody and that in connection to the same verses WCF 21:5 uses for proof texts, the presence of Manton's name is auspicious. As Needham mentions, while Manton is not found on the list of the divines who sat in the Westminster Assembly (WCF, pp.15,16), he is one of the forty five ministers that sign the first of the two letters preceding the WCF and the sole author of the second Epistle to the Reader (WCF pp.6, 10, WCF21, p.268). If he can be found to advocate anything other than inspired psalmody, it would have to count for something in an argument based primarily on secondary authorities and sources as Needham's is.

Yet in the four pages or so in his commentary on James 5:13, one of the proof texts for the ‘singing of psalms’ in WCF 21:5, Manton largely argues for scriptural psalmody. The most he says for uninspired songs which Needham quotes (WCF21, p.269) is that, "I confess we do not forbid other songs; if pious and grave, after good advice they may be received into the Church. Tertullian, in his Apology, showeth that in primitive times they used this liberty, either to sing scripture psalms or such as were of private composure." Out of four pages, that is all he says. But he continues after the previous quote saying: "But that which I am to prove, that scriptural psalms may be sung, and I shall, with advantage over and above, prove that they are fittest to be sung." Even further, "Therefore, upon the whole matter, I should pronounce, that so much as an infallible gift doth excell a common gift, so much do scriptural psalms excel those that are of a private composure." Moreover he refers to "the excellent translations of . . . Rous, Barton and others” (1693, rpt. 1998, BoT, in loco). “Rous” as in the version approved by the Westminster Assembly.

Previously, in the preface to his commentary, Manton says "to conceal known adversaries is an argument of fear and distrust (p.9)". Further, suppression, if not ignorance, of the truth is the first step to the expression of error. We do not pretend to know or even accuse Prof. Needham of wilful malice or deceit, but we do know that too many salient distinctions have been overlooked for whatever reason in his essay on the topic that consequently render it generally unreliable and mistaken on the question of WCF 21:5 and the original intent of the Assembly. Again, however sincere or inadvertently one deals in half truths, the practice generally leaves one open to descending to that which is wholly a lie, which is the danger Needham courts, if not finds himself entangled with in his essay. One may, of course, disagree with the original intent of the Assembly and think it unscriptural, but the foremost question and primary issue is what did they actually say and believe. Only after determining that, can one profitably disagree with them, if indeed one disagrees with the genuine original intent as opposed to Needham's so far unsubstantiated opinion.

American Psalmody
In that Needham (WCF21, pp.270,1) appeals to the example of the American puritan, John Cotton, who allows for the singing of other inspired songs than the Psalms in his Singing of Psalms, a Gospel Ordinance (1647, rpt. 2006, p.20), it must also be said that Cotton took the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 to refer to the titles of the psalms in the Hebrew Bible (p.23). Further in 1642, Cotton, Hooker and Davenport, all ministering in New England were requested to come to the Westminster Assembly, but none did. (Only Phillips and Vane at the Assembly had lived in New England. See Barker’s Puritan Profiles, 1996, pp.260-287). Regardless, while Cotton does not argue for the Assembly’s position, neither does he argue for Needham's view on the lawfulness of singing uninspired hymns.

Yet Cotton Mather, a namesake of John, who was his maternal grandfather, gives us the version of the Westminster Confession affirmed by the New England divines at Cambridge in 1648 in his Great Works of Christ in America (1702, rpt. 1979, BoT). While Chapters 30 and 31 on Church censures and councils respectively from the original Westminster Confession were dropped, and a new chapter 20 "Of the Gospel, and the Extent of the Grace Thereof" added, Chapter 22:5 of the Cambridge Confession speaks of the "singing of psalms," yet without the "with grace in the heart" of Westminster Chapter 21:5 (2:200). In other words, as we shall see, while the New England churches did not use the psalter recommended by the Assembly and further amended by the Church of Scotland - the Scotch Psalter of 1650 - still in both profession and practice, the early American puritans were psalm singers. (Not so their contemporary congregational heirs or modern presbyterian cousins).

The First American Book and Psalter (However Unknown)
Mather tells us further that:
About the year 1639, the New-English reformers, considering that their churches enjoyed the other ordinances of Heaven in their scriptural purity, were willing that the ordinance of "The singing of psalms," should be restored among them unto a share in that purity...Resolving then upon a new translation, the chief divines in the country took each of them a portion to be translated. . .The Psalms thus turned into meetre were printed at Cambridge, in the year 1640 (1:407).
This psalter is that known as the Bay Psalm Book. It was the very first book published in New England North America in 1640 (rpt. 1956, Univ.Chicago facsimile) and like the Westminster Standards, it is a more definitive ecclesiastical statement of the question, again over and above whatever individual theologians might say. Lo and behold it also essentially gives us a reprise of the state of the question when the preface of 13 un-numbered pages opens by saying:
The singing of Psalmes, though it breath forth nothing but holy harmony, and the melody: yet such is the subtility of the enemie, and the enmity of our nature against the Lord, & his wayes, that our hearts can finde matter of discord in this harmony, and crochets of division in this holy melody. -for- There have been three questions especially stirring concerning singing. First. what psalmes are to be sung in churches? whether Davids and other scripture psalms, or the psalmes invented by the gifts of godly men in every age of the church (emp. added).
In answer to this question, it says:
[C]ertainly the singing of David’s psalmes was an acceptable worship of God, not only in his owne time, but in succeeding times. as in Solomons time 2 Chron.5.13. in Iehosphats time 2 Chron. 20.21 in Ezra his time Ezra 3. and the text is evident in Hezekiah’s time they are commanded to sing praise in the words of David and Asaph 2 Chron.29,30.
Further, “some things in it indeed were ceremonial, as their musical instruments etc. but what ceremony was there in singing praise with the words of David and Asaph? What if David was a type of Christ, was Asaph also?” The preface continues to argue that if David’s songs were typical
because the ceremony of musical instruments was joyned to them, then their prayers were also typical, because they had that ceremony of incense admixt with them: But wee know that prayer then was a moral duty, notwithstanding the incense; and so singing those psalms notwithstanding their musical instruments.
It continues in finding that if:
the singing [of] David's psalmes be a morall duty & therefore perpetuall; then wee under the new Testament are bound to sing them as well as they under the old: and if wee are expressly commanded to sing Psalmes, Hymnes, and spirituall songs, then either we must sing David’s psalmes or else [we] may affirm [that] they are not spiritual songs: which being penned by an extraordinary gift of the Spirit, for the sake especially of God’s spiritual Israel.
But they are spiritual songs; therefore they are to be sung.

The answer in part to the objection in favor of new (charismatic) songs is the quite common view of the Reformation. The inspired Old Testment psalter is sufficient for for worship and praise of the New Testament church: "[T]he booke of psalmes is so compleat a System of psalmes which the Holy Ghoste himself in infinite wisdom hath made to suit all conditions, necessities, temptations, affections &tc. of men in all ages" which "most of all our interpreters on the psalmes have fully and particularly cleared" - contrary to what Needham seems to find - "therefore by this the Lord seemeth to stoppe all mens mouths and mindes ordinarily to compile or sing any other psalmes (under the colour that the ocasions and conditions of the Church are new) &tc. for the publick use of the Church, seing, let our condition be what it will, the Lord himself hath supplyed us with farre better".
And therefore in Hezekiah’s time, though doubtless there were among them those which had the extraordinary gifts to compile new songs on those new occasions, as Isaiah and Micah &tc. yet wee read that they are commanded to sing in the words of David and Asaph, which were ordinarily used in the publick worship of God: and wee doubt not but those that are wise will easily see; that those set formes of psalmes of Gods own appoyntment not of mans conceived gift or humane imposition were sung in the Spirit by those holy Levites, as well their prayers were in the spirit which themselves conceived, the Lord not binding them therin to any set formes; and shall set formes of psalmes appoynted of God not be sung in the spirit now, which others did then?
There is nothing new under the sun, in Solomon’s day or ours. While the spelling to the Bay Psalter’s preface is archaic, so too the objections. Yet the answers are up to date enough to answer Needham’s objections and then some.

As again per Calvin and others, such as Bushell, the Bay Psalter preface considers the psalter to be not only an inspired, but also an infallible book of praise that covers the whole gamut of religious experience and emotion. No uninspired hymnwriter or singer can say with David, the son of Jesse, a man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue (2 Sam. 23:1)”. As such that word in the Psalms is sufficient after the close of canon to circumscribe any and all needs of the church in public praise. Even in the Old Testament age, after David when the gifts of the Holy Spirit for prophecy had not yet ceased, Israel was exhorted to praise the Lord with the songs of David, Asaph and Korah and at every revival, reformation and renewing of the covenant, that is exactly what they did as the preface to the Bay Psalter notes (cf. 2 Chron. 5:13,, 7:3, 18:21, 23:18, 29:30, 35:18, Ezra 3:10,11, Neh. 11:22, 12:45,46).

Neither can the singing of arguably new inspired psalms in 1 Cor. 14:26, be a rule for today after the close of the canon of Scripture and the cessation of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. Further, if the psalms are seen as typical, because of the example of David himself or musical instruments, the psalms also include compositions by the nontypical Asaph, much more according to the argument, prayer then too must be considered typical because accompanied by incense, which is to say the argument proves too much. Yet as the Bay Psalter notes, while the Levites composed prayers in the spirit though uninspired and not according to forms, but sang psalms according to form, so too we are to do likewise these days. In other words, the standard objection that liberty in praying or preaching applies to singing in the worship of God carries no weight or water with the Bay Psalter. Of that more below.

4. Miscellany on Inspired Songs
Neither is it really difficult to answer Needham's question, why would the Holy Spirit "inspire such beautiful songs, incorporate them in canonical Scripture, and sternly forbid us ever to sing them in church worship"? The answer would be that we don’t know, but we do know that God has not included them in the inspired canonical songbook found in those very same Scriptures. Bushell says, "we see no clear indication in the Scriptures that such songs were intended by God for perpetual use in His Church (Songs of Zion, p.15)". Needham continues saying, "Also in the New Testament, we have the heavenly songs of Revelation 5:9-10 and 15:3-4. If the citizens of heaven sing these songs, there is no coherent reason why their fellows on earth should not join in (WCF21, p. 283)". Yet the argument proves too much. Bushell says, "To argue that we may do what angels and glorified saints sitting in heaven before God's throne may do, is manifestly false (p.94)". Or as Calvin, previously on the Old Testament worship and musical instruments, this is to 'confound heaven and earth'. The Apocalypse is not intended to be a Directory for worship, Anglican though it may be, with approved examples of vestments, candles, harps and incense, as well the four living creatures and the 24 elders in public worship. Glorified and perfected saints and angels in a prophetic book are no approved example for those still in the here and now.

What About Watts?
All this follows Needham's appeal to Isaac Watt's argument that the Old Testament psalter is insufficient for the New Testament church. Yet if Watts cannot find Christ in the Psalter, the NT authors surely can, though perhaps the references are not as explicit as a fundamentalist might desire, but they are there nonetheless for those who meditate on and examine the scripture. Neither is Watt's opinion of the clarity of the psalms that of Calvin and others.

The Dutch Annotations on the Bible
Another authoritative witness and alternative testimony on the question would be that of the Staten Vertaling or States General Bible. It was officially called for by the Synod of Dordt in 1618 and published in 1638. It is the Dutch counterpart of the English Authorized Version of 1611 and the English delegates to the Synod related for the same what went into the 1611 translation. Yet as per the Geneva Bible of 1560, it contained reformed notes and explanations of the text printed in the margin, which ironically was one of the reasons King James desired the Geneva to be replaced by what came to be known as the 1611 King James. In 1645 many of the Westminster divines attested to their desire to see it translated into English with a public certificate, to which Parliament in 1648 heeded, giving exclusive right to one Theo. Haak to reprint his translation for 14 years. (In this translation of 1657, reprinted in 2002, the textual notes and explanations were bracketed and incorporated into the text, which itself is in an italic font.) The "Argument" or summary of the Book of Psalms which precedes that book, says the Psalter is a:
. . . singular jewel, the value and usefulness whereof can never sufficiently be comprehended, much less uttered by the Tongue, or described by the Pen. . . the compleat Summary or compendious rehearsal of the whole Bible, Law and Gospel; or of all the true knowledge and worship of God.
Not only does it contain "very solid and wholesome Doctrinals and Instructions . . . Moreover, touching the Person and Saving Office of the Messiah, our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ", the Psalms instruct us of:
. . . his eternal Godhead, Incarnation, Suffering, Dying, rising again from the dead, ascending into heaven, sitting at the right hand of his Father, yea about the enlarging and spreading of his Kingdome among the Gentiles by the preaching of the holy Gospel; about the sinful estate and condition of man, the quality and property of Regeneration, of true Repentance, of the Love and Fear of God; Again, of the Nature of true Faith, of relying and glorying in God, of the Assurance of Salvation, of the Combate between the Spirit and the flesh.
Suffice it to say, the historic Dutch Bible of the Reformation era disagrees with the complaint of Watts - and Needham/modern reformed evangelicalism - that David's songs are insufficient to glorify and proclaim Christ in all his fulness. How the gold is become dim (Lam. 4:1). Further that there were exceptions to exclusive psalmody in the Dutch reformed church is not necessarily an approved example; clearly the Westminster Assembly did not think so.

A Modern Conference on Psalmody
The Psalms in Worship (PIW) is not only the collected lectures given at the 1907 United Presbyterian Church of North America Conference on Psalmody, the title is listed in Needham's bibliography (WCF21, p. 305), though ther is no mention of it at all in his essay. Russel in his address entitled "Christ in the Psalms", notes that:
Much has been said about the absence of Christ from the Psalms, and the need, therefore, of songs presenting Him. There is much that is tender and seemingly commendable in this desire for fuller statement as to Christ's person and work in our songs; but when we find that in our Saviour's time the failure to see Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures was because of blindness, we may ask whether modern failure to find Him in the Psalms may not be attributable to the same cause. Our Lord certainly found the Psalms filled with references to Himself (PIW, pp. 216, 217, emph. added).
Which is exactly the problem in our day as well as Watt's, spiritual blindness. That is the reason we cannot understand that the Psalms are about Christ. Further, there was no dearth of inspiration among the apostles, that if need be or God commanded it, a new songbook would have been given out and included in the NT canon as the Psalms were in the Old. Watts' argument is essentially dispensational and baptistic. He requires either an explicit NT command or replacement for OT psalmody which he denigrates as being far from a Christian spirit. If that were true though, Watts must for one instance, again tell us why Christ and the apostles quote repeatedly from it.

5. Circumstantial Confusion
Next is Needham's appeal to the standard argument/confusion of Frame and Poythress, if not Ian Murray (as answered previously in the preface to the Bay Psalm Book.) Supposedly just as there is liberty in preaching or prayer in public worship, so too there is liberty in what we shall sing (See Murray’s The Psalter- The Only Hymnal?, BoT, 2001, pp. 8,9). Further, in the realm of circumstance, Needham asserts ‘whatever is not forbidden is lawful, so long as it is edifying (p.284)’. For that matter, praise is part of or a mode of prayer. It may be spoken or sung and if we may not restrict one’s freedom in the first, we may not in the second. Thus again, uninspired song is lawful because it is edifying and not forbidden (p.285).

Murray of course might have more credibility to his Puritan and reformed credentials as a founder and editor of the Banner of Truth Trust than either Frame or Needham. Needham as a Reformed Baptist, might reasonably be assumed to be less than sympathetic to the historic Presbyterian position and distinctive on the singing of psalms whether personally or in principle, in that the London Baptist Confession of 1689 particularly modified WCF 21:5 to read not only “the singing of psalms,” but also “hymns and spiritual songs”, the last two being essentially uninspired. But this is to give away the day before it has even begun. Again - as always? - there are exceptions, Malcolm Watts being one Baptist psalm singer. See his response to Ian Murray in God’s Hymnbook for the Christian Church (James Begg Society, 2003) if not that Needham might seem to be responding in part to Watts' rebuttal.

In all this Needham also wants to go on record that uninspired hymns should never be allowed to displace the Psalms or other scriptural songs, though he does admit that historically uninspired hymns largely have done just that (p.289). The further comment is that Needham’s historical survey has pretty much done the same by emphasizing the exceptions over and above and in exclusion of the rule and practice of psalmody itself. Physician, heal thyself, might be the appropriate reply.

Yet with a broader view of the elements in WCF 21, the argument for psalmody considers that the Scripture has the pre-eminence in public worship. While the reading of Scripture and the singing of psalms in the worship of God are both restricted to the inspired text, the preaching of the Word and public prayer are not so restricted, but are at liberty to depart from the inspired text. This regardless that Needham ala Frame will argue that because the psalms are prayers, so too we have liberty in what we shall sing. Still, this is a lame though much used argument to set aside what is plainly the position of the Westminster Confession, much more the rest of the Standards; that the singing of the 150 psalms of David alone in the public worship of God is largely the historic position of not only the presbyterian, but also the reformed churches, though they may not do so today. Granted there were some exceptions and the position for “exclusive psalmody” was not as fully self conscious and decided as it is today.

Still, arguments for allowing other inspired songs are not arguments for uninspired songs, which is where most, if not Needham himself ends up (p.290). Two, if we cannot even give our audience the historic confessional position of the Westminster Assembly to begin with, in a series supposedly dedicated to one of the fundamental constitutional documents of historic presbyterianism, the Confession of Faith, regardless if we agree with it or not, any comments or critique of the same will necessarily be a blindman’s buff affair on our part. So it is with Prof. Needham’s effort. Again we do not pretend to know if this article by our Baptist professor is a sop to the popular and prevailing view in modern moderate American presbyterianism in favor of uninspired hymnody, but we think its deficiencies call for definite correction in the third volume planned in the series.

6. Musical Instruments
When it comes to the question of musical instruments, the modus operandi is pretty much the same in worship in Needham’s essay. While the historic reformed on musical instruments is mentioned and while Needham is better than Kelly, in the end Needham settles for the pragmatic modern (Dutch?) reformed argument for musical accompaniment as merely an aid and not a distinct act or object of worship. To his credit again, he does say “the ideal to be desired and preferred, if practicable, is the ancient Christian ideal of unaccompanied singing (p.302)” Unfortunately he fails to specify the singing of “psalms”.

Originally though, even the continental reformed churches did not hold to this view of instruments and the arguments for a pitch pipe or tunebook have been addressed before, not the least by Girardeau, largely in Chapt. VI of his, regardless that we are not given those answers. One, the pitchpipe only gives the pitch to the precentor, if not the congregation and does not accompany the singing. Girardeau grants that the organ could do this as well, but somehow people will not let the organ sit silent otherwise. It must also accompany the singing. Two, as regards a tunebook, it is a circumstance. If nothing else the precentor must have a tunebook in his head to give the tune. Further, musical instruments were not a circumstance in the OT ceremonial worship. Musical instruments were only introduced into the tabernacle worship by the command of God to David. They typify the joy of the Holy Spirit and accompany the bloody sacrifices. With the coming of Calvary, as well as Pentecost, all the Old Testament types of Christ and the Spirit are fulfilled and abrogated. By what right or wave of the wand can we make it a circumstance in NT worship? Hence to introduce them again for even practical or supposedly “circumstantial” reasons is to judaize.

III. The Overall Conclusion
In other words, it is precisely because of Prof. Needham’s and Dr. Kelly's previous theological competence and literary accomplishments, either in church history or translation of Calvin, that these essays in WCF21 are categorically unacceptable. Both essays unfortunately and distinctly fail the task at hand in explicating and defending the historic Regulative Principle of Worship and its application to psalmody and musical instruments as set forth in the Westminster Confession. Both authors inexcusably fail to thoroughly examine the primary sources in the larger Westminster Standards, if not the Minutes of the Assembly, in order to authoritatively determine how the divines not only viewed the example of the synagogue in Scripture, but also exactly what they meant by the "singing of psalms with grace in the heart" of WCF 21:5. As a consequence the reader is left with a confused and mistaken view of what the Westminster Assembly in their Confession actually teach.

In other words, contra the goals of the symposium as set forth in the “Introduction” by the editor (WCF21, p.x), these two essays fail across the board to:

1. "Inform the reader about the Assembly in its historical, theological, political and social setting".
2. "Challenge inaccurate assertions commonly made about the Westminster in relation to both earlier and later Reformed theology".
3. "Give a fresh evaluation of the Assembly’s place and contribution to the Calvinist tradition".
4. "Commend the Westminster theology as a faithful expression of clear-headed Christian thinking for our own generation".

We hope it would not be to much to think that situation would be rectified in the planned third volume of the series, and that entirety of the original religious uniformity as called for in the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 and set forth in the Directory for Public Worship and the Form of Church Government, as well as the Confession of Faith and Catechisms, would be acknowledged. That, not to mention the historical record of the Minutes to the Assembly and the Assembly's revision of Rouse's psalter, without ignoring the larger literature on the question, beginning with Bushell and Girardeau.


VirginiaHuguenot said...

Thank you for an excellent article. Do you happen to know anything about the status of the third volume of the WCF into the 21st Century?

Reformed Veritas said...

Thanks for your comment, Andrew. Sorry for the delay in reply. I just ran across your comment in the course of some minor updates to the article. I think I heard something re. the 3rd volume, after the discussion over at the Puritan Board, but it escapes me at the moment. If I find out anything, I will let you know.
Bob S.

VirginiaHuguenot said...

Volume 3 is now available in some places and should be fully available very soon.

Reformed Veritas said...

Thanks VH, I was remiss in mentioning this to you. Green Baggins even posted the Table of Contents in his notice of Vol 3.