Superiority of the Psalms

“When Horace and Ovid are forgotten, and the dramas of Shakespeare are unread, the lyrics of the Shepherd-King will still command the admiration of poets and essayists and be hymned and harped for the aesthetic, as well as the moral, culture of humanity. The songs of Ossian are now unsung; Dante with his titanic imagery; Chaucer with his almost unpronounceable vernacular, are in the last lingering twilight of their once great fame. But in this majestic Psalter there are strains which cannot die, and which all the flying creeds that drift over the boundless desert of melody can never entomb.”[1]

“The ethical teaching of the Psalms is positive in character and free from frothy and sickly sentimentalism. There is a dangerous sentiment abroad in the world that, lacking in moral perception, slurs over the questionable in conduct, excuses the criminal and condones the crime without any sense of right or reason. The very word ‘sin’ grates more on the ears of some than the act of sin does on their souls. It is too harsh for their refined ears to hear sin denounced or the corruptions of the natural heart exposed. They want to hear much about love, but little about law; much about mercy, but nothing about justice. To my mind this is incipient anarchy, and, carried to logical conclusion, it would subvert all law and authority. The ethical sense is dulled by aesthetic tastes. Good is seen through jaundiced eyes, and evil is a sort of unreal thing, not so bad after all. All this argues a ‘sickly piety and a morbid sense of moral feeling.’ It is this sort of the thing that saps the Church of moral power and stalwart righteousness. We find none of this insipid, spineless sort of ethics in the Psalms. Evil is given its proper names. There is no evasion or ambiguity; no minimizing of, trimming to, or compromising with, unrighteousness. Wrong is wrong, and right is right. Evildoers are warned in plain words. Sin is not sugar-coated.”[2]

“Whatever doctrine the Scripture reading and sermon teach on any given day, the selected Psalms may teach also, while adding to the worship of the church the rainbow of truth contained in God’s word. Thus in singing the Psalms, the church ministers to the needs of everyone present: the penitent, the lonely, the ignorant, the joyful, and the downtrodden. Uninspired hymns lack that quality. They usually follow a single theme, perhaps truly, but they do not resonate with the whole of Scripture truth. A Psalm can at the same time describe our personal experience, the life of Christ, and all the experience of the whole Church.”[3]

“God knows what balance we need in our theology and instruction, and has provided that balance in the Psalter. The Psalms contain a much greater variety of theological material than all the merely human compositions. God gave to the entire Church throughout much of its history what it needs to sing. We must remember that God doesn’t need us to worship him as we want to. He wants us to worship him as we need to. We want to worship him with our own offerings. We need to worship him with the compositions that he has given us. Since the Psalms were sufficient for Jesus and his disciples, they certainly are good enough for the Church in the twenty-first century. What can stir the soul more than words written by God himself that speak about Christ?”[4]

“Even if a humanly-produced hymnal contained no unorthodox doctrines, it still could be grossly unbalanced theologically by emphasizing popular doctrines while ignoring the less popular teachings.”[5]

1Miller, David Reed. “The Literary Excellence of the Psalms” in The Psalms in Worship (1907). Edmonton: Still Waters Revival Books, 369.
2Douglass, A.C. “The Ethics of the Psalms” in The Psalms in Worship, page 282.
3RPCNA Synod’s Study Committee on Worship. “The Psalms in the Worship of the Church.” Submitted to the Synod of the RPCNA, June 2004. First Reformed Presbyterian of Cambridge. PDF article.
4Hughes, James R. In Spirit and Truth: Worship as God Requires (Understanding and Applying the Regulative Principle of Worship), 2009. PDF e-book, page 68.
5Schwertley, Brian. Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense. Reformed Online. Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2002. PDF e-book.