“in both countries [ed. England and Scotland] the influence of Calvin prevailed over that of Luther, and determined among other things the form of Church Song. The Scottish Church, under Knox’s influence, discarded the Wedderburn Hymnody and adopted the Genevan system of Metrical Psalmody into its constitution. The English Church adopted Metrical Psalmody just as effectively, but less formally, as something not provided for in the Prayer Book system, but yet “allowed” to adhere to the margin of that system. Practically both English-speaking Churches entered upon an era of psalm singing which was to be little disturbed through two centuries.”
“the presence of hymns in the English Psalter does not of itself imply, either in intention or in fact, their use in the church services. As to the actual significance of their inclusion one must form his own conclusions.”
“That no one of these hymns was ever used in any Scottish church cannot be affirmed, but if so there is no known record of it. But that the appendix of hymns did not constitute a church hymn book, and that the hymns were not used continuously or generally can be affirmed with confidence, and proved by no reference to successive editions of the Psalter itself. No hymns are known to have been appended till 1575, when they number four. In the editions of 1587, 1594 and 1595, they number ten. In 1599 there is but one (the “Lamentation”). In 1602 there are again ten: in one edition of 1611 three, and in another, a small and cheap edition for general use, there are none at all. In 1615 there are ten affixed, and one prefixed on the printer’s own motion. In 1629 there is only one hymn. In 1635 there are thirteen, and the “Song” prefixed by the printer in 1615 appears in the appendage with the earlier hymns. The editions of the Scottish Psalter were numerous, in order that the people might have their own copies; the days of “lining out the Psalm” were not yet; and plainly the Psalters in their hands did not furnish the materials for the congregational singing of the hymns.”
“we are compelled to conclude that in spite of appearances the hymns appended to the English and Scottish Psalters must be regarded as an episode, and one of no great significance, in the history of Psalmody rather than as a link in the continuity of the development of the English Hymn. Their relation to church worship is indeterminate. They did not become the nucleus of a hymnal. They were hardly even prophetic of the lines on which the Hymn developed; for the demand for hymns grew out of long experience in singing metrical psalms, and not out of any satisfaction in the use of appended hymns… The few original hymns appended to the Psalters were not so much a promise and beginning of such a Hymnody as a closing of the account. In Churches given over to the singing of metrical versions of Scripture the motive toward producing hymns was largely lacking.”
“The reader who has had the patience to follow us thus far in these notices, cannot fail to be struck with the vast amount of care and labour that have been bestowed upon it. The courts of our country, civil and ecclesiastical, obviously felt that a duty of no ordinary magnitude and entailing no small degree of responsibility, devolved on them when they undertook the preparation of a new version of the Psalms — a feeling with which the parties appointed to give effect to their purpose in translating and revising, warmly sympathised. They gave their whole heart to the work, and the grateful approval and appreciation of their labours by all classes throughout the country for successive generations, is sufficient testimony to their success.”
“The Psalms had always possessed a firm hold of the religious heart of the people of Scotland, and, as thus rendered, that hold was certainly not relaxed but manifestly intensified… Stern veneration for the pure Word of God has always been a marked characteristic of Scottish Christians, who contemplate with something akin to horror the idea of addition thereto, or detraction therefrom. They have long cherished the conviction that no words can be a vehicle of divine praise equal to the words of Scripture itself.”
“It does not appear that any of these Scriptural Songs were ever authoritatively given to the public – no further notice is taken of them in the minutes of the Commission. The project seems to have gone to rest for nearly half-a-century. At length deliberations were resumed.”
“In Scotland, then, we have first to note the work of Boyd and Symson as marking the beginning of the development of the Hymn from the Psalm, and then to note that their work became practically a bar to the introduction of paraphrases into Scotland. The attempt to introduce their work into public use reacted in favor of pure Psalmody. The desire for other Scripture songs never perhaps died out, but when those of Symson were consigned to oblivion in 1709 the whole movement followed them, not to emerge again until the general Assembly of 1741. Later Scottish Covenanters, like Brown of Wamphray and McWard (contending with Bishop Burnett) opposed the sung doxology, not because they deemed its content doctrinally unsound, but because of the regulative principle of worship and the absence of Scriptural warrant to add anything to the 150 Psalms given by God. From the deliberate exclusion of the doxology we learn that the Westminster Confession means by the “singing of psalms” (in ch.xxi, para. v) simply the use of the Biblical Psalms.”
1. Benson, Louis. F. “The Development of the English Hymn.” The Princeton Theological Review, 1912, page 44.
2. Benson, op. cit.., page 47.
3. Ibid., page 53.
4. Ibid., page 54.
5. Macmeeken, J.W. History of the Scottish Metrical Psalms. Glasgow: M’Culloch & co., 1872, page 53.
7. Macmeeken, page 74.
8. The author’s footnote: See Hold Fast Your Confession, Knox Press, Edinburgh, 1978, chapter on ‘Purity of Worship’ by Hector Cameron, pp.102ff.
9. Silversides, David. “The Development of the Scottish Psalter.” Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church. Web. Unpublished PDF article.