“After a few months’ observation of the Genevan situation Calvin drew up certain Articuli de regimine ecclesiæ, setting forth the things most essential to a rightly ordered church. These Articles were presented to the “Small Council” by Farel, and, with its approval, came before the “Council of the Two Hundred” on January 16, 1537. This document has the special interest of revealing the reforms Calvin had most at heart. It constitutes also the fundamental documentary source for the history of Psalmody in the Reformed Churches. The earlier part of the Articles deals with the Holy Supper of our Lord and with the establishment of such discipline as should safeguard its purity. The Articles then proceed: “The other part concerns the psalms, which we desire to be sung in the church, after the example of the ancient Church, and according to St. Paul’s testimony, who said that it was a good thing to sing in the assembly with mouth and heart. We cannot conceive the improvement and edification which will come from this until after we have tried it. In our present practice, certainly, the prayers of the faithful are so cold as to reflect much discredit and confusion. The psalms would move us to lift up our hearts to God, and excite us to fervor in invoking him and in exalting by our praises the glory of his name. By this means, moreover, men would discover of what benefit and what consolation the pope and his partisans have deprived the Church, in that they have appropriated the psalms, which ought to be true spiritual songs, to be mumbled between them without any understanding of them” Calvin, Articuli de regimine ecclesiæ.”[1]

“that at such a crisis in church affairs he should make the inauguration of Psalmody the sine qua non of his return to Geneva and the resumption of his work of upbuilding the Reformed Church there—this reveals unmistakably that congregational Psalmody, which to Zwingli was a mere ceremony at the best to be winked at, was in the judgment of Calvin an ordinance essential to the right ordering of the Church of Christ.”[2]

“It was not until 1562, sixteen years after Marot’s death, and twenty-three years after the publication of Calvin’s first collection, that the complete Psalter appeared at Geneva, under the designation afterwards so familiar: Les Pseaumes mis en rime francoise par Clement Marot et Theodore de Beze (Geneue, Antoine Dauodeau et Lucas de Mortiere, pour Antoine Vincent.)”[3]

“the Genevan Psalter embodies Calvin’s ideals and expresses Calvin’s whole purpose in regard to the proper function of music in church worship. In his liturgical scheme for the Reformed Church, music had no other place than that of furnishing melodies for singing the metrical Psalms.”[4]

“It is also noteworthy that from 1562, when the Geneva Psalter was expanded to include all the one hundred fifty Psalms, most editions ceased to supply accompanying melodies for the text of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed, and Clément Marot’s prayers for before and after a meal, and none of these texts ever appear on the tables of songs used in the Genevan church.”[5]

“B.R. Butler speaks of “the phenomenal success of Calvinist psalmody,” and particularly of its impact on the people: “For the faithful it was God’s word they were privileged to sing, and it spoke to their most profound human needs and aspirations. The Psalms became their badge of identity, the banner of the people of God struggling for power or survival in France, the Low Countries, much of Germany, and elsewhere.”[6] [7]

“Certainly the ultimate strength of the Swiss Reformation lay in its return to the doctrines of grace, but the psalter and the catechism became the means of applying the doctrines to the heart.”[8]

See also Calvin and Exclusive Psalmody

1Benson, Louis Fitzgerald. “John Calvin and the Psalmody of the Reformed Churches.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Calvin College. Web. 16, January, 2016.
5Isbell, Sherman. “The Singing of Psalms.” The Westminster Presbyterian. Presbytery of the United States, in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). Web. January 9, 2016. Quoting B.R. Butler, “Hymns,” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, Vol. 2, 297.
6The author’s footnote: Butler, “Hymns,” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, 2: 297.
Johnson, Terry. “The History of Psalm Singing in the Christian Church.” Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010, page 55.
Bushell, Michael. Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody (Third edition). Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, 1999, page 175.