Westminster Divines on Singing of Psalms

Today's Worship Quote looks at the use of the Psalter in the worship life of the Puritans (17th century). Remember, this comes from a time when relatively few people could read.

It is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of Psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family. In singing of Psalms, the voice is to be tuneable 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 Psalmbook; and all others not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, it is convenient that the minister or some other fit person appointed by him and other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing hereof.

- Directory for the Public Worship of God, Assembly of Divines meeting at Westminster, 1644; in Horton Davies The Worship of the English Puritans (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997).


We've come a long way. It's interesting to me that the church leaders who authored these instructions were addressing many of the same issues that concern us today in our public worship: Why do we sing? What shall we sing? How shall we do it?

Have a great week!

To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

Benedict of Nursia on the Community at Worship

He started out as a hermit and later became the leader of a flourishing religious community in the hill country near Rome. His followers lived a simple and austere life, gathering for prayer seven times each day, and spending the rest of their time in manual work, private prayer and study. Today's Worship Quote of the Week comes from Benedict of Nursia (480?-547?), founder of the Benedictines.

We believe that God is present everywhere, and the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the good and the bad . . . We must therefore consider how we should behave in the sight of Divine Majesty, and as we sing our psalms let us see to it that our mind is in harmony with our voice.

- Benedict of Nursia, Eerdmans' Book of Christian Classics: A Treasury of Christian Writings through the Centuries, ed. Veronica Zundel (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 26.


Almighty and loving Lord, may the praises on our lips be accompanied by the sincere devotion of our hearts. Amen!

To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

Peterson on the Shape of Creation

Today's Worship Quote is another from Eugene Peterson's book Answering God, a wonderful study of how to use the Psalms as tools for prayer.  Peterson was Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Prayer recovers the shape of our creation. We are created in "the image of God." We are declared, on the authority of Genesis, "good." We, and everyone and everything around us have this basic beauty, this wondrous goodness. But we very often don't feel at all good. We do not perceive ourselves "in the image of God." We are conscious of failure and inadequacy; we experience criticism and rejection; we feel lousy. The memory of our good creation is obscured in a thick fog of failure and inadequacy.

Prayer is a reentry into the reality of our good creation. The Psalms, all spoken out of this ordered and purposed beauty, activate our memories of creation. Always the Genesis milieu is implicit; sometimes it is explicit. When we pray the Psalms we consciously enter the reality of our good creation.

Our lives are bracketed by God: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!" is the first last line of both Psalm 8 and of our lives. Within the brackets-and there is nothing that is not within the brackets-our creation takes place.

- Eugene H. Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989).

To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.