Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 04:1 (Jan 2012)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio, eds. Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010. 196 pp.

The heart of the Protestant Reformation was not merely the recovery of the biblical doctrine of salvation (in the doctrine of justification by faith) but also the recovery of the biblical doctrine of worship. In our day, we have witnessed a renewed interest in Calvinistic soteriology; will a renewed interest in Reformed worship follow? If so, the recovery of canonical psalm singing will be an essential aspect of this Reformed resurgence. Sing a New Song is an effort to encourage the reclamation of psalm singing, addressing the topic through eleven chapters under three headings: (1) Psalm Singing in History; (2) Psalm Singing in Scripture; and (3) Psalm Singing and the Twenty-First-Century Church.

In the first section, the authors track the historical use of psalms in the church’s worship. It was during the Reformation that the evangelical church reclaimed a partiality for the congregational singing of canonical psalms in worship. The Puritans even became advocates for “exclusive psalmody” (the singing only of inspired psalms in public worship) which held sway for several hundred years.

Joel Beeke examines “Psalm Singing in Calvin and the Puritans” (16-40). He notes, in particular, the development and influence of the Genevan Psalter. “No wonder, then, that in many parts of Europe, the term psalm singer became nearly synonymous with the title Protestant” (25). Beeke particularly notes the influence of John Cotton’s important treatise Singing of Psalms: a Gospel Ordinance (1647). In this book, Cotton made the case for exclusive psalmody in public worship based on his interpretation of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

Beeke adds, however, that Cotton “was not a strict advocate of exclusive psalmody” (33). He allowed for the singing of other inspired texts from the Bible in public worship and for singing uninspired hymns in “private houses” and “newly composed religious songs, but only in special gatherings” (33-34). Beeke adds that Benjamin Keach (1640-1707) proved “a ‘Puritan’ Baptist exception” to the rule in that he “introduced hymns, in addition to psalms and paraphrases, into English Nonconformist churches” (37).

Terry Johnson contributes a helpful chapter on “The History of Psalm Singing in the Christian Church” (41-60). He observes that “[t]he singing of psalms became one of the most obvious marks ...

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