Thursday, 27 March 2014

Who Stole the Doxologies – Part One

As a child growing up in an occasionally inclusive psalmody congregation, (we normally started the morning worship with either a psalm or a paraphrase), I never concluded a psalm with a doxology or ascribing praise to the Triune God.  It has certainly not been the habit in the Free Church of Scotland to do so.  When slightly older I came across the then new hymnal of the Church of Scotland, (CH3); I was slightly perplexed by the addition of a final doxology to all the psalms contained in the main hymnal.  I assumed that this must be a “liberal” practice and thought no more of it.

With years comes wisdom, or at least education, and I am now aware of the historical background to this practice.  Rather than being a liberal innovation it is a re-establishment of traditional Reformed practice.  The earliest Scottish practice was to conclude the singing of a psalm with an ascription of praise to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Indeed this was the universal practice in the first 100 years of the Reformed church in Scotland.

MacMeeken in his “History of the Scottish Metrical Psalms”, (1872) records that
 “In the edition of the Psalms, printed by Charteris, Edinburgh, in 1595, thirty-two Conclusions, or renderings of the Gloria Patri are given, being one for each variety of metre, so that one might be sung at the close of each psalm, or part of a psalm.
One, only, is given in the edition of 1575. Some of the later editions have part of them, some the whole, and some none ; but the use of the Gloria Patri in some or in all the metres was universal in 1638. Baillie speaks of it as the "constant practice of our church."

Baillie, to whom he refers, is of course Robert Baillie, Professor of Divinity and later Principal at Glasgow University.  A leading evangelical Presbyterian he was one of the Scottish Commissioners at the Westminster Assembly.

Baillie vigorously defended the use of the Gloria Patri and records an episode in which he defended its use against some “sectaries” over-influenced by radical English independents. MacMeeken gives the full text of a memo that Baillie wrote.  Unfortunately it is in the Scots of the 1600s, and needs some translation.  I give it in English with some paraphrasing where it makes the sense clearer:

The sum of my conference yesterday with three or four yeomen of my flock who refused to sing the Conclusion, [ i.e. the Doxology concluding the psalm].


1. If it be not a rashness in you, who are fully persuaded by long experience of my great respect and love towards you, to give over any part of the public worship of God without ever acquainting me or any other person of the reasons that moved your mind to make such a change in God's service. Will not this be found a neglect of that duty which you owe in conscience towards my ministry, which you say, and I believe you, is very dear to you?

2. If you so readily have embraced the scruples which private men and strangers have cast in your mind about this one point, beware that this does not dispose your hearts to embrace more of their evil seed. I forewarn you, the rejecting of the Conclusion is one of the first links of the whole chain of Brownism [English Dissenters and Congregationalists.]  We have often seen, from this beginning, seducers, in this land, have drawn on their followers to loath [ Scots “scunder”] and reject our whole Psalms in metre, and then to refuse our prayers [liturgy], then our Sacraments, then our preaching, then at last our church, our covenant, and all. Every erroneous way has an evil spirit that leads on people from one point to another: and whom it finds inclined to walk in that way, it lets them not rest till it has drawn them to the uttermost end of the error. To doubt not but it was so in Popery and Arminianism.

Be assured the spirit of Brownism is of the same nature. Wherefore as you would be loath to cast away your whole Psalms, as you would be loath to give over your prayers, sacraments, preaching, as you would not forsake wholly our church, and your sworn covenant, and drink down all the errors of Brownism, take head to your spirit, which you find so ready to learn the first lessons of these seducers.

3. Consider that while you enquire the ground of this conclusion, that it is not enough for these seducers to tempt simple people to give to them the reason of every part of the public worship, or without further to cast them away. It became them who require you to forsake the constant practise of our church to give you clear Scriptural and particular reasons against it.

But we are content here to dispense with the pains, and give you some of these reasons which we have for that practise. The matter of that Conclusion is nothing but the paraphrase in metre of this one sentence, “Glory be to God for ever”. There are only two words paraphrased into it: God, and ever. That the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is a good paraphrase of the word “God”, none will doubt but heretics, who deny the Trinity. That the natural paraphrase of “ever” is, what was in the beginning, what is now, and what shall be, even these heretics do not doubt, nor any other who have wit to conceive of eternity. Or, if any should doubt of this, yet Rev. 1:8, [ “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,who is and who was and who is to come…  ESV]  would resolve them, which expresses the eternity of Christ in this paraphrase, who is, and who was, and who is to come. 

I grant some of the Brownists reject all paraphrase and all metre-ing of Scripture, and so our whole Psalm book, but you, I know, abhor all such folly. So then the matter of the controverted conclusion being alone Glory to God for ever, the ground of it will be a number of Scriptures both in Old and New Testament :

Psalms 41:13; 45: 1, 2; Gal. 1. 5; Phil. 4 20 [ text reads 4:18]; 1 Tim. 1:17: 2 Tim. 4:18;     1 Pet. 4:11, 5:11; Heb.13:21; 2 Cor. 11:31; Rev. 1. 6.

These, and many more Scriptures, are good grounds for all the matter which is in the Conclusion. As for the putting of that matter in the end of a Psalm, the Church, which has power to order the parts of Gods worship, 1 Cor. 14:40, has good reason for it, for Christ, in that pattern  of all prayers and praises, teaches us to conclude “For your's is the glory for ever.”

As for the frequent repetition of it, we have it but once almost in one spiritual song, for every portion of the Psalm which is rightly divided, is a full spiritual hymn to us. That it is lawful to conclude every prayer with the matter of this Conclusion, none of you doubts, for it is your daily practice, according to Christ’s pattern. Now it is strange if a praise which you say is lawful and pleases God should be unlawful when it is sung at the end of our praises. The matter is the same; the saying and singing are but diverse ways of expressing it. If it be appropriate to make this matter a conclusion of our prayers, it must also be even more appropriate to make it a conclusion of our praises; for the Doxology being a formal praise agrees more, and is in nature more akin [Scots “sibber” ] to praises than to supplications and prayers.

4. Consider the weight of the objections against it.

a.) “It is a human Popish invention.”

We deny it to be so; for we have given good scriptural grounds for it. We grant it is a part of the [Catholic] Liturgy and Mass Book. But this proves it not to be any worse than the Lord's Prayer and the Belief [ Scots term for the Apostles Creed], which are both in these evil books. True, the Brownists will teach you to express loathing [Scots scunder] at both; yet they will grant that many things in the Liturgy and Mass Book also, as the whole Book of Psalms, much of the Old and New Testament, is no more the worse for the standing in these evil places, then the sun beams for shining on a dunghill.

b.) It is objected again, that they challenge not the lawfulness of the use of it, but its frequent repetition.

1. This objection seems to be merely formal [Scots “fashional”, but OED gives this sense], for ask yourself if you can use it although never so rarely, you will find it is the lawfulness of the thing itself you deny, and not the frequent repetition of it only.

2. It is not oft repeated, since at most it is but once in one song.

3. There is so much instruction and edification and comfort in this short phrase, so clear expressions of the honour of the three persons, so evident demonstration of eternity, that the churches frequent repetition of it has not only the example of the Holy Ghost, who repeats similar weighty sentences, as the binding word of the Psalms. So in Ps. 107, the same clause is repeated four times [ actually, “steadfast love” appears six times] ; in Ps 118, the same words are repeated five times [ “His steadfast love endures forever “ ESV]; in Psalm 136 these same words are repeated 26 times. Not only, I say, the same sentences are repeated often by the Spirit of God, but the same sentence we are speaking of is, in these places cite , by the Apostles and Psalmist, very often repeated, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the end of the discourse.

c.) They object that they may not be tied to the use of a thing indifferent.

1. This maxim may not be granted except it be well limited.

2. Will they have it a thing indifferent to give eternal glory to God?

3. There is no tie laid on you for the practice; but when it is left free to be used sometimes, and omitted sometimes, you to yourself with a perpetual abstinence, and with a superstitious fear of sin, whether the matter is lawful and not sinful, refuse ever that piece of worship as polluted.

But there is too much said of this matter. I earnestly exhort you in the name of God not to slight these things I have said, but as you would not continue to be an evil example to my flock, as you would not condemn the truth of God in my mouth, as you would not open the door of your hearts to many and dangerous novelties, return to your former practice and cheerfully join with me, your pastor, and the rest of the flock, to ascribe to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that eternal praise which is due to his name."

MacMeeken further informs us that in calling these yeomen of his flock to account in the matter of the " Gloria Patri," Baillie was acting in entire accordance with the sentiments of such leading men as Henderson, Dickson, Rutherford, Gillespie, and Blair, who fully approved of, and defended the use of the Doxology.

It is unfortunate that the Scottish Commissioners as a group did not press their practice on the English Divines at Westminster in a desire that the Directory for Public Worship could be speedily produced and would not contain any enforced practices that the English Independent might object to. Ballie held his ground and did not support this concession.

[To be continued... ]

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