/ Nathan Eshelman

The Ecumenical Psalter

The 1650 Psalms of David in Metre may be was--and maybe still is--the most ecumenical Psalter ever published in Christendom. The 1650 Psalter was a revision of the Psalter approved at the Westminster Assembly.

The Westminster Assembly completed their Psalter on November 25, 1645 and approved it for use in 1647. The Westminster Psalter was a revision of the Rous Psalter and Mr. Rous's advice was sought on the revision and he approved the changes. The Rous version became the Westminster version as Rous's name was dropped from the title page. However, the Westminster Psalter was never approved by the House of Parliament. The ministers in London wanted to use the Barton Psalter and others wanted "libertie" to use whatever Psalter their congregation desired. Eventually the House of Lords would side with Barton, refusing to approve the Westminster Psalter. One of the complaints was that it had "too distinctive a Scottish mark upon it." The House of Commons wanted Westminster's.

The Church of Scotland began to revise what was sent up from Westminster, they did not like all aspects of the translation or sing-ability. On July 8, 1647 a round of revisions began. Five more revisions would occur via the committee of six which oversaw the Scottish Psalter. 1647, 47, 48, 48, 49, and 50. By May 1 of 1650 it was ordered that the Psalms of David in Metre was to be "the only paraphrase of the Psalmes of David to be sung in the Kirk of Scotland..." Most of the Psalms would be in Common Meter (143), four were in SM and three are in LM.

The title of the new Psalter would be The Psalms of David in Metre: Newly translated, and diligently compared with the originall Text, and former translations: More plain, smooth, and agreeable to the Text, than any herefore.

So why would a distinctively Scottish Psalter be ecumenical as argued in the first line?

Remember the title says "...and former translations."

Several translation and previous Psalters were consulted. A Dr. Rorison, a few generations ago, looked at the Psalter and traced its sources. Here's why the Psalms of David in Metre is ecumenical:

There are 8620 lines in this particular Psalter. Of those lines 338 come from the 1564 Scottish Psalter; 266 come from Dod's 1620 Psater; 516 come from King James's (that King James!) Psalter; Wither and Rowallan's Psalters got 100 lines divided between them; Boyd's of 1644-8 gave 754 lines, and the Westminster version of 1647 provided 1588 lines. Rous, often considered to be the father of English Psalmody, provided 878 lines from his Psalter--the one that Westminster first sought to revise (Rous got less than 10%).

The Psalms of David in Metre was, at that time the most ecumenical Psalter ever produced and has done more to maintain English psalmody than any other psalter produced before or after.

Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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