Medieval Scholastics on Exclusive Psalmody and No Musical Instruments in Worship

When discussing Exclusive Psalmody and No Musical Instruments in Worship the Early Church and the Reformers always are brought up with skipping the Medieval Scholastics. Now there is good reason for this. That is when much error entered the Church through The Roman Church but there were still orthodox defenders during the time that was trying to fight off the errors that crept in. So I will start with Augustine and the ending of the Early Church Period and into the Middle Ages of the Church.

Nolite cantare, nisi quod legitis esse cantandum. Quod autem non ita Scriptum est ut cantetur, non cantetur. “do not sing but what you read is to be sung, but that which is not written that it should be sung, let it not be sung. -Augustine, First Tome, Third Rule

Augustine, in his confessions (ix., 4), speaking of the Psalms, says, “toto orbe cantanter”—”they are sung through the whole world.”

“Praise the Lord with Harp; sing unto Him with the Psaltery of ten strings, … the name of Christ brought it to pass that harps should be banished out of this place. … Let none turn his heart to instruments …”-Augustine of Hippo

The Council of Laodicea of 367 forbid the use of musical instruments.

The Council of Carthage of 416 addressed the issue and declared, “On the Lord’s Day, let all instruments of music be silenced.”

”Ut extra psalmos vel canoni-carum Scripturarum Novi et Vctcris Tcstamenti nihil podice compositum in ecdesia psallatur.” first Council of Braga, held A. D. 563, no poetic composition be sung in the Church except the Psalms of the sacred canon..

“What a marvelous beauty flows from them [the psalms] into our singing. They rival the sweet-sounding organ with human voices, they render the sound of the trumpet with mighty shouts, they construct a vocal kithara by combining living strings, and whatever instruments seemed to do formerly, now can be witnessed and demonstrated in rational beings.” -Cassiodorus, Expositio psalmorum, (A.D. 485 – 585)

“Our own cantors grasp neither cymbals, nor lyre, nor kithara nor any other kind of musical instrument in their hands, but rather in their hearts. For in so far as the heart is superior to the body, to that extent does what takes place in the heart better manifest devotion to God, than what is done by the body. These very cantors are the trumpet, they are the psalterium, they the kithara, they the tympana, they the chorus, they the strings and the body of the instrument, they the cymbals. Wherefore Augustine said of the last psalm in his book on the psalms. . .” -Amalarius, De ecclesiasticis officiis libri IV (A.D. 780 – 850)

“Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize.” (Thomas Aquinas, Bingham’s Antiquities, Vol. 3, page 137)


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