Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Bookmark and Share

The Scottish Metrical Version, a Faithful Psalter


The title page of the first printing of the Scottish Metrical Psalter (1650): "Newly Translated and diligently compared with the Original Text, and former Translations, more plain, smooth and agreeable to the Text, than any heretofore. Allowed by the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, and appointed to be sung in Congregations and Families."

Robert Baillie (1599-1662), Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly:
(1) "These lines are likely to go up to God form millions of tongues for many generations: [we must] have them framed so well as might be."
(2) "In the new translation of the Psalm, resolving to keep punctually to the original text, without any addition …"
(3) "The Psalm are perfected: the best without doubt that ever yet were extant."

The twenty-six Puritan signatories of the Preface to the 1673 London edition of the Scottish Metrical Psalter: "these divine composures [are] represented to us in a fit translation … The translation which is now put into thy hands cometh nearest to the original of any that we have seen ... that we thought fit to recommend it to thy Christian acceptance" (the signatories include John Owen, Thomas Manton, Matthew Poole, Thomas Watson, Thomas Vincent and William Jenkyn).

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish novelist and poet: "The expression of the old metrical translation, though homely, is plain, forcible, and intelligible, and very often possesses a rude sort of majesty which perhaps would be ill exchanged for mere eloquence."

Dr. John Ker: "No version has ever been made which adheres so closely to the Scripture. It proceeds of the principle of giving every thought in the original, and nothing more; and in this it has succeeded to an extent which is marvellous, and which can be realised only by one who has tested it through careful comparison ... those portions which the heart feels that it needs in its sorrowful hours, over which it leans and pores in its deep musings, or from the summits of which it mounts as on eagles’ wings in its moments of joy, have a tenderness, a quaint beauty, a majesty in their form, peculiar to that age of the English language in which they were framed."

J. W. Macmeeken: "The courts of our country, civil and ecclesiastical … felt that a duty of no ordinary magnitude and entailing no small degree of responsibility, devolved on them when they undertook the preparation of a new version of the Psalms—a feeling which the parties appointed to give effect to their purpose in translating and revising, warmly sympathised. They gave their whole heart to the work, and the grateful approval and appreciation of their labours by all classes throughout the country for successive generations, is sufficient testimony to their success … One of the reasons—if not the chief reason—why the earlier versions were not altogether satisfactory to Scotchmen, was that the translation was not sufficiently ‘plain and agreeable to the text.’ And the fact that this version of 1650 is a translation almost as close to the original, as literal and expressive, as the prose, constitutes its strength and excellence."

Dr. Millar Patrick, historian: "The [Scottish General] Assembly used no half-measures in the steps they took [in revising the Psalter]. The thoroughgoing way in which they proceeded was typically Scottish. Actually, there were six several revisions before the final result was reached, and the time spent in the process extended to two years and four months."

Douglas Kelly, American Presbyterian: "In this writer’s opinion, the Scottish metrical version of the Psalms is still a highly usable, rich repository of the deepest and broadest and most living Scriptural piety available to the human soul."