The three hundred year span of time from 1640 to 1940 saw the development of great variety in congregational singing throughout America. Beginning with the Psalters of the first colonists, Americans contributed widely varying styles of songs and hymns, culminating with the popular and influential gospel song.
Whereas Martin Luther would admit any suitable text to be sung in worship unless it was unbiblical, John Calvin would allow only those texts which came from Scripture. Calvin commissioned poets to write metrical settings of the Psalms for the congregations in Strassburg and Geneva. Calvinist churches throughout Europe developed large repertories of psalmody, especially churches in England and Scotland.
Biblical songs for corporate singing are to be found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The earliest recorded song is the Song of Moses (Exod. 15:1–18), and the last song is found in the book of Revelation (Rev. 19:1–8). This article lists the most important biblical songs, which are sometimes called canticles, and notes how these biblical songs are sung in the contemporary church.
Students of the Psalms have attempted to categorize them by content, literary type, and cultic usage. Though each of these methods has its value, an approach to the Psalms through the concept of the covenant correlates both the general theological stance of the Psalter and the variety exhibited by the individual psalms.
The book of Psalms is one of the most important sections of the Bible and is frequently quoted in the New Testament. The Psalms were used in the worship of the Israelite sanctuary, and church and synagogue have continued this usage. The book of Psalms provides a comprehensive picture of the covenant faith of Israel.