Metrical psalm-singing and emotion in Scottish Protestant affective piety, 1560-1650

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Psalm-singing was an emotional experience for early modern Scottish Protestants. This article explores the affective dimension of this practice. It identifies the experiences Scots had when they sang the metrical the psalms, investigates why psalm-singing stimulated these emotional episodes, and situates the activity’s role within the broader framework of Scottish Protestant introspective piety. The paper initially argues that many Scottish Protestants enjoyed psalm-singing. Particularly, listening to and singing the words and melodies of the psalms stimulated desired emotional experiences. The article’s second part establishes that some Scottish Protestants approached psalm-singing as a form of prayer. Consequently, psalm-singing expressed lyrically and melodically the emotions – the speech of the soul to God in prayer – of the singer. The paper concludes that because psalm-singing evoked and expressed religious emotions, it constituted a core practice in Scottish Protestant piety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-169
JournalReformation and Renaissance Review
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021


  • psalm-singing
  • prayer
  • emotion
  • affective piety
  • spiritual practices
  • Scottish Protestantism


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