The Geneva Bible, Psalmody and More Credenda/Agenda Inaccuracies Answered by Larry Birger
From the "Cave of Adullam" in Credenda/Agenda (vol. 9, no. 2)
Some may be heartened to know that Still Waters Revival Books, a Canadian ministry of some note, has apparently modified
its earlier and very strong stand in favor of exclusive psalmody. This good news came with their latest catalog, which contained
their ad for a facsimile of the complete 1599 Geneva Bible. As the ad noted, the marginal notes were authored by Calvin, Knox, and
other leaders in the Reformation. In the back of this magisterial work, a metrical psalter is included for use in congregational singing
in the Reformed churches. At the very beginning of this collection, we find a most cool collection of hymns and songs not found
in the book of Psalms. The whole shebang is introduced with the title page which says the following are "set forth and allowed
to be sung in all Churches." As the catalog put it so well for another entry, "If you want to know that what you are being taught
is the genuine Reformed Faith, then go to the source documents!"
You are herewith encouraged to buy a copy of the 1599 Geneva Bible from Still Waters (firstname.lastname@example.org 159.95 clams,
Canadian), and shortly thereafter you are encouraged to get your worship leader to work up some overheads for the Song of S. Ambrose, Te Deum, the
Song of the Blessed Mary, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. The guitar chords are not included.
Larry Birger's letter to the editor in answer to the above "Regnant Follies"
Subject: "Requesting Clarification"
Regarding your barb against Still Waters Revival Books in the "Cave of Adullum" (Vol. 9, No. 2), I request some clarification.
Perhaps you can explain to me how the printerÕs inclusion (and this edition was printed in London, not Geneva) of some non-psalms in the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible suggests that Calvin (who died in 1564), Knox (who died in 1572), or other reformers sanctioned their use in public worship?
The original, complete Geneva Bible (1560, and this would be the source document, not the later English edition) contained no songs of any kind (to the best of my knowledge), though the Genevans used the Geneva Psalter in their public worship (not the Sternhold/Hopkins Psalter found in the 1599 Geneva Bible).
Furthermore, the 1599 Geneva Bible says that "The Booke of Psalmes" was "Set forth and allowed to be sung in all Churches." It does not mention anything about the public use of the other songs added to this Psalter -- which were likely added (without positive ecclesiastical sanction) by the printers. This was a common problem with printers during the Reformation. This is illustrated in David Hay Fleming's, masterful work, The Hymnology of the Scottish Reformation (an SWRB rare bound photocopy), which openly deals with the problem of unapproved additions of non-psalms by printers (as it manifested itself in Scotland). Hay Fleming also provides a detailed historical survey concerning exclusive Psalmody and the Scottish Reformation. For the best modern treatment of CalvinÕs position (and his practice of exclusive Psalmody) see Michael BushellÕs Songs of Zion (2nd edition, pp. 167-184).
For ChristÕs Crown and Covenant,
Larry Birger, Jr.
John Calvin's comments on why Credenda's "guitar chords are not included" in the public worship of Protestant churches.
"To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery," says Calvin, "unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures, but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving."1 He says again: "With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and will find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were yet tender and like children, by such rudiments until the coming of Christ. But now, when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time."2 He further observes: "We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people as yet weak and rude in knowledge in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the gospel should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God's ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel."3
1. On Ps. lxxi. 22.
2. On Ps. lxxxi. 3.
3. On Ps. xcii. 1.
From: Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church by John L. Girardeau (Still Waters Revival Books,  reprinted 1991 [see further study section below]), pp. 63, 64.
Has Still Waters Revival Books changed its position on exclusive Psalmody?
I've added the comment that follows because some singers of uninspired hymns (in public worship) have actually been asserting that SWRB's position on exclusive Psalmody has changed, based solely on Credenda's misrepresentation cited above.
There has been no modification of our "stand in favor of exclusive psalmody," contrary to what was reported in Credenda/Agenda. If anything, our understanding of the covenanted Reformation and the Reformed doctrine of close communion has strengthened our stand for exclusive Psalmody -- or at least our view of how the churches should protect themselves from those who would introduce innovations into the public worship of God (which God Himself has not instituted). Furthermore, if Credenda/Agenda ever reports that we are now in favor of adding the Apocrypha to our Bibles (because the original 1560 Geneva Bible included the Apocrypha, along with a note that it was not part of the inspired canon) don't believe them! They take far too many liberties in stretching the truth, under the guise of humor, and thus they have rendered themselves (to many) unreliable guides in the serious and sober matters related to the defense of the eternal verities of God's precious and holy Word. "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks" (Eph. 5:3-4, emphases added).
Reg Barrow, President, Still Waters Revival Books (June 30, 1997)
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
Free items on Reformation worship are listed at the end of this further study section.
The Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody
Contains one of the best explanations of the Scriptural law of worship (also known as the regulative principle of worship) in print today. For this and a number of other reasons this is one of the most significant books published this century concerning worship! Furthermore, it demonstrates and defends (from Scripture, history and the creeds) the Reformation practice of exclusive Psalmody. It dovetails splendidly with Eire's celebrated War Against the Idols, setting forth foundational principles that lay at the very heart of Reformation thought, theology and practice. For as Bushell points out, "Purity of worship and uniformity of worship go hand in hand because they are both founded upon the assumption that the Scriptures contain clear, sufficient and authoritative directions as to the proper way of worshiping God. The diversity of worship practice that we see in our churches arises ultimately from a denial of this assumption, and it constitutes, therefore, a denial of a central aspect of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. There is much more at stake, then, in this whole discussion than the mere observance or non-observance of a few external rites" (2nd edition, 1993, p. 3). If you are a Calvinist and have not read this book, you are missing a real treat!
(Softcover) $16.95 - 30% = 11.86
Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church
Written in 1888, this book was highly praised by R.L. Dabney (in a review which we have bound together with this printing). Dabney notes "Dr. Girardeau has defended the old usage of our church with a moral courage, loyalty to truth, clearness of reasoning and wealth of learning which should make every true Presbyterian proud of him, whether he adopts his conclusions or not. The framework of his argument is this: it begins with that vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in His Word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by Him is thereby forbidden. Christ and His apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except for the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators." Arguments from Scripture, history and creedal standards are all considered, while objections are noted and countered. Given the present rejection of the regulative principle of worship in most Protestant quarters, this book is even more valuable today than when it was first written. It contains the best discussion of biblical and godly guidelines regarding worship in general, and the instrumental music question in particular, that has come to us out of the 19th century. Defending the Apostolic [and later Puritan and Reformed] position, against Popish innovations, Girardeau clearly lays down what God requires in the area of public worship. Public worship is a most important area of duty and privilege and Girardeau's is the best book on the instrument question. (Rare Bound Photocopy) $29.95-70%=8.99
"The Protestant Reformation was a conflict over many critical issues. And of all the issues contested between Romanists and the reformers, no issue was more crucial than the question of true worship" (Reed, John Knox the Forgotten Reformer, p. 37). This book explains the two preeminent characteristics of all faithful corporate worship, as seen both in the OT and in the NT. It also contains an excellent section on disputed aspects of worship. This section, in particular, is very valuable, in that it shows how many non-Romanist communions today have actually rejected the Reformation and adopted Rome's presuppositions regarding worship. Refutes modern innovations in worship (like dance, drama, etc.) and the advocates of "free-style services, wherein anyone present may exercise his 'gifts" spontaneously," what the author calls "religious democracy with a vengeance." Also deals with instrumental music, man-made hymnody, ecclesiastical holi-days and the use of the cross as a religious symbol. One of our best shorter books on this topic (80 pages).
(Softcover) $7.95- 40% = 4.77
Necessity of Reforming the Church (1544)
C.H. Spurgeon once said, "[t]he longer I live the clearer does it appear
that John Calvin's system is the nearest to perfection." (cited in
Christian History magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4). Credenda Agenda reviewed this book stating, "the relevance of
Calvin's book today is exceptional. Apart from the grace of God, the human
heart never changes. Men have always loved external religion, and unless
God saves them, they always will. But God demands heart religion... His
writing is relevant because the church today is in dire need of a similar
reformation and revival. Like Calvin, some few believers today see 'the
present condition of the Church... to be very miserable, and almost
desperate.' Our context is different in one key respect however. The church
needing reformation in Calvin's day was the tradition-encrusted church of
Rome. Shortly after the Reformation, for those leaving Rome behind, two
streams became apparent. One was the stream of classical Protestant
orthodoxy, represented today by a handful of Gideons in their desktop
publishing winevats. The other was the left wing of the Reformation - the
anabaptist movement. In the early years, the anabaptists were suffering
outsiders. But today the anabaptist church is the Establishment - an
establishment governed by a chaos of traditions instead of biblical
worship. Everywhere we look we see Christians approaching God with
observances in worship which Calvin calls 'the random offspring of their
own brain.'" Though this work is not an elaborate systematic presentation
of the foundations of Christianity, such as Calvin's Institutes, it has
still been correctly acknowledged as one of the most important documents of
the Reformation. Calvin here pleads the cause dearest to his heart before
an assembly perhaps the most august that Europe could have furnished in
that day. It has been said that the animated style used by Calvin in this
work would not lose by comparison with any thing in the celebrated
"Dedication" prefixed to his Institutes. To this day, The Necessity of
Reforming the Church remains a powerful weapon, both defensive and
offensive, to fight the contemporary battle for Protestantism - the
everlasting gospel of truth. Here, in our modern setting, we find the
answers to many of the vexing questions which continue to agitate the
Church. (Softcover) $10.95-20%=8.76
EIRE, CARLOS M.N.
War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin
Eire shows that as the Reformation progressed the primary focus of the Reformers became upholding God's sovereign prerogative in worship -- what today is called the regulative principle of worship. Eire's _War Against the Idols_ demonstrates the extent of the Reformers clear condemnation of Arminianism in worship (i.e. will-worship [Col. 2:23]) in rejecting all elements of worship that did not have Scriptural warrant. In fact, Calvin was so intent on highlighting this point, concerning the centrality of worship (and the application of *Sola Scriptura* as exhibited in the regulative principle of worship), that he placed worship ahead of salvation in his list of the two most important elements of Biblical Christianity.
Regarding Calvin's On the Necessity of Reforming the Church Eire notes,
Calvin speaks about the nature of worship and about the seriousness of the sin of idolatry in his 1543 treatise, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church, where he concentrates on the significance of worship for the Christian religion. Calvin's argument, as indicated by the title of the treatise, is that the Church had reached such a corrupt state that its reform could wait no longer. The most significant aspect of corruption singled out by Calvin is the perversion of worship, and it is in explaining this issue that he set forth the basis for his attack on idolatry.
Calvin begins by studying the place that worship holds in the Christian faith, and he concludes that it is one of the two elements that define Christianity:
"If it be asked, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge first, of the right way to worship God; and secondly of the source from which salvation is to be sought. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain."
The scholarly translational work found in Eire's book also gives insights into the worship question not found in any other English history books (concerning Calvin, Knox, and a host of others) -- for it contains much from previously untranslated (into English that is) Reformation documents.
A large portion of this book centers on Calvin, but its major thrust is to reveal the single most burning issue confronting the Reformers: purity of worship! Furthermore, this book's teaching regarding the Reformers (and their view of the Scriptural law of worship) is as applicable today as it was in the days of the first Reformation -- for it demonstrates the time tested Biblical principles which guard against the errors, excesses, and idolatries of the Roman harlot, Eastern Orthodoxy and all liturgical innovators on one hand and the modern "evangelicals," Anabaptists and Charismatics on the other. This is, without a doubt, one of the best Reformation history books available -- stirring, scholarly, relevant and edifying!
As far as we know this book may be out of print in the near future, so those interested would be advised to obtain a copy as soon as possible.
(Softcover) $29.95 - 20% = 23.96
Heart and Voice: Instruments in Christian Worship Not Authorized (1873)
"The Early church did not use instrumental music in its worship.... They considered the practice as pagan or Jewish rather than Christian. Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, in his work The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship says: 'As is well known, the ancient church did not admit the use of instrumental music in worship. It was looked upon as a form of worship which like the sacrifices of the Jerusalem temple prefigured the worship in spirit and truth....'" (Needham, The Presbyterian, #32, p. 35). This book contains advanced exegetical study of the second commandment (from the Hebrew) and upholds the regulative principle of worship. It's a vindication of the Westminster Confession against all ritualistic practices that give the Church the power to decree rites and ceremonies -- a power that denies the sovereignty of God. Glasgow proclaims that he has "sought to vindicate the words of the Westminster Confession," and has made his "appeal 'to the law and to the testimony." He also demonstrates why it was that many of the Reformers regarded the use of instrumental music in public worship as the "badge of Popery." (Rare Bound Photocopy) $39.95-75%=9.99
Discretionary Power of the Church (1875)
Must reading for all regarding worship. Proclaims the only antidote to spiritual tyranny in the Church, while showing the only sure way to know that you are pleasing God in worship. Girardeau, a Southern Presbyterian, is often referred to as the "Spurgeon of the South." (Rare Bound Photocopy) $9.95-60%=3.98
A Brotherly Testimony Against the Use of Instrumental Accompaniment In Public Worship
Birger notes, "This letter was written to my friend's former pastor. It was subsequently forwarded to the elders of his former church, a small congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This friend had initially absented himself from corporate worship due to their use of instrumental accompaniment, and (like me: see Why the PCA is Not a Duly Constituted Church and Why Faithful Christians Should Separate From This Corrupt "Communion") upon further study of the matter of the lawful constitution requisite for a church to claim lawful authority from Christ (see Calvin's Institutes, Book IV, Chapter 2, Section 12, and my piece against the PCA), determined that no such lawful authority exists in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The use of instrumental accompaniment in the corporate worship of God's people was recognized unanimously by historic reformed writers as a return to the Judaizing ceremonies of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal (i.e. Prelatic) Churches. This was also the opinion of the ancient church, and even Aquinas is cited as excluding their use for this reason. Thus, Dabney comments [in his review of John Girardeau's book on the subject], "Christ and His apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. *Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages*, except for the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators (my emphases)." It is a sad commentary on the disposition of the church and its leaders when those who glory in the name, 'reformed', wish to argue us back into the principles and practices of the Romish whore, and of her illegitimate offspring (Rev. 17 & 18). May God bless this little work to encourage the faithful to the recovering of our ecclesiastical heritage, to a return to the old paths wherein is rest for our souls (Jer. 6:16)."
(Rare bound photocopy) $9.95-70%=2.99
How Best to Secure a Return to the Use of the Psalms in the Ordinance of Praise
Superb, strongly worded, Biblical teaching on the proper method of lovingly bringing peace and purity to the body of Christ. The author contends that "hymn-singing in the service of praise is in its ultimate analysis a species of idolatry," and thus must be strenuously opposed. Numerous practical methods (and the rationale) to promote Psalmody and oppose the use of man-made "hymns" in the public worship service are given. These arguments apply equally well concerning the eradication of the idolatry practiced when musical instruments are used in public worship. From McNaugher's The Psalms in Worship.
A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church of Scotland (1637, reprinted from the 1660 edition)
George Gillespie was one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, the youngest member there, and undoubtedly one of the most influential. Concerning this book Coldwell writes, "It is an exhaustive defense of that Reformation principle that it is God's right to order the institutions of worship in His church.... The book first appeared on the eve of the second Reformation, sparked by an attempt by Charles I to impose Anglo-Catholic worship forms on Presbyterian Scotland. It fell like a thunderclap, silencing any argument, except that of force, against which the Scots rose up in a defensive war. The book was never answered. Although removed from us by more than 350 years, this book is still a powerful argument against modern liturgical renewal movements. It also has application to that baser error of the Church Growth Movement, which has reproduced the expressions of modern entertainment and showmanship in God's worship, and subjected His institutions and ordinances to the rules of expediency, marketing and caprice, loosing the church from that biblical mooring, Sola Scriptura" (back cover of the Naphtali hardcover, reprinted 1993). William Hetherington observes "The effect produced by this singularly able work may be conjectured from the fact that within a few months of its publication, a proclamation was issued by the Privy Council, at the instigation of the Bishops, commanding that all copies of the book that could be found be called in and burned by the hangman. Such was the only answer that all the learned Scottish Prelates could give to a treatise written by a youth who was only in his twenty-fifth year when it appeared" ("Memoir," from the WORKS of Gillespie, p. xviii.). James Bannerman notes, "This was Gillespie's first work, and it may be truly said to have settled the controversy which called it forth, so far as argument was concerned. No answer to it was ever attempted by the Prelatic party; and no answer was possible. It displays singular acuteness, learning, and force of reasoning; and the thoroughness of the discussion is as remarkable as the power with which it is conducted" (The Church of Christ, vol. 2., p. 435). Possibly the best book ever written on biblical worship, an extensive and thorough masterpiece that leaves no stone unturned. For advanced study only.
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $39.95 - 78% = 8.79
Strictures on Occasional Hearing
An inquiry into Song 1:7, "Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" This book sets out to demonstrates the proposition that one should not hear the public preaching of those he can not take communion with (i.e. it proposes a ban on occasionally hearing those with whom you can not maintain organic fellowship with). The implications contained in this truth are immense; especially when one has adopted the Biblical doctrine of close communion and is set upon upholding the covenanted reformation. The duty to separation and to true visible unity are all encompassed here. A review of this book, written in 1818, notes that the "treatise may be viewed as a complete repository of all that has yet been said on the subject." It is filled with Scriptural, as well as historical testimony, and is a welcome tonic to the weak and compromising books of our day that so often sacrifice the truth of the altar of some other man made expediency (such as unity for political or ecclesiastical advantage). For as the introduction notes, "It is the revealed will of God, and not saintship, which is the only rule of a visible profession." That Christians exist in other denominations is not denied, but that they are faithful to the covenanted reformation (already historically obtained) is. The arguments set forth here are reminiscent of those found in Rutherford's Due Right of Presbyteries. If you are struggling with questions related to separation, the unity of the visible church, close communion, etc. this book may be exactly what you've been looking for. A massive appendix also lays out the historical testimony concerning this matter.
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $39.95-80%=7.99
Concerning Close Communion
An strong little book that should be considered by all those seeking the purity and peace of the church. Holds to the strict old covenanted Presbyterian position. Justifies the maintaining of the separate existence of a denomination that will faithfully testify against sin, and the excluding from the Lord's table those that do not so testify. Gives numerous examples of backsliding in regard to specific truths of Scripture. Proclaims that "the Word of God teaches unequivocally that the Commandments are equally binding." This includes the first commandment as it relates to Christ's Kingship over the nations (and dissent from immoral civil governments which will not recognize and obey Christ as King and law giver); and the second commandment concerning purity of worship (as against "all devising, counselling, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God Himself," such as the use of songs other than the Psalms and the Popish use of musical instruments in public worship). Maintains that violation of these commandments are grounds for barring a person from the Lord's table. Shows how close communion is nothing more than the old Presbyterian view, in keeping with the Westminster Confession of Faith and John Calvin when he stated "We are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine" (John Calvin, Institutes 2.12). Also includes an excellent discussion of essentials and non-essentials, as they relate to the Lord's supper and salvation. The best short book on the Lord's supper that we have seen. Written by an RPCNA minister in large easy-to-read type.
An Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion, Adopted by the Community of Dissenters, etc.
Defends the inescapable necessity of creeds and confessions, while promoting a fully creedal church membership. Shows how the law of God obliges all Christians "to think the same things, and to speak the same things; holding fast the form of sound words, and keeping the ordinances as they have been delivered to us" (Col. 3:13). After laying some basic groundwork, this book proceeds to defend the six points of the "Terms of Ministerial and Christian Communion Agreed Upon by the Reformed Presbytery." These six points are the most conservative and comprehensive short statements of consistent Presbyterianism you will likely ever see. Besides the obvious acknowledgement of the alone infallible Scriptures, the Westminster Standards, and the divine right of Presbyterianism, these points also maintain the perpetual obligation of our Covenants, National and Solemn League, the Renovation of these covenants at Auchensaugh in 1712, and the Judicial Act, Declaration and Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbytery. In short, this book sets forth adherence to the whole of the covenanted reformation, in both church and state, as it has been attained by our covenanting forefathers.
The book, The Canterbury Tales: An Extended Review and Commentary Based upon the Geneva Papers, can be purchased from Still Waters Revival Books at the address listed below.
Still Waters Revival Books, 4710-37A Ave., Edmonton, AB, Canada T6L 3T5
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