By John L. Girardeau

(Still Waters Revival Books, [1888] 2000), pp. 132, 133.

Instrumental Music in Public Worship: History Surrounding the Westminster Assembly

Before the Westminster Assembly of Divines undertook the office of preparing a Directory of Worship, the Parliament had authoritatively adopted measures looking to the removal of organs, along with other remains of Popery, from the churches of England. On the 20th of May, 1644, the commissioners from Scotland wrote to the General Assembly of their church and made the following statement among others: "We cannot but admire the good hand of God in the great things done here already, particularly that the covenant, the foundation of the whole work, is taken, Prelacy and the whole train thereof extirpated, the service-book in many places forsaken, plain and powerful preaching set up, many colleges in Cambridge provided with such ministers as are most zealous of the best reformation, altars removed, the communion in some places given at the table with sitting, THE GREAT ORGANS AT PAUL'S AND PETER'S IN WESTMINSTER TAKEN DOWN (emphasis added), images and many other monuments of idolatry defaced and abolished, the Chapel Royal at Whitehall purged and reformed; and all by authority, in a quiet manner, at noon-day, without tumult."1 So thorough was the work of removing organs that the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" says that "at the Revolution most of the organs in England had been destroyed."2

When, therefore, the Assembly addressed itself to the task of framing a Directory for Worship, it found itself confronted by a condition of the churches of Great Britain in which the singing of psalms without instrumental accompaniment almost universally prevailed. In prescribing, consequently, the singing of psalms without making any allusion to the restoration of instrumental music, it must, in all fairness, be construed to specify the simple singing of praise as a part of public worship. The question, moreover, is settled by the consideration that had any debate occurred as to the propriety of allowing the use of instrumental music, the Scottish commissioners would have vehemently and uncompromisingly opposed that measure. But Lightfoot, who was a member of the Assembly, in his "Journal of its Proceedings"3 tells us: "This morning we fell upon the Directory for singing of psalms; and, in a short time, we finished it." He says that the only point upon which the Scottish commissioners had some discussion was the reading of the Psalms line by line.

1. Girardeau cites this quotation from the Acts of Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1644.
2. Girardeau cites Art., Organ.
3. Girardeau cites Works, Vol. xiii., pp. 343, 344; London, 1825.


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Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church
"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."Calvin continues: "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." 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." 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.


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.


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."

(War Against the Idols, p. 198 citing from Calvin's On the Necessity of Reforming the Church )

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.


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: ëAs 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 ó 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 ëto 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."


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."


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)."


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 Naphtali Press, hardcover, reprinted 1993. Naphtali's hardcover edition has been edited to reflect contemporary spelling, punctuation, and usage. Valuable indices and introductions have also been added. If you don't mind paying the extra money this hardcover edition is definitely superior to our photocopy version, for the editor (Chris Coldwell) has done a splendid job of making this book much more understandable to the modern reader. The hardcover should be ordered directly from Naphtali Press, [P.O. Box 141084, Dallas, TX, 75214]. It retails for $49.95 US funds.). 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)


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.


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.

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