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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.


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Monday, 5 November 2012

Over a dozen reasons why the argument for Exclusive Psalmody doesn't stand up, Part 10

10. The Reformers at Geneva did not believe or practice Exclusive Psalmody

No one can deny that John Calvin was an ardent lover of the Psalms and believed that they should have the prominent place in the worship and praise of God. However, it is something entirely different to say that John Calvin was an exclusive Psalmist. This fact that he wasn't is proved in a number of ways:

1. John Calvin in his commentaries did not believe that the term 'Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs' referred to the Psalter and gave support to exclusive Psalmody. In his commentary on Ephesians 5:19 he says:
What may be the exact difference between psalms and hymns, or between hymns and songs, it is not easy to determine, though a few remarks on this subject shall be offered on a future occasion.
It would seem that Calvin was of a different opinion than those of an exclusive psalmist persuasion, in the present day, as they are emphatic in telling us that these terms are the divisions of the Psalter in the Septuagint. The mighty Calvin says that: it is not easy to determine. 

That future occasion he referred to might have been his thoughts expressed on Colossians 3:16. This is what Calvin had to say on that occasion:
Psalms, hymns. - He does not restrict the word of Christ to these particular departments, but rather intimates that all our communications should be adapted to edification, that even those which tend to hilarity may have no empty savor. “Leave to unbelievers that foolish delight which they take from ludicrous and frivolous jests and witticisms; and let your communications, not merely those that are grave, but those also that are joyful and exhilarating, contain something profitable. In place of their obscene, or at least barely modest and decent, songs, it becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God’s praise.” Farther, under these three terms he includes all kinds of songs. They are commonly distinguished in this way — that a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while an ode contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians, however, to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles. For this has a connection with his argument.

No mention here of these terms being divisions within the Psalter. Calvin gives the meaning of a 'psalm' to include the use of a musical instrument. The last sentence of this statement would be superfluous if the three terms were referring to divisions in the Psalter. They would then by definition be free of 'frivolities and worthless trifles'. That Calvin uses these terms in this way indicates that he had something else in mind and not exclusive psalmody.

2. The Geneva Bible did not adopt an exclusive Psalmist position. The Geneva Bible was translated in Geneva, as the name suggests, by a number of eminent men of Reformed persuasion. Among them were scholars such as: William Whittingham, Myles Coverdale, Christopher Goodman, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson, and William Cole. 

The genius of the Geneva Bible, however, is the extensive collection of marginal notes that it contains. Prominent Reformed leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Theodore Beza, and Anthony Gilby wrote the majority of these notes in order to explain and interpret the Scriptures. The notes comprise nearly 300,000 words, or nearly one-third the length of the Bible itself, and they are justifiably considered the most complete source of Reformed Protestant religious thought then available.

If these men of a Reformed persuasion believed in exclusive psalmody surely you would expect to find it in the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible.  The notes, however, have this to say against Colossians 3:16: 
By "psalms" he means all godly songs which were written upon various occasions, and by "hymns", all such as contain the praise of God, and by "spiritual songs", other more special and artful songs which were also in praise of God, but they were made fuller of music.
These words are not the language of exclusive psalmody by any stretch of the imagination.

3. The Genevan Psalter of John Calvin's day was not characterised by exclusive psalmody. The Genevan Psalter went through a number of editions. From its commencement Calvin included items of praise from outside the Psalter and even from outside the Scriptures. 

The first edition in 1539 contained 17 metrical Psalms plus other 'hymns'. These 'hymns' consisted of a metrical translation of the Ten Commandments; the 'Canticle of Simeon' and the Apostles' Creed for use in singing. The 1543 version, the first published when he was back in Geneva, contained 49 psalms and metrical versions of the Ten Commandments, The Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. The final version published in 1652 contained all 150 psalms plus the Canticle of Simeon and the Ten Commandments.

In the Strasbourg Psalter published 1544, there was included the hymn: I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art, which is attributed to Calvin.  It also appeared in the Geneva Psalter published in 1551.

These facts are not compatible with an exclusive psalmody position.

Previous posts on this subject:
1. The terms 'Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs' inEphesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 do not refer to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms.
2. Old Testament and New Testament saints did not live by this exclusive psalmist rule.
3. The angels and glorified saints did not sing the psalms.
4. There are possible remnants of hymns/canticles/doxologies quoted in the New Testament.
5. Progressive Revelation argues against Exclusive Psalmody.
6. Exclusive Psalmody leads to different levels of worship.
7. The Exclusive Psalmist's position requires them to reject ever singing the 'very best song' in public worship.
8. If 'inspired praise' is required then an equally valid argument could be made for 'inspired praying' and 'inspired preaching' in public worship.
9. The early New Testament Church did not believe in Exclusive Psalmody.

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