THAT is what the Reformers (of the 16th century) and the Puritans (of the 17th century) say. You can read those words in the Geneva Bible.
The Geneva Bible was the main Bible used by Christians in England in the 16th century.
During the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558), some Protestant scholars fled to Geneva in Switzerland. There they were safe from the persecutions for which Mary became known. The group included William Cole, Myles Coverdale, Anthony Gilby, Christopher Goodman, Thomas Sampson and William Whittingham.
In Geneva they enjoyed fellowship with and received spiritual guidance from Theodore Beza and John Calvin. But it was Whittingham (he returned to England in 1560 and was made Dean of Durham in 1563) who supervised the production of a new translation of the Bible. That translation is known as the Geneva Bible.
The first complete edition appeared in 1560 but it was not printed in England until 1576. The very first Bible ever to be printed in Scotland was a Geneva Bible. It was published there in 1579.The translators worked from the Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) scriptures. However the English used was based upon earlier translations by William Tyndale (c1494 – 1536) and Myles Coverdale (c1488-1569). More than 80% of the language used in the Geneva Bible is from William Tyndale. Over 150 editions of the Bible were issued, the last probably being issued in 1644.
The Geneva Bible was used by John Knox (one time preacher at St Nicholas Church, Newcastle upon Tyne), John Donne, William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell and John Bunyan.
It is significant for two reasons. First, it was popular. And secondly, because it was the first mass-produced Bible available to the public with notes and study guides added. These included an introduction to each book of the Bible, and cross-references that allow readers to link one verse with other relevant verses.
The introduction to the Book of Psalms begins with the the claim that “The Book of Psalms is set forth to us by the Holy Spirit to be esteemed as a most precious treasure.” The reason why such a bold claim was made is simply stated. The Psalms are a treasure in which all things that belong to true happiness are contained.
The happiness spoken of by the translators (they use the word felicity) can be experienced now. All who rely on Jesus Christ alone for acceptance with God enjoy this happiness. That is what Christ includes when he informs us that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John x.10).
It will also be enjoyed for ever by believers in the life that is to come. They live with Christ after death. He gives them eternal life. As a result they know both God and the Christ he sent (John x.28). They shall never be snatched out of his hands. And on the last day, instead of going to eternal punishment, they go away to enjoy the fullness of the eternal life they have already begun to know (Matthew xxv.46).
The translators of the Geneva Bible, having spoken of happiness, then go on to speak of the elements that comprise true happiness. It is the fruit of true knowledge and heavenly wisdom.
Psalm 1 should be seen as a preface or introduction to the Book of Psalms. Why does it come first? Because in it we discover that true blessedness (or happiness) consists in knowing God. Furthermore, those who know him know his ways (Psalm i.1). They do not go the way they would be inclined to go by nature. That is the way of disobedience and rebellion. Instead, having been regenerated by God’s Spirit, they delight in his law (Psalm i.2). They love his commands and seek his power to enable them faithfully to keep them. As a result they discover that they are refreshed by God and enabled to bear fruit like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm i.3).
Psalm 2 is like Psalm 1. It also functions as a preface to the whole book. The theme of the psalm is God’s reign. He is the King who reigns over all peoples and nations by his Anointed One (Psalm ii.3). Hence we are called to take refuge in His Son and to serve the Lord with a godly fear (Psalm ii.11-12). Those who do so are blessed. That is, they discover that true happiness lies in knowing and enjoying God for ever.
The reign of Christ is referred to throughout the Book of Psalms. It is a significant part of the overall message of the book. It explains why the translators of the Geneva Bible call it a most precious treasure.
They conclude their introduction to the book by stating that those well-acquainted with it are able to face “all dangers in this life, live in the true fear and love of God, and, at length, attain to that incorruptible crown of glory which is laid up for all them that love the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How is that so, you may ask? We can provide at least eight more reasons.
One, the testimony of the writers of the psalms – men like David, Asaph and Moses – is that God, in whom they trusted, is both great and majestic. He reigns supreme over all, sustains the universe, and never fails to care for his children. These themes are found in many of the Psalms.
Two, the descriptions given of the way God deals with individuals, nations and the wicked teaches us that his wisdom far exceeds our limited understanding. As your knowledge of the psalms grows you will find your knowledge of God grow.
Three, the descriptions there are in the psalms of the way that God provides for those who trust in him helps you to see just how tenderly he cares for his people. He hears and answers their prayers in the way that is best for them. And so you learn not to fret in times of difficulty but to trust in God, expecting that he will in due time enable you to delight all the more in him.
Four, the way to salvation and eternal life is set forth clearly in the Book of Psalms. As you will note from what is said about Psalm 2 above, the book teaches us that Christ Jesus is the only Mediator between mankind and God. Moreover, he alone is the Redeemer who can save you from your sins.
Five, within the Book of Psalms you learn how to be fully content. It is not by trusting in your own ability, or riches. It is through faith in Christ alone. To use words from Isaiah, it is those who wait on the Lord who renew their strength (Isaiah xl.31).
Six, the Book of Psalms teaches you to praise God. You learn to praise him for who he is as well as for what he does. His children find that in due time he delivers them from their troubles. He also assures them that he will never leave nor forsake them.
Seven, in the Book of Psalms you see that God restrains the wicked, though they may appear to prosper for a while. In fact they can never touch even a hair of your head unless God permits them.
And eight, in this most precious treasure, you will find help and remedies against all kinds of temptation and trouble.
The translators of the Geneva Bible had good cause to describe the Book of Psalms as a most precious treasure. Those who know the book do the same.
EPC 4 September 2016