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A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies by George Gillespie

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Naphtali Press – 2013.  d.w.  544pp.

This extensively revised edition will mark the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of the author. The Dispute contains over a thousand citations from nearly two hundred authors and over three hundred works, which have all been carefully traced and confirmed for this new edition, greatly expanding the footnotes over those in the 1993 edition. With all these sources more clearly exposed for the modern reader, one may better appreciate why this 24 year old astounded his contemporaries on the eve of the Second Reformation, and why the Dispute merited a place for Gillespie at the Westminster Assembly of Divines, where he helped shape Presbyterian doctrine for centuries to come.

Gillespie marshals material from leading Reformers and Protestant works to defend biblical worship principles, from all the important writers of the time defending the English popish ceremonies, from classical literature, church fathers, scholastics, linguists, as well as from the leading Roman Catholic writers, commentators, anti Catholic and anti Protestant polemicists, and other works of the period. Even if one rejects the Puritan point of view on worship matters, this volume offers valuable insight into the important literature on all sides at this important period in church history.

This new critical edition retains Roy Middleton’s helpful Historical Introduction which explains the setting and why there was a need for such a book. This new edition adds an Overview & Summary, which analyzes Gillespie literary style, surveys the literature cited and gives helpful summaries of the different sections of the Dispute. The text has been collated again against the different editions, and as noted all the thousand+ references checked and traced (some turning into mini research project all in themselves), all the Latin has been rechecked and the translations provided for the 1993 edition confirmed, tweaked, or corrected. There are extensive indices of various sorts and a complete bibliography.

Gillespie’s Dispute truly remains a tour de force and one of the most important works on Reformed worship principles. Also, it is rare that a Christian work also factors as an important work in a nation’s history; and the Dispute certainly is a famous work in Scottish history as well as Covenanter and general Presbyterian history. This new critical edition seeks to do justice to such an important book and present it in a form useful for this and future generations to come.

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