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Appendix A: Additional Quotes from Church History on Church Holidays

 

Scotland

 

In Scotland, the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church expressed its continued rejection of religious holidays in 1962, as recorded in History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland: 1893-1970

 

        The Free Presbyterian Church rejects the modern custom becoming so prevalent in the Church of Scotland, of observing Christmas and Easter.  It regards the observance of these days as symptomatic of the trend in the Church of Scotland towards closer relations with Episcopacy.  At the time of the Reformation in Scotland all these festivals were cast out of the Church as things that were not only unnecessary but unscriptural.[1]

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland views the return to the observance of religious holidays in Scotland as indicative of a shift of the Presbyterian church back to the worship practices characteristic of the Episcopacy. 


England

George Gillespie warns in his English Popish Ceremonies (1642) that Christians cannot celebrate these Roman Catholic holidays without transgressing the Second Commandment of the Decalogue:  “Forasmuch, then, as . . . festival days . . . are the wares of Rome, the baggage of Babylon, the trinkets of the whore, the badges of Popery, the ensigns of Christ’s enemies, and the very trophies of Antichrist: we cannot conform, communicate, and symbolize with the idolatrous Papists in the use of the same, without making ourselves idolaters by participation.”[2] 

Puritan David Calderwood, in his The Pastor and the Prelate (1628) satirizes the profaning of God’s Sabbath day by those who cling to ecclesiastical holidays: 

          Beside the Sabbath he [the PASTOR] can admit no ordinary holidays appointed by man, whether in respect of any mystery, or of difference of one day from another, as being warranted by mere tradition, against the doctrine of Christ and his apostles, but accounteth the solemn fasts and humiliations unto which the Lord calleth, to be extraordinary sabbaths, warranted by God himself. 

          The PRELATE [i.e., bishop], by his doctrine, practice, example, and neglect of discipline, declareth that he hath no such reverend estimation of the Sabbath.  He doteth so upon the observation of Pasche [Easter], Yule [Christmas], and festival days appointed by men, that he preferreth them to the Sabbath, and hath turned to nothing our solemn fasts and blessed humiliations.[3]

Thomas Cartwright, a 16th century English Puritan (nonconformist) shares Calvin’s understanding of Galatians, chapter 4.  Commenting on Galatians 4:10, he goes on to contrast the observance of such “feasts of men’s devising” with the Christian Sabbath: 

            Against this, it is so far that the religious observation of the Lord's day makes any thing, that it makes much for it: for that day being no ceremony, and being before there was use of any ceremony of our redemption, remains by commandment of the moral law, commanding a seventh day to be religiously observed.  Which seventh day the Apostles having declared to be the Lord's day, without mention of any more holy days: have thereby defined the ordinary and perpetual time which the fourth commandment requires at our hands.  For albeit [although] the Church might upon occasion ordain holy days [e.g., days of thanksgiving], yet neither can it make them perpetual laws, nor for the time of their endurance, bind the conscience with so strait a bond of obedience as it is tied to in the observation of the Lord's day. . . .[4] 


The United States of America

In America, John Murray, professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, opposed the observance of Christmas.[5]

Gordon H. Clark, one of the preeminent philosophers and theologians of the twentieth century (and a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod), had this to say of a Presbyterian seminary professor who urged Christians to celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost:  

         It is amazing that a professor in a Presbyterian seminary [James Benjamin Green] should be so Romish and anti-Reformed.  Scripture gives us our rules for worship, and, to repeat, from them we should not subtract, nor to them should we add.  We should turn neither to the left nor to the right.  Now, Scripture does not authorize us to celebrate Pentecost.  The same is true of Christmas.  It began as a drunken orgy and continues so today in office parties.  The Puritans even made its celebration a civil offense.  And yet an argument for celebrating Pentecost was, “Don’t all Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter?”  No, they do not.  My father’s family and church never celebrated Christmas, nor did the two Blanchard administrations in Wheaton College.  But what about Easter?  Surely we must celebrate Easter, shouldn’t we?  Yes indeed, we should, as the Scripture commands, not just once a year in the spring, but fifty-two times a year.[6]


American Presbyterianism

In 1758, John Brown, a minister at Haddington and professor in the Associate [Presbyterian] Burgher Synod, wrote An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the [Westminster] Assembly’s Shorter Catechism.  In response to the question, “May the church appoint holy days, to remember Christ’s birth, death, temptation, ascension, &c.?”, Brown answers:

          No; as God hath abolished the Jewish holy days of his own appointment, so he hath given no warrant to the church to appoint any: but hath commanded us to labour six days, except when Providence calls us to humiliation or thanksgiving; and expressly forbids us to observe holy days of men’s appointment, Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10, 11.[7]

In 1796, John Brown of Haddington would again issue a statement rejecting the observance of religious holidays in his A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion.  He argues that “men cannot, without sin, appoint any holy days[8].  Then, he lists the following four reasons in defense of his view: 

         (1.)  God has marked the weekly sabbath with peculiar honour, in his command and word.  But, if men appoint holy days, they detract from its honour; and whatever holy days of men’s appointment are much observed, God’s weekly sabbath is much profaned, Exod. 20:8; Ezek. 43:8. 
         (2.)
  God never could have abolished his own ceremonial holy days, in order that men might appoint others of their own invention, in their room [i.e., to replace them], Col. 2:16-23; Gal. 4:10, 11. 
         (3.)
  God alone can bless holy days, and render them effectual to promote holy purposes; and we have no hint in his word, that he will bless any appointed by men, Exod. 20:11. 
         (4.)
  By permitting, if not requiring us, to labour six days of the week in our worldly employments, this commandment excludes all holy days of men’s appointment; Exod. 20:8, 9.  If it permit six days for our worldly labour, we ought to stand fast in that liberty with which Christ hath made us free, Gal. 5:1; 1 Cor. 7:23; Matt. 15:9.  If it require them, we ought to obey God rather than men, Acts 4:19; 5:29.—Days of occasional fasting and thanksgiving are generally marked out by the providence of God: and the observation of them does not suppose any holiness in the day itself, Joel 1:14; 2:15; Acts 13:2; 14:23; Matt. 9:15.[9] 

In 1851, Abraham Anderson, a minister and professor in the Associate Presbyterian Church addressed the question, “Is it innocent and allowable to observe the Passover, [or Easter], the Pentecost, or the Nativity of the Saviour [Christmas] . . . ?” in his Lectures on Theology.  He answers, “No; not even when the observance is left optional with the people,” and he provides four reasons to defend his position:

          (1.)  The Passover and the Pentecost are, by the introduction of the new dispensation, laid aside, as typical observances. 
          (2.)
  The observance of them was partly in accommodation to the early Jewish believers, partly to please pagans with outward parade of worship, in compensation for the loss of their heathen observances, and partly by a declining church, that wished to substitute outward worship for that which is spiritual. 
          (3.)
  There is no need of them in order to promote religion.  The observance of them is will-worship, and will tend to the decline of religion. 
          (4.)
  Christmas, or the Nativity, is unauthorized.  The time is utterly unknown, being left in impenetrable darkness by the Holy Spirit in the divine records; and no doubt this was done because the knowledge of it was unnecessary, and in order to repress will-worship.  In a word, while fast-days are appointed on account of the duty to be performed, in set days, or periodical days, the duty is observed on account of the day; and therefore the day must be of divine appointment, or it is sinful.[10]

In 1854, Alexander Blaikie, minister in the Associate Reformed Church, published The Philosophy of Sectarianism, in which he set the lawful observance of the Sabbath against the unlawful observance of festival days or “holy days”: 

          To those who believe in this form of regimen [keeping the Sabbath as a holy day of rest] it forms “the golden hours” of time; and finding no command nor fair deduction from Scripture warranting them to keep any other day, whether (in honor of the Saxon goddess Eostre, that is, the Prelatic) “Easter,” “the Holy Innocents,” or of “St. Michael and all the angels,” they believe that “festival days, vulgarly called holy days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be observed.[11] 


[1] History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (1893-1970) (Compiled by a Committee Appointed by the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church; Inverness: Publications Committee, Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, 1974), 383, emphasis added.   

[2] George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church of Scotland, ed. Christopher Coldwell (1642; reprint, Dallas, TX: Naphtali Press, 1993), 181. 

[3] David Calderwood, The Pastor and the Prelate (1628; reprint, Edinburgh, Scotland: Robert Ogle and Oliver Boyd, 1843), 6. 

[4] Thomas Cartwright, The Confutation of the Rhemists’ Translation, Glosses and Annotations on the New Testament, so far as They Contain Manifest Impieties, Heresies, Idolatries, Superstitions, Profaneness, Treasons, Slanders, Absurdities, Falsehoods, and Other Evils (1618; reprint, Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1971), as quoted in Schneider, Christmas, 43.

[5] In a “Letter to Valerie Knowlton” on December 24, 1958 (“Christmas Eve”), Murray expresses his sentiments regarding Christmas:  “Here I am alone in the library and apparently everyone has gone from Machen Hall until Friday morning.  Now it is 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.  You may think this dismal.  Well, I love it.  It is a delightful change from the usual stir.  I have had two good days in the Library.  Monday was taken up with committee meetings, forenoon and afternoon.  I hope to be here all day tomorrow.  I have not even accepted a dinner engagement for what they call ‘Christmas.’  I hate the whole business.”

[6] Gordon H. Clark, The Holy Spirit (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1993), 65, emphasis added.    

[7] John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the  Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (1758; reprint, New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1859), 231, emphasis added.

[8] John Brown, A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion (1796), as quoted in Brian Schwertley, “The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas” (Lansing, Michigan: n.p., 1996), 17, electronically retrieved 12 July 2001 at http://www.reformed.com/pub/xmas.htm, emphasis added.  

[9] Ibid. 

[10] Abraham Anderson, Lectures on Theology (1851), as quoted in Schwertley, “The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas,” 39-40, emphasis added.

[11] Alexander Blaikie, The Philosophy of Sectarianism (1854), as quoted in Schwertley, “The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas,” 40, emphasis added.
 


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