Five Reasons to Reject Festival Days, David Calderwood, 1575-1650.
March 31, 2018
The Rejection of Festival Days by the Scottish Church
The observation of festival days has been rejected by our kirk, from the beginning of the reformation, in the explication of the first head of the first book of discipline, in the assembly held in 1566, where the confession of Helvetia was approved, but with special exception against these same days which are now urged. In the assembly held in 1575, the assembling of the people to preaching and prayers, upon festival days was censured. An article was likewise formed to be presented to the Regent, craving, that all days previously kept holy in time of papistry besides the Lord's Day, be abolished, and that a civil penalty be inflicted upon the observers.
By ordinance of the assembly, in April 1577 ministers were to be admonished, not to preach or minister the communion at Easter or Christmas, or other like superstitious times, or readers to read, under the pain of deprivation.
The First Reason
Our first reason against these holy festivities, God only has power to sanctify a day, and make it holy, that is, to separate it from common use to holy exercises yearly. God has given liberty to man to work six days. No man ought to be compelled to keep them holy, but when God himself makes exception, as he did by the yoke of some anniversary days by the law.
The Second Reason
None appointed holy festivities under the law, when the times were more ceremonious, but God himself. The days of Purim were called simply the days of Purim, not the holy days of Purim, or feast of Purim. No peculiar sacrifice was appointed, nor any holy convocation of the people enjoined. The ordinance required but fasting, joy, and sending of portions to other. The memorial days of the dedication were called the days of dedication, not the feast of dedication. They were not holy days, or festival solemnities, consisting of Hooker's three elements, praises set forth with cheerful alacrity of mind, delight expressed by charitable largeness, more then common bounty; and sequestration from ordinary works. The times were corrupt, when these days were appointed. As for Christ's conference in the porch of the temple, in the days of dedication, it proves not that he honoured that feast, as they call it, with his presence, only the circumstance of time is pointed at, when Christ had this conference. Christ come up to the feast of the tabernacles before, and stayed in Jerusalem. In the mean time the days of dedication fell forth, and he went away immediately after his conference.
The Third Reason
Neither Christ nor his Apostles appointed festival days to be observed by Christians, but rather inhibited the observation of them, and changed only the old sabbath into the first day of the week. The anniversary solemnities were not changed, but altogether abrogated. The Apostle having occasion to teach upon this subject, condemn observation of days ceremonial, or of ceremonial nature. They were a rudimentary instruction of old, which become not the state of a Christian kirk, and clear light of the Gospel. Yea, the very days of Purim, and the days of dedication were of a ceremonial nature, saith Doctor Morton in his defence, to celebrate the memory of a particular act of Christ, at a set time in the year, with cessation from work, sermons, gospels, epistles, collects, and hymns belonging thereto, with joy and gladness, without admitting a fast at any time, is not to observe a day moral, but ceremonially. If there had been other festival days, which might have been observed by Christians, the Apostle having so fair occasion, when he was treating of the observation of days, he would not have spoken so generally, but directed Christians to the observing of these. If other days had been dedicated to Christ than the Lord's Day, they should all have been called the Lord's Days, but the scripture makes mention of one day, called the Lord's Day. Socrates in his history says, He is of the opinion, that as many other things crept in of custom in sundry places, so did the feast of Easter prevail among all people of a certain private custom and observation. If the Apostles had appointed it, they had agreed upon the day, seeing they were directed infallibly by the Spirit.
The Fourth Reason
If it had been the will of God, that the several acts of Christ should have been celebrated with several solemnities, the Holy Ghost would have made known the day of his nativity, circumcision, presenting to the temple, baptism, transfiguration, and the like. But it is confessed, that the day of Christ's nativity, and consequently of the rest depending thereupon, are hid from mortal men. And this is sufficient to declare the will of God concerning other notable acts, which were known, that not the act or action upon such day makes a day holy, but divine institution. No man denies but the nativity of Christ should be remembered, and so it is, wheresoever the gospel is preached. But we deny that the memory of it must be celebrated with the solemnity of a festival day, with cessation from work, feasting or forbearance of fasting, and a proper service.
The Fifth Reason
Suppose observing of holy days had been at the first a matter indifferent, yet seeing they have been abused, and polluted with superstition, they ought to be abolished. And therefore Zanchius approves them who have abolished all other days, but the Lord's Day. Sure it is, that in former times holy days have been abused, not only with licentious ravelling and surfeiting, but also with the opinion of worship and merit, and a judaical conceit, that the devil is not so bold to tempt men on these days, as at other times. Suppose observation were free of these abuses, yet it may degender after the same manner, as before: but the observation is not, nor can not be free of abuse and superstition. They say, they esteem them not holier then other days, but only keep them for order and policy, that the people may be assembled to religious exercises, and instructed in the mysteries of religion. But both are false. The papist confess themselves, that one day is not holier then an other, in the own nature, no not the Lord's Day, but in respect of the use and end: And so do our formalists esteem our festival days holier than other days, and call them holy days. And as for worship, of the observing of a day holy, for the honouring of a Saint, be a worshipping of the Saint, the observing of a day to the honour of Christ cannot be without opinion of worship. They are called mystical days, and appointed for the solemnity of some mystery of religion, and are ordered according to the known and supposed times, when such things fell forth, to wit, Christ's nativity, passion, ascension, &c. If only for order or policy, wherefore is there but one day between the passion and the resurrection, forty days between the resurrection and ascension, and then again, but ten betwixt the ascension and whitsun day. May not, and are not Christians instructed in the mysteries of religion, without the solemnities of days, and appropriation of service to them, after the Jewish manner? Do we not appropriate to the day of Christ's nativity a peculiar kind of service, of epistles; gospels, collects, hymns, homilies, belonging to Christ's nativity, and think it absurd to perform the like service upon any other day, with cessation from work. To observe days after this manner, is not like the appointing of hours for preaching, or prayers on week days, or times for celebrating the communion, according to the policy set down by every particular congregation. We use time then only as a circumstance, and for order, and do not appropriate these divine exercises to these times. Howbeit Christ rose upon the Lord's Day yet was it not appointed to be observed after the Jewish manner of observation of their festivals, for then every Lord's Day, the matter of sermons, collects, hymns, gospels, &c. should have been only Christ's resurrection. But you see the use and end is moral and general, for the instruction of the people of God in all mysteries of religion.