Answers to ‘Scriptural’ Defenses for Holy Days
Copyright © 1998 Naphtali Press
The following are chapters and sections taken from George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church of Scotland, ed. Christopher Coldwell (Dallas TX: Naphtali Press, 1993). All page references to EPC will be to that edition. One can find these sections in older editions by following the part, chapter, and section designations (e.g. 1.1.1).
EPC 3.6.7 – 3.6.14, 263-274
That The Lawfulness Of The Ceremonies Is Falsely
Grounded Upon The Holy Scripture; Where Such
Places As Are Alleged By Our Opposites, Either For
All The Ceremonies In General, Or For Any One Of Them
In Particular, Are Vindicated From Them.
Bishop Andrews will have the feast of Easter drawn from that place (1 Cor. 5:8), where he says, there is not only a warrant, but an order for the keeping of it; (( Sermon on that place. )) and he will have it out of doubt that this feast is of apostolical institution, because after the times of the apostles, when there was a contention about the manner of keeping Easter it was agreed upon by all, that it should be kept; and when the one side alleged for them St. John, and the other St. Peter, it was acknowleged by both that the feast was apostolical.
I answer, the testimony of Socrates deserves more credit than the Bishop’s naked conclusion.
I am of opinion (Socrates says), that as many other things crept in of custom in sundry places, so the feast of Easter to have prevailed among all people, of a certain private custom and observation. (( Lib. 5, cap. 22. ))
But whereas Bishop Lindsey, in defense of Bishop Andrews, replies, that Socrates propounds this for his own opinion only:
I answer, that Socrates, in that chapter, proves his opinion from the very same ground which B. Andrews wrests to prove that this feast is apostolical. For while as in that hot controversy about the keeping of Easter, they of the East alleged John the apostle for their author, and they of the West alleged Peter and Paul for themselves, Yet (Socrates says), there is none that can show in writing any testimony of theirs for confirmation and proof of their custom. And hereby I do gather, that the celebration of the feast of Easter came up more of custom than by any law or canon.
Downame (as I touched before) alleges the fourth commandment for holidays of the church’s institution. But Dr. Bastwick alleges more truly the fourth commandment against them: (( In Epist. ad quendam qui a Reform. Relig. ad Papism. defecerat. )) “Six days shalt thou labor.” This argument I have made good elsewhere; so that now I need not insist upon it. There are further two examples alleged against us for holidays, out of Esther 9:17-18, 27-28, and John 10:22.
Whereunto we answer, 1. That both those feasts were appointed to be kept with the consent of the whole congregation of Israel and body of the people, as is plain from Esther 9:32, and 1 Maccab. 4:69. Therefore, they have no show of making aught of such feasts as ours, which are tyrannically urged upon such as in their consciences do condemn them.
2. It appears, that the days of Purim were only appointed to be days of civil mirth and gladness, such as are in use with us, when we set out bonfires, and other tokens of civil joy, for some memorable benefit which the kingdom or commonwealth has received. For they are not called the holidays of Purim, but simply the days of Purim, “days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another” (Esther 9:19, 22). No word of any worship of God in those days. And whereas it seems to Bishop Lindsey, that those days were holy, because of that rest which was observed upon them; he must know that the text interprets itself, and it is evident from vs. 16 and 22, that this rest was not a rest from labor, for waiting upon the worshipping of God, but only a rest from their enemies. (( Proc. in Perth Assembly, part. 3, p. 30. ))
But Bishop Andrews goes about to prove by six reasons, that the days of Purim were holidays, and not days of civil joy and solemnity only. (( Sermon on Esth. 9:31. ))
First, he says, it is plain by verse 31, they took it in animas, upon their souls, a soul matter they made of it: there needs no soul for feria or festum, play or feasting. They bound themselves super animas suas [upon their souls], which is more than upon themselves, and would not have been put in the margin, but stood in the text; thus he reprehends the English translators, as you may perceive.
ANSWER. The Bishop could not be ignorant that nephesch signifies corpus animatum [animated body], as well as anima [soul], and that the Hebrews do not always put this word for our souls, but very often for ourselves. So Psal. 7:2. and Psal. 59:3, we read naphschi, my soul, for me; and Psal. 44:25, naphschenu, our soul, for we; and Gen. 46:26, col-nephesch– omnis animæ [all beings with souls], for omnes homines [all men].
What have we any further need of testimonies? Six hundred such are in the holy text. And in this place, Esther 9:31, what can be more plain, than that nighal-naphscham, upon their soul, is put for nghalehem, upon themselves, especially since nghalehem is found to the same purpose, both in vs. 27 and 31.
If we will make the text agree well with itself, how can we but take both these for one? But proceed we with the Bishop. Secondly, he says, the bond of it reaches to all that religioni eorum voluerunt copulari [wish to be joined to their religion] (v. 27), then, a matter of religion it was, had reference to that: what need any joining in religion for a matter of good fellowship?
ANSWER. There is no word in the text of religion. Our English translation reads it, “all such as joined themselves unto them.” Montanus, omnes adjunctos [all who had been joined to (them)]; Tremellius, omnes qui essent se adjuncturi eis [all who were such as would be joined to them]. The old Latin version reads it indeed as the Bishop does.
But no such thing can be drawn out of the word hannilvim, which is taken from the radix [original] lava, signifying simply, and without any adjection [addition], adhæsit [adhered to], or adjunxit se [joined himself to]. But let it be so, that the text means only such as were to adjoin themselves to the religion of the Jews, yet why might not the Jews have taken upon them a matter of civility [secular nature], not only for themselves, but for such also as were to be joined with them in religion. Could there be nothing promised for proselytes, but only a matter of religion?
Alas! Is this our antagonist’s great Achilles, who is thus falling down and succumbing to me, a silly stripling [youth]? Yet let us see if there is any more force in the remnant of his reasons.
For a third, he tells us that it is expressly termed a rite and a ceremony, at vs. 23 and 28, as the fathers read them.
In the 23rd verse we have no more but susceperunt [undertook], as Pagnini, or receperunt [took], as Tremellius reads it: but to read, susceperunt in solemnem ritum [entered on a solemn ceremony], is to make an addition to the text.
The 28th verse calls not this feast a rite, but only dies memorati [day(s) of remembrance], or celebres [renamed (days)]. And what if we grant that this feast was a rite? might it not, for all that, be merely civil? No, says the Bishop, “rites, I trust, and ceremonies, pertain to the church, and to the service of God.”
ANSWER. The version which the Bishop followed, has a rite, not a ceremony. Now, of rites, it is certain that they belong to the commonwealth as well as to the church. For in political law, the commanded and solemn rites are their own, says Junius. (( De Pol. Mosis, cap. 7. in jure politico, sui sunt imperati et solemnes ritus. ))
Fourthly, the Bishop says, they fast and pray here in this verse (meaning the 31st), fast the eve, the fourteenth, and so then the day following to be holiday of course.
ANSWER. The Latin version, which the Bishop follows, and whereupon he builds this reason, reads the 31st verse very corruptly, and no ways according to the original, as will easily appear to any who can compare them together. Wherefore the best interpreters take the fasting and prayer spoken of v. 31, to be meant of the time before their delivery. Now, after they were delivered, they decreed that the matters of their fasting and crying should be remembered upon the days of Purim, which were to solemnize that preservation, quam jejunio et precibus fuerant a Deo consequenti [as they had been by God in consequence of fasting and prayers], as Tremellius says.
But fifthly, he says, with fasting and prayer (here), alms also is enjoined (at v. 22), these three will make it past [more than] a day of revels or mirth.
I have answered already, that their fasting and praying are not to be referred to the days of Purim, which were memorials of their delivery, but to the time past, when, by the means of fasting and prayer, they did impetrate [obtain] their delivery, before ever the days of Purim were heard of; and as touching alms, it can make no holiday, because much alms may be, and has been given upon days of civil joy and solemnity.
If the Bishop help not himself with his sixth reason, he is like to come off with no great credit. May we then know what that is?
Lastly, he says, as a holiday the Jews ever kept it, have a peculiar set service for it in their Seders, set psalms to sing, set lessons to read, set prayers to say, good and godly all, none but as they have used from all antiquity.
ANSWER 1. The Bishop could not have made this word good, that the Jews did ever and from all antiquity keep the days of Purim in this fashion.
2. This manner of holding that feast, whensoever it began, had no warrant from the first institution, but was (as many other things) taken up by the Jews in after ages; and so the Bishop proves not the point which he takes in hand, namely, that the days spoken of in this text were enacted or appointed to be kept as holidays.
3. The service which the Jews in latter times use upon the days of Purim is not much to be regarded. For as Godwin notes out of Hospinian, they read the history of Esther in their synagogues, and so often as they hear mention of Haman, they do with their fists and hammers beat upon the benches and boards, as if they did knock upon Haman’s head. When thus they have behaved themselves, in the very time of their liturgy, like furious and drunken people, the rest of the day they pass over in outrageous revelling. (( Moses and Aaron, lib. 3, cap. 11. )) And here I take leave of the Bishop.
Thirdly, we say, whether the days of Purim were instituted to be holidays or not, yet there was some more than ordinary warrant for them, because Mordecai, by whose advice and direction they were appointed to be kept, was a prophet by the instinct and revelation of the Spirit (Esther 4:13). Perhaps we will not have gone far astray, says Hospinian, if we say that this was done by Mordecai and Esther from a particular inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (( De Orig. Festor., cap. 2, ad finem. Non m multum fortasse aberraverimus si dicamus hoc a Mordochæo et Hesthera, ex peculiari Spiritus Sancti instinctu factum. ))
Bishop Lindsey believes (( Ubi supra, p. 31. )) that they had only a general warrant, such as the church has still, to put order to the circumstances belonging to God’s worship, and all his reason is, because if the Jews had received any other particular warrant, the sacred story should not have passed it over in silence.
ANSWER. Thus much we understand from the sacred story, that the Jews had the direction of a prophet for the days of Purim; and that was a warrant more than ordinary, because prophets were the extraordinary ministers of God.
Fourthly, as touching the feast of the dedication of the altar by Judas Maccabeus, 1. Let us hear what Cartwright very gravely and judiciously propounds: (( Annot. on John 10. )) That this feast was unduly instituted and ungroundly, it may appear by conference of the dedication of the first temple under Solomon, and of the second after the captivity returned from Babylon. In which dedication, seeing there was no yearly remembrance by solemnity of feasts, not so much as one day, it is evident that the yearly celebration of this feast for eight days, was not compassed by that Spirit that Solomon and the captivity were directed by; which Spirit, when it dwelt more plentifully in Solomon, and in the prophets that stood at the stern of the captivity’s dedication, than it did in Judas, it was in him so much the more presumptuous, as having a shorter leg than they, he durst in that matter overstride them. And his rashness is so much the more aggravated, as each of them, for the building of the whole temple, with all the implements and furniture thereof, made no feast to renew the annual memory, where Judas only for renewment of the altar, and of certain other decayed places of the temple, instituted this great solemnity.
2. The feast of the dedication was not free of Pharisaical invention. For as Tremellius observes out of the Talmud, the wise men of that era established that in the recurring years, those eight days, etc. (( Annot. on John 10:22. statuerunt sapientes illius seculi, ut reccurrentibus annis, octo illi dies, etc. )) Yet albeit the Pharisees were called sapiantes Isrællis [wise men of Israel], Bishop Lindsey will not grant that they were the wise men of whom the Talmud speaks; for, he says, it behoved those who appointed festivities, not only to be wise men, but men of authority also. (( Ubi supra, p. 31. ))
But what do we hear? Were not the Pharisees men of authority? Why, says not Christ they sat in Moses’ chair (Matt. 23:2)? Says not Calvin, in the governing of the church and interpretation of scripture, this sect held primacy? (( Com. in illum locum. In ecclesiæ regimene et scriptura interpretatione, hæc secta primatum tenebat? )) Says not Camero, since the authority of the Pharisees was superior (as Josephus teaches everywhere)? etc. (( Prælect. in Matt. 19:3, de Pharis. cum Pharisæorum præcipua esset authoritas (ut ubique docet Josephus)? etc. ))
Does not Josephus speak so much of their authority that in one place he says, So the name of the government was in the queen’s power, but the administration of it was in the Pharisees’ power? (( Antiq. Jud., lib. 13, cap. 24. Nomen igitur regni, erat penes reginum (Alexandram) penes Pharisæos vero administratio? )) And in another place, for there was a certain sect of the Jews which claimed for itself a more exact knowledge of the law of the country? etc. These were called the Pharisees, an astute, arrogant kind of man, and occasionally even dangerous for the kings, as they were not afraid even to provoke them openly? (( Antiq. Jud., lib. 17, cap. 3. Erat enim quædam Judæorum secta exactiorem patriæ legis cognitionem sibi vendicans? etc. Hi Pharisæi vocantur, genus hominuum astutum, arrogans, et interdum regibus quoque infestum, ut eos etiam aperte impugnare non vereatur? ))
There is nothing alleged which can prove the lawfulness of this feast of the dedication.
It is but barely and boldly affirmed by Bishop Lindsey, that the Pharisees were not rebuked by Christ for this feast, (( Ubi supra, p. 32. )) because we read not so much in scripture; for there were many things which Jesus did and said that are not written in scripture (John 21:25). And whereas it seems to some, that Christ did countenance and approve this feast, because he gave his presence unto the same (John 10:22, 23), we must remember, that the circumstances only of time and place are noted by the evangelist, for evidence to the story, and not for any mystery. Christ had come up to the feast of tabernacles (John 7), and tarried still all that while, because then there was a great confluence of people in Jerusalem. Whereupon he took occasion to spread the net of the gospel for catching of many souls. And whilst John says, “It was at Jeusalem the feast of the dedication,” he gives a reason only of the confluence of many people at Jerusalem, and shows how it came to pass that Christ had occasion to preach to such a great multitude; and whilst he adds, “and it was winter,” he gives a reason of Christ’s walking in Solomon’s porch, whither the Jews resort was. It was not thought beseeming to walk in the temple itself, but in the porch men used to convene either for talking or walking, because in the summer the porch shadowed them from the heat of the sun, and in winter it lay open to the sunshine and to heat. Others think, that whilst he says, it was winter, imports that therefore Christ was the more frequently in the temple, knowing that his time was short which he had then for his preaching; for in the entry of the next spring he was to suffer.
Howsoever, it is not certain of what feast of dedication John speaks. Bullinger leaves it doubtful; (( In John 10:22. )) and Maldonat says that this opinion which takes the dedication of the altar by Judus Maccabeus to be meant by John, has fewest authors. (( Com., ibid. )) But to let this pass, whereas the Rhemists allege, (( Annot., ibid. )) that Christ approved this feast, because he was present at it; Cartwright and Fulk answer them, that Christ’s being present at it proves not his approving of it. Christ did not honor the feast day specifically, says Junius, but the harmonious gathering of the righteous on a feast day; for all opportunities of that kind for sowing his Gospel Christ pays attention to and seizes. (( Animad. in Bell., contr. 3, lib. 4, cap. 17, nota. 6. Non festum proprie honoravit Christus sed cætum piorum convenientem festo; nam omnes ejusmodi occasiones seminandi evangelii s sui observabat et capiebat Christus. ))
As if indeed (says Hospinian) Christ left for Jerusalem for the sake of the Feast of Dedication. (( De Orig. Templ., lib. 4, cap. 22. Quasi vero Christus Encænoirum casua Hierosloymam abierit. )) Nay, but he saw he had a convenient occasion, to teach a multitude of men who had come together for that feast day. (( ad instituendam hominum multitudenem, ad illud festum confluentiam. ))
Even as Paul chose to be present at certain Jewish feasts, (( Calv. in Act. 18:21. )) not for any respect to the feasts themselves, nor for any honor which he meant to give them, but for the multitudes’ cause who resorted to the same, among whom he had a more plentiful occasion to spread the gospel at those festivities than at other times in the year.
I had thought here to close this chapter; but finding that, as the parrot, which other while uses the form of a man’s voice, yet being beaten and chaffed, returns to his own natural voice, so some of our opposites, who have been but erst [first] prating somewhat of the language of Canaan against us, finding themselves pressed and perplexed in such a way of reasoning, have quickly changed their tune, and begin to talk to us of warrants of another nature nor [than] the word of God. I am therefore to digress with them. And I perceive, ere we know well where they are, they are passed from Scripture to custom. For if we will listen, thus says one of the greatest note among them, (( Sermon on 1 Cor. 11:16. )) Bishop Andrews I trow [believe] they call him: We do but make ourselves to be pitied other while (well said) when we stand wringing the Scriptures (well said) to strain that out of them which is not in them (well said), and so can never come liquid from them (well said), when yet we have for the same point the church’s custom clear enough. And that is enough by virtue of this text (meaning 1 Cor. 11:16). And after he says, that we are taught by the Apostle’s example in points of this nature, of ceremony or circumstance, ever to pitch upon habemus, or non habemus talem consuetudinem [we have, or we do not have such a custom].
ANSWER 1. The text gives him no ground for this doctrine, that in matters of ceremony we are to pitch upon habemus or non habemus talem consuetudinem, so that he is wide away, whilst he spends the greatest part of his sermon in the pressing of this point, that the custom of the church should be enough to us in matters of ceremony, and particularly in the keeping of Easter; for the custom of the church there spoken of, is not concerning a point of circumstance, but concerning a very substantial and necessary point, namely, not to be contentious: neither does the Apostle urge those orders of the men’s praying uncovered, and the women’s praying veiled, from this ground, because so was the church’s custom (as the Bishop would have it), but only he is warning the Corinthians not to be contentious about those matters, because the churches have no such custom as to be contentious. So is the place expounded by Chrysostom, Ambrose, Calvin, Martyr, Bullinger, Marlorat, Beza, Fulk, Cartwright, Paræus, and our own Archbishop of St. Andrews, in his sermon upon that text. And for this exposition, it makes that the Apostle, in the preceding part of the chapter, has given sufficient reasons for that order of covering or veiling the women; wherefore, if any would contend about the matter, he tells them they must contend with themselves; for they nor the churches of God would not contend with them, they had no such custom. But if we admit Bishop Andrews’ gloss, then why does the Apostle, after he has given good reasons for the veiling of women, subjoin, “if any man seem to be contentious,” etc. The Bishop resolves [answers] us, that the apostles saw that a wrangling wit would elude these reasons which he had given, and he had no other reasons to give. Therefore he resolves [casts] all into the church’s practice, enough of itself to suffice any that will be wise to sobriety.
ANSWER. If any seem to be blasphemous, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. What! shall a wrangling wit elude the reasons given by the Spirit of God, in such sort, that he must give some other more sufficient proof for that which he teaches? Then the whole Scriptures of God must yet be better proved, because the unstable do wrest them, as Peter speaks (2 Pet. 3:16).
2. The custom of the church is not enough to pitch on, and it is found oftentimes expedient to change a custom of the church.
Basilius Magnus (( Epist. 80, ad Eustath. Medic. )) does flatly refuse to admit the authoriy of custom: custom without truth (says Cyprian), is a posterity of error. (( Ad Pompeium contra Epist. Stephani. Consuetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est. )) For in vain do those who are vanquished by reason (says Augustine) object to our custom, as if custom were more important than truth, etc. (( De Bapt. contra Donatist, lib. 4, cap. 5. Frustra enim qui ratione vincuntur consuetudinem nobis objiciunt, quasi consuetudo major sit veritate, etc. )) It is no shame to pass on to better things, says Ambrose (( Epistle 31. Nullus pudor est ad meli iora transire. )) to the Emperor Valentinian. Whatever custom you like, (says Gratian), it must come second to the truth. (( Decr., part 1, dist. 8, cap. 7. Quælibet consuetudo veritati est postponenda. ))
And again, what is received unlawfully must be corrected, or what is found to have been received by predecessors. (( Decr., part 2, caus. 35, quest. 9. cap. 3. Corrigendum est quod illicite admittitur, aut a prædecessoribus admissum invenitur. )) A politic writer admonishes retinere antiqua [to keep the old], only with this caution, Si proba [if it is proper]. (( J. Lips., Lib. de Una Relig. Advers. Dialogistam. ))
Calvin (speaking against human ceremonies) says, Si objiciatur, etc. If (he says) antiquity be objected (albeit they who are too much addicted to custom and to received fashions, do boldly use this buckler to defend all their corruptions), the refutation is easy; for the ancients also themselves, with heavy complaints, have abundantly testified that they did not approve of anything which was devised by the will of men. In the end of the epistle he alleges this testimony of Cyprian: If Christ alone is to be heard, then we ought not to give heed what any man before us has thought fit to be done, but what Christ (who is before all) has done; for we must not follow the customs of man, but the truth of God. (( Calv., Epist. et Resp., col. 484, 485. ))
What can be more plain than that antiquity cannot be a confirmation to error, nor custom a prejudice to truth?
Wherefore Dr. Forbes also despises such arguments as are taken from the custom of the church. (( Iren., lib. 1, cap. 8, sect. 3. ))
3. There was a custom in the churches of God to give the holy communion to infants; and another custom to minister baptism only about Easter and Pentecost. Sundry such abuses got place in the church.
If, then, it is enough to pitch upon custom, why ought not those customs to have been commended and continued? But if they were commendably changed, then ought we not to follow blindly the bare custom of the church, but examine the equity of the same, and demand grounds of reason for it.
St. Paul (says Dr. Fulk) does give reason for that order of covering women’s heads: By whose example the preachers are likewise to endeavor to satisfy, by reason, both men and women, that humbly desire their resolution for quiet of their conscience, and not to beat them down with the club of custom only. (( Annot. on 1 Cor. 11:16. ))
4. Whereas the custom of some churches is alleged for the ceremonies, we have objected the custom of other churches against them; neither shall ever our opposites prove them to be the customs of the church universal.
5. A great part of that ecclesiastical custom which is alleged for the ceremonies, resolves into that idolatrous and superstitous use of them which has long continued in the kingdom of Antichrist; but that such a custom makes against them, it has been proved before. (( Supra, cap. 2. ))
6. If it were so that we ought to pitch upon the church’s custom, yet (that I may speak with Mr. Hooker) the law of common indulgence permits us to think of our own customs as half a thought better than the customs of others.
But why was there such a change made in the discipline, policy, and orders of the church of Scotland, which were agreeable to the word of God, confirmed and ratified by general assemblies and parliaments, used and enjoyed with so great peace and purity? Our custom should have held the ceremonies out of Scotland, hold them in elsewhere as it may.