Part 2: Holy Days take away our Christian Liberty Proved Out of the Gospel (EPC 1.8, 37-45)

George Gillespie (1613-1648)George Gillespie

Holy Days take away our Christian Liberty Proved Out of the Gospel

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 1.8, pp. 37-45.

That Festival Days Take Away Our Christian Liberty, Proved Out Of The Gospel.

Sect. 1

My second argument whereby I prove that the imposing of the observation of holidays bereaves us of our liberty, I take out of two places of the Apostle; the one, Gal. 4:10, where he finds fault with the Galatians for observing of days, and gives them two reasons against them; the one (v. 3), They were a yoke of bondage which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear; another (v. 9), They were weak and beggarly rudiments, not beseeming the Christian church, which is liberated from the pedagogical instruction of the ceremonial law.

The other place is Col. 2:16, where the Apostle will have the Colossians not to suffer themselves to be judged by any man in respect of an holiday, i. e. to be condemned for not observing a holiday, for to condemn here means to accuse a party of guilt; (( Calvin, Comm. in illum locum. Judicare hic significat culpæ reum facere. )) and the meaning is, suffer not yourselves to be condemned by those false apostles, or by any mortal man in the cause of meat, that is, for meat or drink taken, or for any holiday, or any part of an holiday neglected. (( Zanch., Comm. ibid. ))

Two other reasons the Apostle gives in this place against festival days; one (v. 17), What should we do with the shadow, when we have the body? Another (v. 20), Why should we be subject to human ordinances, since through Christ we are dead to them, and have nothing ado with them? Now, by the same reasons are all holidays to be condemned, as taking away Christian liberty; and so, that which the Apostle says does militate as well against them as against any other holidays. For whereas it might be thought that the Apostle does not condemn all holidays, because both he permits others to observe days (Rom. 14:5), and he himself also did observe one of the Jewish feasts (Acts 18:21), it is easily answered, that our holidays have no warrant from these places, except our opposites will say that they esteem their festival days holier than other days, and that they observe the Jewish festivities, neither of which they do acknowledge; and if they did, yet they must consider, that that which the Apostle either said or did here[about], is to be expounded and understood of bearing with the weak Jews, whom he permitted to esteem one day above another, and for whose cause he did, in his own practice, thus far apply himself to their infirmity at that time when they could not possibly be as yet fully and thoroughly instructed concerning Christian liberty, and the abrogation of the ceremonial law, because the gospel was as yet not fully propagated; and when the Mosaical rites were like a dead man not yet buried, as Augustine’s simile runs. So that all this can make nothing for holidays after the full promulgation of the gospel, and after that the Jewish ceremonies are not only dead, but also buried, and so deadly to be used by us. Hence it is, that the Apostle will not bear with the observation of days in Christian churches who have known God, as he speaks.

Sect. 2

The defenders of holidays answer to these places, which we allege against them, that the Apostle condemns the observation of Judaical days, not of ecclesiastical days, which the church institutes for order and policy; which evasion Bishop Lindsey follows so hard, that he sticks not to hold, that all the days whereof the Apostle condemns the observation were Judaical days prescribed in the ceremonial law, etc. (( Proc. in Perth Assembly, part 3, p. 43. )) And this he is not contented to maintain himself, but he will needs father it upon his antagonist by such logic, forsooth, as can infer quidlibet ex quolibet [everything from anything].

The Apostle comports [tolerates] with the observation of days in the weak Jews, who understood not the fulness of the Christian liberty, especially since those days, having had the honor to be once appointed by God himself, were to be honorably buried; but the same Apostle reproves the Galatians who had attained to this liberty, and had once left off the observation of days. What ground of consequence can warrant such an illation [deduction] from these premises as this which the Bishop forms? namely, that all the days whereof the Apostle condemned the observation were Judaical days, etc.

Sect. 3

Now, for confutation of this forged exposition of those places of the Apostle, we say:

1. If all the days whereof the Apostle condemned the observation were Judaical days prescribed in the ceremonial law, then do our divines falsely interpret the Apostle’s words against popish holidays; and the Papists do truly allege that their holidays are not condemned by the Apostle. The Rhemists affirm that the Apostle condemns only Jewish days, (( Annot. on Col. 2:16. )) but not Christian days, and that we do falsely interpret his words against their holidays. (( Annot. on Gal. 4:10. )) Cartwright answers them, that if Paul condemned the observing of feasts which God himself instituted, then much more does he condemn the observation of feasts of man’s devising. (( Annot., ibid. )) So Bellarmine alleges, that the Apostle speaks there only of Jewish feast days. (( De Cultus Sanctorum, cap. 10. loqui ibi Apostolum de judæorum tantum festis. )) Hospinian, answering him, will have the Apostle’s words to condemn the Christian feasts more than the Judaical. (( De Orig. Fest. Christ., cap. 2. )) Conradus Vorstius rejects this position, The Apostle teaches that except for the Jewish, no division of days was supported in the N. T., as a popish error. (( De Templ. et Fest. in Enchyrid. contr. inter Evang. et Pontif. Apostolus non nisi judaicum discrimen dierum in N. T. sublatum esse docet. ))

2. If the Apostle means only of Judaical days, either he condemns the observing of their days materialiter [materially], or formaliter [formally], i. e. either he condemns the observation of the same feasts which the Jews observed, or the observing of them with such a meaning, after such a manner, and for such an end as the Jews did. The former our opposites dare not hold, for then they should grant that he condemns their own Easter and Pentecost, because these two feasts were observed by the Jews. Nor yet can they hold them at the latter, for he condemns that observation of days which had crept into the church of Galatia, which was not Jewish, nor typical, seeing the Galatians, believing that Christ was already come, could not keep them as figures of his coming as the Jews did, but rather as memorials that he was already come, says Cartwright. (( Ubi supra. ))

1. If the Apostle’s reasons wherewith he impugns the observation of days holds good against our holidays so well as against the Jewish or popish days, then does he condemn those, no less these. But the Apostle’s reasons agree to our holidays. For (1.), According to that reason, Gal. 4:3, they bring us under a yoke of bondage. Augustine, complaining of some ceremonies wherewith the church in his time was burdened, thought it altogether best that they should be cut off, Even if they may not seem inimical to the faith, since they press slavish burdens on the religion Christ willed to be a free one. (( Epist. 118, ad Januar.Etiamsi fidei non videantur adversari, quia religionem quam Christus liberam esse voluit, servilibus oneribus premunt. )) Yea, he thought this yoke of servitude greater bondage, and less tolerable than the servility of the Jews, because they were subject to the burdens of the law of God, and not to the presumptions of men. The yoke of bondage of Christians, in respect of feasts, is heavier than the yoke of the Jews, not only for the multitude of them, but because the feast days of Christians were established by men only, but those of the Jews by God, says Hospinian. (( De Orig. Fest. Christ., cap. 2. Christian-orum festa, ab hominibus tantum, judæorum vero a Deo fuerint instituta. )) Have not we then reason to exclaim against our holidays, as a yoke of bondage, heavier than that of the Jews, for that our holidays are men’s inventions, and so were not theirs?

(2.) The other reason, Gal. 4:9, holds as good against our holidays. They are rudimentary and pedagogical elements, which beseem not the Christian church, for as touching that which Tilen objects, that many in the church of the New Testament are still babes to be fed with milk, (( Paren. ad Scot. cap. 16, pp. 66. )) it makes as much against the Apostle as against us. For by this reason he may as well throw back the Apostle’s ground of condemning holidays among the Galatians, and say, because many of the Galatians were babes, therefore they had the more need of those elements and rudiments. The Apostle (Gal. 4:3) compares the church of the Old Testament to an infant and insinuates that, in the days of the New Testament, the infancy of the church has taken an end. And whereas it might be objected that in the church of the New Testament there are many babes, and that the Apostle himself speaks of the Corinthians and Hebrews as babes, it is answered by Paræus, What is said here must be understood as concerning not a few persons, but the condition of the whole church. (( Comm. in illum locum. Non de paucis personis, sed de statu totius ecclesiæ intelligendum est quod hic dicitur. )) There were also some in the church of the Old Testament, adulti fide heræs [heroes matured by faith]; but in respect of the state of the whole church, he who is least in the kingdom of God, is greater than John Baptist (Luke 7:28). The Law, says Beza, is called an element, since just as God taught his church with these first principles, afterward from a full horn he poured out the Holy Spirit in the time of the gospel. (( Annot. in Gal. 4:3. Lex, saith Beza, vocatur elementa, quia illis velut rudimentis, Deus ecclesiam suam erudivit, postea pleno cornu effudit Spiritum Sanctum tempore evangelii. ))

(3.) That reason also taken from the opposition of the shadow and the body (Col. 2:17) militates against our holidays; for the Apostle there speaks in the present time [ esti skia – it is a shadow], whereas the Judaical rites were abolished, whereupon Zanchius notes, that the Apostle does not so much speak of things by-past, as of the very nature of all rites, Therefore defining those very rituals in themselves, he said they were nothing other than a shadow. (( Comm. in illum locum. Definiens ergo ipsos ritus in sese, dixit eos nil aliud esse quam umbram. )) If all rites, then our holidays, among the rest, serve only to adumbrate [prefigure] and shadow forth something, and by consequence are unprofitable and idle, when the substance itself is clearly set before us.

(4.) That reason, Col. 2:20, does no less irresistibly infringe the ordinances about our holidays than about the Jewish; for if men’s ordinances, about things once appointed by God himself, ought not to be obeyed, how much less should the precepts of men be received about such things in religion as never had this honor to be God’s ordinances, when their mere authority limits or astricts [binds] us in things which God has made lawful or free to us.

Sect. 4

Thus we see how the Apostle’s reasons hold good against our holidays; let us see next what respects of difference the Bishop can imagine to evidence wherefore the Judaical days may be thought condemned by the Apostle, and not ours. He devises a double respect; and first he tells us, that the Jewish observation of days was to a typical use. (( Ubi supra, p. 40. )) And whereas it is objected by us, that the converted Jews did not observe them as shadows of things to come, because then they had denied Christ, he answers thus: Howbeit the converted Jews did not observe the Jewish days as shadows of things to come, yet they might have observed them as memorials of by-past temporal and typical benefits, and for present temporal blessings, as the benefit of their delivery out of Egypt, and of the fruits of the earth, which use was also typical.

ANSWER. 1. This is his own conjecture only, therefore he himself propounds it doubtfully, for he dare not say, they did observe them as memorials, etc., but, they might have observed; to which guessing, if I reply, they might also not have observed them as memorials of those by-past or present benefits, we say as much against him, and as truly, as he has said against us.

2. His form of reasoning is very uncouth, for to prove that the observation of days by the converted Jews was to a typical use, he alleges, that they might have observed, etc. Thus proving a position by a supposition. O brave!

3. There is no sense in his conjecture, for he yields that they did not observe those days as shadows of things to come, and yet he says, they might have observed them as memorials of by-past typical benefits. Now they could not observe those days as memorials of types, except they observed them also as shadowing forth the antitypes. Pentecost, says Davenant, and that celebration of when the law was given, it foreshadowed the sending of the Holy Spirit, and the writing by that same Spirit of the law on the tablets of hearts. The feast of Tabernacles sketched out the wandering of a righteous man in this desert of a world toward the heavenly country, etc. (( Comm. in Col. 2:17. et illa legis datæ celebratio. Spiritus Sancti mssionem, et legis in tabulis cordium per eundem Spiritum inscriptionem, adumbravit. Scenopegiæ festum peregrinationem hominis pii per hoc mundi desertum ad cælestem patriam delineabat, etc. )) So that the feast of Pentecost, if it had been observed as a memorial of the promulgation of the law, could not but shadow forth the sending of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, to write the law in them. And the feast of tabernacles, if it had been observed as a memorial of the benefits which God bestowed on his people in the wilderness, could not but shadow out God’s conducting of his children, through the course of their pilgrimage in this world, to the heavenly Canaan.

4. If feasts which were memorials of temporal benefits were for this reason mystical, then he must grant against himself that, much more, are our feasts mystical, which are memorials of spiritual benefits, and consecrated to be holy signs and symbols, for making us call to mind the mysteries of our redemption.

5. Before this dispute takes an end, we shall see out of the best learned among our opposites, that they observe the holidays as mystical, (( Infra., part 3, in the arg. of Superstition. )) and more mystical than the Bishop here describes the Jewish days to have been, and so we shall see the falsehood of that pretense, that they are observed only for order and policy, and not for mystery.

6. If we would know the true reason which made the converted Jews to observe those days, it was not any mystical use but that which made them think themselves obliged to other Mosaical rites; even propter auctoritatem legis [even on account of the authority of the law], says Junius; (( Anim. in Bell., cont. 3, lib. 4, cap. 16, n. 20. )) for albeit they could not be ignorant that these rites were shadows of things to come, and that the body was of Christ, in whom and in the virtue of whose death they did stablish their faith, yet they did not at first understand how such things as were once appointed by God himself, and given to his people as ordinances to be kept by him throughout their generations, could be altogether abolished; and for this cause, though they did condescend to a change of the use and signification of those ceremonies, as being no more typical of the kingdom of Christ, which they believed to be already come, yet still they held themselves bound to the use of the things themselves as things commanded by God.

This much may be collected from Acts 15:21, where James gives a reason wherefore it was expedient that the Gentiles should observe some of the Jewish rites for a time, as Calvin, (( Comm. in illum locum. )) Beza, (( Annot., ib. )) and Junius, (( Anim. ad Bell., contr. 3, lib 4, cp. 16, n 32. )) expound the place. His reason is because the Jews, being so long accustomed with the hearing of the law of Moses, and such as did preach the same, could not be made at first to understand how the ordinances which God gave to his people by the hand of Moses might be cast off and not regarded, which imports as much as I say, namely, that the reason wherefore the converted Jews were so apt to be scandalized by such as cared not for the ceremonial law, and held themselves obliged to observe the same, was because they saw not how they could be exempted from the ordinances and statutes of the law of Moses, with which they had been educated and accustomed.

Sect. 5

Rests the second respect of difference given by the Bishop: Further (he says), they did observe them with opinion of necessity, as things instituted by God for his worship and their salvation, which sort of observation was legal. (( Ubi supra.))

ANSWER. 1. Be it so; he cannot hereupon infer, that the Apostle does only condemn the observation of Judaical days, for he sees nothing of observing days with opinion of necessity, but simply and absolutely he condemns the observing of days, and his reasons reflex on our holidays, as well as the Jewish.

2. Their opinion of necessity he either refers to the institution which these days once had from God, or else to the use which, at that time, they had for God’s worship and their salvation. That they observed them with opinion of necessity, as things which had been instituted by God, it is most likely; but that they observed them with opinion of necessity, as things necessary for God’s worship and their salvation, is more than can be made good. It is more probably that they observed them merely and simply for that they had the honor to be instituted by God in his law. For to say that they observed them to the same use and end for which God did institute them is false, because then they had observed them as types and shadows of the coming of Christ, and so had denied Christ.

3. If the Apostle condemns the observing of days instituted by God, with opinion of necessity, much more does he condemn the observing of days instituted by men with such an opinion. And such is the observation of days urged upon us. Though the Bishop pretends that the observing of our holidays is not imposed with opinion of necessity, shall we therefore think it is so? Nay, Papists do also pretend that the observation of their ceremonies is not necessary, (( Bell., de Euch., lib. 6, cap. 13.)) nor the neglecting of them a mortal sin. I have proved heretofore, out of their opposites’ own words, that the ceremonies in question (and, by consequence holidays among the rest) are urged upon us with opinion of necessity, and as their words, so their works bewray [reveal] them, for they urge the ceremonies with so exorbitant vehemency, and punish refusers with so excessive severity, as if they were the weightiest matters of the law of God. Yet they would have us believe, that they have but sober and mean thoughts of these matters, as of circumstances determined for order and policy only. Just like a man who casts firebrands and arrows, and yet says, “Am not I in sport?” (Prov. 26:18, 19). They will tell us that they urge not the ceremonies as necessary in themselves, but only as necessary in respect of the church’s determination, and because of the necessity of obeying those who are set over us. But, I pray, is not this as much as the Rhemists say, (( Annot. on Matt. 6:15, sect 5. ))who place the necessity of their rites and observances, not in the nature of the things themselves, but in the church’s precept?