George Gillespie (1613-1648)

George Gillespie

Holy Days

Copyright © 1998 Naphtali Press

Chapters and sections taken from , 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). In these extracts Gillespie gives a thorough treatment of the subject of holy days wrapped in the polemical style of his day. If he seems harsh against his opponents, consider the persecution of the time, and perhaps even the boldness of youthful genius (he began writing EPC when only 22 years old), as well as the fact that his father and grandfather (both ministers) strongly opposed the reintroduction of the popish ceremonies. His grandfather authored an official protest against the reintroduction of episcopacy in 1606, which his father signed along with John Welsh and the Melvilles. See the excellent historical introduction to EPC which traces Gillespie’s historical and familial background. The cast of characters Gillespie interacts with and cites is large. See the complete bibliography of EPC for details on who these folks were. Gillespie’s original preface is also posted on the Naphtali web site.

Some of Gillespie’s arguments are not going to be as relevant in every situation today. For instance, most are not under civil injunction to cease from laboring on pretended holy days. On the whole his arguments are excellent, particularly the sections on the superstition and idolatry of holy days. One could very well draw up a modern theology against holy days from these extracts. The Presbyterians of Gillespie’s day opposed holy days first because they were compelled to cease from their callings, which was a violation of the fourth commandment. They were inexpedient to edification because the enforcement of them was mixed with cruelty and intolerance. They contended observance of holy days was unlawful because they were observed superstitiously. And they were unlawful because they were monuments of past idolatry, present idolatry, and were actually idols themselves. The alleged scriptural arguments for holy days were shown to be groundless, and Gillespie concludes by showing why the observance of holy days is not a thing indifferent in nature.

While all of Gillespie’s EPC is directed against the unlawfulness of superstitious ceremonies, only those extracts which deal directly or significantly indirectly with holy days are included here.