§6. The Bishop has yet a third dart to throw at us: If the church (he says)[1] has power, upon occasional motives, to appoint occasional fasts or festivities, may not she, for constant and eternal blessings, which do infinitely excel all occasional benefits, appoint ordinary times of commemoration or thanksgiving? Answer. There are two reasons for which the church may and should appoint fasts or festivities upon occasional motives, and neither of them agrees with ordinary festivities. 1. Extraordinary fasts, either for obtaining some great blessing, or averting some great judgment, are necessary means to be used in such cases; likewise, extraordinary festivities are necessary testifications [testimonies] of our thankfulness for the benefits which we have impetrate [procured] by our extraordinary fasts; but ordinary festivities, for constant and eternal blessings, have no necessary use. The celebration of set anniversary days is no necessary mean for conserving the commemoration of the benefits of redemption, because we have occasion, not only every Sabbath day, but every other day, to call to mind these benefits, either in hearing, or reading, or meditating upon God’s Word. I esteem and judge that the days consecrated to Christ must be lifted, says Danæus: Christ is born, is circumcised, dies, rises again for us every day in the preaching of the Gospel.[2]

2. God has given His church a general precept for extraordinary fasts (Joel 1:14; 2:15), as likewise for extraordinary festivities to praise God, and to give Him thanks in the public assembly of His people, upon the occasional motive of some great benefit which by the means of our fasting and praying we have obtained (Zech. 8:19 with Zech. 7:3). If it is said that there is a general command for set festivities, because there is a command for preaching and hearing the Word, and for praising God for His benefits; and there is no precept for particular fasts more than for particular festivities, I Answer: Albeit there is a command for preaching and hearing the Word, and for praising God for His benefits, yet is there no command (no, not in the most general generality) for annexing these exercises of religion to set anniversary days more than to other days; whereas it is plain that there is a general command for fasting and humiliation at some times more than at other times.

And as for particularities, all the particular causes, occasions, and times of fasting could not be determined in Scripture, because they are infinite, as Camero says.[3] But all the particular causes of set festivities, and the number of the same, might have been easily determined in Scripture, since they are not, nor may not be infinite; for the Bishop himself acknowledges that to appoint a festival day for every week cannot stand with charity, the inseparable companion of piety.[4] And albeit so many were allowable, yet who sees not how easily the Scripture might have comprehended them, because they are set, constant, and anniversary times, observed for permanent and continuing causes, and not moveable or mutable, as fasts which are appointed for occurring causes, and therefore may be infinite.
I conclude that, since God’s Word has given us a general command for occasional fasts, and likewise particularly determined sundry things about the causes, occasions, nature, and manner of fastings, we may well say with Cartwright,[5] that days of fasting are appointed at such times, and upon such occasions [causes], as the Scripture does set forth; wherein because the church commands nothing but that which God commands, the religious observation of them falls unto the obedience of the fourth commandment, as well as of the seventh day itself.

§2. Tilen sets out the expediency of holy days for imprinting in the minds of people the sense and knowledge of the benefits of redemption.[6] Answer. 1. There is no means so good for this purpose as catechizing and preaching, out of season and in season. 2. What could he say unto them who have attained his end without his means? I find people better instructed and made more sensible of those benefits where the feasts are not kept than where they are. 3. Think they their people sufficiently instructed in the grounds of religion, when they hear of the nativity, passion, etc. — what course will they take for instructing them in other principles of faith? Why do they not keep one way, and institute a holy day for every particular head of catechism?

But Bishop Lindsay thinks yet to let us see a greater expediency for observing holy days. Certainly (he says) nothing is so powerful to abolish profaneness and to root superstition out of men’s hearts, as the exercise of divine worship, in preaching, praying and thanksgiving, chiefly then when the superstitious conceits of merit and necessity are most pregnant in the heads of people—as doubtless they are when the set times of solemnities return—for then it is meet to lance the aposteme [abscess] when it is ripe.[7]

Answer. This is a very bad cure, and is not only to heal the wound of the people slightly, but to make it the more inveterate and festered. I might object that little or nothing is preached or spoken, by him and his companions, at the revolution [course] of those festivities, against the superstitious keeping of them; but though they should speak as much as can be against this superstition, their lancing being in word only, and not in deed, the recidivation [relapse] will prove worse than the disease. The best lancing of the aposteme was not to observe them at all, or to preach against them, which are tried [proved] to work this effect more powerfully than the Bishop’s cure has done; for all know that there is none so free of this superstition as those who observe not the holy days.

George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 2013) 50–51; 82–83. Footnotes renumbered for this extract. https://www.heritagebooks.org/products/a-dispute-against-the-english-popish-ceremonies-gillespie.html
[1] Ibid. [Lindsay, part 3,] p. 26, 27.
[2] Apud [cited in] Balduin, de Cas. Consc., lib. 2, cap. 12, cas. 1. Dies Christo dicatos tollendos existimo judicoque, quotidie nobis in evangelii prædicatione nascitur, circumciditur, moritur, resurgit Christus. [Cf. Balduin, Tractatus Luculentus (1654), 348.]
[3]Cameron, Prælectiones, tom. 1, de Potest. Eccl., contr. 2. [Cf. vol. 1, page 369.]
[4]Lindsay, ubi supra, [part 3] p. 16.
[5]Cartwright, Ag. the Rhem. annot. on Gal. 4:10. [Cartwright has causes at occasions.]
[6]Parænesis ad Scotos, cap. 16, p. 65 [Andreapoli: Rabanus, 1620].
[7] Proceedings in Perth Assembly, part 3, p. 7. [Cf. 1625 ed., “Answer . . . Festivall Dayes,” 7. The 1625 text reads “and root out superstition.” The dashes for semicolons were added in Works.]

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our ring of reformed sites.

You have Successfully Subscribed!