Order of Contents
Collections of Quotes
Schwertley, Brian – A Historical Examination of the Church’s Opposition to Christmas (2003) 19 pp. being 78 historic reformed quotes from creeds, documents and theologians opposing Christmas.
Myers, Andrew – The Dutch Further Reformation Against Christmas (2009) 10 paragraphs, including quotes from the 1574 Synod of Dort, Willem Teelinck, Jacobus Koelman and Wilhelmus à Brakel.
Order of Quotes
Church of Scotland
The Waldensian Confession of 1120 AD
“Moreover, we have ever regarded all the inventions of men [in the affairs of religion] as an unspeakable abomination before God; such as the festival days and vigils of saints, and what is called holy-water, the abstaining from flesh on certain days, and such like things, but above all, the masses.”
Martin Bucer, 1491-1551
Grund und ursach auß gotlicher schrifft, 1525, trans. Bobby Phillips
“Because, then, there is plainly no reason why any one festival should stay, and another should go away; because also it cannot be denied that they have all done harm, and the greatest have done the most harm; so we will allow ourselves to use only Sunday for celebration, which brotherly love alone requires.”
On Matt 12, quoted by William Ames, A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship, p. 360. This quote was compiled by Andrew Myers.
“I would to God that every [so-called] Holy-day whatsoever beside the Lord’s Day, were abolished. That zeal which brought them in, was without all warrant of the Word, and merely followed corrupt reason, forsooth to drive out the Holy days of the Pagans, as one nail drives out another. Those Holy days, have been so tainted with superstition that I wonder we tremble not at their very names.”
John Calvin, 1509–1564
Sermons on the Book of Micah, 1551, trans. and ed. B. W. Farley
Now, I see here today more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God? Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one. But so much for that. In truth, as you have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Sunday. But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshipping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the Devil.
Let us consider what our Lord has to say on the matter. Was it not Saul’s intention to worship God when he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best spoils and cattle? He says as much: “I want to worship God.” Saul’s tongue was full of devotion and good intention. But what was the response he received? ”You soothsayer! You heretic! You apostate! You claim to be honoring God, but God rejects you and disavows all that you have done!” [see 1 Samuel 15:8-9]. Consequently, the same is true of our actions. For no day is superior to another. It matters not whether we recall our Lord’s nativity on a Wednesday, Thursday, or some other day. But when we insist on establishing a service of worship based on our whim, we blaspheme God, and create an idol, though we have done it all in the name of God. And when you worship God in the idleness of a holiday spirit, that is a heavy sin to bear, and one which attracts others about it, until we reach the height of iniquity. Therefore, let us pay attention to what Micah is saying here, that God must not only strip away things that are bad in themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition. Once we have understood that, we will no longer find it strange that Noel is not being observed today
Church of Scotland
Letter of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to Theodore Beza (1566) in Works of John Knox, vol. 6, pp. 547-48
“This one thing, however, we can scarcely refrain from mentioning, with regard to what is written in the 24th chapter of the aforesaid [Second Helvetic] Confession [of 1566] concerning the ‘festival of our Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Ghost upon his disciples,’ that these festivals at the present time obtain no place among us; for we dare not religiously celebrate any other feast-day than what the divine oracles have prescribed. Everything else, as we have said, we teach, approve, and most willingly embrace [in the Second Helvetic Confession].”
Ad tomum I. et II. controversiarum Roberti Bellarmini responsio (Joannes le Preux, 1598), pp. 1519–20. The latin was cited by George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 2013), p. 50 and Balduin, de Cas. Consc., lib. 2, cap. 12, cas. 1. Trans. Charles Johnson
“Those days which are consecrated to Christ in the Church, if they are received only for reason of a remembrance of the saving graces of Christ to us, and are retained, in order to make us more certain concerning these matters and actions, and if they are observed without any superstition of the day, in the way that they were celebrated when they were first instituted, not by the Papists, but by the Church), then, let them be retained for the honor of Christ, for as long as it seems good to the pious Church, because they are matters straightaway indifferent, and means. Although, I think and judge that even these days among us (who cannot now doubt concerning the trustworthiness of the Evangelical history; nor do we, by the grace of God, walk amongst the heathens), these days, I say, are to be abolished. For, every day, by the preaching of the gospel, Christ is born, circumcised, dies, and resurrects for us, Heb. 13:8.”
William Perkins 1558-1602
A Digest or Harmony of the Books of the Old and New Testament, in The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1, ed. Stephen Yuille, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, p. 9-10
A holy day is that which is appointed for holy uses. A holy day is only made by God to whom only it belongs to bless and hallow the times. A holy day begins at the evening and ends at the evening: “From even to even shall ye celebrate the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:32). The holy day common to all ages is the Sabbath, which according to the moral law is a certain seventh day set apart for divine worship.
The Puritans, 1600’s and 1700’s
William van Asselt, Wiliam den Boer, Riemer Faber, the general editors of The Leiden Synopsis (1625), Disputation 21, ‘On the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day’, Thesis 61, footnote 35, p. 555
The Presbyterians in general rejected the feast days; for the Reformed in the Netherlands, however, an original rejection of the feast days gradually changed into acceptance.
From Bruce C. Daniels, Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England, p. 89, this quote was compiled by Andrew Myers
Puritans saved their greatest contempt for Christmas. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they successfully prevented any significant celebrations of it. ‘Foolstide,’ as they called December 25, aroused their special ire for a variety of reasons. In addition to the fact that no [man-made] holy days are sanctioned by Scripture, Puritans hated Christmas because it was an immensely popular holiday in both England and Europe and was almost always the occasion for excessive behavior. Cotton Mather [in his Winter Meditations, quoting a sermon by the Anglican reformer Hugh Latimer] argued that during the ‘Saturnalian jollities” of late December, ‘men dishonoured the Lord Jesus Christ more in the twelve days of Christmas’ than in all the twelve months of the preceding year. Second, Christmas occupied a special place in the ideological warfare of Reformation Europe. Congregational and Presbyterian Puritans; most Anabaptists; Quakers; and several other groups loathed it as an abomination. But Anglicans, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans, among others joined the Catholics in celebrating it. When the Church of England, after separating from Rome, promoted the Feast of the Nativity as a major religious holiday, the Puritans attacked it as one of the most egregious symbols of residual Papist idolatry — a ‘wanton Bacchanalian feast.’ Finally, Puritans argued that to select December 25 as Christ’s birthday was ahistorical. It was far more likely that the true date was celebrated on December 25 because the day had been a Roman holiday, which early Christians coopted. Hence, to celebrate Christmas was to pay tribute to a pagan custom.
David Calderwood, 1575–1650
The Perth Assembly, 1619, p. 24
“The Religion, Doctrine and Discipline received, believed and defended by the Church of Scotland, and namely the public ministration of Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, sitting at the table in the act of receiving the bread and wine of that Sacrament, the observation of the Lord’s Day, and the examination of children, for the first time at the ninth year of their age, for the second at the twelfth, for the third at the fourteenth, excluding and abhorring private baptism, private communion, kneeling in the act of receiving the Supper, holy days, or feast of Christmas, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension and sending down of the Holy Ghost: were brought in at the reformation of religion [in 1560], and enjoyed ever since in manner and form as follows.
After due trial and advertisement taken of the heads in general and particular above written, the whole church was of one heart and judgment concerning the same…”
Samuel Rutherford 1642
A Peaceable & Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland (1642), ch. 20, Article 1
All actions of divine worship, all religious means of worship, all actions of moral conversation must be warranted by, according as it is written, for the which cause our Church [of Scotland] condemns kneeling in the act of receiving the Lord’s Supper, all holy-days dedicated to God or saints, except the Lord’s day, confirmation, bed-communion, surplice, corner-cap, etc., because they are acts of worship and religious means of worship, not according to the Word…
John Trapp, 1601-1669
Commentary on the Whole Bible, on Gal. 4:10
The Christian Church knows no holy days, besides that honorable Lord’s day, Isaiah 57:14; Revelation 1:10, and such holy feasts [of providential thanksgiving], as upon special occasions the Church shall see fit to celebrate, as Nov. 5, etc. (Guy Fawkes Day and the gunpowder plot).
The Flying Eagle Gazette, December 24, 1652 HT: Andrew Myers
“The [British] House [of Parliament] spent much time this day about the business of the Navy, for settling the affairs at sea; and before they rose, were presented with a terrible remonstrance against Christmas day, grounded upon divine Scriptures, 2 Cor. 5:16; 1 Cor. 15:14,17; and in honor of the Lord’s Day, grounded upon these Scriptures, John 20:I; Rev. 1:10; Psalm 118:24; Lev. 23:7,11; Mark 16:8; Psalm 84:10, in which Christmas is called Anti-Christ’s mass, and those Mass-mongers and Papists who observe it, etc. In consequence of which Parliament spent some time in consultation about the abolition of Christmas day, passed orders to that effect, and resolved to sit on the following day, which was commonly called Christmas day.”
1640, ‘Act Discharging Yule Vacation’ of the Scottish Parliament. Yule vacation was the three week Christmas period. These two quotes and notes were compiled by Andrew Myers.
“The estates of parliament, presently convened by his majesty’s special authority, understanding that the kirk within this kingdom is now purged of all superstitious observation of days, and herewith also considering that the keeping of the Yule vacation has not only relation to that superstition and may serve to keep the same in memory, but also that the keeping of the said Yule vacation has interrupted the course of justice in this kingdom to the hindrance and heavy prejudice of the lieges thereof, therefore the said estates have discharged and simply discharge the foresaid Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming, and rescind and annul all acts, statutes and warrants and ordinances whatsoever granted at any time heretofore for keeping of the said Yule vacation, with all custom of observation thereof, and find and declare the same to be extinct, void and of no force nor effect in time coming…”
Christmas (along with other religious holidays) became legal again in Scotland in 1661 under the Recissory Act at the Restoration of Charles II. However, in 1689, under the Glorious Revolution, the Scottish Parliament again passed the “Act Discharging Yule Vacance”:
“The king and queen’s majesties, considering that the keeping of the Yule vacation has been a great interruption to the course of justice in this kingdom, to the hindrance and heavy prejudice of the lieges thereof, therefore they, with and by the advice of the estates of parliament, have discharged and simply prohibit the foresaid Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming, and rescind and annul all acts, statutes, warrants and ordinances whatsoever granted any time heretofore for keeping of the said Yule vacation, with all custom of observation thereof, and find and declare the same to be void and extinct and of no force nor effect in time coming.”
In 1712, under Queen Anne, the Westminster Parliament rescinded the “Act discharging Yule vacance,” but in 1715 , King George I, banned the Yule vacation again. Only in 1958 did Christmas became a legal public holiday in Scotland for the first time since 1560. For its banning in 1560, see the First Book of Discipline, as quoted in Schwertley’s article above.
Presbyterial Government Described, or, A Methodical Synopsis of it, as it is Professed & Practiced in the Church of Scotland… (Edinburgh, 1695), no page number
“21. Neither are they for stated anniversary feasts or fasts, which are sadly profaned and abused among the Romanists, for at least the superstitious unthinking vulgar make little other use of them than for rioting and raveling, sporting and gamming, and other such dissolute practices, highly unbeseeming days that pass under the character and opinion of holy-days: Yet when emergencies and dispensations of providence occur that call for public humiliation and fasting, or solemn Thanksgiving, they think it their duty to consecrate some part of their time for fasts and thanksgiv∣ings, devoutly to deprecate God’s imminent wrath, and to plead the aversion of impendent judgments due to them for their sins, or to praise God for benefits received and to beg further favors; These being such pieces of religious work which God both by his Word and providence sometimes requires. Geneva: Treatise of Fasting; Acts of the Assembly, 1645. ss: Vlt.”