Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
The Sinful Keeping of Christmas
By John Davenport (15971670)
[Gods Call to His People. 1669.]
WHEN you have provoked the Lord to wrath by sin, think not to take up the matter by confessions or prayers or fastings; but remember the doctrine, That God requireth these, and turning to him besides. This was the counsel of God to Joshua. Also we must have good purposes and intentions; yet these are not sufficient unless they produce a real and actual turning to God. O that there were such an heart in them, then they would fear me and keep my Commandments always that it might be well with them and with their children forever. Natural conscience enlightened and awakened, and self-love seeking a mans own preservation and salvation, may work such good intentions and purposes; but they neither continue, because they arise from temporal motives or self-ends, nor are they effectual, because the subject in whom they are is irregenerate and carnal, and therefore such are his purposes; and all flesh is as grass, that withereth and fadeth, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.
Lastly, turn from your evil ways to God and the Rules of his Word. This I might apply to sundry particulars, but at present I shall speak only to one Abuse of this season of the Year, which is called CHRISTMAS; which is to be witnessed against, whether it be done upon a Religious, or Civil, or Mixed Account.
If upon a Religious Account: None can sanctify Time to make a day holy to the Lord, but the sanctifying Spirit in and by some Word of God in Scripture. The feasts of Purim were Civil Festivals, called Good days of feasting, and sending gifts one to another, not Holy times separated from common uses to holy. Now we nowhere find warrant in Scripture for setting apart the day of Christs Nativity from common use to religious holy use. Indeed the day of his Resurrection, the first day of the week, that is by Christ sanctified to be the Christians Christian Sabbath. For that was the beginning of Christs exaltation, but the day of his Birth was the beginning of his Humiliation and Abasement; so that there is not a parity of reason between them.
If upon a Civil Account: How comes Christs Name to be used in it, that it is called Christmas-Day? Whether Mass be taken in the Saxon sense, as signifying a Feast, or in the Popish sense, special Masses being appointed and used in Popery on that day, I will not now dispute. But if in the first sense, how is this time abused by all profane and loose-spirited persons unto gluttony, drunkenness and misspending of precious time in gaming at cards and dice, and other wickednesses! As if Christ was born and given to us, to set mens lusts at liberty and their persons to serve sin and Satan; or as if Christians would imitate the Pagans, in their Bacchanalia and Saturnalia, rather than Christ in his temperance and doing good.
1. From Augustus Cæsars taxing all the Roman Empire at the time when Christ was born, whereupon all went to be taxed, every one to his own City; which caused Joseph, with Mary his espoused wife, to go unto Bethlehem, at that time when, and place where Christ was born. Now the Winter had been an unfit season for such affairs and travels.
2. From the time when the Angel reported the Birth of Christ to the shepherds. It was when they were keeping watch over their flocks by night. Now shepherds watch their sheep by night, not in the open fields, in the Winter, but in the beginning of Autumn; in the Winter they house them .
Lay down therefore all former vain pretences, and yield to this Truth: That the keeping of Christmas in this season, is unseasonable, and in the manner as it is usually done, is unscriptural, irrational, and unlawful.