The First Book Of Discipline (1560) On Holy Days

The word of God only, which is the New and Old Testament, shall be taught in every kirk within this realm; and all contrary doctrine to the same shall be impugned and utterly suppressed.

We affirm that to be contrary doctrine to the word, that man has invented, and imposed on the consciences of men, by laws, councils, and constitutions, without the express command of God’s word.

Of this kind are vows of chastity, disguised apparel, superstitious observation of fasting-days, difference of meats for conscience sake, prayer for the dead, calling upon saints, with such other inventions of men. In this rank, the holy-days invented by men, such as Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, and other fond feasts of our Lady; with the feasts of the Apostles, martyrs, and virgins, with others; which we judge utterly to be abolished forth of this realm, because they have no assurance in God’s word. All maintainers of such abominations should be punished with the civil sword.

The word is sufficient for our salvation; and therefore all things needful for us are contained in it. The Scriptures shall be read in private houses, for removing of this gross ignorance.

—Church of Scotland, The Confessions of Faith and the Books of Discipline of the Church of Scotland (London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1831), 45–46.

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  1. Imposing “holy-days” like Christmas “on the consciences of men” is wrong, because they are not expressly commanded in God’s Word. So far, so good. But the response is to impose the abolition of these days on the consciences of men, at the point of the “civil sword”? What about Christian liberty?

  2. It’s curious that Easter and Good Friday (and, I suppose, Pentecost) are not included on the list. Were they not important holidays in the 1500’s? Or did the Reformed Church of the time feel they should be celebrated in some way?

    • Pentecost sometimes appears on such lists. Easter had the sanction of very early Christian observance and it is observed on the Sabbath, as distinct from some of the other “evangelical feast days,” which were chiefly rooted in the medieval church calendar.

  3. We don’t have liberty to invent our own worship of God. That’s the point of the RPW: if it’s not expressly commanded we’re not allowed to do it. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where we’re commanded to observe these “holy days”, or even infer their worship from example. Ergo, they’re forbidden.

  4. ” All maintainers of such abominations should be punished with the civil sword.”

    Wow, Prof. Clark you actually let this “constantinian” quote slip in, LOL.
    Does that means you may be coming round to the Grand Ole Reformed
    view or it was just for Historical purposes,
    Regards Robert.

    • Thanks Scot,
      I commend you in that, while you don’t support the use of the
      Magistrates sword against 1st Table violations of the Moral Law,
      you do honestly show that it was the early Reformed position.
      most if not all of the Reformation era Reformed & Lutherans seem
      to support the Magistrate upholding the First Table of the Law, if I
      recall from Schaffs’ History that the meek & mild Melancthon gave
      his support to Calvin in the instance of Servetus, & Schaff even
      commends Luther for not supporting the use of the sword against heretics.
      Geneva’s influence is clearly seen in the 1st Book of Disc., via Knox.

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