« PreviousContinue »
to dishonour it with their worst cluaches, with shops open, with fervile works,stand guilty before God of an high and finful contempo of that lawsul authority under which they live ; for as much as by the statutes of our land, made by the full concurrence of King and ftate, this day is commanded to be kept holy by all English fubjccts; and this power is backed by the charge uf God, submit your selves to every ordinance of w:an for the Lords sake.
If now after all this I should let my pen loose to the fuffragant testimonies whether of antiquity, or of modern divines, and reformed churches, I should trye your patience, and instead of a letter Send you a volume ; Let it suffice that ever since the second tundred
after Christ, this feast hath without contradiction obtained in the church of God, and hath received many noble Elogies, and passionate inforcements from the learned and holy Fathers of the church ; amongst the rest that of Gregory Nazianzen is fo remarkable that I may not omit it; as that which sets forth the exceffe of joyful respect wherewith the anticnt Christians were wont to keep this day.
Let us (faith he ) celebrate this feaft, nor in a panegyrical but tion xpox divine, not in a worldly but supersecular manner ; not regarding so the day of much our felves or ours, as the worship of Christ, &c. And how the Nati.
of Thall wc effect this ? Not by crowning our doors with garlands, nor Corip. by leading of dances, nor adurning our streets ; not by feeding our
eyes, not by delighting our ears with songs, not by effcminating our smel with perfumes, not with humouring our taft with dainties, not with plealing our touch, not with filken
and costly clothes, &c. not with the sparkling of jewels, not with the lustre of Gold, not with the artifice of counterfeit colours, &c. let us leave these things to Pagans for their pomps, &c. But we, who adore the word of the father, if we think fit to affcct delicacies, let us feed our selves with the dainties of the law of God, and with those discourses especially which are fitting for this present festival. So that learned eloquent father, to his auditors of Conftantinople
. Whereto let me ( if you please ) have leave to add one or two practical instances : One shall be of the good Emperour Theodofius lying now for eight moneths under the severe censure of Bishop Amtrofe ; when the feast of the Nativity drew near, what moan did that rcligious Prince make to his courtiers, that he was by that re
in bis of a
rcsolute Bishop fhut cut (for his blood-guiltiness) from partaking with the allembly in thar holy service; and what im ortunate Histor. means did he make for his admiffion! had thar gracious Emperjur Tripar. been of the diet of these new divines, he would have fleighted
c. 30. thac repulse ; and gladly taken this occasion of absence from that superstitious solemnicy ; or had one of these grave monitors been at his elbow, he might have saved that pious Prince the expense of many fighes, and teares which now he bestowed upon his abftention from that dearly affected devotion.
The other shall be an history of as much note as horrour;too clear Nicea proof of the ancient celebration of this festivall; It was under the phur.1.7. Tyranny of Dioclefian & his co-partner Maximinus,that twenty thou. C. 6. sánd Christans, which were mer to celebrate the feart of this blessed Nativity in the large Church of Nicomedia, were made an Holocaust, and burnt, together wich that goodly Fabrick, to ashes, on that day.
Lo, lo great a multicude as twenty thousand christians, of all ages, of both sexes, had not thus met together in a time of so inortal a danger, to celebrate this feast, if the holy zeal of their duty had not told them they ought to keep that day which these novellers teach us to contemn.
Now let these bold men see of how contrary a dispofition they are to these blessed Martyrs, which as this day sent up their souls (like to Manoahs Angel ) to heaven in those flames.
After thus much said ; I Thould be glad to know ( sincc reason there can be none) what authority induces thele gainsayers to oppose so antient and received a cultome in the Church of God; you tell me of a double testimony cited to this purpose, the one of Socrates the Historian; which I suppose is fetcht out of his sth. book of Ecclesiastical story, chap. 2 1. where, upon occasion of the feast of Eatter, he passeth his judgment upon the indifferent nature of all those ancient feasts which were of use in the primitive times ; shewing that the Apostles never meant to make any law for the keeping of festival dayes; nor imposed any mulet upon the not keeping them, but left men to the free observation thereof.
For answer whereunto, I do not cell you that this author is wont to be impeached of Novacianisme ; and therefore may seem fit to yield patronage to such a client ; I rather say that ( take him at the worst) he is no enemy to our opinion, or practise; we agree with
him that the Apostles would have men free from the servitude of the Jewish observation of dayes ; that they enacted no law for set festivalls, but left persons and places so to their liberty in these cases, that none should impose a necessity upon other ; this were to be pressed upon a Vi&or Bishop of Rome, who violently oberuded a day for the celebration of Eafter upon all Churches (supposing in the mean while an Easter universally kept of all christians, though not on the same day) this makes nothing againft us, who place no holiness in the very hours, nor plcad any Apoftolical injunction for daycs, nor tye any perlon or Church to our 1triet calender, but only hold it fit out of our obedience to the lawes boch of our church and kingdome, to continue a joyful celebration of a memorial day to the honour of our blessed Saviour.
But that other authority which you tell me was urged to this purpose, I confeffe, doth not a little amaze me; it was, you say, of King James our learned Soveraigne of late and blessed Memory; whole reftimony was brought in before the credulous people (not without the just applause of a Solomon-like wisdome ) as crying down these festivals, and in a certain speech of his applauding the purity of the church of Scotland above that of Geneva for that it observed not the common feasts of Christs Nativity, and Resurrection, &c. Is it polible that any mouth could name that wise and good King in such a cause, whom all the world knowes to have been as zealous a patron of chose festivals, as any lived upon earch and if he did let fill any such speech before he had any Downe upon his chin, & whilft he was under the ferule, what candor is it to produce it now to the contradiction of his better experience, and ripost judgment?
Nay,is i not famously known that it was one of the main errands of his jcurny into his native Kingdome of Scotland, to reduce that church unto
a conformity to the rest of the Churches of Christendom in the obthe live servation of these folemn dayes ? : and to this purpose, was it not one Articles of of the main businesses which he set on work in the Assembly at
Perth, and wherein he employed the service of his worthy Chaplain Doctor roung, Dean of winchefter, to recall, and re-establish these feftivalls ?
And accordingly; in pursuance of his Majestics carneft defire this way, was it not enacted in that Assembly that the said feasts should bc duely kept? Doubtlesse it was, and that not without much wise
care and holy caution ; which act because it cannot be had every : where, and is well worthy of your notice, and that which clears the
point in hand, I have thought good here to insert:che tenor of it therefore is this.
As we abhorr the fupersticious observation of Festival dayes by the Papists, and detest all licentious, and profane abuse thereof by 5 . the common sort of professors; so we think that the inelțimable
benefics received from God, by our Lord Jesus Christ his Birth, Pas
fion, Rcsurrection, Ascension, and sending down of the Holy : Ghost, was commendably, and godly remembred at certain particuJar dayes and times by the whole church of the World, and
may : be also now; Therefore the Assembly ordaines, that every Minifter
Thall upon these dayes have the commemoration of the foresaid inestimable benefits, and make choice of several and pertinent texts of Scripture, and frame their doctrinc and exhortation there to, and rebuke all superstitious observation, and licentious profanation thereof.
I could (if it were needful) give you other proofes of King James : his zeal for these dayes; but what thould I spend time in proving : there is a fun in the Heaven and light in that Sun? The name of that
great King suffereth for his excesse this way. Shortly then, the Church of God, his anointed, law, antiquity, reason are for us in
this point, and I doubt not but you will gladly be on their side; a: way with
all innovations and frivolous quarrels, we were divided enough before, and little needed any new rents. The God of peace
quiet all these distempers, and unite our hearts one to another, and i all to himself.
Farwell in the Lord.
My Reverend and worthily Dear Friend, Mr. WILLIAM STRUTHERS:
One of the Preachers of
He haft of your Letters (my reverend and worthy Mr.
Struthers) was not so great, as their welcome, which they might well challenge for your name; but more
for that love and confidence which they imported : thus must our Friendship be fed, that it may neither feel death nor age:
The substance of your Letter was partly Relation, and pardy Request; For the first ; Rumour had in part prevented you; and brought to my ears those Stirs, which happened after my departure; and namely, together with that imperuous Protcstation, some rade deportment of ill-governed Spirits towards his Majesty. Alas! (my dear Brother, this is not an usage for Kings, chey are the nurfes of the Church ; if the child shall fall to scratching and biting the breft
, what can it expect but stripes and hunger ? your Letter profesies that his Majesty sent you away in peace, and joy, and why would any of thole rough-hewn Zelots send him away in discontentment? Brit this was (I know) much againft your heart, whose often protestations assured me of your wife moderation in these things. How carnestly have you professed to me, that, if you were in the Church of Exgland (such was your indifferency in thele indifferent matters) you would make no scruple of your ceremonies ? yea, how (harp hath your censure becn of choicrofradurics amongst us that would