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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Sinful Keeping of Christmas

By John Davenport (1597–1670)

[God’s 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 man’s 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 Christ’s 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 Christian’s Christian Sabbath. For that was the beginning of Christ’s 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 Christ’s 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 men’s 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.

If upon a Mixed Account: This is not the time of Christ’s Nativity; for Christ was not born in Winter, but rather in September, as I shall evince:

1. From Augustus Cæsar’s 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.