They Refused To Acknowledge Any Human Institution

“Even before Calvin arrived in Geneva, those church holidays that were not Sundays had been abolished. Farel and Viret wished to honour only the Sunday as the Lord’s Day. They refused to acknowledge any human institution.”

~Ioannis Calvini Opera omnia, Series 5, Sermons volume 8, Plusieurs sermons de Jean Calvin, ed. Wilhelmus H. Th. Moehn (Genève: Librairie Droz, 2011), xix qtd. in “John Calvin’s Letters to the Ministers of Montbéliard (1543–1544): The Genevan Reformer’s Advice and Views of the Liturgical Calendar,” Intro by Chris Coldwell, translation by David C. Noe

Source:, Comment 59


The Church Calendar v. Biblical Worship and Biblical History

This whole cyclical liturgical view of worship is wrong. Fesko writes albeit too briefly on this, observing,

The Church Calendar conflicts with the biblical view of worship and what the Reformed tradition calls the regulative principle. There is the constant theme in Scripture that God sets the standards for worship, not man (Deut. 12.32; Matt. 15.9; Lev. 10.1-2; 1 Cor. 14.1ff). For this reason the Westminster divines write that “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will” (WCF 21.1b). God has not instituted the Church Calendar. Paul exhorts Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4.2); he does not give him a schedule to follow. Moreover, the previously cited author claims that the Church Calendar would bring about unity that nothing else can bring about. If this was the case, why did God in all of His wisdom not command the Church to do this? Moreover, the argument that the entire Church body needs to follow the same schedule flies in the face of the occasional nature of the New Testament epistles. A Church Calendar will not bring about greater unity, only Christ can bring unity through the work of the Holy Spirit and the means of grace. If this is how the Church Calendar conflicts with the biblical view of worship, how does it conflict with the Bible’s view of history?​

Note the language that is used to describe the Church Calendar: “In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 303, § 1171; emphasis). Notice that the church calendar operates on a cyclical pattern. It is ancient pagan religions that have a cyclical view of history: “The world-cycle runs its course, obeys it stars, absolves its round, and then the end links on to a new beginning, ushering in a repetition of the same sequence” (Geerhardus Vos, Pauline Eschatology, p. 334). A cyclical view of history is at odds with the biblical view, which is linear—a definite beginning and end, not an endless repetitive cycle. The Church should not expect “a quasi-consummation, which would bear on its face the Sisyphus-expression of endless toil” (Vos, Pauline Eschatology, p. 334). In other words, the Church Calendar repeats the same endless cycle, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, only to start over again with Advent. The biblical view, on the other hand, recognizes that the events of Christ’s ministry are in the past and that we are moving forward to a goal—the consummation of history, the return of Christ, the final judgment, and eternity with our triune Lord.​

God reminds us of this linear understanding of history, a beginning and an end, by the Sabbath. For example, the author of Hebrews writes: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4.9). He reminds his recipients that just as God concluded His creative work and entered His Sabbath rest (Gen. 2.2; cf. Heb. 4.1-11), so too we must desire to enter God’s Sabbath rest. We get a foretaste of that final eschatological rest each and every Sunday. For this reason, OPC Minister and professor at Westminster Seminary, Richard Gaffin, notes that “the pattern of six days of activity interrupted by one of rest is a reminder that human beings are not caught up in a meaningless flow of days, one after the other without end, but that history has a beginning and ending and is headed toward final judgment and the consummation of all things” (“The Sabbath: A Sign of Hope,” OPC Position Paper, p. 6). In a sense, God has given the Church a calendar—observe a Sabbath rest and worship Him on this day (Exo. 20.8-11; cf. Acts 20.7; 1 Cor. 16.2). On the Sabbath we recall the great redemptive events of the past, namely Christ’s first advent, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, and look forward to the consummation of the age and His second advent.​

Source:, Comment 5

Advancing Evil and Impeding Its Solution


December 25, 1557, “With respect to ceremonies and above all the observance of holy days [I offer the following]: Although there are some who eagerly long to remain in conformity with such practices, I do not know how they can do so without disregard for the edification of the church, nor [do I know] how they can render an account to God for having advanced evil and impeded its solution…. Nevertheless, since we have to endure a number of imperfections when we cannot correct them, I am of the opinion that no brother ought to allow the above to be the cause of his leaving his church, unless the majority support the opposite.”[1]

[1] Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice, trans. by Mary Beaty and Benjamin W. Farley {Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991}, 90.

Source:, Comment 4

James Gilfillan on Holidays

James Gilfillan


Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press

From an early time piety and zeal, by adding to the institutions of Heaven, began, unwittingly, to prepare the way for further errors and future strife. In these feelings originated the appointment of stated days for the commemoration of particular events in the history of the Savior. The same feelings produced another class of sacred seasons. The day of martyrdom was regarded as “the day of birth to a happy life for ever,” and, therefore, worthy of grateful celebration. Such days were called Natalitia. To ceremonies without Divine rule there was no limit. The saints entitled to the honor of commemoration amounted, in the course of some centuries, to a multitude for each day of the year, [Note: “Except the first day of January, when the Gentiles had been so intent upon their own riots as to have no leisure for martyring the Christians” (Durandus, Ration. Off., lib. vii. fol. 242). Durandus, alleging Eusebius as his authority, gives the number of martyrs at 5000 a day. The Editor of Cosin’s Works (v. 23, notes) alleges another authority than Eusebius, and reduces the number to 500!] and the annual holidays of man became more numerous than the Sabbath-days of God…

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Reasons Against Festival Days (David Calderwood)

David Calderwood

Reasons Against Festival Days1

Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press

[Taken from David Calderwood’s (1575-1651) Perth Assembly (1619).]

From the beginning of the Reformation to this present year of our Lord 1618, the Kirk of Scotland has diverse ways condemned the observation of all holy days, the Lord’s Day only excepted. In the first chapter of the First Book of Discipline penned anno 1560, the observation of holy days to Saints, the feast of Christmass, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, and other fond feasts of our Lady are ranked amongst the abominations of the Roman religion, as having neither commandment nor assurance in the word. It is further affirmed that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abomination should not escape the punishment of the civil magistrate. The book aforesaid was subscribed by the Lord’s of secret Council.

In the General Assembly held at Edinburgh anno 1566, the latter confession of Helvetica was approved, but with special exception against some holy days dedicated to Christ: these same very days that now are urged. In the Assembly held anno 1575, complaint was made against the Ministers and Readers beside Aberdeen, because they assembled the people to prayer and preaching upon certain patron and festival days. Complaint likewise was ordained to be made to the Regent upon the town of Drumfreis for urging and convoying a Reader to the kirk with Tabret and Whistle to read the prayers all the holy days of Yule, or Christmass, upon the refusal of their own Reader. Item, an article was formed to be presented to the Regent, craving that all days heretofore kept holy in time of Papistry beside the Lord’s Day, such as Yule day, Saint’s days, and other like feasts, may be abolished, a civil punishment appointed against the observers of the said days. Banqueting, playing, feasting, and such other vanities upon the days foresaid is condemned…

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The Religious Observance of Christmas and ‘Holy Days’ in American Presbyterianism

It may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the history of the beliefs of American Presbyterians, that they were opposed to the religious observation of Christmas and other ‘holy days.’ This article explores some of the historical background of Presbyterianism’s opposition to such days, as well as their practical handling of Christmas in particular, and traces the views of the American Presbyterians up to their embracing ‘holy day’ observance in the early 20th century…

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John Calvin and Holy Days

It is that time of year the Genevan reformer is trotted out to justify in some manner the observance of the church calendar, particularly by folks in traditions that have no business observing it, if they were true to their Reformational principles (i.e. Presbyterians). The Scottish Presbyterians managed to remove observance of any pretended holy days other than the divinely prescribed Lord’s Day in their reformation. Indeed, the Reformed early on seemed ready to precede them in this; but due mostly it seems from desires of magistrates to preserve accustomed holidays, ie. days off for workers and servants, they retained various sets of days. This retained a set of other issues, and to ensure the riotous activities of the old days were not retained, the state churches prescribed that there be services and preaching at those times..

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G.I. Williamson on Romans 14 and Colossians 2 Re Manmade Holy Days

“Here the Apostle instructed the strong to be patient with the weak, because the weak did not yet understand the liberty they had in Jesus. As a matter of fact they were no longer under any obligation to observe even the special days that God had once appointed through Moses. But the problem was that some of the members of the Church in Rome did not yet understand this. And, as long as it was only a particular member of the Church who was afflicted with this lamentable weakness, Paul was willing to patiently bear with him. He was willing, in other words, to tolerate church membership for a person who felt constrained — by a misinformed conscience — to observe these days. In Galatians 4, however, the Apostle had a different concern in view. In this instance the Church as a whole had submitted itself to a yoke of bondage. The Galatian church, as a corporate body, had yielded to the demands of ‘the weak’ by observing these days. And when this happened the Apostle was quite uncompromising in his opposition. The reason is that it is wrong for the Church to include in its corporate worship anything that Christ has not commanded. It is one thing, in other words, to tolerate weakness in individual members. But it is something else again when this errant view is imposed on the whole congregation. Yet this is exactly what we see today in most Reformed Churches.”

Source:, Comment 25

Calvin on Romans 14 and Manmade Holy Days

He passes on now to lay down a precept especially necessary for the instruction of the Church, — that they who have made the most progress in Christian doctrine should accommodate themselves to the more ignorant, and employ their own strength to sustain their weakness; for among the people of God there are some weaker than others, and who, except they are treated with great tenderness and kindness, will be discouraged, and become at length alienated from religion. And it is very probable that this happened especially at that time; for the Churches were formed of both Jews and Gentiles; some of whom, having been long accustomed to the rites of the Mosaic law, having been brought up in them from childhood, were not easily drawn away from them; and there were others who, having never learnt such things, refused a yoke to which they had not been accustomed.

Source:, Comment 23

We Ought To Abolish Abused And Polluted Things

“Grant the keeping of holy days to have been at the beginning a matter indifferent, and setting aside all the former reasons, yet ought they to be abolished, because according to the rule of the Fathers, commended to us by Zanchius (In 4. Praecept. Col. 678.), Non male igitur fecerint qui omnis pr‘ter diem Dominicum aboleverunt, Things indifferent, when they are abused and polluted with superstition, ought to be abolished… The number, the abuses, the superstitions, the false worships, the will-worships of feasts so increased, that there is nothing in the kirk so unsavory to God, so pernicious to men, as to sanctify such and so many days. We pretend that we place no part of God’s worship in the observation of days. But how can we observe a day to the honor of Christ, and not worship him by that observation? That were to make his honor no honor. We use to reason against the Papists, after this manner. To dedicate days to Saints is religious worship. Is it not then religious worship to dedicate a day to Christ; yea surely, and will-worship.”

~Perth Assembly, p. 83.