Archive for December, 2015

Our Duty with a National Covenant, The Covenanters Looking-Glasse

December 20, 2015

“Now there is a double Covenant, Personall, and Nationall, Personall, is that which is presupposed and sealed in Baptism, and reneued in the Lord’s Supper. The Articles whereof, are these two; 1. Faith in God through our Lord Jesus Christ; and 2. Obedience to His Commandments (The Summe of which, is contained in the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments) as a fruit of that our Faith in God. Nationall is, when a whole Nation, at least the generality, do thus engage themselves to the Lord, and such is the Protestation lately taken. Thus much of the first thing propounded, …

Touching this Nationall Covenant or Protestation, we may here observe and consider,

1. What we here promise, and bow to maintaine, and so what we have here renounce.

2. What is it to maintaine and defend the true Protestant Religion.

3. Why & for what ends, we entered into this Protestation.

4. How far this promise and protestation doth bind us.

First, is to maintaine and defend with our lives, power and estate, The True Reformed Protestant Religion, expressed in the in the Doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish Innovations, within this Realme, contrary to the same doctrine. I will not set downe the principall doctrines of the true Reformed Protestant Religion, and Anti-protestant or Popish Doctrines and Innovations, which we here protest against.

I will only set downe some arguments and reasons, why we should with our lives, power and estate, maintaine and defend the True Reformed Protestant Religion in the generall, and consequently, every particular branch and part of it against all Popery and Popish innovations, and every part and parcell of Popery, and they are these:

1. Because of God hath commanded it, and every one ought to make conscience of the commands of God, and to his uttermost power observe and keep them, Jude v. 3. It was needfull for men to write unto you, and exhort you, that ye should earnestly contend for the faith, vix. The doctrine of faith, which was once delivered to the saints: Not only contend, but contend earnestly, with all vehemency and intention of the Spirit, with all our might. To this purpose also is that of the Apostle to Timothy, 2 Tim. 1. 13. Hold fast the forme of sound words which thou hast heard of me, and 1 Cor. 16:13. Stand fast in the faith, that is, both in the doctrine and grace of faith. And no less is pressed on us, Levit. 18. 4,5. Deut. 4:40. and 5. 32, 33. and 6. 3, 17. and in very many other places. Ye shall keep my statues, my judgments, my ordinances and commandments. And if we cannot without drawing guilt on our soules break the lawfull, just and good commands of superiours, how much less may we break the righteous laws of God.

2. Our eternal salvation is built upon this. There is no other Religion, no other way of means in the world by which we can be saved, Acts 4.12, 1. Cor. 15. 2. By which also ye are saved if ye keep in memory (or hold fast) what I preached unto you If we deny, renounce, or forsake this, never looke to goe to heaven, never hope to see the face of God with joy.

3. God glory is greatly promoted and advanced hereby, as by the deny all of the true faith or religion, he is greatly dishonoured, it confirms others in their idolatrous, false or superstitious wayes, and open the mouth of the adversaries and wicked men to speake evill of, and blaspheme the truth and good wayes of God.

4. The true Reformed Protestant Religion is the badge of the true Christian, and true servant of God, their livery and coguisance whereby they are distinguished from all idolaters, pagans, Mahumetans, Papist and Jewes that still cleave to the Mosaicall Rights, long since Abolished by Christ: Yea, by the sincere embracing and profession on hereof, the true Christians and servants of God are distinguished from all hypocrites.

5. The Gospell (upon which the True Reformed Protestant Religion, which we profess, and is established as the publick doctrine of this Church of England, is undoubtedly built) was confirmed by many miracles from heaven, and truly divine. Look throughout the whole book of God, and see how many divine ratifications there have been of the Gospell, and consequently of the true Religion, which we doe now publickly, through Gods great mercy, profess: It is the same with that of the Apostles and people of God in those first primitive times, and which our blessed savior Himself taught, professed and sealed with his blood, and this should be a great indugement to us to embrace, maintaine and defend it to the death.

6. This hath been recommended to us by the blood of all the Martyrs, of our blessed Saviour Himself, of his Apostles and Disciples, they all suffered for this, they loved not their lives unto the death, they willingly suffered the lose of all for and in the defence of it, and sealed it with their blood, stucke to it to the death, and so recommended it to us as a most previous jewell and rich treasure, much better then life itself, and surely this should much animate us to sticke close to our religion, the true Reformed Protestant Religion to the death, seeing we have so many thousands, yea hundred thousands that have dyed in the defence and cause of it.

7. This hath hitherto, and will ever preserve us. As it is our religion for which we are maligned, hated and lotted against by the Papists and other adversaries of the truth; so it is that (or rather God, because of that) that hath hitherto preserved us insight of all the Devils in hell, and wicked men on earth, and all their hellbred desperate plots and malignant designes against it and us, that we have been and still are preserved, to the admiration even of the enemies themselves. And this will ever preserve and protect us if we sticke close unto it, we have Gods word for it, Rev. 3. 10. Because thou hast kept the Word of my patience, I also keep thee from the houre of temptation, which shall come upon all the earth, to try them that dwell upon the earth. And if we deny or forsake this, never look to prosper, the promises even of temproall blessings are made on this condition, that we sticke close to it. See. Deutr. 5:32, 33. and 6.17. and Chap. 28. Rev. 1.3.

So that if either we regard the command of God, or the glory of God, or our owne temporall or eternall good of soule or body, we must maintaine the true Reformed Protestant Religion against all Popery and Popish innovations, we must stick close to it, and maintaine our Religion, unless we will lose soule, body, our estates, and all, at least the true comfort of all.

And what doe we protest against? It is not Popery and Antichristianism, a doctrine containing many positions blasphemous against God and Jesus Christ, and destructive to all Christian Magistrates, Kingdomes & Common-wealths; a doctrine (to use the word of the learned Master Bolton in his sermon preached at Pauls Cross) most false and accursed from heaven, and is ever attended with this inseparable curses, that it will plague the Kingdome that nourishes it, and pay it home at length with a witness, except some right, round and resolute course be taken in the mean time to root it out as in conscience, policy, reason and religion it ought to be, which if once effected, would cut the thread of the Papist hopes forever, making a party or faction here, cut the throat of all the plots against the kings person, crush the Popes heart for any probability or possibility of ever reestablishing , or erecting his accursed tyranny in this island again, and preventing such most bloody, barbarous, and unheard of usage (or butchery rather) as there hath been of late, and still is in Ireland. …

Yea in case of seducing from the true to false religion, or worship of God (as is well observed by a godly Divine) it is cleare that we must bring any to punishment, how neare or deare so ever unto us. See Deut. 13. 6,7,8,9,10. If they brother the sonne of they mother, or they sonne, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosome entice thee, saying let us goe and serve another gods. Thou shalt not consent unto them, nor hearken unto them, neither shall they eye pity them. Our love to God and the true Religion, ought to over-rule our affections to our friends and naturall parents in the flesh, much more our affections towards others, which our saviour confirms, Mat. 10, 37, He that loveth Father or Mother more then me, is not worthy of me, and he that loveth Son or Daughter more then me is not worthy of me.

And in case of the publicke-weale, if any person be an enemy to it, and will not be reclaimed, our affections or our country, and the Common-wealth must over-rule naturall and private affections even to such as are neare and deare unto us and Cicero an heathen determines this among other cases, that if a mans owne Father would betray his country, and do anything that tends to the apparent ruine of the Common-wealth, he must not keepe silence, but preferre the safety of his country before a father, and endeavor to hinder him, or complaine of him. This is just and reasonable, for a publiske good of such convernment ought to be preferred before a private. …

Thirdly, The grounds and reasons of making and entering into this Protestation or National Covenant included in the preamble to the Protestation, to which I referre you for fuller satisfaction, only thus much here in a few words, I conceive it may be of use.

1. To binde all true Protestants more firmly to God, his truth, wayes and worship, and to prevent the growth of Popery and Popish Innovations, and in time to root out both, as in conscience, reason, religion and policy we should, And this is a very speciall meanes to effect it; for this binds us not only to embrace, maintaine, and defend the true Religion, but also to reject Popery, yeah to ppose it, and all such as seeke to advance or uphold it.

2. To discover all Popish persons, and such as stand disaffected to the true Religion, and the peace and welfare of the king and kingdom, Church or State, that they may be dealt with according as to justice doth appertaine.

3. Thereby also the better to disappoint all the adversaries plots and designes against true Religion, the king, kingdom, Church and State, And

4. To continue and increase the honour, peace and welfare of the same, to all which purposes this bond may be of special use, and the most effectuall means to accomplish such blessed ends. Now,

Fourthly, How far and how firmly this bond or Covenant bindeth us?

1. How far, in respect of the wayes and meanes to be used and that is only to lawfull wayes, to do all these things as far as lawfully may, and by all good wayes and meanes, that is, by such wayes and meanes as are warrantable by the Law of God, and the wholesome and good lawes and statues of this realme. …

2. But how firmly doth this binde us?

Answ. In binds us to keep it to the uttermost of our [power, estate and lives] even to the death, so as no law of man, or power of any wordly prince or pontentate whatsoever can absolve us from it. And we promise and protest in the close, that neither hope, feare, or any wordly respect, neither favour nor frowne of men, neither promises nor threats, neither hpe of gaine, profit, pleasures or preferment, or feare of any worldly losse, trouble or the like (for all these as I humbly conceive are included) that make us relinquish this promise, bow and protestation.

And this solemne engagement is made in expressed terms in the presence of Almighty God, and so implicitly calling the Almighty God of Heaven and Earth, who heares what we protest, and doth see our intentions and purpose, and will narrowly observe our future actions, how we keep our solemne promises with his majesty, to reward or take vengeance on us if we do not really, and for the future carefully endeavour by all lawfull means and wayes to performe our promise, vow and protestation.

And which yet further added weight to this engagement, it is made in the presence of the Congregation (yea and I may say of the Angels also) who are witnesses, and will testify against us one day if we willingly and wittingly break this our Covenant.

And this, our owne hands or mauke (which is equivalent) is subscribed and stands on record as a witness to God and men against that man that shall wittingly and willingly break his Protestation, so solemnly made, yea, and this Church, and these walls and pewes will one day rise up to condemn that man.

Hear what God himself saith, or ordinary vows and promises, which are of a far inferiour nature to this. Deut. 23. 21, 23. When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it, for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee, and it would be sin in thee; That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and performe, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, Which thou hast promised with thy mouth: As for instance, if the Jew under the law vowed unto God to offer a Lamb, or a bullocke, or a sheep or goate, etc. So now if any should vow or promise to God, That if such a business succeed well, if such a ship in which he hath a venture returne home well and safe; if such a field of corne prosper and come well in, or the like, he will give so much to the poore members of Christ, or the like in way of thankfulness to God for his goodness: toward him. Or if God doe indeed deliver him out of such a trouble, sickness, misery, or affliction, or the like, he will give so much to such a pious use, etc. Keep a private day of solemne thanksgiving to God, the like, he may neither omit nor delay to do according to his promise, saith Moses from God, Thou Salt not slack to pay (or performe) it, The Lord they God will require of thee, So againe, Numb. 30. 1.2. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or sweare an oath to bind his soule with a bond he shall not breake his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. And if promises and bows touching things voluntary, and of a far less and inferiour nature, made only by a mans self alone, do so strongly binde, that God may justly, and will require it of him, and punish him accordingly for the breach of promise, in case he performe not; how much more doth such a solemne vow and Protestation as this is, made to God, in a thing of this nature (which Religion and reason binds us to observe, though there were no Protestation made nor ever thought of) how much more (I say) doth this binde us, and will God punish the wilfull contemners of breakers of it?

Wherefore brethren, you who have taken this Protestation or Nationall Covenant, and have therein implicitly called God to witness, and be your Judge to take vengeance on you, if you performe not your vow and Covenant to God, be sure the hand of God will follow you, if (which I hope I shall never see and heare of you) endeavour not to performe your Protestation and Covenant according to promise, but wilfully breake it, and much more if also any should wittingly and willingly endeavour to hinder others that endeavour to keep their Covenant, and do willfully disturb them in their duty of maintaining the true Reformed Protestant Religion, or opposing and removing in a legal way any part of Popery or Popish innovations protested against, suppose images, and scandalous Popish pictures, Crucifixes, and the like.

And let a man be sure, that if he performe not his part, but willfully breake it, oppose and hinder others, yet God will performe his part, God will bring the curse upon him which he hath implicitly wished in his protestation in the presence of Almighty God, as he did bring on the Jews the curse which they wished to themselves, Mat. 27.25. And we know it hath layne heavily upon that Nation above sixteen hundred years. When Zedekiah had broken his Covenant with the king of Babylon, see what the Lord saith of him, Ezek. 17. 15, 16. Shall he prosper? Or shall he escape that doth such things? Or shall he break the Covenant and be delivered? As I live, saith the Lord God, surely mine oath which he hath despised, and my Covenant which he hath broken, even it will I recompence upon his own head, v. 19. We have solemnely covenanted and promised, vowed and protested to God the King of heaven, to mataine the true Religion, oppose all Popery and Popish Innovations; to the king on earth, to maintaine his royal person, honour and estate; to the parliament, to maintaine and defend their power and privileges, etc. And we may be sure that man shall not escape, that willfully breaketh his Covenant but the hand of God will find him out, either here to his conversion, repentance and salvation, or hereafter to his condemnation.

Wherefore brethren I beseech you all (and I hope and persuade myself you will) consider what you have promised in the presence of Almighty God, and do your best and heartiest endeavour to keep your Protestation. Oh let not any person draw guilt on his own soule by a wilfull breach or careless neglect of his Protestation, I could therefore with that every good subject would have and set up a copy of the protestation in his own house, to mind himself, so often as he goes in and out of his solemn vow and Covenant made to maintaine and defend with his life, power and estate, the true Reformed Protestation Religion against all Popery and Popish Innovations, the kings majesty person, the power and privileges of parliament, etc.

Yeah all of you have in Baptism solemnely engaged yourselves to God to believe in him, love him, fear him, serve and obey him and in all his righteous commands, to defend his blessed truth, and the professors of it, and consequently to oppose what in you lyeth by all lawfull meanes, all Popery, and Popish Rites and Ceremonies, and whatsoever is contrary to his blessed word and will; Thus every mothers childe of us stands engaged to God, and be sure thou canst not willfully breake Covenant with God, and escape unpunished.”

Thomas Mocket, The Covenanters Looking-Glasse

 

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Demystifying the Nativity Scene! Looking through Middle Eastern Eyes and Problems of Western Romanticism

December 19, 2015

nativity 5

It is that time of the year again that I find so annoying. Just about everything of the season of Christmas is NOT Christian. The main aspect of Christmas is rooted in the pagan celebration of Saturnalia. See my previous article on The Lord’s Nativity and the Pagan Day of Saturnalia. But even those things that are brought into Christmas that seems to be Christian have many issues in and of itself. One of those aspects that I find so annoying is that of the Nativity scene. Let us get it straight right here and now. Having a Nativity scene with a baby Jesus is a complete violation of the Second Commandment. PERIOD. There is absolutely no question about this in the Reformed Faith. Every single Reformed Confession of Faith makes this absolutely and totally clear. It does not matter if you think it is okay because you don’t worship it or not. It is idolatry plain and simple!

As John Calvin rightly said,

” Now we must remark, that there are two parts in the Commandment — the first forbids the erection of a graven image, or any likeness; the second prohibits the transferring of the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms or delusive shows. Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.” -John Calvin, Commentary on Exodus 20:4

Also, At any time you add a spiritual significant to a symbol or even an image it becomes religious in nature whether it is something that is made by Christians or by pagans it becomes religious and therefore becomes a violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship. This does not only apply to Corporate Worship but anytime we answer the call to come in the presence of the Almighty Yahovah whether it is private worship, family worship or Sabbath corporate worship or if you happen to have something that places a spiritual significant on any object or thing. If it has spiritual significance and God has NOT ordained it in His word then it is forbidden.

But in addition to the issue of the baby Jesus there is yet another issue. A Ninth Commandment issue. As Wilhelmus A’Brakel wrote in ‘The Christian’s Reasonable Service’,

“Question: Are men permitted to make images of God—that is, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and of deceased saints, in order to worship and honor them, or to serve God and the saints by them?

We declare, on the contrary, that the making of images of the Trinity is absolutely forbidden. We neither know the spiritual nature of the angels nor the true physical appearance of Christ and the apostles. Thus, the images made of them are without resemblance, and it is vanity to make an image and say: That is Christ, that is Mary, that is Peter, etc. Yes, even if we had their true pictures, we may nevertheless not worship, honor, nor engage in any religious activity toward them. We may not honor Christ, Mary, Peter, and other saints in this manner. The question is twofold, and we shall refute each part individually.”

Do we know what Mary and Joseph looked like whom would have been at the birth of Christ? Not at all and any portrayal of them would not be a true image of them and therefore a falsehood, a Ninth Commandment violation. Even if we did have a true picture of them as A’Brakel states we may not worship, honor or engage in ANY religious activity toward them.

And yet there is one more thing that really bugs me about Nativity scenes. The fact that we are not looking at it through Middle Eastern eyes but through western romanticism. We might have read the passages a billion times and might not have caught it because of the western cultural mindset that we have embedded in us. We read those passages with the cultural eye glasses on with Western culture and mentality and the whole romanticism that has sprouted up around it for centuries since the Middle Ages. One we remove the western cultural eyeglasses and actually see the story of Christ birth through Middle Eastern eyes we start to see that we have a falsehood view of the entire nativity scene.

To begin with there is the Stable.When we envision the Stable we most likely see the following in our minds as it is found all over in books, photos, even in peoples homes for the so-called Christmas season,

nativity 1

 

The ‘katalyma’ is not an inn as everyone assumes but the upper guest room of a house. And the manger was not separate or independent of a house but a lower section of a house where Israelite people would bring there animals inside of their houses but in a lower level section at night. They brought in the animals for two reasons, 1. Thieves. It prevented thieves from stealing the animals in the middle of the night, 2. It added extra warmth from the animals to the house.

What we see when we look through Middle Eastern eyes and the type of housing that they had during that time and what kind of Stable that was within the lower part of their homes we would see the following,

nativity 2.jpg

 

With the inside of the home looking like the following,

nativity 3

Joseph was a “royal.” That is, he was from the family of King David. Being of that famous family, Joseph would have been welcome anywhere in town. In every culture a woman about to give birth is given special attention. Was there no sense of honor in Bethlehem? Surely the community would have sensed its responsibility to help Joseph find adequate shelter for Mary and provide the care she needed. To turn away a descendent of David in the “City of David” would be an unspeakable shame on the entire village. Mary also had relatives in a nearby village. There is a whole host of problems with the traditional nativity scene.

Biblical scholar Kenneth E. Bailey has written a magnificent book entitled Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (2008). In the first chapter of this book, Dr. Bailey presents a convincing case for the historical inaccuracy of certain features of the traditional Nativity story. Dr. Bailey lived in the Middle East from 1935-1995. He spent 40 of those years teaching New Testament in seminaries and institutes in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus. He has spent his academic efforts trying to understand more adequately the narratives of the Gospels in the light of Middle Eastern culture.

The source of this misinterpretation stems from approximately two hundred years after the birth of Jesus, when an anonymous Christian wrote an expanded account of the birth of Jesus that has survived and is called The Protevangelium of James. James had nothing to do with it. The author was not a Jew and did not understand Palestinian geography or Jewish tradition. In that period many wrote books claiming famous people as the authors.

Instead of trying to put Dr. Bailey’s words into my own words I am going use his entire thesis for the argument and let Dr. Bailey himself speak on the issue.

“ Why would Joseph, “of the lineage of David,” in the city of his family’s origin have to seek shelter in an inn and be turned out into a stable? Recently this question was put to me here in Beirut. This paper presents an answer. In this brief study I will attempt to demonstrate that Jesus was born in a private home and that the “inn” of Luke 2:7 is best understood as the guest room of the family in whose house the birth took place. Recent studies have primarily focused on Luke’s theological interests.1 The concern here is the Palestinian cultural background of verses 6–7 which we understand to be traditional material. Indeed, a more precise analysis of that background is critical for both a clearer understanding of the original tradition as well as any interpretation of its use within the Lucan framework.

The Palestinian background of the entire text (vv. 1–7) is clear and strong. Five striking Middle Eastern details mark the passage. First, the author reflects an accurate knowledge of Palestinian geography when he has the Holy Family “go up” from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Second, the custom of “swaddling” infants is a Palestinian village custom, which is observable as early as Ezekiel 16:4 and is still practiced today. Third, the extended family of David is referred to in the oriental fashion as a “house.” This is then amplified for the non-Middle Eastern reader with the fuller phrase, “house and lineage of David.” Fourth, a Davidic Christology informs the text. Finally, Bethlehem is given two names, “city of David” (which presupposes some knowledge of Old Testament history), and “Bethlehem.” Given the Palestinian nature of the material, we will attempt to examine the Middle Eastern cultural background of the story with care.

The cultural assumptions of this text are particularly critical because the story comes to us through a long Church tradition. Most modern versions of that story follow a familiar pattern. The Holy Family arrives late in the night. The local inn has its “no vacancy” sign clearly displayed. The tired couple seeks alternatives and finds none. With no other option, wearied from their journey and desperate for any shelter because of the imminent delivery, they spend the night in a stable where the child is born. But the cornerstone of this popular pageantry is flatly denied in the text of Luke. Popular tradition affirms that the child was born the night the family arrived. But in 2:4 we are told that Mary and Joseph “went up” to Bethlehem. The verse assumes their arrival. Then in verse six we are told, “And while they were there, the days were fulfilled for her to be delivered.” Thus the text affirms a time lapse between the arrival in Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. Mary “fulfilled her days” in Bethlehem.2 We can easily assume a few weeks have passed, perhaps even a month or more. Thus the birth took place in shelter found by Joseph during those weeks. Was Joseph so totally incompetent that he could provide nothing by way of adequate housing after a significant number of days of searching? Was Bethlehem so hardhearted that, after days and days of intense negotiation, a man with a pregnant wife was turned out by everyone? Surely not. How then is the text to be understood? To be specific, where was the manger, and what was the inn? These questions will be discussed in turn.

For centuries, large sections of the Church have assumed that the manger was in an animal stable. Three overlapping questions arise here, which of necessity must be discussed together:

1. Was the birthplace a cave?

2. Was it a stable or a private home?

3. Was it inside or outside the village?

I will try to demonstrate that the place was likely a private home in the village, and may have been a cave.

In the second century, Justin tells us that Jesus was born in a cave outside the city of Bethlehem. The problem is not the cave as such, but rather Justin’s placement of it “outside the village.” Many Palestinian village homes are built into caves.3 Yet Justin’s overall statement seems less than reliable. Due to the influence it has had, this text requires close examination. The statement reads:

But when the child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi came from Arabia and found Him. I have repeated to you…what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the Cave.4

The Isaiah passage alluded to is Isaiah 33:16, which in its LXX version reads, “He shall dwell in a high cave of a strong rock.” One is obliged to suspect that Plummer is right when he accuses Justin of a tendency to “turn prophecy into history.”5 Indeed, all through his dialogue Justin tries very hard to convince his antagonist that Jesus is the Messiah by citing proof texts from the Old Testament. The above passage is no exception. We see the same methodology in his dealing with Genesis 49:11, which mentions tying a colt to a vine. In his commentary on the account of the passion in Luke 19:30–33, suddenly a vine appears. Justin writes, “For the foal of an ass stood bound to a vine at the entrance of the village.”6 Yet in another place Justin uses the same Old Testament verse, but applies his allegories in a different fashion and the vine disappears.7 Thus it would appear that tradition is created, or at least shaped, to fit “prophecy.”

On the positive side, we note the absence of the late-night arrival story. Justin has taken seriously the fact that the text clearly affirms an extended presence in the village before the birth. But the reader is left with two problems. First, the phrase “while they were there” is applied to the cave outside the village rather than to the village itself (as in Lk 2:4). Secondly, we are told that Bethlehem turned Joseph and Mary out and thus they turned to a cave outside the village. The latter is problematic on two counts. First, Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, whom she had just visited (Lk 1:39), lived somewhere nearby in the “hill country of Judea.” If Joseph was rejected in Bethlehem and had no remaining family in the area, he could have turned to Mary’s family and easily found shelter. Secondly, Luke tells us the shepherds visited the baby and were overjoyed at all they had heard and seen (Lk 2:20). As Middle Eastern peasants they surely would have noticed the accommodations offered the Holy Family. If they had been inadequate, as good villagers they would have immediately helped the family make other arrangements. The text gives no hint that anyone was displeased. Thus, despite its antiquity, Justin’s exegesis and his direct and indirect violation of the clear statements of Luke arouse grave suspicions regarding the accuracy of his account of a birth outside the village.

At the same time, the cave tradition itself may be historical. As indicated, many peasant homes in Palestine in the past were, or began as, caves. Thus, Justin’s “cave” and Matthew’s “house” (Mt 2:11) could be the same place. The manger is not a problem, as we will see. The same cave tradition (again outside the village) is repeated in the Protevangelium of James, along with the addition of the late-night-arrival myth. In the Protevangelium, the “days were fulfilled” not in the cave but along the way. Joseph and Mary have to stop because, as Mary says, “the child within me presses me, to come forth.” They are in a desert, and Joseph finds a cave (17:3–18:1) where the child is born and a number of gynecological wonders take place.8 Here we have clearly moved from typology to exaggerated myth. Among other things, the hill country of Judea is hardly a desert (the pressure in both texts to have the birth take place outside of Bethlehem may be theological, as we will observe). Thus, having judged the outside-the-village tradition as textually inaccurate and historically unreliable, and having found no objections to the cave, we turn to an examination of the internal evidence of the text itself.

All of the internal cultural evidence from the story points to a birth in a private home. This data is of two kinds: the make-up of the Middle Eastern extended family, and the physical structure of the Palestinian peasant home.

In Luke 2 we are told that Joseph was returning to the village of Bethlehem from whence his family originated. The Middle Easterner is profoundly attached to his village of family origin. Indeed, though he himself may not have been born there, his home village is an integral part of his identity.9 Even if he has never been there before he can appear suddenly at the home of a distant cousin, recite his genealogy, and he is among friends. Joseph had only to say, “I am Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Matthan, son of Eleazar, the son of Eliud,” and the immediate response must have been, “You are welcome. What can we do for you?” If Joseph did have some member of the extended family resident in the village, he was honor-bound to seek them out. Furthermore, if he did not have family or friends in the village, as a member of the famous house of David, for the “sake of David,” he would still be welcomed into almost any village home. Yet, if we reject both of these alternatives and assume that Joseph did not have family or friends, and did not appeal to the name of David, even if he was a total stranger appearing in a strange village— still he would be able to find shelter for the birth of a child. Indeed, the birth of a child is a special occasion in any culture anywhere in the world. The idea that a woman about to give birth cannot find shelter and assistance from the village women in a Middle Eastern village, even if she is a total stranger, staggers the imagination. We are pressed to affirm on the basis of everything we know of Middle Eastern village life that Joseph most likely sought out and found adequate shelter in Bethlehem. This shelter, we assume, was an occupied private home, for it had a guest room that was full (as we will discover).

What then of the manger? The text tells us, “She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.” The traditional understanding of this verse in the Western world moves along the following path. Jesus was laid in a manger. Mangers are naturally found in animal stables. Ergo, Jesus was born in a stable. However, in the one-room peasant homes of Palestine and Lebanon, the manger is built into the floor of the house. The standard one-room village home consists of a living area for the family (Arabic mastaba), mangers built into the floor for feeding the animals (mostly at night), and a small area approximately four feet lower than the living area into which the family cow or donkey is brought at night (Arabic ka’al-bayt).

The family animals were kept in the one-room house at night, but taken out early each morning.

The text of the New Testament itself alludes to the one-room peasant home in Matthew 5:15 where it states that a lamp is put on a lampstand so that it “gives light to all who are in the house.” Obviously, the house must have one room if a single lamp shines on everyone in it. Furthermore, the one-room house with a lower end for the animals is presupposed in Luke 13:10–17. The family ox and/or donkey was brought into the house at night and taken out early each morning. Thus, everyone knew that every family with any animals carried out this simple domestic chore at the start of each new day. To leave the animals in the house during the day was socially and culturally unthinkable. All of this is presupposed by the text. Jesus knew the head of the synagogue had untied his animals that very morning and led them out of the house. With calm assurance Jesus could announce to his face that he did, in fact, lead his animals out that very morning, confident there would be no reply. Were animals kept in a separate stable, the head of the synagogue could have saved face by asserting firmly, “I never touch the animals on the Sabbath.” But if he tried to claim that he leaves the animals in the house all day, the people in the synagogue would ridicule him with laughter! In short, no one would believe him. Thus the debate ends simply, “As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame” (v.17). Thus, in the case of Luke 2:7, any Palestinian reading the phrase, “She laid him in a manger,” would immediately assume that the birth took place in a private home, because he knows that mangers are built into the floor of the raised terrace of the peasant home.

This assumption is an important part of the story. The shepherds were told that the presence of the baby in a manger was a sign for them. Shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder and indeed, their profession was declared unclean by some of their rabbis.10 Many places would not welcome them. In many homes they would feel their poverty and be ashamed of their low estate. But no—they faced no humiliation as they visited that child, for he was laid in a manger. That is, he was born in a simple peasant home with the mangers in the family room. He was one of them. With that assurance they left with haste.

The details of the one-room peasant home with its manger in the floor have not gone unnoticed. William Thomson, long-term Presbyterian missionary in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, wrote in 1857:

It is my impression that the birth actually took place in an ordinary house of some common peasant, and that the baby was laid in one of the mangers, such as are still found in the dwellings of farmers in this region.11

The two leading 20th century authorities on Palestinian life and the New Testament are Gustaf Dalmann and E.F.F. Bishop. Bishop comments on Luke 2:7 and writes:

Perhaps…recourse was had to one of the Bethlehem houses with the lower section provided for the animals, with mangers “hollowed in stone,” the dais being reserved for the family. Such a manger being immovable, filled with crushed straw, would do duty for a cradle. An infant might even be left in safety, especially if swaddled, when the mother was absent on temporary business.12

Dalmann, in his study of the same verse, records:

In the East today the dwelling place of man and beast is often in one and the same room. It is quite the usual thing among the peasants for the family to live, eat, and sleep on a kind of raised terrace (Arab. mastaba) in the one room of the house, while the cattle, particularly the donkeys and oxen, have their place below on the actual floor (ka’ al-bet) near the door…. On this floor the mangers are fixed either to the floor or to the wall, or at the edge of the terrace.13

Dalmann himself has nearly 100 pages of photographs and scale drawings of a wide variety of such peasant homes, all of which fit his two-level description given above.14 Thus a peasant home is the natural place for the Holy Family to have found shelter and the expected place to find a manger. In the case of Luke 2:7 the home which entertained the Holy Family presumably was not expecting a baby and did not have a cradle, but with a manger built into the floor there was little need for one.15 So why has this rather obvious alternative remained obscured? In some cases it would seem that the cultural assumptions of the exegetes have set it aside.

In spite of the above quotation, Dalmann defends the traditional “lonely birth in a stable” for culturally revealing reasons. Dalmann feels Joseph could have had space in the inn, but “no room for them” means “no suitable room for the birth” (italics mine).16 Dalmann argues that neither “inn,” nor “guest house,” nor “private home” would have provided the necessary privacy, and thus Joseph must have sought out and found an empty stable. In defense of his views Dalmann writes:

Anyone who has lodged with Palestinian peasants knows that notwithstanding their hospitality the lack of privacy is unspeakably painful. One cannot have a room to oneself, and one is never alone by day or by night. I myself often fled into the open country simply in order to be able to think.17

The amazing part of Dalmann’s remarkable discussion is the assumption that the Holy Family wanted to be alone. Rather, it is the German professor who finds the lack of privacy “unspeakably painful,” not the Palestinian peasant. For the Middle Eastern peasant the exact opposite is true. To be alone is unspeakably painful. He does his thinking in a crowd. Naturally, in the case of a birth, the men will sit apart with the neighbors, but the room will be full of women assisting the midwife.18 A private home would have bedding, facilities for heating water and all that is required for any peasant birth. Dalmann’s Western sense of the need for privacy has led him to misread his own meticulously gathered data. His conclusion, that the need for privacy would have forced Mary and Joseph to reject the option of either inn or home in preference for an empty stable, is truly incredible when seen from a Middle Eastern point of view.

Brown observes that in inns people slept on a raised terrace with the animals in the same room. He remarks, “The public inns of the time should not be pictured as snug or comfortable according to medieval or modern standards.19 This we grant. But our point is that a room full of people sleeping together with the animals on a lower level in the same room is snug and comfortable in the eyes of the traditional Middle Eastern gregarious peasant, even in modern times. These reservations can be set aside; and we can say in summary that all aspects of the story, from the precise requirements of the text, to the structure of the peasant home, the dynamics of the extended family, and the sociology of the peasant village, point to a birth in a private home.

This brings us to the second half of our inquiry. What, then, was the “inn”? The traditional understanding of Luke 2:7b, “For there was no place for them in the kataluma,” is that Joseph went to the local commercial inn and was turned away, and then sought shelter in a stable, perhaps the stable of the inn itself. This understanding is seen here as inadequate, from both a cultural and linguistic point of view. In this section we will try to demonstrate that the crowded kataluma was most probably the “guest room” of the home in which the Holy Family found lodging.

This key word, kataluma, which in the West is traditionally translated as “inn,” has at least five meanings. Three of these— “inn,” “house,” and “guest room” —are worth considering in connection with Luke 2:7, and must be examined in turn.

First is the traditional “inn.” An inn by definition is a commercial establishment for strangers and travelers. Brown feels that some kind of a commercial inn is likely because

In New Testament times the religious feeling about hospitality to strangers (characteristic of tribal and nomadic cultures) had declined, so that if the traveler did not have friends or relatives in an area, he had to seek more impersonal shelter.20

His only evidences for this remarkable statement are the facts that the Romans built stopping places for merchants and synagogues sometimes provided hospitality. However, the present author’s thirty-year experience with villagers in the Middle East is that the intensity of honor shown to the passing guest is still very much in force, especially when it is a returning son of the village who is seeking shelter. We have observed cases where a complete village has turned out in a great celebration to greet a young man who has suddenly arrived unannounced in the village, which his grandfather had left many years before. Naturally, differences of language, custom and politics obliged Roman imperialists to make their own arrangements. We grant that, occasionally, overflow Jewish guests were obliged to sleep in the synagogue. But that does not detract from the special hospitality that the Middle Eastern villager in past and present extends to guests in general, and to one of his own in particular. Thus, we can affirm that the presence of Roman mansions and the opening of synagogues for Jewish guests in no way demonstrated a significant decline of the traditional Middle Eastern hospitality, especially if the guest claimed the village as his ancestral home.

But more than this, the very idea of the inn is problematic on many grounds. First, Luke uses pandokheion to designate a commercial inn (cf. Lk 10:36). This common word for an inn is not found in our text. Second, the only other use of the noun kataluma in the Gospels is in Luke 22:11 (and its parallel passage in Mark 14:14) where it clearly does not mean an inn. Third, as we have observed, a man returning to his home village insults his family or friends by going to an inn. Fourth, it remains quite uncertain as to whether Bethlehem would have had a commercial inn. Jeremiah tells of a company of people who stayed at “Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem” (Jer 41:17). The word “Geruth” may well mean a lodging place, but even so, this hardly demonstrates that such a place was still in business in Bethlehem 500 years later, after the area had been overrun by Babylonians, Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids and Romans. We are not aware of any evidence for a commercial inn near or in the village after the exile. Inns, then as now, were found on major roads. No major Roman road passed through Bethlehem, and small villages on minor roads had no inns. Brown’s phrase, “the well-known traveler’s inn at or near Bethlehem,” is hardly justified.21 Fifth, any type of inn is culturally unacceptable as a place for the birth of a child. It is not a matter of privacy (as suggested by Dalmann), but rather the deeply felt sense that a birth should take place in a home. The text does not say that the kataluma was not fit, but rather that it was full. Thus the kataluma was a place where the birth could appropriately have taken place, and an inn was not such a place. Finally, the Arabic and Syriac versions have never, in 1900 years, translated kataluma with the word “inn.” This translation is a product of our Western heritage. Thus, from many points of view, “inn” is inadequate as a translation of kataluma.

What, then, of “house”? The New English Bible translates kataluma as “house.” This understanding is an encouraging move in the right direction. With it the culturally unacceptable translation of “inn” is abandoned and the Holy Family is assumed to be under the protection and shelter of a private home. Yet the translation “house” creates two insurmountable problems. First, the manger is in the house, so why should we be told that Mary was driven out of the place where mangers are located, yet then be told she placed her child in a manger? Second, if Joseph and Mary were welcomed into a home, the master of the home would never have turned an expectant mother out into a stable. These considerations effectively eliminate this option.

What, then, of our third alternative? In Luke 2:7 kataluma is best understood as “guest room.” This is clearly what the word means in Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14. As external linguistic evidence is uncertain, it would seem appropriate to give greater weight to internal evidence. Bishop writes, “If kataluma means guest room in Mark and Luke at the end of the Lord’s life why not at the start in Bethlehem?”22 This suggestion has recently been defended by Miguens.23 Brown rejects Miguens’ proposal and leaves the problem unsolved. Brown argues first against kataluma being a “private home” of some relative because of the absence of “some explanation for the lack of hospitality to an in-law about to bear a child.”24 He rejects a “room in a house” because that argument has been attached by some scholars to an unconvincing additional argument about a cradle slung from the ceiling, and because the kataluma has the definite article. In regard to Brown’s reasoning, we can reply that the private home he suggests may or may not be that of a relative. No unkindness or lack of hospitality is implied when the Holy Family is taken into the main family room of the home in which they are entertained. The guest room is full. The host is not expected to ask prior guests (or a recently married son) to leave. Such would be quite unthinkable and, in any case, unnecessary. The large family room is more appropriate in any case. We grant that the suggestion of a cradle slung from the ceiling is linguistically and culturally unconvincing, but the translation of “guest room” for kataluma should be separated from it in any case. In regard to the definite article, the “guest room” of Luke 22:11 also has the definite article, and there the meaning “guest room” is unmistakable. We would counter that the presence of the definite article reinforces our contention. It is not “a room” but rather “the guest room,” more specifically, “the guest room” of a home, naturally. This option admirably fulfills both the linguistic requirements of the text and the cultural requirements of the village scene. This translation gives new understanding to the story of Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem. They find shelter with a family whose separate guest room is full, and are accommodated among the family in acceptable village style. The birth takes place there on the raised terrace of the family home, and the baby is laid in a manger.

The text is cryptic and begs for some additional information. Yet, if we assume the perspective of a Palestinian reader, the present form of the verse makes good sense. The author records, “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.” The (Palestinian) reader instinctively thinks, “Manger—oh—they are in the main family room. Why not the guest room?” The author instinctively replies, “Because there was no place for them in the guest room.” The reader concludes, “Ah, yes—well, the family room is more appropriate anyway.” Thus, with the translation “guest room,” all of the cultural, historical and linguistic pieces fall into place.

This brings us to a further question, namely, did simple one-room homes have guest rooms? The objection could be raised that a one-room home was surely too simple to have a guest room. The assumption here is that no one wanted animals in the house, and anyone with the resources to build a guest room would surely have first built a stable, but such was not the case. The traditional Middle Eastern farmer lived close to nature and in fact did want the animals in his house for at least two reasons he could verbalize. First, the animals helped heat the house in winter.25 Second, keeping them in the same room the villager slept in assured that they would not be stolen. Surely the head of the synagogue in Luke 13:15 could be classed socially a bit above the average farmer. Yet, as we observed, the text assumes that he has animals in the house. It is we in the West who have decided that life with these great gentle beasts is culturally unacceptable. The raised terrace on which the family ate, slept and lived was unsoiled by the animals, which were taken out each day and during which time the lower level was cleaned. Their presence was in no way offensive. Furthermore, Dalmann gives a number of detailed drawings of village homes which precisely document our point. In his plate n.31, the family room is a great long room requiring three sets of pillars to support the roof. Still, the home is one room, consisting of the family living room terrace (Wohnterrasse) and a lower level (Hausboden) with mangers (Futtertroger) built into the floor of the former. This same house has an adjoining special guest room (Gastehaus). Such a home precisely fits the requirements of Luke 2:7.26

This leads us to ask whether this option has been considered by modern scholars other than Bishop, Dalmann, Thompson and Miguens. Scholarship has long noted “guest room” as a primary meaning for kataluma. Moulton and Milligan suggest “lodging place” for Luke 2:7 and observe, “Elsewhere in Biblical Greek, e.g. I Kings 1:13 (sic. 1:18), Mk 14:14, it has rather the sense of ‘guest room’.”27 Plummer long ago questioned the translation “inn” for kataluma. He writes:

It is possible that Joseph had relied upon the hospitality of some friends in Bethlehem, whose “guest chamber” however was already full when he and Mary arrived. See on xxii.11.28

Leaney used the translation “lodging house,” but does not discuss the question.29 Marshall and Danker reject “inn,” preferring “room in a house,” but then affirm the birthplace to be some place for animals.30 Brown leaves the question unanswered and translates “lodgings” for kataluma.31 In short, Luke’s own meaning of “guest room” has long been recognized but not used in translations due to an inadequate understanding of the wider cultural background of the Palestinian village home with its mangers in the family room.

This brings us to an important final question: how has the text been understood in the Middle East itself? Presumably, the cultural origins of the text would be understood here in the Middle East and reflected in translation and commentary. What then do we find?

We have observed that Justin allows for time spent in the village and then insists that Joseph found nothing and resorted to a cave outside the village. The cave tradition we have accepted. But why the insistence by Justin and the Protevangelium of James that the birth took place outside the village rather than in it as Luke simply states? After reading a number of Arabic and Syriac fathers’ writings on the question, one has the distinct feeling there is an unspoken subjective pressure to understand the birth as having taken place without witnesses because of the sacred nature of the “mother of God” giving birth to the “Son of God.” Even as the sacraments are consecrated in utter seclusion behind an altar screen, so the eyes of even the faithful might not look on the holy event, even so Middle Eastern Christology, Mariology and piety seem to combine to insist that the birth took place where no eye beheld the divine mystery. For this to be possible the story must take place outside the village in some secluded spot. Is it not possible to assume Justin’s outside-the-village account coming from this kind of theological pressure? We can add to this the early allegorization of the text of the New Testament, where attention is focused on the mystical and allegorical meanings behind words, and the exegete is not interested in the humanness of the incarnation in its Palestinian setting. A revealing retelling of Justin’s account, combined with elaborate allegory, can be seen in the work of the great 12th century commentator of the Syriac church, ibn Salîbî. He interprets Luke 2:7b by saying:

Spiritually interpreted, the wrapping with cloths and wraps signifies that the Christ bore our sins and that He was nailed to the Cross in order to cleanse the old man by His blood. Also the cloths and wraps are a sign of poverty and freedom from this world and its goods. He allowed Himself to be put down in a manger so that He could arise on behalf of the human race which is like beasts and animals in that it committed the crime of base rebellion. Thus Christ endured all of this to return us to Himself and to give us the power of life and the drink of the wine of joy.

It is said that the manger refers to the tomb because the master will die and be buried in a tomb that looks like a manger. Luke explains the placing of the Christ in a manger by saying that there was no place for Mary and Joseph in any of the lodging places or houses because of the many travelers from the house of David coming for the registration. So the two of them were obliged to go to a cave near Bethlehem which was a shelter for animals (my translation).32

Here we enter an entirely different exegetical world. This venerable father’s account is rich in the spirituality of his age and his tradition is well worth reading. It is of little help, however, in our attempt at recovering the original Palestinian intent of the material. The Arabic and Syriac versions, like Brown, have opted for neutral words, such as “lodgings,” as their traditions focus on the allegories of the medieval period. What, then, does all of this mean for the faithful as we look forward to the recollection of the miracle of the incarnation?

We all face the enormous weight of church tradition which surrounds us with the “no room at the inn” mythology. If our conclusions are valid, thousands of good Christmas sermons, plays, filmstrips, films, poems, songs and books will have to be discarded. But is the traditional myth of a lonely birth in a stable a help or a hindrance to the reality the text proclaims? Surely a more authentic cultural understanding enhances the meaning of the story, rather than diminishing it. Jesus was rejected at His birth by Herod, but the Bethlehem shepherds welcomed Him with great joy, as did the common people in later years. The city of David was true to its own, and the village community provided for Him. He was born among them, in the natural setting of the birth of any village boy, surrounded by helping hands and encouraging women’s voices. For centuries Palestinian peasants have been born on the raised terraces of the one-room family homes. The birth of Jesus was no different. His incarnation was authentic. His birth most likely took place in the natural place for a peasant to be born—in a peasant home.

We can and should theologize on the glorious resurrected Christ who meets us in the Eucharist. But a proper understanding of the story of His birth forces us to not lose sight of the One who “took upon himself the form of a servant and was found in the likeness of man.”

Second and Fourth Commandment: Early Church on the Lord’s Nativity and Saturnalia The Pagan Day

December 15, 2015

saturnalia

The Nativity of our Lord was not celebrated in the Early Church. In fact, the Early Church actually condemned the celebration of all birthdays as something the sinners do and what the pagans did. So why would we think that if they condemned all celebrations of birthdays that they would allow the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity? But even more so was the condemnation of paganism that was so tied to Lord’s Nativity when the Lord’s Nativity was placed on the pagan day of Saturnalia with all it’s rituals and celebratory acts.

Josephus, First Century Historian confirms that families did not celebrate birthdays:

“Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess” (Josephus. Translated by W. Whiston. Against Apion, Book II, Chapter 26. Extracted from Josephus Complete Works, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids (MI), 14th printing, 1977, p. 632).

But the Lord’s Nativity was not known before a certain date nor was it even celebrated, it was not until Roman Bishops Zephyrinus and Callistus gained power, they compromised in many ways, and thus many associated with their church choose to celebrate the Saturnalia.

The first evidence of the Lord’s Nativity feast is from Egypt. Clement of Alexandria says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May). (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888)

Around the time of Tertullian, the Roman Bishops Zephyrinus (199-217) and Callistus (217-222) had a reputation of compromise and corruption and allowed their church to compromised with paganism. Hippolytus writings confirms the reputation of compromise and corruption of Zepyrinus and Callistus.

But was Zephyrinus and Callistus the first to start the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity? According to a 7th century Armenian scholar called Ananias of Shirak, (600 A.D.), wrote:

“The Festival of the holy Birth of Christ, on the 12th day before the feast of the Baptism, was not appointed by the holy apostles, nor by their successors either, as is clear from the canons…which is 6th of January, according to the Romans. But many years after their fixing the canons, this festival was invented, as some say, by the disciples of the heretic Cerinthus; and was accepted by the Greeks, because they were truly fond of festivals and most fervent in piety; and by them it was spread and diffused all over the world. But in the days of the holy Constantine, in the holy Council of Nice, this festival was not received by the holy fathers” (Ananias of Shirak, On Christmas, The Expositor, 5th series vol. 4, 1896, pp.323-337).

Cerinthus was an Early Church Arch Heretic! Much could be written regarding Cerinthus. He rejected the Old Testament and most of the law of God. He was one of the beginnings of Neonomianism (New Lawism). He was a Gnostic and was completely condemned in the Early Church. But why would Cerinthus choose Dec. 25 for the Lord’s Nativity? Because that was the day of celebration of the birthday of the sun-god Mithra. Saturnalia also took place during December 25th. Therefore it was acceptable to two groups of pagans. Followers of Mithra represented an influential group in the Roman Empire.

But was this adopting of paganism as well as the beginnings of celebrating the Lord’s Nativity fully accepted in the Early Church? Was there protest against beginning these innovations and ideas?

Tertullian, a Second Century Church Father wrote,

“The Minervalia are as much Minerva’s, as the Saturnalia Saturn’s; Saturn’s, which must necessarily be celebrated even by little slaves at the time of the Saturnalia. New-year’s gifts likewise must be caught at, and the Septimontium kept; and all the presents of Midwinter and the feast of Dear Kinsmanship must be exacted; the schools must be wreathed with flowers; the flamens’ wives and the aediles sacrifice; the school is honoured on the appointed holy-days. The same thing takes place on an idol’s birthday; every pomp of the devil is frequented. Who will think that these things are befitting to a Christian master, unless it be he who shall think them suitable likewise to one who is not a master?” (Tertullian. On Idolatry, Chapter X.

“But, however, the majority {‘Christians} have by this time induced the belief in their mind that it is pardonable if at any time they do what the heathen do, for fear “the Name be blasphemed”…To live with heathens is lawful, to die with them is not. Let us live with all; let us be glad with them, out of community of nature, not of superstition. We are peers in soul, not in discipline; fellow-possessors of the world, not of error. But if we have no right of communion in matters of this kind with strangers, how far more wicked to celebrate them among brethren! Who can maintain or defend this?…By us,…the Saturnalia and New-year’s and Midwinter’s festivals and Matronalia are frequented–presents come and go–New-year’s gifts–games join their noise–banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself!…Not the Lord’s day, not Pentecost, even it they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens!” (Tertullian. On Idolatry, Chapter XIV.

Tertullian affirms that the Lord’s Nativity was a replacement and is placed on the days of Saturnalia. There are many today who are trying with all their might to try to disprove any connection between the day the world celebrates the Lord’s Nativity and any part and connection with paganism including the days of Saturnalia. But here we have a second century voice affirming that Christians started to adopt pagan customs and rituals and the days of Saturnalia in the midwinter at the time of Dec. 25th. Here is a voice of that actual time period who fought against these innovations and paganism into the church.

Tertullian also affirms that many of these Christians have by this time induced the belief in their mind that it is pardonable to do what the heathens do for fear that the heathens will blaspheme the Name of Yahovah.

Tertullian affirms that this is a wicked thing and highly condemns these celebrations.

Tertullian also affirms that we should not lest we be apprehensive to be seen to be heathens.

Tertullian also affirms many of the rituals and practices that went along with Saturnalia including gift giving, games and noise, banquets to their din. Including decorating with greenery and likes, caroling, etc, but also a few practices that have over time fallen into disuse.

Finally by the 5th Century we have Gregory I writing a letter to Abbot Mellitus imploring him to allow and adopt pagan rituals into the church as a whole. Mellitus was about to join St. Augustine of Canterbury on the mission to England. How to deal with a pagan culture, and its symbols. Gregory I (590-604) recommends a policy of acculturation.

The Letter in full:

Tell Augustine that he should be no means destroy the temples of the gods but rather the idols within those temples. Let him, after he has purified them with holy water, place altars and relics of the saints in them. For, if those temples are well built, they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God. Thus, seeing that their places of worship are not destroyed, the people will banish error from their hearts and come to places familiar and dear to them in acknowledgement and worship of the true God.

Further, since it has been their custom to slaughter oxen in sacrifice, they should receive some solemnity in exchange. Let them therefore, on the day of the dedication of their churches, or on the feast of the martyrs whose relics are preserved in them, build themselves huts around their one-time temples and celebrate the occasion with religious feasting. They will sacrifice and eat the animals not any more as an offering to the devil, but for the glory of God to whom, as the giver of all things, they will give thanks for having been satiated.

Thus, if they are not deprived of all exterior joys, they will more easily taste the interior ones. For surely it is impossible to efface all at once everything from their strong minds, just as, when one wishes to reach the top of a mountain, he must climb by stages and step by step, not by leaps and bounds….

Mention this to our brother the bishop, that he may dispose of the matter as he sees fit according to the conditions of time and place.” Gregory I, Letter to Abbot Mellitus, Epsitola 76, PL 77: 1215-1216

By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though Augustine (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals.

Origen asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday.

Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) ridicules the “birthdays” of gods.

As a note: I continued to use the Lord’s Nativity throughout this piece for a particular reason. The word Christmas was in non-existence by most of the history of the church. It was a term that was invented only in the 10th century and was an Anglo-Saxon word ‘Crīstes mæsse’ that first appeared in 1038 A.D..

The Covenanter Communion

December 9, 2015

scotland-landscape-meadow-tree-green-hill-lakes

 

Covenanters, Though historically they were predominately lowlanders there were many highlander’s among them including two of the largest Highlander clans and like all true Scotsmen, “They fought like warrior poets.” and were poetic to the core. And may we imitate them and their faith & actions for the glory of Christ.

The Covenanter Communion by David Vedder Dedicated to Doctor Reverand Thomas M’crie, 1828

I. Dark is the page that chronicles the time When James the latest tyrant of his race Reigned o’er his bleeding country Not sublime With golden sceptre but an iron mace With which he crushed his subjects power and place Were given to base familiars who to fill The measure of their crimes in briefest space Did deeds of woe at which the blood runs chill And owned no law except a gloomy bigot’s will

II. Land of my sires beloved of bounteous heaven On wbose blest soil nor slave nor tyrant treads Then then by bigotry thy sons were driven From hearth and home from flocks and flowery Thy winter winds howled o’er their houseless heads Responsive to their wailings and their cries There’s not a grove whose bloom the autumn sheds There’s not a cavern neath thy inclement skies But echoed to their groans responded to their sighs

III. Thy beauteous fields thy straths and meadows grew Loved country like an howling wilderness And commerce on her golden pinions flew To lands illumed by liberty Distress Arrayed in tattered robes usurped her place Thy cities teemed with a detested swarm Of perjured priests and prelates void of grace Rapacious nobles venal judges warm With an unhallowed zeal to crush fair freedom’s form

IV. Thy soil was tainted too with armed hordes Prowling like cannibals in search of blood 2 Assassins bravoes ruthless as their swords Abhorred alike by mankind and by God Who spared nor sex nor age but strewed their road With patriot corses thick as autumn’s leaves But patriot tears shall aye bedew the sod Which blooms above these martyrs hallowed graves Whilst many a balmy sigh from beauty’s bosom heaves

V. Years rolled away and melted in the past As wane the hues of evening into night Fierce as a demon on the midnight blast Rode Persecution in infernal might Showering his deadly influence to blight The fairest flowers in Zion’s garden found Even Desperation quailed beneath his sight And hied him to his fastness where around Reigned pristine Solitude in majesty profound

VI. Then Torture in habiliments of blood Convolved her screws and heaved her hammers high And Murder with her poignard stalked abroad Surcharged with gore at noon day openly Rearing her crimson banners to the sky Like poisonous exhalations Long and loud Was heard the exulting shout and battle cry Of Devastation and her monster brood Whilst Pestilence and Woe tracked the infernal crowd

VII. Fain would I sing the memory of those Uncompromising spirits stern and brave Who like the pristine martyrs nobly chose To stand or fall for Christ’s prerogative As king and head of Zion And to give Their houses to the spoiler to the flames Their bodies to the torture death than live With an accusing conscience and their names Enrolled in characters which dark oblivion claims

VIII. And I would sing their solemn Eucharist Their day of jubilee and joy on earth Held at life’s hazard midst the lonely waste Where nought of life save ptarmigans had birth The doctrines which Heaven’s messengers held forth The sacred Songs of Zion which arose Up to the throne with consecrated mirth Their prayers and aspirations till the close Of that eventful day if Heaven its aid bestows

IX. Adored Intelligence who erst inspired Our martyred sires with fortitude divine Who with a coal from thine own altar fired Their independent spirits to resign Their dear domestic comforts nor repine Against thy providence for conscience sake Assist my strains with influence benign Strains which I to their memories awake Whose hallowed bones are strewed o’er muirland moss and brake

X. Oh bright anticipation glorious truth These precious fragments yet shall re unite Shall ever flourish in immortal youth Bask in the beams of uncreated light A countless multitude of saints in white Their elder brother’s robes with harp and lyre Attuned to rapturous anthems Seraphs bright In concert On the sea of glass and fire Shall welcome them on high to their whole souls desire

XI. Friends of a buried covenant arise And o’er its mouldering relics drop a tear Join in your poet’s fervent sympathies Tho boasted Liberality may sneer That cause as their immortal souls was dear To your heroic fathers Ardently They fought they bled they fell but knew not fear What time a tyrant’s myrmidons drew nigh Hence Freedom’s sacred tree spreads its green branches high

XII. Yet base ingrates with venom’d tongues have jeer’d The memory of this heroic band Unblushing Infidelity hath sneer’d And Defamation rear’d her ebon wand; — Effeminacy push’d her pointless brand Against Truth’s buckler which they nobly raised But shrunk from the attempt in accents bland Hypocrisy with borrowed language praised And Ignorance with mouth extended stood and gazed

XIII. Land of the brave that nursed heroic Bruce And gave the patriotic Wallace birth Thou rt covered with a thousand glorious hues And mightiest of the mighty here on earth May pure religion dwell by every hearth Within thy borders May the patriot’s flame Mix with thy legislation and thy worth Still keep thee on the pinnacle of fame For ever and for aye proceed we to our theme

XIV. The orient skies are tinged with purple hue The summer moon is sinking in the west The opening flowerets bathed in morning dew Seem with ten thousand thousand diamonds drest And yonder lofty mountain’s hoary crest Is radiant with the glories of the morn The fleecy clouds on Heaven’s cerulean breast And misty exhalations upward borne All seem instinct with life the pageant to adorn

XV. The lark is caroling his matin hymn The heath flowers are exhaling heavenly balm Those bleatings from the upland mountains dim Seem like the music of a cottage psalm These ancient elms are verdant as the palm With which the hallowed soil of Judah’s stored The aspin stirs not tis an holy calm A sacred day the Sabbath of the Lord Come heralds of the Cross girt with the spirit’s sword

XVI. Come with the message of salvation fraught Come in the plenitude of heavenly grace Tell of the mighty acts your Master wrought T’achieve redemption for the human race Tell how the Lord of Life the Prince of Peace Upon the accursed tree his life resigned Th Omniscient who pervades all time and space Against even him the hellish hosts combined And Man the base ingrate the black alliance joined

XVII. With energy expatiate on the path The thorny path the man of sorrows trod Tell how he poured out his soul to death To cleanse even foes by his most precious blood And make them reign as Kings and Priests with God Arrayed in everlasting robes of light Beauty for ashes in that blest abode Crowned with unfading diadems more bright Than all the glowing gems that stud the dome of night

XVIII. But now the sun with influence benign His brilliancy above the horizon flings See multitudes impelled by grace divine Like many waters from their mountain springs Come rushing down to witness heavenly things A table in the wilderness is spread Stored with the symbol of the King of Kings The bread of life with which the saints are fed Until they sit on thrones with Christ their living head

XIX. These are the precious of the earth the gems Of God’s creation brightened by his ray When suns and systems shall be wrap’d in flames And like a scroll of parchment pass away This faithful flock shall never know decay But from corruption’s bondage having flown Shall bathe in floods of everlasting day Where Christ their brother is already gone And drink the living stream which issues from his throne

XX. These are the faithful followers of the Lord Who witness for his glorious truths and cause These bare their bosoms to the oppressor’s sword Rather than break their dear Redeemer’s laws Midst persecution’s fires they did not pause Nor compromise the hallowed truths of heaven Tho gaunt with famine fed on roots and haws Like partridges upon the mountains driven Or hid in caverns damp by winter torrents riven

XXI. Fast by the source of Nith’s romantic stream Far upland lies a sweet secluded strath All green and purple bright as poets dream Far from the persecutor’s wonted path There they commemorate their Saviour’s death Beneath the azure canopy of heaven For they by crowned and mitred tyrants wrath From Home and all its sympathies were riven From temples made with hands the scattered flock was driven

XXII. But they remembered Bethel’s hallowed towers And Peniel where the patient Patriarch toiled On Him amidst the desert when hell’s powers And principalities were worsted foiled They knew amidst the solitary wild Where scarcely human being ever trod The mighty master of assemblies smiled On his true worshippers This is the road Up to the highest heavens this is the house of God

XXIII. Now the last straggler from his noisome cave Has joined the motley congregated throng The hoary Pastor mild sedate and grave Comes midst a band of mounted yeomen Strong And watchful piquets the ravines among And sentinels are posted pass words spoke And nimble scouts are sent the plains along Then from the summit of a jutting rock Twas thus the man of God addressed Ids listening flock

XXIV. The desert and the solitary place The arid waste with burning sands o’erspread The howling wilderness shall yet rejoice And in the rose bud’s beauty shall be clad Yes they shall bloom profusely and be glad Libanus glory to them shall be given Their savage dens and parched mountains red With desolation and by thunder riven Shall see the glory of the God of earth and heaven

XXV. Then let the pliant hands be strengthened And let the feeble knees be well confirmed And let the fearful heart no longer dread For the Eternal comes with vengeance armed And all his enemies shall shrink alarmed Blackness shall seize the death devoted crew But with pure rapture let your souls be wanned He brings a glorious recompence to you You re graven on his hands ye God adoring few

XXVI. No more shall films of darkness shvoud the eye Nor shut out visions of creation bright For all the lambent glories of the sky Shall burst at once on man’s astonished sight The palsied and the lame shall bound as light As fawns on Jordan’s flower enamelled plain Iniquity’s effects shall cease to blight The human ear with dulness and with pain The dumb shall utter praise felicity shall reign

XXVII. The scorched wilderness with water stored Men shall astonished and delighted see And fertile as the garden of the Lord The weary and the thirsty soil shall be Dells where ferocious beasts roared furiously And winged serpents hissed shall ever ring Responsive to serial minstrelsy Harmonious as the music of the spring In Sharon’s flowery vale with dew drops glistening

XXVIII. For those whom the Eternal doth redeem And sanctify by his peculiar grace Shall be a glorious highway and its name Writ with a sunbeam shall be Holiness Th unhallowed feet of an abandoned race Shall ne’er pollute the consecrated ground But Zion’s crystal domes with rapturous praise From ransomed millions ever shall resound And with unfading wreaths their temples shall be hound

XXIX. These truths are like the precious evening dews Which imperceptibly fall from on high Upon the tender herb or like the hues Of God’s own bow amidst a murky sky When first it gleamed upon the Patriarch’s eye In pristine glory glowing like a ray Of mercy from a gracious deity On his afflicted people when dismay Wrapped in a sable stole had made their souls a prey

XXX. Then did the congregation of the Lord Unite their hearts and raise their voices high The song of Judah’s captive Poet soared Above their lofty cloud wove canopy Up to the heavens in solemn harmony Blending with seraph harp and angel lyre The plaintive strain drew tears from every eye They thought upon their persecutors dire And on the Church of God midst persecution’s fire

1. Tho the heathen have entered thine heritage Lord Tho thy saints have fallen by the tyrant’s sword Though weltering in their gore they lay To ravenous birds and beasts a prey Yet we will be glad and rejoice in thee Great Source of immortality

2. Tho their blood in torrents has been shed And none to bury the martyred dead Tho our names have become a reproach and scorn For the faithful witness we have borne Yet we will rejoice and be glad in thee Great Source of immortality

3. Tho thy glorious Name they have reviled Tho thy Holy places they have defiled Tho thy Sanctuary they have laid waste And all its carved work defaced Yet we will rejoice and be glad in thee Great Source of immortality

4. Tho we stand upon destruction’s brink Tho our bread is sorrow and tears our drink Tho we re scattered before the wind like chaff And the heathen flout and the foemen laugh Yet we will rejoice and be glad in thee Great Source of immortality

5. Oh let the prisoners groans and sighs Before thy glorious face arise Oh save the captives doomed to die By the ruthless arm of tyranny So shall we give our praise to thee Great Source of immortality

XXXI. And now the Pastor’s orisons aspire With holy fervor to the throne of grace His lips seemed touched as with the living fire From off the altar of the Prince of Peace That God would shew the brightness of his face Would dissipate his suffering people’s night Would make this broken persecuted race With their adored Redeemer walk in white And in his book of life their names and numbers write

XXXII. The Spirit’s influence that day was felt With irresistibly constraining power And adamantine hearts that day did melt Like Alpine snows beneath the Summer shower And multitudes confessed it as the hour Of their emancipation from the thrall Of sin And threatened wrath no more did lower Above them like a black funereal pall But Liberty and Light encircled one and all

XXXIII. Oh thou whom patriots sages martyrs name An emanation from the Deity To me thou art dearer than life’s vital stream Star of surpassing radiance Liberty If there is human bliss beneath the sky Tis Thou must gild it with celestial ray The lowest in thy scale Humanity Recoils with horror from a tyrant’s sway And breaks his galling chains and casts his cords away

XXXIV. But Liberty from Sin and Satan’s sway Is more delightful to the Child of God For Earth and Hell can never take away The glorious gift bought by the Saviour’s blood He bears his cross exulting and the rod He kisses with humility and love Glories in tribulation his abode He knows already is prepared above His robe of righteousness is by the Saviour wove

XXXV. Again the multitude their voices raise To Israel’s God for wonders he had done The pealing notes of gratitude and praise Ascend above th empyrean to the throne Not all the joys their former years had known Had equalled joy like this the sacred strain Symphonious echoed from the mountains lone For Nature seemed to join th adoring train And Heaven and earth seemed linked as with a golden chain

1 Let us lift up our voices aloud to Him Who dwelleth between the cherubim In the star paved mansion above yon sky The Centre of immensity Shepherd of Israel shed one ray On us thy suffering flock to day

2. In Ephraim’s and Manassah’s sight Stir thine all powerful strength and might Break the oppressor’s bow and sword And save thine helpless heritage Lord Shepherd of Israel shed one ray On us thy suffering flock to day

3. Let thy mighty arm be round us still And mould our souls to thy holy will And bring us at last to the wealthy place Illum’d with the light of thy glorious face Th imputed robe the wreath the palm The song of Moses and the Lamb

XXXVI. The just shall live by faith and not by sight Shall bear the Cross if they would win the prize Strong in the strength and mighty in the might Of him whose finger framed the starry skies Their aspirations he will not despise Their humble supplications will not spurn His gracious ear is open to their cries His spirit comforts those who truly mourn And in then sickness sore he all their beds will turn

XXXVII. Eternal pleasures wait for those who win A conquest o er the world by Faith divine When outward circumstances inward sin And Satan’s soul destroying schemes combine When sensual pleasure meteor like doth shine With dazzling influence and delusive glare With holy fortitude in duty’s line To persevere is bliss beyond compare Tis treading that blest path the Saviour trode while here

XXXVIII. Exterminating cruelty hath raged Implacable in Satan since the hour That he and his infernal cohorts waged A bootless war against Jehovah’s power His malice urged him to that happy bower By an indulgent God to mankind given His malice cropp’d of innocence the flower And strewed its blossoms to the winds of Heaven By whose tornado blasts they from the earth were driven

XXXIX. On exultation’s pinions next he flew And formed a sad alliance with the world Anon Rebellion’s horrid trumpet blew Her spears were brandish d and her shafts were hurled Her gory standard also was unfurled Jehovah’s name and statutes were defied Till o’er the mountain tops the waters curled And yawning Ruin’s overwhelming tide Swept from the groaning earth Impiety and Pride

XL Amidst the roar of this appalling scene Where fell Destruction reigned without controul The venerable Patriarch smiled serene And fearless saw the liquid mountains roll Jehovah’s gracious promise cheered his soul His Faith saw future happiness in store Tho Ruin from the centre to the pole Had bathed her chariot’s wheels in human gore And Desolation grim his deadliest aspect bore

XLI. See Abraham at his Maker’s high command Amidst the mountain wild an altar rear And all obedient with unshrinking hand To sacrifice his only child prepare The child of promise and of many a prayer At God’s command he cheerfully resigned His Faith did triumph o er paternal fear Nerved his weak arm and fortified his mind To execute with joy whate’er his God designed

XLII. Hail genuine faith gift of our gracious Lord An unexhausted gift from age to age Enriched by thee the Martyrs on record With cheerfulness trod Persecution’s stage Defied the dungeon’s gloom the bigot’s rage The excruciating torture and the fire The rack the gibbet and the sabre’s edge And praying for their enemies did expire Thus were they chased to Heaven to join the ransomed choir

XLIII. Christians doth Sin impede your heavenward race Do Hell’s suggestions urge you to despair Jehovah sits upon a throne of grace And Jesus Christ reigns Mediator there Approach his table lift your souls in prayer A promised welcome from a faithful God In inspiration’s pages doth appear Procured by Jesus meritorious blood Who of his father’s wrath the bitter wine press trod

XLIV. By faith in Him your sins shall be forgiven Mark the amazing mercy God displays Your spirits sanctified and sent to Heaven Where Saints and Angels bask in glory’s rays And triumph’s song to the Redeemer’s praise Thro the celestial city shall resound Jehovah’s light with undiminished blaze Thro all eternity shall shine around And everlasting bliss unmeasured shall abound

XLV. Now bread the symbol of incarnate God Is broken blest distributed and wine Apt emblem of the Saviour’s cleansing blood Diffuses heavenly rapture thro the line Of reverential worshippers Divine The element in which their souls did move Like the beloved disciple they recline Each on Emanuel’s bosom with what love These aspirations rise up to the throne above

XLVI. Dweller on high ray Saviour and my God Shall I prefer a favourite lust to thee Whose fearful agony and sacred blood From everlasting ruin ransomed me For thou didst suffer in Gethsemane Unheard of tortures in thy sinless soul And on the accursed Mount of Calvary Jehovah’s billows over thee didst roll Whilst all the expanse of Heaven grew black from pole to pole

XLVII. Shall fleeting pleasure falsely called so Seduce me from the joys thou hast in store Shall I eternal happiness forego That Hell may triumph o er one victim more When Thou adored wert wounded to the core By those ingrates thou earnest to redeem Suspended on the cross distained with gore Yet Oh forgive them father was thy theme They know not what they do they know not they blaspheme

XLVIII. Shall I obedient tread the narrow path Or with thine enemies my God be joined Shall endless glory and eternal wrath Hang doubtful in the balance of my mind Oh shall thy invitations be declined So fraught with mercy and replete with grace E’en Heaven and all its glories are assigned Unto the humblest of the human race Who by a living faith thine offers Lord embrace

XLIX. Though Jesus to display his sovereign power And the exceeding riches of his grace Hath at the ninth nay the eleventh hour Reclaimed the vilest of the human race Such monuments of mercy can give peace To none who fondly hell ward persevere No he records it a peculiar case To save convinced sinners from despair And teach them to employ their latest hours in prayer

L. Then henceforth till my heart shall cease to throb God’s grace assisting Sin I will detest And grasp by Faith that grand imperial robe The spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ Dear Saviour may this solemn Eucharist Refresh our spirits in this vale of tears Make us obedient to thy high behest Return a gracious answer to our prayers And in the fiery fight dispel our rising fears

LI. Thus whilst intense Devotion upward soared To Heaven from midst the solitary dell Full suddenly appeared a murderous horde Led to the onset by accursed Dalzell Pealing like fiends the banner cry of Hell Rushing like famished wolves upon their prey Showering their bullets thick as drops that fell Upon the summits of the Cheviots grey What time drear winter reigned with ruthless tyrant sway

LII. One twinkling and the Covenanters formed Their sabres gleamed their spears were levelled low Their broad swords flashed their files with carbines armed Poured in destruction on the astonished foe Thy mountain streamlet Nith began to glow A crimson current Whilst the dying groan The shout of triumph and the shriek of woe Mingled with echoes from the mountains lone And all the gory field was thick with corses strewn.

LIII. The heroes of the Covenant advanced With all the energy of men inspired Dalzell’s ferocious spearmen wildly glanced And inch by inch and foot by foot retired Destructive vollies on his flank were fired Sweeping whole ranks But hark the bugles swell Proclaims a troop of horse who scarce respired With foaming fury incontrollable Then plunged into the fight with savage shout and yell

LIV. Chafed to the verge of madness fierce Dalzell Darted like flickering flattie from van to rear Blaspheming like a very fiend of hell While dropt his myrmidons like leaves when sere Beneath the trusty brand and deadly spear Of patriot strength Yet ere the ruddy sky Of evening disappeared Van centre rear Were broken by th infuriate Cavalry See from th ensanguined field for life for life they fly

LV. Carnage hath done her work And all is hushed All save the lamentation of despair The stiffled sob the dying groan which rushed Incessant on the horror striken ear Shriek execration blasphemy and prayer And praise were blent For on the blood stained sod Oppressors and oppressed commingled were The despot’s tool the patriot saint who trod The thorny path which leads to glory and to God

LVI. To clefts and tarns and precipices steep Crags inaccessible to cavalry To quivering marshes and morasses deep The fugitives forlorn for shelter fly Leaving their fathers brothers sons to die A lingering death upon the bloody field No friendly hand to shut the death set eye Nor comfort to the parting spirit yield Painting the joys of Heaven about to be revealed

LVII. Cease melancholy harp I may not sing Th indignities the hapless sufferers bore In prison and in banishment nor ring The changes on a subject I deplore The brandings mutilations scourgings nor The blood which flowed on scaffolds and on plains My fainting soul is sick of scenes of gore Shrinks from the headsman’s axe the gaoler’s chains The period accursed which Scottish annals stains

The Battle of Severn, The last Battle of the English Civil War!

December 8, 2015

When one thinks upon Maryland and religion the first thought you might have is that it is a Catholic state. But Maryland had a much more complicated history then that!

Leonard_Calvert_by_Florence_MacKubin

Following the death of Leonard Calvert the first royal governor of Maryland in 1647, Lord Baltimore appointed William Stone to be governor. William Stone was the Protestant Governor of the colony of Maryland. His appointment was carefully made and Stone was forced to signed the Religious Toleration Act, which permitted liberty to all Christian denominations.

William_stone_cropped

William Stone came to America in 1628 with a group of Puritans who settled in the lower Eastern shore which is apart of Virginia. Their settlement thrived, but eventually came into conflict with Virginia’s established Episcopal Church.

Additionally during this time a puritan by the name of William Claiborne sailed for Kent Island in the fifth month of the year 1631 with indentured servants recruited in London and money for trading post he wished to establish. He was able to gain the support of the Virginia Council for his project. Claiborne’s Kent Island settlers established a small plantation on the island and appointed a clergyman.

William Claiborne

After the conflict of the Puritans on the lower Eastern Shore with Virginia’s Established Church the Puritans at the invitation of Governor Stone to settle in the Province of Maryland and start a settlement named “Providence” which was first founded on the north shore of the Severn River in 1649.

Stone reached an agreement with Cecilius Calvert in 1648, the 2nd Lord Baltimore to resettle the group in central Maryland.

A little later the settlers moved to a better-protected harbor on the south shore. The settlement on the south shore was initially named ‘Town of Proctor’s’, then ‘Town at Severn’ and later ‘Anne Adrundel’s Towne’.

Today, the City that is at the location of Providence and the Town at Severn is known as Annapolis and the district of Eastport. Annapolis today is known as the state capitol of Maryland but it was not so in 1649. The colony capitol was at that time located in St. Mary’s City in Southern Maryland.

In 1651 a set of rumors were circulating indicating that Lord Baltimore would lose his charter. Parliament had appointed two Commissioners, one of whom was none other than Puritan William Claiborne, to force Maryland to submit to Parliamentary authority since Thomas Greene, deputy to Stone and a Catholic, declared in the eleventh month, 1649 that Charles II was the “undoubted rightfull heire to all his father’s dominions”. All acts taken by the Maryland Assembly would further require an oath of fidelity to Baltimore as “Lord Proprietor”. In the first month, 1654, the Puritans who had settled at Stone’s invitation in Providence communicated to the commissioners that they objected to the oath of fidelity to Baltimore as a Catholic.

In the seventh month of 1654, Stone resigned as Governor under duress. The Puritan Commissioners became governors of the colony, and the first general assembly under their authority was held in the Tenth month, 1654.

Papist and any other individuals who had borne arms against the Parliament could not be members (effectively limiting the membership to Puritans), and among the 44 Acts passed by this group was a repeal of the Toleration Act, and another that forbade Papist from practicing their antichrist heresy.

In the First month of 1655 A Captain Roger Heaman’s who commanded the merchant ship, ‘The Golden Lyon’ arrived in Maryland. William Stone was no longer Governor of Maryland. Another ship called, ‘The Golden Fortune’ also arrived in the colony with a letter from Oliver Cromwell who was Lord Protector addressed the letter to Captain Stone, Governor of Maryland. Stone used this recognition to challenged the authority of the commissioners, seizing back the records of the colony and mustered as many troops as he could to deal with the Puritans settlers.

William Stone sailed North with a small fleet of Cavalier to attack Providence and the settlers.

Soon after Captain Heaman was informed of a plot to kill all the inhabitants of Providence as well as to burn his ship and hill his crew. The women and children of Providence to ‘The Golden Lyon’ and a war council was convened and William Fuller was appointed as the leader of the Puritan settlers of Providence.

On 24th day of the Third month, 1655, Captain Heamans fired on sloops and boats heading toward his ship, forcing their retreat. Heamans then ordered an armed sloop to bar their escape by blocking Spa Creek, the inlet of the Severn to which Stone’s forces had retreated.

In less than a half-hour, the battle was over. 17 of Stone’s forces were killed, including Thomas Hatton, secretary of the colony, and 32 wounded, including Stone. Only two of Fuller’s force were killed.

William Stone surrendered but only after he was promised mercy. Following hostilities, however, the war council issued death sentences for Stone and nine others. Four of the prisoners were executed, but the remainder were saved when the women of Providence begged that their lives be spared.

Thus ending the last battle of the English Civil War. The primarily Puritan assembly retained powers until the 27th day of the Fourth month, 1658, when proprietorship was restored to Lord Baltimore.

I personally live only 30 minutes from Kent Island and 45 minutes from Annapolis and it is totally devoid of the Reformed Faith. It is a dearth, a complete desert of no living water and no body remembers this Reformed and Puritan history. It is a lamentable shame. May the Reformed Faith flourish once again and the hearts of the people turned to Yahovah, the one and only true God.

Of Cameronians and Seceders, The Difference Found Between Them

December 4, 2015

Every once in awhile I will get asked the question “What is the difference between Cameronian Covenanters and Seceders?” or I might get asked the question “What is a Seceder?”

In the year 1761 Cameronian Covenanters also known as the Continuing Societies, Hillmen, Sanquharmen, Reformed Presbyterians and yes even called militant radicals who were the original heirs to the Covenant and were the hardliners of the Covenant wrote a polemic against the Seceders in very explicit details within the Act, Declaration and Testimony of 1761. Seceders went on to become the Revolution Settlement Church while Cameronians remained separated in their own United Societies and where outside the Revolution Settlement Church.

Cameronians and Seceders agreed on many points and I count many Seceders today a dear friend but the following is a summary of the main difference between Cameronians and Seceders as it took form in the 1600s and 1700s. In addition to the following the binding nature of the Solemn League and Covenant on all three kingdoms (and their colonies including former colonies) was also a difference with Cameronians holding the binding nature of the Solemn League Covenant and Seceders holding that the Solemn League and Covenant is not binding.

“By both parties magistracy was held to be a divine ordinance; but the Seceders find its basis in the light of nature, while the Reformed Presbytery maintain that God “hath authorized and instituted in His word the office and ordinance of civil government and governors,” that it hath “its foundation in the moral-preceptive law of God.” As to the end of magistracy, the Secession Testimony puts it thus: – “The Public good of outward and common order in all reasonable society, unto the glory of God, is the great and only end which those invested with magistracy can propose in a sole respect unto that office:” and the Presbytery states it in the this form; – it is “for the preservation of external preach and concord, administration of justice and encouragement of such as are and do good, and punishment of evil-doers who transgress either table of the law.” Both held that the civil authorities in Christian states are bound to have respect to the Word of God and the interest of the kingdom of Christ in all their laws and administrations, and that God had laid down in His word certain qualifications that magistrates ruling over a Christian people should possess; but they differed as to the place to be assigned to these qualifications. Seceders maintained that a “due measure of those qualification was essential not to the being and validly of the magistratical office, but to it’s well-being and usefulness;” while the Presbytery maintained that these qualifications were essential to the being of a lawful Christian magistracy. It was held by the Seceders, that whatever magistracy existed in the Providence of God, and ruled with the consent of the people, was to be acknowledged and submitted to in all commands that were in harmony with the divine law; but the Presbytery maintained, that only such governors were to be voluntarily owned as possessed the qualifications required by the preceptive will of God.. Accordingly, Seceders, while they condemned many things in the British constitution and administration, acknowledged it as God’s ordinance; while the Presbytery refused to own it as God’s moral ordinance, and felt bound to avoid every act which could justly be held as indicating approbation, or as a test of allegiance. And so the former refused to admit those who disowned the existing government while the latter as decidedly refused to receive those who owned it.”

“Each party gave the doctrine of the other unsavoury names; the principles of the Secession were designated anarchical, and those of the Reformed Presbytery, anti-government and disloyal.”

-The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland: Its Origin and History 1680-1876, Matthew Hutchison