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James Dodson

[from the Associate Presbyterian Magazine, February, 1879.]

THE holidays have come and gone with all their attendant amusements, pleasures, and festivities. They begin, as every child knows, with that popular day called “Christmas.” Protestants have made the discovery, that this day belongs to the masses. They are unwilling that it should be celebrated exclusively by Roman Catholics, and so they observe it; some as a holy day, the majority, however, as a holiday. It seems passing strange that any Protestants should be found, who regard “Christmas” with a veneration equal to that of the Sabbath; and yet such is the case. Time was when there were stated days for religious services and public worship, besides the Sabbath, but that time is past. Those days belonged to the ceremonial system, and had a typical significance. But Christ, the substance, having come, the shadows have disappeared. It was an observance of Mosaic rites and ceremonially holy days, that occasioned Paul’s reproof of the Galatians. “Ye observe days and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” There is just as much warrant for observing the sacred days which characterized the Old Testament dispensation, as there is for observing “Christmas.”

The Romish Church, in opposition to the word of God, has a great multiplicity of annually returning sacred seasons. The 25th day of December is one of those seasons; at which time, originally, a heathen festival was held. “This day was next baptized into a Romish mass for the birth of Christ.”

The truth is, the day of Christ’s nativity has been irrecoverably lost. Had this date been designed for special religious veneration, its date would have been preserved in the Holy Record, and a divine command given for its proper observance. The absence both of the date and command, makes it as clear to us as a sunbeam, that the natal day of our Saviour, even were it known, should not be honored by any religious observance whatsoever.

Why do Protestants attach any importance to this day? Because it had become to be the custom. Whence did this custom take its rise? From the superstitious Papists. What authority have they for its observance? Uncertain tradition, and the dictum of their infallible (?) Head [the author speaks here of the blaspheming claims of the Pope]. “In vain,” says our Saviour, “do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

“But,” says one, “what objection is there spending it as a holiday?” We answer, it is giving countenance to Roman Catholicism. “How can this be? since they observe it as a holy day, and we as a holiday?” After the close of the Roman Catholic ceremonies connected with this celebration, there is no particular difference in the way they spend the remainder of the “holy day,” from the way it is observed by Protestants; and observation, we think, will verify the statement, that the social observance of it gradually leads to religious veneration. If to observe the day sacredly is superstition—which no well-informed Protestant will deny—the attaching of any particular importance to it whatever, is, to say the least of it, not “avoiding the appearance of evil.”

It is for a lamentation, that the laws in some of the States give “Christmas” for a holiday [this was written in 1879]; that Protestant ministers of the gospel countenance this day of Romish consecration; that editors of religious periodicals fill their columns with puerile “Christmas” stories, which are calculated to make false impressions on the youthful mind, and foster a spirit of superstition. Christian parents are not wholly unblameable. Many have inadvertently fallen in with the popular idea and customary practice of—what?—we may say in plain words, deceiving their children. The little ones around the fireside are told, that if they want any “Christmas” presents, they must hang up their stockings, and, maybe, old Santa Claus will fill them by morning! As children are passionately fond of parents, such a proposition is complied most heartily. Morning comes; the little ones are up bright and early to see what Santa Claus brought them during the night! If the supposed invisible being has been liberal enough to bring them all sorts of candies, and other nice things—it may be, valuable presents—away they go with a quick step and bounding heart, to show papa and mamma what old Santa Claus brought them! Do not parents know, who teach their children such things, that they really deceive them? Is this conduct justifiable? Is it Christ-like? So says Rome; but not the word of God. If they may be deceived in one thing, why not in many? Is there no danger of the children, after they have been let into the secret of the matter, practicing the art of dissimulation on their parents and others? If there is no danger in deception, let it be practiced by all; but if there is, consistency, as well as the word of God, requires its discontinuance.

Roman Catholic institutions, rites, superstitions, and dogmas, are coming into popular favor rapidly enough, without Protestants giving them open countenance. Papists are increasing in the United States at an astonishing rate. This fact ought to startle us; make us vigilant against the wiles of the great Anti-Christ; nerve us for action; and lead us to see the importance of buckling on closely “the armour of light,” that we manfully defend our civil and religious institutions, which are dear to every true Christian heart. Let us give no countenance to any thing peculiar to the Romish Church, whose works are “works of darkness,” and “whose end is destruction!”—(1879).