The title of this post paraphrases an exchange between Mr. Potter and George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life." In case you are wondering. You can see the clip from the movie at the bottom of this post.
Here it is, finally, the anti-Christmas rant section of Cotton Mather's "Grace Defended" screed. And I gotta say, the Christians who did celebrate Christmas were having much more fun than I ever had at Christmas. According to Mather: "the Feast of Christs Nativity is spent in Revelling, Dicing, Carding, Masking, and in all Licentious Liberty, for the most part, as tho' it was some Heathen Feast, of Ceres, or Bacchus. "
Mather basically makes two points here. First, you shouldn't celebrate the birth of Jesus by whooping it up, and Second, they don't even know the exact date of Jesus's birthday. So they're not even whooping it up on the right day!
And of course Mather calls down the usual Thunder and Lighting on his congregation for wanting a holly jolly Christmas.
And of course Mather calls down the usual Thunder and Lighting on his congregation for wanting a holly jolly Christmas.
Mather doesn't only sneer at his own churchmen, though, he manages to get digs in against Muslims....
"Can you in your Conscience think, that our Holy Saviour is honored, by Mad Mirth, by long Eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Revelling, by a Mass fit for none but a Saturn or a Bacchus, of the Night of a Mahometan Ramadan?
...and the Catholic Church
"You will roar out the Words, which a late famous Protestant Apostate to the Popish Idolatry, did in unspeakable Horror of Conscience, Dy wital at those words, Heb. X 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of the Living God"
Popish Idolatry. I like that - I'll have to share it with my devoutly Catholic mother this Christmas.
One more item of interest - Mather uses the word "wantonnize" - it's used in other sources from the period and before - including by Shakespeare - but sadly the word has since become extinct.
9. I have one word more to speak, and I may the more freely speak it, inasmuch as the Cause of Godliness is Evidently Concerned in it. It is this, 'Tis an Evident Affront unto the Grace of God, for Men to make the Birth of our Holy Saviour, an Encouragement and Occasion for very Unholy Enormities. The Grace of God never Shone out more Gloriously, than in that occurance upon which an Angel flew from Heaven to tell us, Behold I bring you good Tidings of Great Joy: That unto you there is born this Day a Saviour. But if such an Angel were this day to Preach among you, do you think, He would not Thunder and Lighten Wonderfully against the Vicious practices, in which this Grace of God, and that Holy Saviour, is this Day Affronted by multitudes of Ungodly Men in the World! I do not now propose any matter of Doubtful Disputation, but One, wherein I shall have all godly Persons of whatever different Persuasions in other things, Concurring with me. I do not now dispute whether they who three or four hundred Years after the Birth of our Saviour first began the Festival of his Nativity (I say, first began, for Vessius himself confesses it was not kept in the first and second Century, and Chemistius truly says, Apud Vetistissimos nunquam Legatur!) did not mistake the Time of it. For they who say, Thou hast given this Son to be born this Day, know not what they say; The Day is concealed, yea, it is now beyond Contestation proved, that not only the Month but also the very Year of it, has been Egregiously mistaken. *
*The late most accurate Professor of the Mathematics, in Cambridge has in his Exquisite work about the Chronology of the Bible, brought this Matter under such a Demonstration, that it is no longer to be disputed of the whole process of the Demonstration, is too large to be introduced here. But briefly: we are certain, that our Saviour was born before the Death of Herod, that horrible Tyrant, whom they call, The Great We have now discovered irrefutable Proofs, that this Monster Expired on the Twenty fifth of November, in the 4710 year of the Julian Period, which was three years and above a month, bfore the present Christian Era. Besides many other unquestionable Accounts, concerning the Date of Herods Reign, we have a most infallible one, in the Eclipse of the moon, which happened, as all agree on the Thirteenth of March before his Death. But this infallible Mark, he died in the 4710 year of the Julian Period which was the 4001 year of the World. And the Jewish Kalender has all along made the 25 day of November, an Holiday; Because on that Day Herod the King died. Now the Birth of our Savior must be, at least a Month before the Death of Herod And on the other side, we cannot allow very much more than a Month; because of the Time, which now Easily determined, for the Attendance of the Father John Baptist at the Temple The Opinon of Dr Lightfoot and Some others, who would place the Birth of our Saviour Two years before the Death of Herod, can by no means be now supported. It must unavoidably be the Same Year, But then, it could not possibly be after October Nor, do I know, why it should not be as many Learned men have judged, about the Time of the Feast of Tabernacles which was a glorous and elegant Figure of it The Conjecture, That October being really the Tenth Month to them who begin the Year in January, the Primitive Christians had a tradition of our Saviours being born on the 25 day of the Tenth Month; and this threw the first institutors of the present Holiday into the Error which has ever since been come upon, I Know no need of Paying any Respect unto it Upon the whole; It is now determined, that the Corinthian Era, the Computation whereof was first made by Dionysius Exiguus, between five and six hundred years after the Birth of our Saviour, has misreckoned above three years; insomuch that we are now truly intered into the Year of our Lord, 1716 And it is also determined, that the Birth of our Saviour was before the month of November, in which the Bloody Idumaean, who sought His Death, found his own.
I do not now dispute, whether People do well to Observe such an Uninstituted Festival at all, or no. Good Men may love one another and may treat one another with a most Candid Charity, while he that Regardeth a Day, Regardeth it unto the Lord, and he that Regardeth not the Day, also shows his Regard unto the Lord, in his not Regarding of it. Tho' this I wil take leave to say; If the Churches of NEW ENGLAND preserve the Religion of the LORDS DAY, it will in the Day of Reformation that most come on, be judg'd no Dishonour to them, that they have harmoniz'd with their United Brethren in Scotland, in a Point for which the last of their peculiar Kings once applauded their Purity, even their not having a Yule observed among them What I am going to animadvert upon, is a thing, which there can be no doubt about. And there are some things that render it highly Seasonable, to dispense those Admonitions of God our Saviour, unto our Children, which I am not to pour down upon them. The famous Perkins long since complained; That the Feast of Christs Nativity is spent in Revelling, Dicing, Carding, Masking, and in all Licentious Liberty, for the most part, as tho' it was some Heathen Feast, of Ceres, or Bacchus. Yea, the zealous Martyr Latimer complained, That Men dishonour Christ more in the Twelve Days of Christmas, than in all the twelve Months of the Year besides. All the truly Religious People in the World, still make the Complaint with Lamentation. We also must Mourn in our Complaint, and make a Noise, upon it. My Concern is now, with our own Children; and for such as we must faithfully Admonish in our Ministry, as we shall answer the same unto GOD. Children, We lay the Charges of God upon you, That if any People take this Time, for any thing of a Riotous Tendency, you do not associate with them, in such Ungodliness. No, but let your Answer to those Children of holly be, The Grace of God in Sending us a Great Saviour calls for more Pious Acknowledgements. Let your Own Conscience be appeal'd unto, this Preacher which every one of you has in his own bosume, hearken'd to! Can you in your Conscience think, that our Holy Saviour is honored, by Mad Mirth, by long Eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Revelling, by a Mass fit for none but a Saturn or a Bacchus, of the Night of a Mahometan Ramadan? You cannot possibly think so. At the Birth of our Saviour, we read, A Multitude of the Heavenly Host was heard Praising of God But shall it be said, That at the Birth of our Saviour, for which we owe as High Praises to God as they can do, We take the Time to Please the Hellish Legions, and to do Actions that have much more of Hell than of Heaven in them? I must faithfully tell you, This way of honouring the Blessed JESUS, who came to Redeem us from a Vain Conversation, received by Tradition from our Fathers, ' tis a practical Blasphemy upon Him, an High-handed Blasphemy upon Him. It is to outrage the Holy Son of God! It is to Expose your selves unto that Indignation of Heaven, which they who take the Name of the Lord our God in Vain, ly open unto. If you will yet go on, and will do Such Things, I forewarn you, That the Burning Wrath of God, will break forth among you All Persons, of any the least Godliness, will approve my Faithfulness, in what I have now Spoken; If any Man Dislike it, and REvile it, he only shows the Brand of an Ungodly Man, and a Contempt from from every Citizen of Zion, accordingly belongs unto him.
Upon the Whole: The EXHORTATION that now calls upon us all, must be that, in Cor VI 1 We beseech you, that ye receive not the Grace of God in Vain Oh! Don't Wantonnize upon the Grace of God. But upon every instance of Grace, make that Reflection, What shall I render to the Lord? In short, Rember this Obligations to Holiness, You are still to Read Them, in all that is ever done by the Grace of God for a Sinful World. If GOD be Gracious, My Friend, they Inference from must always be thus, Then I must be Holy and my God, make me so! To Sin the more because of the Grace in our God, Verily, Tis the Foulest profanity, An attempt it is, to call in the God who is of Purer Eyes than to behold Evil, and cannot Look on Iniquity Tis the grossest Ingratitude Evil rendred for Good, in the most odious manner that ever was heard of Evil will never depart from the Doer of it And, What will ye do at the End thereof? Endless, Endless, Misery will be the End thereof! I must say unto you, It is the blackest Note of a Reprobate Mind, a Soul Forsaken of God! And it will pull down a Wrath unto the Uttermost. Sinner, if Grace it self becomes thy Foe, what Friend canst though have in Heaven or Earth? To Wantonnize upon it, is the way to make it so.
That Saying drawes on a CORROLLARY which my Discourse may do well to Lodge, in the Conclusion of it. If it be an Ungodly thing and a Dangerous, to turn the Grace of God into Wantonness, You must Look on it, as the Same thing, to turn the Wrath of God into Ridicule. The Truth is, These Two Things go together, They who do the One, do the Other too. O you that are yet in your Sins, Unbelievers, that have not mad eyour Flight by Faith unto the Only Saviour, You , you are they of whom it is said, Joh III 36 The Wrath of God abideth on them Certainly, You Ridicule that Wrath, or you could not continue in your Sins, You could not but be in Agony, for a Deliverance from the Wrath to come. You make light of that Wrath which throws down Rocks and whereby Mountains are overturned. An Anger, which O Lord who knows the Power of! Miserable Ones, yet walking in the Sinful Waves for with your own Hearts condemn you, Ways that have Destruction and Misery in them. Oh! Break free of your Sins, and Accept and Embrace the JESUS who would Save you from your Sins. Otherwise, you will anon feel the Wrath of God, but find the Force of it Irressistible, the weight of it Insupportable, the Tortures of it in your Wounded Spirit Intolerable. You will roar out the Words, which a late famous Protestant Apostate to the Popish Idolatry, did in unspeakable Horror of Conscience, Dy wital at those words, Heb. X 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of the Living God