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people in any government: and give me leave to say, that men are accountable to the government for their time: there ought to be no idleness in the land; for that end bridewells are provided. Of many other sins people are weary; but of this never, unless to sleep or eat, or for want of money to play. We are commanded to redeem the time, because the days are evil;" but these people choose rather to lose their time, and fall into the evil they should avoid. A gamester and a Christian, are as opposite as a saint and a sinner; for the Christian looks to God in the increase of his estate, but the gamester to skill and chance; and there is no more of God in his mind, than there is in his game and it cannot be otherwise. Fourthly, Therefore gaming deserves to be suppressed, because it has been the occasion of breach of friendship, quarrels, bloodshed and murder: if we ought to shun the occasions of evil, to be sure we ought not to indulge them.
The last mischief that belongs to gaming (which I shall mention at this time) is the horrid oaths and passionate im, precations used by the generality of gamesters; but because they are not confined to gaming, but run through the whole conversation of men, they may very well challenge a place among those "crying sins," that I found myself obliged in conscience to complain of, to such as have power in their hands to punish and suppress them.
On the horrid Sin of Oaths, Cursing, and Blasphemies. I HAVE therefore reserved to speak of oaths, curses, and blasphemies till last, because I take them to be the most provoking sin. The other enormities of drunkenness, whoredom, excess, &c. do more immediately relate to ourselves; and are therefore sins against God, because they are a transgression of that order, which he placed in the nature of things: but oaths and blasphemies must be referred to God himself; they are sins committed more immediately against his being, his name, and the majesty and dignity of his nature. It is horrible to hear how he is called upon about every thing, be it never so trivial; yea, about nothing, and worse than nothing. He is summoned at their games, their sports, their obscenities, in their drunkenness, whoredoms, murders, rapines, and treachery. There is a generation that cannot speak without him, though they can live without him. They would make him a voucher of all their falshood, and a witness for their lies, as often as Ephes. v. 16.
they would be believed. But I tremble to remember, with what presumption some men, when transported into rage, invoke him to damn those they are angry with, yea, themselves too; and how impiously they send him at their pleasure upon the errand of their vengeance. Can there be greater blasphemy, than to dare so much as to think, that the holy, wise, and just God, should be the executioner of their passion and fury, and the avenger of their malice and corrupt interests? And it is observable, that if in any thing they are crossed or disappointed, they fall a swearing, cursing, damning, blaspheming; as if the name of God should make them satisfaction; or that it were a sort of ease to them, to deliver themselves of a burden of oaths.
But that which aggravates this evil, is the impudence of the people that commit it: they are not contented to use it at home, and at alehouses and taverns abroad; but in the open streets, markets, and fairs; in the most notorious places of commerce and traffick; to the dishonour of God, the grief and offence of sober men, and the bad example of those that are not so. But this shameful impiety ends not here; it has not only prevailed with the populace, the canaille, the vulgar; but the men of quality, the gentry, and the nobles of the realm, to whom God in his providence hath been more propitious, placing them at the distance of example and imitation to the multitude; even those that ought to be the heads of our tribes, the leaders of the people; whose virtue should at least keep pace with their quality, are guilty of this impious and base custom, and too many of them more concerned in it, than the meanest of the people. And to carry this practice to the utmost height of that mischief it seems capable of doing, too many, God knows, of those in authority use it; even the men, that by law should suppress it! and if men of office and power, that ought, in their several trusts, to be a terror to evil-doers, were so, methinks they should not suffer the name of the God of the nation (whom they pretend to worship) to be so profanely used and blasphemed; and, least of all, that they should be the men themselves, who commit the enormities that they should punish. To say truth, and with grief of soul I speak it, so universal is this contagion in the kingdom, that not only the elder sort and youth, but the children are infected: the boys of seven years old, that in my time did not think upon an oath, are now full of their Goddamn-you's and God-damn-me's at their sports and plays! and the women of our nation, especially those of any rank, who by a reserved education, and the modesty of the sex, were scarcely ever heard to curse, even what they did not like, (much less to swear upon ordinary occasions) are, some
of them, grown hardy enough to do both. At whose door. must all these mischiefs lie? I beseech God to put it into the hearts of our superiors, to use their utmost diligence to rebuke and suppress this and the like impieties!
We profess ourselves to be Christians, followers of that Jesus, in whose mouth no guile was ever found:" what precept did he ever give us, what example hath he left us, to countenance this practice? It is true, he charged his disciples "not to swear at all;" but we cannot think ourselves to obey him, when we swear at every thing: pray consider the great difference there is betwixt Christ and such Christians. Christ is Lord of a more perfect law than that which came by Moses, which admits of oaths in some cases; but they were few, and must be kept upon great penalties: this new law of Jesus takes away oaths, by taking away the cause and need of them, namely, falshood and distrust; and by planting plainness, truth, and integrity in the natures of men, which make them such faithful disciples to him, and so entirely brethren to one another, that there seems no farther use for oaths among men under that qualification. "Ye have heard of old time," saith Christ Jesus, "Thou shalt not fors wear thyself, but perform thy vows unto the Lord :" this was not swearing at pleasure, not swearing vainly; this was thus far good, it was the perfection of the law. So it was, "not to kill, nor to commit adultery:" but Christ Jesus carries it higher: Thou must not be angry: thou must not look upon a woman to lust after her: thou must not swear at all:* thou must not do that which was allowed or dispensed with under the law: for what the law could not do, through weakness, I am come to do: therefore let your communication, your speech, (for so the word should be rendered) be yea, yea, and nay, nay; speak the truth, by saying, yea, yea, or nay, nay; yes, yes, or no, no; for what is more, or imports more, than this, or rises higher, or goes farther, than this plainness and simplicity, is both needless and evil in a Christian; for it cometh of evil.' This is the doctrine of Jesus. Certainly then there can be no agreement between him and the swearing, damning Christians of this age, who are so far from obeying him, whose name they take, that they are not come to the righteousness of the law, that condemns all vain swearing; but lie under the heavy judgment of the Lord for the breach of his third commandment,+ "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain." It is esteemed a profanation of things set apart for divine worship, to employ them in our common and ordinary services; and is it + Exod. xx. 7.
* Mat. v.
not profanation with a vengeance, to suffer the name of the great God to be prostituted at every turn by lewd and debauched people? Can we be so careful of our own names, and so careless of God's? Is it possible, that we can be more tender of ourselves, than concerned for him? For him, I say, who made us, and gives us life, breath, and being; to whom we owe ourselves, and all that we are? but that, men, to right themselves, upon every little affront, should expose their lives to the utmost peril, and not find in their heart so much as to rebuke the indignities daily put upon heaven, is an ill proof of zeal and religion.
But as insensible as such are of their duty, God is not wanting to his own glory he has forbidden these things; let men disobey at their peril.* "Ye shall not swear by my name falsly," saith God," neither shalt thou profane, the name of thy God; I am the Lord." Hear, O ye swearers, the judgment that God has denounced against you!t "Every one that sweareth shall be cut off." How cut off? From God. Again, "The land is full of adulteries; and because of swearing the land mourneth: Behold! the whirlwind of the Lord shall heavily fall upon the head of the wicked."
Of the Sin of Profaneness.
To this I shall add a brief reflection upon that pernicious sin of profaneness, so near of kin to oaths and blasphemy. Such is the degeneracy of the age we are fallen into, that profaneness does not only go unpunished, but boldly lays claim to wit, and fills the conversation of too many of those that think themselves raised above the genius of the vulgar. He is reputed formal, that will not be rude to sacred things; and a man insipid, of no sense or salt, who cannot jeer devotion: and, which is strange, they make the bible a sort of common-place; but it is for mockery, not for piety. The phrases they use, are picked to abuse that holy book; and the profaneness is placed to the account of wit. But truly, if men must rally religion at the peril of passing else for fools, and abuse scripture to purge themselves from the sin of reverencing it, there is here an unhappiness in being conscientious; and, on the side of this world, the temptation to be profane is stronger than the encouragement to be virtuous. For this is my soul grieved, that men should use their wit to abuse him that gave it them; and that, though there is more to be said for religion, than there can be said against
* Jer. xxiii. 10, 19.
+ Zech. v. 3.
it, both with respect to its reasonableness and usefulness, and that the hazard of being irreligious is incomparably greater on the part of these atheistical scoffers, than of men professing to fear God, and believe another world, they shall yet be so constant and obstinate in their loose and lewd conversation? But if the profaning of the least thing that was dedicated to the worship of God in the times of the law, was so heinous a sin, what should we say, when men stick not to profane the name of God himself, and scoff at his revealed will, so much greater than either temple or altar, or those rites belonging unto them! God Almighty give his strong rebuke to this extravagant spirit!
And to you all, that live in the practice of these open and crying sins I have at this time insisted upon, this I say unto you, in the fear of God; 'Repent of the evil of your doings;' bring not down the farther judgments of God upon this land; they may be the affliction of many, but in the end they will be your punishment: ye shall pay the reckoning of their sufferings in the other world, and God will charge you with the calamity that they shall endure! remember, before it is too late. Dreadful things are denounced against the wicked; therefore go not on to gratify your heart's lusts, and to forget the living God; for this shall be the end of such works, that God will certainly bring you to judg ment: "And who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appears?" No flesh can stand in his presence. Consider that awakening saying of the apostle,+
That the righteous scarcely are saved;" and if so, "Where shall the ungodly, where shall the wretched sinner appear?" How shall such be able to hold up their heads in the day of his wrath, in the hour of his judgment, at that great time of inquisition, when a final reckoning shall be past, and all must render an account of the deeds they have done, and receive the reward due unto them? Therefore," while it is to-day, harden not your hearts against God and his law:" flatter not yourselves: to be Christians, ye must be like Christ and if ye will be saved from wrath, ye must be redeemed from sin; for "the wages of sin is death :"+ what we sow, we must reap. Increase not therefore guilt upon your consciences, by rebelling against the light, that shines in them, &c. But lay your impieties to heart, mourn with true contrition of soul, and yet love righteousness and hate iniquity, and ye will prevent the civil magistrate, and probably avert the indignation of God that hangs over the nation. You cannot say you do not know your duty, but you do not