Sports, Book of
Sports, Book Of was a book or declaration drawn up by bishop Morton, in the reign of king James I, to encourage recreations and sports on the Lord's day. It was to this effect:
"That for his good people's recreation, his majesty's pleasure was, that, after the end of divine service, they should not be disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreations; such as dancing, either of men or women; archery for men; leaping, vaulting, or any such harmless recreations; nor having of May-games, Whitsonales, or morrice-dances;, or setting up of May-poles, or other sports therewith used, so as the same may be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or let of divine service; and that women should have leave to carry rushes to the Church for the decorating of it, according to their old customs; withal prohibiting all unlawful games to be used on Sundays only; as bear-baiting, bull- baiting, interludes, and at all times (in the meaner sort of people prohibited) bowling." Two or three restraints were annexed to the declaration, which deserve the reader's notice:
(1) "No recusant (i.e. papist) was to have the benefit of this declaration;
(2) nor such as were not present at the whole of divine service; nor
(3) such as did not keep to their own parish churches — that is, Puritans." This declaration was ordered to be read in all the parish churches of Lancashire, which abounded with papists; and Wilson adds that it was to have been read in all the churches of England, but that archbishop Abbot, being at Croydon, flatly forbade its being read there. In the reign of king Charles I, archbishop Laud put the king upon republishing this declaration, which was accordingly done. The court had their balls, masquerades, and plays on the Sunday evenings; while the youth of the country were at their morrice dances, May games, church and clerk ales, and all such kind of reveling. The severe pressing of this declaration made sad havoc among the Puritans, as it was to be read in the churches. Many poor clergymen strained their consciences in submission to their superiors. Some, after publishing it, immediately read the fourth commandment to the people, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy;" adding, "This is the law of God, the other the injunction of man." Some put it upon their curates, while great numbers absolutely refused to comply; the consequence of which was that several clergymen were actually suspended for not reading it.