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THESE are the words of Joshua to the children of Israel. Having assembled them together, and related to them a brief history of the Lord's goodness to their ancestors from the days of Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, he exhorted them to engage, with holy devotedness, in his service. “Now, therefore,” said he, "fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods, which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt, and serve ye the Lord. And, if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods, which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in
whose land ye dwell; but, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Whether the Israelites complied with his exhortation or not, whether they served the living and true God, or, false gods; Joshua had determined, most decidedly and deliberately, to serve the Lord of hosts, and to exert all his authority and influence to induce his family to unite with him in this sacred duty. The phrase "serve the Lord” usually signifies, in the Old Testament, worship Him. This, undoubtedly, is the meaning of it, as used by Joshua, for it stands opposed to the worship of false, or, strange gods.
The text, thus introduced, leads to the consideration of Family Religion. We will,
I. Present the arguments in favour of Family Religion;
II. Point out the time for its observance, and the duties included in it;
III. Consider the manner in which it should be observed;
IV. Notice some excuses which are made for the neglect of this duty.
I. Then, we are to present the arguments in favour of Family Religion.
These are derived from the light of nature, and Divine Revelation.
From the character of God, and the relation subsisting between Him and man, we infer the duty of Family Worship. Jehovah is possessed of all possible perfections and excellencies. He is, therefore, worthy of our highest love, praise, and service. His all perfect and adorable nature challenges our unceasing homage. It is this, that makes Him the object of individual worship; and it is this, also, that makes Him the object of family worship. Families owe to God no less homage than individuals.Besides, God has created us with social natures to be improved for religious purposes. Consequently, our social natures bind us to social devotion, and to family devotion, for a family is a radical and natural society, and the first society, that was ever established. Further, God is the founder, Preserver, and Benefactor of families. Their existence, at first, depends upon His will; so, also, does their continuance. Should He withdraw from them His all-supporting hand, their domestick connexion would be dissolved. All the blessings they enjoy as families, whether temporal or spiritual, flow from the Father of mercies." He is their kind and munificent Benefactor. And should they not render the full homage of their hearts to Him, from whom they derived their existence, on whom they constantly depend, and from whom they receive every good and perfect gift which they enjoy? Yes; propriety and gratitude demand it.
The principal design, in the establishment of families, is another argument for Family Religion. They were instituted, that God might seek a seed to serve Him, and thus promote His glory; and, that religion might be transmitted from generation to generation, and extended throughout the earth. In order to this, family religion must be maintained.
The duty of Family Religion may, also, be argued from the personal benefit, which results from it. Religion is the one thing needful—the pearl of great price. It restrains from those vices, which are ruinous to the soul, subdues rebellious dispositions and passions, quiets the troubled conscience, removes the bitterness of affliction, consoles the distressed, delivers from eternal wretchedness, and prepares for eternal glory. It places its possessors under the immediate guardianship of God. How vastly important, then, is Family Religion, which is a great means of promoting piety in households! If, in families, the Scriptures were devoutly read, suitable religious instructions, given, and prayers and praises, solemnly offered, would not the conse
quence be happy? In such little worshipping assemblies, husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, pray for each other. Here oblations are presented with union, interest and delight. Were Family Religion thus observed, would not heads of families be more careful to "abstain from all appearance of evil?” Would they not suppress the turbulence of passion, and walk more in the fear of the Lord? and would not those under their care experience salutary effects? The language of family devotion is to all concerned in it, “There is a God;—There is a spiritual world; There is a life to come.” It tends to promote obedience in children, fidelity in domesticks, and propriety of conduct in all.—Besides, it is an appointed means of obtaining the blessings of heaven. God will hear, and answer the prayers of pious families. Speaking of family worship, Dr. Scott remarks: "On this I look back with peculiar gratitude, as one grand means of my uncommon measure of domestick comfort, and bringing down on my children the blessings, which God has graciously bestowed upon them.” His Son adds “I am persuaded, that to this very much is to be traced, not only the blessing of God, which has descended on his own" (the Doctor's) "family, but the further striking and important fact, that in very few instances has a servant or a young person, or indeed any person passed any length of time under his roof, without appearing to be brought permanently under the influence of religious principle."* And Mr. Gurnal says-“The family is the nursery of the church. If the nursery be neglected, what in time will become of the gardens and the orchards."
The privilege of Family Religion, is another inducement to its observance. "Ilow great the privilege,” says President Davies, “to hold a daily
* See Dr. Scott's Life.
intercourse with Heaven in our dwellings! to have our houses converted into temples for that adorable Deity, whom the heavens, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain! to mention our domestick wants before Him with the encouraging hope of a supply! to vent the overflowings of gratitude! to spread the savour of His knowledge, and talk of Him, whom angels celebrate upon their golden harps in anthems of praise! and to have our families devoted to Him, while others live estranged from the God of their lives!” —
The Scriptures, also, most fully and explicitly inculcate, by example and precept, this highly important duty.
The examples of the good and great, recorded in the Scriptures with Divine approbation, have all the force of a command. They prove the will of Jehovah, and his will is a law. Consequently, all the examples of family devotion, mentioned in the Sacred 'Oracles, with commendation, are virtually precepts, and lay us under obligation to discharge the duties they enforce.--Abel offered sacrifices unto God, and, most probably, for his family. The Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, wherever, in their pilgrimages, they fixed upon a place of residence, erected an altar unto God for family devotion, and called upon the name of the Lord. Joshua resolved, that, as for him and his family, they would serve the Lord. Job practised family worship. "He sent and sanctified his children, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burntofferings, according to the number of them all. Thus did Job continually.” David, having spent the day, in bringing the ark from the house of Obed-edom unto the place he had prepared for it, and in offering burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord, returned, at night, to bless his house-hold, that is, to pray for a blessing upon his family, or to attend upon family devotion. Cornelius the Centurion, it