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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
is said, "feared God with all his house,” meaning, worshipped him with his family. The apostle Paul speaks, in his epistles, of churches in private houses. By this phrase, he means religious families, or families, where religious services were observed. In the Lord's prayer, we have an explicit command for family devotion. “After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father, who art in heaven.” The form of prayer is plural.* It must, therefore, mean social prayer, and if social, then family prayer, for a family is the most proper society to engage in this devotion. The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, having pointed out the duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, adds, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. The subject, upon which he was speaking, and the manner of his speaking, lead us to conclude he meant family prayer.
In his epistle to the Ephesians, he enjoins it, as a duty, to "pray always with all prayer," that is, to offer prayer of every kind, and in every form, and at every proper season. Family prayer must, therefore, be included in this injunction. The apostle Peter exhorts husbands and wives to live together in the discharge of the duties of conjugal affection and gospel obedience, that their "prayers be not hindered;" that nothing may occur to indispose them to social or family devotion. -Further, the imprecation of an inspired prophet "O Lord! pour out thy fury—upon the families, that call not on thy name” is equivalent to a denunciation. And this denunciation against those, who neglect family worship, implies a precept for its observance. -Such are the arguments in favour of Family Religion, derived from the light of nature, and the Sacred Scriptures. And are they not full and explicit? Are they not sufficient to
* When secret prayer is commanded, which is, always individual prayer, the singular form is used, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet.
convince every candid person, that every house ought to be a temple, sacred to Jehovah and the duties of devotion; and that every head of a family ought to be as a king and priest in his own household, making with them a little congregation for divine services?
II. To point out the time for the observance of Family Religion, and the duties included in it.
We are commanded to "pray without ceasing;" -to "continue instant in prayer;"—to "pray always and faint not;"—and, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, to let our requests be made known unto God." The spirit of these texts of Scripture may be applied, in a very great degree, to family prayer. This, then, should be frequent.--The Psalmist, in addressing God, says, “Every day will I praise thee;"—“I daily perform my vows;"_“I cry unto thee daily.” And the Saviour has taught us to pray daily, in his prescribed form of prayer unto his disciples. “After this manner,” says he, "pray ye: Our Father, who art in heaven!-give us this day our daily bread.” Prayer, then, is to be offered, day by day. And the mode of expression proves, that the prayer here intended is social or family prayer. "If family prayer, then, is to be made frequently, and daily, no better time can be assigned for its observance, than morning and evening. These seasons are pointed out by the natural succession of day and night. They occur at suitable intervals, and terminate, alternately, sleep and labour. At the opening and closing of every revolving day, families are convened, the world around them is still, and every thing is favourable to devotion. As we rise from our beds, objects of God's care, and monuments of his mercy, how suitable it is, that our hearts should ascend in thankful acknowledgments to Him, who sustained, and protected us during the defenceless hours of