« VorigeDoorgaan »
in education and application. Were proper exertion made, but few would be unable to sing in the devotions of family worship.*
Religious instruction is a part of family religion, proper to be attended to, morning and evening, especially on the Sabbath. Every Master of a family
. should set his house in order; and be in it what a preacher is in the pulpit. He should give instruction respecting the doctrines, duties, graces, and ordinances of the gospel. The Israelites were expressly required to instruct their families. “These words, which I command thee, saith the Lord, shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
They were commanded to teach their children particularly the nature and design of the Passover. And David in the seventy eighth psalm, considers it the duty of parents to teach their children, from generation to generation, the wonderful works of God. Elsewhere, they are commanded to “ bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and to “train them up in the way they should go.” In the religious education of children, it is not only important, that they should be taught to read the Bible, but they should commit to memory the most important portions of it, and, that they may be assisted clearly to understand its doctrines and duties, they should be taught catechisms, containing the fundamental principles of our
* That great and good man President Edwards the younger, justly observes : “As it is the command of God, that all should sing, so all should make conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing, that cannot be decently performed at all without learning. Those, therefore, where there is no natural inability, who neglect to learn to sing, live in sin, as they neglect what is necessary in order to their attending one of the ordinances of God's worship.” Let those who are wilfully dumb in God's praises duly consider this observation.
+ They may begin with commiting the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and some of the Psalms of David.
holy religion, accompanied with Scripture proofs. Catechetical instruction is profitable, as it gives just and precise definitions of sacred truth, which the memory can easily retain, and which may serve as a basis, on which to raise the superstructure of divine knowledge. The venerable and pious Mr. Baxter said, some years before his death, that he "esteemed catechising to be so necessary and useful, that he would be contented to spend the remaining part of his life in that work, though he should do nothing else." Too much exertion cannot be made to instil into the minds of the rising generation, the truths of Christianity. It was a true observation of Calvin, If we would have the church flourish, we must begin in the good instruction of children.
Another part of family religion is acknowledging God at our tables. To supplicate the blessing of heaven upon the provisions we receive to nourish our animal natures, and to express sentiments of gratitude to him upon their reception, is reasonable, becoming, and according to Scripture. It is as proper thus to acknowledge God at one meal as another; and it should be done at every formal refreshment, . whether in the morning, at noon, or in the evening. And uniformity, in this practice, is very desirable. Grace at meals is practised, more or less, in most nations. Even the heathen, it is said, make libations to their gods at their refreshments. Our blessed Saviour and his disciples, when they ate, gave thanks, or blessed the Lord, that is, prayed for a blessing to attend it. St. Paul, when in the perils of the deep, asked a blessing upon the food, before he, and those who were with him, partook of it. And saith God “Ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God;—when thou hast eaten and art full then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God.” Says the apostle, "God created meats to be received with thanksgiving of them, which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is
good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.' Let us now,
III. Consider the manner, in which family worship should be observed.
Here let it be remarked, that the good effects, resulting from family worship, depend very much upon the manner of conducting it. As "the preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue are from the Lord;" so divine assistance should be sought in all our attempts to worship Him. Our services must be offered from the heart. If we draw near to God with our mouths, and with our lips do honour Him, while our hearts are far from Him, vain indeed will be our worship. Scripture direction on this subject is, “pray in the spirit;”—“lift up your heart with your hands unto God in the heavens." There must be pious sincerity. It is the fervent or inwrought prayer of a righteous man, that availeth much. We must pour forth our souls in devout aspirations. If we pray otherwise, our prayers will not only be heartless, but fruitless.Family devotion should be observed with solemnity and decency of manner, with deliberation, distinctness, and audibleness of utterance, and with propriety and pertinency in language, in those who conduct the services. All gloominess and austerity in looks or appearance, should be carefully avoided. Our minds should be composed and abstracted from the world. The injunction of Solomon should be remembered: "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.” Job
sent and sanctified his children, before family sacri: fices were offered. Some preparation of this najure is requisite, for a suitable performance of family
devotion. Indeed how can
we pray, when our thoughts are roving to the ends of the earth, and our affections are chained down to the vanities of time and sense. Before religious services commence, all should be present, who are to be, and every thing should be properly adjusted. During the devotions, there should be no noise or disturbance. A solemn awe should pervade the minds of all.
-Family worship should be observed, uniformly, and seasonably. All unnecessary omissions are improper, and have a bad tendency. They will in time generate a carelessness and indifference in regard to such services. Evening prayers should be attended to before any of the family retire, or, by reason of dulness, become unfit for worship. Long services should be avoided; for, where weariness begins, devotion ends. Never should we, like the Scribes and Pharisees, use vain repetitions, or think to be heard for our much speaking Services, that are tedious, will not be profitable. We ought, therefore, always in some measure to consult the feelings of those, who worship with us. Prayer should ever
appropriate, and accommodated to the state of the household.-The postures, adopted in prayer, dictated by the light of nature, and divine revelation, are standing, kneeling, and prostration. Prostration is practised only when a person is under the deepest sense of sin, humiliation, and self abasement, and seems to be best adapted to secret prayer. Kneeling and standing are the most proper postures to be adopted in family prayer.
Both of these are spoken of with approbation in the Word of God. Neither of them is made absolutely necessary, to the exclusion of the other. It is generally proper, therefore, to conform to the usage of those Christians, with whom we worship. If any preference is to be given, it should be to kneeling, rather than standing.
It now remains,
IV. To notice some excuses, which are made, for the neglect of Family Worship.
The general neglect of this duty is sometimes offered as an excuse for omitting it. We regret to be compelled to acknowledge, that Family Worship is comparatively but little observed. How many prayerless families in every place!--families which call not, as families, upon the name of God, and which, therefore, stand exposed to the denunciations of Heaven! Most solemn thought! The neglect of this duty to so great a degree is a lamentable and an alarming consideration. It is a reproach upon our age. But is this neglect an excuse for not observing it? Because others neglect family worship, I may. Because others sin, I may. This is all the force of the
Joshua reasoned not in this manner. Let others do what they would; he resolved, that, as for him and his house, they would serve the Lord. And this ought to be the resolution of every head of a family. And the neglect of this duty ought to awaken every
breast a holy zeal to promote its observance. But, blessed be God! this neglect is not universal. There are some families, which are distinguished by the practice of family worship, and which, like faithful Daniel, fear not the reproach and contempt of the world. And the Lord will declare, I know them; I hearken and hear, and a book of remembrance is written before me for them, that fear me, and think on my name.
Multiplicity of engagements is presented by some as an excuse, for the neglect of family worship. How vain an excuse! The whole business of this life, is to prepare
for the life to come. And is there no time to perform it? There is time enough to do all things necessary, appertaining to this life, and for vain amusements and pleasures, and for acquiring a superabundance of this world's goods; and yet there is