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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 nature 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 disturb
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 be 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 excuse. 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 in 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
110 time to prepare for eternity! A heart to pray is wanting more, than time to pray. They, who wish and desire this service, will find time to perform it. There is no well regulated family, which cannot be called together, for half an hour, before the business and pleasures of the day commence, and after they close, to address, in prayer, the Author of their being and blessings.
Inability to perform family worship is sometimes alledged as a reason for not attending to it. In obviating this objection, let it be remarked, that if the heart be rightly disposed, a person does not need any uncommon ability to discharge the duties of family worship, in a decent and edifying manner. The heart of a good man will teach his mouth wisdom, and add knowledge to his lips, and, out of the fulness of his heart, his mouth will speak. And if it speak naturally, and, in the main, properly, it is enough. The plainest and simplest language, addressed to the Majesty of heaven, appears far preferable to laboured, pompous, and artificial expressions. If a man really wants and desires, he can make his wants and desires known. The famishing can ask for food. The beggar can plead with importunity and fervour. The criminal, under sentence of death, is eloquent for life. The Publican's prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” uttered by a humble soul, will avail more, than an hour's elegant speech of one, like the boasting Pharisee.
Besides, if necessary, much assistance may be derived from the Bible, that inexhaustable storehouse of the richest materials for prayer. Here may be found the most proper sentiments, and the most expressive language on this subject. The Psalms of David, the Prophecies of Isaiah and the Gospels and Epistles should be particularly consulted. Help may be obtained, too, from books, of devotion, containing a great variety of excellent forms of prayer,
written for families as well as for private persons. If a person will, in this way, covet earnestly the best gifts, he will be enabled, to good acceptance, to lead in family devotions. By resolution and perseverance, hundreds have overcome their embarrassments.
Other reasons have been offered for the neglect of family worship; but they are so frivolous, that they deserve neither to be named, nor answered. They are mere excuses, rather than reasons, and arise from disinclination of heart to the duty. Persons of reflection, candour, and ardent piety will never make them.
In conclusion, let me appeal directly to those of you, who are heads of families.
How do you feel, and how will you act in consideration of the vastly important object of Family Religion? Will you not suffer your houses to be temples of the living God, and, from the family altar, grateful incense to ascend to heaven, morning and evening? Will you not commence and close the day with the most excellent, and noble, and pleasurable, and heavenly services of family worship? Or will you expose yourselves to the alarming denunciation, and everlasting displeasure of the Most High? O! be entreated by the authority of the great God, the comfort and salvation of your own souls, and of those committed to your care, and by the best interests of religion, to adopt the pious resolution of Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Morning and evening, read the Word of God, instruct your households in the great principles of Christianity, and offer unto your Father in Heaven prayer and praise. In this entreaty, I plead for the *“Extemporary prayer,” says Dr. Scott,“is far better for domestic worship, than any forms can be, both as admitting of adaptation to the vary. ing circumstances of families, and the cases of friends and relatives to be remembered in our prayers; and also as giving scope to more enlargement in intercession, according to occurring events, for all sorts and conditions of men." But the practice of reading prayers in family worship is to be commended where this important duty would otherwise be neglected.