Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

wealth. If a man be single, he is commanded to serve God as single; but no sooner is he placed over a family than he is required to serve God as the master of a family: and from the moment of his obtaining this new connexion he will be judged by the duties which belong to it. God has committed to him a trust, and he expects him to be faithful to this trust. He has given him a talent, and he expects him to use this talent. In a word, he has made him a steward, and he will call him to give an account of his stewardship. When, so to speak, the man has been tried, then comes forth to be judged the master of the family! Bring forth the law of the house | -Have you walked by this rule? What have you done for me here?-Nothing! Did I not assign you the government of a family: and to qualify you for this very purpose did I not give you a peculiar authority and influence? How have you employed them? Anticipate the proceedings of this awful day, and "judge yourselves, that you may not be condemned with the world.”

The second is a relation of GRATITUDE. How numerous and pressing are your obligations to his kindness and his care! He has crowned your wishes, and supplied all your wants. When you were a poor, solitary, insignificant individual, he raised you into consequence, and multiplied you into a family. Behold "thy wife, like a fruitful vine, by the sides of thy house; and thy children like olive plants round about thy table." Whose "secret has been upon thy tabernacle?" Whose providence has "blessed the labour of thy hands?" Whose vigilance has suffered "no evil to befall thee, nor any plague to come nigh thy dwelling?" And will you basely refuse him the glory which is due unto his holy Name? Will you refuse to honour him in a family in which he has scattered so many blessings? Shall thy house, which should be the temple of his praise, be only the grave of his mercies?

The third is a relation of DEPENDENCE. For can you dispense with God in your dwellings? Are not all your schemes, your exertions, and the assistances you secure, "less than nothing, and vanity," without his aid and his blessing? "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep." The wisest course therefore is to secure his favour, who has all events under his control, and "is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think." And is this to be done by irreligion?

Observe his promises and his threatenings. Or rather let us observe one of them. "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just."

What a dreadful look has this Scripture towards a wicked family! What a benign aspect towards a righteous one! What a tremendous thing is "the curse of God:" and this does not hover over the building, does not look in at the window, does not stand at the door-but is "in the house," spreading through every apartment, and feeding like a worm upon all the possessions. You may see the appearance of pleasure, and as you draw nigh, you may "hear music and dancing"-but "there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked." Magnificence may reign there; there may be rich furniture, and a table spread with dainties-but what are all these when the divine anger has said, "Let their table be made a snare, a trap, and a stumbling-block, and a recompense unto them?" And if this be the case with their good things-what will they do in the evil day? What can be expected under their disappointments and afflictions-but impatience, and rage, and despair?

But he "blesseth the habitation of the just:" and his blessing with bread and water is a good portion. If they have but little, it is sanctified. Their enjoyments are relished. Their trials are alleviated. Religion opens a refuge, when every other refuge fails, and applies a remedy to evils otherwise remediless. They have a God in trouble. His grace is still the same. His providence is making all things work together for their good. Their walls are continually before him. The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous! This brings us,

II. To consider family religion IN REFERENCE TO YOURSELVES.

And here, in the first place, you ought to be concerned for your spiritual welfare. You ought to value that which has a tendency to restrain you from sin, and to excite you to holiness. Now it is easy to see that the practice we are recommending has such an influence. Can he who is going to prayer with his family swear or be obscene? He will be upon his guard, if it be only to preserve himself from the charge of hypocrisy. Another feels no such motive. He can indulge himself in bad words, and vile tempers, without incurring the reflection of inconsistency. And because he makes no pretensions to virtue, he may imagine himself at liberty to practise vice.

And upon this principle it is that many refuse to make a profession of religion-to come to the table of the Lord-and to adopt family worship. They reason properly enough

that in consequence of this they must become more watchful and circumspect. But what can we think of the principle? What can we think of a man who fears to be restrained from the commission of sin, and to be urged to the performance of duty?

Such a practice also will secure tranquillity of doors as soon as they were sick, and they of mind. The omission of this duty leaves a knew not where to lay their head-the world sting in the conscience, occasions many a would execrate you. If you were to suffer bitter reflection through life, and plants a your children to go naked, to beg their bread, dying pillow with thorns. When you see to perish with hunger in a ditch, or take your those who were placed under your care going little ones and dash them against the stones astray, becoming the victims of error and vice-you would be shunned as a monster. But you act a far more criminal, and a far more infamous part, by disregarding their spiritual and everlasting welfare. Doubtless Herod after killing the infants in Bethlehem was viewed and shunned with horror-but he was far less cruel than you. He only destroyed the body, you damn the soul. He only slew the children of others, but you murder your own! "If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." And can you imagine you have done this, when you have endeavoured to answer the question, "What shall they eat, and what shall they drink, and wherewithal shall they be clothed?" What is the body to the soul! What is time to eternity? You may amass for them riches, you may leave them an estate; but your house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Under this article, let us observe more distinctly two things.

The first is the importance of Religion to the individuals under your care. Is it not "the one thing needful?" Is it not "profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come?" You cannot deny this. Can you then be indifferent to the religion of your offspring, without being indifferent to their welfare? While you say by your practice, that it is nothing to you whether they be pious or vicious-do you not at the same time, and in the most undeniable manner, declare that it is nothing to you whether they be respectable or infamous? loved or abhorred of God? saved or lost for ever?

And the second is this the probability of their becoming religious by your means. BAXTER gives it as his opinion, That if family religion was duly attended to, the public preaching of the word would not long be the common method of conversion. Without adopting this sentiment in all its extent, we may observe that there is certainly enough to encourage the heads of families to exert themselves, and to condemn them if they do not. If the crop be so valuable, who would not sow, especially if he could "sow in hope?" And who knows not the force of early impressions, and the strength of early habits? Who has not read, "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it?" In such families there has generally been a seed to serve the Lord. And this has appeared not only in children; how often have servants had reason to say, "Blessed be God that ever I entered

and misery, it will not be easily in your power to suppress the rising, or to soothe the painful accusation-"Ah! this might have been prevented, had you discharged your duty. Does not their destruction lie at your door?" But the man who has faithfully discharged his obligations, feels an internal composure. If indeed his efforts be not crowned with success, he will lament; but this grief differs very materially from that torture which springs from self-condemnation for a trust betrayed, for opportunities neglected, for exertions omitted. He has a satisfaction under all his distress; and his rejoicing is this, the testimony of his conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he has had his conversation with the world, and more abundantly to them-ward.

But surely you are not indifferent to your temporal circumstances. You wish to have peace and order in your dwelling. You wish to have your property secured, and your business well performed. You wish to see fidelity, diligence, submission. You wish to be honoured and obeyed. But do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Surely you cannot expect these things to be produced without principle; and what principle can so certainly and fully produce them as religion? What else can enforce them by sanctions and motives so awful, so binding, and which operate equally in all places and at all times; and thus secure the performance of duty, when you are absent as well as present! By teaching them to regard God, you teach them to regard yourselves. Piety is the firmest basis on which to build morality. To which we may add, that when religion is fairly exemplified in character, there is a majesty and a force in it: it surrounds the possessor with an awe that represses a thousand impertinences, and extorts respect. "Abraham commanded his children and his household after him"-and what a son had he in Isaac! what a servant in Eleazar!

III. Let us therefore consider this subject IN REFERENCE TO YOUR FAMILY. The members which compose it are in reality parts of yourselves: children are natural parts, and servants are civil parts of yourselves. These have therefore peculiar claims upon you; and what would people think of you were you to avow that you had no regard for them, and would do nothing that would advance their welfare? If in the cold you denied your servants warmth, if you gave them bad food, and short allowance; if you turned them out

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

that family. There were the eyes of my un-instruct and impress them, that we cannot derstanding opened. There were my feet help wondering how it was ever possible for turned into the way of peace." the former to be looked upon as a greater test of piety than the latter!-God forbid that we should decry public worship, or the preaching of the word: he has commanded us "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is"-but that man is surely under a mistake, who thinks to please God by incessantly running from one public opportunity to another, while he leaves his children to run wild, to grow up in ignorance, and to profane the sabbath.

I have stated the case strongly. But where this evil does not prevail in the extreme, it operates in the degree; and I cannot help sincerely wishing that the cause of the complaint could be removed. It is very desirable that useful bodies of men should be rendered more useful; and this in the case before us could be easily done, if those who have the lead would more strenuously inculcate the importance of family religion, and regulate the length and frequency of their public services accordingly.

MASTERS and PARENTS! I have thus endeavoured to bring into a small compass the arguments for the worship of God in your families. On a subject so frequently discussed, novelty was not to be expected; but I hope that what has been said, will be found sufficient to convince your judgment, and determine your practice.

I cannot conclude the Address without lamenting that there is so little attention paid to Family Worship, in a country professedly Christian, and in a period supposed to witness an increase of godly zeal. There is no more religion in the families of some who pretend to believe the Scripture, than there would be if they were atheists. To see many attending so regularly and frequently the preaching of the Gospel, would lead to a conclusion, or at least a hope, that they were the true worshippers of God; but when we follow them home to their own dwellings, we find them no better than heathens. Heathens forgive me this wrong-I blaspheme you by the comparison. You had your household gods, which you daily worshipped, and which nothing could induce you to resignI only ask you to be consistent. If you are Israelites, be Israelites indeed!

It may be asked, whether we imagine that there is any peculiar deficiency with regard to family devotion in our day? And to this we readily answer, we are persuaded there is; and it appears both in the frequent neglect, and the superficial performance of it, especially contrasted with the commonness of profession, and the frequency of public ordinances. We wish to speak freely, but without meaning to give offence. It is easy to see in the lives of our good old forefathers, what a value they set upon the morning and evening worship of God in their houses. With them it was an object, and an object of first rate importance: they entered upon it with seriousness and preparation; they arranged their worldly business, and their household affairs, in a subserviency to it; public worship did not exclude it, or drive it up into a corner. But of late years an undue stress has been laid on public exercises; and opportunities of hearing have been so multiplied, as to produce a kind of religious dissipation, so that persons of a religious character, as well as persons of a worldly, are seldom at home; there is some entertainment every evening in the week, and every hour of the sabbath. And hence there is very little inclination or time for family duty. It is so much easier to go and lounge in a place of worship, and hear some new performer, than to retire into the closet to examine the heart, and call together a family, and endeavour to

There is another thing which, because it has a relation to the subject before us, I notice. Of late years a considerable number of persons not in the ministry have been stimulated to go of a Saturday evening, or a Sunday morning into the towns and villages as occasional preachers. The motive was laudable; but it has also contributed to the effect we have deplored. Families are thus frequently bereaved of their head on the sabbath; and who knows not that the sabbath is the principal day in which men of business can be much in a religious sense with their families? I hardly know how to censure this; I do not in every instance. But it may be well to ask, whether God ever calls us to a course which requires us to neglect or violate those duties which he has enjoined in his word? In a general way, the ministry requires a man's whole attention. And when Providence has furnished the means of a respectable introduction to the office by institutions for improvement, it is a duty to avail ourselves of them.

But to return. Let me beseech masters of families with all imaginable importunity not to think this practice a matter of indifference, which they are at liberty to perform or neglect. It is a duty. It is a duty of unspeakable importance. Do not therefore put it off longer. Begin this very evening, and before you lie down in your beds honour God in your families.

-"But we have not time!" What time does it require? Out of four and twenty hours cannot you furnish a few moments for God, or rather for yourselves? Would you think that time lost which is best employed? "There is nothing got by stealing, or lost by praying." Surely, if you have no time at

present, you could redeem a little by order, by economy, by diligence. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.

"But I have not the capacity!" Have you ever fairly made the trial? Would not your ability increase by exercise? Is it not a want of inclination, rather than of power? "Where there is a will there is a way." And this would be the case here; for you would find that if incapable of leading the devotion of the family extemporaneously, you could furnish yourselves with excellent forms. And it is to be lamented that prejudice should ever preclude the use of them when it is needful.

variation. Think of God. Remember with whom you have to do, and what you have to do with him.

Do not confine family worship to prayer. Include also reading the Scripture, and if possible sing the praises of God.

Be short. A few minutes of simple and affectionate devotion is far better than eking out nearly half an hour by doubling over the name of God, telling the Supreme Being what he is, and by vain repetitions.

Be early. Do not leave it till the family are drowsy and stupid.-But here a case of conscience occurs, and such, alas! as the inconsistencies of the present day would render too common. "When should those of us have family worship, who attend public amusements; for instance—the theatre?" I answer, by all means have it before you go! When you return it will be late; and you may not feel yourselves quite so well affected towards it. We have known professors who have always omitted it when they came home from the playhouse! Besides, if you have it before, you can implore the divine blessing upon it; and beseech God to assist you in redeeming time, in overcoming the world, in preparing for eternity!!

"But I have neglected it so long, that I am ashamed to begin!" You ought to be ashamed of sin, but not of duty. You ought to be ashamed that you have lived so long without it; but you ought not to be ashamed that you are wiser and better than you once were. Again. You say, "If"- -But I will answer no more of your objections. They are only excuses: and you know-yes, you know that they do not satisfy your own consciences now, and will avail you nothing in the great and terrible day of the Lord.

tion.

But some of you live in the habit of family Reader! You may imagine that the Auworship. It will not therefore be amiss to thor has written this with a smile! but he has conclude with a few words by way of direc-written it with shame and grief. He earnestly wishes that many would adopt Family Worship.-But he is free to confess that there are some of whom he should be glad to hear that they had laid it aside.

Be spiritual in the performance. There is great danger of formality, where things customarily return, and with little possibility of

SHORT DISCOURSES

DISCOURSE I.

FOR

FAMILIES.

RETURNING FROM A JOURNEY.

Thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation,

and shalt not sin.-Job v. 24.

In the Scripture, "God hath abounded to wards us in all wisdom and prudence." There is a suitableness in it to every character, and to every situation in life. It cautions youth, and it sustains age. It soothes the poor, and it humbles the rich. It is equally useful, whether we are in a state of solitude or society. It teaches us how to behave ourselves in every connexion we form, and in all the circumstances through which we pass.

The words which I have read may be considered as a promise made to a good manWITH REGARD TO HIS ABSENCE FROM HOME. When he goes a journey, at the call of Providence, he may leave all his concerns with the Lord whom he serves, for he will guide his steps, and suffer no evil to befall him, nor any plague to come nigh his dwelling.

The person to whom this promise is made is supposed to have A HOUSE. It is called a tabernacle and it is so named in allusion to the houses of the Easterns, which, especially in the days of Job, were principally tents or tabernacles, to enable them to move the more easily from place to place, in feeding their flocks and herds. Abraham is commended for not building a fixed mansion, but reminding himself, even by his external circumstances, that he was a stranger and a sojourner, as were all his fathers, and that there is none abiding-"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." And would it not be well for us to view our abode, however 2*

C

pleasing and durable it may appear, as only a temporary residence-a shelter of accommodation for a traveller? "Soon shall I be called to leave this dwelling-I am going the way of all the earth-Soon shall I ascend these stairs for the last time, and in this bed I shall soon close mine eyes to sleep till the heavens be no more."-David therefore calls his palace the tabernacle of his house.

However plain the building may be, it is a mercy to have a house to live in. To be homeless, is a condition the most pitiable. Let us think of Cain, expelled from the presence of the Lord, "a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth." Let us think of those whose doom David does not implore, but foretell; "Let his children be continually vagabonds and beg; let them seek bread also out of their desolate places." Let us think of those good men who "wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth"-of the apostles, who could say, “we have no certain dwelling-place;" and above all-of our Lord and Saviour, who, "while foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, had not where to lay his head." Let us think of all this, and be thankful to the kindness of Providence for a tabernacle to which human skill has added so many conveniences and comforts. Hence springs the powerful idea of home, to which the wandering tribes in savage countries are strangers. We insensibly acquire a love to inanimate things, and derive no little pleasure even from local prejudices. Who can feel indifferent to a place where he received his birth— where he passed his days of infancy, and indulged in the diversions of youth--where his body has been so often refreshed with sleep, and screened from piercing cold and descending torrents-and where he has shared so many social joys, from conversation and books around the friendly fire, or in the adjoining garden!-Home has a thousand attractions. But, dear as it is, we must sometimes 17

« VorigeDoorgaan »