« VorigeDoorgaan »
Lord, to sing praises to thy name, O Most High, to shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. He is speaking, not of secret but of social Prayer. By the former we may offer our praises and petitions to God; but it is by the latter only that we shew forth, and declare his loving kindness and faithfulness. This, he says, ought to be done, in the morning and in the evening; not only on special occasions, but constantly every night. And he must have particular regard to family worship, for families are the only societies, which can every morning and night associate for divine worship.
We find that devout men, under some peculiar circumstances, observed other hours of solitary or private prayer. Daniel, in his captivity, prayed three times a day. David says, morning, noon, and night, will I pray. And again, Seven times a day will I praise thee. But the more common hours of prayer, especially of social prayer, mentioned in scripture, are morning and evening.
Job rose up early in the morning and offered sa crifice for his family. David says, My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee. I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning. I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried. Heman says, In the morning my prayer shall prevent thee.
We have many examples of evening prayer. Da vid, having spent the day in publick devotions, returned home to bless his household. Let my prayer, says he, be set forth as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Com mune with your own heart on your bed-offer the sacrifices of righteousness.-I will lay me down and sleep, for thou, Lord, makest me to dwell in safety.
It was the duty of the Levites to stand every morning to thank and praise God, and likewise at
evening. When David had replaced the ark, he left before it some of the priests, to minister continually, as every day's work required, and to offer burnt offerings to the Lord continually, morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the law of the Lord. The law of Moses instituted a particular sacrifice to be offered daily, half in the morning, and half in the evening. This was called the continual sacrifice. And as this was accompanied with prayer, here is an express institution of morning and evening prayer.
This sacrifice, after the temple was built, was offered there-and there, such as dwelt near, usually attended at the hour of sacrifice. To this institution our Lord alludes in the parable of the pharisee and publican, who went up to the temple to pray. When Zacharias entered into the temple to burn incense, the whole multitude of the people were without, praying at the time of incense. They who, by reason of distance, or other circumstances, could not attend at the temple, used to pray, at the hour of sacrifice, with their faces toward the temple. Jonah, when he was cast out of God's presence, resolved, that he would look again toward God's holy temple. Solomon, in his dedication prayer, says, "If thy people be carried away captive, and in the land of their captivity return unto thee, and pray towards this house, then hear thou and forgive. Daniel prayed at the time of the evening sacrifice, and with his face toward Jerusalem.
After the abolition of the legal sacrifices, the Apostles and primitive Christians still observed these stated hours of morning and evening prayer. Luke tells us, that after Christ's ascension, " they were continually, and daily, in the temple, praising and blessing God." They resorted thither at the third and ninth hours. To these stated hours the Apostle evidently alludes, when he directs us to pray al
ways to pray without ceasing-to offer the sacrifice of praise continually. And thus we are to understand, what is said of Anna the prophetess, that she departed not from the temple, but served God with prayers night and day.
Thus from the institution of the morning and evening sacrifice, which was accompanied with prayer; from the practice of pious men under the old testament, and of the Apostles and early Christians under the new; from the frequent directions to pray always, which plainly allude to the continual sacrifice, and from the express words of the Psalmist, who recommends it, as a good thing, to shew forth God's loving kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night, it fully appears to be the indispensable duty of every Christian family to maintain the stated worship of God, and to attend upon it, ordinarily, every morning.
I proceed now to shew,
III. In what manner our family worship ought to be performed.
1. In this, as in all other religious exercises, there must be an attention and engagedness of mind.
We are directed to pray in the spirit-to watch unto prayer to lift up our hearts, with our hands, unto God in the heavens. It is the inwrought and fervent prayer, which avails much. If while we draw near to God with our mouths, our hearts are far from him, we worship him in vain. Our prayers must be the expressions of real, heartfelt desires, not the tinkling of an unmeaning cymbal. God hears the desire of the humble. Without the concurrence of the heart, bodily exercise profits little. We must draw near to the throne of grace, with a serious, collected and devout spirit. This is alike the duty of him who leads, and of them who join in prayer; for unless these adopt the petitions which are made, and, with the words of the
speaker, send up their own hearts to God, with no propriety can they be said to join with him in pray
2. There is an external decency and solemnity, which ought always to be regarded in our family devotions.
The person, who conducts them, is to consult not merely his own, but the common edification. His manner should be grave, his expressions pertinent, his utterance deliberate, that others may understand the nature, and feel the weight of what he offers; and that, "seeing him affected with a sense of what he is doing, proportionally to its importance, they may catch the flame of his devotion, and feel their own hearts burn with the same pious ardour."
3. Some preparation is ordinarily expedient, that, dispossessing our minds of worldly thoughts and cares, we may attend upon God without distraction. Job sent and sanctified his children-called upon them to prepare for the family sacrifice. The prophet inquires, Who is he that engageth his heart to approach unto God? The heart must be engag ed, that the approach may be acceptable. For those who attended the passover without opportunity for the legal purification, Hezekiah prayed, saying, "The good Lord pardon every one, who prepareth his heart to seek God, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." On a like occasion Josiah commanded the Levites to prepare and sanctify themselves, and their brethren. These examples teach us, that some preparation is requisite for a suitable performance of social worship. The practice of reading a portion of scripture, previous to family prayer, is very commendable, and highly useful. It not only disposes the mind for devotion, but begets a reverence for the word of God. The master of a household
should require his domesticks to give a serious and orderly attendance, and should choose those seasons, which will best admit of it, and most easily comport with it.
4. Family worship should be maintained steadily, without unnecessary omissions.
It is the Apostle's direction to families, that they Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. The morning and evening sacrifice was offered continually. The Apostles were daily, with one accord, in the temple. There is ordinarily the same reason for prayer and praise, every day, as any day; for we daily need, and daily receive new favours from God. Our Saviour has taught us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. We must not admit little trifling excuses for the omission of this duty. Too great an indifference to this important exercise appears in those, who are frequently abroad themselves, and allow their children also to be abroad, at such unseasonable hours, that it must either be often neglected, or performed at a time, when few of the family are present, and none of them in a suitable frame and preparation to attend it.
5. The matter of our addresses should be taken from the common concerns, and the manner of them adapted to the common capacities of the family.
Job offered burnt offerings for his children according to the number of them all. He accommodated his prayers to the state of his household; and so ought every parent.
There are many wants, and many mercies, which are common to all. These are always proper matter of our joint devotions. Some members may be under peculiar circumstances of joy or sorrow. If one member suffer, all are to suffer with him. If one be honoured, all should rejoice. The state of each member, so far as it is a common concern VOL. I. A a