Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

and therefore, it must appear highly reasonable, that the - members of each family should unite together in humili.

ation, and prayer, and thanksgiving. Those who sin together, should ask forgiveness together; and those who receive mercies together, should join in preising their common benefactor.

Thus have I endeavoured to shew, that family worship is not only a duty by virtue of the divine command, but is so fit and becoming in itself, that although the authority binding us to it were less apparent, yet every man who allows himself to think, must immediately be convinced, by his own reason and conscience, that such homage is certainly due to God, and that they are highly criminal who refuse or neglect to offer it.-I proceed now, in the

Third place, To represent to you the manifold advantages which accompany the practice of this duty, and the pernicious consequences which flow from the neglect of it.

1st, then, The practice of this duty would be of great use to promote even your temporal and worldly interest. I address myself to you, who are parents or masters; and surely this consideration must appear in your own eyes to merit some regard. I need not stay to prove to you, that your prosperity, as well as your comfort, depends very much upon the dutiful behaviour of your children, and the fidelity of your servants. This, I suppose, you will readily acknowledge. Now, it is evident to a demonstration, that nothing can contribute more effectually to this, than the good practice which I am recommending to you. Bring the fear of God into your families, and that will secure your authority better than any thing else can do. The influence of a religious principle will be as powerful and operative, when you are absent from them, as when you are present, because God is always present, and con, sequently the obedience which flows from a regard to him, must in every place, and at all times, be the same. Hereby too you will gain their esteem and love, which are the most powerful and permanent of all bonds of duty. There is a certain majesty in the image of God, which commands reverence to itself, even from the worst of men. Thus we are told of Herod, Mark vi. 20. that he feared John, because he knew him to be a holy and just man. And if this wicked prince was so much overawed by the exemplary holiness of a mean subject, how venerable must a devout parent or master appear in the eyes of his own family, when, besides that authority which his station gives him, they see him adorned with that piety and regard to God, which of themselves would dignify him, and render him worthy of their esteem and honour ? How must it endear him to their hearts, to behold his anxious concern for their welfare, to hear him morning and evening commending them to the protection of Almighty God, imploring the pardon of their sins, and earnestly soliciting the same blessings for them which he begs for himself? And how must this esteem and love influence their whole behaviour, and make them not only faithful, but cheerful, active and zealous in eyery part of the duty and service which they owe him ? I am aware, that many think to maintain their authority in their families, by other sort of prayers than those I am recommending: I mean, by horrid curses and imprecations; yea, some are so abandoned as to plead the necessity of these, to render their orders effectual. But this practice must appear so absurd and odious to every thinking person, that, I am persuaded, I need not spend your time in exposing it. Such a vile and impious habit must evidently destroy at once all that esteem and love which are the only sure and permanent principles of obedience. Their whole authority, therefore, must lean on the precarious foundation of a servile fear, which God, who hath the hearts of all men in his hands, can remove when he pleases, and then they shall become utterly contemptible, and may curse on without having any person to regard them, till their own eurses overtake them.-But,

2dly, As the practice of worshipping God in your houses, would contribute much to your worldly prosperity, in the manner I have just now explained, so it has likewise a manifest tendency to promote your spiritual and eternal interest. It is not only a considerable branch of that homage which you owe to God, but it may be also of great use to restrain you from sin, and to render you cautious and circumspect in every part of your behaviour. A man will be ashamed to do any thing against the honour of that God, whom he so publicly acknowledges before his family; and the very desire of appearing consistent with himself in the eyes of his children or servants, will hardly fail to produce at least an outward decency, and to restrain him from many of those scandalous sins which he might otherwise be in danger of committing. So that though family worship served no higher purpose, than to hedge in our practice before our household, I should even think that a considerable recommen, dation of it; and every wise and good man must esteem and value it upon that account. But this is one of the least of its happy effects. The practice of this duty would not only render our outward conduct cautious and decent, but would also tincture our minds deeply with a sense of God, and of divine things. It would give us greater boldness too, in our secret approaches to the throne of grace. How can that man have any

confidence or enlargement of heart in secret prayer, whose conscience reproacheth him with never having honoured that God in public, from whom he is now going to ask the most unmerited favours ? It is true indeed that our Lord, in great condescension, granted a private audience in the night season to Nicodemus, who had not the courage to own him in the face of the day. But no man hath reason to expect the same indulgence now. Nay, however uncharitable it may be thought, I must declare it as my opinion, that the neglect of public duties gives toe just ground to suspect, that those of a more private nature are either little minded, or superficially performed. For, did you obtain access to God in secret prayer, and taste tho sweetness of holy communion with him in your closets, there can be no doubt that you would thereby be disposed to the duties of social worship.--A

3d Advantage of family worship is, that, under the influences of the divine Spirit, it is one of the most effectual means of promoting the salvation of all your household. Many godly persons have ascribed their own vital impressions of religion, to their living in a devout family : and many a sinner, ruined by yice and evil habits, has too justly laid the blame of it on the wickedness of those with whom he dwelt. What numbers of children and servants have been lost, for want of that good example, which it was the duty of their parents or masters to have given them? As in a profane and sensual family there are continual temptations to sin, to swearing, lying, intemperance, and contempt of God; so in a devout well goyerned house, there are continyal incitements to a holy life, to faith, love, sobriety, and heavenly-mindedness. The authority of the heads of the family, and the conversation and example of all the members of it, are powerful inducements to a religious temper and behaviour. As in a well disciplined army, even the cowards are constrained to stand to their arms, and to açt valiantly, by the general order of the whole; so in a religious household, a wicked man can scarcely contrive how to live wickedly, þut seems to be almost a saint, by being continually among those who appear to be saints. O how easy and well paved, (if I may use the expression), is the way to heaven in such a gracious society, in comparison of what it is to those who dwell in the houses of the profane and sensual! In the former, the advantages of instruction, authority, example and conversation, are all on the side of God and religion; in the latter, the same powerful circumstances are all on the side of corrupt nature, and push men forward in the broad way that leads to destruction.

If then you would not be guilty of bringing ruin on immortal souls; if you wish to have the blessing of them who are ready to perish for ever, to come upon you; if you desire that your children and servants should be pious and happy; if you would have your whole domestic society blessed ; let your household be daily consecrated by fervent prayer to Almighty God. The

4th and last advantage of family religion, which I shall mention, is its tendency to form an holy church and people, and to propagate religion from generation to genera. tion. The public state of religion in the world, must entirely depend on the care bestowed on the cultivation of it in private families. If the nursery be neglected, how is it possible that the plantation should prosper ? Such as the families are of which congregations, churches and kingdoms are composed, such will be the flourishing or the decayed state of religion in these larger communities. And consequently, it is as clear as noon-day, that the disregard shewn to God in our households, is the fatal source of that amazing corruption of manners in the present age, which almost every one pretends to lament, but almost none sets himself in earnest to reform. Would you then put a stop to abounding iniquity, and promote tho cause of God and religion, begin at home, and let your Maker have that honour in your families, to which he is entitled.

Had we, who minister in the public worship of God, only to lay those stones in order in the building, which parents and masters of families had previously polished, how easy and delightful would be our task ? how comely and beautiful would our worshipping assemblies appear? how pure and comfortable would their communion be? But if these shall neglect to exert their proper influence; if the work of hundreds or thousands shall be left to be

« IndietroContinua »