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advantage of our domestics,-if it be our privilege,--then familyreligion appears to be our duty from the law of nature.
1. If family-religion be a just debt to the supreme Being, upon account of his perfections and the relation he sustains to us as families, then it must be our duty to maintain it according to the law of nature. Now this is the case in fact.
God is the most excellent of beings, and therefore worthy of homage in every capacity, from his reasonable creatures. It is the supreme excellency of the Deity that renders him the object of personal devotion, or the religion of individuals, and the same reason extends to family-religion ; for such is his excellency, that he is entitled to all the worship which we can give him ; and after all, he is exalted above all our blessing and praise. Nehem. ix. 5. that is, he still deserves more blessing and praise than we can give him. Hence it follows, that our capacity is the measure of our obligation to serve him ; that is, in whatever capacity we are that admits of service to him, we are bound to perform all that sera vice to him, because he justly deserves it all. Now we are capable of worshipping him as a family, for family-devotion, you must own, is a thing possible in itself, therefore we are bound to worship him in that capacity. If any of you deny this, do but put your denial into plain words, and you must shudder at yourselves : it must stand thus, I must own that such is the excellency of the Deity, that he has a right to all the homage which I can pay him in every capacity : yet I owe him none, I will pay none in the capacity of an head of a family. I own I owe him worship from myself as an individual, but my family as such shall have nothing to do with him.' Will you, Sirs, rather run into such an impious absurdity as this, than own yourselves obliged to this duty ?
Again, God is the Author of our sociable natures, and as such claims social worship from us. He formed us capable of society, and inclined us to it: and surely this capacity ought to be improved for religious purposes. Is there any of you so hardy as to say, “ Though God has made me a sociable creature, yet I owe him no worship as such, and will pay him none ?' You may as well say, • Though he formed me a man, and endowed me with powers to serve him, yet as a man or an individual, I will not serve him.' And what is this but to renounce all obligations to God, and to cut yourselves off from all connection with him. Now if your social nature lays you under an obligation to social religion, then it must oblige you to family-religion, for a family is the first society that ever was instituted; it is a radical society, from which all others are derived, therefore here social religion began (as it must have begun in families before it had place in other societies) and here it ought still to continue.
Again, God is the Proprietor, Supporter, and Benefactor of our families, as well as of our persons, and therefore our families as such should pay him homage. He is the owner of your families, and where is the man that dares deny it ? Dare any of you say, God hath nothing to do with my family ; he hath no right there, and I will acknowledge none ? Unhappy creatures ! Whose property are you then ? If not God's you are helpless orphans indeed ; or rather the voluntary avowed subjects of hell. But if your families are his property, must you not own that you should worship him as such ? What ! pay no acknowledgment to your great Proprietor? how unjust! The apostle argues, that because our persons are his, therefore we should serve him, I Cor. vi. 19, 20. and surely the argument is equally strong in this case. Further, Are not your families entirely dependent upon God as their Supporter and Benefactor ? Should he withdraw his supporting hand, you and your houses would sink into ruin together, Are you not then obliged in a family-capacity to acknowledge and praise him ? You also receive numberless blessings from him in a domestic capacity : every evening and morning, every night and day you find his mercies flowing down upon your houses, and shall no grateful acknowledgments ascend from them to him? You also every moment stand in need of numerous blessings, not only for yourselves, but for your families, and will you not jointly with your families implore these blessings from your divine Benefactor? Here again consider the language of your refu- . sal, and it must strike you with horror : ' I own that God is the proprietor of my family, that he is the constant support of my family, that I and mine every moment receive mercies from him, and depend entirely upon him for them, yet my family as such shall pay no worship, shall serve him no more than if we had no concern with him.' Can you venture upon such a decla. ration as this?
2. If family-religion was the principal design of the institution of families, then is family-religion our indispensable duty.
That families were founded by God may be inferred from the creation of different sexes, the institution of marriage, and the
various relations among mankind, and from the universal agency of his providence. Psalm 1xviii. 6. and cxiii. 9.
And that family-religion was the principal end of the institution, is evident ; for can you think that God would unite a number of immortals, heirs of the eternal world, together in the most intimate bonds, in this state of trial, without any reference to their future state ? Were your families made for this world only, or for the next ? If for the next, then religion must be maintained in them, for that alone can prepare you for eternity: or if you say your families were formed for this world, pray what was this world made for ? To be the final residence ? or to be only a stage along which to pass into your everlasting home, a place of probation for candidates for immortality? And must not religion then be maintained in your families? They should be nurseries for heaven ; and that they cannot be, if you banish devotion from them.
If the conjugal relation, which is the foundation of families, was first instituted for religious purposes, then certainly the worship of God ought to be maintained in them. But the former is true : Did not he make one ? Mal. ii. 15. that is, one of each sex, that there might be one for one ; and that the very oreation of our nature might carry an intimation that polygamy was unnatural. . And wherefore one ?' that is, wherefore did God make but one of each sex, when he had the residue of the spirit, and could have made more ? Why his design was that he might seek a godly seed ; that is, that children might not only be procreated, but retain and convey down religion from age to age. But can this design be accomplished if you refuse to maintain religion in your families ? Can you expect that godliness shall run on in the line of your posterity, if you habitually neglect it in your houses ! Can a godly seed be raised in so corrupt a soil ? Therefore if you omit this duty, you live in families in direct opposition to the end of the institution, and deny your domestics the greatest advantage they can enjoy as members of a family : a consideration which leads me to another argument.
3. If family-religion tends to the greatest advantage of our families, then it is our duty; and to neglect it is wickedly to rob ourselves and ours of the greatest advantage.
If you deny that religion is advantageous, you may reneunce the name of christians ; yes, and of men too. Religion places its subjects under the blessing and guardianship of Heaven ; it re:
strains them from those practices which may be ruinous to them in time and eternity ; it suppresses such dispositions and pas. sions as are turbulent and self-tormenting ; and affords the most refined and substantial joys.
Now I appeal to yourselves whether it be not more probable that your family will be religious, if you solemnly worship God with them, and instruct them, than it would be if you neglected these duties? How can you expect that your children and ser. vants will become worshippers of the God of heaven, if they have been educated in the neglect of family-religion? Can prayer. less parents expect to have praying children? If you neglect to instruct them, can you expect they will grow up in the know. ledge of God and of themselves ? If they see that you receive daily mercies from the God of heaven, and yet refuse him the tribute of praise, is it not likely they will imitate your ingratitude, and spend their days in a stupid insensibility of their obligations to their divine Benefactor? Is it as likely they will make it their principal business in life to secure the favour of God, and prepare for eternity, when they see their parents and masters thoughtless about this important concern, as if they saw you every day devoutly worshipping God with them, and imploring his blessing upon yourselves and your households ? Their souls Sirs, their immortal souls are entrusted to your care, and you must give a solemn account of your trust; and can you think you faithfully discharge it, while you neglect to maintain your religion in your families? Will you not be accessary to their perdition, and in your skirts will there not be found the bļood of your poor innocent children? What a dreadful meeting may you expect to have with them at last! Therefore, if you love your children ; if you would make some amends to your servants for all the service they do to you ; if you would bring down the blessing of Heaven upon your families ; if you would have your children make their houses the receptacles of religion when they set up in life for themselves; if you would have religion survive in this place, and be conveyed from age to age; if you would deliver your own souls I beseech, I entreat, I charge you to begin and continue the worship of God in your families from this day to the close of your lives.
4. You are to consider family-religion not merely as a duty imposed by authority, but as your greatest privilege granted by divine grace. How great the privilege to hold a daily intercourse witlt Heaven in our dwellings ! to have our houses converted into temples for that adorable Deity whom the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain! to mention our domestic wants before him with the encouraging hope of a supply ! to vent the overflowings of gratitude ! to spread the savour of his knowledge, and talk of him whom angels celebrate upon their golden harps and in anthems of praise ! to have our families devoted to him while others live estranged from the God of their life! if all this does not appear the highest privilege to you, it is because you are astonishingly disaffected to the best of Beings. And since the Almighty condescends to allow you this privilege, will you wickedly deny it yourselves ? If he had denied it to you, you would no doubt have cavilled at it as hard : you would have murmured had he laid a prohibition on your family and told you, “I will accept of worship from other families : they shall converse with me every day ; but as for yours, I will have nothing to do with them, I will accept of no worship from them ; you may not make mention of the name of the Lord." How would you tremble if God had marked your families with such a brand of reprobation ? And will you put this brand upon them with your own hand? Will you deny that privilege to your families which would strike you with horror if God had denied it ? Will you affect such an horrid singularity,' that when other families are admitted into a familiar audience with the Deity, you will keep off from him, and pay him no homage in yours
These arguments are chiefly derived from the light of nature, and plainly shew that family-religion is a duty of natural religion. Accordingly heathens and idolaters have observed it. The! heathens had their Lares, their Penates, or household gods. Such were Laban's gods which Rachel stole from him, Gen.' xxxi. 34. and such were that of Micah. Judges xvii. 4, 5. These, indeed were idols, but what did they stand instead of? Did they not stand instead of the true worship of the true God? What reformation was necessary in this case ? The renouncing of these idols, and taking nothing in their room? or the renouncing of them and taking the true God in their place ? Undoubtedly the latter. And will you not blush that heathens should exceed you? that you should be, according to the text, worse than infidels ? And must you not tremble lest they should rise up in judgment against you, and condemn you ?