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I now proceed to some arguments more purely scriptural, which prove the necessity of family-religion in general, or of some particular branch of it.
1. We may argue from the examples of the saints, recorded and commended in scripture.
Good examples infer an obligation upon us to imitate them ; and when they are transmitted down to posterity with honour in the sacred records, they are proposed to our imitation, and as really bind us to the duty as express precepts.
Now we are here surrounded with a bright cloud of witnesses. Even before the introduction of the clearer dispensation of the gospel, we find that the saints carefully maintained family-religion.
On this account Abraham was admitted into such intimacy with God, that he admits him into his secrets. Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do ; since I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, c. Gen. xviii. 16, 18.
We find Isaac and Jacob, by the influence of his good example and instructions, follow the same practice. They, as well as he, built an altar to the Lord wherever they pitched their tents ; an altar then being a necessary utensil for divine worship. This you will find repeatedly in the short history we have of these patriarchs, particularly in Gen. xxvi. 25. xxv. 1, 3. and xxxiii. 20.
We find Job so intent upon family-devotion, that he rises up early in the morning and offers burnt-offerings : and thus he did, we are told, not upon extraordinary occasions only, but continually. Job i. 5.
The devout king David, after he had spent the day in the glad solemnity of bringing the ark to its place, returned to bless his house. 2 Sam. vi. 20. He had his hour for family-devotion ; and when that is come, he leaves the solemnity of public worship, and bastens home. This was agreeable to his resolution, I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way: I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psal. ci. 2.
Daniel ran the risk of his life rather than omit this duty, which some of you omit with hardly any temptation. When the royal edict prohibited him, upon penalty of being cast into the lions' den, he still prayed and gave thanks to God, as he did afore time.As he did aforetime. This is added to shew that he had always observed a stated course of devotion in his family, and that it was not a transient fit of zeal that now seized him, Dan. vi. 10. • VOL. II.
These illustrious patterns se bod under the dark dispensation of the Old Testament. How much more zealous sbould we be, wbo enjoy the meridian light of the gospel, to keep the religion of Jesus in our families !
In the New Testament we repeatedly find our blessed Lord in prayer with his family, the apostles. Si. Paul thrice mentions a church in a private house. Rom. xvi. 5. I Cor. xvi. 19, and Col. iv. 15. by which he probably means the religious families of Nymphas, and that pious pair Priscilla and Aquila. And Cornelius is an instance peculiarly observable, who, though an heathen, and ignorant of the coming of Christ, feared God (an expression that often signifies to worship God) with all his house ; and prayed ' unto God always ; that is, at all proper seasons. And when a divine messenger was sent to him to direct him to send for Peter, we are told he was found praying in his house ; that is, with his domestics, as the word often signifies. Acts x. 2, 30.
If it might have any weight after such authentic examples as these, I might add, That in every age, persons of piety have been exemplary in family-religion. And if you look round you, my brethren, you will find that by how much the more religious per. sons are, by so much the more conscientious they are in this duty. What though some, like the Pharisees, use it as a cloke for their clandestine wickedness, this is no objection against the practice ; otherwise there is hardly one branch of religion or morality but what must be rejected too; for every good thing has been abused by hypocrites to disguise their secret villany.
2. We may argue from several scripture precepts, which either directly or consequentially refer to the whole, or 10 some branch of family-religion.
The apostle Paul, having given various directions about rela. tive duties in families, subjoins, Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Col. iv. 2. Peter exhorts husbands to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, &c that their prayers might not be hindered. 1 Pet. iii. 7. which certainly implies that they should pray together. And here I may observe
by the by, what is perhaps immediately intended in this text, that ne
wide the stated worship of God, common to all the family, it dou
very proper for the husband and wife to retire for prayer should
* Seasons by themselves together. As there is a pecu. sy between them, they ought to be peculiarly intimate
of religion ; and when retired together, they may
woorse (1. rise up in
pour out their hearts with more freedom than before all the family, and particularize those things that could not be prudently mentioned before others. But to return : we are enjoined to pray always with all prayer and supplication. Ephes. vi. 18. and surely family-prayer must be included in these comprehensive terms.
As to family-instruction, it was expressly enjoined upon the Israelites. These words which I command thee shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou siltest in thy house. Deut. vi. 6, 7. and xi. 19. They were coinmanded to instruct their domestics in the nature and design of the ordinances of that dispensation, particularly the passover. Exod. xii. 26, 27. And the psalmist mentions all the wonderful works of God as what ought to be taught by parents to children from age to age. And must not parents now be under even superior obligations to inform their children of the more glorious doctrines and ordinances of the gospel? Again, It is enjoined as a duty common to christians in general, though they should not be united in one family, 10 exhort one another daily, Heb. ii. 13. and to teach and admonisk one another. Col. ii. 16. How much more then is it our duty to teach, and admonish, and exhort our families, which are more particularly entrusted to our care ?
As to family-praise, it is a duty, because thanksgiving is so often joined with prayer in scripture, Phil. iv. 6. Col. iv. 2. 1 Thess. v. 17, 18. and psalmody must be owned the most proper method of expressing thankfulness by such as own it a part of divine worship. The voice of joy and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous, Psalm cviii. 15. an expression that may properly signify, praising God in paelms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, as we are commanded. Col. iii. 16.
And now, my brethren, I presume you are convinced that family-religion is a duty, unless you shut your eyes against the light of nature and the light of scripture ; and if convinced, you are reduced to this dilemma, either to set up the worship of God immediately in your families, or sin wilfully against the knowledge of the truth. And which side will you choose? O, Sirs, the case is so plain, you need no time to deliberate ; it is as plain as whether you should choose life or death, heaven or hell!
If you from henceforth make conscience of this important du. ty, it will be a most happy omen to your families, and to this
congregation. If the grateful incense of family-devotion were ascending to heaven every morning and evening, from every family among us, we might expect a rich return of divine blessings upon ourselves and ours. Our houses would become the temples of the Deity, and our congregation feel his gracious influences. Our children would grow up in the knowledge and fear of God, and transplant religion from our families into their own whenever they shall be formed. Our servants and slaves would become the servants of righteousness, and heirs with us of the grace of life. The animosities and contests that may now disturb our households, and render them like the dens of wild beasts, would cease. Vice would wither and die among us, and languishing religion would lift up its head and revive. This would certainly be the consequence in several instances, if we were but to maintain family-religion in a proper manner ; for God hath pot commanded us to seek his face in vain ; and if this desirable success should not be granted universally, we sball still have the comfort to reflect that we have done our duty.
But how shocking is the prospect, if you determine to resist conviction, and live in the wilful neglect of this duty! Your families are like to be nurseries for hell ;, or if there should be an Abijah in them, one in whom some good thing is found towards the Lord God of Israel, (1 Kings xiv. 13.) no thanks to you' for it ; you must be punished for your neglect of him as though he had perished by your iniquity.
Remember, Sirs, that the omission of a known, practicable duty against the remonstrances of your conscience, is a certain evi. dence that you are entirely destitute of all religion ; and therefore I must discharge the artillery of heaven against you in that dreadful imprecation which, as dictated by inspiration, is equivalent to a prediction or denunciation. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not upon thy name. Jer. x. 25. Observe here that you are ranked with heathens that know not God; and that the divine sury is imprecated upon you, and it shall fall, it shall fall speedily upon your devoted heads and your prayerless families, unless you fly out of its reach by flying to the Lord in earnest supplications in your houses. rather run the venture, will you rather destroy yourselves and your domestics too,' than spend a quarter or half an hour, morning and evening, in the most manly, noble, heavenly, evangelical exercises of devotion ! Surely you are not so hardy ! surely
Will you you are not so averse to God, and careless about your own wel. fare, and that of your dearest relatives and domestics ! I request, I beg, I adjure you by your regard to the authority of God, by your concern for your own salvation and that of your families, by the regards you bear the interests of religion in this place, and your poor minister, that this may be the happy evening from whence you may date the worship of God in your houses ; that this may be the blessed era from which you and your houses will serve the Lord.
II. To shew in what seasons, or how frequently, family-religa ion should be statedly performed.
Now it is more than intimated in scripture, that it should be performed every day, and particularly morning and evening. Thus the sacrifices under the law, which were attended with prayer, were offered daily, morning and evening. To this the psalmist alludes : Let my prayer be set before thee as incense, which was offered in the morning, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Psalm cxli. 2. He elsewhere resolves, Every day will I bless thee, Ps. cxlv. 2. Yea, his devotion was so extraordinary, that he resolves, Evening and morning and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud. Psalm lv. 17. So Daniel performed family-worship thrice a day. Hence we are undoubtedly bound to perform family-religion twice at least in the day. And thus frequently it seems to be enjoined for common. It is a good thing to shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. Psalm xcii. 1, 2. Farther, reason di. rects us to morning and evening as the proper season for family. worship : for, pray, which would you omit? Dare you venture your families out into the world all the day without committing them to the care of Providence in the morning? Can you undertake your secular pursuits without imploring the divine blessing upon them ? And as to the evening, how can you venture to sleep, without committing yourselves and yours to the divine protection, and returning thanks for the mercies of the day? Again, the very course of nature seems to direct us to these seasons. Our life is parcelled out into so many days; and every day is a kind of life, and sleep a kind of death. And shall we enter upon life in the morning, without acknowledging the Author of our life? Or shall we, as it were, die in the evening, and not commend our departing spirits into his hands? Night is a kind of