[ocr errors]

no use to himself; for, had he enough to save his own soul, it could not possibly be confined to his own breast, when duty and humanity join to call it forth with a voice as loud, as God and nature can make it. How could charity or piety be deaf to such a voice?

The footsteps of God, and the signs of religion, are to be found in few families. How rarely do we see the master of a family bring his household together to worship and call upon God? What is this owing to? Does he think he and his can do well or prosper, without God's assistance ? Or does he imagine, that God will favour and protect a family, that shews no marks of love, or fear, or dependence on him? But if he should say, that he, and the several members of his family, pray in secret, and that such prayers are sufficient; he in vain endeavours to impose an excuse on others, which cannot but be too gross to pass on himself. It is impossible for him to know, whether his children and servants do all of them worship God in secret, as often, and as properly, as they ought to do; whereas did he gather them, once or twice every day, to family prayers, he could form some judgment of their piety. But supposing it true, that they are all constant in their secret devotions, is that sufficient? Is there no necessity for public worship? Is not a congregation, or a family, as much bound to worship God, as a single person? It is certain, that all the works of God depend on him; and therefore owe him such a service as their several natures enable them to render. As God is the founder and supporter of all societies, so they are all obliged, as well as single persons, to acknowledge their dependence on him, and to worship him as societies. If there be any thing in prayers, or indeed in religion, the worship of God must be as necessary to communities, as to individuals. Whatever is capable of offending God, ought to confess, and ask pardon, if it does. Whatever wants his assistance ought to call to him for it. Whatever receives favours from him, and tastes of his goodness, ought to return him its thanks. But every society does sin against him, does depend on him, does receive favours, and those infinite ones, from him ; every society ought therefore, as such, to worship him with repentance, humility, and gratitude.

If this were duly considered by the state, religion, and

the public worship of God, would become the chief care of the magistrate. And, were it considered by the master of a family, he could not withdraw himself, and all the concerns of his household, from their only dependence, by a neglect of those services and supplications, on which that dependence is founded, and without which it cannot be supported. He that knows himself to be dependent on a prince for his bread, and the maintenance of his family, does not think it sufficient to obey the commands of that prince, and to declare for his interest; no, he pays him all the court he can. If he has happened to offend him, he asks pardon in the humblest manner. If he stands in need of his assistance, he addresses him in the most moving words; and, upon the receipt of every new favour, is constant in his thanks, and loud in the praises of his patron. Did the same man think himself, and those under him, dependent on Almighty God, for not only their worldly support, but for every think else, surely he could not forbear any acts of duty or worship, which he thought would be agreeable, or would strengthen his interest with God, Nay one might expect, that he should persevere in such acts, even if he were persecuted for them by the civil power, and that he should openly acknowledge his dependence upon, and trust in a higher power, by the most avowed and public worship of him, at the peril of his life. It is no great matter to give up the whole world, and life itself, rather than neglect or dishonour a person, who has not only given us, life, and all that we enjoy, but died for us, aud can take all from us again.

What then shall we think of him who acknowledges, that he holds his life, his health, his substance, his all in this world, and his title to eternal glory in the next, from God; that owns, he is laid under no hindrances, nor even discouragements to the performance of this duty by the civil power, and yet will not perform it? How different is his practice from that of the prophet Daniel, from that of all the glorious martyrs for Christianity, nay, from his own principles and professions? To omit this duty upon principle, is to be an atheist. To omit it against principle, is in one, a degree of madness and baseness, the most desperate and infamous that can be imagined.

He who is truly, and in good earnest, a Christian, considers himself, and all that relates to him, or concerns him,

as governed and directed by the immediate providence of God, which overrules and disposes all things. This (as in prudence it ought) makes him constant and fervent in his secret devotions, as the only means (next to a good life) to procure the divine favour for himself. This makes him devout in the public services of the congregation, for public blessings to his country. This makes him careful in the performance of family worship, that the only dispenser of all events may deal graciously by his family. He sees plainly, that God has so framed the nature of man, that neither the great, nor the lesser societies, neither kingdoms, nor families, can be happy, nor indeed at all subsist without religion; by this necessary dependence on him, and continual intercourse between him and us, preserving a perpetual memory of himself among us.

Convinced and fortified with this observation, the truly Christian master of a family takes care that religion be well known, and God constantly worshipped in his house. That his children may be sensible of his authority over them, and pay him the obedience due to a parent, he backs his authority with that of God, the universal parent. That his servants may be dutiful, industrious, and honest, he teaches them to fear tbe great Master, the Lord of lords, and governor of the world, from whom all power and authority, and his in particular, is derived. That every member of his little society may acquit himself properly in his station, and contribute to the good of the whole, he gives him a principle to do it on, and a motive strong enough to induce him ; that is, he teaches him the doctrines, the du-, ties, and motives of religion. And, that his instructions may not be lodged only in the memory of his dependents, and lie there inactive, like other speculative points, he gives them continual exercise; is perpetually employing and furnishing them with occasions of practice. To this his authority, which is absolute, and his example, in which the fear of God and devotion do at all times so conspicuously appear, contribute not a little. But that which, of all other methods, has the greatest share in preserving his religious instructions alive, and calling them into action, is, that by the daily service, to which he assembles his family, he feeds the sense of religion among them, and keeps God and their duty ever strongly present to their minds.

In a family where religion is known, and God devoutly worshipped, there is a conscientious tie on every one to discharge the duties that belong to his station; a tie strengthened by eternal rewards and punishments, and laid on the very soul. The parent and master consider themselves as accountable for the principles, and, in a great measure, for the salvation, of their children and servants. The children and servants consider, that they are to honour their parents as the representatives of God; and not to render only an eye-service, but so to obey and serve, as those, who, in every the most secret thought and action, lie open to the eyes of God. This produces a mutual discharge of duty on both sides, and that gives peace, order, and happiness, to the whole family.

As nothing but religion can work these happy effects, so we see, when that is wanting, there is nothing but quarrels, and confusion, and misery, to be observed. The mouths of parents are filled with complaints concerning the undutifulness of their children, and those complaints attended with extreme wrath and bitterness of soul. But, did they candidly consider from what causes the ill conduct of their children proceeds, they would, for the most part, find reason to turn their anger upon themselves, and change their complaints to remorse. The disobedience and impiety of their children are owing to want of religion, and that to their parents, who took little or no care to instruct them; and set them an irreligious example besides. They have sinned against the souls of their children, and those children are made, by Divine Providence, and a consequence almost necessary to the nature of things, the instruments of vengeance to chastise their horrid crime. Natural affection, and mere respect for parental authority, are not sufficient, without religion, to preserve children in their duty. Let no parent trust to them alone; for if he does, there is ten thousand to one, he is miserably disappointed.

We every day hear masters make the like complaints of their servants. Their servants, they tell us, are the plague of their lives. They do not indeed trouble us with any complaints about their lewdness, their blasphemies, their contempt of God's service, and of the sacrament; for those are only crimes committed against God; and they are not

concerned to prevent them. But we hear much of their idleness, their lying, their pilfering, and the like. These are really the most unjust and foolish complaints in the world, and such masters are well served. They expect obedience to their commands, without exacting any to those of God; that is, they hope for the effect without the cause, and expect that their servants should be dutiful, though irreligious, and ungodly. Their cruelty, to the very souls of their poor dependents, is justly punished by the dishonesty and sloth of those very dependents. And God too, most righteously chastises their neglect of his assistance, and contempt for his honour, by the very consequences of that contempt; for so it is, and so, in the nature of things, it must be, that unless masters teach their servants the principles of religion, and breed them up in the service and fear of God, those servants will, though unwittingly, take a speedy revenge; they will teaze, and plague, and cheat those, who have defrauded their souls of the only principles that could possess them with any sense of duty, or honesty. To complain of this is weak and unreasonable in their masters to the last degree. They might as well hope for the labour of their servants, without allowing them their food, as for their honesty and duty, without giving them the principles of either.

Among the many perversions of common sense, and distortions of human nature, that infidelity has introduced in these latter ages, none seems more surprising, than that unaccountable aversion to family prayers, which prevails so unhappily among us.

Can there be any thing more natural, that creatures should worship their Creator; that rational souls should make application to their Redeemer; or that the infirmities of nature should fly to the Spirit of God for comfort and succour? And, as prayer in general is most agreeable to nature, so the fellowship of those, who are joined to us by the nearest and tenderest ties, cannot but add to the natural pleasure that attends it. A good man

never think himself in a more honourable or happy situation, than while he is on his knees in the midst of his family, uttering the devotions of himself, his dear wife and children, and his dutiful domestics. He has before him, at that delightful juncture, all the occasions of happiness, that


« ElőzőTovább »