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Paradise Lost, Book T.
Perhaps, in this very thing, God is bringing the touchstone to your character; he here tries you whether you
will indeed confess Christ before men. Remember, then, “If we deny him, he will also deny us; if we confess bim before men, he will also confess us before his Father and the holy angels in heaven.” Some have regular family worship in general, but when they have any friend in the house, unaccustomed to this service, they are induced by the fear of man, or perhaps the pretence of not giving offence, to neglect it. This conduct is utterly unworthy of a true Christian.
Others object, I have NOT TIME FOR THE DUTY; I am engaged in business from morning to night. Is this true, then surely you, who have so much to do, above all men, ought especially to seek the favour and help of God. His blessing naketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it ; bu without it, all your endeavours and labours will profit you nothing; they will never make you happy. But have you never any leisure for amusement, for vanity, trifling, and folly? Remembering that God knows how you employ all your time, will you venture to say, that you cannot collect your family together for a few minutes in the morning and in the evening ? Have you tine to provide food for their perishing budies, which last but a few days, but no time to dispense the bread of life for their never-dying souls? The want of time proceeds in most cases from indisposition to the duty;
IN THE FAMILY
or, at best, from want of due management. If you appoint those stated and fixed times which shall be found most convenient, and keep to them regularly, you will find that it will be as easy to collect your family together, and as indispensable to have regular family prayer, as it is to have your daily meals. Some bring an objection of another kind. I SHOULD
OPPOSITION Are you only an inferior member of the family? you should still at proper times, use what influence you have to obtain so great a blessing * and if, after doing this, you cannot, God will not lay the sin to your charge. But whatever weight this objection may have with those in inferior stations in the family, sure I am that this objection should have no weight with the master, or
head of the family. Do not have thus plainly to confess that you fear man rather than God. Reineinber, that you are responsible for the duties of that station in which you are placed. Be firm, and of good courage
in this matter; and, whatever you may give up of your own ease and inclination in worldly things, for the sake of quietness and rest, give NOTHING up, where it concerus your duty, the good of inmortal souls, and the glory of God, to be firm and resolute. See Ps. ci. But you say, I DO PRAY WITH MY FAMILY ON A SUN
it is certainly better thus to collect your family together on the sabbath, than not at all : but you are required to instruct your family, not merly on Sun.
* I know an instance of a child in a family, where this duty was nrglected, upou ber returt: from a visit in another, wbere it Wasdadi performed, being ihe instrument of effecting a reform in this articular, by only asking her parents, W by can we not havr daily family prayer?" The remonstrance of the child, tbrough God's blessing, was effectual.
day, but when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. vi, 7. Your limited performance of the duty shews that you do not really love and enjoy it; if you did, you would be more frequent in practising it. And I may appeal to you, whether you and your family do not generally find it a weariness, (Mal. i, 13.) after the duties of the sabbath, to be engaged in a service which daily custom and habit have not yet made necessary and delightful.
But is not the real, though not the avowed objection, this, I AM AFRAID OF TOO GREAT A RESTRAINT ON MYSELF? I am afraid that more will be expected from me; that I must be more consistent in my character, and more circumspect in my conduct. Look well into your hearts, if this be not the real difficulty ; and if it be, only consider what a sad mark it is of a man's spiritual condition, when he is afraid of a restraint on his sins. Job. xxi, 14, 15.
Howe observes, “ we should look on family religion, not merely under the notion of a duty, and as imposed, but as a PRIVILEGE, and a singular vouchsafement of grace that there may be such a thing."
It hath been accounted so even in the very Pagan world. A divine presence, to have a Numen at hand, and ready; how great a privilege hath it been reckoned ! In the dark and dismal days of Popery, when that hath been regnant, what a terrible thing it has been counted to excommunicate a nation, to put it under an interdict. Now let us consider this matter so. What if instead of being bidden to pray in our families, we should be forbidden to pray in them. Make but that fearful supposition. Suppose there should be a special interdict on your house, and that by some particular signification of the mind of God from heaven it should be said, I will
have no worship of God out of this house ; froin your house I will accept no sacrifice, I will hear no prayer.' What a terrible doom were this! What a dark and horrid cloud would be drawn over that habitation, if it should be said, · Here shall be po prayers, here shall be no mention of the name of God! So that as in a like case represented to us in reference to the people of the Jews—the poor forlorn members of that family should say, we may not make mention of the name of the Lord, (Amos vi, 10.) what a dismal thing were this !»*
Trusting, then, that the reader is now satisfied as ta the duty and privilege of daily family prayer, and only wishes to know how he may best practise it; we will make some remarks with reference to the DUE PERFORM
ANCE OF FAMILY WORSHIP
Every head of a family should consider himself as the minister or priest of his own family. It is, if we may use the expression, his Parish, and he should consider that he is as responsible to God for the welfare of the souls thus committed to him, as the minister is on a larger scate. The sin of omission lies at his door if it be neglected. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven," may be applied to their spiritual as well as their temporal wants. Let the head of the family, then, consider it his duty and his privilege to conduct family worship.
A preparation of mind for this duty by taking a few moments of retirement for self-recollection and prayer, has been found by many to be highly advantageous.
Where circumstances will admit of it, read the Scriptures, and sing a Psalm or Hymn, as well as pray with your family.
* Howe's Works, vol. 5, p. 413. The whole Tract, entitled, " The Obligations to Family Religion and Worship,” is well wortby of a serious and attentive perusal.
READ THE SCRIPTURES; a portion from one Testament in the morning, and from the other in the evening. Both the Old and the New Testament are thus constantly brought before your families. If you pursue a regu- . lar course, going through one book before you begin another, your lessons will be always found for you. Those who have the talent of explaining the Scriptures in an impressive and lively way to their families, (and this ta lent will increase as it is used) will be able to give much additional interest by a few short observations on what has been read. Those who have not this talent
find excellent Helps for this purpose ; as the Practical Observations in Scott's Bible, in Doddridge's Exposition of the New Testament, or Selections from M. Henry. Only in all take care to be brief, practical, familiar, and serious. Any thing long, or critical, is out of place and tedious. Let each member of the family bring their Bible. Some have found that it helps to keep alive their attention to refer them occasionally to parallel passages, one of the family reading the passage.* The reading of the Scriptures daily in family worship is a plain and positive duty. How can you otherwise fulfil the express directions of the Scriptures themselves. Deut. vi, 7.
Occasionally sing A PSALM have time, and your family can join together in singing, this adds much to the cheerfulness of family devotion. “ Psalmody," says Dr. Hammond, “made up a very
* Some have found it an excellent practice ; and it is one wbich is recoina-nded to pious masters and mistresses, to take some time in the course of the sabbath, or any other fixed time that may be more convenient, to converse apart with each member of the family on the state of their mind, giving them suitable advice. This has been attended with the happiest effects. It discovers the true state of your family,--enables you better to pray !or tbem, and with them. -and gives you many happy opportunities of arousing the careless, strengthening the weak, encouraging the desponding, and confirming the strong.