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fathers were men of prayer, and who, like Abraham, have commanded, That their children and households after them should keep the way of the Lord,(a) can be a greater apostacy, than a casting off fear, and restraining prayer before God, and the neglect of family religion. It is at once sinking down from a state of christianity, under the light of the glorious gospel, into a state of heathenism. It is at the same time awfully cal. culated to bring down the wrath of God on all such children of impiety and disobedience. If men will forsake God, he will cast them off forever.(b) Since therefore it is lamentably evident, that prayer and family religion are exceedingly neglected, and ra. pidly on the decline, how deeply should it affect every heart ! How should it awaken the united exertions of all who love hu. man nature, of all who seek the prosperity of Zion, and wish the duration and happiness of our nation, to remedy these alarming impieties, and to restore us to our primitive state ? To efe fect these happy purposes, as far as may be, by the divine bleso sing, is the design of this address.
Prayer is certainly an act of natural worship. If there be a God of infinite perfection, nothing is more certain than that he ought to be worshipped as such : and prayer is a principal part of that homage which we owe him, as our creator, constant preserver and benefactor. His perfections challenge our su. preme love and most perfect obedience : his daily eare over us, and countless mercies towards us, our continual thanksgivings : our daily sins, our constant penitential supplications for his par. doning goodness : and our continual wants that we should al. ways be asking his help. Prayer therefore is but our reasona. ble service. It is founded in ihe very nature of things, in the infinite perfection of God, in our relation to him and dependence on him. The very heathen cried, every man to his God. They sacrificed and made vows.(c)
FURTHER, the express commands of God oblige men, in all places, and circumstances, to-pray to him : To pray with all kinds of prayer and supplication : to pray without ceasing, and without fainting. It is written, Trust in him at all times : ye people, pour out your hearts before him.(d) I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubt. ing (e) Jesus Christ abundantly inculcated the duty of prayer. He spake a parable to this end that men ought always to pray and not to faint.(f) He commanded, That men should watch and pray always. He expressly enjoined this as absolutely necessary to guard them from temptation, to give them victory over the world, and that they might stand before him with victory and triumph at the last day. Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation (8) Watch ye therefore and pray always: that ye maj
(a) Gen. xviii. 19. (b) 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. (c) Jonah i. 5. 16. (a) Psalm Isii. 8. (e) 1 Tim. ii. 8. (f) Luke xviii. 1. (g) Matth, XXVI. 41.
be accounted worthy to escape all these things which shall come to
SECRET PRAYER is expressly commanded by Christ, who was a remarkable example of prayer. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in see cret shall reward thee openly.(1) He not only commanded this and encouraged it by a most gracious promise of an open reward, but recommended it by his example. He retired into mountains and solitary places, and it seems sometimes spent whole nights in prayer. And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into, a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayor to God.(m) How doth this command and example of Christ, teach and oblige all men to be constant and abundant in secret prayer, and in the secret duties of religion ?
FURTHER, as all kinds of prayer are expressly commanded, praying always with all prayer and supplication, family prayer is included. This certainly is one kind of prayer. All heads of families are therefore indispensabły obliged, by the divine au. thority and express precept, to pray with their respective house. holds. Besides as reason teacheth us to pray in general, and as we are expressly commanded to pray to God in secret, because he is worthy to be worshipped, because we are his creatures and owe him all the homage of our hearts and lives ; because we are entirely dependent on him, and have innumerable wants
(h) Luke xxi. 36. compared with chapter xxii. 40, 46. (i) i Thes. v. 17. (j) 1 Pet. iv. 7. (k) Ephes. vi. 18. (1) Matth. vi, $. (m) Luke yi. 12.
which he only can supply ; because he loads us with bis bene, fits ; and because we are sinners and must perish without his pardoning mercy, so families for the same reasons are certainly bound to pray. There are all the reasons for family prayer, which there are for secret. Nay, there are more, and some of greater consideration. Families owe no less homage to God than individuals. They are no less dependent. They all have family wants and blessings, have family sins, and must be mis. erable without the divine favour. The religion of a whole fam. ily, its order and prosperity, are more important than those of an individual. More good, other things being equal, is done i more are instructed and edified. God is more visibly honored. If secret prayer therefore be an indispensable duty, family prayer must be much more so. Indeed we are taught this by the most important and forcible scripture example. Wbat" less could be included in the resolution of Joshua, But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, than family prayer, and all pious and useful family instruction ?(n) What can be designed by David's returning to bless his house, but to pray with his family ?(0) What was the praying of Daniel three times a day in his house, but family prayer ?(p) Had it been secret prayer his enemies could no: have known it, they could not have proy. ed it, or expected to have obtained any advantage against hina on that account. What were the prayers of Cornelius in his house, but prayers with his family (q) Our divine master has added his example to that of pious men. He prayed alone with his disciples, who were his constant family. And it canie to pass as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him.(r) How re. markably did he pray with them, and for them, just before his passion.(s) He not only prayed with them, but taught them to pray with one another, or among themselves, as a family. The prayer which he taught was a social prayer. This was the form of it. Our Father which art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread; Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil! This could not be secret prayer, because the terms are plural. 18 was given as, a form particularly for his disciples for the then present time, while they continued together as one faroiły : for after his resurrection and the introduction of christianity, he taug!t them to pray and ask every thing in his name. It also appears better adapted to private than public worship. Do not the examples of these ancient saints, and much more the instructions and example of Christ clearly teach us the will of God with respect to this duty, and lay indispensable obligations on all christians to practise fainily prayer ? .
Bor further, do not all the commands which oblige parents so educate their children for God, bind them constantly to pray
(n) Josh. xxiv. 15. (0) 2 Şam. vi. 20. (p) Dan, yi. 10. (9) Acts x, 2, 30. (r) Luke ix. 18. (s) John Wycia .
with and for their families? Can any family be a religious family. educated for God, without prayer ? Certainly there cannot. But God has given the most strict and abundant commands, that hiss people shall instruct their children in the doctrines and duties of religion, and educate them for him. And the words which I com. mand thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt tale of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.(1) For he established a testimony in Faceb, and appointed a law in Israel, which he corne manded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. Thut the generation to come might know them, even the Children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children ; that they might set their hope in God, and not for. get the works of God; but keep his commandments : and mighe not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a gen. eration that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steafist with God.(11) Train up a child in the way he should go i and when he is old he will not depurt from it.(1) Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.(w) Nothing can be more expressly and strongly enjoined, than the good instruction and government of children are, in these scripture passages. Nothing can more fully show how much the divine mind is en.. gaged in them, or how necessary and important they are in the divine view. The passages imply that a pious education of chile dren is the most probable and certain way to make them pious, and to engage them to walk in the path of life, and never 'to turn from it. God has commanded parents most diligently and laboriously to instruct their children by precept, example, and all means in their power, and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget his works ; but keep his commandments. The scripture imports that if this be not done, children will be a-stubborn and rebellious generation, who will not set their hearts aright, and whose spirit will not be sted fast with God. Universal observation and experience teach the happy effects of a pinus education. Nothing, perhaps, in the power of man, can lay such a foundation for the welfare of individuals, of families, and all communities, civil or religious, as this. The principles which men imbibe in youth, the impressions made, and the ha. bits which are then furmed, commonly grow up with them, cona tinue through life, and as that advances, grow more fixed and operative. The Jews therefore compared that which a child learned to writing upon clean and elegant paper, which might always be seen and read. Hierome, that famous ecclesiastical writer, compared the impressions made on young minds, and
(t) Deut. vi. 6. (u) Psalm laxyiii. 5,6,7,8. (v) Prov. xxi. 6 (w) Ephes. vi. 4.
· habits formed in early life, to locks of wool dyed in scarlet,
which never could be reduced to their original whiteness. Chil. * dren trained up in the knowledge and fear of God, have been
the seed, support, and ornament of the church from age to age. Hence this observation of Calvin, “ that if we would have the “ church flourish we must begin in the good instruction of chil. « dren." It is of the highest imaginable importance to them. selves, with respect to their usefulness to themselves and oth. ers ; and to their present and future happiness. It is a powerful restraint from those errors and vices, by which persons ofien bring shame, misery, and ruin upon themselves. It makes them orderly, peaceable, submissive and dutiful. It puts on them a peculiar dignity and importance : and through the blessing of God, is a special mean of their salvation. It is very essential to the peace, honour and beauty of a family. It makes children the crown and joy of their parents, the support and solace of their declining years. Pious parents have no greater joy than this, to see their children walking in the truth : Than to have eommunion with them in the private and public duties and ora dinances of religion : Than the pleasing hopes that they are born of God, that he has given them a spirit of adoption, and that they are striving together with them in their prayers to God for themselves, for them, and the church universal : Nay, than the prospect that they shall enjoy them forever in the great and blessed family of heaven. What sweet fruits are these of the good education of children ? There is still further advantage and matter of joy, it makes them good members of society, the nr. naments and pillars of church and state.
FURTHER, this is of infinite moment not only to the present age, but to generations yet unborn. If ye train up your chil, dren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they will proba ably train up their children in the same manner, and so piety may, through the blessing of God, whose mercy is upon them who fear him unto a thousand generations, transmit piety and righteousness from age to age. The manner in which ye shall educate your children, their piety or wickedness, will, in their consequences, give a general tone and character to future gen. erations, and be the means of transmitting holiness and happi. ness, or pollution and misery, to unborn ages. In this view, how incalculable and immense is the guilt incurred in neglecting fama ily religion and good government ? It is sinning against the ex. press commands of God, against all his goodness and mercy in giving you families and preserving them. It is sinning against yourselves, against the children which God has graciously giva en you ; against the church and commonwealth, and against the ages which are yet to be born. This is a kind of unpardonable sin. 1 Sam. iii. 13, 14, For I have told him that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knoweth ; because his sone