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of a perfon who could give you a cure for any loathfome and dangerous difcafe, to which your families were liable, would you not apply for it with the moft folicitous importunity and can any family who are fenfible of their prefent guilty and needy condition, hefitate a moment about joining with frequen. cy and united ardour in imploring bleflings much more important, and which, we are af fured, the great object of prayer is both able and willing to beftow on every fincere fuppliant? for if earthly parents,, "being evil, "know how to give good gifts unto their "children, how much more fhall our Father "who is in heaven give good things to them "that afk him?"
Be perfuaded, then, to be regular in your family-devotions. It is a reafonable and becoming fervice. Even the Heathen nations appear to have been fenfible of the reafonableness of this duty. Though their notions concerning the Deity were very erroneous, and their worship grofsly faulty; yet they prefented their homage in a relative or family-capacity as well as individuals. They had their penates, or household gods, to whom families addrefled their devotions. Such feems to have been the teraphim, or graven image, which Micah, a man of Mount Ephraim, had in his houfe; and on account of which he hired a priest, or domeftic chaplain. These deities were confidered and worshipped as the guardians of their habitations, and protectors of their families. The profperity of their children,
children, and fuccefs of their fecular affairs, were fuppofed to depend as much on their benign influence, as the iffue of battles, and other public undertakings, on the propitious countenance of the objects of their public worship. Though we acknowledge the mode of their worship to have been grofsly fuperftitious, the practice itself is a clear proof of their conviction of the obligations to familydevotion. Their conduct is in fome measure a pattern, I wish I had not reason to say, that it is a reproof, to many families in Chriftian countries, who live in the habitual neglect of this duty. O may they profit by the admonition! for it fhall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgement, than for thofe who counteract the brighter difcoveries of the gospel. The Almighty fhall "pour out his fury up66 on the families that call not on his name.
3. This leads me to point out, in the third place, the obligations to family-worship from divine revelation.
Now I own, that I know of no clear and exprefs precept in the fcriptures enjoining this duty. Indeed, as it was a branch of natural religion, it was not to be expected; for it hath been often and juftly remarked, that revelation does not directly enunciate, but proceeds upon a fuppofed previous knowledge and acknowledgement of fuch truths as are difcoverable by the human understanding. This duty, however, feems to be implied in fome
fome of the general exhortations with respect to prayer as "Pray without ceafing," and "In every thing give thanks; for this is the ❝ will of God in Chrift Jefus concerning you. "Praying with all prayer and fupplication in "the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all "perfeverance and fupplication for all faints. "Offer the facrifice of praise to God conti"nually; that is, the fruit of your lips, gi❝ving thanks to his name." As frequency in all kinds of religious addreffes is fo ftrongly recommended by the Spirit of God, the united homage of families, as being one important fpecies of prayer, appears to be comprehended in these exhortations. The words of our Saviour are remarkable in Matth. xviii. 19. "I fay unto you, that if two of you shall "agree on earth as touching any thing that "they shall afk, it shall be done for them of 66 my Father which is in heaven. For where
two or three are gathered together in my ❝ name, there am I in the midst of them;" a promise which, though it may be extended to public worship, is more immediately applicable to focial and family devotion. That excellent prayer which our Lord taught his difciples, is exhibited in the form of an addrefs from an affociated body: "Our Father which ❝art in heaven, give us this day our dai. "ly bread," &c. It is well adapted to a family when united in acts of adoration, fupplication, and thanksgiving, to their common Parent and Sovereign,
But this duty of family-worship is clearly recommended by the example of feveral of the faints in fcripture. Their conduct is declarative of the genius of our holy religion, and the best commentary on its inftitutions. The true character of its profeffors may be learn ed from the lives of thofe whofe virtues are recorded in the infpired writings, as patterns of piety and obedience to fucceeding generations.
Abraham, who was diftinguished by the appellation of the Friend of God, and Father of the faithful, is justly celebrated for the good government of his family; of which this duty is an effential part. How honourable is that teftimony concerning him, Gen. xviii. 19. "I "know him, (fays the Moft High), that he "will command his children, and his houfe"hold after him, and they fhail keep the "way of the Lord, to do juftice and judge"ment." Similar to his was the conduct of Job; to whom there was none like or equal in all the earth, a perfect and upright man, one who feared God, and efchewed evil. We are informed how careful he was, in his profperity, to temper mirth with piety, and attend to the religious interefts of his family: "His fons went and feafted in their houfes, "" every one his day; and sent and called for "their three fifters to eat and drink with "them. And it was fo, when the days of "their feafting were gone about, that Job fent, and fanctified them, and rofe up ear
"ly in the morning, and offered burnt of ferings, according to the number of them "all for Job faid, It may be that my fons "have finned, and curfed God in their "hearts. Thus did Job continually." Job, i. 4.5.
Queen Efther, too, is famed amongst thofe devout worthies who have not been afhamed to honour God in their families. When her nation was threatened with deftruction, fhe iffued this pious and fuitable order: "Go, gather together all the Jews that are "in Shufhan, and fast ye for me, and nei"ther eat nor drink three days, night or "day." Obferve her own resolution: "I also "and my maidens will fast likewife, and fo will "I go in unto the King, which is not accor"ding to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
King David, after having fixed the ark in its proper place, and joined in the public devotions fuitable to that folemnity, returned to blefs his household, or recommend them to the divine favour. The 30th pfalm was probably compofed and ufed at the dedication of his houfe. In the 101ft pfalm, he lays down a plan of conduct as the mafter of a family, as well as a monarch.
John the Baptift taught his felect attendants to pray.
Our bleffed Saviour, whofe life is the only perfect pattern of virtue, was likewife eminent for the practice of this duty, The facred hiftorians frequently remark his joining with VOL. III. B