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2. If we take a view of the state of families, we will fee the peculiar reasonableness and propriety of this duty.
Hath not every family many fins to confefs before God? Is not every member chargeable with adding to the guilt of their finall fociety, by innumerable omiffions and violations of duty? Are not many families apt to exceed in the ufe of the lawful comforts of life, or deficient in gratitude to the beneficent author of them? Are not the heads of many families chargeable with idlenefs, inactivity, and prodigality, on the one hand, or with immoderate folicitude and parfimony, on the other, in the management of their fecular affairs? Do not many children give early indications of perverfe tempers, and a ftrong tendency to do what they are forbidden? Are they not often guilty of acts of undutifulness to their parents, of lying, the contempt of good advice and reproof, abufe of the means of their education, the difregard or neglect of things facred? Do not fervants increafe much the guilt of families, both by frequent inattention to religious obligations, and the defective performance of the duties of their ftation? Is it not then highly proper that family-fins, whether of a more or lefs aggravated kind, fhould be acknowledged before God in frequent and united acts of humble confeflion? May not judgements, instead of bleffings, be expected by those whofe tranfgreffions are not confeff
ed with contrition, and' whofe hearts are hardened through the deceitfulness of fin?
Further, the reasonablenefs of family devotion appears from the many favours we are daily receiving from the hand of God. It is he who gives us food and raiment, comfortable lodging, and refreshing fleep; it is he who protects us from innumerable dangers, who reftores the fick to health, and continues us in the exercife of our rational powers; it is he who profpers induftry, and crowns our honeft undertakings with fuccefs. To his good providence we are indebted for being born in a land of liberty, and enjoying, in purity and plenty, the light and ordinances of the gofpel. These and other bleflings are feattered with a more liberal hand upon fome families than on others; but there is none which doth not receive various proofs of the divine benignity. Should not thefe be devoutly acknowledged? Would not an indigent family, who derived their fupport from fome generous benefactor, be juftly deemed moft ungrateful and unworthy, if the different members, or the head of it, as the mouth of the reft, did not exprefs a warm fenfe of fuch obligations? Is it not then unquestionably fit and reafonable, that a daily facrifice of thankfgiving and praise fhould be offered up by Chriftian families to that almighty and gracious being, on whom they continually depend, and from whom they receive every enjoyment. Again, as we have many bleflings to ask from
God, for ourselves, and those with whom we are connected, it is evidently proper to pour forth united fupplications to the Hearer of prayer, and Father of mercies. We fhould daily implore the forgiveness of thofe fins of which every member of the family hath been guilty, and afk thofe fupplies of grace which are fuited to our different circumftances and occafions. When we confider to what duties we are called, and to what trials we are expofed, in this probationary state, how needful does it appear for the head of a family to fupplicate, in behalf of himfelf, and those under his roof, strength to resist temptations to intemperance, unlawful gain, or any forbidden pleasure; knowledge, prudence, and activity, for the difcharge of their respective duties; fuccefs to their different ftudies and worldly purfuits; patience and fortitude of mind under the afflictions and disappointments of life? How proper is it to pray, that ungodly relations, children, or other domeftics, may undergo a faving change of nature; and that those who are religióutly difpofed may go on, with increasing ftrength, in the ways of piety and holiness? As the circumftances of fami lies are various, the petitions of those who prefide in these united acts of devotion, should correspond to their different emergencies and fituations.
How can you reafonably expect the bleff ings of which you ftand in need, if you are not at the pains to ask them? Did you know
of a perfon who could give you a cure for any loathfome and dangerous disease, to which your families were liable, would you not apply for it with the most solicitous 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 affured, the great object of prayer is both able and willing to bestow on every fincere fuppliant for if earthly parents, "being evil,
know how to give good gifts unto their "children, how much more shall 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 reasonableness of this duty. Though their notions concerning the Deity were very erro neous, 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, Thefe 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 itfelf 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 those 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 discoverable by the human understanding. This duty, however, feems to be implied in