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hence besides their national, and city gods, the Romans had their Lares and Penates, their household gods, though, alas, they were but dumb idols; hence it may be, idolatrous Micah had a house of gods;* and shall poor dim-sighted heathens think it highly rational to have dunghill gods in their houses? and shall not men professing the religion of the true God, own their omnipresent God, by setting up an altar to him in their houses? the prophet speaks peremptorily, Mic. iv. 5, “ All people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God, for ever and ever." Is there not much more reason? and should not such as own the true God keep pace with these poor idolaters in acting for, and worshipping the true God? shall nature teach them to have more care of their children than Christians in God's way? Yea, shall even the sea monsters, draw out their breasts and give suck to their young ones?+ and shall Christians be so cruel to the souls of theirs, as to neglect this household duty.
4. The prophecies and promises of the word imply this family worship: Jer. xxxi. 1, "At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel; and they shall be my people." Whether this mean all the twelve tribes, or Judah only, it is a gospel promise, and implies worship; for relation to God is inseparable from adoration of him; "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God ;" and this in families, not only larger, but lesser. Holiness to the Lord, is not only to be written on the bells of the horses, but the
Judg. xvii. 5.
+ Lam. iv. 3.
Matt. iv. 10. Putatis nos occultare quod colimus, si delubra et aras non habemus-cum sic litabilis hostia bonus animus et pura mens, ut sincera conscientia-hæc nostra sacrificia, hæc Dei sacra sunt; sic apud nos religiosior est ille, qui castior.-Minucii Felicis.
pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar; that is, their very kitchen stuff, and common utensils shall be reckoned as holy as altar vessels immediately employed in sacrifices; yea further, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be "holiness to the Lord of hosts," Zech. xiv. 20, 21. The persons and utensils in private shall all be dedicated to God, and accepted by him in gospel times; civilities shall savour of sanctity; these new testament priests shall without scruple, serve God in their houses; every family shall be a temple, wherein God will be worshipped; house pots shall be holy vessels. This is meant of Gentile worshippers, ver. 16; and Jews shall not be behind them, Zech. xii. 12-14, "The land shall mourn, every family apart," in the Hebrew, families, families, royal family, sacerdotal tribe, and common people; they shall mourn apart, and shut up themselves apart from company and pleasures to exercise godly sorrow, vent their spirits in penitent prayers, and mournful groans for their barbarous crucifying of the Prince of Life. This some from all places did at Jerusalem, Acts ii; and more shall do it the day of their general call and conversion to God.
5. The servants of God have practised it. You can scarce name a religious householder, but he hath set up an altar in his family, and offered spiritual sacrifices thereupon. Joshua a noble warrior resolves upon this, chap. xxiv. 15, "But as for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord;" let others do as they dare answer it another day, I with my children and servants must and will worship the Lord. Worshipping God is serving him, Psal. lxxii. 11, “All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him,"* that is, by calling on God in prayer; doubtless Joshua did this. David a great king, in the ⚫ Zeph. iii. 9.
midst of political and eccelesiastical employments withdraws himself from all, and returns to bless his house,* 2 Sam. vi 20, which could be no other way but by prayer, and praising God for and with his family. Public occasions must not justle out this family-worshipping. Job rose up early in the morning, offered burnt-offerings, sanctified the members of his family, and, lest it be thought that this was but occasional and accidental, the text saith, "Thus did Job continually," chap. i. 5. And when Daniel went into his house, and his windows were open in his chamber or dining-room, his usual oratory, and when he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed;† good expositors judge this to be family-prayer, being so obvious and discernible by his adversaries. However, that devout captain Cornelius, who feared God with all his house, prayed to God with his family, Acts x. 2, which he declares, saying, "I prayed in my house," ver. 30. Calvin observes, "That Cornelius instructs his family in the fear of God, contemning the fear of danger; for, the Jewish religion was then hateful, nor might a Roman espouse a strange religion; wherefore, although the sincere profession of the gospel is much decayed in the world, yet that fearfulness is too criminal, if on account of such unjust hatred, any one should not dare to dedicate or present his family as a sacrifice to God, by his pious instructions." Thus Calvin.
* 1 Chron. xvi. 43.
+ Dan. vi. 10.
Nec omittenda est circumstantia, quod familiam in Dei timore instituit, contempto periculi metu, quod inde instabat; valde enim exosa erat Judaica religio; nec impunè erat civi Romano, peregrinam, ut vocabant, religionem suscipere. Quare etsi hodiè, pessimé in mundo audit sincera evangelii professio, tamen nimis vitiosa est timiditas, si quem impediat injustum istud odium, ne suam familiam Deo audeat in sacrificium suâ piâ institutione offerre.-Vid. Calv. in Act. 10. 2.
6. Another argument for a family-altar is, that the providence of God calls for it: "God setteth the solitary in families," Psal. lxviii. 6. There is certainly a signal act of divine care in disposing men and women's affections to each other; to make a barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children: it was God that made houses for the God-fearing midwives. The Lord made Rachel and Leah to build the house of Israel: and why doth God make his David's a sure house?* Why doth God give servants? Is it only to gratify the flesh, or a fancy? Is it only for worldly profit? Is it not for religion's sake? Has God no higher end than most men have for worldly advantages or pleasure? Surely God puts persons into this relation for himself, who is the grand end of all his acts. He hath made all things for himself. Should men then live like heathens and brutes? Do they not thereby counteract God's design? Doth God give wives and children to them that fear him, and doth he not expect that they should fear and serve him together? If children be God's heritage, why should not + we present them to the Lord upon our knees? If they be God's reward to us, why should we not give them again to God as our best reward? If families are societies of divine institution, do they not need divine benediction? Should not persons carry on religion in a relative capacity? Yes, surely. When God sanctifies this relation by his appointment, should not men sanctify his name by setting up his ordinances? there is great reason for it: for every thing is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.§ God's word to warrant our lawful use thereof, prayer for our holy
* Psal. cxiii. 9.
+ Prov. xvi. 4.
§ 1 Tim. iv. 5.
Exod. i. 21. Ruth. iv. 11. 2 Sam. vii. 11.
and profitable use thereof. As men without both these cross God's design, so they have no due use of this sweet domestic constitution and relation.
7. This family-altar distinguisheth betwixt religious and profane families; this is one discriminating characteristic, the one calls on God, the other not: this is as the altar Ed, to testify to all the world a solemn owning of the true God. On the contrary, wicked persons are thus described, Deut. xxix. 18, "Lest there should be amongst you, man or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God." Mind it, families in their domestic capacity, as well as in a personal, or national capacity may be alienated from God, and may have a root that beareth gall and wormwood, then see what follows: this is that which makes evil families, when instead of praying, reading scriptures, singing psalms, there is cursing, swearing, mocking at serious godliness, vain or profane talk, at least only worldly discourse.* But religious families are such as maintain God's worship according to God's institution, where the daily perfume of prayer ascends heavenwards. Mr. Fenner preaching at the funeral of a pious old man, disabled from work, and daily going among his friends for relief, saith, "O how much better was that poor cottage where he lived, whence the incense of prayer and praise mounted daily upwards; than the sumptuous palaces of princes and nobles, where oaths and blasphemies are belched out!" It was an appointment among the Jews and proselytes, that every family, province and city, should observe the feast of Purim, as a memorial of their deliverance from Haman's conspiracy; † and is there not as much reason that Christian families should celebrate the great work of redemption amongst them? Justin * Jer. viii. 3. + Esth. ix. 27, 28.