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O friends, will you take your leave of God, in the morning or evening sacrifice, and never acknowledge him, till the return of that family service? God forbid; are not the souls of yours committed to you? must you not give an account of them? and is not faithful speaking to them for God, one way of discharging your trust? profess your subjection to the gospel, and your example may prevail on all about you, for God is much glorified thereby.*
10. Observe answers of prayer, and gather up experience. As this will furnish you with matter of prayer, so it will help you in the due manner of engaging in it. How did the Lord assist my heart in such a duty? what quickenings? what meltings? what communion with God? what further degrees or strength of grace, did I obtain in such a performance? what power against such a corruption? what strength against temptation? what further ability or encouragement in and for God's service? Or make your remarks upon your family, what person is informed, reformed, conformed to the ways of God? what convictions or impressions have I observed, on the spirit of such a child or servant? what miscarriages to be reproved or bewailed? what evils have been prevented or removed? consider how the Lord hath blessed or prospered your undertakings, that God may have the glory, and yourselves may have the use or profit of what you have met with in your families. David saith, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; in the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up;" the words are very emphatical, first, his great care and exactness so to order, direct and compose, both his and prayers in such a manner,
• 2 Cor. ix. 13.
+ Psalm lxxxv. 8.
as to be well pleasing to God, "Then will I stand as a watchman, upon my watch tower, to consider what answer he will give me; the altar which I have made, shall be my watch tower, at which I will stand to expect some blessed answer; to ascertain what help the Lord will afford me:"* by this means you may adapt yourself to the circumstances of your family, and not proceed at random, and always find matter from things daily occurring, to present before the Lord; yea, and those very occurrences, will excite suitable affections of joy and sorrow, to quicken you in prayer or praise. This is what Solomon prescribes in Prov. xxvii. 23, "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds;" whether it refer to a literal inspection of shepherds, in a proper sense, or metaphorical in a political as magistrates, or ecclesiastical as ministers, or economical as governors of families; it is a great duty in all respects;† but it properly and principally belongs to householders; else how can you accommodate your counsels, and admonitions to them, or petitions for them, or your sympathy or compassion? Thus I have despatched my instructions, both preparatory for erecting this family altar, and also have prescribed the due manner of performing this family worship, both with respect to matter and manner.
And now you cannot plead ignorance or want of direction. I have according to my ability reached out my hand to help you, your way is lined out, some have even written down words, and forms of prayer to assist you, and you have pious ministers, to whom you may repair for further direction, and if still you wilfully live in the neglect of this known duty, your
-est, speculabor instar ואצפה,Disaponam tibi אערך לך
speculatoris observaturus an venias mihi auxilio. + Est præceptum economicum, saith Mercer.
blood be upon your own heads, the blood of your families, will also be required at your hands. God almighty make you willing and able to dicharge your relative duty. But if after all this, you will not speak a word to God, for your poor, languishing, perishing, dying families, to keep them out of hell, I leave you to that justice, which will shortly plead with you at another rate, than we poor ministers can do, and will take vengeance on you, for your wilful neglect, and disobedience to the calls of God.
A SOLUTION OF SEVERAL CASES OF CONSCIENCE CONCERNING THE WORSHIP OF GOD IN FAMILIES.
THE last thing I have in view, is to answer sundry cases of conscience, some of which have been proposed to me, and others are ordinarily connected with this point, concerning a family altar, and sacrifices in families.
1. Query, May a householder take upon him to preach, expound scripture, dispense the seals of the covenant, baptism, and the Lord's supper to the members of his family, seeing he is a priest?
Answ. (1.) Ministerial, authoritative teaching by order of others is one thing, and charitable, subservient teaching is another. A master of a family should teach all under his charge as a master, yet not usurp the office of a minister, without a due call:* his teaching must not be in opposition, but in subordination to Deut. xi. 18-21. Heb. v. 4.
ministerial instruction; as families are subordinate to churches.
(2.) Masters of families must not take upon them what they are not qualified for, or presume beyond their capacity, incurring the guilt of proud self-conceitedness, or vain ostentation, by undertaking to interpret the original, or give the sense of dark prophecy, or obscure scriptures, or determine knotty controversies. Yet they may declare, when it lies in their way, what they have read or heard from learned, pious men, or got in public preaching.
(3.) It is however safest, ordinarily to pass by those abstruse and difficult points, and insist upon plain, practical, fundamental, catechistical truths, or take occasions from the chapter read in the family, to employ such a seasonable word, suppose of admonition; as I have heard a pious father say, this is for you, look to it, this aims at you in such a case, and with serious exhortations press it home upon the conscience; or inform the ignorant on such or such a subject, requiring them to remember it.
(4.) But as for administering baptism and the Lord's supper, they may not presume to do it, this being an act of office. The one is annexed to Christ's commission, "Teach and baptize," and the other is the cup of blessing, which we, namely, as ministers bless; and this they receive of the Lord; and are to deliver it to the people. And I find several judicious divines affirming, that dispensing the seals, is peculiar to an organized church, and is proper only to ministers rightly ordained. For the Lord's supper is a symbol, and means of public communion, not of families as such; for though Christ administered it to his family, yet not as a family, but as a church. The judgment and prac
* Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
+ 1 Cor. x. 16. xi. 23.
tice of the primitive doctors and Christians, is a sufficient proof of this.
2. Qu. Is the master or govenernor of the family, always bound to perform family duty? May he not in some cases substitute another to perform that office for him?
Answ. (1.) It is incumbent upon the master of a family, as his proper charge; and it is fittest that he do it himself, if capable. David was a great king, and had much business abroad, yet returned to "bless his house," and put it not off to a chaplain ;* Job was the greatest of all the men in the east, yet he acted personally in family worship. I have heard of a nobleman in England, that though he keep a chaplain, yet to shew his authority and duty, voluntarily at some times himself prays with his family; this is well done.
(2.) Yet a chaplain may be employed, especially where the family is numerous, or when his gifts and graces are more taking and edifying, and he is likely to do more good than the master. It may seem probable, that some Levites were kept in some of the Jews' families, being oft reckoned with their sons, daughters, and servants, and it may be in some cases to perform these religious duties in the family; so idolatrous Micah, had his Levite chaplain, of which he too much boasted. ‡
(3.) Some have thought, that a wife in a family, may in some cases perform family duty, and that this honour may be given to the weaker vessel to do the office of religious exercise, as well as partake in the government of the family: doubtless she is to pray: and it hath been judged by learned men that she may and must pray in the family with her husband's leave,
* 2 Sam. vi. 20.
Deut. xii. 12, 18. Judg. xvii. 13.
+ Job. i. 3-5.
1 Pet. iii. 7.