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and in her husband's presence, only she should cover her face with a veil, in token of her subjection. This they think is meant by a woman praying or prophesying with her head covered, not in the church where she was not to speak, but in the family when she performed that piece of worship, and Calvin seems to incline to this apprehension, saying, the apostle requires this modesty of women, not only in the place where the church meets together, but in any grave assembly of matrons, or such as sometimes are in private houses: it is true he denies them liberty to prophesy in any other place, but I see no reason why an Abigail or a Deborah, may not at least be the mouth of a family to God. But I am not positive herein, and leave it to the consideration of others. †
(4.) And why may not a servant, or a steward of the house, such as Eliezer, Abraham's servant, or Obadiah, Ahab's servant, pray in the family? Especially in these cases, when the master gives him, not only liberty, but a call to that performance, yea, requests him to pray in the family.-When that servant hath gifts to qualify him for such a work, and is not exposed to the scorn and contempt of his fellows.-In case of the master's sickness or absence from home, or when more public necessary business engages him.In case that servant be humble, submissive, self-denying, and know his place, and do it not with a kind of bravado, over his fellow-servants, or contempt of his master and if in all things, that servant" shew him
* 1 Tim. ii. 12. 1 Cor. xiv. 34.
+ Quanquam nec hoc malè quadrabit, si dicamus Apostolum hanc modestiam non modò in loco ubi tota ecclesia congregatur, requirere a mulieribus; sed etiam in quovis graviore cætu aut matronarum aut virorum, quales interdum in privatas ædes conveniunt.-Calv. in locum.
self obedient, according to his duty, 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2. 1 Pet. ii. 18, 19.
3. Another case of conscience is, when is the fittest time for the performance of family worship?
Answ. As to the time of prayer. I am really ashamed, when I read how often the Mahometans pray; it is said by writers, that they go seven times a day to their devotion; namely, early in the morning-at sun-rising-at noon-betwixt noon and even -at sun-set-an hour after sun-set-and at midnight. O! be ashamed, you professed Christians, to be outstript by barbarous Turks!*
But as for the Jews, whom the primitive Christians imitated, their hours of prayer were borrowed from the times of their sacrificing, and were morning, which was any time before the third hour, Acts ii. 15. -mid-day, called the sixth hour, Acts x. 9, or about noon-evening, which was after the ninth hour, or about six o'clock at night, Acts iii. 1. Calvin thinks they did not go into the temple to pray, merely to comply with Jewish rites, but the better to propagate the gospel; yet asserts, that the church cannot want her regular discipline, and at this day, saith he, but that too much drowsiness prevents, it were profitable to have daily such meetings for prayer.† He means, in a more public manner: but for the circumstance of time, it is judged, that morning and evening are fittest seasons for family devotion: hence Calvin observes, that by this exercise, they were taught to begin and
* Weemse's Christian Synag. p. 85. David thrice, Psal. lv. 17. Dan. vi. 10.
+ Inde colligimus non posse carere ecclesiam certâ disciplinâ, ac hodie, nisi obstaret nimius topor, utile esset quotidie habere tales conventus.-Calv. in Act. iii. 1.
shut up the day with prayer, and the worship of God.* I have hinted this before, and shall only add briefly a few directions.
(1.) You must be sure to pray for a blessing upon your meat at meals, 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5.
(2.) Take your family at meal time to seek God, and read his scriptures, to sing God's praise, and to perform family duty, morning and evening.
(3.) Let it be a stated time, if possible, known to the family, that none may plead excuse for their absence: but that the whole family may attend.
(4.) Yet if some extraordinary accident intervene, you must not think yourselves so precisely bound to a time, as to be perplexed in conscience for omission, but take another more convenient time, which may more directly suit your occasions.
4. Case. Suppose the avocations of a housholder call him abroad about his lawful business, before the rest of his family can rise out of their beds, may he omit family prayer?
Answ. (1.) In such a case, he must go to prayer with such of his family as are risen, as it is likely some are to prepare him for his departure.
(2.) However, he must pray alone, committing himself and his family into God's hands, which the Lord may graciously accept.
(3.) He must double his diligence at his return, or at another time; and mourn for what he cannot mend. A good heart will lament any providential hinderance of communion with God.
(4.) But if possible, so arrange your wordly concerns, as not to hinder your family exercise, prudent foresight may be of great service here: but if your
Hoc exercitio docebantur, ab invocatione et cultu Dei incipere diem et claudere.
calling be such, that this cannot be, do as the Israelites did, gather double the day or night before, two omers for a man or family,* lay in for the day following, what may stand you in stead by pleading with God, for what you will need.
5. Case, What posture is to be used in family prayer, and whether sitting be lawful?
Answ. Scripture tells us of several postures in prayer, as
(1.) Standing, Mark xi. 25. "When ye stand praying, forgive." The "publican stood afar off, and smote upon his breast;" this was a penitent praying posture.
(2.) The eyes fixed upwards, "Jesus lift up his eyes to heaven," as we look a man in the face, when we speak to him: or in some cases, the eye may be shut, to prevent gazing or distraction.
(3.) Sometimes prostration, or laying the body on the earth, hath been a praying gesture, Abraham “bowed himself toward the ground;" but Joshua "fell to the earth upon his face:" our Lord also "fell on his face and prayed."||
(4.) But the most ordinary gesture is kneeling, called bowing the knee: even king Solomon "kneeled down upon his knees, and spread forth his hands:" our dear Lord also, whose example is our rule, "kneeled down and prayed."§ Methinks we should not be too stiff to kneel before the Lord our Maker, before whom every knee must bow, either in devotion or destruction. All agree-That the gesture should be reverent before the great God-That bodily gesture should be such as
* Exod. xvi. 22.
|| Gen. xviii. 2. § Eph. iii. 14. xcv. 6.
John xvii. 1.
12, 13. Luke xxii. 41. Psal.
+ Luke xviii. 13.
Josh. vii. 6. Matt. xxvi. 39.
doth best express the inward reverence of the heartThat the gesture be such as doth most quicken the heart, and help on in the duty-And, that it be such as gives a good example to others.*
As for sitting in prayer, it is an unbecoming, lazy position, especially if chosen, and in the beginning of a duty indeed for weak frames tired out with other postures, some excuse may be made, but ordinarily it is not allowable.
Object. But is it not said of David, that he went in and sat before the Lord, 2 Sam. vii. 18, yet he prayed?
Answ. (1.) Some say, David was a king, and therefore might sit; according to the Jews' rule, "It is not lawful for any to pray sitting before the Lord, but the king."
(2.) Others say, the king "sat in dust and ashes,' in an humble posture, "he fell on his face," say others.
(3.) This was more a meditation, than prayer, admiring the goodness of God: or he might first sit, and then kneel.
(4.) But indeed the word sitting, signifies David's constancy in meditating or praying; for a man usually continues longer sitting than standing: David sat, that is, continued longer before the Lord, and more familiarly with him, than ordinary. It refers more to the composedness of his mind, than to the posture of his body: therefore let not this text patronize that sleepy position.
6. Case is, What place must we choose, or how must we use our voice in family prayer?
Answ. (1.) We are not bound to consecrated places
Cum quis quærit orare, collocat membra sicut ei occurrit.Aug. de Orat.
+ Mansit, restitit. Plus animo quam corpore sedit quietus coram Domino.-Cajet.