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for the religious exercises of a family: in this you may use your liberty. In gospel times, God stands not so much upon the place of worship, as the character of the worshippers, and the manner of worshipping:* look at the frame of your hearts, as before described, and fear not reception wherever you be.
(2.) Yet the circumstance of place may be duly weighed, if you live amongst lions, mockers, scorners of religion, though you must maintain your profession of God's name in your families, as Daniel did, yet it is a disputable point, whether you may not sometimes retire from open violence into some private place. But there may be a greater reason for retirement than that, namely, to avoid the suspicion of hypocrisy and vainglory, which was the Pharisees' great fault;† or you may withdraw into some distant place from the street, to avoid disturbance by hurries, tumults, and confusions that may distract you.
(3.) But let the place be so known to the family as that all may repair to it as an exchange, at the time of prayer, be it dwelling-house, parlour, or chamber; as Daniel selected some convenient room, called a chamber for his family devotion, so may you.‡
(4.) For voice, it is true God is an all-seeing Spirit, and men may speak to God, when they speak not a word, as Moses, Hannah, and Nehemiah; prayer is the movement of the will towards God, but in family prayer it is otherwise, men have bodies, and tongues, and ears, and cannot understand others' conceptions without a vocal articulate sound; what you pray must be audible, else they cannot join with you, or be edified by you; only see your hearts go along with your lips; and remember the saying of Solomon, "The words of wise men are heard in quiet, more than the cry of him * John iv. 23, 21. 1 Tim. ii. 8. + Matt. vi. 5. + Dan. vi. 10.
that ruleth among fools," Eccl. ix. 17. I know it refers to wise counsels, not prayers, but some may pray more affectionately with a low voice, than others with loud clamors; yea, possibly you may command your thoughts better in the former, than latter. See you be serious, and your voice audible and intelligible, not mumbling your prayers, so that your family cannot understand you or know what you mean.
7. Case is, Whether is a form of prayer lawful, or whether may a householder use a form of prayer, or may others join with him in the use thereof?
Answ. (1.) Our most solid judicious divines among those called Puritans, do not judge forms of prayer absolutely unlawful; Dr. Preston saith, "I think there is none here that doubt, but that a set form of prayer may be used; you know, Christ prescribed a form-there were certain psalms that were prayers used constantly -still in all times the church had set forms; I know no objection against it of weight,"* &c. Mr. Hildersham, the oracle of his time, saith, "I dare not deny but a weak Christian may use the help of a good prayer book in this case; better to pray on a book than not to pray at all; certainly it is the spirit of error that hath taught the world otherwise."†
(2.) Yet these worthy men affirm truly that every Christian, even the meanest and weakest hath the gift and spirit of prayer, (so saith the latter of these worthies,) and must not "neglect the gift that is in him.”‡ Dr. Preston saith, there is no man that hath any work of grace in his heart, but he is enabled in some measure to pray, without a set form of prayer. There was
* Dr. Preston's Saint's Daily Exercise, pag. 80-82.
+ Hildersham on Psal. li. Lect. 12, p. 63. See 3 Arg. for forms. 1 Tim. iv. 14.
never any man in any extreme want, but he knew how to express himself, where he had liberty to speak.
(3.) But yet considering that some Christians, though truly gracious, may for a season be very unexperienced and incapable of opening their cases to God methodically, or in appropriate words, and considering it is before a family of which a man is to be the organ, and considering that unmeet and undigested expressions expose an ordinance of God to contempt; I would advise some Christians, before they pray with others, to premeditate, and duly weigh what they are to say to God, and think of a proper method, and some scriptural expressions, to produce them in prayer, as I have before directed.
(4.) As I doubt not the lawfulness of a member in a family joining with such a prayer, if the matter be sound and orthodox, so I question not but such a master as conscientiously useth this practice, will so increase in gifts and abilities, that in due time, he will cast away those crutches, and learn to go on profitably in daily family exercise, to the edification of all that join with him so that in the diligent and humble use of these means, many disagreeable tautologies, and needless impertinences will be paired off, which offended intelligent ears. The worthy Dr. Preston saith, “a child that cannot go, may have a prop to help it; but we must not always be children, we must not always use that help."
8. Case is, If the householder or master is loose and careless, and possibly comes home, under the influence of liquor, yet will pray, though in no fit case for it, or he is unsound at heart, and prays but coldly or formally, may I join?
Answ. (1.) Thy acceptance with God, depends not
on the state of him that prays, nor on his zeal, but on thy acting of faith in Christ, if thou be upright in joining with the words, and endeavourest to lift up thy heart to God, the Lord may graciously receive thee, though the person praying may be rejected; "for every one shall bear his own burden, and give an account of himself to God."*
(2.) Yet if thou art convinced that the party praying speaks nonsense or blasphemy, instead of praying, thou art bound in conscience to shew thy dislike of it, lest God be dishonoured and offended with the whole family, the man hardened in sin, thy own conscience defiled, and thyself in danger of playing the hypocrite, in pretending to join with what thy soul abhors; in this case thou must withdraw, and get alone, and mourn over it.
(3.) And it is also thy duty, humbly and modestly to take a proper season to speak to thy master, as Naaman's servants did to him, when they saw him wrong, and you know it did good; and Abigail told her husband Nabal of his fault and danger, and "his heart died within him." Who can tell what good such a word in season may do? he may think of it afterwards, Jonathan's advocating David's case, before his passionate father Saul, did good for a while. If you come to a father or master humbly and submissively, not saucily and malapertly, you may win upon them, and if you can say little, yet if you burst out into tears for their sin, it may prove as convincing rhetoric to them as king Edward's weeping was to bishop Cranmer and Ridley, on denying his sister Mary liberty for mass; who said, "the king had more divinity in his little finger than they had in their whole body."
* Gal. vi. 5. Rom. xiv. 12. † 2 Kings v. 13. 1 Sam. xxv. 37. 1 Sam. xix. 5, 6.
(4.) If still there be no remedy, or reformation, though thou must not with cursed Ham, discover thy father's or master's nakedness, if otherwise it may be helped, yet thou mayest or must acquaint a pious minister, or christian friend, ask their advice, and if that be judged expedient, that they may speak to thy father or master, with as much secrecy as possible, and this runs parallel to our Lord's rule, Matt. xviii. 15, 16. Who knows but a conviction may fasten? and if he be obstinate, he will leave off his praying in a little time; for his sinning will make him give over praying, or his praying prevent his sinning.
9. Case. Suppose I be cast into a graceless and prayerless family, how must I do, or what is my duty?
Answ. (1.) Examine thy reasons and intention in coming thither; consider thy call, if thy parents fixed thee there as an apprentice, quiet thyself in God's disposal, make good use of this providence; if thou came thither voluntarily, without due consideration, be humbled for sin, beg pardon, make sure of a friend above.
(2.) Use all lawful means to remove into a more wholesome air. I say to thee as the apostle to a godly servant, "Art thou called, being a servant, care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.' Methinks God saith to you as once to Israel, "Depart,
pray you, from the tents of these wicked men."+ It is a wonder the ground doth not cleave in sunder, or some judgment come down upon such prayerless families.
(3.) Humbly propose some expedients for a remedy. See if any other member in the family will undertake that exercise, or whether the master will give you leave to pray in the family; and behave yourself so holily and winningly, that the good opinion of superiors * 1 Cor. vii. 21. + Numb. xvi. 21, 24, 26, 31.