Obrazy na stronie

rod (Mark vi. 20.), that he feared John, because he knew him to be a holy and just man. And if this wicked prince was so much overawed by the examplary holiness of a mean subject, how venerable must a devout parent or master appear in the eyes of his own family, when, besides that authority which his station gives him, they see him adorned with that piety and regard to God, which of themselves would dignify him, and render him worthy of their esteem and honour? How must it endear him to their hearts, to behold his anxious concern for their welfare; to hear him morning and evening commending them to the protection of Almighty God, imploring the pardon of their sins, and earnestly soliciting the same blessings for them which he begs for himself? And how must this esteem and love influence their whole behaviour, and make them not only faithful, but cheerful, active, and zealous in every part of the duty and service which they owe him? I am aware, that many think to maintain their authority in their families by other sort of prayers than those I am recommending: I mean, by horrid curses and imprecations; yea, some are so abandoned as to plead the necessity of these to render their orders effectual. But this practice must appear so absurd and odious to every thinking person, that, I am persuaded, I need not spend your time in exposing it. Such a vile and impious hahit must evidently destroy at once all that esteem

and love, which are the only sure and permanent principles of obedience. Their whole authority, therefore, must lean on the precarious foundation of a servile fear, which God, who hath the hearts of all men in his hands, can remove when he pleases; and then they shall become utterly contemptible, and may curse on without having any person to regard them, till their own curses overtake them. But,

2dly, As the practice of worshipping God in your houses would contribute much to your worldly prosperity, in the manner I have just now explained; so it has likewise a manifest tendency to promote your spiritual and eternal interest. It is not only a considerable branch of that homage which you owe to God, but it may be also of great use to restrain you from sin, and to render you cautious and circumspect in every part of your behaviour. A man will be ashamed to do any thing against the honour of that God whom he so publicly acknowledges before his family; and the very desire of appearing consistent with himself in the eyes of his children or servants, will hardly fail to produce at least an outward decency, and to restrain him from many of those scandalous sins, which he might otherwise be in danger of committing. So that though family-worship served no higher purpose than to hedge in our practice before our household, I should even think that a considerable recommendation of it; and every

wise and good man must esteem and value it upon that account. But this is one of the least of its happy effects. The practice of this duty would not only render our outward conduct cautious and decent, but would also tincture our minds deeply with a sense of God, and of divine things. It would give us greater boldness, too, in our secret approaches to the throne of grace. How can that man have any confidence or enlargement of heart in secret prayer, whose conscience reproacheth him with never having honoured that God in public, from whom he is now going to ask the most unmerited favours? It is true indeed, that our Lord, in great condescension, granted a private audience in the night season to Nicodemus, who had not the courage to own him in the face of the day; but no man hath reason to expect the same indulgence now. Nay, however uncharitable it may be thought, I must declare it as my opinion, that the neglect of public duties gives too just ground to suspect, that those of a more private nature are either little minded, or superficially performed. For, did you obtain access to God in secret prayer, and taste the sweetness of holy communion with him in your closets, there can be no doubt that you would thereby be disposed to the duties of social worship.-A

3d Advantage of family worship is, That under the influences of the divine Spirit, it is one of the most effectual means of promoting the salvation

[ocr errors]

of all your household, Many godly persons have ascribed their own vital impressions of religion to their living in a devout family; and many a sinner, ruined by vice and evil habits, has too justly laid the blame of it on the wickedness of those with whom he dwelt. What numbers of children and servants have been lost for want of that good example which it was the duty of their parents or masters to have given them? As in a profane and sensual family there are continual temptations to sin, to swearing, lying, intemperance, and contempt of God; so in a devout well governed house, there are continual incitements to a holy life, to faith, love, sobriety, and heavenly-mindedness. The authority of the heads of the family, and the conversation and example of all the members of it, are powerful inducements to a religious temper and behaviour. As in a well disciplined army, even the cowards are constrained to stand to their arms, and to act violently, by the general order of the whole; so in a religious household, a wicked man can scarcely contrive how to live wickedly, but seems to be almost a saint, by being continually among those who appear to be saints. O how easy and well-paved (if I may use the expression) is the way to heaven in such a gracious society, in comparison of what it is to those who dwell in the houses of the profane and sensual! In the former, the advantages of instruction, authority, example, and conversation, are all on the

side of God and religion: in the latter, the same powerful circumstances are all on the side of corrupt nature, and push men forward in the broad way that leads to destruction.

If then you would not be guilty of bringing ruin on immortal souls; if you wish to have the blessing of them who are ready to perish for ever to come upon you; if you desire that your children and servants should be pious and happy; if you would have your whole domestic society blessed; let your household be daily consecrated by fervent prayer to Almighty God.-The

4th and last advantage of family religion which I shall mention, is its tendency to form an holy church and people, and to propagate religion from generation to generation. The public state of religion in the world must entirely depend on the care bestowed on the cultivation of it in private families. If the nursery be neglected, how is it possible that the plantation should prosper ? Such as the families are, of which congregations, churches, and kingdoms are composed, such will be the flourishing or the decayed state of religion in these larger communities: And consequently it is as clear as noon-day, that the disregard shown to God in our households is the fatal source of that amazing corruption of manners in the present age, which almost every one pretends to lament, but almost none sets himself in earnest to reform. Would you then put a stop to abound

« PoprzedniaDalej »