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The Duty of Family Prayer.
Joshua xxiv. 15. As for me and my Houfe, we will ferve the Lord.
RELIGION in all its doctrines, commandments and duties, is a most reasonable thing. Nothing is required of mankind, but what right reason fupports. Family worship is that branch of our holy religion to which your ferious attention with all friendliness and tenderness is at prefent invited. If this can be a duty demonstrated from the reafon of things, and the state of society, and the fame confirmed by the practice of pious people, and all revelation pours in its influence, for its corroboration, then I truft, chriftians will no longer treat it with neglect. We enter upon this duty, with high expectation, and propofe nothing lefs, than to collect all reafon and revelation in its favour.
Confider the determination of Joshua in our text. He was the greatest character in military, civil and religious refpects of that age. He was the immediate fucceffor of Mofes, exalted
above all the children of men, to converfe with God face to face, as a friend. This Joshua commanded three million of the best people, that ever conftituted the Ifraelitish nation, which were dignified with the title of being the peculiar people of God. Was this extraordinary man, pre-eminent in all his relations? He ftands thus diftinguished in religion. And among all the duties of piety, his family fervice fhines with a brilliant luftre. He comes forth before the whole nation, which he had long directed, instructed, comforted and led to the poffeffion of the promised land, with this divine resolution. "As for me and my house, we will ferve the Lord." O! that the great men of the earth could be induced to imitate this great example.
This chapter is the conclufion of the life and administration of Joshua. He recapitulates to them in brief narration, the wonders God had performed for them and their fathers. He leaves his last charge with them, to ferve the Lord: Religion he refigns to their choice. All religion must be a free and voluntary election. He ftates to them his own purpose in the words of our text, both with refpect to his perfonal and family Godliness.
We shall confider,
First, the duty of family prayer.
Secondly, fhow the confequences arifing from the perform. ance of this fervice, and the neglect of it. As to the
First, in fuch an affembly as this, there can be no neceffity: of defcribing what a family is, or whose business it is to lead in the worship of it. Every one knows that the head of the family or fome perfon deputed by him, is to be the mouth in
First, if families are focieties dependent upon God, and ori. ginating from his inftitution in the nature of things, and enjoy opportunities and advantages to unite in focial adoration, then family worship is a duty of divine ordination. That families are focieties arifing from the nature of things, and from the fuperintending providence of heaven, none can deny ; then the heads of those families have great authority and advantages, cach one has power to reftrain and direct all under his roof; to inflict penalties upon children and fervants, who refufe his authority, and to eject the refractory from his household. He poffeffes an abfolute interest in the affections of his family; hence he enjoys the most perfect advantage, to engage them willingly and freely in this pleafing duty. A duty happy to him and a bleffing to all in his houfe. Bleffed is the house where God is acknowledged and dwells.
It will be granted by all who profefs the chriftian name, that all the gifts of God and all talents received from him, ought to be improved in obedience to his will; but are not the advantages and opportunities of divine homage in a family capacity, diftinguishing talents. I commit this argument to the head of every family. You love your dear families and with their profperity; O! that God would perfuade you to the pleasure of praying with them.
Secondly, all who have fit opportunities for the worship of God, ought carefully to improve the fame. Families have thefe opportunities in perfection. Hear the word of God in the matter. "I will that men pray every where, lifting up "holy hands without wrath and doubting. Continue in prayer "and watch in the fame, with thanksgiving, and whatever ye "do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jefus, "giving thanks unto God and the Father by him; continue
infant in prayer, praying always with all prayer and fup
"plication in the fpirit, and watching thereunto with all perfe❝verance, and fupplication for all faints; pray without cea"fing, in every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God " in Christ Jesus concerning you." To this tide of revelation, many ftreams will be added in the fequel which I hope will bear down all oppofition to this doctrine.
If it be the duty of chriftians to pray every where proper and convenient, to continue in prayer, be inftant therein, and to pray always with all prayer, and that without ceasing, these things clearly show, that at all times we should poffefs a pray ing frame of heart, and be ready on all fit occafions to perform devotional fervice. Then it evidently follows that they ought to worship God in their families.
Thirdly, families are the fubjects of many mercies, guilty of many fins, and have innumemerable wants; hence it is obliga tory upon them to acknowledge the favours of heaven in the moft grateful praises, mourn over and confefs their fins, and in all humility and earneftness implore the fupply of their neceffities. Reafon and the common feelings of mankind dictate thefe matters. And all heads of families who live under the light of divine revelation, under proper gospel inftruction, and yet habitually neglect this important branch of religion, they live under the condemnation of their own judgments, and the frequent reproaches of their confciences. Well might God by the Prophet Ifaiah, exclaim against a wicked and prayerless people faying, "Hear, O! Heavens, and give ear, O! Earth, "for the Lord hath fpoken, I have nourished and brought up "children, and they have rebelled against me. The Ox know"eth his owner and the Afs his masters Crib, but Ifrael doth "not know, my people do not confider.".
Fourthly, heads of families are commanded to teach their
children to pray, to bring them up in the nurture and admo nition of the Lord, to inftruct them in the fear of God, and to train them up in the way wherein they fhould go. Therefore they muft furely pray with and for them. It is the duty of families to look to Heaven, that all the good things of providence may be fanctified to them, and prayer is the special ap. pointment of heaven for this purpose. Hufbands and wives are enjoined to dwell together as heirs of the grace of life," That "their prayers may not be hindered." This fully proves that they are to pray together. No man omits this duty for confcience fake.
The fcripture faints were fhining examples of this devotional fervice both in the Old Teftament and in the New. We read that Abraham, the father of the faithful, built an Altar at Shechem, and when he removed to Bethel, he built another there, and called upon the name of the Lord. And this was done with his family. He there worshipped God with his household. His pious care of the religious interests of his family is fpoken of in the highest terms of recommendation. "I know him, faith the Lord, that he will com mand his chil "dren, and his household after him, and they fhall keep the "way of the Lord." What is it to keep the way of the Lord? It is walking with him in the practice of every duty. For families to keep his ways, muft intend the faithful maintenance of religion in them and this cannot be done, without family devotion and prayer. Ifaac and Jacob, had their ref pective altars, at which they worthipped with their families. Joshua in our text, is a diftinguishing example, whofe refolution was, that tho' all Ifrael fhould depart from the adoration of God, yet he and his houfe would ferve the Lord.-David is a re, markable inftance to our purpofe; he had brought the Ark to its place, and fpent the day in public homage, then he returned home, "To blefs his houfeheld." This can admit of no other conftruction, only to pray and worship with his family,