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peculiar gratitude, as one grand means of my uncommon measure of domestic comfort, and bringing down on my children the blessings, which God has graciously bestowed upon them.” His son adds “I am persuaded, that to this very much is to be traced not only the blessing of God, which has descended on his own family, but the further striking and important fact, that in very few instances has a servant or a young person, or indeed any person passed any length of time under his roof, without appearing to be brought permanently under the influence of religious principle."* Mr. Gurnal observes, “The
. family is the nursery of the church. If the nursery be neglected, what in time will become of the gardens and the orchards."
The privilege of Family Religion, is another inducement to its observance. “How great the privilege,” says President Davies, “to hold a daily intercourse with Heaven in our dwellings! to have our houses converted into temples for that adorable Deity, whom the heavens, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain! to mention our domestic wants before Him with the encouraging hope of a supply! to vent the overflowings of gratitude! to spread the savor of His knowledge, and talk of Him, whom angels celebrate upon their golden harps in anthems of praise! and to have our families devoted to Him, while others live estranged from the God of their lives!"
The Scriptures, also, most fully and explicitly inculcate by example and precept, this highly important duty. The examples of the good and great, recorded in the Scriptures with divine approbation, have all the force of a command. They prove the will of Jehovah, and his will is a law. Consequently, all the examples of family devotion, mentioned in the Sacred Oracles with com
* See Dr. Scott's Life.
mendation, are virtually precepts, and lay us under obligation to discharge the duties they enforce. Abel offered sacrifices unto God, and, most probably, for his family. The Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, wherever, in their pilgrimages, they fixed on a place of residence, erected an altar to God for family devotion, and called on the name of the Lord. Joshua resolved, that, as for him and his family they would serve the Lord. Job practised family worship. “He sent and sanctified his children, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all. Thus did Job continually.” David, having spent the day, in bringing the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the place he had prepared for it, and in presenting burntofferings and peace-offerings before the Lord, returned, at night, to bless his house-hold, that is, to pray for a blessing upon his family, or to attend upon family devotion. Cornelius the Centurion, it is said, “feared God with all his house," meaning, worshipped him with his family. The apostle speaks, in his epistles, of churches in private houses. By this phrase he means religious families, or families where religious services were observed. In the Lord's prayer, we have an explicit command for family devotion. "After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven.” The form of prayer is plural.* It must, therefore, mean social prayer, and if social, then family prayer, for a family is the most proper society to engage in this devotion. Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, having pointed out the duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, adds, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the
* When secret prayer is commanded, which is always individual prayer, the singular form is used, “When thou prayest enter into thy closet."
same with thanksgiving." The subject upon which he was speaking, and the manner of his speaking, lead us to conclude he meant family prayer. In his epistle to the Ephesians, he enjoins it, as a duty, to "pray always with all prayer," that is, to offer prayer of every kind, and in every form, and at every proper season. Family prayer must, therefore, be included in this injunction. The apostle Peter exhorts husbands and wives to live together in the discharge of the duties of conjugal affection and christian obedience, that their “prayers be not hindered" —that nothing may occur to indispose them to social or family devotion.-Further, the imprecation of an inspired prophet "O Lord! pour out thy fury-upon the families, that call not on thy name” is equivalent to a denunciation. And this denunciation against those, who neglect family worship, implies a precept for its ob
Such are the arguments in favor of Family Religion, derived from the light of nature, and the Sacred Scriptures. And are they not full and explicit? Are they not
. sufficient to convince all candid persons, that every house ought to be a temple, sacred to Jehovah and the duties of devotion; and that every head of a family ought to be as a king and priest in his own household, making with them a little congregation for divine services!
We proceed, Secondly, to point out the time for the observance of Family Religion, and the duties included in it.
We are commanded to "pray without ceasing;"—to “continue instant in prayer;"—to "pray always and faint not;”—and, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, to let our requests be made known unto God." The spirit of these texts of Scripture may be applied, in a very great degree, to family prayer.
This, then, should be frequent. The Psalmist, in addressing God, says, "Every day will I praise thee;"-"I daily perform my vows;"_"I cry unto thee daily.” And the Saviour has taught us to pray daily, in his prescribed form of prayer unto his disciples. “After this manner," says he, "pray ye: Our Father, who art in heaven!--give us this day our daily bread.” Prayer, therefore, is to be offered, day by day. And the mode of expression proves, that the prayer here intended is social or family prayer. If family prayer, then, is to be made frequently, and daily, no better time can be assigned for its observance, than morning and evening. These seasons are pointed out by the natural succession of day and night. They occur at suitable intervals, and terminate, alternately, repose and labor. At the opening and closing of every revolving day, families are convened, the world around them is still, and every thing is favorable to devotion. As we rise from our beds, the objects of God's care, and the monuments of his mercy, how suitable that our hearts should ascend in thankful acknowledgments to Him, who sustained, and protected us during the defenceless hours of the night, and who gave refreshing sleep to our eyes, and grateful slumbers to our eyelids! We should, also, commit ourselves, for the day, to Him, who watches over all, and implore support, protection, guidance, and success in all our lawful undertakings. And, as the day should begin, so it should end with prayer. How proper in tranquil silent evening, the pleasures, cares, and toils of the day all passed, to acknowledge, with gratitude, the arm which has sustained us in our weakness, the wisdom, which has guided us amid all dangers, and the goodness which has supplied our returning wants!—to confess and bewail our sins and demerits!—to supplicate pardon and the blessings we need!-and to commend ourselves during the silent watches of the night, to the care of the great Shepherd of Israel, who never slumbers, nor sleeps! How reasonable, it is, then, that we should seek him, who “turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night!”—that the family altar should blaze with morning and evening offerings, and that heartfelt devotion should kindle the flame!
In accordance with reason, the Scriptures designate morning and evening, as the proper seasons for family devotion. Under the Mosaic dispensation, morning and evening sacrifices were offered, accompanied with prayer. To this, undoubtedly, the Psalmist refers, when he says, “Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense!" (this was the morning offering) "and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." It was the appointed
” duty of the Levites under the Law to stand, morning and evening, and thank, and praise God. Job offered morning sacrifices for his family. David says, “My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord! in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High! to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” And he resolves, "Evening and morning, will I pray and cry aloud." Daniel prayed at the time of the evening sacrifice. After the dispensation of Moses was abrogated, and the Christian dispensation was introduced, the continual sacrifice, which was morning and evening, was still observed. The apostles and primitive Christians were daily in the temple, praising and blessing God. The third and ninth hours were the times, at which they assembled. To these stated seasons, Paul alluded in his directions to "pray always;"—to "pray without ceasing;” and to "offer the sacrifice of prayer continually." -Thus, it fully appears to be the indispensable duty of every family to observe, ordinarily, family prayer, morning and evening.