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audibleness of utterance, and with propriety and pertinency in language, in those who conduct the services. All gloominess and austerity in looks or appearance, should be carefully avoided. Our minds should be composed and abstracted from the world. The injunction of Solomon should be remembered: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.” Job sent and sanctified bis children, before family sacrifices were
Some preparation of this nature is requisite, for a suitable performance of family devotion. Indeed, how can we pray, when our thoughts are roving to the ends of the earth, and our affections are chained down to the vanities of time and sense! Before religious services commence, the family should all be present, and every thing in suitable readiness. During the time of service there should be no noise or disturbance. A solemn awe should pervade the minds of all.
Family worship should be observed, uniformly and seasonably. All unnecessary omissions are improper and have a bad tendency. They will in time generate a
a carelessness and indifference in regard to such services. Evening prayers should be attended to before any of the family retire, or, by reason of dulness, become unfit for worship. Long services should be avoided, for where weariness begins, devotion ends. We should never like the Scribes and Pharisees, use vain repetitions, or think to be heard for our much speaking Services, which are tedious, will not be profitable. We ought, therefore,
to consult the feelings of those who worship with us. Prayer should ever be appropriate, and accommodated to the state of the household.
The postures, adopted in prayer, which are dictated by the light of nature and divine revelation, are standing, kneeling, and prostration. Prostration is practised
only when a person is under the deepest sense of sin, humiliation, and self abasement, and seems to be best adapted to secret prayer. Kneeling and standing are the most proper postures. Both of these are spoken of with approbation in the Word of God. Neither of them is made absolutely necessary, to the exclusion of the other. It is generally proper, therefore, to conform to the usage of those Christians, with whom we worship. If any preference is to be given, it should be to kneeling, rather than standing.
It now remains, Fourthly, to notice some excuses, which are made for the neglect of Family Religion.
The general neglect of this duty is sometimes offered as an excuse for omitting it. We regret
that we are compelled to acknowledge, that Family Religion is comparatively but little observed. How many prayerless families in every place!—families which call not, as families, upon the name of God, and which, therefore, stand exposed to the denunciations of Heaven! Most solemn thought! The neglect of this duty to so great a degree is a lamentable and an alarming consideration. It is a reproach upon our age. But is this neglect an excuse for not observing it? Because others neglect family worship, I may;
I because others sin, I may. This is all the force of the
I Joshua reasoned not in this manner. Let others do what they would, he resolved that as for him and his house, they would serve the Lord. And this ought to be the resolution of every head of a family. The neglect of this duty ought to awaken in every breast a holy zeal to promote its observance.—But, blessed be God! this neglect is not universal. There are some families, which are distinguished by the practice of family worship, and which, like faithful Daniel, fear not the reproach and contempt of the world. And the Lord will declare, I know them; I hearken and hear, and a book of remembrance is written before Me for them that fear Me, and that think upon My name.
Multiplicity of engagements is presented by some as an excuse, for the neglect of Family Religion. How vain an excuse! The whole business of this life, is to prepare
for the life to come. And is there no time to perform it? There is time enough to do all things necessary, appertaining to this life, and for vain amusements and pleasures, and for acquiring a superabundance of this world's goods; and yet there is no time to prepare for eternity! A heart to pray is wanting more than time to pray. They, who wish and desire this service, will find time to perform it. "There is no well regulated family, which cannot be called together, for half an hour, before the business and pleasures of the day commence, and after they close, to address, in prayer, the Author of their being and blessings.
Inability to perform the duty of Family Religion is at times alleged as a reason for not observing it. In obviating this objection, let it be remarked, that if the heart be rightly disposed, a person does not need any uncommon ability to discharge the duties of Family Religion, in a decent and edifying manner. The heart of a good man will teach his mouth wisdom, and add knowledge to his lips, and, out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will speak. And if it speak naturally, and, in the main, properly, it is enough. The plainest and simplest language, addressed to the Majesty of heaven, appears far preferable to labored, pompous, and artificial expressions. If a man really wants and desires, he can make his wants and desires known. The famishing can ask for food. The beggar can plead with importunity and fervor. The criminal, under sentence of death, is eloquent for life. The publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner,” uttered by a humble soul, will avail more, than an hour's elegant speech of one, like the
boasting Pharisee. Besides, if necessary, much assistance may be derived from the Bible, that inexhaustible store-house of the richest materials for
Here may be found the most proper sentiments, and the most expressive language on this subject. The Psalms of David, which excel all other writings in exciting devout emotions, and the prophecies of Isaiah, with the Gospels and Epistles should be particularly consulted. Help may be obtained, too, from books of devotion, containing a great variety of excellent forms of prayer, written for families, as well as for individuals. * If a person does, in this manner, covet earnestly the best gifts, he will be enabled, to good acceptance, to lead in family devotions. By resolution and perseverance in a right way hundreds have overcome their embarrassments.
Other reasons have been offered for the neglect of family worship; but they are too frivolous to be named or answered. They are excuses, rather than reasons, and arise from disinclination of heart to the duty. Persons of reflection, candor, and ardent piety will never make them.
We cannot conclude this subject without a direct appeal to those who are heads of families. Reader! are you the head of a family, how do you feel, and how will you act, in consideration of the vastly important duty of Family Religion? Will you not suffer your house to be a temple
“Extemporary prayer,” says Dr. Scott, “is far better for domestic worship, than any forms can be, both as admitting of adaptation to the varying circumstances of families, and the cases of friends and relatives to be remembered in our prayers; and also as giving scope to more enlargement in intercession, according to occurring events, for all sorts and conditions of men.” But the practice of reading prayers in family worship is to be commended where this important duty would otherwise be neglected.
of the living God, and allow the grateful incense of worship to ascend to heaven, morning and evening from the family altar? Will you not commence and close the day with the most excellent, pleasurable, and heavenly services of Family Religion? Or will you expose yourself and family to the alarming denunciation, and everlasting displeasure of the Most High? O! be entreated by the authority of the great God, by the comfort and salvation of your own soul, and of the souls committed to your care, and by the best interests of religion, to adopt the pious resolution of Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Morning and evening, read the Word of God, instruct your household in the great principles of Christianity, and offer unto your Father in Heaven the grateful tribute of prayer and praise. Mr Henry observes “They who daily pray in their houses do well; they that not only pray, but read the Scriptures, do better; but they do best of all, who not only pray, and read the Scriptures, but sing the praises of God.” In the entreaty we make we plead not only for the happiness of yourselves and families but for that of the present and future generations; -we plead for the prosperity of Zion and the world. Let these weighty motives constrain you to discharge this delightful, this profitable, this imperious duty. Happy, thrice happy the family, where God's Word is read, where suitable instructions are given, and where prayer and praise are wont to be offered. God loveth, and will bless the dwellings of Jacob.