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against, that being an evil which too often attends the frequent returns of these periodical exercises.
Family-worship thus conducted, with a due regard to the important ends of it, must, I think, strike every good man as a. most reasonable and pleasing service. The Scriptures authorise
many intimations occur therein to direct us in some of the circumstances that relate to it. But these I forbear to mention here, as also to combat the discouragements some pious minds labour under respecting the right discharge of this duty; it being our intention more particularly to consider these matters in the next discourse. How strange this duty should be neglected! Yet so it is in too many families. And in most instances to what is the total neglect of it owing but a want of religion ? Nor is it indeed to be wondered, that they who have no sense of their dependance on divine Providence, and no taste for the exalted pleasures of devotion, should account a service returning so frequently upon them, tedious and unprofitable.
But it is to those masters of families who have religion at heart, that we mean here to address ourselves. You, Sirs, feel your obligations to him that made you, preserves you, and saves you. It was his providence that led you into this social connection, gave you the partner of your cares and joys, and blessed you with the hopeful offspring, which like olive plants surround your table. He pitched your tent for you, he commanded you to erect an altar to him. And can you find it in your hearts to refuse obedience to his command ? or to decline a service in which you have already found your account? Think how great the pleasure the good man sometimes feels, whilst officiating at the head of his family in this little temple consecrated to Heaven! Recollecting the many undeserved favours he has received, how gratefully does he acknowledge them! Calling to mind his own and their sins, how penitently does he confess them! Feeling the most anxious concern for their best interests, how earnestly does he request not only temporal but spiritual blessings! Viewing the blessed God in the character of an indulgent parent, how passionately does he commend them to his protection and love? And, amidst the various vicissitudes of life, trusting under the shadow of his wings, with what exultation of heart
does he sometimes cry out, O God, how excellent is thy loving-kindness a!
Can such a scene as this be contemplated, and any heart among us, in which parental affection and genuine piety are united, remain indisposed to this duty ? Be persuaded then, O! be persuaded, Sirs, to fall in with the dictates of conscience, and the command of the blessed God. Say with Joshua, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. In this little congregation the great God will not disdain to dwell. He loves the gates of Zion, and he loves the dwellings of Jacob too b. Who knows but divine life may be communicated, as well as cherished and maintained, within your consecrated walls? Who knows but it may be said of this and that child, of this and that servant, and of this and that friend who sojourns with you--said of him in the noblest sense of the expression-He was born there c?
4. The next duty to be considered, is the obliging our families to attend regularly on the public worship of God.
By Public-Worship we mean the offering homage to God in a larger circle than that of our own families. Many families are to assemble together, at stated seasons, in one place, for this. purpose. This practice, under various forms, hath obtained from the beginning over almost all the earth. It is the dictate of nature, and the express appointment of Scripture. The service required under the Mosaic dispensation consisted of numerous rites which are now most of them abolished. Under the present, all that is expected of us in this social connection is, that we present our joint prayers and praises to God; that some one duly qualified for the important office, explain and enforce the great truths and duties of religion to us; and that those who truly fear God profess their faith in Christ, and their love to him, by the celebration of the two institutions of baptism and the Lord's supper.
Now as every pious man will feel himself obliged to pay a due regard to public worship, so they who have families must be sensible it is their duty to oblige their children and servants to attend regularly upon it. At an early hour the master of a house, at the head of those under his care, should appear in his proper place. The affairs of his family should be so adjusted, * Psal. xxxvi. 7, b Psal. Lxxxvij. 2.
c Psal. lxxxvii. 6.
as that not one member of it, except necessity require, be absent. A passion for novelty, which may induce any of them to wander about to various places of worship, should be checked. His eye should properly watch their demeanour during divine service, that it be serious and attentive. At the close of the two statėd services the whole family should retire to their own home. Visits, except where offices of mercy are required, should be interdicted, and all social intercourses for the purpose of mere amusement avoided. Opportunity should be given every one to recollect seriously by himself what he has been about. And a suitable exercise in the evening, wherein the younger part of the family may have an opportunity of giving an account of what they have heard, and serious impressions may be made on the minds of all, will happily and usefully close the day. Religion, I am sensible, should not be made a burden: and young minds especially should not be held too long to one subject. As therefore two public services in the day will be sufficient, so prudence will teach the master of a family to direct his discourse in the intervals of worship, and to diversify the evening exercise in such a manner, as that, with the agreeable refreshments nature has provided, no one may have cause to say that this is the most unpleasant day in the week.
And now let me ask the masters of families, whether if they were to pursue this line of conduct, they might not hope, with the blessing of God, to see virtue and religion flourish in their houses ? Sure I am such masters as are Christians indeed, per suaded that the public preaching of the gospel is the appointment of Heaven for the salvation of men, will not, cannot, be easy while any under their influence deprive themselves of the opportunity of hearing it. Besides, it is an affront to the good sense and authority of him who presides in a family, for any one of the members of it to turn his back contemptuously upon what he believes the great God hath required. As to the young they will be easily led to their duty by the gentle hand of раrental affection. And if any one just entering on life can, without the least pretence of reason, perversely oppose the will of a father in so interesting a concern as this, his natural temper and his principles must be horrid indeed. But it is not to such depraved young people we are here addressing ourselves: it is to you, Sirs, to whose hands nature hath entrusted the power, and whose hearts divine grace hath inspired with a disposition, to contribute somewhat at least to the present and everlasting welfare of your children and servants. And how can you better contribute to this great object, than by using every means in your power, to make it agreeable to them to join you in the public worship of that God, on whose favour their as well as your happiness depends ? The prudent and steady discharge of your duty in this respect, is a dictate both of good sense and of piety. It will do you honour in the view of all wise and good men, it will be highly pleasing to God, and no doubt they, in the great day of account, having reaped the benefit of this proper exertion of your paternal authority, will with infinite joy call you blessed. It now remains to con
5. And lastly, the obligations which masters are under to set before their families holy and pious examples.
Although the duties just recommended were discharged, in regard of the external expressions of them, with the greatest punctuality, yet their ends would in all probability be defeated, if the heads of families were wholly inattentive to their own tempers and conduct. What salutary effect will the best lessons of morality, enforced with the most vigorous discipline, produce, if they who give them do not themselves practise them ? Our children and servants will keep a watchful eye on our manners, and if they can convict us of pride, passion, deceit, intemperance, and the like vices, they will instantly conclude that the severe hand we hold over them, does not proceed from any motive of good will to them, but from a wish to enslave them to our hu
Zeal for certain principles in religion, they will, in such case, set down to the account of narrowness, bigotry, and hypocrisy. The religious order observed in the family they will consider as a mere form, the effect of education and custom. And the duties of public worship itself, which we oblige them to attend upon, they will treat with indifference if not contempt. But such wretchedly inconsistent characters as these, are, I hope, rarely to be met with. There is truth in religion. And if the account we have given of it in the former part of this discourse be just, as it will impel those masters of families who really possess it to the observance of the duties we have been recommenda ing, so it will infallibly secure them from those gross evils which tend to defeat their effect.
Here permit me to hold up to your view the temper and conduct of a Joshua, who, as he spake the language of the text with unfeigned fervour and sincerity, so, we may be bold to afirm, walked within his house with a perfect heart. The vices which were sternly forbidden in his children and servants, were first driven with detestation from his own breast. And while in familiar and expressive language he recommended to them the duties of truth, integrity, modesty, meekness, and benevolence; the native beauty of these virtues was still more strikingly exhibited to their view in his own countenance and actions. The truths of revealed religion which he taught them, were the genuine sentiments of his own heart: and while his doctrine dropped as the rain, and distilled as the dew, he felt the infuence of those divine hopes which the promise made to the fathers of the Messiah was adapted to produce. Deeply impressed himself with the greatness and goodness of God, he daily offered the prayers and praises of his family to Heaven, with a fervour and affection that could scarce fail to excite and enflame their devotion. At the stated seasons he led
his numerous household to the tabernacle at Shiloh, and there, on the altar Nioses had erected, presented the sacrifices to Jehovah the God of Israel which he had required at his hands. His venerable appearance, and the unaffected simplicity and ardour with which he assisted at these exercises, added solemnity to them, and begat a reverence in the breasts of all around him for these divine institutions. And when he withdrew from the house of God to his own habitation, the cheerfulness which appeared on his countenance, and the benevolence which mingled itself with all his domestic behaviour, attached every heart under his roof to him, and excited a noble emulation among them which should best imitate the example their master set them.--And now if such were our tempers and conduct in the families over which we preside, there would be light in all our dwellings, and joy in every heart there: our houses would be schools of virtue, temples of devotion, and nurseries for heaven.