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bours could scarce avoid saying, How good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity a.
To this virtuous and pious house all the friends of God and religion were welcome. Strangers were here hospitably received, and ministers affectionately entertained. How happy were they when they had a Paul and an Apollos with them! a Paul, for whom they had hazarded their lives; and an Apollos, whose eloquence and fervour not a little pleased and edified them. With such guests they were used to discourse largely of the things of God. And such was the improvement which the two venerable heads of this family made in divine knowledge, that they were capable of expounding the ways of God to those who were the teachers of others.
And, no doubt, at the stated seasons, family worship was performed with great reverence and devotion. Priscilla so disposed the affairs of the house as that all might attend. Her husband, or some other person present, read a portion of Scripture, and very probably expounded it. They then, it is likely, have ing been so instructed to do by the apostle, taught and admonished one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts unto the Lord b. And to these exercises was added fervent prayer to God. What solemn, improving, and delightful services were these! Greet the church, says the apostle, that is in their house. As if he had said, “ I recollect the having often assisted at the worship observed in that pious house. With what pleasure have I behold the whole family assembled together morning and evening for that purpose ! the cheerfulness mingled with seriousness that appeared on every countenance ! the earnest attention with which they all listened to divine instructions ! the sweet harmony and unaffected fervency with which their praises and prayers ascended to Heaven ! and the happy effects which this pleasant and edifying exercise produced in their daily tempers and conduct ! It was a little heaven upon earth. Make my most affectionate salutations to them. Tell them I am present in spirit though not in person with them. May they go on and prosper! And may the smiles of that God to whom they have consecrated their house, be enjoyed by every one in it!"
b Col. ij. 16.
a Psal. cxxxiii. l.
And now, in order to persuade you to the discharge of this duty, of which we have so happy an example before us, we will,
First, Establish this general proposition, that it is the duty of every family, in their own separate habitation, to offer daily prayer and praise to God:
SECONDLY, Lay down certain rules for the conducting such service, the fitness of which we shall deduce from considerations of reason and prudence, and from intimations thrown out in various parts of Scripture: and then,
Thirdly, Obviate the principal difficulties that may discourage persons from an attention to it.
First, We are to prove in general, that it is the duty of every family, in their own separate habitation, to offer daily prayer and praise to God.
The proposition, you see, we have laid down in general terms, sensible that there are many circumstances relative to this duty, which will not apply alike to all cases, and which therefore we mean to discuss under the next head. A family usually consists of parents, children, and servants: but in this term we comprehend all who happen to reside in one house, or apartment, be they more or less numerous. Now we affirm, that it is the incumbent duty of every such family to assemble together, daily, under their own roof, to worship the supreme God, that is, to acknowledge their dependance upon him, to offer praise to him for the mercies they have received, and to implore such temporal and spiritual blessings as they stand in need of.-- This is a plain dictate of nature—it hath been generally acknowledged to be so-evident traces we have of the practice in Scripture history—it is there enjoined upon us—and many great advantages do result from it.
1. Family Worship is a plain dictate of nature.
Whoever believes there is a God, must admit that he ought to be worshipped. This is the duty of every individual: for if God is a Being possessed of all possible perfection; if we owe our existence, preservation, and happiness to his favour; and if he has made us reasonable creatures, capable of contemplating his infinite excellencies, and our own constant dependance on him and obligations to him; it is certainly most fit and right that we pay devout homage to him. No intelligent being can
be exempt from this duty. But man was made for society: and as social connections are of divine appointment, it is a dictate of nature that God should be worshipped in such connections; and the rather, as the uniting in these delightful and improving exercises, hath a happy effect to excite and promote the genuine spirit of devotion. Now family connections are the first and most important ones in society. They are founded in the law of nature, as is evident from God's having created man male and female, from the institution of marriage, and the various relations that result thence. Mankind, therefore, bave subsisted in this form from the beginning, and all over the earth." They are thus united by the strongest bands of affection and interest, the principal pleasures of life arise out of these connections, and from thence, too, originate all other societies both civil and religious. Can it then be doubted that it is the will of God, the great Parent of the universe, that his numerous offspring, thus distributed into an infinite number of little societies, should each in their own separate habitations offer daily prayer and praise to him ?
2. This idea has generally prevailed in the world.
The Greeks and Romans had their Penates and their Lares, that is, their household gods, which they kept with great attention and respect in an inner room of their houses, or perhaps some kind of Sacellum or little chapel consecrated for that purpose.
And these tutelar deities they worshipped, both statedly and occasionally, with no small homage and ceremony a.
Nor can it be doubted that similar practices obtained in other coun
a The Penates and Lares are distinguishable from each other. The former were images of the gods, such as Juno, Minerva, &c. And the latter seem to have been representations of their ancestors, who were supposed after their decease to be attentive to the interests of their faunilies. -As to the kind of worship that was paid them, we have many intimations in the Greek and Ro. man poets, &c. When Dido entertains Æneas, among other ceremonies, incense, is offered to the Penates.
Quinquaginta intus famulæ, quibus ordine longo
ÆNEID. 7. 707. 8.
« Deos Penates hinc salutatem domum
PHORM. Act I. Sc. V. 80.
tries, and in very early times. This is evident from the story of Rachel, who, when she left the house of her father Laban the Syrian, carried away his household gods with her a; as also from that of Micah, so particularly related in the book of Judges b. With respect to the latter, he had not only his graven image, ephod, teraphim, and molten image, but a young man, a Levite, for his priest. And when the Danites took away from him these his household gods, they persuaded the priest to go with them, telling him it would be more for his advantage to be priest to a tribe than to the house of one man. It is admitted, indeed, that these people were idolaters, and had wretchedly mutilated and depraved the true religion; yet it is clear from the facts just related, that they held it as their indispensable duty not only to worship God publicly, but also in their own separate habitations.
3. We have many instances in Scripture of good men who paid a serious regard to this duty.
The honourable testimony which God was pleased himself to give to the piety of Abraham, that he knew him, that he would command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment c; puts it beyond a reasonable doubt, that religious worship was regularly observed in his family. The altars which Isaac and Jacob erected in Beersheba and Bethel, where they pitched their tents, and called upon the name of the Lord, were striking monuments of their devout attention to this duty d. The patriarch Job, anxious for the welfare of his family, is said to have sanctified his children, rising up early in the morning, and offering burntofferings according to the number of them all: and this he did continually e. The pious resolution which Joshua formed, and in which his family united with him, evidently includes the idea of religious worship in it; As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord f. When David had brought up the ark of the Lord from the house of Obededom to the tabernacle he had pitched for it, he returned, it is said, to bless his household g. And, as he walked within his house with a perfect heart h, evenb Judg. xvii, xviii.
c Gen. xviii. 19. 2 Gen. xxvi. 25. xxxv. 6, 7, 14, 15.
e Job i. 5. f Josh. xxiv. 15., g 2 Sam. vi. 20.
h Psal. ci. 2.
a Gen. xxxi, 30.
ing, morning, and at noon, prayed, and cried aloud a, and seven times a day offered praise to God b; so no doubt his family joined him in some at least of these devout exercises. Daniel prayed, and gave thanks unto God in his house at stated seasons: and, as he was known so to do, and this became an occasion of the edict his enemies procured against him, it is reasonable to conclude he was used to pray not in private only, but in the presence of his household c. In short, from many circumstances too numerous to be mentioned, it may, I think, be fairly inferred that this was a common practice among
the pious Israelites.
In the New Testament we find our Lord frequently praying with the apostles, whom he considered as his family. The house of his friend Lazarus, which he so often visited, and where Mary was used to sit at his feet with such devotion to hear his word, no doubt resounded daily with the voice of prayer and praise. Nor can we think of the fellowship there was among the primitive Christians in their several houses at Jerusalem d; of the fervent prayers that were pouring out to God in the house of Mary the mother of John, when Peter delivered by an angel from prison, stood knocking at the door e; of the households of Lydia, and the Jailor at Philippi, where Paul and Silas were entertained and spake the word of the Lord f; and of the families of Nymphas g, and Philemon h, which are described in the same manner as that of Aquila and Priscilla in the text; without concluding that the duties of social worship were daily practised in them. But there is one striking instance we must not forget to mention, and that is of Cornelius, who as he feared God with all his house, and gave much alms to the people, so prayed to God alway, that is, at all proper seasons: and was actually praying in his house, that is, with his domestics (as. the word often signifies) when an angel was sent to him from God i.-And now from these examples we go on to mention,
4. Certain admonitions which may with good reason be considered as enjoining this duty upon us.
a Psal. lv. 17.
b Psal. cxix. 164.
c Dan. vi. 10.