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Martyr tells us, that amongst the other characters of primitive Christians this was one, that they prayed fasting, before they commenced any work.* And having described the godly manners of ancient Christians, he adds, whoever live not as Christ taught, it is certain that they are not Christians, though they may profess it in words.†
8. Christian families are churches, and churches must have altars for God's worship. Luke informs us of the primitive church, that "they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer," Acts ii. 42. Breaking bread in the Lord's supper, is a public church ordinance, the other are also common to families, as well as christian assemblies. Families consist of individual persons, congregations of families, and the catholic churches of particular societies; and families may partake of the name, and must of the nature of churches.‡ What is a church but a religious society gathered for God's worship? The church was limited to families in the first ages of the world; thence it spread itself by divine grace into many streams, all proceeding from one spring as branches from one root, till the church became national. But families were the first original. Nor doth family religion cease when publie assemblies are formed, Gen. iv. 26, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." This text hath ||
Just. Mart. Apol. Christ. ad Ant. Pium.
+ At enim qui non ita vivere comperiuntur sicut ille docuit, certum est documentum non esse Christianos, quamvis id lingua profiteantur.
Istæ enim congregationes sunt quasi partes similares ecclesiæ catholicæ, atque adeo, et nomen et naturam ejus participant.— Ames. Med. Theo. lib. 1. c. 32.
|| Diu me torsit hic lotus, et etiamnum torquet.-Vid. Pol. Crit. in locum.
tortured interpreters; but this is clear, that calling on God's name is part of God's worship; that this piety was maintained in Seth's particular family; and possibly, in a little time men began more publicly to own God's worship when others did degenerate;* and hence the sons of God and of men were thereby distinguished; which confirms the former argument. But this is what I now say, that families are to be as churches. And some interpret those places, Rom. xvi. 5, "Greet the church in their house," and "church in thine house," to be no more than a private family. Grotius takes it for a domestic church, and saith, that three persons, though laymen, make a church.‡ Now wheret here is a house for God, it is a house of prayer. That is no church where there is no altar to God, but it is a synagogue of Satan. We cannot call every family a church, but a christian pious family; and it is so called by the analogy or resemblance it bears to a church, from the worship of God maintained therein. So then, without God's worship in your houses, you are not churches, and so not members of Christ, or of the catholic church of God; but in that respect as heathens.
9. Householders have a charge upon their hands, which they must give an account of, and opportunity to discharge this trust. Governors are charged with their families; hence the fourth commandment is given to them chiefly, that they should take care that their family should keep the Sabbath day and hence the fifth command also is given to inferiors to obey their governors. Yea, therefore are parents rewarded or punished in their children, according to the second commandment; because governors must account for
• Gen. vi. 2.
Exod. xx. 8-12.
their inferiors. God even orders householders to bring all under their roof, to the feast of weeks, with their free-will-offerings, Deut. xvi. 10, 11; and the feast of tabernacles, ver. 13, 14. Also, they were to bring their males yearly, three times in the year, ver. 16. And it is not for nothing that householders have this charge laid on them, because they have greater authority, and opportunity to bring them together for God's public worship in the family; for they may call them together upon natural and civil accounts, to eat, and to work, and why not to pray together? their command is a law. A master may say, "Give an account of thy stewarship," and why not of such a sermon? They may demand an account of their time and talents committed to their trust, and why not a reason of their hope, and an account of their piety or proficiency? why not call them to prayer? and indeed it is a debt due to men's children and servants. This is implied in Col. iv. 1, 2, "Masters give unto your servants that which is just and equal--" presently he adds, "continue in prayer;" intimating that prayer for, and with servants, is just and equal both upon their own and servants' account; it is as due as their promised wages. God makes masters as truly watchmen as ministers, and if they fail, God will require their blood at their hand. Besides the advantages and conveniency of frequent intercourse, capacitates governors for this solemn exercise; and God will require an account of all these talents another day.
10. There are daily cases, occasions, and necessities that require families, to be presented to the Lord. There are family sins to be confessed, wants to be enumerated, mercies to be desired, cares and crosses to be removed, fears to be prevented, temptations to be
Luke xvi. 2.
+ Ezek. iii. 18.
resisted, duties to be performed, graces to be exercised, peace to be maintained or regained, passions to be suppressed, mercies to be acknowledged; and all these must be laid at God's feet in daily prayer. That is a rare family which hath not some prodigal son, or carnal soul, as a member of it; some body sick in it, or some child to dispose of in marriage, or to employ in some occupation; some doubts or difficulties that call for prayer, wherein the whole family is concerned; or if there be no such exigency at present, yet who knows how soon any of these, or all these may light upon a family? and what remedy is there like family prayer? Phil. iv. 6, "Be careful in nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." This is a catholicon, a cure for all diseases, a salve for every sore. We find that when God afflicted Abimelech's family, Abraham prayed unto God, and God healed him, his wife, and maid servants, and they bare children. A Pharaoh will beg Moses's prayers for him in his affliction;* and oh what a woful state is that family in, which hath no body to speak a word to God for it, and with it, in domestic troubles! a child lies groaning, and the father cannot groan out a prayer; a servant is at the point of death, and the master hath no skill or disposition to bring him to Jesus for cure. Alas! that any should be so insensible of their wants, so ignorant of the means relief, or distrustful of the power of God, or efficacy of prayer. No family is above wants, therefore none should be without prayer; for prayer riseth from a sense of wants, which no person or family is without, either less or more, either in reality or in our perception.t
• Gen. xx. 17, 18.
Exod. ix. 28.
+ Deest semper quod petitur, vel ex toto, vel ex parte, vel in
11. The blessing of God usually attends familyaltars not as though God were tied to religious families, as heathens chained their idols, or as Eli's sons fancied God's presence necessarily attended the ark; but God usually visits pious families: scripture and experience testify this, "He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless them that fear the Lord both small and great ;" that is, proselytes, Gentiles, converts. "The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous :”* our Lord loves to converse, where his children inhabit; it is true, he prefers public assemblies; "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob." God loves to see his children together in his public worship. The greater the solemnity, if good, the more of God's Spirit and presence: but God doth not despise his children seeking him in families; when devout David sings of mercy and judgment to God, and behaves himself wisely in a perfect way, he cries out, "O when wilt thou come unto me?" God's kind visits are worth the world, whether by way of providence, assistance, influence, or evidence. How often have God's children met with God in their families? Abraham had a promise of a child; Cornelius had a glorious vision of a holy angel; and our Lord came to Jairus's house, to raise his dead daughter.|| How often hath God answered family-prayer? Even at present, by melting the hearts of children or servants! And afterwards: it is recorded of Mr. Banen, of Stepleford, that he seldom performed family-duty, but he had some answers of prayer to bless God for,
sese, vel in sensu nostro, vel denique quoad actum, vel quoad continuatam ejus durationem.— Ames. Med. Theol. lib. ii. сар. 8. * Psal. cxv. 12, 13. cxviii. 15. + Psal. lxxxvii. 2. Psal. ci. 1, 2. || Gen. xviii. 10. Acts x. 3. Luke viii. 41, 51.