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since the former time of appearing there before God. It is a remarkable story that Polanus relates of an earthquake in the year 1584, in Berne, when a mountain violently hurried beyond other mountains, overturned a whole village of ninety houses and families, excepting half of one house, in which the father of the family, with his wife and children, were prostrate on their knees praying.* So true is that expression of Solomon, Prov. xii. 7, "The wicked are overthrown and are not, but the house of the righteous shall stand;" God blessed the habitation of the just.† He thinks fit sometimes to distinguish by his wise providence between the houses of the Israelites and Egyptians. And experience doth daily show that the house is blessed where God is sincerely worshipped, as the Lord blessed the house of Obed-Edom, and his household, for receiving the ark, 2 Sam. vi. 11.
12. On the contrary, God curseth prayerless families. That is a prophecy as well as a prayer, Jer. x. 25, "Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name." It is a dreadful prediction; for the wrath threatened, is not ordinary displeasure, but fury; anger boiled up to the highest degree of revenge; anger and fury are sometimes joined, and "when God deals in fury his eyes spare not, neither hath he pity;"|| this is dreadful. And here also is the measure of it, "Pour out thy fury;" this denotes plenty, abundance, variety of sore judgments, not one or two, but multitudes of
• Anno autem 1584, terræ motu mons quidam in ditione Bernatum ultra alias montes violenter latus, pagum quendam nonaginta familias habentem contexit totum, dimidiâ domi exceptâ in qua paterfamilias cum uxore et liberis in genua provolutus Deum invocabat.-Tolani Syntag. cap. 22. fol. 301.
+ Prov. iii. 33.
Exod. xii. 13. Jer. vii. 20. Ezek. viii. 18.
plagues, like drops in a shower, or as flood-gates opened or a general inundation, spreading itself universally, poured out on children, young men, husband and wife, the aged with him that is full of days. O what would become of England if this fury were as universal as the neglect of family duty! This fury is also irresistible; it is like a descent from above, which can no more be stopped and avoided than the showers of rain; there is no stopping those cataracts of heaven, no quenching this fire of fierce wrath against irreligious families, when the Lord renders his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. But what is all this for? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? is it for idolatry, murder, drunkenness, blasphemy, or for some horrible, heinous crimes? no, it is for sins of omission, not knowing God, not calling on God's name. O miserable families where religion is not exercised, there these threatenings must be executed!
Object. But we see no such thing; prayerless families flourish, live joyously, have all things at command, prosper more than others, their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.§
I must confess this promiscuous dispensation of providence, where wickedness is prosperous and holiness oppressed, hath been an offence to the godly, and a hardening to the wicked. And David himself was puzzled with it, till he went into the sanctuary, then he understood their end, and God's end in this.¶
But I answer, 1. Forbearance is no acquittance; a reprieve is no pardon, "Their foot shall slide in due time." God bears long with sinners for wise ends, till the vessels of wrath be fitted for destruction.** God
* Jer. vi. 11. + Isa. xxxiv. 2. + Descensus à summis in imum.
§ Job xxi. 7-13.
Deut. xxxii. 35.
will be in some men's debt till another world. They shall have their good things here, and torments hereafter.* A wise man will choose his heaven hereafter, though he have a hell here.
2. Yet this curse and wrath upon wicked persons and prayerless families are secret and invisible; even in outward things, they may sow much, and bring in little; eat and not have enough. Yea, God curseth even the blessings of such as worship him not; however, they have not a covenant right to what they do enjoy it is not sanctified to them for their good; for the creature is sanctified by the word of God and prayer; but prayerless families have no outward comforts thus sanctified. Besides, the saddest invisible curse is upon their souls and spirits; a blind mind, a hard heart, a seared conscience, and a spirit of slumber, are the greatest judgments and fruits of God's heaviest fury, Rom. i. 26-28. 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11. Psal. lxxxi. 11, 12. It is a dreadful thing, when a "Lord, have mercy on them," is written upon men's doors, and they cannot read it, will not believe it, nor lay it to heart, Isa. xlii. 24, 25. This is next to Pharaoh's plague, and next door to hell. They that will not heed now, must feel this fury, and in the latter days shall consider it perfectly, read Jer. xxiii. 19, 20. Deut. xxix. 19, 20.
Thus much for the reasons to prove that the erecting of family altars for God's worship is an important duty. The command of God, scripture types, natural religion, promises, prophecies, scripture examples, divine providence, discriminating character, families being christian churches, governors being accountable, the daily necessities of families, God's blessing on praying families, his curse and wrath upon prayerless families.
Luke xvi. 25. † IIag. i. 6. Mal. ii. 2.
1 Tim. iv. 5.
OBJECTIONS MILITATING AGAINST FAMILY
BUT there is no truth so plain, no duty so good, but Satan can furnish a witty head, and wicked heart with plausible arguments against it. And it is strange if men have not something to say against this duty, which apparently tends to undermine Satan's kingdom.
Object. 1. Had family prayer been a duty, we had found it expressly commanded in scripture, but we find it not in any express precept.
Ans. (1.) Where find you infant baptism expressly commanded in the new testament? yet it is plain by necessary consequence, so is this. Circumcision was commanded, there is the like reason for baptism, both are plain to all but wayward spirits. I hinted before that regular consequence is strong argument.
(2.) Let not proud reason dictate to the wise God how he must speak. General rules laid down in scripture are to be applied to particular cases, according to circumstances. If God say, men must provide for their families, he leaves it to their discretion, what kind of meat, clothes, lodgings, or callings they provide. God bids us pray without ceasing, in all places, in every kind of prayer, and leaves it to prudence for particular places, times, words, and associates, so that it answer the main end of God's glory, communion with him, and edification. Let not captious wits raise disputes to make void the substance of a duty, because the circumstance is not expressed. God gives laws to rational creatures, and indulgeth us so far as to leave us to our
liberty in mutable circumstances, except expressly pre
Object. 2. Jesus Christ prayed not with his family, yet he is the best pattern: if he had prayed with them constantly, they would have learned from him, but they wanted to be taught, Luke xi. 1.
Ans. (1.) Christ's case and ours are far different; what was suitable to his disciples, was not proper for him; he needed not for himself to confess sin, ask forgiveness, beg mortification, increase of grace or assurance: so that it was not necessary that he should ordinarily be their mouth.
(2.) Yet scripture silence is no good argument. And their desire of instruction in prayer is no proof that he prayed not with them; for prayer is a personal duty, and our Lord could not be always with them. And yet we find our Lord did occasionally pray with his family: in expressing gratitude, Matt. xi. 25, 26; on working miracles, Matt. xiv. 19; at the holy supper, Luke xxii. 19; and we have his long and last prayer uttered with his disciples, John xvii. In all which he spake what was proper to him as God-man, and our mediator; and herein he is an excellent pattern to all householders.
Object. 3. "The sacrifice of the wicked, (and so his prayer) is an abomination to the Lord."* How can you then direct them to pray when most of them are bad?
Ans. (1.) God loseth not his authority to command, because man hath lost his capacity to obey; it is his duty still, though he cannot perform it in such a due manner as God requires. He is bound to pray as a creature though he cannot do it as a child: better do it as men can, than not do it at all; prayer is a natural * Prov. xv. 8.