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Object. 16. You bind us to a tedious bondage, this is a wearisome task to pray with our families morning and evening, it is not to be endured.
Answ. (1.) It is a sign of a carnal heart to be weary of duty a gracious soul thankfully accepts the offer of frequent approaching to God: "Then," saith David, "will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy it is good for me to draw nigh to God."* This is the height of a Christian's preferment, the sweetest recreation, and the only gainful employment. "To them that love God his commands are not grievous;" but these ways of wisdom are not only pleasant, but pleasantness. Alas, sirs, what spirits are you of, that you "What a weariness is it?" Surely heaven itself would be your hell, unless your hearts and natures were changed.
(2.) It is an awful token of God's rejecting that man, and of that man's forsaking the Lord, who will rather pick quarrels with divine commands than obey them: remember what became of them that said, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it? They went back and walked no more with Christ." || It is a sign thou takest thy religion for low and base ends, and when those ends are attained, then farewell Christ and oh, the wretched end of forlorn apostates, whither wilt thou go for a better master, where wilt thou find a better service? wilt thou prefer Satan's drudgery to God's service, which is perfect freedom?§ Ah, sinner, thou hast the black brand of reprobation upon thee, and shalt be filled with thy own ways.
Object. 17. Saith one, I never used this family
*Psal. xliii. 4.
lxxiii. 28. + 1 John v. 3. Prov. iii. 17.
prayer and have been a housekeeper for twenty, thirty, or forty years, I am therefore loth to bring up a new custom, or condemn my former practices.
Answ. (1.) Custom in sin, or sinful negligence doubles the sin, and hardens the heart, Jer. xiii. 23, “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin-then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil." What think you, is it an extermination or aggravation of a fault to plead custom? Will the thief say to the judge, my lord, I have been so accustomed to stealing that I cannot leave it? Oh, say not, I will go to hell because I have travelled in the road thither all my days, and am loth to change.
(2.) Converting grace can break off a bad custom, sanctifying work will turn an old stream into a new channel, or rather renew the soul's faculties and make a new creature, or creation; "Old things pass away, and behold all things are become new ;"* new principles, motives, rule, and end. You are not true Christians, if you be not new creatures; and if you be not found in Christ, you are lost for ever.† You had need pray and pray again for new covenant-mercy, "That God would give you a new heart, and a new spirit— that you may walk in his statutes." Be not content with the "old man," that corrupt, disfigured image of old Adam, but "put on the new man," that will make you capable of new acts, in a new manner. Better late than never be not wedded to old traditions. ||
Object. 18. I have used it formerly, but got no good by it, and so gave it over; and if I begin again, I doubt I shall not hold out.
Answ. (1.) Whose fault was that? Was it God's fault or thine? The blame must not be laid on the
Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.
• 2 Cor. v. 17.
+ Phil. iii. 9.
duty but on the person. Thousands have got good by
(2.) Who persuaded thee to leave off family prayer? You did run well, who hindered you? Not God or his ministers; this persuasion cometh not of him that called you. No, no, it was the devil and a wicked heart that bewitched you. And is it not egregious folly, "having begun in the spirit, to think to be made perfect by the flesh?" Will you go out of God's blessing into the warm sun? "What iniquity have you found in God or in his ways?" Oh gratify not the devil and flesh, by saying, "It is in vain to serve God; or, why should I wait for the Lord any longer?"** Come, sirs, renew your old acquaintance, "Return to your first husband;"†† renew your ancient convictions and impressions; engage the strength of God and you shall hold on.
Object. 19. I like not this preciseness, you shall never persuade me to it; you spend your breath in vain, yet I hope to be saved, as well as the best of you all; God is merciful.
Answ. (1.) Now flesh and blood and carnal reason speak out, and vent the natural malignity of the heart, "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”‡‡
*Job xvii. 9.
| Gal. v. 7, 8. ** 2 Kings vi. 33.
+ 2 John 8.
§ Gal. iii. 1-3.
Ezek. xviii. 24.
Jer. ii. 5. Mal. iii. 14.
++ Rom. viii. 7.
Oh, that any of God's creatures should spit such venom against its Maker! How far are you from the blessed Paul, who, when God called him by his grace, ferred not with flesh and blood."* Will you ask the devil's advice whether to be God's children or not? Will you not serve God without the devil's leave? Well go on gratifying God's enemy, and see the issue, it will be bitterness in the end.
(2.) Will you dare to stand by this answer at God's bar and great tribunal? Will you then dare to say, Lord, thou didst indeed bid us pray, but we had no mind to that duty; we loved not thee, nor did we approve of thy ways; we thought they were too strict, and bound us too strait; we had more inclination for our carnal ease, and sensual lusts; we were latitudinarians, and our resolution was, we will not have this man to rule over us, whatever it cost us? Well, sirs, think not much if God say, "You have set at nought all my counsel and would have none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity: you thought I was altogether such a one as yourselves, but I will reprove you. Now is the day of vengeance, mercy hath an end, and justice takes place; " and those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before me.”||
Object. 20. Well, now I am convinced prayer is a duty, family prayer is my duty, and I have a mind to
perform it; but I know not how to manage it, I am
altogether a stranger to it, God help me, I am a mere ignoramus, and know not what to say.
Answ. (1.) Where is the fault? Hast thou not enjoyed means, helps, ordinances many years for the good of thy soul? Dost thou not see others as igno
* Gal. i. 16.
Prov. i. 25, 26. Psal. 1. 21.
+ Luke xix. 14.
|| Luke xix. 27.
rant as thou, ain to excellent gifts, under the same helps, who can pray very pertinently, even extempore; but I guess the true cause; it is either the pride of thy heart, that thou canst not pray so well as others, or it is thy sloth, in consequence of which thou hast not diligently used means to get knowledge or excite thy faculties: thy sloth will slay thy soul ;* and thy damnation will be just.
(2.) God stands not upon gifts, elocution, or ready utterance; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; "a broken and a contrite heart, God will not despise." If thou hast not precious liquor, canst thou not offer him thy empty bottles? If thou canst not pray, canst thou not fall down upon thy knees and tell God thou canst not pray? Canst thou not desire him to help thee to pray? Canst thou not say, as much as the poor publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner." If it be not wilfulness but weakness, God will indulge thee much, his Spirit will help thy infirmities,|| both what to say, and how to pray. But in this case I shall give some directions shortly.
NEGLECT OF FAMILY WORSHIP, AN EVIL OF A THREATENING DESCRIPTION AND GREATLY TO BE LAMENTED.
THE first use I shall make of this subject is of lamentation, and severe admonition. If it be so, as I have proved, that governors should act the part of priests * Prov. 32. † Psal. li. 17. ‡ Luke xviii. 13. || Rom. viii. 26.