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in distress; never serious, but when severely handled, like a dog under the cudgel, and then it is but howling,' not child-like crying; "in their afflictions they will seek God early" and earnestly, they pour out a prayer when his chastening is upon them,† and never else. Poor souls, should you not come to the throne of grace, “to find grace to help in time of need?" and when is the day, where is the place, and what is the state wherein you have not need of God? are you not daily sinning, and need pardon as well as daily bread? may you not die this day, this night? are not morning and evening proper times to seek God? Some will not pray in their families, but a little on sabbath nights, when they have nothing else to do: as though all time were not God's, week-days as well as Lord's-days. Surely God is to be owned daily; "I will," said David, "daily perform my vows," and "I cry unto thee daily :"|| and why should you be as "the morning cloud and early dew," § when God is daily furnishing you with his benefits, and therefore should be daily praised, not Lord's day merely, but week-day, and every day in the week:¶ what if God forget or forsake you any day, what would become of you?
(4.) If you are wrong in the end of your family duties you will be rejected; and, alas! thousands propose wrong ends to themselves, in this as in other exercises of religion: some keep up family duty, because it was the custom of their ancestors, and it would be a kind of disparagement to degenerate; some to gratify a religious wife, or pious servant; some to make a show and ostentation of their gifts; others to stop the mouth of a clamorous conscience; some for worldly
* Hos. vii. 14. Heb. iv. 16.
§ Hos. vi. 4.
+ Hos. v. 15. Isa. xxvi. 16.
gain; others as the Pharisees to be seen of men; nay, it is well if some pray not for a cloak of their villany, when they devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers;* long prayers are not simply condemned in themselves, for it is a sign of rare piety, the more holy men are, the more prayerful.† But, oh! damnable hypocrisy, to make so holy an ordinance truckle to such a degrading vice: it is well if that wickedness be dead and buried with the Pharisees: of whom Calvin saith, their assiduous praying was a kind of stalking-horse, or occasion to serve their filthy lucre, neither did they sell their prayers otherwise than mercenary men dispose of their day labours.‡
For (saith this prince of interpreters) "Where gain is gotten by such designing prayers, the more the fervour of that kind of devotion increaseth, the more is the name of God profaned." I beseeech you therefore tremble to think of prostituting so glorious an exercise to so ignominious an end: for the end makes or mars an action.
4. As some families are without priest, altar, and sacrifice of the right kind, so there are some that have something of all these, yet have another altar and sacrifice inconsistent with these, that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham:|| that set up the devil's altar by the Lord's; as of the Samaritans of old, it is said in one verse "they feared the Lord," in the
* Mal. vi. 5. Matt. xxiii. 14.
+ Nam quo quisque sanctior est, precandi studio magis est deditus.
Quia illis precandi assiduitas turpis lucri sit aucupium; neque enim aliter preces vendebant, quam mercenarii diurnas operas locant.-Calv. in loc-quod res per se laudabilis in pravum finem conversa est; nam ubi ex conductitiis precibus, captatur quæstus, quo magis crescit fervidæ (ut loquuntur) devotionis species, co magis profanatur Dei nomen.-Id. Ibid.
|| Zeph. i. 5.
next verse "they feared not the Lord," why so? the answer is put between them, they feared the Lord, and served their own gods, 2 Kings, xvii. 32—34, that is, they did materially do the same things in worship that Israel did, for fear of being destroyed by the lions, ver. 25, but they had gods of their own, ver. 29, and God could not endure this mongrel religion, and interprets it to be no true fear, or due worship of himself: for God will not be partner with idols, he only must be served or not at all. Our Lord takes it ill when men set their thresholds by his thresholds, their posts by his posts,* thus they defile his holy name by their abominations: these are a grievous nuisance to the holy and jealous God. Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee? Can men serve God and mammon?+ Must Bacchus, Venus, Vulcan, be set up cheek by jole with the living and true God? Shall wickedness be practised by governors, tolerated in inferiors; swearing, cursing, lying, cheating, drunkenness, uncleanness, mocking at strickness of religion?
Observe it, there is no true worship where there is not strict discipline. How sad is it to see some men devout in worship and profligate in practice? one thing on their knees, another on their feet.: pray like angels, and practise like devils: confess sin one hour, and commit it the next: plead for pardon, and to obtain a dispensation. Alas! that any now-a-days should resemble Israel of old, who would steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely; and come and stand before God in his house, to worship and say, "We are delivered to do all these abominations :" or like the impudent woman, Prov. vii. 14, "I have peace-offerings with me, this day have I paid my vows." So some men think they may do as they list, and cast the reins + Psal. xciv. 20. Jer. vii. 9-11.
* Ezek. xliii. 8.
on the neck of appetite to run to all licentiousness: why so? Have they no religion? Yes, they have said their prayers, and are in good reputation for religion, and since they have been so serious, now they hope God will not take notice of their infirmities, but overlook them, as the man Mr. Shepherd tells of, that frequented taverns, alehouses, and brothels all day, yet would not go out without prayer in the morning. Oh horrible impiety! this is gross, practical atheism, for
(1.) It is making God the patron of their impiety, as if the holy God approved and encouraged these vices, if they only bribed him with a few formal duties. But what saith God to such profane sinners, that hate instruction, and cast his words behind them, and then allow themselves all licentiousness? "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence, thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself, but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. A time is coming when God will vindicate his justice and omniscience against these audacious transgressors, that did misconstrue and abuse his long suffering; as if by his connivance he had justified or allowed their
(2.) This greatly dishonours God, and accustoms men to take his name in vain: as long as you say one thing and do quite contrary, you discredit your profession whilst you will be called Jews or Christians, and make your boast of God, if you know his will, practise it; otherwise through breaking the law you dishonour God, " for the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you." You harden the wicked against God's ways, and make them conclude
Psal. 1. 17-21.
+ Dicebantur Christiani ad contumeliam Christi.-Sal.
Rom. ii. 17, 24.
that either God is as bad as you, or approves of you, or is ignorant of your conduct, else he would be avenged on you: "he will not hold you guiltless that take his name in vain.”*
(3.) How can you expect acceptance when you thus regard iniquity in your hearts?" You bring your sacrifice with a wicked heart, therefore it is "abomination to the Lord: when you spread forth your hands," saith God, "I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear, your hands are full of blood." God will disown your persons and performances, and even spread the dung of your solemn feasts upon your faces.|| Methinks when you read that awful text, Psal. 1. 16, your consciences should fly in your faces, as it did in Origen's, "But unto the wicked God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?" O tremble at such a sharp rebuke!
(4.) You tempt your children and servants to abandon religion, while you act so contrary to your prayers and professions: just as scandalous ministers that speak well and live ill; people are ready to say, if this man believed himself what he imposeth upon us, he would act at another rate. Wili he direct us this way to heaven, and go quite contrary? surely, he thinks it is but a fancy, else he would embrace it himself. Oh! what have both to answer for? You offend them, hinder them in heaven's way, lead them to hell by your example, and make them manifold more the children of wrath than they were. By this means you gratify Satan, he will give you leave to say well, and pray
* Exod. xx. 7.
Prov. xxi. 27. See Isa. i. 11–15.
§ Matt. xxiii. 15.
+ Psal. lxvi. 18.
|| Mal. ii. 3.