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well, if only you be still in his fetters by wicked works this mightily strengthens his interest: yea, by this means you fortify yourselves against convictions, and go hood-winked to hell, for you will not believe but that your state is safe as long as you can pray so well, and are so religious in your families: but, alas! though you bolster up yourselves with an imagination of your interest in Christ, yet abundance of Scriptures tell you, you have nothing to do with him, without holiness of heart and life, "for he gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."* And be it known to you, that it is not saying a few prayers, according to which you must be judged another day, "but according to what you have done whether it be good or bad. Nay, these very family prayers, without a principle of grace, and holy life, will aggravate your sin and condemnation: your hypocrisy will sink you deeper in hell, and your long prayers will make you receive greater damnation: for the furnace of hypocrites is seven times hotter than others, and conscience will torment you the more. It is not a sprinkling of a little holy water in your houses that will remove the curse of God, which lies on your families, contracted by your wickedness, covetousness, and unjust gain; for brevity I refer you to Hab. ii. 9-11, Zech. v. 3, Prov. xv. 25—27.
I say not all this to discourage any from family prayer, but to deter from sin, and regulate prayer, and also that specious hypocrites and formalists may be alarmed to commence repentance and reformation.
A word more to such as live in praying families. Young persons, look to your state, it is not living amongst pious people, that will make you pious, nor Matt. xxiii. 14. xxiv. 51.
* Tit. ii. 14. + 2 Cor. v. 10.
yet complying with praying gestures that will denominate you saints or gospel worshippers; you may do as your superiors would have you for selfish purposes; as young Joash "did right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada ;"* but his heart was not right, he proved wicked; so may you, if you be unprincipled, you will either gaze about you, or think of other things, or fall asleep, which is the common practice of young persons, when their parents or masters are at prayer. I shall but introduce an address of that excellent young man Mr. Janeway, to his brother sleeping at family prayer:† O, saith he, what a high contempt is this of the great God! how little sense of your own danger, what dreadful hypocrisy! what a miracle of patience that you were not awakened in hell flames! This reproof softened his brother's heart, and wrought savingly on him, as was hoped, the child being about eleven years of age. Oh! that it might have this effect on many guilty souls.
Alas! sirs, are you not concerned in the prayers of the family? while you sleep, Satan watches and rocks the cradle; and be it known to you, your judgment sleeps not, your damnation slumbereth not; ‡ for ought you know you may awake in hell. What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon thee that thou perish not? ||
But besides, there are graceless individuals in praying families. Alas, how many walk unsuitably! they will swear and lie, they are unchaste, lewd and addicted to tippling and intoxication, they commit crimes when they are out of their father's or master's sight, and think, if they can but hide them from the eye of their superiors, all is right. Ah poor deluded mortal, doth
2 Chron. xxiv. 2.
2 Peter ii. 3.
+ Mr. Clarke's last vol. of Lives fol. 66. || Jonah i. 6.
not God see thee? "Understand, you brutish among the people, ye fools, when will ye be wise? he that planted the ear shall he not hear? he that formed the eye shall he not see?"* Be sure your sin will find you out; and do not others see you? will not they cry shame on you? and reflect upon the families where you were brought up, or have lived? O what a reproach and disparagement do you cast on the instruments of your education? what grief are you to pious people, that shake the head, and cover their faces when they behold you? where is your imitation of religious examples? is this the fruit of their pains, the answer of their prayers? were you thus taught? Woe be to you that must be snatched out of pious families and cast among devils; you had better never have been born, or born among Turks or Pagans; your condemnation will be aggravated; your own consciences will fly in your faces. O how many good instructions have I slighted! you will say, how many convictions have I stifled? what powerful motives have I resisted? what good examples have I disregarded? I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ears to them that instructed me; and now I must mourn without hope, and die without instruction or any to pray for me. †
MOTIVES TO INFLUENCE MASTERS OF FAMILIES TO SET UP ALTARS TO GOD FOR HIS SOLEMN WORSHIP.
AND now friends, what remains but a due compliance with this call? O that sacred altars were set up for
Psal. xciv. 8-11.
+ Prov. v. 11-14.
God's solemn worship in all families throughout the kingdom! Were God duly worshipped in every house, how happy a nation should we be! we might hope that God would tarry with us, and bless us. If men would pray as Christians, and live as Christians, things would be better with us than they are; let none mistake us, together with the worship of God we must discover the necessity of a saving principle in the heart, and suitable practice in the life; men must first be good, then they will do good; and they must be first united to Christ, or neither will follow; for he saith, "without me," xwpis ius, being divided from me, “you can do nothing”* you can do nothing spiritually, nothing acceptably. O sirs, do not think to put off God with a few duties, or formal performances without sincerity or earnestness. God saith, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice,"† that is, not merely sacrifice, “and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings." The word mercy, is a synecdoche, comprehending all the duties of the second table under one. By sacrifice is meant also synecdochically, all instituted ordinances and worship, all the affirmative precepts of the second and fourth commandments; but yet prayer to God is of such absolute necessity, and founded in nature, (if it be granted that there is a God) that the heathen could prefer it to sacrifices, saying, offer prayers to the gods not oxen. But though prayer itself be a natural duty, yet the circumstances of time and place may be various as occasion is offered; hence divines say, negative precepts bind always, and with respect to all times;|| affirmative bind indeed always, but not with respect to
• John xv. 5.
+ See this fully explained by Mr. Burroughs, on Hos. vi. 6, page 600-618. † Ευχὰς τοῖς θεοῖς, όν βόας θύε. Semper et ad semper.
all times;* therefore pray continually; if it be done in season, God looks upon it as always, or continually done; but if another duty of greater importance be to be done at that instant, God dispenseth with the former, and it ceaseth to be a duty then, yet the duty continues, and must not be totally superseded; only God will have sacrifice, but not without the spirit; for instituted worship, without natural worship, is not to be regarded; "he will be worshipped in spirit and in truth;"‡ nor will God accept those prayers and sacrifices as an atonement for sin, or a dispensation to continue in sin; if you leave out Christ in the former, and make use of Christ in the latter, your prayers are abominable.
Having premised this, I shall subjoin a few motives to persuade you to make a practice of family prayer; besides the reasons to prove it a duty, which I desire you to review:-Answer old testament types-aet not against nature itself-accomplish promises and prophecies-imitate good examples-accord with divine providence-distinguish your families from those that are profane-approve yourselves and families to be little churches, as you will give account of the charge committed to your trust-obtain a supply for your family necessities, and a blessing upon yourselves and yours-avoid God's curse and wrath upon your families, and begin in earnest this duty.
And now I beseech you in the bowels of Christ to set up altars, and offer yourselves and families wholly and entirely to the Lord, as a whole burnt-offering for God's sake, who made you for himself, daily preserves you, and can plentifully reward your obedience or punish your disobedience.-I beseech you for Christ's sake who laid down his life for you, "that he might
Semper non ad semper. + See 10 Instances, ibid. p. 603.
John iv. 24.