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purchase you to himself, a peculiar people zealous of good works. *-For the Holy Ghost's sake, who is moving you to duty, suggesting good things to your minds, and will help your infirmities; O do not quench or grieve the Spirit!-For the church's sake, for Zion's sake hold not your peace, but help the travelling church till she be delivered. †-For the nation's sake, which is almost drowned in atheism and sensuality, and daily subject to God's displeasure and fury.-For your poor children and servants' sake, who need your prayers for their conversion, pardon and reconciliation with God; -and for your own souls' sake that are oft under guilt, imperfect in grace, and have much work and burden upon your hands and have a great account to make. Surely if you have any sense upon your hearts of any of these things, you will instantly, constantly and affectionately call upon God in your families. Again, let me urge you from a consideration of the benefits of this practice of family prayer.
1. This devotional altar will be the best ornament to your houses; no pictures, stately rooms or household goods will be such neat and splendid furniture as this worship of God; the finest hangings and most beautiful paintings, are but sordid and disgusting filth to this; it is this that renders a beggar's cottage far more honourable than a prince's palace without it. "Righteousness exalteth a nation and family, but sin is a reproach to any people or person;" this is far before full coffers, magnificent tables, rich feasts and a large train of attendants: for God is there, as the poor hermit-like philospher said, ¿vrèuðèv óc Oɛoì, here dwell the gods; so the high and lofty One dwells, with the "contrite and humble spirit," || in the most homely habitation. What a comely sight it is to behold all the members of + Prov. xiv. 34. || Isa. lvii. 15.
* Tit. ii. 14. + Isa. lxii. 1.
a family prostrate on their knees every morning and evening! to hear melodious praises to God unanimously sung! it is an emblem of heaven. It is recorded of the prince of Anhalt's house, that it was a church, an academy, and court,* where himself was as priest, tutor, judge and sovereign lord. O how happy such a family! I may say of such a master, as the queen of Sheba of Solomon, "Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee."† This, this only is the glory of a family.
2. This is not only the ornament, but muniment and defence of a family: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!" Communion with God is usually attended with protection from God; if any be safe it is genuine believers that shall be safe. Lot's family must be delivered from Sodom's flames: "The Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, as well as upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day," that the enemy shall not find them, "and the shining of a flaming fire by night," || that they may see their way; yea, it shall be "a wall of fire round about them,"§ for upon all the glory shall be a defence: yea, God himself will be the glory in the midst of them; none know the advantages of praying families, but experienced and observant Christians.
3. This is the way and means to bring spiritual and eternal salvation to your houses: surely, that was a great word that our dear Lord spoke to Zaccheus, "This day is salvation come to this house!"¶¶ That little man used much care and made a hard shift to behold Jesus, and met with a blessed, unexpected guest, that brought him the greatest blessing, himself and salva
+1 Kings x. 8.
• Templum, academia, curia.
Psal. xci. 1. Luke xix. 9.
tion with him! Our Lord never comes alone, but brings happiness with him: the conversion of one man as it was a pledge of his adoption, so it made even the whole family an heir of heavenly glory:* for (as Calvin has observed) when God adopts the master of a family, he promiseth to be a God to the whole house, and by right, salvation is extended from the head to the whole body. So Lydia was baptized and her household, and the jailor; Acts xvi. 15, 33, 34; · and oh what joy was produced, when himself and his house believed! yea, Cornelius owning God in family worship, brought to him and his, words, whereby the master and all his house should be saved; not of merit but in a covenant way, and in answer to prayer.‡ O sirs, would you not have your children and servants saved? This is God's appointed way to bring it about; call in divine aid, and grace to do that for yours, which you cannot.
4. Family worship will make up a defect in, or want of public ordinances; Providence may cast your lot in places where the streams of the sanctuary run low or muddy, in this case, house-wells may do you much service; when public persecution breaks up church assemblies, house worship will maintain religion in the world, and that private fire will break out into an open flame: what had become of religion had it not often lodged in private houses? this hath been God's usual reserve to maintain the power of godliness; church history tells us, that the open profession of the gospel hath been at a low ebb, and this hath helped it to a glorious resurrection: ministers were banished, as
• Domum illam salutis hæredem.
+ Nam quia Deus dum patrem familias adoptat, toti etiam ejus domui se in Deum fore promittit, jure salus a capite extenditur ad totum corpus.-Calv. in lac.
Acts x. 2, 33, 34.
semblies scattered, churches demolished, and scarce any appearance of public meetings; yet then the fire glowed hot at private hearths, and in God's due time a door was opened for public assemblies: how much are we indebted to God for house altars! and such a day may overtake us again. And suppose you have free liberty of public and powerful ordinances, how can you expect a blessing upon them without seeking God for it in your families? What good will preaching do without your private instructions, admonitions, counsels, and prayers? This will inculcate truths, and may lay a foundation for after-godliness; and as family worship is a most indisputable duty, so least approachable by the enemy, because often indiscernible; however you may most warrantably suffer for it, if that be God's will, as you learn Daniel ventured himself for it to the hungry lions.
My beloved friends, what shall I say? What arguments shall I use to persuade you to this duty of family worship? I doubt your religion is to seek, if you be loth to set up a family altar, which may consecrate all your civil and natural acts and offices; I will but urge you with these few interrogatories.
1. Suppose a grave and pious minister, or Christian friend lodge with you, would you not reach him a bible, and desire him to go to prayer with you, lest he should suspect you to be prayerless at other times? And will not God's authority and presence have the like influence, and awe upon your spirits?
2. Suppose your friends and relations should quite disown, and disclaim you, unless you would pray in your family, would you not make a hard shift to do something that way, rather than be accounted unworthy of human society? And shall that prevail more
than God's disclaiming you, or disowning converse with you?
3. If your landlord should turn you out of your house, or your father should disinherit you, if you set not up this family altar, could you be content to suffer both, rather than do it? And shall a threatening of your Father in heaven, or great landlord, to reject or eject you out of heaven avail nothing?
4. If a law were imposed upon you to pay five shillings every time, that you neglect prayer in your family, would you forfeit that sum as oft as you go prayerless to bed; would you not fear that would beggar you? And shall not greater losses and heavier penalties deter you from this omission?
5. If the king or a nobleman should promise you five pounds every time that you call your family together, read a chapter, sing a psalm, kneel down and pray to God, would you not strain hard to procure that money? And will not a greater profit from Almighty God prevail with you to perform this exercise to obtain a reward?
6. Suppose a brand were set upon your foreheads, like Cain's, or a dreadful trembling should seize upon your bodies for such a neglect, or you should pass under such a stigmatizing character as that in Deut. xxv. 9, 10, "The house of him that hath his shoe loosed:" and if this name be given you, this is a graceless, prayerless man; would not this shame you out of your criminal omission?
7. Suppose the next time you go prayerless to bed, your loveliest child and darling should be snatched away by a sudden stroke of death, as it was in Egypt when the first-born of Pharaoh and others died, and there was a great cry.* Would not this move you
Exod. xii. 30.