« ForrigeFortsæt »
say, how shall we get this principle of grace? I answer, you must be convinced, that you have it not by nature, that you cannot work it in your own hearts, for "faith is the gift of God," you must examine yourselves whether faith be in you, you must study and plead the covenant of grace, wherein God promiseth to "put his law in your inward parts, to teach you to know him, to circumcise your hearts to love him, to put his fear in your hearts, and to put his Spirit in you, and a new spirit within you;"* and by studying and pleading these precious promises you may be partakers of a divine nature, that you may serve the Lord in a different and proper manner.†
2. Another preparative for the erection of a family altar, is the due and regular constitution of families; which consists in a solemn choice of family relations. Masters of families must be very cautious herein; it is true, children are necessary parts thereof and persons must take these as God sends them, they are not elective, or of our choice, but there are ways appointed by God to train them to what is good, but that I meddle not with at present; it is to such things as are arbitrary or within our power to choose, that I refer, as wives and servants, or assistants in families, these may be a great furtherance or hinderance to a householder in the exercises of religion.
(1.) When you are to choose a wife, be very careful. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,”‡ lest it come to pass, that when you draw one way your partner draw another; and when you would pray in your family, she be busy about the world, and will not join with you, but act the part of scoffing Michal, who
Eph. ii. 8. 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Jer. xxxi. 33. 34. Deut. xxx. 6. Jer. xxxii. 40. Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.
+ 2. Peter i. 4.
+ 2 Cor. vi. 14.
pointed her sarcasm at her holy husband David, for his fervent zeal in God's worship when dancing before the ark.* O what grief of heart will this be to you, who must be forced to turn your sweet communion, into a severe admonition of your own wife! and the nearer the relation the heavier the affliction; when your wife proves a tempting Eve, or as Solomon's wives, "who turned away his heart from God;"† oh! the danger of seduction; but if not so, yet a bad wife will be a continual vexation, like a constant dropping in a very rainy day; you little know the inconveniences attending such a relation; you will say, how can we help it? I answer, prudence, prayer, and due consideration beforehand may ordinarily prevent such a bad choice, if you make it your business to marry in the Lord,‡ and yoke only with such a one as bears Christ's yoke, consulting christian friends, and regarding beauty, portion, and parentage as subordinate; be sure that there be well-grounded hopes of saving grace in the first place; let religion and reason, not passion or fancy make your choice, lest you smart for your folly. O what a help may a prudent, gracious wife be in assisting you in setting up this family altar; "a wise woman buildeth her house;" Manoah's wife encouraged her husband,|| and Rachel and Leah builded the house of Jacob or Israel; Hannah prayed while her husband Elkanah sacrificed, and no doubt joined with him devoutly at home. O what a blessed harmony to see husband and wife "heirs together of the grace of life," ¶ that their prayers may not be hindered, but mutually furthered! this plainly intimates that unsuitableness of spirit, or untowardness in either, hinders prayers, that
+ 1 Cor. vii. 39.
¶ 1 Pet. iii. 7.
2 Sam. vi. 20. +1 Kings xi. 2—4. || Prov. xiv. 1. Judg. xiii. 23. § Ruth iv. 11. 1 Sam. i. 3, 10, 13.
is, either diverts them from praying, or mars the efficacy of prayer; therefore let young men be wise in this main concern of choosing a wife, for who would fetch water to kindle fire, as one saith, or select a bed of snow to keep one warm? you have quench-coal enough now within, espouse not more, rather get bellows to kindle your spark.
(2.) As for servants, be serious and particular in choosing pious ones; if it be possible choose religious servants: trust not to your care and pains to make them so; if Onesimus be begotten in bonds, he will be profitable to his pious master Philemon;* there is no trusting irreligious servants, they will but comply out of awe, and may degenerate into atheism. If thy servant be upright, he will not only pray when thou prayest, which will make a blessed harmony, but will pray alone for thee, as faithful Eliezer did in his master's business, and then things will succeed well; for (as one saith) a praying servant will not only work, but set God to work. O happy family, where servants echo to their master's sighs! These will unanimously besiege heaven with importunate supplications: yea, let carnal Laban and Potiphar speak as they find, and they will affirm that God hath blessed them for Jacob and Joseph's sakes. But you little know the hurt you may have, and your children also by graceless servants. This was David's purpose and endeavour to have men faithful to God, to be house inmates with him, and to banish from him froward or proud persons, slanderers, apostates, deceitful liars, and wicked doers; || and if you will serve God comfortably in your families, you must imitate his pious example.
3. Dedicate your houses to the Lord. So did God's
* Philem. 10, 11.
Gen. xxx. 27. xxxix. 5.
+ Gen. xxiv. 12.
|| Psal. ci. 3-8.
servants of old, when they had built a new house they dedicated it, Deut. xx. 5; when they had been banished from it, and were restored, they again dedicated it as David did, when Absalom had polluted it. We read also of a man "sanctifying his house to be holy unto the Lord," Lev. xxvii. 14; this must be done by praising God for houses to dwell in, all have not this mercy; some choice saints had no certain dwelling place:† others have wandered in deserts, mountains, dens, and caves of the earth, of whom the world was not worthy, yea, our dear Lord himself had not where to lay his head! And who are we that God should honour us with convenient habitations? It becomes us to own him as our chief landlord, resolving by God's assistance to pay our chief rent to him, and "honour the Lord with our substance and all that we have:" we must thank God that we have any thing to give back again to him; for "all things come of him, and of his own we give him." We must first give ourselves to the Lord, as devoted to his fear, service, and worship:§ as we must not be content with what God gives us, except he give us himself, no more will God be content with what we give him, without giving ourselves to him: then let us give him our children and servants, so far as we are able, and be earnest with him in prayer for a blessing on all we are or have; let us plead the covenant of grace and its promises for ourselves and ours, as holy Jacob did: observe the word of precept, for our warrant to dwell in our houses, with the promises for our encouragement, and act according to rule and the best patterns, engaging that we will walk within our house with a perfect heart ;**
Psal. xxx. + 1 Cor. iv. 11. Heb. xi. 38. Matt. viii. 20.
that we will use all we have to God's glory and the good of his church; that we will entertain Christ's ambassadors in our houses, as Lydia and the jailor did;* that we will read scriptures, instruct our families, sing psalms, continue instant in family and closet prayer, that all the rooms of our house may be seasoned if you thus begin well, you lay a good foundation, and may groundedly hope that the presence of God will be with you, and with your families.
4. Order your families aright: as there must be discipline in the church which is a fence to doctrine and worship, "beholding," saith the apostle, "your order and the stedfastness of your faith;"† so it is in families, if the master have by gross sin, passion, pride, too much lenity, or imprudent behaviour, forfeited his authority, or by tyranny have abused it, that he become contemptible, he will hardly keep up family worship; children or servants will be ready to laugh him to scorn, as not able to rule himself, therefore little fit to rule others, and think they have good reason to ramble abroad; they will be under no government, and will come none to prayers; this is their sin, but there hath been too much occasion given by their weak or wilful masters; therefore I advise that you maintain your authority, and use it for God. Lose not the reins of government, yet sweeten it with love: when love oils the wheels, and lines the yoke, government becomes amiable and attractive to duty; when David said, hear, my brethren, it chained his subjects to him, but when Rehoboam answered roughly, it drove them from him. Rule your dependants in love, and they will obey in love: if you shew good-will to their souls, with good-will they will do you service, as to the Lord; holiness creates reverence; tenderEph. vi. 7, 9.
*Acts xvi. 15, 34.
+ Col. ii. 5.