« ForrigeFortsæt »
have no lease of your lives; you must not say to your neighbour, "go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give:"* and will you say so to God? O do not put off God in paying his dues, either, as to a first undertaking or after-performance: beware of delays, and make no intermissions; he that is not fit to-day will be less fit to-morrow.†
4. Excite yourselves and families to the performance; it was the practice of the primitive church, to have one to say before prayer, Up with your hearts.‡ Alas! our spirits grow dull in the intervals of duty; you must stir up yourselves to "take hold on God;"|| you must wind up your affections, and tune your spirits as you would do the strings of an instrument, and you will find they will quickly slip down again; twice did David say, "O God, my heart is fixed;" yet immediately he found it unfixed again, and cries, "Awake, psaltery and harp, I myself will awake early."§ You will be forced to give your hearts a check many times in a duty, if you make conscience to maintain them in a good frame: hence those expressions of " watching unto prayer," and "watching in prayer;" as well as watch and pray."¶O take heed of doing the work of the Lord negligently! serve not God with that which costs you nothing: but do your best in every duty. "Be you fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."** Be in good earnest, as if this were the last prayer you were to offer: muster up all your forces, excite your graces, rouse your affections to and in the exercise, then you will pray better and better.
5. Take a proper season for family worship; it is a great fault to put off family prayer and make it the
• Prov. iii. 28. + Qui non vult hodie, cras minus aptus erit. Sursum corda. | Isa. lxiv. 7. § Psal. lvii. 7, 8. ¶ 1 Pet. iv. 7. Col. iv. 2. Matt. xxvi. 41.
** Rom. xii. 11.
last thing you do; it will not be so seasonable to go down upon your knees, when you are fitter to lie down in your beds. Our Lord saith of his sleeping disciples, "the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak."* But alas! some there may be in your families that have not a willing spirit, and would rather be at rest, than wrestling with God; Eutychus might be a pious man, yet attending at an unseasonable hour, he dropped asleep,† which Calvin saith, might be in some sort excusable, for it is no wonder, if having struggled against sleep, at such an unseasonable time, at length he was overcome:‡ he concludes that he had not composed himself to sleep, because he chose an unfit place to sleep in, being in a window, and it must be ascribed more to natural infirmity than wilful fault; but by this instance masters should learn to take fit times for family worship; not when children and servants are tired out with working; if it be attainable, go to prayer before supper, when your spirits are most brisk and lively; drowsy devotion brings guilt on the person and family, especially if it be through imprudent management; it is a proper time for duty morning and evening, when the family come together to their stated meals.
6. Let family worship be performed when worldly business can be best laid aside: "one thing is needful;"|| beware of encumbering yourselves with the many things of the world. I hope I need not bid you order the members of your family to lay all other works from their hands, but you must endeavour that (if possible) their hearts be also taken off from all other employments, that they may "attend upon the
• Matt. xxvi. 41.
+ Acts xx. 9.
‡ Quid mirum si nocte intempestâ cum somno luctatus tandem succubuit?-Calv. in loc. || Luke x. 42.
Lord without distraction ;"* not that masters can pretend to govern the inward man, but that they may so despatch and dispose of worldly concerns under their cognizance, as to leave both themselves and families, as little occasion of diversion as may be; therefore must you take such times for religious exercises, as may be freest from business. Solomon saith, "Through desire a man having separated himself seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom."+ Man's mind is but finite, and cannot be intent on several things at once; you must mind religion in your worldly concerns, but if you mingle worldly concerns with your religious duties, you mar all.
7. Be short and serious: be not ordinarily long, lest you be judged tedious: consider the infirmities of children, and some family occasions and conveniences : weaklings of the flock must not be over-driven, lest they faint or tire in the way: children and servants have but a measure of regard, especially if yet in an unrenewed state: they will soon be ready to say, "behold, what a weariness it is,"‡ and when will the duty be over? Perhaps they will even fall asleep, or seek diversions, or take occasion to be absent: not but that it is their fault, only you may give them occasion: yet though you may be short, you must be serious, run not over duties cursorily, or in post haste, as if longing for the close of a task; you must be warm and lively: our Lord's prayer was short, but expressive and full of earnestness; "O, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." It is not length of speaking, but strength of desire that God looks at: yet a longer prayer is not unlawful upon some special occasion, or upon more
1 Cor. vii. 35.
Mal. i. 13. Amos viii. 5.
+ Prov. xviii. 1.
|| Matt. xxvi. 39.
than ordinary enlargement of affections. But what I now say, is in a stated course of family duty: be short, comprehensive, distinct, methodical, and pathetic, in your devotions.
8. Let not guilt stop your mouths. If you have in the intervals of duty, been drawn into any sin; oh! be sure to get it removed, before you wait on God in your families; retire into a secret place, confess thy sin, bewail it, act faith on the mediator for pardon; yea, suffer not guilt in thy family, let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles, for then thou shalt lift up thy face without spot. If thou indulge sin in thyself, or in thy family, conscience will stare in thy face, and weaken thy confidence in thy approaches to God.* Guilt had shut David's lips, till it was pardoned, therefore he prays, "O Lord, open thou my lips."† An unsuitable carriage, provokes God to withdraw assistance; then what can you do? and as guilt stops your mouths, so it opens the mouths of others. They will be ready to say, it is no matter how you pray, except you practise better. Your servants and children will be ready to despise you, and withdraw from you, and so produce confusion in your family, which will hinder prayer; but if your lives speak for God, as well as your lips, you may say as David, "So shall I have to answer him that reproacheth me, for I trust in thy word." Then you may hope he will not take the word of truth out of your mouth. Let there be a sweet harmony formed by your professions, prayers and practices, and then God will hear you, men will own you, and your own consciences will witness for you.
9. Familiarize holy conversation with your families, and put the members thereof upon secret duties. If your relations never hear a word of God, or religion Job xi. 14, 15. +Psal. li. 15. Psal. cxix. 42, 43.
in intervals of family exercise, that duty will be strange to them, and they will but judge it as a formal course, and yourselves will have less heart to the performance. If God be never in your thoughts all the day, you will but coldly pray at night, nay, it is well if you be not like the wicked man, that through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God; why so? The text saith, "God is not in all his thoughts," or as it is the margin, all his thoughts are, "there is no God;" wicked is here a collective word, for he speaks not merely of one person, but indefinitely of all, saith a good interpreter, for such is the nature of man, when he is destitute of God to govern him.* And if God be not in your thoughts, he will not be in your words, for "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh ;" and who will believe you are in earnest, when your lips are sealed up in silence; tell your wife, children, servants, at due seasons, of the preciousness of souls, the necessity of grace, excellency of Christ, the awfulness of eternity, the near approach of death, the great account of judgment, and the importance of watching and prayer. And put them upon going alone by themselves, and praying as well as they can. And as such discourse will familiarize these solemn truths and duties to them, so it will make them willing to join with you in family worship. If you will not own God before your relations, sure you will not own him before enemies. Gordius the martyr, being advised to keep his mind to himself, oh! no, saith he, it is fit that this mouth of mine, which was made by God, and for God, should speak of God, and for God.
. Psal. x. 4. Impius hoc loco nomen collectivum est, neque enim de una tantum persona loquitur, sed indefinitè de omnibus. Talis est hominum natura quando destituitur gubernatore Deo.Moller in loc.