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or equals may be a prologue and preparative to that performance.
(4.) If all this avail not for family worship, and necessity detains you there, as you love your souls, spend more time, and take more pains in secret; get into your cell, and say, Lord, have mercy on me,* as the old monk said to Luther; or as Jeremiah, "If ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride."+ Pray for your own soul, that you may not perish with others; pray for the family, and all the members thereof, governors and governed; be not discouraged with their scoffs; who knows what the event may prove?
10. Case. If I be cast into a praying family, what use shall I make thereof?
Ans. (1.) Give glory to God, admire his wise and gracious providence; it is not the lot of all young people. Think, and say, Lord, who am I, that I should enjoy this privilege? this is a blessed place, a place of blessings; this fleece is wet with dew, when others are. dry; this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven; ‡ blessed be God that hath cast my let here.
(2.) Join in family prayer; be not needlessly absent, but do not content yourselves with bodily presence, or postures, but see to it, that your hearts also join with the expressions, else you play the hypocrite; and when you go forth, and set up families of your own, use the same practice, and with the same spirit of your pious
(3.) Improve this stock of family prayers. A father may lay up an estate for his child in bills and bonds, which may prove a good portion. The corn sown in
↑ Jer. xiii. 17.
Abi in cellam et dic, miserere mei.
the field, is as good as that in the garner, in some respects better; the father sows, the child reaps a blessed crop. God forbid that I should lose a child's portion for want of looking after it. Lord, cut not off the entail of my father's covenant; O hear the many cries he sent up for me in my hearing!
(4.) Behave yourselves respectfully to that family where so gracious a providence hath cast you. God forbid you should be a scoffing Ishmael in an Abraham's house, a profane Esau in Jacob's, a rebellious Absalom, or an unchaste Ammon in holy David's family. You disgrace the ways of God more than others, when it shall be said, see what a brute was brought up in a praying family; you greatly discredit your privileges, and sink yourselves deeper in hell. God Almighty open your eyes, awaken your consciences, and reform your conversation, that you may walk worthy of God, to all well pleasing.
I have now done with this important subject of duly erecting a family altar, and offering gospel sacrifices to the Lord. And oh, that there were such altars set up in every dwelling house, and divine incense ascending like pillars of smoke heaven-wards.*
I have only a word of encouragement for timid, though willing souls, who set up family worship, but meet with so many discouragements from without, and within, that their hearts are appalled, and they are ready to give back, and say, will God accept such poor and imperfect sacrifices, so dead, heartless, and lifeles? I do no good, I get no good, I might as well give over, I am oft so wofully indisposed for duty, that I might as well let it alone.
0 my friends! look on this as a temptation, and beware of it, strive against it, rouse up your spirits.
* Cant. iii. 6.
1. Consider, you are not the first or only persons that Satan hath resisted in duty; for even Joshua the high priest, a type of Christ, had Satan standing at his right hand, to resist him, and he had too much advantage against him; for, "he was clothed with filthy garments;" and our weakness is Satan's strength, our guilt his advantage; but our Jehovah saith, "The Lord rebuke thee."* The devil makes spots, and then accuseth us of our spots; but Christ wipes them away.
2. Our Lord takes well your good will to do, though you can do but little. The imprimis of a willing mind is accepted, though your following items be few and poor. "The Lord is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love," that is, those duties we perform to the Lord with labour and hard struggling. It is the observation of precious Mr. Hildersham,|| "Think not," saith he, "beloved, that those prayers only are pleasing to God, wherein we please ourselves best, or which we perform with most facility and aptness of mind and speech; no, no, when we can perform this duty in obedience to God, even against our own disposition, and oppositions in our own hearts; these are the prayers that are most acceptable to God, as Abraham's obedience," Gen. xxii. 12.
3. By using and exercising little grace, improving small ability to pray, you will increase it, and will more comfortably carry on the exercise; so our Lord informs us, "To every one that hath," that is, by employing it, he shews that he hath, for otherwise the unprofitable servant had a talent also, "shall be given, and he shall have abundance."§ Sick persons, whose appetites are weakened, by eating provoke and recover
* Zech. iii. 1-3. 2 Cor. ii. 11.
‡ Heb. vi. 10.
On Psal. li.
+ 2 Cor. viii. 12. § Matt. xxv. 29.
them, one morsel alluring to another. this true in spiritual things.
You will find
4. The weaker you think yourselves, and the more likely you are to depend on the right means of your acceptance, that is, the Spirit of Christ for assistance, and the merit and intercession of Christ for acceptance. For alas! you find you have no strong breeze of gifts to fill the sails, or height of enlargement to carry you with full gale to God; you are emptied, and your plumes quite fallen, as to any thing you do, and therefore conclude, you are too low to gain access to God, and your duties quite lost, except your persons and performances be accepted through the mediation of Christ.* I shall therefore conclude this whole Discourse with that delightful text, which is worth a world, without the the benefit of which, all our altars and sacrifices are ciphers, Rev. viii. 3, "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar, which was before the throne.
Phil. iii. 9.