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God has given him; and is then employed in adoring the Giver, and blessing his benefactor. There is a transport of joy in this most tender act of worship, which none but a worthy and a great soul can feel; and which the libertine, in his keenest moment of sensual pleasure, has reason to envy. What is it then that raises such a coldness to this above all other kinds of worship? Surely it must be a want of religion and goodness, a want of love and reverence for God. He that neglects this duty, and is unacquainted with the pleasure that is to be found in the performance of it, may profess his faith as loudly as he pleases, and take it very ill to be called an unbeliever, yet how does his faith appear? What fruits, what proof can he shew of it, when it cannot produce an action like this, in which it is assisted with such a high and exquisite enjoyment? But he says, it is not he only, but many other good Christians, that cmit this duty; and that, did he perform it, it would bring on him the censure of singularity and affected piety. How does he know that others, who omit this duty, are good Christians? In this, at least, they shew themselves to be no Christians at all. But, supposing them good men in other respects, why does he imitate that in which they so miserably fail? Does he approve of nothing but their faults? But where is the necessity of example for that which we know to be our duty? Why, to avoid singularity. Surely now to be alone in doing good is not a singularity; or, if it be, it is such a noble singularity, as is to be chosen before erring with the whole world. It is impertinent to dwell long on so pitiful an excuse. No man, that had a real sense of religion, could be kept, by such a cobweb as this, from the slightest and least agreeable duty of it. A true Christian, though he had neither precedent, nor second, among all the professors of Christianity, would, nevertheless declare like, Joshua, That he and his house should serve the Lord.' He would not idly and basely wait for examples, when love, gratitude, and such an unspeakable pleasure, drew him forward; but would pursue the agreeable duty, in which such a blessed enjoyment of God is to be tasted, did the furnace, seven times heated, open its fiery mouth in the way.
The neglect of prayer is owing, in some, to a want of religion. These people act consistently with their princi
ple, though that principle is an error. But in those, who really do believe in God, it is a violence done to their own reason, and a downright contempt of his providence. They are led into this great folly and sin by want of consideration. They have principles, but they have not thought and prudence enough to apply them; so they are of no other use, than to bear witness against their practice. They have a religion to talk about, or to dispute for. It is in vain to look for it in their closets, in their families, in church, or in their hearts: it is only to be found in their memories, where it was lodged when they were children, with other disagreeable lessons. These people, of all others, are the hardest to be reasoned into the practice of religion, because they have got an habit of acting against principle, and making themselves easy, by a kind of composition between religion on the one side, and their interests and pleasures on the other.
But there are other believers, who lay no great stress on prayer, being persuaded, that God leaves the world to second causes; and that therefore a knowledge of those causes, and a dextrous management of them, is the grand secret of prudence, and the only scheme by which a man may contribute to his own happiness. This was the opinion of the Epicureans, who denied a Providence, and said, if there were such a being as God, that he left nature to itself, and took his pleasures above the clouds, without ever looking through them, to see what is doing here below. This notion is altogether inconsistent with reason, and destructive of religion. First, it is inconsistent with reason; because the unavoidable fallibility and infirmity of all created beings require the continual care and support of him that made them; and, as he is ever present to all his works, his infinite goodness must be supposed to interest him in the necessary support and repair of nature. We cannot conceive an employment more agreeable to the Divine Being, than that of providing for the happiness of his creatures; and this he seems to have reserved for himself and his angels, by creating the world in such a manner, as to require his providential care of it. Some deficiencies are immediately supplied, and some evils soon redressed. Others are reserved for certain periods, either stated, or occasional. And though second causes are
employed for these purposes, yet are those causes moved by the First Cause, and used only as the instruments of his will, to carry such succours, and make such changes, as the good order of things may require.
Again, the notion just now mentioned is destructive of all religion, and therefore altogether improper for the mouth of any, but an epicurean, as that sect of philosophers very well knew. God is the only author and teacher of religion; and since he has not made the knowledge of his will a part of our nature, we must either be ignorant of it, or else be instructed by him. But had God left us to ourselves, and to other second causes, his will could not have been revealed, nor our redemption wrought.
Since then God is not only the judge of all the earth, but the governor among the nations; since he that made the eye must see, and he that made the ear must hear,' why should we not bring our wants before him? Since he is merciful he must pity our distresses. Since he is infinitely wise and powerful he can easily find means to relieve them. For this reason shall prayer be made ever unto him, and daily shall he be praised.' For this reason the man, who is taught in Christ, and is wise unto salvation,' implores his assistance in every thing. He recommends his labours by day, and his rest by night, to the protection of God; and never thinks either himself, or his family, safe, till, by earnest prayers, he has put them under the guardianship of Providence. He is sensible, that the power of prayer is as the power of God; because it prevails with God, and engages his power in our behalf. This his daily experience teaches him, and the word of God supports his experience. When he sees the wrath of God, that was ready to fall upon the idolatrous Israelites, turned away by the prayer of Moses; when he sees the prayer of Joshua arresting the sun, and stopping the course of nature; when he sees the prayer of Elisha prevail over death, and restore to life the son of the Shunamite: when he sees the prophetical declaration of God reversed, and the life of Hezekiah prolonged by prayer; when he sees Daniel come alive out of the lion's den, after having trusted to prayer, in defiance of the greatest power on earth; he cannot entertain the least doubt concerning the force of prayer. His confidence is still increased by the
parable of the importunate woman, and the unjust judge, by the promises, the merits, and intercessions of Christ. The command, to pray always,' adds duty to his hopes, and makes his prayer an act of obedience, as well as a means of preservation. That his family may learn to trust in God, and to call upon him; that their prayers may have the greater force; that God may be present among them, and his fatherly providence watch over them; he gathers them together, and, uniting all their devotions in one request, and one voice, gives them all the weight and power that prayer can have. He feels the good effects of his piety, in the agreeable reflections he makes on the discharge of his duty, in the peace and security with which he fortifies himself and his affairs, in the daily blessings which descend upon his family, in return for their daily services, in the patience and firmness in bearing the unavoidable afflictions of life, which his continual devotions, and his entire dependance on God, have given him.
It is a grievous reflection, that instances of this kind are so rare. The generality of families have fallen away from God, and his service, have given up their dependence upon him, and sought for protection and support from riches, from policy, from worldly power; not one of which, nor all united, can avail any thing, without God; who wields them as so many instruments of his will, who putteth down one, and setteth up another,' who, with a resistless hand, controls and governs all things.
The infidelity of the times has banished religion out of most families. It has set up some to scoff at this, as well as other Christian duties; while it enters into others, under the mask of moderation, and renders their zeal too cold and feeble to resist ridicule. We may discover the depth of Satan in this libertine spirit, by the behaviour of those who maintain, that we have no need to support a priesthood, when every man has a right, and ought to be a priest in his own family. These very persons, who, for certain self-interested ends, contend for this right, are so far from living, in any respect, like priests, that they discover not the least signs of religion in their lives and conversations, or in their families. That priestly function, which they may, and ought to exercise in their families, I mean reading prayers to them, and
instructing them in the principles and duties of religion, they shew no sort of inclination to. They not only despise the very thoughts of having prayers in their houses, and even grace at their tables; but they laugh them out of the families of other weak men, who are guided by little else, in matrers of the last importance, than the mode; whose narrow understandings afford them but one rule for their clothes, and their religion.
As this contempt for family prayer is the effect of infidelity in people of fashion, so it is the cause of that ignorance among the vulgar, which, next to libertinism itself, is the scandal of this age and country; and, in all probability, will prove the ruin of the latter. Were the lower people, who have the fewest means of instruction, accustomed to hear a form of prayer pronounced once or twice a day, in their houses, they would, in a little time, and insensibly, learn that form by rote; so that, whatsoever principles or duties it contained, they would soon commit them to memory, and could afterward teach and explain them to their children. But, while they hear little or nothing of God and religion in their families, it is no great wonder if they at last almost lose sight of both. Were the principles of religion wrought into the forms of their devotion, and their devotions mixed with their daily business, as the chief, and that on which the success of all the rest, in a good measure, depends, it would scarce fail of having excellent effects on their piety, their knowledge, and the honesty and regularity of their lives. By this means, at the same time that the master of a family discharged the duty of domestic prayer, he might also at once go near to execute the other, of instructing his children and servants.
But it is not only the ignorance of religion, and that in the poorer families, that is, in so great a measure, to be charged on the neglect of family worship the miseries and distresses that afflict families of all kinds, do, in all probability, spring chiefly from this troubled fountain. The uncommon disasters and judgments, that fall so remarkably on ungodly families, sufficiently shew the danger of living without God. The furious grief, the racking impatience, the sullen murmurs, the wild and impious distraction, that in such families are observed to attend the common and or