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is said, "feared God with all his house,” meaning, worshipped him with his family. The apostle Paul speaks, in his epistles, of churches in private houses. By this phrase, he means religious families, or families, where religious services were observed.-In the Lord's prayer, we have an explicit command for family devotion. "After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father, who art in heaven.” The form of prayer is plural.* It must, therefore, mean cial prayer, and if social, then family prayer, for a family is the most proper society to engage in this devotion. The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, having pointed out the duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, adds, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. The subject, upon which he was speaking, and the manner of his speaking, lead us to conclude he meant family prayer.
In his epistle to the Ephesians, he enjoins it, as a duty, to "pray always with all prayer," that is, to offer prayer of every kind, and in every form, and at every proper season. Family prayer must, therefore, be included in this injunction. The apostle Peter exhorts husbands and wives to live together in the discharge of the duties of conjugal affection and gospel obedience, that their “prayers be not hindered;" that nothing may occur to indispose them to social or family devotion. -Further, the imprecation of an inspired prophet “O Lord! pour out thy fury—upon the families, that call not on thy name" is equivalent to a denunciation. And this denunciation against those, who neglect family worship, implies a precept for its observance. Such are the arguments in favour of Family Religion, derived from the light of nature, and the Sacred Scriptures. And are they not full and explicit? Are they not sufficient to
* When secret prayer is commanded, which is, always individual prayer, the singular form is used, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet.
convince every candid person, that every house
, ought to be a temple, sacred to Jehovah and the duties of devotion; and that every head of a family ought to be as a king and priest in his own household, making with them a little congregation for divine services?
II. To point out the time for the observance of Family Religion, and the duties included in it.
We are commanded to “pray without ceasing;” -to "continue instant in prayer;"—to "pray always and faint not;"—and, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, to let our requests be made known unto God.” The spirit of these téxts of Scripture may be applied, in a very great degree, to family prayer. This, then, should be frequent.—The Psalmist, in addressing God, says, “Every day will I praise thee;" —"I daily perform my vows;"_“I cry unto thee daily.” And the Saviour has taught us to pray daily, in his prescribed form of prayer unto his disciples. “After this manner,” says he, "pray ye: Our Father, who art in heaven!give us this day our daily bread.” Prayer, then, is to be offered, day by day. And the mode of expression proves, that the prayer here intended is social or family prayer. If family prayer, then, is to be made frequently, and daily, no better time can be assigned for its observance, than morning and evening. These seasons are pointed out by the natural succession of day and night. They occur at suitable intervals, and terminate, alternately, sleep and labour. At the opening and closing of every revolving day, families are convened, the world around them is still, and every thing is favourable to devotion. As we rise from our beds, objects of God's care, and monuments of his mercy, how suitable it is, that our hearts should ascend in thankful acknowledgments to Him, who sustained, and protected us during the defenceless hours of the night; and who gave refreshing sleep to our eyes, and grateful slumbers to our eyelids. We should, also, commit ourselves, for the day, to Him, who watches over all, and implore support, protection, guidance, and success in all our lawful undertakings. And, as the day should begin, so it should end, with prayer. How proper in tranquil silent
, evening, the pleasures, cares, and toils of the day, all being passed, to acknowledge, with gratitude, the arm, which has sustained us in our weakness, the wisdom, which has guided us amid all dangers, and the goodness which has supplied our returning wants; —to confess and bewail our sins and demerit;-tó supplicate pardon and the blessings we need;—and to commend ourselves for keeping, during the silent watches of the night, to the great Shepherd of Israel, who never slumbers, nor sleeps! How reasonable,' then, is it, that we should seek Him, that “turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night!"—that the family altar should blaze with morning and evening offerings, and that heartfelt devotion should kindle the flame!
In accordance with reason, the Scriptures designate morning and evening, as the proper seasons for family devotion. Under the Mosaic dispensation, morning and evening sacrifices were offered, accompanied with prayer. To this, undoubtedly, the Psalmist refers, when he says, "Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense” (this was the morning offering) "and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” It was the appointed duty of the Levites under the Law to stand, morning and evening, and thank, and praise God. Job offered morning sacrifices for his family. David says, "My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord! in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High! to
show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” And 'he resolves, "Evening and morning, will I pray and cry aloud.” Daniel prayed at the time of the evening sacrifice. And, after the dispensation of Moses was abrogated, and the Christian dispensation was introduced, the continual sacrifice, which was morning and evening, was still observed. The apostles and primitive Christians were daily in the temple, praising and blessing God. The third and ninth hours were the times, at which they assembled. To these stated seasons, Paul referred in his directions to “pray always;"-to "pray without ceasing;"—and to offer the sacrifice of prayer continually.”—Thus, it fully appears to be the indispensible duty of every family to attend, ordinarily, upon family prayer, morning and evening.
Antecedent to family prayers, should be the reading of the Scriptures. This duty has been lamentably neglected. And this is one great reason, why ignorance on divine subjects, and impiety, prevail so alarmingly, in the present generation. It was not so in the days of our fathers. Then the Bible was read, morning and evening, and then a seed was trained up to serve God. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.” Ignorance is surely not conducive to piety or devotion. Previously to reading the Scriptures, it may be well to offer a short prayer, that God would "open our eyes, that we might behold wonderous things out of His law” and that He would enable us to receive, with meekness, the ingrafted word, which is able to save our souls.” The Scriptures should be read in course, that regularity in reading may be maintained, and that the family, from day to day, may know what portion of Scripture is to be read. In reading the Scriptures, we should consider ourselves as holding a conference with the Divine Being. Herein we inquire after God and His will; and He reveals Himself and His will to us. The practice of reading the Bible will be found useful, as it creates a respect for the word of God, prepares the mind for devotional exercises, edifies Christians, and may be the means of converting sinners. In this way much good may be done*
Psalmody is the natural language of the heart, and seems to be a proper part of family devotion. This was practised in the days of the primitive church, and in the days of our pious forefathers. Then the voice of rejoicing and salvation in song was in the tabernacles of the righteous. Singing the praises of the Lord is a pleasing, and useful part of religious worship, and the most proper method of expressing thanks. God, knowing the constitution of our nature, has wisely instituted psalmody, that the melody of the voice may affect the heart, and elevate the thoughts. Hence the apostle exhorts Christians to “teach and admonish one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord.” Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God, when they alone worshipped together in prison. Family worship must be defective, where holy melody is altogether neglected. Pleasant, therefore, is the consideration, that the religious public is waking up, both in sentiment and practise, in some good measure, to this subject. And, as religion advances in its true spirit and lustre, no doubt the singing of sacred song will prevail in family devotion. Let it not be said, that most families cannot unite in this heavenly exercise. If this be true, it is not owing, generally, to a defect in natural powers, but to a defect
* Archbishop Tillotson, who was no enthusiast in religion, speaks thus decidedly on this subject. “The principal part of family religion is prayer, every morning and evening, and reading some portion of Scripture; and this is so necessary to keep alive a sense of God and religion in the minds of men, that where it is neglected, I do not see how any family can in reason be esteemed a family of Christians, or indeed have any religion at all.”