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inhich he only can supply ; because he loadi us with his bene' fits ; and because we are sinners and must perish without!.is pardoning mercy, so families for the same reasons are certainly bound to pray. There are all the reasons for family prayer, which there are for secret. Nay, there are more, and some of greater consideration. Families owe no less homage to God than individuals. They are no less dependent. They all have family wants and blessings, have family sins, and must be miserable without the divine favour. The religion of a whole family, its order and prosperity, are more important than those of an individual. More good, other things being equal, is done I more are instructed and edified. God is more visibly honored. If secret prayer therefore be an indispensable duty, family prayer must be much more so. Indeed we are taught this by the most important and forcible scripture example. What less could be included in the resolution of Joshua, But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, than family prayer, and all pious and useful family instruction ?(n) What pan be designed by David's returning to bless his house, but to pray with his family ?(o) What was the praying of Daniel three times a day in his house, but family prayer >(p) Had it been secret prayer his enemies could not have known it, they could not have proved it, or expected to have obtained any advantage against him on that account. What were the prayers of Cornelius in his house, but prayers with his family (q) Our divine master has added his example to that of pious men. He prayed alone with feis disciples, who were his constant family. And it came to past as he was utone praying, his disciples were with him (r) How remarkably did he pray with them, and for them, just before his passion.(s) He not only prayed with them, but taught them to pray with one another, or among themselves, as a family. The prayer which he taught was a social prayer. This was the form of it. Our Father which art in heaven, give us this day our daily tread,- Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil .' This could not be secret prayer, because the terms are plural. It was given as- a form particularly for his disciples for the then present time, while they continued together as one family : for after his resurrection and the introduction of christianity.'he taught them to pray and ask every thing in his name. It als» appears better adapted to private than public worship. Do not the examples of these ancient saints, and much more the instructions and example of Christ clearly teach us the will or Cod with respect to this duty, and lay indispensable obligations on all Christians to practise family prayer i
Bur further, do not all the commands which oblige parents to educate their children for God, bind them constantly to pray
(n) Josh. xxiv. IS. (o) 2 Sam. vi. 20. (p) Dan. Tb 10. (qj. Acts x. 2, SO. (0 Luke «. 16, (s) John. xyii.
•With and for their families 1 Can any family be a religious famffy» educated for God, without prayer ? Certainly there cannot. But God has given the most strict and abundant commands, that his * people shall instruct their children in the doctrines and duties of religion, and educate them for him, And the words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou fittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest upon For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he com'man.'.ct our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children / that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God ,* but keep his commandments : and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn a&d rebellious generation / a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit wat not stetfast with GW-(tt) Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from i*.(v) Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Z.or</.(w) Nothing can be more expressly and strongly enjoined, than the good instruction and government of children are, in these scripture passages. Nothing can more fully show how much the divine mind is engaged in them, or how necessary and important they are in the divine view. The passages imply that a pious education of children is the most probable and certain way to make them pious, and to engage them to walk in the path of life, and never to turn from it. God has commanded parents most diligently and laboriously to instruct their children by precept, example, and all means in their power, and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget his works ; but keep his commandments. The scripture imports that if this be not done, children will be a stubborn and rebellious generation, who will not set their hearts aright, and w hose spirit will not be stedfast with God. Universal observation and experience teach the happy effects of a pious education. Nothing, perhaps, in the power of man, can lay such a foundation for the welfare of individuals, of families, and all communities, civil or religious, as this. The principles which men imbibe in youth, the impressions made, and the habits which are then formed, commonly grow up witb-them, continue through life, and as that advances, grow more fixed and operative. The Jews therefore compared that which a child learned to writing upon clean and elegant paper, which might always be seen and read. Hierome, that famous ecclesiastical writer, compared the impressions made on young minds, and
(t) Deut. vi. 6. (u) -Psalm butviii. 5,6,7,8. (v) Prov. xxu. ft (w) Ephas. Ti. 4
habits formed in early life, to locks of wool dyed in scarlet, which never could be reduced to their original whiteness. cu. 'dren trained up in the knowledge and fear of God, have been the seed, support, and ornament of the church from age to age. Hence this observation of Calvin, "that if we would have the "church flourish we must begin in the good instruction of chil"dren." It is of the highest imaginable importance to themselves, with respect to their usefulness to themselves and otl»ers; and to their present and future happiness. It is a powerful restraint from those errors and vices, by which persons often bring shame, misery, and ruin upon themselves. It makes them orderly, peaceable, submissive and dutiful. It puts on them a peculiar dignity and importance : and through the blessing of God, is a special mean of their salvation. It is very essential to the peace, honour and beauty of a family. It makes children the crown and joy of their parents, the support and solace of their declining years. Pious parents have no greater joy than this, to see their children walking in the truth : Than to have communion with them in the private and public duties and ordinances of religion: Than the pleasing hopes that they are born of God, that he has given them a spirit of adoption, and that they are striving together with them in their prayers to God for themselves, for them, and the church universal : Nay, than the prospect that they shall enjoy them forever in the great and blessed family of heaven. What sweet fruits are these- of the good education of children ? There is still further advantage and matter of joy, it makes them good members of society, the ornaments and pillars of church and state.
Further, this is of infinite moment not only to the present age, but to generations yet unborn. If ye train up your chit. dren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they will probably train up their children in the same manner, and so piety may, through the blessing of God, whose mercy is upon them who fear him unto a thousand generations, transmit piety and righteousness from age to age. The manner in which ye shall educate your children, their piety or wickedness, will, in their consequences, give a general tone and character to future generations, and be the means of transmitting holiness and happiness, or pollution and misery, to unborn ages. In this view, how incalculable and immense is the guilt incurred in neglecting family religion and good government ? It is sinning against the express commands of God, against all his goodness and mercy ia giving you families and preserving them. It is sinning against yourselves, against the children which God has graciously given you ; against the church and commonwealth, and against the ages which are yet to be born. This is a kind of unpardonable sin. 1 Sam. iii. 13, 14, For I have told him that I will judge his Mouse forever, far the iniquity vihish he tnoixeth ,• because hit *«$* made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged viith sacrifice nor offering forever. This, in a peculiar manner, is that iniquity of the fathers, which, an offended God, visits upon their children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him.(x) When their fathers are impious, neglecttheir education, and set them evil examples, they cause them_ to become, as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation. Their father's sins become the very sins of their children, and so it proceeds from one generation to another: and because of their sins, God withholds his spirit and grace from, and his wrath comes on such children of impiety and disobedience, for many successive ages. How ought ye all therefore to fear and tremble at this sin?
But how can you avoid this guilt, and escape the eternal execration of your own dear offspring, and of ages to come ? How will you instruct and educate them for God, while you neglect to pray with them and for them? Is not prayer a very essential part of family religion? Can there be any true religion, of Christianity without it? Are not prayerless families rather heathen, than christian families? Families of heathen under the light of the gospel? Archbishop Tillotson, in his sermons on family religion, speaking of daily prayers to God, morning and evening, and of reading the scripture at the same time, says, *' Where it is neglected, I do not see how any family c?« in reason be esteemed a family of Christians, or indeed to have any religion at all." Prayer is an important part of that worship and religion which God requires of you and of your children. It is an important part of that religion, which ye are bound to teach them. It is one of the most solemn and impressive of all means of instruction. In this we acknowledge the being, great* ness, infinite perfections, dominion, and consummate blessed* ness of God. We confess our sin and misery, ask pardon in the name of Jesus Christ, as the Lord our righteousness. We acknowledge the mercies of God, our dependence on him, and recognize the principal doctrines and dunes of our holy religion. How is it possible to teach so many, and such momentous things, in any other way, so solemnly, and to such advantage? Is there any thing which is calculated so deeply to impress the minds of your children and domestics with a sense of the reality of the divine existence, of an universal Providence, of their fallen miserable condition, of their need of a Saviour, that Jesus is the Christ, and that there is salvation in no other, as this? What else is so calculated to fix in their minds a sense of the reality and importance of religion ? What can so convince them of your concern for their souls and bodies, as your reading the scriptures to them, and praying ifi'ectionutely for them, wit
(x) Exod. xx. 5.
-with- them >. What other method can $o effectually teach them to pray, and engage them in the habit of prayer J
Further, family prayer gives great dignity and importance to heads of families,, in their own houses ; and gives an additional weight and influence to all their instructions, counsels and reproofs. It gives weight to their authority, and is an important mean of order and decency in families. Every head of a family is a king and priest in his own house. Precious souls are committed to his care, and he is by God's appointment to instruct and govern them for him, and to offer their prayers and praises to him, and to be a continual intercessor for them. A. most solemn charge is committed to him ; the charge of souls, and he must account for them. He needs continual grace and influence to discharge his high trust, and that he may render his. account with joy, saying, Here am I and the children thou hast graciously given me. Prayer is an appointed mean of obtaining all needed grace and wisdom, and does much to qualify heads : of families for the arduous duties to which God in his providence, has appointed them. Their reading and prajing vritla their families, as their religious head, at once fills their families 'with veneration and esteem, and gives them a commanding su-' periority over them. It greatly assists and strengthens them in the government of their families, in restraining them from sin, and in engaging them in the practice of piety and righteousness. Continual family prayer, at the same time, will have a direct and powerful tendency to secure the blessing of God on all your instructions and labours, in bringing them up for him. This will also give a consistency to your conduct. But how can ye expect his blessing in yourselves, your instructions, or your children, while ye neglect to ask it ? What consistency, or sincerity, will there appear to be in your religious instructions and counsels to them, while ye cast off fear, restrain prayer, and neglect religion yourselves ? Will not your neglect teach them not to pray, weaken your authority and influence, and render all your religious instructions, counsels and warnings of little or no weight with them > Will you not more than unteach by your example, all you attempt to teach by precept ? Of what immense importance, in these views, is family prayer and religion? Besides, do not all the commands of God, which enjoin love to him, and mankind, a regard to his honor, to the prosperity of Zion, orthe good of men, bind you indispensably to this duty i Most certainly they do, since your own comfort and salvation, the peace, order, and happiness of your families, the usefulness, honour and salvation of your children, the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom, are deeply concerned in it.
It may further be observed, that family prayer may be urged, upon the same principles that any social or public worship canbe. If the perfections of God, his creating goodness and sound-