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ed. There is no express command in the bible that parents shall learn their children to read, or that children shall learn to read the bible, that wives should love their husbands, or that women should commemorate their Saviour's death, in the sacramental supper, yet all agree that they are indispensably bound to do these duties, no less than if they had been ever so expressly commanded. And an appeal is made to the reason and conscience of every reader of this address, whether it hath not been clearly shown from reason, the general commands of God, the examples of ancient saints, and of your blessed Saviour, that family prayer is an indispensable duty ? Dare any man after reading this address go to the tribunal of his Saviour, and plead that he never knew that God required him to pray in his fami. ly? If you dare not make this plea before the judgment seat of Christ, do not deceive and quiet yourselves with it now.
Plead not, that ye never have been accustomed to pray ; that ye know not how; and that ye have no confidence to pray.This is to plead your past neglect and sin, as a reason why you should still continue in sin. Can any thing be more unreasona. ble? Would you dare to lift up your faces and plead these be. fore the judgment seat of Christ ? Certainly you would not.Therefore do not excuse yourselves on these accounts now. Has not God given you his word to teach you to pray? Does it not acquaint you with the manner in which good men have prayed in all ages! May ye not obtain the most excellent books to instruct you in the duty of prayer? Have ye not learned many other things much more difficult, than to learn to pray, had your mind been so disposed? Cannot the hungry child ask for bread ? Cannot the beggar, who feels his wants, plead with importunity for alms? And the criminal for his life ? Only know your wants, and your dangers, and you will be able to pray and nothing will prevent it. Only realize the importance of the duty, and it will give you confidence to pray. Repent and turn to God, and he will pour out his spirit unto you, enabling you to cry, Abba, Father. Young people, and even children, who have sought the Lord, have been enabled to pray remarkably. No longer there. fore excuse yourselves on these grounds.
Neither plead that it will hinder and injure you, in your worldly interests. That in the morning your affairs are so urgent, that ye cannot spend time to read and pray; and that in the evening ye are so weary and drowsy that ye cannoť pray. Be intreated those of you, who make these excuses, seriously to consider whether ye are not full of covetousness and that love of the world, which God hath expressly forbidden? It is his command, Labour not for the meat that perisketh, but for the meat which endureth
unto everlasting life.(k) Love not the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.(1) He commands you, To seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.(m) To strive to enter in at the strait gate, and to subordinate all worldly interests to the infinitely greater con. cerns of your souls. Ought you not to consider how uncertain your opportunities are, and of what little service all your world. ly pursuits and enjoyment will be to you? That this night your souls may be required of you, and whose all those things will then be, for which you have been so anxiously and excessively labouring? Can you be willing to go to judgment with your hearts full of the world, and of that covetousness which is idolatry? Before you have made supplication to God for yourselves and families ? What shall it profit you if ye shall gain the whole world and lose your own souls? Or what will ye give in exchange for your souls? (11) Should not considerations like these, silence all such excuses ? Besides, cannot God give you much more in health and fruitful seasons, in blessings on your labours, souls and bodies, than all you can gain by neglecting your duty ? Are not blessings upon the head of the just? (0) And shall not the taber. nacle of the upright flourish? (p)
FURTHER, do not plead that the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, and that ye do not believe it to be the duty of unregenerate men to pray : For this is only pleading sin for an excuse to continue in it. This is implicitly maintaining the absurd doctrine, thal an unwillingness to do your duty discharges you from all obligation to do it. Upon this principle they ought not to plough, nor plant, nor pay an honest debt: for to do these in unregeneracy, without love to God or man, is equally an abomination to the Lord. But shall not men plough, nor plant, nor pay their just dues, nor perform the external part of any commanded duty, because they will not do it in love and obedi. ence to their Creator? Would ye not have your neighbours pay you your just dues, nor visit you in sickness and want, until they are disposed to do it in love and obedience to God, and in evan. gelical good will to you? Does the abomination of the wicked in in praying and ploughing consist in the external actions, or in doing these with an heart destitute of all love and obedience to God, or with an heart opposed to him? The latter is certainly the case. And so long as they have such an heart, the abomina. tion will remain, whether they pray or not. Ought ye not therefore to be deeply impressed with these thoughts, that if you really are in such a condition, that your prayers would be an
(k) John vi. 27. (1) 1 John ii. 15. (m) Matth. vi. 31.
abomination to the Lord, that all you have ever done since ye were capable of moral action has been an abomination to him. Your thoughts, your words, and actions, from your youth, have been evil, only evil continually: that your obstinate neglect to repent and pray in secret, and in the family, are all abominations in the sight of the Lord; and that while you continue in this state, will still all be abominable. That you may soon die : even while you are saying peace and safety, sudden destruction may come upon you, and you may be brought into judgment with all this countless number of abominations, this incalculable load of guilt and pollution. And is it not high time to repent, and with the publican smite on your breast, and cry, God be mer. ciful unto us sinners? Do not by any means deceive yourselves, with these or any other vain excuses. Consider how they will vanish, and appear lighter than vanity, before the tribunal of your eternal judge. Ye are by no means exhorted to sin, but immediately to put away your sins, and to arise and call upon the name of the Lord, that ye perish not.
This address may find its way into the hands even of professors of religion, who have sworn allegiance to the king of Zion, and covenanted with him and their brethren, to walk in all his statutes and ordinances blameless, who notwithstanding, are guilty of neglecting prayer and family religion. Th's is indeed a most lamentable case, for men to profess to know God, and yet in works deny him. Ye ought most seriously to consider, what a near resemblance ye bear to the hypocritical Israelites, who flattered their Maker with their mouth, and lied unto him with their tongues, and whose heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.(9) Will ye not consider whether your spot can be the spot of God's children? Whether your mark is not that of the hypocrite, who will not delight himself in the Almighty, nor always call upon God ?(r) Can ye be of the seed of Jacob, while the spirit of adoption is not sent forth into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father? Have ye not great reason to fear that ye will be found among the foolish virgins, who have no oil in their lamps.? Unto whom your Lord shall say, verily I know you not.(s). Will ye violate your most solemn vows, betray and wound your Saviour in the house of his friends ? Will ye not consider, that it is better not to vow, than that ye should vow and not pay? Should it be possible that ye are christians and have thus fallen? Will not God visit your transgression with the rod, and your iniquity with stripes? Is there not dạnger that he will soon send his judgments upon you, and take you away from his altar? Is there not great reason to fear, that for your neglect to instruct your children, which you have devoted to
(9) Psal. Ixxviii. 36. (r) Job, xxvii. 10. (s) Matth. xxv. 12.
your souls ?
him, and for the impious examples you set them, teaching them, by your daily conduct not to pray, that he will take them from you, and cover them with dust and worms. Will ye not be afraid of his judgments in this world, and of his more intolerable vengeance in the world to come? Is it not a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God? Do ye conceive it to be a light thing to be cut asunder, and to have your portion assigned you with hypocrites ? If it be not, awake, awake, Oye sleepers! Arise and trim your lamps, and call upon God, lest sudden, destruction come upon you:
SHOULD this little tract fall into the hands of those who were once seriously impressed, and prayed in secret and in their families; but have since left those impressions, and become prayer. less, they are most earnestiy desired to reflect how they are grieving and quenching their spirit: That no man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God:ft) That he hath said, If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.(u) Will ye be of those who draw back to perdition? Or will ye rather believe to the saving of
There is yet another class of men, some perhaps even among professors, who sometimes pray, on the Lord's day, morning and evening, and it may be at some other times, but are very incon. slant, and but little employed in this pious exercise. They are most earnestly intreated to consider how directly their conduct is opposed to the will of God, and to those divine precepts to which their attention bath been already called ; demanding that they should pray always and not faint: and that they should watch unto prayer. Dear friends, are ye not as really in a state of rebellion against God as though ye prayed not at all? Are ye not preferring your worldly convenience, your worldly gains, your ease and pleasures, to your duty to God and your souls ? Know assuredly, that if in this way you expect to see the kingdom of God, ye are egregiously deceiving yourselves. With an heart pained for you, let me beseech you to consider your danger, a wake to duty, make Christ your friend and beloved, and count all things loss, that you may win him, and be found in him at last, clothed with his all justifying righteousness. His eyes are as a flame of fire, all things are naked and opened unto his view; he most accurately knows the state of all the churches, of every beart, of every individual, and if any sin have dominion over us, he will search it out, and treat 13 as workers of iniquity. We must draw near to God with hearts purged from an evil conscience : with clean hands and pure hearts, and worchip him in spirit and in truth, or we shall never be accepted of
hiin. We must not be almost, but altogether Christians. We must pray always with all prayer and supplication, in the spirit, watching thereunto with all perseveranceTherefore give up every excuse, and rise superior to every difficulty. Be not in. fluenced by the customs and practice of the world which lieth in wickedness. Bo not conformed to this world, but be transfornied by the renewing of your mind.(v)
HAVING attempted to remove your vain excuses, and to show you the unreasonableness and criminality of them, and addres. sed the various classes of people, whether they pray or restrain prayer before God, I am now constrained to press my exhorta. tions, and in the most earnest and tender manner, to urge you to a constant and faithful discharge of the duties which I have been recommending
With respect to those of you who have been the people of my special charge, I have instructed most you from your child. hood, ever since ye were capable of receiving instruction. For the term of about forty-three years I have been teaching you the things concerning the kingdom of God. In secret, in private and public, I have borne you upon my mind, by day and by night, at home and abroad, and my heart's desire and prayer to God for you, continually have been, that ye might be saved. I have always striven and delighted to impart some spiritual good thing to you, to the end that ye might be edified. The mutual endearments, which, during this period have passed between us, have made you the objects of my care and affection above all people upon the earth. To you I owe my first and best servi. ces; and with a particular view to your salvation and that of your offspring, this tract hath been written. The duties here recommended, with all the doctrines and duties of christianity, have been repeatedly inculcated. You have had line upon line, and precept upon precept. In addition to all my other attempts to make you wise and happy, this will be put into your hands and libraries, as a further testimony of my affection for you, and desires to gather you unto Christ, and that ye might be my joy and crown at the day of his appearing and kingdom. It will preach to you and to your children now while I am with you, and when my slumbers shall be with my fathers, in the dust.
ye will hear these instructions, it will give you the divinest inward peace, it will make you a pious, peaceable and happy church: an orderly, quiet, honourable and happy town; it will give great pleasure to your aged pastor, and finally issue in our mutual and eternal joys. But if ye will not, this address will witness against you, the town will be disorderly, vicious, mise. rable and dishonourable ; you will be unhappy in yourselves and
(v) Rom. xii. 2.