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In a day like the present, there will be many occasional cass. of public duty; but it will be a sad exclamation to make at a dying hour, “My own vineyard have I not kept.” In the spiritual, still more than the temporal neglect, “He that provideth not for his own, especially those of his own house, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” “You wish to serve your generation?” It is well that it is in your heart; but let it be according to the will of God. . And how does this require you to proceed? From public relation into private, or from private into public? I)oes it order you to waste time and strength, to go to a distance, and begin labouring, where difficulties will be too great, and means too few, to allow of your improving the waste, back to your own door? Or, to begin near; to cultivate onward; to clear and fertilize the ground as you advance; so as to feel every acquisition already made, converted into a reo to encourage, support, and assist you, in your future toil “You long to be useful?” And why are you not? Can you want either opportunity, or materials—you, who are placed at the head of families; you, who are required to rule well your own households; to dwell with your wives according to knowledge; to train up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; to behave towards your servants, as remembering that you also have a master in heaven.—Behold, O man of God, a congregation, endeared and attentive, committed to thy trust. Behold, a flock whom you may feed with knowledge and understanding; and before whom you walk as an example in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity. Behold a church in thy house. Behold an altar on which to offer the morning and evening sacrifice of prayer and of praise. Here, observe these things without preferring one before another; here teach and exhort, and reprove with all long suffering and patience; here officiate—and “ye shall be named the PRI ests of the Lord; men shall call you the MIN1st Ens of our God’’ The remark of Baxter is worthy our regard—“if family religion was duly attended to, and properly discharged, I think the preaching of the word, would not be the common instrument of conversion.” And Gurnal says—“The family is the nursery of the church. If the nursery be neglected, what in time will become of the gardens and the orchards.” The author will not endeavour to establish the duty of domestic worship. Many excellent things have been writ
ten upon this subject: and what he, himself, could offer in support of the practice, is already before the public.” It is futile to allege, as some have done, that there is no positive and express command for it in the Scriptures; when nothing would be more easy, than to prove the will of God— from the simplest deduction, from the fairest reasonings, and from the most generally acknowledged principles. The examples of the faithful; the commendations which God has bestowed upon them in his word; his promises and Jhreatenings; the obvious and numberless advantages resulting from domestic devotion, as to personal religion, and relative government—with regard to those that preside in the family; and asto instruction, restraints, and motives— with regard to relations, children, and servants; all this must surely be enough to induce any man, capable of conviction, to terminate with a broken heart, the mischiefs of neglect; and to swear unto the Lord, and vow unto the Mighty God of Jacob—“Surely, I will not come into the tabernacle of my house; nor go up into my bed, I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eye-lids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the Mighty God of Jacob.” As to objections arising from—shame—a want of time— the unfashionableness of the usage—or its interfering with visits or dispensations; all this, in a being, who yet owns himself to be a moral and accountable creature, is unworthy of argument, and would be too much honoured, by the attempt of refutation. There is one thing however, which deserves notice. It is the apprehension of inability to perform this duty. With respect to some, if not many, it is no breach of charity to conclude, that this is an excuse, rather than a reason. It is disinclination, or at least, the want of a more powerful conviction, that hinders them from adopting this salutary usage, rather than incapacity. There are few cases in which the old adage is not to be verified: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” You feel little difficulty in making known your distresses or wishes to a fellow-creature: and the Lord looketh not to the excellency of the language, but to the heart. The facility would be increased by practice, and the divine blessing. And I cannot but earnestly recommend the use of free
*See the Introduction to the author's four volumes of Short Discourses for the use of families.
and extemporaneous prayer, where it is practicable. There is in it, a freshness, a particularity, an appropriateness, an immediate adoption, and use of circumstances and events, which cannot be found in the best composed forms. Yet there are those, who have only a slender degree of religious knowledge; or discover a natural slowness and hesitancy of utterance; or feel a bashfulness of temper, so that they cannot gain confidence enough even to make a proper trial. And this diffidence is often found even with persons of education and understanding—Indeed, such are more likely to feel difficulty, than the vulgar and illiterate, whose ignorance is friendly to fluency, and whose confidence is not perplexed by modes of expression, or embarrassed by the influence of reputation. Now in cases of inability, or extreme difficulty, surely the greatest zealot for free prayer, would recommend forms in preference to neglect. Besides, there are others—many in the establishment, and no few out of it, who deema form more eligible: and it is needless to remark, that they have a right to their opinion; and as their practice will of course be regulated by it, it is desirable to aid them in their own way. And surely in this case, as well as in many others, where we see so much talent, and religion, and even devotional taste, in opposing advocates; candour requires, and compels the concession, that all the arguments, all the advantages, cannot be on one side of the question. Bigotry delights in exclusion; but the meekness of wisdom is satisfied with preference; and freely says, “Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.” The amiable Dr. Watts observes—“Many a holy soul has found his inward powers awakened, and excited to lively religion, in the use of a form, where the wants and wishes of the heart have been happily expressed; and considering the various infirmities that surround human nature, even the wisest and best of men, may be glad of such assistances, at some seasons.” Several books of prayers have issued from the press; and it is not necessary to undervalue, or conceal them, in order to excuse or even justify, another effort in the same cause. The great excellency of some of these composures is well known. Yet it must be confessed, that such works, compared with other religious publications, are still very few; and that the far greater part of what we possess, is more for personal and private use, than domestic. Even in the deservedly popu. lar volume of Jenks, there are only family prayers for one week; the rest for all individual service. But whatever might have been the author's own opinion of the expediency, or necessity of such a work as this—in order to furnish a greater abundance—or to accommodate a difference of tastes—or to excite attention by newness—or to edify more by brevity and simplicity; he can truly aver, that he was principally induced to undertake it at the request of many, urged, for years, with importunity. In complying with their desires, he still fears he shall not satisfy their wishes. He unquestionably has not satisfied his own. In the want of that leisure, which allows a man to throw his whole soul into the composition of his work; and then to employ all his skill in correcting and completing it, he has done, at the intervals of much public duty, and interruption, for a few months, what he could; and such as it is, should it obtain acceptance, he shall considerit the greatest honour that could have been conferred upon him, that while living and when dead, the service of God should ever . performed in words which he has furnished so imperectly. He can reckon on some esteemed connexions, whose partiality, as it has often admitted him into their circles as a friend, and employed him at their domestic altar as an expositor and intercessor, will retain him as an assistant, in this volume; and thus while absent in body, he will be present in spirit. He is also blessed with children, who will not neglect a practice, to which, in the order of a happy family, they were so early accustomed, and which was never rendered irksome by tediousness; and they will—he knows they will—train up their children in the same holy and lovely usage; and should relationship and endearment serve to render the book the more valued and useful as a sacred bequest to his descendants, this alone would keep him from thinking he had laboured in vain.