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Do you call for express precepts ?-_our text is one. Pray always with all prayer. The word always, applied to prayer, is an allusion to the morning and evening sacrifice, which was called, the continual sacrifice, and therefore plainly directs us to morning and evening prayers as I shall have occasion to shew under the next head. And all prayer must include family prayer. Indeed if no such thing as family worship had ever been known, and the Apostle had been about to introduce a kind of worship entirely new, he would probably have been more explicit. But as it was then, and long had been known and practised in religious families ; had been à usage among the patriarchs and the Jews, and was continued among Christians, it must necessarily be included in this universal injunction.
The Lord's prayer is an express command for daily family prayer. It is introduced in the form of a precept. After this manner pray ye. That social prayer is intended, cannot be donbted, for the form runs wholly in the plural number. In the preceding verses, our Lord gives directions for solitaty prayer. In treating of this, he uses the singuIar mumber. When thou prayest enter into thy closet, shut thy door, and pray to thy Father in secret. He then passes to social prayer, and, as his subject naturally led him, he changes the number. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions-after this manner pray ye, Our Father who art in hea. ven. Not only the change of number, but the disallowance of repetitions and much speaking, shews that social prayer is the subject ; for these, though improper in joint prayer, for very obvious reasons, may be admitted in solitary prayer, where we may breathe the feelings of the heart with less regard to order, time or diction, than when we are speaking in behalf of others. Our saviour continued all night in solitary prayer. He prayed three times, saying the same words. I would observe farther :
This form is intended to direct us in daily, as well as social prayer ; as appears from the fourth peti. tion, Give us this day, our daily bread. Family prayer must here be principally intended; for å family is the only society that can meet for daily prayer.
You will also find an express command in the ivth chapter of the epistle to the Colossians. The Apostle is here, and in the preceding chapter, treating of domestick and relative duties, as the duties between husbands and wives, parents and, children, masters and servants; and to these he immediately subjoins a precept concerning prayer. Continue instant in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. As the duties incumbent en families are his subject, it is natural to suppose that family prayer is here intended.
I shall mention but one authority more, which is that of the Apostle Peter in the iiid chapter of his 1st Epistle. He there in the first place points out to wives their duty to their husbands, such as obedience, chastity, modesty and peaceableness. He next shews the duty of husbands to their wives, as dwelling with them, giving them honour, and treating them with kindness. In a word, he directs them to regard each other, as being heirs together of the grace of life. And the general reason which he assigns, is this, that their prayers be not hindered. You will here observe, that the necessity of a suitable performance of the duty of prayer, is made an argument for other domestic duties. An argu. ment used to prove the obligation, or urge the practice of any duty, is always supposed to be more plain, if possible, than the duty recommended. When therefore the Apostle, from the danger of the interruption of their prayers, urges the wife to be subject to her husband, and him to give honour to
her, he supposes it to be more obvious, that they should live together in social prayer, than that she should be obedient to him, or that he should give honour to her. I will only remark farther, that in this
passage the Apostle considers joint prayer as incumbent on small families, such as consist only of the husband and wife. He urges a suitable treatment of each other in the conjugal relation, that their prayers may not be interrupted. Let this be considered by those, who have newly entered into a family state.
I have the more largely stated the arguments for this duty, because some have pretended, that there is no warrant for it in the word of God. Such insinuations are as groundless, as they are dangerous. The very persons who make them, will, under certain circumstances, shew that they do not believe them. If they should hear of some officer in the church, or of some Christian professor, who neglected family worship, they would not fail to censure and reproach him. But, Is this a duty incumbent only on certain characters? In a time of family distress, they will desire that prayer may be made in their houses. But, Are they dependent on God only when they are sick, or when one lies dead by their wall ? Live under a sense of your con. tinual dependence, and you will pray always with
Let heads of families stand within their houses, as priests of God, offering the sacrifice of prayer and praise continually. Let the younger members give a serious attendance, realizing the divine presence, and approaching it with godly fear. "Let your houses become as churches of God; and the churches will become more glorious. Let them be the places, where prayer is wont to be made, where God's word is read, and where suitable in
structions are given, and the services of the sanctuary will be more edifying. Happy is the family, which, with united hearts, serve God and pray always—happy the man, who is the head of such a family-happy the members of a house, which is hlessed because of the ark of God-happy the church, which consists of such families. Such a church is one greater family, whose members are pursuing one common design; and the families are so many smaller churches, all builded together for an habitation of God, through the Spirit, and growing unto an holy temple in the Lord.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and
watching thereunto with all perseverance,
In our former discourse, on this text, we considered our obligations to maintain the worship of God in our houses.
We will now, as was proposed,
II. Inquire, whether there is any thing in reason, or scripture, leading us to fix on morning and evening, as the stated seasons of family worship.
1. Our prayers, certainly ought to be frequent and constant.
So much, at least, must be intended by our Apostle, when he directs us to pray always. What..ever reasons oblige us to pray at all, bind us to pray
We are continually dependent on God, and indebted to him. We daily feel new wants, or the return of former ones, and receive fresh favours, or the repetition of past ones.
We often commit of VOL. I.