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God has been pleased to constitute this the only mode of obtaining it from Him. He therefore, who does not pray, cannot rationally hope for any blessing.
To renounce all good, when it is attainable by any means, however difficult, is the conduct of a fool. To renounce it, when the means are the easiest possible, is the conduct of a madman. Such a fool, such a madman, is he, who neglects prayer. To pray, costs neither money, pains, nor time. Why do multitudes in this house neglect to pray? The true explanation of this mysterious, sottish violation of every dictate of reason, conscience, and Revelation, is, that all these persons hate their duty. They sin against God, and wrong their own souls ; they hate him, and love death.
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE. THE USEFULNESS OF PRAYER
EPHESIANS vi. 10.-- Praying always with all Prayer.
HAVING considered the Usefulness of Prayer to Individuals, I shall now, according to the scheme proposed, examine its Usefulness to Families.
The Text, as will be seen by attending to its connexion with the preceding verse, contains a command, in which we are required to pray always, Ev Havel ww xagw, at every season, with all prayer; that is, with prayer of every kind; or prayer to God in every form. By this precept, then, mankind are commanded to pray at every season, suited to the performance of this duty; and with such prayer, as becomes the circumstances, wants, and characters, of those, by whom the duty is to be performed.
That Family prayer is included in this general direction, as one kind of prayer especially suited to the wants and circumstances of mankind, will not be questioned by most of those who profess the religion of the Gospel. Nor will it be doubted, that every morning, and every evening, presents a proper season for the performance of this religious service.
In examining the proposed subject of discourse, it will be useful to consider,
The Advantages of performing,
The foundation of Family prayer is laid in the intimate connexion of those, who are members of these litile societies. This connexion necessarily creates a variety of interests, wants, enjoyments, and sufferings, which are common to them all. United in all these concerns in a very intimate manner, the several members of a family find a common interest in unitedly supplicating upon them the blessing of God, without which neither prosperity nor relief can be expected. A common interest is the source of all communion in the worship of God, whether in families, particular churches, nations, or the Christian world at large. Nor is there any reason against family worship, which does not lie against the worship of churches, and larger Christian communities. Indeed, ancient churches were not unfrequently formed of single families.
Among the Advantages, which attend Family prayer, I shall mention the following.
1. The intimale communion, which exists in this worship, naturally renders our devotion intense, and exalted.
Religion is in its nature social. Worship, particularly, is naturally social. Every man, possessed of the spirit of the Gospel, feels an interest in those things, in which others are alike interested with him, which it is difficult for him to feel in things, even of the same nature, which concern himself only. Nay, selfish as the human heart is, mankind are naturally more affected, on many occasions, by those concerns in which they share with others, than in those which are merely personal. He, who would fly, when himself only was attacked, would fight, when an enemy assaulted his family. Many a slothful man has become industrious, many a prodigal prudent, many a parsimonious man generous, and many a sight-minded man sober, in consequence of the interest which he took in the affairs of his household.
All the members of a family are connected by the strong bonds of natural affection : bonds, which unite human beings together with a power, and intimacy, found in no other circunstances of life. The sympathy, here experienced, is therefore intense, and peculiar. The wants, and interests, are not only common, but near and important; reaching every heart at once, awakening in. stinctively a lively, vigorous concern, a powerful sympathy, and united efforts, of singular energy and ardour. The members of a family all dwell, also, in the same house ; are daily united in one common system of employments; interchange unceasingly, and habitually, their kind offices; and are accustomed to rejoice and mourn, to hope and fear, to weep and smile, together. No eloquence, no labour, no time, is necessary to awaken these sympas thetic emotions. They are caught at once from eye to eye, and from heart to heart; and spread, instantaneously, with an electric influence through all the endeared and happy circle.
* In the devotions of this little assembly, parents pray for their children, and children for their parents ; the husband for his wife, and the wife for her husband; while brothers and sisters send up their requests to the throne of Infinite Mercy, to call down blessings upon each other. Who, that wears the name of man, can be indifferent here? Must not the venerable character of the parents, the peculiar tenderness of the conjugal union, the affectionate intimacy of the filial and fraternal relations ; must not the nearness of relations long existing, the interchange of kindness long continued, and the oneness of interests long cemented; all warm the heart, heighten the importance of every petition, and increase the fervour of every
devotional effort ? The blessings, asked for, are common to all. The parent, in speaking for one member of the family, speaks, even when he does not directly design it, for every one. For here, as in the natural
body, whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it ; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. These blessings are also indispensable, and invaluable. They are no other than the health, union, peace, prosperity, forgiveness, sanctification, and everlasting life, of all this circle of beloved objects. How necessarily, then, must all the natural affections of the heart, and all the power of religion, conspire to render prayer, thus offered up, eminently fervent and devout! The world, perhaps, does not furnish a single prospect so beautiful, so lovely, to the eye of virtuous contemplation, as a Family, thus assembled in the morning for their affectionate devotions; combining the two most charming among all the exercises of the human heart, piety to God, their common Parent, and tenderness to each other; and living through the day in that course of Evangelical conduct, which is pre-eminently suited to so delightful a beginning. No priest, no minister, is so venerable, as a father ; no congregation so dear and tenderly beloved, as a wife and children, and no oblations are offered with the same union, interest, and delight, as those of a pious and affectionate household.
2. Family prayer eminently contributes to domestic Order and Regularity.
The worship of the morning, and of the evening, commences and closes the concerns of the day with an exactness of method, almost necessarily diffused through all its concerns.
The regular returns of an employment, distinguished by its importance, communicate to the business connected with it, and to those who perform it, a character of regularity, unavoidably felt, and universally prevailing. The worship of God is always of the highest importance. The spirit of religion, which dictates it, is in its naiure, a spirit of order. Its returns take place every morning, and every evening, after short intervals, and with exact regularity. Its influence is, therefore, necessarily diffused through the day ; operates with an efficacy wholly peculiar; and controls with a superior authority both the mind and the life. No influence is equally felt:' and no minds are equally prepared to be acted upon by influence. The method established is invested with unrivalled solemnity, enforced by the sanctity of religion, regarded with singular veneration, and submitted to without a question, even in thought. But method is the soul of all business ; especially of complicated business; and peculiarly of business, in which numbers are concerned. The method, here produced, is formed with perfect regularity, with supreme ease, without the consciousness of any difficulty, and without a thought of any resistance. Its nadure is delightful : its efficacy is complete.
3. Family worship greatly strengthens Parental Government.
In the morning and evening devotion, the parent is invested with the solemn character of a Priest of God, a Minister of Christ. This character, eminently venerable in itself, adds in the highest
degree, to the personal venerableness and dignity of the parent. When we think of any object, whatever may be its nature, we necessarily associate with it those ideas, which have customarily been connected with it in our minds. Children naturally regard a parent with reverence. But they cannot fail to reverence a respectable parent more, and a contemptible parent less, on account of his personal character. Whenever they have been accustomed to behold their parent daily sustaining the office of a Minister of God; they necessarily associate with every idea, which they form for his
person and character, this solemn and important apprehension. Every image of this venerable relation, presented to their minds, will include in it that of a divinely appointed guardian of their spiritual concerns; a guide to their duty, given them from above; a venerated and beloved intercessor for their salvation.
At the same time, the apparent habitual piety, thus exhibited, will persuade the children, that the authors of their being are sincere in all their religious professions, and in their various moral instructions to them; and that they are, therefore, in the Evangelical sense, virtuous. The evidence, furnished in this manner, may be, I acknowledge, and often is, overthrown by the sinful conduct even of praying parents. But I see not how this conviction can exist, where parents do not maintain the worship of God in their families. The want of such worship presents to the eye of children a palpable, and indubitable, inconsistency between their conduct, and their professions, which no child can fail to see, or feel. An unhappy conviction will here unavoidably spring up in their minds, which cannot be stifled; and which will necessarily lessen the character of the parent, and the weight of his commands : a conviction, that these persons, notwithstanding their venerable name, and their relation to himself, are unpossessed of that singleness of heart, and that integrity of profession, which he cannot avoid regarding as indispensable.
This union in their worship presents, also, in a very forcible manner, to the eyes of their offspring, that peculiar union of views, and affections, of interests, and designs, with respect to the most important of all subjects, and by necessary consequence with respect to every other, without which, it is hardly necessary to observe, no parental government can be successful ; and the happy influence of which is proverbially acknowledged, wherever it is found.
It is unnecessary to insist, here, upon the interesting nature of these subjects. It is unnecessary to show how indispensable it is, that children should entertain the most reverential thoughts concerning their parents ; feel an undoubting conviction of their sincerity in all things; and realize, in the strongest manner, their cor: dial union in every valuable purpose. I shall only add, therefore, that, from the numerous complaints, so often made by parents con