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great as you suppose, still know you not that we cannot be the disciples of Christ except we will deny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow him? It is a false shame that deters us from duty: it is shameful that we have so long neglected this practice: it is honourable to be convinced of our guilt, and resolved to correct it. Instead of diminishing, it must greatly increase the esteem of your family, if you tell them with solemnity that God has been pleased to teach you how wrong you were in failing to acknowledge him, and that henceforth you are resolved to establish his worship. Act thus, 1 entreat 'you, for be assured that there is scarcely a more dangerous symptom, than to be convinced of the impropriety of our conduct, and yet to persevere.
5. I can recollect but one objection more that has any plausibility : • There are female heads of families, who may plead their sex as an excuse for the omission of this duty. I grant that it is more proper for the man to lead the devotions on such occasions ; but if there be no man in the family, I can perceive nothing in the least degree inconsistent with decorum in your attention to it. You are forbidden by the apostle, you are forbidden by propriety, to speak in the church; but neither of them forbid you to kneel down in the bosom of your families, and reverently pour out your prayers to the Lord. Thus let the widowed mother implore the divine blessing upon her children, and early teach them to reverence and adore God. I can scarcely conceive a more interesting spectacle, than to see a mother, from whose embraces her partner has been torn by death, kneeling with her offspring at the throne of grace, and pouring out their united prayers to the Judge of the widow, to Him in whom the fatherless
find mercy. And let those mothers, whose husbands are prayerless, while they exercise all Christian prudence and courtesy, often retire with their children, to pour out before God the warm sentiments of religion and of maternal affection.
I have answered all the objections which deserve notice. Bear with me a few moments more, while,
III. I give you a few brief directions for the performance of this duty.
1. Let it daily be performed: each morning and evening let your prayers ascend to God. It is the custom of some families, who have not entirely neglected this practice, to attend to it only on the Sabbath. This is a shameful trifling with sacred things; it is saying, in effect, that religion deserves our attention only when we cannot attend to worldly things. All the ends of this practice are thus defeated. Our souls, as well as our bodies, need frequent refreshment; and the prayer of the Sabbath will do little good, if the whole week is to be given to the world. Nature itself teaches us that when we rise in the morning, free from weariness and worldly care, it is a proper season to thank God for the rest and preservation of the night, and to supplicate his guidance and protection through the day; and that evening is a proper season to bless him for the mercies of the day, to pray for the pardon of the sins committed during its course, and to implore his guardianship during the night. Be careful, then, to begin and close each day with the worship of God in your families.
2. Before engaging in prayer, read a portion of the word of God. This is paying but a decent respect to the scriptures; and besides, this will render your mind solemn, and will afford instruction to you and your family. Reading will prepare you for prayer, and prayer will render your reading useful. An in timate acquaintance with the scriptures will also afford you much instruction, both as to the matter and form of prayer; will suggest proper ideas to present to God, and a proper dress in which to clothe them.
3. Seek an affecting sense of your wants and miserics. A deep feeling of our needs, of our guilt, of the unmerited mercies which God has bestowed upon us, is the best preparation for prayer.
4. Finally, engage in it with fervour and sincerity. Like Joshua, unite personal with family religion. If you would have this duty tend to the comfort of your souls, to the glory of God, or the benefit of your families, watch diligently against formality. You will never be accepted by God, if you merely bring your bodies before him, while
your minds are wandering after the enjoyments or vanities of earth.
And now, my brethren, what effect shall this discourse have upon you? I am so convinced of the importance, of the absolute necessity of this duty, that I confess I am more than usually solicitous that this address should not be without some fruit.
Ye who worship God in your families, persevere; urge to the performance of the duty your friends who neglect it; and especially be careful to walk suitably to your profession, and let there be no contradiction between your prayers and
your conduct. Ye who have hitherto neglected it, let me importunately and affectionately entreat you this day solemnly to introduce it. To-day, call together your family; tell them that God has been pleased to convince you of
your duty, and that you are resolved henceforth to worship him in your houses. Kneel with them; beg forgiveness for your past omission, and ask for strength to persevere in your pious resolutions. I beseech you thus to act this very day; put not off the execution of this plan till the more row. If while the motives are fresh in your minds, they fail to draw you to God, they will never be able to do it: and if in this assembly there should be a single communicant who is the head of a family, and who has hitherto neglected this duty, let me especially entreat him no longer to omit this practice. On the next Sabbath, you will again surround the table of the Lord. Let it be a part, and it will be a noble part, of preparation, to rear that domestic altar which ought long since to have been erected in your houses.
O brethren, if you all act thus; if the worship of God be generally and sincerely established among us; with what joy will this day be ever remembered by you and by me; with what confidence may we then look forward to an effusion of the Holy Spirit upon us ! But if you are resolved still to persevere in your omission, I leave you to your conscience; I leave you to that God where we must soon appear-I, to answer for this address; you, for the effect that it has had on you.
LUKE viii. 13.
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive
the word with joy ; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
In those places where the gospel is preached, we generally find a few unhappy men, deserving our pity and our prayers; who scoff at the truths of revelation, and madly and impiously reject that great atonement, without which there can be for us no solid hope of felicity. But this is very far from being the case with the great majority of those who enjoy the light of the scriptures. Constrained by their consciences, by the evidences of truth which beam from the holy volume, by the wonderful and exact adaptation of the gospel to the state and condition of man, and by the influences of the Holy Spirit, accompanying the word which he inspired; by far the greater part in gospel lands acknowledge the Lord Jesus to be the only Saviour of sinners, and profess to believe the sacred volume. But have they all that faith which is connected with salvation: by