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pensation, God was pleased to declare, that he loved the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob; so our Saviour has expressly assured us, that where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst of them. And hence we are exhorted, not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.
If it be alleged, that many of those who forsake the assembling together for public worship, are as prosperous as those who frequent the house of prayer, we reply, an ox is pampered, but it is only for the slaughter. Their prosperity is unblessed : it hardens their heart against God and goodness, and treasures up for them wrath against the day of wrath. If these men who mind only earthly things, despise the blessings which God gives in answer to prayer—such as peace of conscience, a well grounded hope of everlasting life, increase of grace, as an earnest of, and a preparation for, glorythese we value as the best of all blessings; and we know, that they are given to those only whose souls thirst for God, for the living God, and who esteem a day in his courts better than a thousand elsewhere.
But the duty of social worship is not confined to the sanctuary, though one would be apt to imagine that it were, from observing the general practice of modern Christians. As every age has its vices as well as its virtues, its declensions as well as its improvements, which constitute its individual character, we are penetrated with grief to think, that, whilst the progress of infidel sentiments, and a total disregard of the ordinances of the gospel, or a partial attendance upon them, unhappily discriminate the present times, not a few of those who are in full communion with the church, have lost much of that fervour of piety for which our forefathers were eminently conspicuous, and by which their houses were consecrated as so many temples, in which the worship of God was as regularly observed, as was the morning and evening sacrifice of old.
We do not mean to insinuate, either that you are unacquainted with, or that you deny, the obligations by which you are bound, in your
domestic character, to worship the God of your fathers; for that were to charge you with greater ignorance and impiety than can be imputed to the inhabitants of ancient Greece, or Rome, or the other idolatrous nations of antiquity, who had their household gods, to which, as families, they paid their devotions. Nor need we remind you of the sanction which this practice has obtained from the example of good men in every age, who have enjoyed the advantages of divine revelation. You know that it was on account of his faithful and conscientious discharge of the important duties of family religion, that Abraham was called the friend of God; that the altars which Isaac and Jacob erected in the different places where they sojourned, were striking monuments of their attention to this sacred duty; that the anxiety of Job for the welfare of his family-his rising up early to sanctify his household, and to offer burnt-offerings, according to the number of them all; that the pious resolution of Joshua, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord; that the example of David in returning, after bringing up the ark from the house of Obededom, to bless his household ; that these, and other examples too numerous to be particularized, are unequivocal proofs of the observance of this sacred duty by the most distinguished and venerable characters, both under the patriarchal and Levitical dispensations. And surely you cannot behold with indifference the example of your Lord and Saviour, in praying with his apostles, whom he considered as his family; nor think of the fervent prayers which those assembled in the house of Mary, the mother of John, were pouring out, when Peter, delivered from prison by an angel, stood knocking at the door; of the families of Nymphas and Philemon; of Aquila and Priscilla; and of the affectionate manner in which the apostle Paul salutes them with the churches in their houses ;—you cannot think of them without thinking at the same time of the unspeakable happiness which these devout families enjoyed, while morning and evening they united in fervent supplications at the throne of grace, and rose from their knees with still warmer affections than before.
Parents and heads of families, are your hearts right with God ? Have you felt the transforming and comforting energy of the Holy Spirit? And have you known in your own happy experience, what it is to have fellowship with God and with his Son Christ Jesus, in secret, in the ordinances of
and especially at his holy table? If so, then the glory of your God and Saviour, and the good of all within the sphere of your influence, will be your first object, and the chief desire of your hearts.-.Are you united to a partner destitute of true religion? What knowest thou, O man, but thou mayest save thy wife, by officiating in thy family as a priest of the most high God ? Or has God blessed you with that greatest of earthly treasures, a partner in the Lord ? And is there any thing that has occasioned, or can possibly occasion, her, on the one hand, more pungent grief, than the threatenings which God himself has denounced against the families which call not on his name; or that could afford her, on the other, more exquisite pleasure, than the performing of a duty to which so many precious promises are annexed, and which is attended with so many and great advantages ?
A family, the heads of which have experienced the grace
of God in truth, and in which he is regularly worshipped, is blessed in itself, is a blessing to the community of which it forms a constituent part, and a blessing to the church of Christ. It is blessed in itself: all the members of a family are connected by the strong bonds of natural affection. The sympathies which are here experienced are, therefore, intense and peculiar. 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: so it is among the members of a well regulated family. The wants and interests are not only common, but near and important-reaching every heart at once, awakening instinctively joy or sorrow, hope or fear. No eloquence, no labour, no time, is necessary to awaken these sympathetic emotions. They are caught at once from eye to eye, and from heart to heart. A sigh will not pass unnoticed, nor a tear fall unpitied. Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head of Aaron, that went down to the skirts of his garments. As the dew of Hermon, the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
The world, perhaps, does not furnish an object so amiable, so beautiful, in a moral point of view, as a family united together by the ties of nature, affection, and grace, surrounding, morning and evening; the domestic altar. Nor is there any case in which a gracious answer to prayer may more reasonably be expected, than when it is presented by a pious, united, and affectionate household, to their heavenly Father, through the mediation of his wellbeloved Son.
Family devotion is likewise advantageous to civil society. The most serious attention of parents is due to the increase of crimes among a numerous class of society, trained up from their earliest years in habits of vice, or indulged, without restraint, in following their own depraved inclinations. The progress of iniquity in every such case, will, in general, be found nearly as follows: