« PreviousContinue »
Disobedience to parents, insolent behaviour to superiors, lying, swearing, profanation of the sabbath, idleness, associating with bad company, drunkenness, contempt of everything sacred, rioting, theft, robbery. At the head of this numerous list of crimes will generally be found, what I have therefore placed first in order, disobedience to that authority with which parents are invested by the supreme Ruler and Governor of the world, for the safety and happiness of their children. This is generally followed by insolence to superiors, and an utter contempt of every means of moral and religious improvement, till the heart becomes callous, and the conscience seared, and the unhappy delinquent is hurried on to temporal and eternal ruin.
In religious families, the well known text, Train up a child in the way he should go : and, when he is old, he will not depart from it-is at once the rule, and the animating motive of their conduct. And as the worship of God is regularly maintained, the children see religion appearing daily, in one of her most engaging forms, and exemplified by those whom nature teaches them to reverence and love. Religion is thus taught, as it were, with the rudiments of speech. It is associated with the first ideas which the infant forms, and will, through the blessing of God, be early and gradually insinuated into the youthful and tender mind. Children will by this means learn to think, and speak, and act as in the presence of God; to acknowledge him in all their ways, and to set him always before
them. Under the tuition and government of the heads of such families, we may expect to find order, subordination, a respect for the institutions of civil society, obedience to the laws both of God and man, and all those qualifications which are necessary to render men useful members of society, and blessings to their friends, and to the community at large.
The effects of domestic piety and devotion on the prosperity of the churches of Christ cannot be too highly appreciated. Religious families have been justly denominated the nurseries of God's vineyard. There that good seed is sown, which, watered by the dew of heaven, yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. A Christian church is an aggregate of Christian families. As religion is cultivated in the one, so will it prosper in the other. The children and servants are there by prepared for the worship of the sanctuary, and for deriving those important advantages from the preaching of the word which it is intended to convey. The religious exercises in which they have been previously engaged; their prayers, in secrét, and in the family, for the divine présence to accompany them to the house of God, and for his blessing to render his word profitable to them for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, will give them a solemnity of mind not otherwise attainable, and an appetite for the bread of life like that which the psalmist experienced, when he said, As the hart pteriteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?
The children and servants of irreligious families labour under great disadvantages in this respect.
. Their minds are uncultivated, and their hearts unprepared for receiving the ingrafted word. They want that unction from the Holy One, which corresponds with the truths that outwardly strike the ear. They have ears to hear but hear not, neither do they understand. No man can be insensible to these disadvantages, who is not insensible to the present and eternal welfare and happiness of those whom God, in his providence, has committed to
On the whole, if secret prayer is our duty, or rather privilege, as individuals ; if public worship is binding on men as members of a community; family worship is no less obligatory on us as members of families of which that community consists. It is for this very reason that God setteth the solitary in families; that he chuses out for them the lot of their inheritance, and fixes the bounds of their habitation. He is the Father of all the families of the earth; his providence preserves them every moment; his is the air they breathe, the food they eat, the raiment they put on; they have nothing but what they receive from his free and unmerited bounty; nor can any thing befal them but by his permission or direction. It is incumbent upon them, therefore, in their social as well as in their individual capacity, to acknowledge him
in all their ways, to set him continually before them, and to shew forth his loving kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father, where is mine honour ? and if I be a Master, where is my fear ? saith the Lord of hosts.
• But we are diffident, and have not resolution to begin this long neglected duty.'-This is certainly a very weak excuse for neglecting any duty what
And I would ask the person who makes it, Are you as diffident in seizing upon any favourable opportunity which may formerly have escaped you, for promoting your own temporal interest, and that of your family? A man need never be ashamed to acknowledge that he has been in the wrong, especially where a return to his duty will make him appear in a more honourable point of view than formerly, in the estimation of the truly wise and good.
• But then, the fear of ridicule, and the imputation of enthusiasm-how shall I be able to withstand them ??-A hypocrite, an enthusiast, and the like, are very bad names no doubt : but are you prepared to go over to the party that applies these epithets to serious religion? Or do you hope to avoid all bad names, and every odious' imputation, by joining it? The world must be very different from what it is at present, before you can adopt any principles of action, or any line of conduct, that will secure you from obloquy and misrepresentation, What is the world but a vast theatre, where envy and malice are perpetually sharpening the tongues and the wit of men against each other? What is half the intercourse of life, but a scene of rivalship and contention, where the characters of the absent are the constant sacrifice to the vanity or selfishness of the present? Nothing, therefore, can be more foolish, than to decline the performance of so important a duty as that under our consideration, from the dread of the censure or reproach or derision of the ungodly, who are continually censuring and reproaching, or turning into ridicule, some one or other of their own, as well as those of the opposite party. Whether we worship God or mammon; whether we be of those whom fashion leadeth whithersoever it listeth, or of those who regard the friendship of the world as enmity against God;. whatever mode of conduct we adopt, we only change the subject of conversation. The world has still its epithets—to those who court its favour, and to those who live above it. If we must endure trials of cruel mockings, let it be for God and a good conscience. If we be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are we; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon us. And if we should ever feel ashamed to worship God in our families, let us remember the awful alternativeWhosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, before a sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.