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form the minds of children and servants to the love and practice of religion. On those persons, if there be any such present, who look upon religion to be a delusive fancy, instead of the most important concern in the world, we despair of making any impression in this discourse : but with those who believe it to be the one thing needful, the consideration now mentioned will have considerable weight.
Nothing is more certain than that whatever we wish others to practise, we must exemplify in our conduct as well as enjoin. The truth of this observation extends to every branch of conduct without exception. Would we wish to impress on young persons a sound regard to veracity ? we must maintain a strict regard to it in our own intercourse with mankind. Are we desirous to train up our families in the observation of the rules of justice ? we must take care to signalize our attachment to it by exemplary uprightness in our own behaviour. In every department of moral and religious conduct, we must not only point out the path, but lead the way. The application of this remark to the subject in hand is extremely obvious. Your wish, we take it for granted, is to train up your children in the fear of the Lord, and, as a necessary [branch] of this, in the practice of prayer. Is it likely you will succeed in that wish while you neglect to afford them an example of what you wish them to practise ? What, under the blessing of divine grace, is so calculated to
impress them with a conviction of the importance of prayer, as the being called, at stated intervals, to take part in your devout supplications to God? While they witness your constancy, assiduity, and fervour in this exercise, they cannot fail of acknowledging its importance, without avowing a contempt of parental example.
A household in which family prayer is devoutly attended to, conjoined with the reading of the Scriptures, is a school of religious instruction. The whole contents of the sacred volume are in due course laid open before them. They are continually reminded of their relation to God and the Redeemer, of their sins, and their wants, and of the method they must take to procure pardon for the one and the relief of the other. Every day they are receiving “line upon line, and precept upon precept.” A fresh accession is continually making to their stock of knowledge; new truths are gradually opened to their view, and the impressions of old truths revived. A judicious parent will naturally notice the most striking incidents in his family in his devotional addresses ; such as the sickness, or death, or removal for a longer or shorter time, of the members of which it is composed. His addresses will be varied according to circumstances. Has a pleasing event spread joy and cheerfulness through the household ? it will be noticed with becoming expressions of fervent gratitude. Has some calamity overwhelmed the domestic circle ? it will give occasion to an acknow
ledgement of the divine equity; the justice of God's proceedings will be vindicated, and grace implored, through the blood of the Redeemer, to sustain and sanctify the stroke.
When the most powerful feelings, and the most interesting circumstances, are thus connected with religion, it is not unreasonable to hope that, through divine grace, some lasting and useful impressions will be made. Is not some part of the good seed thus sown, and thus nurtured, likely to take root and to become fruitful ? Deeply as we are convinced of the deplorable corruption of the human heart, and the necessity, consequent on this, of divine agency to accomplish a saving purpose, we must not forget that God is accustomed to work by means; and surely none can be conceived more likely to meet the end. What can be so likely to impress a child with a dread of sin, as to hear his parent constantly deprecating the wrath of God as justly due to it; or to induce him to seek an interest in the mediation and intercession of the Saviour, as to hear him imploring it for him, day by day, with an importunity proportioned to the magnitude of the subject ? By a daily attention on such exercises, children and servants are taught most effectually how to pray: suitable topics are suggested to their minds; suitable petitions are put into their mouths; while their growing acquaintance with the Scriptures furnishes the arguments by which they may“ plead with God.”
May I not appeal to you who have enjoyed the blessing of being trained up under religious parents, whether you do not often recall with solemn tenderness what you felt in domestic worship; how amiable your parent appeared interceding for you with God? His character appeared at such seasons doubly sacred, while you beheld in him not only the father, but the priest over his household ; invested not only with parental authority, but with the beauty of holiness.
Where a principle of religion is not yet planted in the hearts of the young, family prayer, accompanied with the reading of the Scriptures, is, with the divine blessing, the most likely means of introducing it. Where it already subsists, it is admirably adapted to cherish, strengthen, and advance it to maturity : in the latter case it is like the morning and the evening dew at the root of the tender blade.
On the contrary, when there is no public acknowledgement of God in a family, nothing can be expected but that children and servants should grow up ignorant and careless of their highest
You may pretend, indeed, that you are punctual in your private devotions; but, without observing that, this pretence, under such circumstances, will seldom bear a rigorous examination. What is that part of your conduct that falls under the notice of your domestics, that distinguishes you from those unhappy persons who live without God in the world ? If the Scriptures are not read, if your family is never convened for worship, no trace or vestige of religion remains.
A stranger who sojourns in such a family will be tempted to exclaim, with much more truth and propriety than Abraham on another occasion, “Surely the fear of God is not in this place.”
4. The practice of family worship may be expected to have a most beneficial influence on the character and conduct of the heads of families themselves. In common with other means of grace, it is reasonable to expect it will have this influence. Of all the means of grace, prayer is the most beneficial.
But prayer, under the circumstances we are now contemplating, is likely to be productive of advantages which deserve to be considered by themselves.
He who statedly invites others to be witnesses of his devotions, invites a peculiar inspection of his behaviour; and must be conscious to how much observation and contempt he lays himself open, should he betray a flagrant inconsistency between his prayers and his conduct. That parent who, morning and evening, summons his family to acts of devotion, is not, perhaps, distinctly aware of the total amount of the influence this circumstance has upon his mind. It will act as a continual monitor, and will impose useful restraint upon his behaviour. He recollects that he is about to assume an awful and venerable character in the eyes of his domestics—a character which must set the indulgence of a multitude of improprieties