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to generation. The public state of religion in the world must entirely depend on the care bestowed on the cultivation of it in private families. If the nursery be neglected, how is it possible that the plantation should prosper? Such as the families are, of which congrega. tions, churches, and kingdoms are composed, such will be the flourishing or the decayed state of religion in these larger communities : And consequently it is as clear as noon-day, that the disregard shown to God in our house. holds is the fatal source of that amazing corruption of manners in the present age, which almost every one pretends to lament, but almost none sets himself in earnest to reform. Would you then put a stop to abounding iniquity, and promote the cause of God and religion, begin at home, and let your Maker have that honour in your families to which he is entitled.
Had we, who minister in the public worship of God, only to lay those stones in order in the building, which parents and masters of families had previously polished, how easy and delightful would be our task? bow comely and beautiful would our worshipping assemblies appear? how pure and comfortable would their communion be? But if these shall neglect to exert their proper influence; if the work of hundreds or thousands shall be left to be performed by one or two, what a tedious la. bour must it prove? What effect can divine truths, delivered once a week, have, unless the impression of them be afterwards kept alive by family-devotion and domestic religion? It is no wonder that a tender plant should wither and die which is seldom visited or watered : and it is as little wonderful, that those should continue wicked and impeniteut, who but once a-week come under the influence of a religious ordinance; and who neither see por hear any thing of God, but when the stated season
of public instruction returns. If religion die in families, how can it live in nations? Is it not an inevitable consequence, that all our public devotions must in this case dwindle away into mere hypocrisy and lifeless, unavail. ing forms of worship?
I have thus endeavoured to represent to you the ma. nifold advantages which would arise from maintaining the worship of God in your families. And I have now only to add, that though you were willing to be without these advantages, yet this loss is not the wbole penalty which must attend the neglect of that duty. This avowed disregard of God will not always pass unpunished. The day is coming, when “God will pour out his fury upon the Heathen that know bim not, and upon the families that call not upon his name.”—“Consider this, ye that now forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, when there is none to deliver."
I would now conclude the subject by pressing you, with all the earnestness of which I am capable, to the performance of this necessary and important duty, were it not that I think it may be of use to consider some of those excuses by which the neglect of it is commonly defendell,
Some plead their rank and station in the world, but on what principles I could never yet discover. I cannot conceive any principle of reason more strong and obvious than that uttered by our Saviour, (Luke xii. 48.) “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him will they ask the more." And certainly if bene- . fits conferred deserve any return, they at least deserve thauks: if God hath placed us in a more distinguished station, we owe to him a more solemn and devout ac. knowledgment. Riches and honours, instead of setting
a man above the obligation of family-worship, rather bind it more strictly on him: and that it is below no man of any station whatsoever to perform this office, appears by the example in my text; the example of one in the most elevated station known among pen, returning from the public worship of God to bless his household.
Others plead, that it has not been the practice of their families, and that they are not inclined to bring a new custom into it. To these I answer, that the reason of this duty is as old as eternity itsell, and the practice of it is ás ancient as the first family of mankind. In every suceeeding age, down to the present day, there bave been families in which God was worshipped, and there will be such until the end of the world. Nay, I dare venture to affirm, that there are few now hearing me, whose fa. thers or grandfathers did not at least maintain the form of this doty. For, however much it is despised now, it is certain, that it was in reputation about an hundred years ago, and generally practised by men of all ranks. It deserves, therefore, to be inquired into, when, or by whom, and for what cause, this good old custom was laid aside? what was the shameful period in which the worship of God was turned out of doors to make way for irreligion, and a contempt of divine things? Then, indeed, a most base and dishonourable innovation was made in your families: and therefore it must be your glory to restore things to their ancient state, and to give the worship of God that room in your houses which it formerly possessed.
But if it be really true, that this important duty has been always neglected in your families, believe me it is now high time to introduce it. Your danger is greater than you are aware of. Punishment loseth nothing by delay; the slower it advances, the heavier it will prove. And therefore you have reason to fear, that the wrath of God, wbich has been so long restrained, shall at length break forth with double violence, if it is not prevented by a speedy reformation.
Another excuse, by which some defend their neglect of this duty, is their inability to perform it well. They cannot pray to God in public in so decent a manner as they would incline. In answer to this, I need only observe, that, next to the divine blessing, nothing contributes more to teach men to pray than frequent practice and use. So that, is upon this account you neglect the duty, your inability can pass for nothing else than a feigned pretence to cover your unwillingness; for, were you as willing to learn to pray, as to acquire the know. ledge of any art, you would soon by diligent endeavours obtain a competent measure of this excellent gift. Besides, if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath; it is the sincerity of your desires which God regards, and not the expressions with which you clothe them; and if you set about this duty in good earnest, and in the best manner you can, though perhaps you may come short of wbat you wish, God will both accept and assist you in your humble and well meant attempts to honour him.
Upon the whole, then, may I not hope that you will hearken to what I have said? God is now offering himself to be your guest; and is, by us, demanding an entrance into your hearts and into your houses. And can you resolve on refusing him? Shall the great King of beaven thus stand at your doors and knock, and yet meet with a repulse? If the authority of God has any weight with you; if your reason can prevail with you; if your own immortal souls, or the souls of those who dwell with you, appear worthy of your regard; in a
word, if duty, gratitude, or interest, can move you, all these conspire to enforce my exbortation, and to plead the cause of family-worship. And must these powerfulad. vocates plead in vain? must they turn evidences against you, and appear at last in judgment to condemn you? God forbid. I desire to hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though I thus speak.
May the spirit of all grace seal these instructions, and powerfully determine you to the practice of this duty, that, by the exercise of social worship here below, you may be gradually prepared for the more exalted wor.
hip of the triumphant society above, who all with one beart, and one voice, ascribe salvation to bim that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.
Preached before the Society in Scotland for propagating Chris
tian Knowledge, January 4, 1784.
MATTHEW vi. 10.
--Thy Kingdom come.
THE correspondence between heaven and earth is preserved and conducted by Christ alone; “ For no man cometh," or can come, “ to the Father but by him.” John xiv. 6. It is be who presents all our homage to God; it is he who transmits to him all our petitions; and by his hands all mercy and grace are conveyed to us.