by Thomas Doolittle
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.—Joshua 24:15.
JOSHUA being old and stricken in age, and desirous, before his departure out of the world, solemnly to engage the people of Israel to adhere to God and his holy worship, gathered all their tribes to Shechem, called for the chief of them that were governors, and representatives of the whole body of the people;* namely, "for the elders of Israel," or the senate, that did chiefly manage the affairs of church and state; "for their heads," the most eminent of each tribe, and prime rulers thereof; "for their judges," that sat in courts to hear causes and execute judgment betwixt man and man, and such magistrates that ruled over them for their peace and welfare; "and for their officers," who did see to the execution of the sentences and judgments of superior magistrates. All these being present, Joshua makes a brief historical narrative of God's signal providences and singular benefits to them and their fathers, in this order: First. His calling of Abraham from idolatry to the knowledge of the true God, and profession of true religion. (Verses 2, 3.) Secondly. His multiplying of his seed. (Verses 3, 4.) Thirdly. His delivering them out of Egypt, and making a way for them through the Red Sea, which, returning, destroyed the Egyptians that did pursue them. (Verses 5–7.) Fourthly. His preserving them in the wilderness. (Verse 7.) Fifthly. The victories that he gave them over the Amorites when they fought against them. (Verse 8.) Sixthly. His defending them against Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab, and restraining Balaam from cursing of them. (Verses 9, 10.) Seventhly. His miraculous providence in drying up the waters of Jordan, that they might pass over. (Verse 11.) Eighthly. His delivering the men of Jericho, and their several enemies, into their hands. (Verse 11.) Ninthly. That it was not by their own sword, nor by their own bow, that they subdued the nations; but God, by weak and contemptible creatures, (as hornets,) drove them out from before them. (Verse 12.) Tenthly. His giving them the possession of such cities which they had not built, and to eat of the vineyards and olive-yards which they had not planted. (Verse 13.) Thus he brings to their remembrance the great and wonderful things that God had done for them.
The mercies of God to man being strong enforcements of man's duty to God, upon these moral grounds and reasons, Joshua, in the 14th verse, earnestly exhorts them to "fear the Lord, and to serve him in sincerity," with a pure heart, without hypocrisy; "and in truth," without false pretences, and counterfeit shows of godliness, as becometh such as worship the most holy, the most wise and glorious, God;† and declareth his own fixed resolution, that he and his house would serve the Lord. As if he should say, "I have given you a catalogue of the great and many mercies of God vouchsafed to you, and I have exhorted and charged you all, in the name of the great and eternal God, to fear and serve him; but if ye will not, I do here declare, profess, and publish my purpose and resolution in the ears of all you, the elders, heads, judges, and officers, and all others, that I and my house will serve the Lord. Be it known unto you, that I will not only serve and worship God myself, but will also set-up his worship in my house: and both I and mine will serve the Lord."*
The original words in [the] Old and New Testament, translated "house," have various significations;† amongst the rest these:—
1. Pro domicilio: "For an earthly habitation," properly taken.—This house cannot serve the Lord: but the inhabitants in this house must serve the Lord.
2. Pro sepulchro: "For the grave."—Where we must all shortly take up our lodgings, and be carried on men's backs from our now dwelling-houses to this sleeping-house. We that are now alive shall be in a little time housed in the earth. While we live, we dwell in several houses. One house can contain or entertain but a few; but what a large, capacious house is the grave, that shall hold all the living! "For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living." (Job 30:23.)‡ There is no praying to or praising of God in this house. In the houses where you now dwell, you may, you ought; but in this you are going to (and O how quickly might you or I be in it!) you will be past praying, and past hearing, and calling upon God, when death and dust have stopped your mouths and tied your tongues.§ "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." (Eccles. 9:10.) Sirs, you are going, you are going every day, every hour, every moment, to this house, whether you are eating, or drinking, or sleeping. Whether you pray or not pray in your houses where now you dwell, you are going to this house where you can never pray.* Therefore pray now or never. Serve God, and pray unto him, now where you dwell, or you must hold your peace for ever, except you cry and roar and lament your negligence and folly in a lake of burning brimstone, because you did not pray in your houses upon earth. "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" (Psalm 6:5.) "For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." (Isai. 38:18.)
3. Pro re familiari: "For earthly riches, possessions, and goods." (Matt. 23:14.)—These cannot serve God: but, with these, men might serve and honour God, by laying them out, when and as God commands. (Prov. 3:9.)
4. Pro corpore naturali: "For our weak and frail body."—In which our souls do dwell in a state of sin and imperfection. (2 Cor. 5:1.) This house must serve the Lord, though the soul be the principal part which God requires. (Rom. 12:1.)
5. Pro sede seu statu beatorum: "For the state and place and glory of the blessed."—And blessed are they that are in this house; for sure I am, they in this house are still praising God, loving him, and delighting in him: "an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."† (2 Cor. 5:1.) This is called an house, (1.) Because there the saints do dwell with God, as children in their father's house. (2.) Because there they have clear, distinct knowledge of, and perfect love to, God their Father. (3.) Because there they are safe from all their enemies, and from all dangers, as houses are our castles of defence. (4.) Because there all God's children shall be gathered together, and called home, and live in love for ever. (5.) Because of the excellent beauty of that state and place; as houses of kings and nobles are set forth with rich and costly furniture. What is that then of the King of kings, the place of the glorious God?
6. Pro domesticis: "For persons belonging to the house or family."—And thus it is taken either, (1.) More generally, for "a people, or whole nation." In Ezek. 2:3, the children of Israel are called "a rebellious nation;" and in verse 5, "a rebellious house." "Speak to the house of Israel." (Ezek. 3:1.) "Go, get thee to the house of Israel." (Verse 4.) "But the house of Israel will not hearken: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted." (Verse 7.) Or, (2.) More strictly, for "a stock or tribe." So, "the house of Benjamin" is taken for the tribe of Benjamin. (2 Sam. 3:19.) Or, (3.) Most strictly, for "an household, or persons living together in one proper house." The whole people of the Jews did consist of several tribes; a tribe, of several families; a family, of several households; an household, of several persons. "In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households; and the household which the Lord shall take shall come man by man." (Joshua 7:14.) In this place I take it strictly for an household properly, at least necessarily, included; of which more in the first argument to prove the question before us.
Will serve the Lord.—The original word is used concerning God, concerning men, concerning the earth.* The first is only to our present purpose, and signifieth the religious worship which we owe to God. "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God," וְאֹחוֹ חַעֲבֹד "and him shalt thou serve." (Deut. 6:13.) עִכְדוּ אֶח־יְהֹוָה כְּיִדְאָה "Serve the Lord with fear." (Psalm 2:11.) Of this more also in the first argument to the question, which I am limited to: which is well enough grounded upon the text; as will appear in the proof drawn from it. The question is this:—
"How might the duty of daily family prayer be best managed to the spiritual benefit of every one in the family?"
For the more distinct proceeding in this question, I shall inquire after these five things:—
QUESTION I. "How it will appear, or be proved, that it is a duty incumbent upon proper families, jointly to pray to God?
II. "Whether it be the duty of proper families, or those that live together in one house, under the government of the master of the family, to pray daily to God together? or what are the reasons for the daily performing of it?
III. "How these daily family prayers should be so performed and managed, that every one in the family might be benefited thereby?
IV. "With what arguments masters of families might be urged, and they press their own hearts, withal, to a conscientious, serious, and constant performance of family prayer?
V. "What are the common pleas and excuses ordinarily alleged to stop the mouth of conscience, or to shift-off the guilt from themselves in the neglect of it? and how they may be made appear to be frivolous and vain?"
In the first I shall speak of the duty itself. In the second, of the time and frequency of it. In the third, to the manner of it. In the fourth, to the motives to it. In the last, to the objections against it.
"Whether it be the duty of proper families or households to pray to God together?"
ANSWER in the affirmative.
That it is the duty of those that live together under the government of the master of the family to pray together, will appear and be proved from this chapter, whereof the text is a part, by making good these four PROPOSITIONS:—
1. That by Joshua's "house" is meant, or at least necessarily included, Joshua's household or proper family.
2. That serving of God, taken generally, (as here it is,) doth comprehend and include prayer, as one way whereby Joshua and his house together would serve the Lord.
3. That Joshua made this resolution, as he was guided by the Holy Ghost.
4. That Joshua, in the name of God, and by authority received from him, doth exhort all the families of Israel to do the same in their houses, which he doth promise and resolve for himself and his house; and this upon moral grounds and reasons, for which all families are obliged to do the like.
PROPOSITION I. By Joshua's "house" is meant, or at least included, his household or proper family.—That this is a frequent acceptation of the original words translated "house" in the scripture, for a proper family,* consult these places: "Come thou and all thy house into the ark." (Gen. 7:1; Gen. 18:19; 30:30; 31:41.) "A lamb for an house." (Exod. 12:3.) "And if the household" (Hebrew, house) "be too little for the lamb."† (Verse 4.) "Take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover." (Verse 21.) It was said, an "house" before, now "families," לְמשְׁחֹתֶיכִם "according to your families;" both house and family are here taken strictly and properly;‡ for the passover was to be eaten in every household, if there were ten persons in it; for, according to some, there were never less than ten in number, nor more than twenty,§ at the eating of one lamb at the passover. "If the household were too little for the lamb, they were to take the next neighbours in, according to the number of persons;"|| and the blood of the lamb was to be stricken on the two side-posts, and upon the upper door-post, of the houses where they did eat it, which was for a token upon such several houses that they should not be destroyed. "The earth swallowed them up, and their households." (Deut. 11:6.) In the Hebrew, "their houses." [So] 1 Sam. 1:21; 2:36; 2 Kings 10:21; Psalm 101:2, 7. So, in the New Testament:*Luke 19:9; John 4:53; Acts 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16; Phil. 4:22; 2 Tim. 1:16; 4:19; Titus 1:11; Heb. 11:7. "One that ruleth well his own house;" (1 Tim. 3:4;) that is, his wife, children, and servants. By which it is manifest, that frequently by "house" is understood the persons dwelling together in one house, constituting one particular proper family.
And it must be taken in a limited sense in the text, as distinguished from all the rest of the families of all the people of Israel: for to all the rest Joshua doth declare, that though they all should forsake the Lord, yet he and his household would serve the Lord. And if any would extend it beyond his own proper family to his kindred, yet his own house and family, strictly taken, cannot, with any colour of reason, be excluded; for can it be imagined, that Joshua should be so zealously resolute, that his tribe or kindred should worship God, and yet take no care of those that were nearest to him, in his own house or proper family? Or would this be suitable to the spirit of a man so holy, wise, and zealous as Joshua was, so to do?
PROP. II. Serving of God comprehendeth and includeth under it praying unto God.—This being put for the whole worship of God, prayer, that is a most eminent part thereof, cannot be excluded. That serving God is so comprehensive as to take-in the whole worship of God, these scriptures make manifest: Exod. 3:12; 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 8, 11, 24, 26; 12:31; Deut. 6:13; 10:12, 20; 13:4; 28:47; 1 Sam. 7:3; 12:10; Psalm 2:11; Jer. 30:9; Matt. 4:10; 6:24; Luke 1:74; 2:37; 4:8; Acts 7:7; 26:7; 27:23; Rom. 14:18; 1 Thess. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:3. The Septuagint† translate the text, Εγω δε και ἡ οικια μου λατρευσομεν Κυριῳ· "But I and my house will WORSHIP the Lord." So it is translated in Phil. 3:3: Οἱ ῶνευματι Θεῳ λατρευοντες, "Which WORSHIP God in the spirit."
Calling upon God is such an eminent part of worship, and such a principal way of serving the Lord, that it is frequently put for the whole worship of God,‡ according to these scriptures: Gen. 4:26; 12:7, 8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; Psalm 79:6; Isai. 43:22; Jer. 10:25; Joel 2:32; Matt. 21:13; Acts 2:21; 9:14, 21; Rom. 10:12–14; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:22. Can prayer then be excluded? Can any be said to be devoted to the service of God in general, that never call upon God, or pray unto him? Can a particular person be accounted a servant of God, that never prayeth to him? Or can a family, as such, be said to serve the Lord, that, as such, doth not call upon him? Are God's servants prayerless servants? Or are not such more worthy of the name of "atheists," since they are described by not calling upon the name of the Lord? (Psalm 14:4.)
PROP. III. Joshua, being guided by the Spirit of God, doth thus resolve and promise, that he and his house would serve the Lord.—Was this good or evil that he declareth he and his would do? Was he bound to do it, or was he not? Was this cultus Deo indebitus, "worship not due to God?" If it were due upon moral reasons, then, upon the same reasons, it is due from other families as well as it was from his: if not, it was but Joshua's superstition* to serve God in his house. But was he ever blamed for superstition in this thing? Was it obedience to God that Joshua served God in his house? If it was, it must he founded upon some law, and it must be conformity to some rule; for what is no way commanded by God, though done, cannot be obedience to him.† Beside this, add, that, in his preface to his speech, of which the text is a part, he declares that what he said to them he had it from the Lord. (Joshua 24:2.)
PROP. IV. Joshua, in the name of God, and by authority from him, exhorteth all the rest of the families of Israel to the same duties, which he promised and resolved upon before them all, that is, that they in their houses should serve the Lord.—That his exhortation was in the name of God, and by authority from him, is evident; for he protesteth that he was to say the Lord's words to them: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel." (Verse 2.) That he exhorted them in the name of the Lord to serve God with their families, is also manifest.‡ Doth he engage that he will serve the Lord? So he exhorteth them to do also: "Now therefore fear ye the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth." (Verse 14.) And again: "Serve ye the Lord." The matter of the duty then is the same, expressed in the same words. That this exhortation of serving the Lord reached to their families also, is apparent from the argument that he useth to enforce it, namely, his own example in his house; else the strength and reason of it would be lost. Would you have it run thus?—"When I do so earnestly persuade, counsel, and command you to serve the Lord, I would not have you to understand me, as if this reached to your houses and proper families, that ye should there set up conjunct religious duties; but I and my house will serve the Lord." Would not this destroy the very sense and strength of his reasoning? But if you take it, on the contrary: "When I persuade you, and command you in the name of God, to serve him, I would have you understand that my meaning is, that both you and your houses should be engaged conjunctly to serve God; and I exhort you to no more than what I do declare before you all that I will do in my house." And so the sense is good, and the argument strong to move them to it, when he doth, according to the proverb,* "begin at home," and, by his own example, influence them into the same practice: it being an effectual way to back an exhortation by one's own example, doing what we persuade others to do:—
Sic agitur censura, et tic exempla parantur;
Cum judex, alios quod monet, ipse facit .†—OVIDIIFasti, lib. vi. 647.
"In his resolution he doth not only show his zeal in glorifying God by doing him faithful service, though all others should forsake him; but also and chiefly, like a prudent governor, draweth them on to imitate him, of whom they had justly so great an opinion for his wisdom and piety."—"English Annotations."‡
The sum of all this affordeth this argument for family prayer:—
ARG I. If Joshua, guided by the Spirit of God, and upon moral grounds and reasons, did promise and resolve that he and his house would jointly serve the Lord, which includeth prayer also; and doth upon the same moral grounds and reasons, and in the name of God, exhort and command all the heads and the governors of Israel, and all the people, to do the same in their houses;§ then, the same moral grounds and reasons still continuing, it is the duty of all families jointly to serve the Lord, including prayer also:
But all the parts of the antecedent are true:
Therefore it is the duty of all families jointly to serve the Lord, including prayer also.
The second topic or head from whence family prayer might be proved to be our duty, shall be taken from the law of nature. In this I shall proceed also by laying down several PROPOSITIONS, by which, as by so many steps, we might come up to the argument that will determine it.
PROPOSITION I. Man, being made by God a rational creature and a voluntary agent, is obliged to take God for his Governor and Ruler.—The actual existence of a creature doth necessarily and immediately infer his relation to a Creator, as the being of a son doth the relation of a father. Actual creation is the fundamentum or "ground" of this relation: and as it is an absurdity in nature, that a son should be a son, having his being by his parents under God, and should not be obliged to be thankful to them, to honour them, love them, and obey them; so it is much more absurd, that man should have a rational being from God, and not be obliged to take him for his Governor, by how much God is greater than our parents, and the First Cause of our being. And this man is obliged unto, antecedently to his own consent; yea, though he should never consent unto it; as a son is bound to obey his parents, though he should never consent thereto. Though to take God for our Ruler in order to salvation, our own consent is necessary;—for God saveth no man against his will, nor without his own consent, but by his powerful Spirit maketh them willingly consent; but as our consent was not necessary (nor possible) to our own creation, so it is not necessary to our obligation and subjection unto God;—yet if man doth not consent to take God for his Governor, he is a rebel against his Maker; and though he do it not, he stands bound to do it: else obedience to God were not man's duty, nor disobedience his sin; and then man might act as he list, and do what he please, and never have any accusation from his own conscience, nor reason to be ashamed of nor afraid of any thing he doeth, if he can by policy or power escape punishment from men; and if they should come to any harm by what they do, it would be rather for their silliness and unwariness, than for their wickedness; or if they do good, moved thereunto by their own profit, and not by obligation of obedience to God their Governor, it would be attributed to their craftiness, rather than their goodness.*
PROP. II. Man, being made by God a rational creature, is governed in a way suitable to the nature of such a creature.—That is, by a law, and not merely by physical motion, or natural necessity, or objects proposed to his sense only, as brutes and inanimate creatures are. If we consider the nature of man, we shall discern a necessity and an aptitude in him to be governed by a law:—A NECESSITY, because in his first estate mutable, in his fallen estate corrupt;AN APTITUDE, because he is rational, acting for some end, to be attained by such means as are conducible to the same, and both end and means to be discerned by reason:* whereas brutes, that neither know the end, sub ratione finis, ["in reference to what is proposed by the end,"] nor the means, sub ratione mediorum, ["with respect to that which the means are intended to produce,"] are not capable of moral government. But it is suitable to the nature of man, being an understanding and voluntary agent, to be ruled by a law constituting his debitum officii, prœmii, et pœnœ, "DUTY unto God his reward, if he be obedient; his punishment, if he walk contrary to that law prescribing his duty to him." Such a law God hath made for the government of men: else no man could be guilty of sin, because there would be no such thing as sin; for where there is no law, there is no transgression: else there would be no such thing as virtue and vice, and no such difference of men as good and bad: else there would be no need of repentance for any man, no need of reproofs and exhortations: else there would be no rewards and punishments; to be short, there would be no religion in the world.†
PROP. III. Though all men, for some time, were without the written law of God, which is full and sufficient to salvation, and many are without it still; yet all men have a law written in their hearts, showing them that good is to be embraced, and evil to be shunned, and [it] is sufficient to leave them without excuse.*—Beside what is said before, the apostle proveth this by a twofold argument or testimony: the first external, from the lives of many of the more sober Heathen, who did many things contained in, and commanded by, the law of God: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:" the second is an internal testimony: "Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." (Rom. 2:14, 15.) The very Heathen have been filled with fears of punishment after they have committed sin: but what need [for] that, unless they knew they had transgressed some law? What law, then? Not the written law of God; for that they had not: therefore a law of nature; being for such evils for which they were not exposed to punishment by the laws of men.
It is not essential to this law that it be either spoken or written;† but it is sufficient that it be some fit signification of the will of God to man, authoritatively instituting what shall be due to God from man; and declaring what benefit and good shall redound to him if he do obey, and what evil of punishment shall be inflicted upon him if he doth transgress. And yet this will of God is signified and promulged, in that God hath engraven such a law on all men's hearts, and imprinted it in their very natures, that doth discover such a deformity in some evil that it is to be abhorred, and such a beauty in some good that it dictates it is to be embraced.‡ There are certain κοιναι εννοιαι, "common notions," "innate or natural principles," known to all men; such light and dictates of reason by which, when they come to understanding, they may see a plain difference betwixt good and evil in some things, and conclude that one is commanded by God, and the other forbidden, and, consequently, that they are bound to do the one, and to avoid the other:§and, withal, [it] doth dictate to them that it shall be well with them that embrace good, and punishment shall be inflicted on them that do evil. "And this signification of the will of God concerning duty, rewards, and punishments is the law of nature, as it is common to all men." Lex naturalis est significatio divinœ voluntatis, quam Deus ipse nostris mentibus inserit.—VALESIUSDe Philosophiâ Sacrâ, p. 279; though described something otherwise by others.
PROP. IV. By this light and law of nature all men might know that there is a God.—The knowledge [which] we have of God in this life is either natural or by revelation; by the book of nature, or by the book of scripture. The book of nature is either external, the works of God's creation, which declare and show το γνωστον του Θεου, "some things that might thereby be known of God;" (Rom. 1:19, 20;) and this is acquired or objective knowledge of God: or else internal, to which are referred those natural, common principles, the relics of the image of God in man lying in his rubbish after the fall, and the inward testimony of conscience, which is innate, subjective knowledge of God.* Not that there is any actual knowledge born with man; but by these we might at years of understanding draw as certain a conclusion that there is a God, as that we are, or that any thing is that we behold with our eyes. For when we see the earth and heavens, &c., light of nature tells us that they had some cause by which they were produced; because nothing could make itself, because it would have been before it was, which, reason tells us, is impossible: therefore things made must be made by something that is and was never made. Reason tells us, that if any thing be possible, there is something that is necessary; if any thing may be, something must be: that which is possible to be must have something to bring it into actual being. Reason telleth us, that if there had been one instant in which nothing was, nothing could have ever been, for nothing can make nothing.
All these four propositions do but make way for that which is chiefly to our present purpose, which is that which follows:—
PROP. V. The light and law of nature doth dictate, that it is man's duty to pray to God, and that not only severally, but conjunctly; and that not only in public assemblies, but in private families.—For the clearing of this, I shall lay down several POSITIONS, including certain truths; and fetch the proof of them from the light of nature and the testimony of Heathens themselves; and then gather up the argument from the whole.
POSITION I. That the light of nature doth dictate that the souls of men are immortal, and do not die when the body dieth.*—This the Heathen did gather from the great care that there is naturally in all men, at least, that do improve their natural light, and hearken to the voice of sober reason, what shall become of them after death. Though all men do not seriously provide for the soul after its separation from the body, and the light of nature cannot direct us in this matter; yet such cares and fears that there be in men about their state after death, even in such as never had a Bible, is a certain evidence that they believed the soul's immortality. Reason gathers also the immortality of the soul from the simplicity and immateriality of its nature, that it is not compounded of material parts as the body is, nor hath such contrary qualities combating one with another as the body hath, to cause its dissolution or cessation of being; for the destruction of a thing is the tearing asunder those parts which, before such destruction, were joined together.† The soul therefore, that is not so compounded, hath nothing in its own nature that should cause it to cease to be, nor render it liable to be destroyed by any creature, though it might be annihilated by Divine Power.
POS. II. The light of nature tells us, that the immortal souls of men must be happy or miserable after their separation from the body, and that there is a life of retribution after this.—Heathens have plainly taught that there are two ways that the souls of men do go, after they are loosed from the body, according as their lives were in this world; that such as have wallowed in sin, and given themselves to gratify their lusts,—that these souls are shut out from God, and shut up in extremity and eternity of torment.‡ Hence Heathens mention Tityus, who being cast down to hell had a vulture that came every day, and did gnaw his liver, and in the night it was repaired and made up again; that what was torn by the vulture one while, again did grow, that his punishment might be perpetual: and some that are punished by being put to labour in rolling huge stones, and racked upon wheels, and to be there in this misery for ever.
Saxum ingens volvunt alii, radiisque rotarum
Districti pendent: sedet, œternùmque sedebit ,
Infelix Theseus —— VIRGILIIÆneis, lib. vi. 616.
"Some roll huge stones, and stretch'd on wheels do lie;
Damn'd Theseus sits there to eternity."
Thus they make mention of Pluto, by whom those that were most vicious were most tormented; and of Charon's boat, who they imagined was ferryman of hell; of Rhadamanthus, the judge; of Tantalus, thirsting in the midst of waters; of the Stygian and other infernal lakes; of Cerberus, a dog with three heads, porter in hell: and give descriptions of the place of torments.
Spelunca alta fuit, vastoque immanis hiatu ,
Scrupea, tuta lacu nigro, nemorumque tenebris;
Quam super haud ullæ poterant impunè volantes
Tendere iter pennis: talis sese halitus atris
Faucibus effundens, supera ad convexa ferebat;
Unde locum Graii dixerunt nomine Avernum .—Idem, lib. 6:237.
"There was a deep cave, with a mighty gulf,
With black lakes moated, and a horrid grove,
O'er which not safely swiftest wings could move,
Such were the vapours from these foul jaws came:
This place the Grecians did Avernus name."
And as they set forth the eternity of their hellish torments, so they did acknowledge the variety of them to be more than could be expressed.
Non, mihi si linguœ centum sint, oraque centum ,
Ferrea vox, omnes scelerum comprendere formas ,
Omnia pœnarum percurrere nomina, possim .—Idem, lib. vi. 625.
"Had I an hundred mouths, as many tongues,
A voice of iron, to these add brasen lungs,
Their crimes and tortures ne'er could be display'd."
Take the testimony of another, that you may see what a common received opinion this was, among the Heathen, of misery of many in hell.
—— Και τους μεν ὑπο χθονος ευρυοδειης
Πεμψαν, και δεσμοισιν εν αργαλεοισιν εδησαν,
Νικησαντες χερσιν, ὑπερθυμους ῶερ εοντας,
Τοσσον ενερθʼ ὑπο γης, ὁσον ουρανος εστʼ απο γαιης.—HESIODITheogonia, 717.
The sense take thus:—
"God mighty ones in chains of darkness bound,
And cast them down to hell; which under ground
(So deep and black) so far remote doth lie
As the earth is distant from the starry sky."
Yet (bear with me) once more: Another of them brings-in God threatening the disobedient with hell-torments, where he useth the same word for "hell" as the apostle doth in 2 Peter 2:4; describing hell to be a place far remote from heaven; a great gulf or deep pit, whose gates are of iron, and whose pavement is of brass; a place of utter darkness; in sense so near the former, that I shall not need any further to translate,
Η μιν ἑλων ῥιψω ες Ταρταρον ηεροεντα,
Τηλε μαλʼ, ἡχι βαθιστον ὑπο χθονος εστι βερεθρον·
Ενθα σιδηρειαι τε ῶυλαι και χαλκεος ουδος,
Τοσσον ενερθʼ αϊδεω, ὁσον ουρανος εστʼ απο γαιης.*—HOMERIIlias, lib. viii. 13.
All these testimonies of the Heathens (and there are many more) do plainly manifest that the light of nature doth discover a place of punishment, where wicked men after this life shall be sorely tormented. I might bring as many of them also that by the light of nature did determine of a place of happiness for good men in another world, but that I would not be too tedious in this point. The use of these, and how they make to our present business in hand, will appear in the following positions:—
POS. III. As the light of nature tells us all this, so also it doth dictate to us that no man is born for himself, to mind only his own good, and to escape evil and punishment himself; but to our utmost power, in the places and societies of which we are heads or members, to endeavour the good of that society, and every member thereof.—He that will help no other, who should help him? or with what reason can he expect it? He that is so selfish, is unprofitable to any society, and good for nothing. Man being ζωον ῶολιτικον,† nature hath inclined him to a sociable life, not only for his own, but also for the good of others; which whoso doth neglect, sins against that society.‡ Come then, you parents and masters of families!
See now why I alleged, before, what the light of nature doth dictate concerning the soul's immortality, and the state of souls in another world,—even that you may do your utmost to save the precious souls in your houses from this place of torment, and to help them to prepare for an everlasting state. The law of charity firmly binds you to it. If your children were fallen into a pit, would not nature tell you, you are to help them out? If any of your house were falling into the fire, would not nature tell you, you should prevent it if you can, or to snatch them out with haste and speed?* Doth nature tell you, (as hath been showed,) that there is a place of torment where sinful souls must suffer? and do you see any in your houses in danger of falling into it? and will you sit still and do nothing to endeavour to prevent their everlasting misery? If they were sick, or had drunk down poison, doth not nature tell you, you should use means for their recovery, to prevent their death? And doth not nature tell you, that their souls are more precious than their bodies, and more to be regarded? It doth; certainly it doth. Are not their souls sick and diseased, and poisoned with the venom of sin? and doth not nature tell you, there is charity to be shown to their souls, as well as to their bodies, and much more? Certainly these are the dictates of nature. If I suppose you have not one spark of grace, the light of reason will tell you all this.
POS. IV. All these things being suggested by the light of nature, let me add, that reason tells you that for you to pray with them in your family, tendeth to their good, and the neglect thereof to their detriment and damage.—Let reason be heard, and it will dictate to you, that conjunct prayer with them is a likely means for the good of their souls. Will it not tell thee, that to pray to God for them, and to bring them to pray with thee, may be for their benefit to escape the misery of another world, and obtain happiness in the life to come? Enter into thine own heart, and debate this with thyself, and judge impartially, as thou wouldst do if thou wast a dying man; and then tell me, if the light that is within thee doth not prompt thee to all this. Prayer is a part of natural worship, which is due to God from all: and would it not tend to the profit of their souls to give God his due? And shouldst not thou that art a parent or a master, whom nature hath set over them and committed them to thy trust, and requireth thy help to thy utmost power for their good, assist them herein, and see that they do it? and use thy gifts and parts and knowledge in praying with them, that they also by thy example might be induced to this duty, and, by hearing thee pray in their company, may learn to pray also? Light of nature did dictate to the heathen mariners that prayer to God was a means to save them in the storm; therefore the master of the ship, the head of that society, called Jonah from sleep to prayers; and this they did not only severally, but conjunctly: "They cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee," &c. (Jonah 1:14.) And shall the heathen master of the ship do more in that society whereof he was chief, than the Christian master of a family in that household society whereof he is head?
Moreover, that the light of nature doth dictate that there should be conjunct worshipping of God in men's houses, the practice of the Heathen makes manifest. They had their "household gods," so called because they thought they had the rule over them and their households, and the keeping and preserving of their families;* though indeed they could not defend themselves, nor them that did in their houses worship them, as Juno in her speech to Æolus:—
Gens inimica mihi Tyrrhenum navigat œquor ,
Ilium in Italiam portans, victosque penates: †—VIRGILIIÆneis, lib. i. 67:
yet these gods they served in their houses, and sacrificed to them;‡ in which sacrifice their custom was to eat up all that was left at the offering, thinking it a heinous matter to send any of that sacrifice abroad to their friends, or to the poor.§
Of this sort were תֻרַכִּים the teraphim, an idol or image made for men's private use in their own houses. Laban had such household gods. "Wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?"|| (Gen. 31:19, 30.) By this you see that the light of nature doth dictate household worship to be given to God, and the Heathens did it to their false gods. And if you, called Christians, will not in your houses jointly pray unto the true God, let the Heathens stand up as witnesses against you.
However, take this argument, containing the sum of the five foregoing propositions:—
ARG. II. If all men are bound to take God for their ruler, governing them by a law written in their hearts, which doth dictate to them that there is a God, and jointly to be prayed unto in men's families, then it is their duty so to do. (The reason of this is, because if they be bound to do it, and do it not, they sin.)
But all men are bound to take God for their ruler, (as in the first proposition is shown,) governing them by a law (as in the second) written in their hearts, (as in the third,) which doth dictate to them that God is, (as in the fourth,) and to be jointly prayed to in their families (as in the fifth).
Therefore it is their duty so to do.
For the proof of the last part of the minor proposition, namely, that the light of nature doth dictate that men or masters of families ought to pray conjunctly with the members of their families, consider this:—
If the light or law of nature doth dictate, that masters of families ought to use all means to prevent the damnation of the immortal souls in that domestic society of which they are heads and governors, and to further their eternal happiness, having opportunities so to do; then it doth dictate that they ought to pray conjunctly with them.* The reason of this is because prayer is a means, (made together with them,) which the light of nature doth dictate, profitable to prevent their misery, and further their happiness, (as in the fourth position before laid down,) and they have opportunities for this means:
But the light or law of nature doth dictate, that masters of families ought to use all means to prevent the damnation of the immortal souls in that domestic society whereof they are heads and governors, and to further their eternal happiness, having opportunities so to do. For if the light of nature doth dictate they ought to take care of their bodies that are mortal, it doth tell them they are much more to take care of their souls which are immortal, and must for ever live in happiness or misery: (as in position first, second, and third:)
Therefore the light or law of nature doth dictate, that it is their duty to pray conjunctly with their families: and if the law of nature doth, the law of God doth, because the law of nature is God's law.
The third seat or head of argument shall be taken from what God is to families, as such, in these FOUR PROPOSITIONS:—
PROPOSITION I. God is the Founder of all families, as such: therefore families, as such, should pray unto him.—The household society usually is of these three combinations: husband and wife, parents and children, masters or servants:† though there may be a family where all these are not, yet take it in its latitude, and all these combinations are from God. The institution of husband and wife is from God, (Gen. 2:21–24,) and of parents and children, and masters and servants; and the authority of one over the other, and the subjection of the one to the other, is instituted by God, and founded in the law of nature, which is God's law. The persons, singly considered, have not their beings only from God, but the very being of this society, as such, is also from him; and as a single person is therefore bound to devote himself to the service of God, and pray unto him, so a household society is therefore bound jointly, as such, to do the same; because, as such a society, it is from God. Utriusque est par ratio.* And hath God appointed this society only for the mutual comfort of the members thereof, or of the whole, and not also for his own glory, even from the whole? And doth that household society, as such, live to God's glory, that do not, as such, serve him, and pray unto him? Hath God given authority to the one to command and rule, and the other a charge to obey, only in reference to worldly things, and not at all to spiritual? only in things pertaining to the world, and in nothing to things pertaining to God? Can the comfort of the creature be God's ultimate end? No: it is his own glory. Is one by authority from God and order of nature pater-familiâs, "the master of the family," so called in reference to his servants, as well as to his children, because of the care he should take of the souls of servants, and of their worshipping God with him, as well as of his children? and should he not improve this power, that God hath given him over them all, for God and the welfare of all their souls, in calling them jointly to worship God, and pray unto him? Let reason and religion judge.†
PROP. II. God is the Owner of our families, as such; therefore as such they should pray unto him.—God being our absolute Owner and Proprietor, not only rationeὑπεροχηςessentiœ suœ, "by reason of the supereminency of his nature," sed etiam jure creationis, ["but also through the right of creation,"] giving us our being and all [that] we have, we ourselves and all that is ours (we and ours being more his than our own) are unquestionably bound to lay-out ourselves for God, wherein we might be most useful for our Owner's interest and glory. Beside the title of creation, God is the Owner of our families by right of conservation and redemption. For hath God a right to and propriety‡ in the persons in a family, or the particular members of it, and not of the whole? Whose are your families, if not God's own? Will you disclaim God as your Owner? If you should, yet, in some sense, you are his still, though not by resignation and wholly devoting of yourselves to him. Whose would you have your families to be, God's own, or the devil's own? Hath the devil any title to your families? And shall your families serve the devil, that hath no title to you, either of creation, preservation, or redemption? and will you not serve God, that by all this hath a title to you, and an absolute, full propriety in you? If you will say, your families are the devil's, then serve him; but if you say, they are God's, then serve him. Or will you say, "We are God's; but we will serve the devil?" If you do not say so, yet if you do so, is it not as bad? Why are you not ashamed to do that, that you are ashamed to speak out, and tell the world what you do? Speak, then, in the fear of God. If your families, as such, be God's own, is it not reasonable, that, as such, you should serve him, and pray unto him? For do not you expect honour and obedience from your children, because they be your own? and work and labour and service from your own servants, because they be your own? And whatever you are owners of, would you not have it for your use? And will you require these things from yours, because they are yours, and shall not God require service from his? And if he do, shall he not have it? especially when God's title of propriety in you is infinitely greater than any title you have to any thing you have or call your own? Take heed lest your demands and expectations from yours be not a condemnation of yourselves, in denying that to God which is his due from you, because you are his.
PROP. III. God is the Master and Governor of your families; therefore, as such, they should serve him in praying to him.—If he be your Owner, he is your Ruler too: and doth he not give you laws to walk by and obey, not only as you are particular persons, but as you are a combined society? (Eph. 5:25–33; 6:1–10; Col. 3:19–25; 4:1.) Is God, then, the Master of your family, as such, and should not then your family, as such, serve him? Do not subjects, as such, owe obedience to their governors? "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?" (Mal. 1:6.) Where, indeed? Not in prayerless, ungodly families.
PROP. IV. God is the Benefactor of your families, as such; therefore, as such, they should serve God, in praying to him, and praising of him.—God doth not do you good, and give you mercies, only as individual persons, but also as a conjunct society. Is not the continuance of the master of the family, not only a mercy to himself, but to the whole family also? If he be not [a mercy to them,] he is not over good. Is not the continuance of the mother, children, servants, in life, health, and being, a mercy to the family? That you have an house to dwell together, and food to eat together,—do not you call these family-mercies? And do not these call aloud in your ears, and to your consciences, to give praises to your bountiful Benefactor together, and to pray together for the continuance of these, and the grant of more, as you shall need them?* It would be endless to declare how many ways God is a Benefactor to your families conjunctly; and you are shameless, if you do not conjunctly praise him for his bounty. Such an house is rather a stye for swine, than a dwelling-house for rational creatures.
May not God call-out to such prayerless families, as to them in Jer. 2:31?—"O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?" Hath God been forgetful of you? Speak, ye ungodly, prayerless families. Hath God been forgetful of you? No! Every morsel of bread [which] you eat tells you, God doth not forget you. Every time [that] you see your table spread, and food set on, you see God doth not forget you. "Why, then," saith God, "will not this family come at me? When you have food to put into your children's mouths, that they do not cry for bread, and you constrained to say, 'I would, my poor hungry child! I would, but I have it not!' Why, then, will you not come at me? live together and eat together at my cost, and care, and charge, and yet be whole months, and never come at me? and that your children have reason, raiment, limbs, not born blind, nor of a monstrous birth, (which things Heathens have been affected with,)* and a thousand ways besides have I done you good;" may God say, "why, then, will you live whole years together, and never together come at me? Have you found one more able, or more willing, to do you good? That you never can. Why then are you so unthankful as not to come at me?" After the like manner the Lord expostulates with his people, to whom he had been a bountiful Benefactor;† and yet they answered not his bounty, nor served him their Benefactor, for which he calls to the heavens to be astonished, and the earth to be horribly afraid: "Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me? Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt?" (Jer. 2:5, 6.) Should such a people forsake such a God, and go far from Him that did them so much good? Yet they did. "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this." (Verse 12.) You see, when God is a Benefactor to a people, (and there is the same reason for families,) and they do not serve him, what monstrous wickedness it is! God hath kept you all safe in the night, and yet in the morning you do not say, "Where is the Lord that did preserve us? Come, O come, let us give joint praises to him!" God hath done you and your families good so many years; and yet you do not say, "Where is the Lord that hath done such great things for us? Come, let us acknowledge his mercy together." God hath carried you through affliction and sickness in the family: the plague hath been in the house, and yet you live: the smallpox and burning fevers have been in your houses, and yet you are alive: your conjugal companion hath been sick, and recovered: children nigh to death, and yet restored:—and for all this you do not say, "Where is the Lord that kept us from the grave, and saved us from the pit? that we are not rotten among the dead!" and yet you do not pray to nor praise this your wonderful Benefactor together. Let the very walls within which these ungrateful wretches live, be astonished at this! Let the very beams and pillars of their houses tremble! and let the very girders of the floors on which they tread and walk be horribly afraid! that such as dwell in such an house together, go to bed before they go to prayer together! Let the earth be amazed, that the families which the Lord doth nourish and maintain are rebellious and unthankful! being worse than the very ox that knoweth his owner, and of less understanding than the very ass.* (Isai. 1:2, 3.) There is such validity in the consequence, from God's being our Benefactor to our duty to him in serving of him, that Joshua builds his exhortation to the heads and people of Israel to fear and worship God, upon this very foundation, as appeareth plainly to any that read the chapter where the text lieth.
From what hath been said, I reason in this manner:
ARG. III. If God be the Founder, Owner, Governor, and Benefactor of families, as such, then families, as such, are jointly to worship God and pray unto him. (This cannot be denied.)
But God is the Founder, Owner, Governor, and Benefactor of families, as such. (Neither can this be denied.)
Therefore families, as such, are jointly to worship God, and pray unto him.
Masters of families ought to read the scripture to their families, teach and instruct their children and servants in the matters and doctrines of salvation. Therefore they are to pray in and with their families.—No man that will not deny the scripture can deny the unquestionable duty of reading the scripture in our houses, governors of families teaching and instructing them out of the word of God. Amongst a multitude of express scriptures, look into these: "And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean you by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses." (Exod. 12:26, 27.) And there is as much reason that Christian parents should explain to their children the sacraments of the New Testament, to instruct them in the nature, use, and ends of baptism and the Lord's supper: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach," וְשִנַּנֵתָּם*whet or sharpen, "them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up," that is, morning and evening. (Deut. 6:6, 7; 11:18, 19.) "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4.) And God was pleased with this in Abraham: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord." (Gen. 18:19.) This then is undeniable, if the word is to be believed, received as our rule, and obedience to be yielded thereunto. And the Heathens taught a necessity of instructing youth betimes.†
The reason of this consequence, from family reading and instructions to family praying, is evident, (we need to beg of God the illumination of his Spirit, the opening of the eyes of every one in the family,* the blessing of God upon our endeavours, without which it will be to no saving benefit,) and will be more manifest, if we consider and lay together these things following:—
First. Whose word it is that is to be read in the family together.—The word of the eternal, blessed, glorious God. And doth this call for and require preceding prayer, no more than if you were to read the book of some mortal man? The word of God is that out of which God speaketh to us; it is that by which he doth instruct us, and inform us, in the highest and weightiest concernments of our souls; it is that from which we must fetch remedies for the cure of our spiritual maladies; it is that from whence we must have weapons of defence against our spiritual enemies that do assault our souls, and be directed in the paths of life.† And is not prayer together needful, then, that God would prepare all their hearts to receive and obey what shall be read to them of the mind of God? Is all the family so serious and so sensible of the glory, holiness, and majesty of that God that speaketh to them in his word, that prayer is not needful that they may be so? And if it be needful, should it not first be done? And when it hath been read, and the threatenings, commands, and promises of the glorious God been heard, and your sins discovered and God's wrath against them, and duties enjoined, and precious privileges opened, and promises of a faithful God, both "great and precious promises," made to such as do repent, believe, and turn to God with all their hearts unfeignedly; have you not all need together to fall down upon your knees, to beg and cry and call to God for pardon of those sins that by this word you are convinced you are guilty of, and to lament them before the Lord? and that, when your duty is discovered, you might have all hearts to practise and obey, and that you might unfeignedly repent and turn to God, that so you may apply those promises to yourselves, and be partaker of those privileges? From this, then, there is great reason, when you read together, you should also pray together.
Secondly. Consider what great and deep mysterious things are contained in the word of God which you are to read together.—And there will appear a necessity of praying together also. Is there not in this word the doctrine concerning God, how He might be known, loved, obeyed, worshipped, and delighted in? concerning Christ, God-man, a mystery that the angels wonder at, and no man fully understands, or can express and fully unfold?* concerning the offices of Christ,—Prophet, Priest, and King? the example and the life of Christ, the miracles of Christ, the temptations of Christ, the sufferings of Christ, his death, the victories of Christ, the resurrection, ascension, and intercession of Christ, and his coming to judgment? Is there not in the scripture the doctrine of the Trinity, of the misery of man by sin, and his remedy by Christ? of the covenant of grace, the conditions of this covenant, and the seals thereof? the many precious, glorious privileges that we have by Christ,—reconciliation with God, justification, sanctification, and adoption? the several graces to be got, and duties to be done, and of men's everlasting state in heaven or hell? Are these, and such like, contained in the word of God that you ought to read daily in your houses? and yet do not you see the need of prayer before and after your reading of it? Weigh them well, and you will.
Thirdly. Consider how much all the family are concerned to know and understand these things so necessary to salvation.—If they are ignorant of them, they are undone. If they know not God, how shall they love him? Invisa possunt amari, incognita nequaquam: "Things unseen may be loved, but things unknown cannot." We might love an unseen God, and an unseen Christ; (1 Peter 1:8;) but not an unknown God. If they in your family know not Christ, how shall they believe on him? And yet they must perish and be damned, if they do not. They must for ever lose God and Christ, and heaven and their souls, if they do not repent, believe, and be converted: and yet when that book is read by which they should understand the nature of true saving grace, is not prayer needful? especially when many have the Bible and read it, yet do not understand the things that do concern their peace!
Fourthly. Consider, further, the blindness of their minds, and their inability, without the teachings of God's Spirit, to know and understand these things.—And yet is not prayer needful?
Fifthly. Consider, yet further, the backwardness of their hearts to hearken to these weighty, necessary truths of God, and their unwillingness naturally to learn, show prayer to be necessary that God would make them able and willing to receive them.
Sixthly. Once more, consider, that prayer is a special means to obtain knowledge from God, and a blessing upon the teachings and instructions of the master of the family.—David prayed that God would "open his eyes," that he might "behold wondrous things out of God's law."* (Psalm 119:18.) There are "wondrous things" in the word of God. That fallen man should be recovered, is a wondrous thing. That a holy God should be reconciled to sinful man, is a wondrous thing. That the Son of God should take upon him the nature of man, and God be manifested in the flesh, and a believer justified by the righteousness of another,—these are wondrous things. But there is darkness upon our minds, and a veil over our eyes, and the scripture is a clasped, closed book, that we cannot savingly understand these great wonderful things, to have our love chiefly upon them and our delight in them, except the Spirit of God take away the veil, and remove our ignorance, and enlighten our minds. And this wisdom is to be sought from God by fervent prayer. You that are masters of families, would you have your children and servants know these things, and be affected with them? Would you have impressions made upon their minds and hearts of the great concernments of their souls? and therefore you do instruct them. But can you reach their hearts? Can you awaken their consciences? Can you not? And yet doth it not become you to pray to God with them, that He would do it? While you are a-praying jointly with them, God may be secretly disposing and powerfully preparing their hearts to receive his word, and your instructions from it.
From all this I argue thus for family prayer:—
ARG. IV. If it be the duty of families, as such, to read and hear the word of God together read, then it is the duty of families, as such, to pray together. (This is shown by the six things last mentioned.)
But it is the duty of families, as such, to read the word of God, and to hear it together read. (This was proved from scripture before.)
Therefore it is the duty of families, as such, to pray together.
Christian families are, or ought to be, so many domestic churches. Therefore they ought to pray together.—In a church, conjunct prayers are made to God. But what kind of church would that be in which there is never any joint praying? There are three families in the scripture renowned with the name of a "church," and have this honourable title put upon them by God himself; as, 1. The family of Aquila and Priscilla: Και την κατʼ οικον αυτων εκκλησιαν, "And the church in their house." (Rom. 16:5.) So, 1 Cor. 16:19. 2. The family of Nymphas: Και Νυμφαν, και την καιʼ οικον αυτον εκκλησιαν, "And Nymphas, and the church in his house." (Col. 4:15.) 3. The family of Philemon: Και τῃ κατʼ οικον σου εκκλησιᾳ· "And to the church in thy house." (Philemon 2.) Erasmus renders it, "the congregation in their house:" but this is disliked by Calvin and by Beza too. Pareus interprets these texts either for "the company of Christians that were wont to assemble in their houses" to hear the word, and to worship God; or else of "their proper families," of which these were the heads and governors, whose houses were called "churches," because of the religious duties there performed, as "reading of the scripture, praying unto God together, and singing of psalms."* Aquila and Priscilla by occupation were tent-makers: (Acts 18:3:) yet though they laboured in this calling, and worked with their hands, they found time for family-worship and joint religious duties, and were eminent and exemplary therein; and stand in scripture upon record for a pattern worthy of all Christian families' imitation. Here is a plain proof. So did the godly families in the primitive times, and they are approved by God; for what they did in their houses and families was pleasing unto God, having this honourable name of a "church" by God's Holy Spirit put upon them.
And they will afford us this argument:—
ARG. V. Those families that are or ought to be household-churches, ought to serve God together therein, and pray jointly to him. (For the worship and prayers of a church, as such, are conjunct, and from such religious duties these families were so called.)
But Christian families are or ought to be household-churches. (And they will be such churches, or synagogues of Satan.)
Therefore Christian families ought jointly to pray to God.
That God is to be served and called upon conjunctly in proper families, will appear from the practice of holy men in the first age of the world.—Conjunct worship was first performed in families, before it could be given to God from more public assemblies; the domestic society being the first, and the foundation and original of all other. God's church was first in Adam's family, and for some time only there; therefore God was there worshipped and called upon, or else God had a church from which he had no conjunct worship at all.
That there was such religious worship in the first families, I offer these two things for confirmation thereof:—
First. God appointed Adam, after his fall, to offer sacrifice to him; and declared to him the use and signification thereof, and commanded him to teach his children to do the same.—Which will be manifest by these two things:—
1. That Abel did sacrifice, and thereby pleased God.—"The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering;" (Gen. 4:4;) that is, God accepted Abel and his offering.* It is not said what outward testimony it was, whereby God did declare this respect and acceptance of Abel's offering, whereby Cain did perceive that Abel and his offering were pleasing unto God, when himself and his offering were both rejected. It is conceived that fire came down from heaven, and consumed Abel's Sacrifice, but not Cain's offering;† and by this sign God did discover his acceptance of the sacrifices in following ages. (Lev. 9:24; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chron. 21:26; 2 Chron. 7:1.) But if this had not been by God's own appointment, it would not have pleased him; for will-worship God is not delighted in.‡ If it had not been commanded by God, it had not been obedience in Abel; and if it had not been obedience, it would not have been pleasing to God: for, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (1 Sam. 15:22.)
2. Abel did by faith what he did in sacrificing unto God. (Heb. 11:4.)—But faith must be bottomed upon some signification of the will of God, and must be done by virtue of some command, if done in faith; else there is no ground nor reason to believe that what is done will be pleasing unto God.*
Second. That there was religious worship in Adam's family, and so handed down from his to others, appears in that Adam did yield obedience to the command of God given to him concerning sacrifices and other duties belonging to it, and did educate his children in the same.—Though we do not read that Adam did sacrifice and pray to God, yet it doth not follow that he did not.† The great wickedness of Cain, and the martyrdom of Abel, gave occasion to this first mention of their offering; but it is not likely that this was the first offering made to God. For do you think, that Adam and Eve had so many sabbaths before Cain and Abel were born and brought up, that they kept none of them? no, not one? or that they spent their time and days in the matters of the world, in the total neglecting of God and their own souls? If any be so uncharitable, let them consider these three things:—
1. Had not Adam and Eve sad experience of the difference of being under God's favour and his frowns, of being filled with the sense of his love, and fears of his wrath?—Were there ever any in the world that knew both these as our first parents did? the one in the state of innocency, the other after their apostasy? When God himself came to look after these transgressors of his law, and to arraign them at his bar, and convince them of the evil [which] they had done, and pronounce sentence upon them for the same, and cursed the one and the other, and the earth for their sakes, and drove them out in anger from that delightful, pleasant Paradise in which at first they were placed by God, were they not terrified now by the anger of the Lord, as they were before delighted in his love?
2. Then add to this and consider, did not God after this, out of his abundant grace and mercy towards them lying in this misery, preach recovering grace by and through his own Son? (Gen. 3:15.)—As if he had said, "Adam, thou art a lost man." Yes, Lord, I see I am! "Thou art exposed to my wrath, and to the death that I did threaten, if thou didst disobey." Yes, Lord, so I am! "Adam and Eve! you two have undone yourselves and all the world, and plunged yourselves and them into the depth of misery, and are exposed to my wrath and justice for ever." Yes, Lord, so it is! so it is! Woe unto us! so it is! "Well, but yet, out of my mere mercy and free grace, I will help you out of this condition: I have a remedy for you, I have kindness for you sinners, for you rebels; and such that all the angels in heaven could not have thought of, for you poor sinners; and that is, My own Son shall be your surety, shall become a man, and suffer in your nature, and bear the punishment of your sin. He shall die, and you shall live; He shall suffer, and you shall be saved, if you will yet consent to the terms of a new covenant, after you have violated the former; and this shall come to pass at the time that I have appointed. In the mean while, you shall offer such sacrifices to me, and pray unto me for your pardon and my grace; and these sacrifices shall be types of this promised Saviour, and it shall be through him, but not for these, that I will have mercy on you." Do you not think that these "glad tidings" did wonderfully affect their hearts? Do you not think that this grace and kindness in their sad condition, at the first manifesting of it, did strongly oblige them to yield obedience to what God should reveal to them to be his will? Or do you think, that neither the sense of their before-desperate condition, when they saw no way of help or hope, nor the sense of this grace and mercy, did stir them up to hearken to the commands that God would give them? Is it likely that they did not go together and praise God for such love as this? Do but consider what they did enjoy before they fell, and what their fears were after; and then how much must this first tidings of mercy needs affect their hearts, and engage them to obedience.
3. That our first parents had religious worship in their family, appears by the religious education of their children.—Do you think, when they had undone their children, and yet God had discovered a way of salvation to them, that they did not timely tell their children of this? Had they exposed their children's souls to hell and to damnation, and yet [did they] not tell them and teach them God's gracious dealings with them, by which it might be prevented? Do you think that they did not pray with them, that themselves and theirs might be indeed partakers of this mercy? Is it likely that Adam and Eve did not acquaint their children how God did make them in a blessed condition, and how they lost it; and how God himself had been with them after they had so offended, and made known a way of salvation to them? Would not their natural affection to their children, and the sense of God's mercy, put them on to instruct them in these things, and praise God with them for his love, and pray for the certain fruits and benefits of it?*
OBJECTION. "This might make it probable; but there is nothing in scripture from whence you can conclude it."
ANSWER. But there is. The express mention of Cain's and Abel's offering doth plainly prove, that they were thus brought-up in the worship of God. Cain, though he had no grace, yet did make a profession of religion. And that they were instructed in the things before expressed, is the judgment of learned men, who conclude that Adam received instructions from God, and Cain and Abel from their father Adam.† And Abel's sacrifice being accepted, doth fully prove that he did understand the fall and recovering grace by Messias then to come. For, was God pleased with the sacrifice itself, and for itself, that Abel did bring? There never was any thing in them to reconcile God to sinners; but they were types and shadows of good things to come, and they pointed unto Christ. Abel then must understand this. Besides, Abel did offer by faith—in whom? In Christ to come. Then he was instructed in the doctrine of redemption by Christ; and this doth suppose a lost estate. Moreover, it is said, Heb. 11:4, that by this faith Abel obtained a testimony "that he was righteous." What? by the works he did? by the sacrifice itself that he offered? Is any sinner justified from the condemning sentence of the law by works of his own? No! but Abel was justified by faith in Christ, signified by the sacrifice which he did offer; for without a Mediator there is no peace with God, no pardon from God, no justification before God, no acceptance with him, for any sinful man. There were then religious duties in Adam's family, and that by God's command and appointment.
OBJECTION. "But this was offering of sacrifice; what is this to prayer, or to us, when the way of sacrificing is abolished?"
ANSWER I. Do you think they did sacrifice, and not pray when they did so? did they not confess their sin when sacrifice was offered; and acknowledge that they deserved to die for their sins? And this was signified by a man's laying his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering. (Lev. 1:4.) Prayer then usually accompanying sacrificing, (Heb. 10:3,) the one doth infer the other. "And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense."* (Luke 1:10.)
If such sacrifices are ended, yet there are sacrifices for Christians to offer-up to God; yourselves, your hearts, your prayers, and praises. (Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15.) And there are the same moral grounds and reasons why you should serve God in your families, in the way prescribed by God since the coming of Christ, as there was why they should serve God in their families, in the way of worship appointed by God before the coming of Christ.
ANSWER II. And this was practised not only in Adam's family, but by godly families after too. So, "Enoch walked with God;" (Gen. 5:24;) and Noah; (Gen. 6:9;) which implies their universal sincere obedience, at home as well as abroad. And that this implies their worshipping God in their families, I think for this reason—because if a man be never so great a professor abroad, if he totally and constantly neglect God's worship at home, nay, if it be not constantly done, (except in some cases that might fall out,) he shall not be accounted to be one that walketh with God. I judge that man cannot be said to walk with God that in his house, with his family, doth not kneel before him. Besides, Abraham's duty was comprehended in this phrase, "Walk before me." (Gen. 17:1.) But Abraham, in his walk, took his household along with him. "He will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord;" (Gen. 18:19;) the way in which his household should walk: and by "the way of the Lord" is often understood the worship of God.
One place more I would have considered for conjunct prayer of a domestic combination, which is concerning Isaac. We read it: "And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife." (Gen. 25:21.) In the Hebrew: וַיֶעְתָּר יִצְחָק לֵיהֹוָה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתֹּו two words especially make for our purpose: that which is translated, "for his wife" might be read, with his wife, in the presence of his wife, being with him and joining with him in his duty: "He prayed for and before his wife:" it was then conjunct prayer, Isaac praying with his wife.* The other word, translated "entreated," signifieth to multiply powerful words in prayer, to pour out words in abundance, and denoteth, 1. The multiplying of his prayers.—It was not only once, but frequently, that he prayed with his wife. 2. The earnestness of his prayer. 3. The continuance, and their perseverance therein, till they had the mercy prayed for.—As follows: "And the Lord was entreated of him." Isaac had been married near twenty years with Rebekah, and so long without a child; so that it seems they had been exercised in this duty for many years upon this account, that Rebekah had no child for so long time, for which they did unanimously and constantly offer up prayers to God.† And if they prayed together for issue, should not you for the favour of God, pardon of sin, interest in Christ, and eternal life?
By all, you see that there was family conjunct worship and praying to God by God's command and appointment, and approved by God's acceptance of it. Now, let any one show where God hath taken-off this obligation. If God hath any where said, "Though I did appoint Adam to worship me in his family, and did accept of Abel's offering, that did as I commanded, and did hear Isaac praying together with his wife, yet now I will be prayed-to in families no more:" show it if you can: what book, chapter, and verse is it?
OBJECTION. Will you say that "the reason of their worshipping God in their families at first was, because there was no other to worship him with: but when men did multiply, and there were public assemblies, men were not bound to do it?"
ANSWER I. Show that. Which is the text that tells you that God's instituting of public worship hath disobliged men from praying to God in their families?
ANSWER II. When men were multiplied, godly men did serve God in their families; Abraham did, and Isaac did, and Job did, and Joshua did, and Cornelius did. Did they do it, and were they not bound to do it? What will you make of all the worship and prayers which these did give and offer up to God in their houses? If there was no obligation upon them, they had not sinned if they had omitted it; and it was no obedience, when they did so. Will you say either of these? What! were they works of supererogation? No, surely.
OBJECTION. "But when Aaron's priesthood was instituted, then the obligation on families ceased; and, after that, the Israelites did not pray in their houses."
ANSWER I. Why will you speak without book? Show me this either. I have proved an obligation by God's institution: show me where it is nulled and made void, even after the Aaronical priesthood was instituted.
ANSWER II. But I say they did pray in their houses after this; for after the institution of Aaron's priesthood, the Israelites celebrated the passover in their own houses; and that was not done without prayer. For though after the priesthood was settled, the priests killed the lamb, yet after the lamb was killed, the master of the house caused it to be brought back to his own house, and did eat it with his family. (Luke 22:7–13.) And the cup that was used at the passover (whether it were sacramental or no, is controverted) was blessed by the master of the family:* so that there was prayer and praise attending this celebration in their houses conjunctly after the priesthood was settled: in which service they had also the explication of it, why they kept it, what was the meaning of the bitter herbs, and why eaten with unleavened bread, done in form of catechising. And in their feasts the master of the house prayed before and after: after, he gave thanks, 1. For their present food. 2. For their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. 3. For the covenant of circumcision. 4. For the law given by the ministry of Moses. Then he prayed that God would have mercy, 1. On his people Israel. 2. On his own city Jerusalem. 3. On Sion, the tabernacle of his glory. 4. On the kingdom of the house of David his anointed. 5. That he would send Elias the prophet. 6. That he would make them worthy of the days of the Messiah, and of the life of the world to come.† Do you not call this conjunct prayer and praise, thus done by the master of the family? May we not now with confidence of the truth from all, under this last topic or head of argument, frame this manner of reasoning?—
ARG. VI. If serving of God, and praying conjunctly to him in proper families, was commanded and appointed by God, and never yet revoked; then it is the duty of proper families so to do.
But serving of God, and praying to him conjunctly in proper families, was commanded and appointed by God, and never yet revoked.
Therefore it is the duty of proper families so to do.
So much for the FIRST QUESTION.
"Whether it be the duty of families jointly to pray to God daily?"
ANSWER in the affirmative.
Some that are convinced that family prayer is a duty, will sometimes practise it, and yet but seldom; some, upon the Lord's day, and yet but once then, in the evening, and that serves for all the week, till the evening of the Lord's day next doth come. Others pray once a day through the week, but omit it in the morning; when yet the very same reasons which should move them to do it at all should be cogent for more frequent performance of it, and are so. Though it be not determined expressly in the scripture, that Christian families should pray together morning and evening every day, yet in the general it is required that we should "continue in prayer;" (Col. 4:2;) which seems to he meant of family-prayer.* For the apostle had been speaking to family-relations, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, and treating of family relative duties; carrying on his speech still to the same persons, [he] saith, "Continue in prayer." But such as make such great gaps, as from one Lord's day to another, cannot be said to continue therein. We have general precepts to serve God "all the days of our lives." (Luke 1:75.) So that that worship for which we have opportunity every day, should no day be omitted.† But families have, or may have, such opportunities every day, if they be well ordered, and wisely governed, as they ought to be. Particulars are commanded under generals; God hath commanded us to preserve our own lives and the lives of others, and therein is included food and physic, &c. Yet God hath not expressly commanded, that we shall eat once or twice or thrice a-day, nor how often we shall take physic; yet we do these as often as we find we need them. Know yourselves, feel your own spiritual wants, and do so as to prayer, and we need to say no more upon this subject. But because we are not so sensible of the wants of our souls as of our bodies, and are not so easily brought with frequency to our knees in our families together, as to sit down at our tables together, something must be said to show the reasonableness, usefulness, and necessity of daily praying to God in our houses.
We are commanded to "pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17.) "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance." (Eph. 6:18.) We should always be habitually disposed to pray, and should actually be engaged in it, as we have occasion and opportunity, and watch for such praying seasons.‡ "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." (Phil. 4:6.) But can such be said to answer these commands that do not pray at all? Is praying always, and not at all, all one? Or is continually and seldom all one and the same? Or doth praying without ceasing, and ceasing to pray all the week long, import and signify the same thing? Nothing less. Frequency then is expressly commanded.
Set before you the example of Daniel: "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a-day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Dan. 6:10.) Where may be observed, 1. The place.*—He prayed in his own house; and why not with his household? For if it had been in secret alone, Daniel might have found out, in so large an house as such a great man as he was had, some retired closet, where the nobles that waited to accuse him, might not have known that he did pray. 2. The circumstance of time.—"Three times a-day;" in the morning, before he went to his employments; at noon, when he came home to eat meat; and at night, before he went to sleep.† These three times a-day David observed for prayer also: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." (Psalm 55:17.) 3. The danger he was in, if he prayed, of being cast into the lions' den; and yet he prayed thrice a-day, even in hazard of his life. 4. That this was his usual practice.—For he did thus "aforetime." 5. From the event we might gather how pleasing this was to God, who did so miraculously deliver and save him by stopping of the lions' mouths.
The Jews had their daily sacrifices morning and evening: "Thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the Lord; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt-offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even." (Num. 28:3, 4.) By this daily sacrifice they showed their thankfulness to God, and expected from him a blessing upon themselves, upon their labours, and their rest. And is there not as much reason that Christians under the gospel should worship God morning and evening, and pray unto him? Take these REASONS for it:—
Ad orationem statam quotidie habendam a Deo variis beneficiis invitamur . "Because we receive every day family-mercies from the hand of God."—He loads us daily with his benefits. (Psalm 68:9.)‡ When you wake in the morning, and find your dwelling safe, not consumed with fire, not broken through by thieves, is not this a family-mercy? When you wake, and find none dead in their beds, that news is not brought you in the morning, there is one child dead in one bed, and another in another, and there is not a lodging-room in the house but the last night one or other died in it; but, on the contrary, you find all well in the morning, and refreshed by the rest and sleep of the night; are not these, and many more such mercies to the family, that, when you rise, you should call them all together jointly to bless God for? If it had been otherwise, [if] master or mistress [were] dead, children or servants dead, would not the rest say, "It would have been a mercy to us all, if God had spared him, her, or them?" If your house had been consumed by flames, and God had turned you all out of doors before morning, would you not have said, "It would have been a mercy, if God had safely preserved us and our dwellings, and caused us to rest and sleep and rise in safety?" Why, sirs, will you not acknowledge mercies to be mercies, till God hath taken them away from you? And if you do, should you not give the praise daily unto God? Was it not God himself that watched over you, while you did sleep, and could not, did not, watch yourselves? When you all did sleep, you knew not where you were, nor what dangers you were exposed unto, nor how you might prevent them; but God then was good unto you;* and should you not conjunctly acknowledge this when you do wake and rise and see that God hath kept you, and do enjoy the comfort and the benefit of his watchful providence over you? "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. For so he giveth his beloved sleep." (Psalm 127:1, 2.)
And as you have had many family-mercies in the night to bless God for in the morning; so you have many family-mercies in the day, to give thanks to God for at night before you go to bed. If you see not cause to acknowledge God's goodness towards you, you are blind; if you do, and have not hearts, you are worse. Methinks you should not quietly sleep till you have been together on your knees, lest God should say, "This family that hath not acknowledged my mercy to them this day, nor given me the glory of those benefits of which to them I gave the comfort, shall never see the light of another day, nor have the mercies of one day more to bless me for. When sleep doth close their eyes, so shall death too; they shall live no longer, and rise no more. This night they shall go to their beds, and, the day or two after, shall be carried to their graves." I wonder, sirs, that you do not dream of an angry God, because thus slighted by you. I wonder that you do not dream of some sore judgment or other, that might overtake you before the sun doth rise. What, if God should say unto you, when you are laid down in your beds?—"This night your souls shall be required of you, you that went to bed before you had given me the praise of the mercies that I had given unto you all the day, and before you had prayed for my protection over you in the night;" and should send some sudden sickness to make you feel that he is offended with you for this neglect? Might not God say?—"Shall I keep and preserve that family till the morning, that would not so much as ask me so to do? and if I do, will not acknowledge it to be a mercy or a kindness to them?" Take heed: though God be patient, do not provoke him.
Ad eandem a defectibus nostris excitamur . "You should pray to God daily in your families, because there are sins committed every day in your families."—Do you indeed sin together, and will you not pray together? What, if you should be damned all together? Doth not every member of your family commit many sins every day? How great is the number then of all, when considered or put together? What! so many sins every day under your roof, within your walls, committed against the glorious, blessed God, and not want prayer? One sin should be lamented with a thousand tears; but you have not one tear shed by one, and another by another, in prayer together, for a thousand sins. Is this to repent daily, when you do not confess them daily? Would you have God to pardon all the sins of your family? Say, would you or no? If you would not, God might justly let you go to your graves and hell too, with the guilt of sin upon your souls. If you would, is not pardon worth asking for? Would you have it, and not beg it at the hands of God? Would not all judge that man worthy of death, that, being justly condemned, might yet have life for asking for, and will not? How do you, how can you, quietly go to your beds, and sleep with the guilt of so many sins upon your souls? and have not prayed to have them blotted out? What do you take to make you sleep? What is your pillow made of, that your heads can rest upon it, under the weight and load of so much guilt? Is indeed your bed so soft, or your heart so hard, that you can rest and sleep, when, to all the sins of commission in the day, you add this sin of omission in the evening? Lay to heart your daily family-sins, and you will feel a reason why you should pray to God in your families daily.
Ad eandem plerisque tum corporalium, tum spiritualium bonorum indigentiis premimur . "You should pray in your families daily unto God, because you have many daily family-wants, which none can supply but God."—God wants not your prayers, but you and yours want God's mercies: and if you will have them, should you not pray for them?* Can you supply your families' wants? If they want health, can you give it them? If they want bread, can you give it them, except God first give it unto you?† Why then did Christ direct us to pray?—"Give us this day our daily bread." If they want grace, can you work it in them? Or do you not care though they die without it? Is not God the Giver of every good gift?‡ "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights."§ (James 1:17.) Mercies are above; and good things are from above; and prayer is a means appointed by God to fetch them down. "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God." (James 1:5.) Do you think you do not want wisdom to discharge your duties to God and man? that you do not want wisdom to manage your family for their temporal, spiritual, and eternal good? If you think so, you are fools; and if you think you want it not, by those very thoughts you may discern your want of it. If you think you have enough, it is plain that you have none; and should you not ask it of God, if you would have it? If you and yours want health in your family, should you not ask it of God? Can you live without dependence upon God? Or can you say you have no need of God's help to supply your wants? Then you speak contradictions; for, to be under wants, and not to be dependent beings, is a contradiction. To think you do not live in dependence upon God, is to think you are not men, nor creatures: and if you do depend on Him, and want his help to supply your wants, your own indigency should bring you upon your knees, to pray to him, as the heathen poet's verse (which Melancthon said was the best verse in all Homer) doth express:—
Ευχεσθαι· ῶαντες δε Θεων χατεουςʼ ανθρωποι.—HOMERIOdyss. lib. 3:48.
"All men need God, therefore should prayers use."
Ad eandem quotidianis operibus promovendis permovemur . "You should pray in your families daily, because of your families' daily employments and labours."—Every one that puts his hand to work, his head to contrive, should set his heart to pray. For will not your trading be in vain, and your labouring and working, your carking and projecting for the world, be to no purpose, without the blessing of God? Will you be convinced if God himself doth tell you? Then read Psalm 127:1, 2: "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows." Bread of sorrows! What bread is that? "Bread gotten with much care, and labour, and toil, is 'bread of sorrows.' "|| Without God, you labour to get bread for yourselves and families in vain; you might miss of it, after all your labours: and without God's blessing, if you eat it when you have got it with much toil and care, you eat it in vain; for without Him it cannot nourish your bodies. And yet is it not necessary to pray to God to prosper and succeed you in your callings? Prayer and labour should both promote what you aim at: to pray, and not to do the works of your callings, would be to expect supplies while you are negligent: to labour and trade, and not to pray, would be to hope for increase and provision without God. Religion, that puts you upon holy duties, doth not teach you to neglect your callings, nor yet to trust to your own endeavours without praying unto God; but both are to keep their place, and have a share of your time.* Prayer is a middle thing betwixt God's giving and our getting. How can you receive, if God do not give? And why do you expect that God will give, if you do not ask? "Ye have not, because ye ask not." (James 4:2.) What ye work for, pray for; and what ye pray for, work and labour for; and this is the true conjunction of labour and prayer. Or will you be like to them [whom] the apostle speaks to?—"Go to now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain." (James 4:13.) You will! But will you not ask leave from God whether you shall or no? You will go: what! though God cast you upon a bed of sickness, or into your graves? Do, if you can. You will continue there a year: what! if death drag you out as soon as you come there? If death fetch your bodies to the dust and grave, and devils fetch your souls to hell, after this will you "continue in such a city for a year?" If one part of you be in the grave, and the other part in hell, what is left of you to continue in the city? You will buy and sell, will you? What! if God give you neither money nor credit? With whom, I wonder? And youWILLget gain: you are resolved upon it; you will thrive, and prosper, and grow rich. What! if God curse your endeavours, and say, "You shall not?" You WILL all this, and you would have your will; but your power is not equal to your will. Here is much will, but not a word of prayer. A Heathen will teach you a better lesson; and that is, that you should not go unto your work, nor to your shops and callings, till you have first prayed unto God:—
—— Αλλʼ ερχευ επʼ εργον
Θεοισιν επευξαμενος τελεσαι.†—PYTHAGORÆAur. Carmin. 49.
Nullius est felix conatus et utilis unquam ,
Consilium si non detque juvetque Deus .*
Ad eandem ab hostibus animarum nostrarum, diabolique insidiis urgemur . "You should pray to God in your families daily, because you are all every day liable to temptations."—As soon as you wake, the devil will be striving for your first thoughts; and when you are risen, he will be urgent with you to do him the first service, and attend you all the day to draw you into some heinous sin before night. And is the devil a subtle, watchful, powerful enemy, and unwearied? And do you not all need to get together in the morning, that Satan might not prevail against any of you before night, till you come to God together again? How many temptations might you meet-with in your callings, and your company, which without God you will not be able to resist! And how might you fall and dishonour God, discredit your profession, defile your souls, disturb your peace, and wound your consciences! This Origen bewailed in his lamentation; for, that day [in which] he omitted prayer, he heinously sinned: "But I, O unhappy creature! skipping out of my bed at the dawning of the day, could not finish my wonted devotion, neither accomplish my usual prayer; [but] folded and wrapped myself in the snares of the devil."—EUSEBIIEccl. Hist. lib. vii. cap. 1.
Ad eandem variis casibus imminentibus instigamur . "You should pray in your families daily, because all in your families are liable to daily hazards, casualties, and afflictions."—And prayer might prevent them, or obtain strength to bear them, and prepare you for them. Do you know what affliction might befall your family, in a day's time, or in a night's time, either in regard of sickness, death, or outward losses in your estate? Might not you hear of one man's breaking in your debt, and gone away with so much, and another gone away with so much? And are you indeed so weaned from the world, that this shall not put you into a passion, and cause you to sin against God, or that you can bear it without murmuring and discontent, that you need not pray for a composed frame of heart, if such things befall you? Do you know, if you go abroad yourself, or send a son or servant, that you or they may return alive again? Though you go out alive, you may be brought back again dead. Had you not then need to pray to God in the morning, that he would keep you in your goings-forth and comings-in? and bless him together in the evening, if he do? How many evils is man exposed to, whether he be at home or abroad! Anacreon lost his life by the kernel of a raisin going wrong down his throat. Fabius, a senator of Rome, in a draught of milk swallowing a small hair, was strangled.* (PLINIINat. Hist.) Do not your daily sins cry aloud for daily punishments? And should you not, in daily prayer, cry as loud that God in mercy would prevent them; or if they come upon you, to sanctify them for your good, or remove them; or, if they remain, to support you under them? Know indeed that you are nowhere safe without God's protection, night or day. If your houses were built upon foundations of stone, and the walls were made of brass or adamant, and the doors of iron, yet you would be no longer safe than [so long as] God protects you from all dangers. Pray, then.
Ad eandem Ethnicorum exemplis provocamur . "You must pray to God in your families daily, or the very Heathen will rise up against you Christians, and condemn you."—Those that never had the means of grace, (as you have had,) nor a Bible to direct and teach them, (as you have,) nor ministers sent to them, (as you have had in abundance,) do shame many that are called "Christians," and go for great professors too. When I have read the sayings of some Heathens, showing what they were wont to do, and consider and know the practice and negligence of many Christians in their families, I have been ready to conclude the Heathen to be the better men. It was their manner to sacrifice to their gods morning and evening, that they might have the favour of them, and be successful in their outward estates, as you may learn from their poets.
Καδδυναμιν δʼ ἑρδειν ἱερʼ αθανατοισι Θεοισιν
Ἁγνως και καθαρως, επι δʼ αγλαα μηρια καιειν.
Αλλοτε δη σπονδῃσι ζυεσσι τε ἱλασκεσθαι,
Ημεν ὁτʼ ευναζῃ, και ὁταν φαος ἱερον ελθῃ·
Ὡς κε τοι ἱλαον κραδιην και θυμον εχωσιν·
Οφφʼ αλλων ωνῃ κληρον, μη τον τεον αλλος.—HESIODIOpera et Dies, lib. i. 334–339.
Which I render thus:—
"With all thy might, to God immortal bring,
Holy and pure, the best burnt-offering;
That he appeased might be by sacrifice,
When thou liest down, and when the sun doth rise.
In him, to thee, a pleased heart shall dwell;
And thou shalt purchase, when shall others sell."
Σπεισαντες, κοιτοιο μεδωμεθα· τοιο γαρ ὡρη.*—HOMERIOdyss. lib. iii. 334.
Do not the Heathen shame many of you? They were wont to say, "Now we have sacrificed, let us go to bed." You say, "Now we have supped, let us go to bed;" or, "Let us play a game or two at cards, and go to bed." Are you men, or swine in the shape of men? Mr. Perkins likened such to swine that live without prayer in their families, "which are always feeding upon the mast with greediness, but never look up to the hand that beats it down, nor to the tree from whence it falleth." ("Christian Econo.")
So much for the SECOND QUESTION.
"How family prayer might be so managed, that it might be for the spiritual benefit of every one in the family?"
For ANSWER to this,
(I.) Something must be considered in reference to the master of the family, that is the mouth of the rest to God: or rules concerning this duty.
(II.) Something in reference to those who are to join: or rules for them.
(III.) Something in reference to governors and governed conjunctly: or rules common to both for the better performance of family prayer, that it might be for the good and benefit of all.
(I.) TheDIRECTIONSthat chiefly concern the master of the family are these:—
Let the master of the family exercise his authority in the good government of his household.—He is to be the foreman in the worship of God in the family. Mr. Perkins writes thus: "That the master of the family hath the proper government of the whole household, and he comes not to it by election, but by the ordinance of God, settled even in the order of nature; and by the light of nature hath the principality and sovereignty therein. He is pater-familiâs, 'the father and chief head of the family,' and ought therefore to bear the chief stroke, and to be the principal agent, director, and furtherer of the worship of God in his family, and to keep order, and to exercise discipline in his house." Let him improve his authority in commanding and causing every one in his house, under his charge, to be present, and to attend upon God, in family prayer. God and nature have made him the head of all the rest; and the head is to govern, rule, direct, and influence the whole body. Let him also take care to purge his house from sin; and, to his utmost power, endeavour that none in his house live in gross sins, that there be no swearers, drunkards, and openly profane sinners under his roof.
Thus Jacob purged his house, when he was with them to worship God. Family-reformation tendeth much to the better and more profitable managing of family prayer. "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God. Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God. And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand." (Gen. 35:1–4.) So, David: "He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight." (Psalm 101:6, 7.) Family-disorders hinder family prayer; (1 Peter 3:7;)* where the apostle giveth directions to family relations, that their conjunct prayers might "not be hindered," εις το μη εκκοπτεσθαι τας ῶροσευχας ὑμων.† The same word is used, Matt. 3:10, and is translated, "hewn down," speaking of a tree that bringeth not forth good fruit; and, in the same sense, Matt. 7:19; Luke 3:9. It signifieth also "to be cut off," Rom. 11:22. Unsuitable walking in our houses strikes at the very root of family-prayer. Family-wickedness is hewing at this duty, and, if not remedied, will cut them short, if it do not cut them quite down, quite cut them off.
Now this family-reformation lieth much on the care of the master of the family, who is to rule as king in his own house. Ahasuerus made a law, "that every man should bear rule in his own house." (Esther 1:22.) And God hath appointed the master of the family to be ῶροϊσταμενος του ιδιου οικου, "ruler of his own house." (1 Tim. 3:4.) "Kings are fathers of their own countries; and fathers are kings in their own houses,"‡ in respect of their rule and authority over them.
Αυταρ εγων οικοιο αναξ εσομʼ ἡμετεροιο
Και δμωων.§—HOMERIOdyss. lib. i. 398.
Θεμιστευει δε ἑκαστος
Παιδων ηδʼ αλοχων.||—Idem, Odyss. lib. ix. 115.
That prayer be managed to the spiritual benefit of the family, the master thereof should make it his business to be accomplished with gifts and knowledge suitable to the place where God hath set him.—Ignorance in a master of a family renders him uncapable of the discharge of the duties of his place,¶ and is worse than in a child or servant.** Such a family is like a body that hath a head without eyes. It is a shame to see what little knowledge many governors of families have in matters of religion, that, when they should instruct and catechise their children and servants, need to be catechised themselves. The apostle requireth this qualification in masters of families, that they should be "knowing men," (1 Peter 3:7,) so some interpret this place: Οἱ ανδρες ὁμοιως συνοικουντες κατα γνωσιυ· "as becomes knowing men."* Naturally men are endued with greater powers to understand than women are; and a master of a family hath had more time to get knowledge than children and servants have. And if he hath not attained to more, it is his shame and reproach, and renders him more contemptible in the eyes of those that are subjected to him;† who have not that reverent awe of him and his authority as they would have, if authority were accompanied with knowledge. Study then, you masters, the scripture more, and the grounds of religion more, that you might be able to manage this duty to the greater profit of all in your families.
It is necessary also to this purpose, that the master of the family instruct each member of his house in the principles of religion, that they may be able to understand the matter of the prayers that are put-up to God.—For if the governor have knowledge how to ask, and those that kneel down with him know not the meaning of his words, (though commonly used, and plain to them that have been instructed,) how shall they concur in such requests or confessions, or say "Amen" to what they do not understand? Or what spiritual profit can they get? When you lament original sin, which you and they were guilty of and defiled with, if they know not what this means, nor how they are corrupted even from their birth, how shall they in prayer be humbled for it? If you pray that you may be justified, sanctified, or have the image of God engraven on your hearts; that you may have faith in Christ, repentance for sin, be converted, &c.; how shall they join with you, if they have no knowledge of these things? when they are ignorant what is meant by the image of God, by faith, repentance, conversion, &c.? and what benefit can they have by such prayers, as to their own concurrence with you, to make these things their own desire? when, yet, they are the things you must daily beg of God. That prayer then might be performed to their spiritual edification, lay first the foundation, be knowing yourselves, and make them so too; and prayer will be more advantageously done to you and them.
That prayer be managed to the spiritual profit of those in the family, the master of the family should get his own heart in good frame, and get his own affections warmed in the duty.—Do you come to prayer with a lively heart, and quickened affections yourselves; your heat might warm them, and your earnest importunity might stir them up unto the same. Let them see you are in good earnest by your fervent praying, as becomes men that are begging for such things as the life of their souls, the pardon of their sin, the favour of God, deliverance from hell, and for everlasting happiness. Whereas if you come to the duty with flat, dull, and cold affections, this will make them so too. As you find it with yourselves when you are under a dull and lukewarm preacher,—you have little workings of affections; so your family will find it under your prayers, if they be such. For as a minister should get lively workings in his own breast of those affections which he would raise in the people,* so should you, in family-duties, get those workings of love, joy, and sorrow for sin, which you would desire should be in those that join with you; for what a minister is in the church, that you are, proportionably, in your house.†
When you are to set actually on the duty, prepare your family by some short advice, to carry themselves as becomes those that are going to speak to the great eternal God.‡—At least sometimes, and the oftener the better. Do not rashly rush out of your worldly callings into the presence of the glorious God. Say to them to this or the like purpose: "The God we are going to pray unto is a holy, just, omniscient God, that looks into all our hearts, that sees and knows the frame of our spirits, that will not be mocked, and cannot be deceived. All we are sinful creatures, that have broken his righteous laws, and thereby have deserved hell and everlasting torments. Yet this gracious God holds forth his golden sceptre, and gives us leave to approach his presence, to beg for pardon, and for Christ, and grace, and heaven. Our wants are great and many too; and yet our mercies are great and many too. Come then, O come, let us, with a holy fear of God, put up our joint petitions, that God would supply our wants, especially of our souls; and make joint confessions of our sins to God with humble, broken, penitent hearts; and jointly bless him for the mercies we are all partakers of. But let us do all as those that would please God while we pray unto him, and not by our carelessness and sloth provoke him while we kneel before him." Thus Job prepared his household, when he with them did sacrifice to God: "Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all. Thus did Job continually." (Job 1:5.)
Could Job sanctify his children? Could Job give them grace? Parents might give their children portions; but can they give them holiness too? They might put money into their purses; but can they put goodness into their hearts? yea, they may advise and exhort them to get grace; but can they work it too? Is not this bestowed by God, the author of all grace? How then did Job sanctify his children?" The meaning is, that Job did what he could to prepare and dispose them for the religious duties they were entering upon.* So the word sanctify is is often used: "Let the priests sanctify themselves." (Exod. 19:22.) "And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves. For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified." (2 Chron. 30:15, 17.) All is explained by Hezekiah's prayer, in verse 18: "The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary."
It will be useful to this purpose, that the master of the family understand the spiritual condition of every one in the family, that he may put-up requests suitable to their condition.—Let him get a particular knowledge of their wants, doubts, fears, temptations, afflictions of soul, of their sins, as far as is convenient, and the mercies of God towards them.† For, as it is for the spiritual benefit of a people that their minister understand the state of his flock, that so he might study for them, and preach to them, pray for them and with them, according as their case requires; so it will be for the benefit of a family to have their particular cases spread before the Lord in prayer.
Keep seasonable hours for family-prayer, and take the fittest time when all might be most free from distraction and disturbance.—In the morning, put it not off too long, lest by worldly occasions it be put quite by. Be not too late at night, when the family, after weariness by their callings all the day, will be more fit to sleep than to pray. Late prayers are too commonly sleepy prayers; one asleep in one place, and another in another, and, it may be, the master of the family himself prays between sleeping and waking. Be not clubbing abroad when you should be praying at home. This is in the power of the governor of the house to remedy, the other being to be at the hour appointed by him.
Spend so much time in family-prayer, that those that join might be affected, but not so much as to be wearied, with the duty.—Be not too short, nor yet too tedious. Not too short: for, the heart is not easily tuned, nor the affections warmed, nor the mind brought into frame. Our wants are many, and our sins are many; and some time must be spent to get the heart sensible of them, and of God's mercies to us. To rise-up from your knees before these can be probably done, is to come away no better than you went unto it. This over-hasty brevity argues but little delight in the duty, and showeth you care not how soon you get out of God's special presence. I doubt, such as thus slubber-over family-prayer with so much haste,* do it because they may be said to do it; to stop the mouths of others, and the mouth of their own conscience, with the work done. And yet too much prolixity and length of the duty may have its inconveniences also,† and make it to some graceless persons in the family, or to others that are good but wearied in their daily callings before, to be burdensome, and they more backward to it. But the most do not err on this hand; therefore, to say little here will be enough, and leave it to the prudence of the governor to consider the persons that join, and other concurring circumstances, and to act accordingly.
So much for THE DIRECTIONSfor the master of the family.
(II.) TheDIRECTIONSfor such as are to join in family-prayer for their greater benefit.
Let them be careful that they be all present at the beginning of a duty, and continue till it be ended.—In some families, there is great disorder in this respect. Servants, either by reason of the backwardness of their hearts, for want of love to and delight in prayer, or by not wisely forecasting their business, come when the prayer is half over, or else go out before it is ended, or, if at the beginning and end, yet, to look after one thing or other, make breaches and interruptions in the prayer, by going-out and coming-in once or twice or more in the prayer-time; which, if possible, should be carefully avoided. For, family-prayer being ordinarily not very long, to lose any part of it cannot but be to the detriment and disadvantage of such persons; for when their affections begin to be warmed, by these interruptions they are cooled and damped again. You should be more willing to go to your prayer than to your meat when hungry, by how much your souls are better than your bodies, and serving God better than feeding of the body. If business come when we are eating at our table, we commonly let it stay till we have done. What business shall wait upon you in that case, let it do so also in the other, that you might not lose the benefit of the prayer. Numa Pompilius made a law amongst the Romans, that men should not serve the gods as they passed by, or were in haste, or did any other business; but that they should worship and pray to them, when they had time and leisure, and all other business set apart.—PLUTARCH.
When you are present at family-prayer, give diligent attention, and mind what confessions of sins are made, what petitions are put-up, and what praises are returned to God for mercies received.—The devil will be striving that you may be absent in prayer, when you are present at prayer; absent in mind when present in body.* God is not pleased with the prostrating of the body, when your hearts join not in the work. Do not so dissemble on your knees with God and man. Are you then desiring the mercies prayed for, whether pardon of sin, strength against sin, love to God, repentance for sin, an interest in Christ, and evidences thereof, when your minds and thoughts are wandering about other things? Which if they do, let conscience call to thee to mind the work thou art about.† For is not this to sin against God, when you pretend to be serving of him? and to be provoking of him, when you should be praying to him to be reconciled unto you, and turn away his anger from you? Conjunct prayer should be made with one mouth, and with one mind: "These all continued in prayer," ὁμοφυμαδον, "with one accord: (Acts 1:14:) which word is translated, in Rom. 15:6, "with one mind:" "That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God."‡ But where your thoughts are wandering in family-prayer, though there be but "one mouth," there be many minds: these persons do not accord in prayer, which is great discord before God.
There should be a sympathy and agreement of hearts in conjunct prayer: "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 18:19.) A harmony of hearts should be in prayer. The word is borrowed from musicians, when several playing together do make an accord in music, a concent of many voices in one; thence translated to the mind, [it] denotes a consent of more hearts in one: such prayers make sweet harmony in the ears of God. Keep your minds fixed, then; else, though you do agree to go together into one room to pray, there will not be an agreement of hearts when you pray.§
Those that join should not only attend, but also assent, to the matter of the prayer, so far as it is agreeable to the word of God.—When the corruption of the heart is acknowledged, believe that this is true; the misery of an unregenerate state lamented, believe it to be true; when grace is prayed-for as necessary to your salvation, and that you are undone without it, believe this as a most certain truth. For if these things be spoken by him that prayeth, and heard by you that join, and not believed, your hearts will not be humbled when sin is confessed, nor earnest after grace when it is prayed for; and so you will lose the benefit of that prayer.
Do not only believe these things in prayer, but make particular application thereof unto yourselves.—When original sin is acknowledged, think and say in your own hearts: "Lord, this is my condition; my heart is thus corrupt, loathsome, and vile." When wants are expressed, and supplies begged, go along with what is said, and apply it particularly to yourselves: "Lord, this is my want; the want of Christ is my want. O that He may be given to me! The want of love to God and delight in him is my want. O that I might love thee! O that I could love thee!" And so, in other things: "This is my sin, and these are my doubts and my fears. This is my burden, and this is my temptation;" according as these are insisted-on in prayer; and this will make the duty to be for your spiritual benefit and profit.
These are the DIRECTIONSfor them that are to join with him that is your mouth to God.
(III.) The DIRECTIONSmore common to all, that prayer might be managed to spiritual profit, are these following:—
Get and keep upon all your hearts awful, lively impressions of the perfection of that God that you pray unto.—Take heed of coming with low, irreverent, unsuitable thoughts of God.* But conceive of him, and believe, and work, and press it upon your hearts, that the God you kneel before is most holy, most wise, most gracious and merciful, most just, eternal, unchangeable, all-sufficient, true in his threatenings, righteous in his commands, faithful in his promises, every where present, and knowing all things; that he observeth all your words and ways, and looks into your hearts and thoughts; that this God you cannot deceive, though you should deceive yourselves and one another. Consider and believe, that this God is present among you; and doth know your ends, your desires, and what you are, as well as who you are.* Then think, "Is this that God that we are to speak unto, to kneel before, and shall we not so manage this duty that we might please this God?" and if you do, you shall find it shall be for your spiritual benefit.
Put-up your prayers to this great and glorious God in the name of Jesus Christ.—There is no access for sinners to God but by and through a Mediator. You shall reap no benefit by praying, except you go in the name of Christ. Joseph told his brethren, they should not see his face except they brought Benjamin with them; (Gen. 43:5;) nor we, the face of God without Christ. (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 7:25; Col. 3:17; Heb. 13:15.) This praying in the name of Christ doth not consist in the bare mentioning of his name with our tongues, but to pray in obedience to his command, in his strength, for his glory, trusting his promises, resting on his merits, expecting audience and acceptance only for his sake.†
Get and keep upon your hearts a true, real, lively sense of your sins, and wants, and mercies.‡—Hereby shall every part of prayer—confession, petition, and thanksgiving—be more profitably managed, and you better disposed for the work you have to do upon your knees. Know your sin in the intrinsical malignity of it, the vileness of it in its own nature, as it is sin. Know it also, and understand it, as to the dreadful consequents of it, in its several kinds, acts, and aggravations of them. Get also a sense of your wants, and of the necessity of the things you are to pray for. If you want grace, know that you want it, and are undone without it; and pray accordingly. Pray as persons that believe you must be damned if you are not sanctified, that you must perish if you do not repent; and pray as men that do believe it. And if you have grace already in truth, know how much you want of it in respect of growth; that you love God but a little, which is your shame; and, O what a blessed thing were it, to love him more! Pray as those that would get at least one degree of love to God more by every prayer you make. Think seriously what a little grace you have, 1. To what you may have: 2. To what you might have had: 3. To what you ought to have: 4. To what others have: 5. To what you need: and that, 1. To fight against such strong corruptions: 2. To resist such strong temptations: 3. To bear such afflictions that might befall you: 4. To perform such duties as are required from you: 5. That you die at last with peace, comfort, and joy. Know also your mercies: personal, to body, to soul; relative, what mercy you have one in another, by being made mercies one to another; mercies for this life, and the life to come. Think how many, how great, how precious, how suitable, how durable, how sufficient, how satisfying good, God hath given you;—himself, [his] Son, Spirit, promises, privileges, much in hand, and more in hope, and all undeserved. A real abiding sense of these things will make you think and say, "Why me, Lord? why me?" and will wind up your hearts to lively praises, too much neglected in family duties; so that you shall find the benefit and sweetness of drawing near to God in prayer.
Realize invisible things to yourselves, by believing of them as certainly as if you saw them with your eyes.—When you are going to pray, look into the unseen world.* Stand and take a view of departed souls, and seriously think what is their state; and what they are enjoying or suffering that are already gone into eternity: and from thence fetch arguments to quicken your hearts when dull, and to be laborious when slothful, and lively and fervent in your duty. O how would a believing view of souls in heaven and hell help you to pray in prayer! Suppose then you saw the glorious saints in heaven, and the happiness [which] they there enjoy, in that they shall sin no more, and suffer no more, and be tempted no more, and sigh and sob, nor weep nor sorrow, any more for ever. All sin is expelled from those glorious souls, and all tears are wiped from their eyes; and [they] now are full of love to God, solacing themselves in the perfect, perpetual, and immediate fruition of the Chiefest Good; and then think: "This is the state that I am hoping for, and looking, longing, waiting for, and that now I am going to beg and pray I may be fitted and prepared for, and hereafter be possessed of:" and then pray as becometh such that unfeignedly desire to be partakers of their joy and felicity.
Again: Stand and take a view of poor damned souls, and suppose you saw them with your eyes rolling in a lake of burning brimstone, full of the fury of the Lord:* suppose you heard their direful execrations, their doleful outcries, their hideous roarings, and bitter lamentations ringing in your ears, saying: "Woe and alas that ever we were born! that are come to this place of torment, to this place of torment! O! it is, it is a place of torment! Once we had praying time and hearing time, but we did not improve it for our good; else we had not been now in this extremity of pain! no, we had not! no, we had not! We did pray, but we did but trifle in our prayers, and did but dally with that God whom now we find and feel to be to us consuming fire: and yet we burn and are not consumed. We were not in good earnest in those prayers we were at, but now we suffer in good earnest, and are damned in good earnest. O this place is hot, it is hot, it is exceeding hot! Will not God pity us? Will not God have mercy on us? We once thought he would; but we did flatter and deceive ourselves, and thought it would be well because we lived in a praying family, and were frequent at the duty. But we did not pray as they should do that were to pray for the escaping of such dreadful torments. We did sleep often in our prayers; but there is no sleeping here, no ease, no resting here! O that God would try us once more, once more! were it but for a month or two, and set us out, and send us to a praying life again! O that we were in time again, in time again, and in the same circumstances again, as once we were, and had the same possibility, yea, probability, of escaping these restless torments! But this cannot be, this must not be, this will not be! Time is gone, is gone, and we must pray no more for ever! O time, how didst thou slip away! How swift was thy motion! O that this eternity would hasten as fast as time did hasten! When we had lived twenty years, our life was so much nearer expiration; but here we have been a thousand years, and yet as far from an end as the first moment we came into this dreadful place, and dark and doleful dungeon. This then addeth to our misery, that here we are, and must be here for ever! Here we are! woe be to us that here we are, and that without all hopes of recovery, and possibility of redemption and deliverance! Had our pain been extreme, yet if it had not been eternal, it might have been the better borne; or if it were to be eternal, if it had not been extreme, it might have been more easily endured. But to feel [that] it is extreme, and to think it is eternal, makes our misery unexpressible! What! O what! extreme and eternal too? extreme and eternal too? Cannot we die? Cannot we dig into our own bowels, and take away our own beings? But must we live in pain and torment extreme and eternal too? O miserable caitiffs that we are! Those creatures that were toads and serpents feel none of this: as they are not happy, so they are not miserable. But we are not happy. No! no! there is no happiness here; misery is our portion. O cursed wretches! O foolish sinners that we were! that prayed with no life to escape eternal death. Damnation is a dreadful thing; we find, we feel, to our own confusion, that damnation is a dreadful thing."
Thus realize the happiness and the misery of souls in the unseen world, and take a believing view of them beyond this life; and try whether you shall not find much benefit by such prayers that, after such a sight, are put-up unto God.
Then next consider, that one of these two places you must shortly, very shortly, be in.—When you are going to prayer, look behind you, and you shall see death hastening after you, that death is at your backs; and look forward, and you shall see heaven and hell before you, yourselves standing upon the very brink of time, and the next step might be into [an] eternity of joy or sorrow. Where you did but now by faith see others were, there you yourselves must quickly really be, where you shall rejoice with them, or suffer and sorrow with them Do but look a little, before you fall down upon your knees, and you might see yourselves cast down upon a bed of sickness, your friends weeping and fearing you will die; the physicians are puzzled and at a loss, giving you over for the grave, and yourself gasping for life, and breathing out your last. Look but a little before you, and you might (as it were) hear your friends saying, "He is dead, he is dead! He is gone, he is departed!" and then (as it were) you might see them haling you out of your bed, and wrapping you in your winding-sheet, and nailing you up in your coffin: you might see your grave a-digging, and men hired to carry you on their shoulders from your house to your grave; relations and neighbours following-after to see you lodged in the dust, to he and rot among the dead.*
Then think, before all this can be done unto your body, your soul hath taken its flight into eternity, where it is, without change and alteration, for ever to be with God or devils. Work it on your hearts that you must quickly (and O how quickly will it be that you must!) be in heaven or hell; that when you die, heaven must be won or lost for ever, and everlasting torments escaped or endured for ever. Try whether such believing thoughts as these will not stir you up to manage all your praying together, as well as apart, in that manner that you shall find great benefit thereby.
Since this is so, consider next that you do not know, but now you are going to make your last family-prayer together.—You do not know but God and death might seize upon some of you before the next time of prayer do come again, that God might single-out the master or mistress of the house, this child or that servant; and every one think, "I might he the first," that you may never pray all together again. Pray then as if you were to pray no more, and see if you shall not find real spiritual benefit by such a prayer. A Heathen, writing a letter to his friend, did say, "I write unto you, not knowing but death might call me away, whilst the pen is in my hand."* And should not Christians pray as such as do not know but death might seize upon them with their prayers in their mouths?
Be laborious and importunate in your prayers.—If your thoughts do wander, call them in; if your thoughts be dull, stir them up. A Heathen advised "to do as becomes a man, like a Roman;"† and should not you pray as becomes Christians to do? But that is not in a dull and sluggish manner. Labour at your prayers together, as you use to do at your worldly work together, and more too; for in this you are concerned more. Strive and wrestle with joint fervency and faith, as becomes a society to do that are all a-praying for their lives, for their souls, for the pardon of their sin, for the favour and the love of God, as becometh those that are praying against everlasting flames and for eternal happiness. Pray together as persons desirous that you may live in heaven all together, and praise God in heaven for his love and mercy to you all together. But pray not coldly and lukewarmly together, lest you be damned, and hereafter lie in scorching flames all together. You must be instant in this work. You will meet with opposition from the devil, and the world, and your own hearts: you must then strive, and tug, and labour hard, or else your prayer will be spoiled: Προσκαρτερειτε, "Continue in prayer." (Col. 4:2.) The word there is very significant: Be present at your work in heart as well as body; attend to your work, and stand to it; continue in prayer, not only with continuance of time, but of earnest importunity, till you prevail with God, and get the victory over sin and Satan.‡
Let me, therefore, warn praying families, as you love your souls, as you would have God incline his ear to what you say, take heed of customariness and formalities.* Do not rest in the work done, in pouring-out words before God. This is your great danger. It must be a fervent prayer that pleaseth God and profits you. (James 5:16.) Be praying Christians indeed, and do not seem only to be so;† that you might all be happy indeed, and saved indeed, and not only to be thought to be so.
And, because we are apt to slide into such formality and lukewarmness, (when we use constant family-prayer,) which eats-out the very heart and life thereof, and hinders our benefit thereby, I shall propose twenty-five questions; some of which at one time, and some at another, you may put unto yourselves, to make you lively in your duty. But I shall, I must, but name them, because I would not willingly take-up more paper than comes unto my share, as also that, lying close together, you may the better have them in your eye.
When thou art called to family-prayer, put some of these QUESTIONS to thyself:—
1. What am I? A sinful sinner, dust, ashes, guilty. O how should a guilty person, going to the dust, pray for pardon!
2. Where am I? In whose presence do I kneel? Is it not before God? and doth not he know whether I trifle or am serious?
3. Where might I now have been? In hell, among devils and damned souls; and shall I not pray indeed with all my might, that I never may be cast into that place or company?
4. Whither am I going? To eternity. Where shall I shortly be? In eternity; and shall I trifle in my way?
5. What am I come about? What is now my business? About the highest matters that concern my soul.
6. What, if this were to be my last prayer before I die? Should I then fall asleep upon my knees?
7. What, if my everlasting state should be determined according to my sincerity or hypocrisy in this duty I am now going to? Should I dally then with God?
8. What, if God should tell me, if I trifle with his majesty, he would strike me sick, or dead, or blind, or deaf, and dumb, upon my knees? Should I not then watch my heart in prayer?
9. What, if I were to speak to an earthly king, or were to see some glorious angel? Should I not be filled with fear and reverence? and is not God infinitely above these?
10. What, if I were to give an account to God immediately how I pray, and should appear at his bar as soon as I rise from off my knees? Should I then be formal and lukewarm?
11. Am I come to have communion with God? to pray-down my sin? to please God and profit my soul? Will careless praying do it?
12. What, if those that join in prayer with me could look into my heart, and see how I do discharge my duty? Should I not be ashamed of many of my thoughts, and of the deadness of my heart? and is not the eye of God ten thousand times more to awe my heart than the knowledge of a fellow-creature?
13. Will dead and careless praying yield me comfort, when I review it when I come to die? Or should I not so pray now, that I might have comfort then?
14. Should I cozen and deceive myself in matters of the greatest weight? Shall I crawl to hell upon my knees? What! pray now, and be damned hereafter? Awake, my heart, and mind thy business.
15. Will God be mocked? And is not heartless praying a mocking of God?
16. Should I not do more than hypocrites do? Or shall I not be damned if I do not? But may not an hypocrite pray at that rate, as I have too often done?
17. Doth not the same God that commands me to pray, command me also to give him my heart in prayer? and to do it with life and fervency? Do I obey him in the one, and shall I not in the other? in the lesser, and not in the greater? and if I do not, do I not rebel upon my knees?
18. If dead, and dull, and formal praying stops the mouth of my conscience now, will it do so at the bar of God? And should I not endeavour now to have the witness of my conscience for me then?
19. Will it do me any good to have a name to live among men, if I be dead in the sight of God? and if others think and say when I am dead, my soul is gone to heaven, but is indeed cast down to hell? Will it lessen my torments, that I was applauded by men, and condemned by God? Will it ease my pain to be an applauded damned man?
20. Should I so pray as to make prayer a burden to me? Lifeless, heartless prayer is a burden; when lively prayer is delightful, and hath its sweetness in it.
21. Have I not sinned indeed? Hath not my heart been in my sins? Are not my sins really sins? And shall I not now pray indeed? Shall not my heart be in duty, and my prayers be really prayers? What! real sinning and counterfeit praying? and is not counterfeit praying real sinning? Awake, O my soul, unto thy work.
22. Are not my wants real wants? Do I not want grace indeed, or at least really want more of it? And should not my prayers be as real as my wants?
23. Would I have God to put me off with seeming mercy? Should I then put God off with seeming duty?
24. Are not my temptations real temptations, and strong, and powerful? And should not then my prayers be so too?
25. Am I not real and lively in my worldly business? Am I not in good earnest in my shop, in the market, and at the exchange? And should I not be so in the matters of another world, in the business of my soul?
Thus take some of these questions, lay them warm unto your hearts, and propose them to yourselves in the fear of God; and they will heat you when you are cold, and quicken you when you are dull, if God set them home upon your hearts, that you shall manage your family-prayers to your spiritual benefit; which was the THIRD part of my work to direct you in. The FOURTH follows.
"With what considerations may masters of families be urged to the constant performance of family prayer?"
Notwithstanding it be a certain duty to pray in your families, yet I doubt, when death shall come to drag you out of your houses, it will find some of you guilty of neglecting of it to your dying day; but yet I hope some may be prevailed with. What! have you neglected it? and will you all do so still? God forbid. "When you sin, you act like men; but when you go on in sin, you act like devils."* I shall propound a few considerations to urge you to it; and I entreat you, in the name of the great eternal God, before whom you and I must shortly stand and be judged, to weigh them seriously; and if you find there is no reason in them, throw them by, and look for, and inquire after, better; but if there be, resolve in the fear of God to buckle to your duty. It is time, it is high time, to reform. did you sin when you were young? and will you go on in riper years?† What do you come to sermons for? to hear what ministers can say upon such a question? to discern their parts? or to mend your own hearts and lives? Do you come to hear, that you may hear? So you may, and go to hell when you have done. Or do you come to hear, that you may practise and obey? So you must, if you are men for heaven. I charge you, therefore, here before the Lord, and by Jesus Christ that shall shortly judge both you and me, that your families be no longer prayerless families. If I put you upon work that God doth not require from you, then tell me so when you and I shall meet and stand at God's judgment-bar. But if it be no more than what you owe to God, neglect it at your peril. Sirs, the day is coming, and it hastens, when you will, you must, be serious. If thou diest within a week or two, within a day or two, or whenever thou shalt leave this world, if, the next hour after, thou art not of this mind,‡ that thou shouldst have prayed in thy family, then say I did needlessly call thee to it. But if thou shalt then see it was thy duty, thou shalt also see, when it is too late, that thou didst befool thyself, and make thyself guilty before God, in thy neglecting of it. Be wise therefore, before it be too late, and mind this work while thou hast time and opportunity. To this purpose, press your backward hearts with these things following:—
Consider, The souls that live in your families are precious and immortal souls.*—The soul of the meanest servant in your house is more precious than all the silks and wares in your shop, than all the gold in your bags, yea, than all the riches in the world. (Matt. 16:26.) And as they be of great worth, so they be immortal too, that must be damned or saved for ever. And are these the souls that you do not pray with, that you thus neglect and slight? Must they live for ever? and will not you call them to pray with you, that they may live happily for ever?
Ψυχη δʼ αθανατος και αγηρως ζῃ δια ῶαντος.†—PHOCYLIDISPoem. Admonit. 11.
These precious and immortal souls in your families are committed to your charge and care.—You masters of families have a charge of souls as well as ministers. When you have a child born and continued to you, there is one immortal soul that God intrusts you with to bring-up for him and heaven. When you take a servant into your family, there is another soul committed to your care.‡ Do you question this? Study well the meaning of the fourth commandment, and you shall see that this is true.§ And is it so? And shall not the blood of those that go to hell out of your families, through your neglect, be required at your hands? Have you done your duty, when a servant that hath served you seven years, and you make him free, can truly say?—"My master taught me my trade; but he taught me not to serve God. He often called me up unto my work; but he never called me to prayer." Are you not afraid that your very children and servants will rise-up in judgment against you, and accuse you at the bar of God? "Lord, my father," saith the son,—"No, nor my master," saith the servant,—"never prayed with us; and we, both children and servants, being so brought-up, and having such examples before us, did not mind thy service neither. Lord, we are justly condemned; but yet we perish much through our parents' and masters' neglect." "There stands my father," saith the son,—"and there stands my master," saith the servant,—"that never prayed with us. We do accuse them; they never did, and they cannot say they did." Will you not then wish you had never been parents to such children, nor masters to such servants?* As you would avoid this, be faithful to your trust, and mindful of your duty, lest thou wish
O utinam cœlebs mansissem, ac prole carerem .†
Consider, You have but a little time before you for the performance of this trust.—You and your families shall live together but a while; and if once you are parted by death, it will be too late, whether you die first, or some of them.‡
1. Suppose some of them die before you.—If your conscience be not seared, and your hearts past feeling, will you not be almost distracted, when you follow them to their graves, to reflect and consider?—"Here is one dead out of my house with whom I never prayed. We did dwell together, and eat together, and work together many years; but we never prayed together. O! what, if his soul be gone to hell through my neglect? What, if he be damned, and I be found guilty of his damnation? Prayer was a means appointed by God to have done him good; but I did not do it. Who knows, if I had called him to prayer, and I had been confessing sin, but God might have broken his heart for sin, and given him repentance, of which I saw no sign before he died? And now, O! what now, if there be one soul the less in my house, and one the more in hell? O! this is that which wounds my soul, this is that for which my conscience now doth sting me, that when I had him with me, I did not do my duty; and now he is gone, he is gone, and now it is too late! O my child, my child! whither art thou gone? whither art thou gone? O that he may live with me again, were it but for a year or two, a month or two, that we might do together our before-neglected duty!" If you be wise, timely prevent such uncomfortable reviews.
2. Suppose you die before them.—For if they do not die and leave you, you must die and leave them: and can you die, without trembling for anguish of your heart, without terrors in your souls, and fearful gripes in your consciences, more bitter than the pangs of death, to consider, you leave a wicked, prayerless family behind you, through your own neglect? Would it not trouble you to leave them poor, wife and children nothing to live upon, if this hath been through your sloth? And will it not, should it not, much more trouble you to leave an ignorant wife, children, and servants, unacquainted with God, unaccustomed to prayer, and all through your neglect? Might you not then say?—"If I had left them poor, yet if I had left them good, and fearing God, and given to prayer by my example, I could now have died with joy, and left them all with comfort. But, now I lie a-dying, it is the wounding of my soul to take so sad a farewell of my family. If I do live, it shall be otherwise; if I recover, and God trust me with life and time yet further, I will hereafter do it. But my heart is sick, my spirits fail me, and I perceive the symptoms of death are upon me; and though I am loath to take my leave of my wife and children, because I have been no more careful of the good of their souls, yet I see I must, I must bid farewell unto them. Come then, dear wife, farewell! farewell! I shall now be no longer thine, and thou shalt be no longer mine. But this had been no matter, if I and thou had both been His whom we should have prayed unto together; but we did not. Woe is me, poor dying man, that we did not! Farewell, dear children! now farewell! adieu! adieu for ever!* But O! how shall I take my leave of you, with whom I have not done what God required? But yet I must, whether I will or no, I must now leave you. But let me give among you what I have gotten for you: therefore to you, my wife, I give so much, and to this child so much, and to that so much. But when I think I worked for you, but never prayed with you, this doth trouble me. O! this doth trouble my departing soul. However, you will have my goods: the grave and worms shall have my body: but who, O! who must have my soul?" This will be a sad parting, whenever it shall come; and yet this parting hour is a-coming. Pray now with them, and in that manner too that then you may be comforted. On the contrary, if you discharge your duty faithfully and unfeignedly, whether your family be good or bad, when you shall die you might take comfort that you did your duty. So Mr. Bolton, that was abundant in conjunct prayers in his family, could comfort himself, and did say on his death-bed to his children, "I think verily none of you dare think to meet me at the great tribunal in an unregenerate condition."
The love that you should bear unto your families should engage you often to pray together with them.—Will you show your love unto your children in providing portions for them, that they may live in credit in this life? and will you not so much as pray with them, that they may live in glory in the life to come?* Will you do much for their bodies, and nothing for their souls? You that are fondest husbands and fathers, never love wife and children as you ought, till you love their souls. The soul is the best and more noble part; and love to the soul is the best and more noble love. But, to love the body, and neglect the soul, is but cruel, brutish love. What do you more for your young ones, than the birds and beasts do for theirs? Do you feed their bodies? Do not birds and beasts do the same for theirs?† Love your wife, children, and servants as you ought, and this will provoke you to pray together with them.
Consider, that family reformation is a necessary means to public reformation, and to hand-down religion from one generation to another.—Reformation begins with persons, thence is carried on to families, thence to parishes, thence to towns, and so to cities and to kingdoms.‡ But when these consist of families, how can there be a reformation of cities and kingdoms without a reformation of persons and families?§ You complain of the badness of the times and age in which you live, and that no more care is taken to mend what is amiss: why do you not reform your own houses? Why do you not amend what is amiss in your own families? If you have not power to reform a parish, city, or kingdom, yet you have a power to reform your own houses. If religion die in families, will it not die in cities too, and in kingdoms too? Will not you do your utmost to keep religion alive? to recover it, when decaying? Or shall it be extinguished with this generation? God forbid! Or do you see nothing amiss in your houses to be reformed? What! no praying there, and yet nothing amiss there? Certainly there is. Let yours, then, have a pattern and example of family-prayer from you, to do the same in their houses, and their children from them, and so let it pass from one age to another. An effectual way to keep the city clean, will be for every house to sweep before their own door.
If religious duties are not set-up in your families, there will be the more sinning there, and wickedness abounding in them.—How much cursing is there in many families, where there is no praying! "The field that is not dressed and manured is full of weeds and thorns."* Where God is not served, the devil is. If in your houses God hath not a church, the devil will have a chapel. What hopes will the devil have, that he shall have souls out of those families where there is much sinning and no praying? And if he might have their souls, he will be content that you may have all the rest.† If your houses be not nurseries for heaven, they will be breeding-places for hell. If souls under your roof are not prepared for salvation, they will there he fitted for damnation: and is this nothing to you? Awake, arise, you drowsy governors of families, to your work and duty!
It would be an effectual way and means to make those in your families more obedient and better towards you, if you would call on them to serve the Lord, and you were more in prayer with them.—You cry-out of stubborn and disobedient children. "They grieve and break my heart," saith one. "I have a child that is my daily wound and sorrow," saith another. And, "Servants never worse," is your often complaint. Whom is all this 'long of?‡ Do not you read your sin in your punishment? If you had taught them better their duty towards God, they would have made more conscience of their duty towards you; if you had prayed with them, God might have bowed their hearts, as a return to your prayers, to have walked more suitably to their relative duties. I have read of a young man going to the gallows [who] desired to speak with his mother in her ear, [and] who bit off her ear with his teeth, crying out against her as the cause of his death: "By your negligence," saith he, "I am come to this woful end!" If you are alike careless of your families, if you do not lose your ears by your own children, yet you might lose something that is better.
If you make profession of religion, and yet do not pray in your families, it is base and cursed hypocrisy.§—When you hear with God's people, and pray with them, and receive with them, and seem to be devout abroad, and do not pray with your families at home; is not this to make others believe you are what you are not?|| Do you not profess, by your joint duties with God's people in all ordinances, that you are devoted unto God; and doth not he that sincerely devotes himself to God, devote also all he hath to him? But is your family devoted to God, when there is no worship there? It would be well if you were found out, that you were denied the supper of the Lord for want of a sufficient credibility of a sound profession. But is it your way to be zealous abroad and negligent at home? Let your house speak for you.
Sed videt hunc omnis domus et vicinia tota
Introrsum turpem, speciosum pelle decorâ .*—HORATIIEpist. lib. i. epist. xvi. 44.
The neglect of calling upon God in your families will bring the curse of God upon them.†—"Pour out thy fury upon the families that call not upon thy name." (Jer. 10:25.) 1. The persons threatened are families. Which if in this text [it] comprehendeth many households, or yet more largely taken, yet there is the same parity of reason to a proper family. 2. Their crime is, not calling upon the name of God. 3. The thing threatened, the fury of the Lord. Fury is fervent anger, anger in its height and rage. 4. The abundance of it. It shall not fall drop by drop upon prayerless families, but pour-down in great showers upon them. Whereas the way to have God's blessing and protection over you and your household is to set-up the worship of God therein. There is a passage in a worthy divine of a remarkable providence of God to this purpose, concerning a town consisting of ninety houses, [in the Canton of Berne,] that was, in the year 1584, destroyed by an earthquake, except the half of one house, where the master of the family was earnestly praying with his wife and children upon their bended knees to God.‡
OBJECTION. "But we see no such thing; we perceive not but those families prosper that have no prayer in them, as much as those that do."
ANSWER. God is often angry when he doth not strike and punish presently the offender; but his wrath hangs over your house, and you are never safe in your greatest prosperity. An Heathen could say, "If a wicked man prosper, you need not wish that God were angry with him; for he is angry with him, though for the present he do prosper: but when it comes, it will be the heavier."§ The poet gives a full answer to this objection:—
Ειπερ γαρ τε και αυτικʼ Ολυμπιος ουκ ετελεσσεν,
Εκ τε και οψε τελει· συν τε μεγαλῳ απετισαν,
Συν σφῃσι κεφαλῃσι, γυναιξι τε, και τεκεεσσιν.—HOMERIIlias, lib. iv. 160.
The sense I give thus:—
"Though wicked men feel not the' Almighty's blow
Forthwith; his wrath is sure, when it is slow.
At length his plagues in greater loads shall lie
On them, their wives, and all their progeny."
The last thing only now remains, wherein I must be short.
"What excuses are often brought for the non-performance of family-prayer? How answered?"
OBJECTION I. "All this while, you do not give us any one express scripture in so many words: show that, and we will do it."
ANSWER. This is objected, either by openly profane or more sober men.
1. To the first I answer:
(1.) Wilt thou do nothing but what thou hast an express command for in so many syllables?—Why then art thou so often drunk, and dost thou so often swear, and lie, and take God's name in vain? Where is thy command? Nay, is not all this against express command?
(2.) Why dost thou not do that for which thou hast express commands?—Wilt thou repent, be holy, and believe in Christ, and forsake thy sin, if I can show express commands from God for these? Then read Ezek. 18:30, 31; Acts 2:38; 17:30; 1 John 3:23. Go thy way now, and do these things sincerely, and I shall not doubt but thou wilt see reason from what hath been said to set-up prayer in thy family, nor question but thou wilt do it. But if thou wilt not repent, and leave thy manifest and apparent sins, when thou art expressly commanded to do so, why should any man think thou wouldest do this, if this were showed to thee? Yet know, there is enough said to render thee inexcusable, if thou wilt not do it.
2. To the more sober I answer, that what is drawn from the word of God by just, necessary, and immediate consequence, is the mind of God.*—The sense of the scripture is God's revealed will.† And you yourselves allow some things to be a duty, that are not expressly commanded in the word of God. I could give you instances in many particulars; but, because I am straitened for room, and for plainness of the case, I will instance but in this one, which is a woman's receiving of the Lord's supper. Is it the duty of some women so to do? "No doubt." But where is your express command? or any express example that ever they did? Look for it, and produce it. Will you say, "The word ανθρωπος, used 1 Cor. 11:28, signifying both 'man and woman,' shows the command for women's eating at the Lord's table?" But what, if it be sometimes in scripture used for the man only, and the woman excluded? as it is, John 7:22: "Ye circumcise," ανθρωπον, "a man;" being taken in one place for the man only, how will you prove it is not so in the other, but by consequence? "True." But where then is your express command? Consequence must be allowed in this case, and is abundantly sufficient. For validity of scripture-consequence much may be said. But my length already commands me to forbear, seeing there is as much scripture and firm immediate consequence for your praying in your family, as [for] a woman's receiving the Lord's supper, which is an acknowledged duty.*
OBJECTION II. "But I pray alone in secret; and that is sufficient."
ANSWER. But it is not.
1. One duty done doth not excuse you from the performance of another.—It hath been proved before to be your duty; you ought then to do the one, and not to leave the other undone.
2. But do all in thy family pray in secret every day?—Dost thou watch them daily so narrowly, as thou art sure they do? every one? So they should; but yet, notwithstanding, conjunct prayer is a duty also, as hath before been shown.
3. Dost thou pray in secret?—So thou mightest have done, if God had struck all thy family dead in the night beside thyself. Take heed thou dost not hereby cause God to strip thee of thy relations, and thy comfort in them with whom thou wilt not pray, and send thee, with a witness,† into a corner, to pray by thyself alone.
4. Dost thou pray alone?—So thou mightest have done, if thou hadst lost thy tongue. Hast thou a tongue only to buy and sell, and talk of the world, or of religion only? and not to employ it in conjunct praying to and praising of God, in thy family? Read [what has been adduced] before.
5. Dost thou pray alone?—I doubt thou dost. It may be, thou speakest more in that word "alone" than thou thinkest of. Dost thou not pray alone, without God? without meeting with God? Hadst thou there had thy heart inflamed with the love of God, and tasted of the sweetness in communion with God, would not this have filled thy heart with love to God, and [to] souls in thy house, and burning zeal that they might be partakers of the same divine refreshments?‡ Couldest thou hold thy peace after such discoveries, while thy poor family are without? Or wouldest thou [at] no time call them together, that they also might experience the same delights that thou hast found? as the woman of Samaria called her neighbours. (John 4:28, 29.) If thou hadst got some earthly jewels, thou mightest be loath that others should share with thee in the value of it; because, in earthly things, participation causeth a diminution: if a sum of money be divided amongst many, the more one hath, the less will fall to the others' share. Art thou indeed afraid of this? Fear it not. There is enough in God for thee, and thine too. Communication in spirituals causeth multiplication, even in him that doth communicate to others. If thou be an instrument to draw thine to the love of God, and to joy and delight in him, this would fill thee with the greater joy. Methinks then, when thou hast been alone, and God hath graciously been with thee, thou shouldest go down into thy family with burning love to God and them, and say, "Come, my wife, children, servants, leave your work and business for a while. There is much sweetness in communion with God. There is indeed delight which comes into the soul by holy, fervent prayer. I would not have you feed on husks, while there is not only bread, but dainties too, in seeking God. I do not love to see you always muddling in the world, and be strangers unto God. Come then, come away; for my soul doth long that you should taste what I have found." Thus thou wouldest think surely with thyself, if thou spakest not out to them, if thou didst meet with God in secret. When it is not so with thee, but thou canst constantly neglect prayer in thy family, reflect upon thyself, whether in this sense thou didst not pray alone, that thou didst not find God with thee warming of thy heart. Tell me, couldst thou be content to eat thy food constantly alone, without thy wife and children? and canst thou be content to pray alone only? As you eat together, so pray together also.
OBJECTION III. "But I am ashamed to pray with others; and that hinders me."
ANSWER 1. Ashamed to pray! ashamed to do thy duty? The more shame for thee! Be ashamed to sin, and of this shame: for it is sinful, and is to be lamented, and prayed against, and striven against, and overcome. Will thou tell God at the day of judgment, that thou wast ashamed to pray in thy house and family?
2. But why ashamed? when you are only with your own family, and those you daily converse withal, and are head and chief and governor of?
3. "It is for want of use." Set upon the work, and you will quickly overcome this.
OBJECTION IV. "But I am not ashamed of the duty, but of my own weakness. I have not gifts and parts to manage this duty. If I were gifted as other men be, I would perform it as other men do."
ANSWER 1. Where do you live? in London?—What! an old housekeeper in London, or where there hath been much means of grace? and are you so ignorant, that you are not qualified to pray in your family? This is your sin; and will one sin be pleadable to excuse you from another? One of the ancients of the parish, and plead ignorance! are you not ashamed?
2. It is not parts, and gifts, and florid expressions that God looks at, but an humble, penitent, broken, and believing heart.—Have you not this, neither? If you have not, get it quickly, or you must to hell. If you have, God will accept of such a sacrifice; bring it then.
3. Study your sins, and wants, and mercies.—And get a sense of all these upon your heart, and you will be able to express them in your family, in such a manner as may be more for their profit, than the constant omission can be. If a man feel himself sick or hungry, do you think he could not find words to make his complaint, and ask for help? Study the scripture and your own hearts, and these will be good prayer-books to furnish you for the duty. Besides, by praying you shall learn to pray.
4. Do not deceive yourself, and say, it is for want of gifts; when it is more for want of a heart and love to the duty.—To discover this, suppose a law were made by our governors, that every master of a family that doth not pray in his house with his family shall be cast into the lions' den. What would you do then? Would you rather venture your life, and be torn in pieces by lions, than set upon this duty, with that knowledge and those gifts that now you have? Would you not find something to say to save your lives? And is not the law of God as binding as the laws of men, and the dungeon of hell as dreadful as the lions' den? Go then, set upon your duty.
OBJECTION V. "But there are some graceless and wicked persons in my family, that I cannot say, 'We desire this or that spiritual blessing, grace, Christ,' &c.; for I see no ground to judge they desire any such thing."
ANSWER 1. Have they no grace? and must they not pray that they may have some?—O cruelty! Is he exempted from duty, because he is not good? Or wilt thou say, that such must only pray alone, and be excluded (while such) from conjunct prayers? Whither will this carry you? Even to the shutting of all graceless or at least visibly-wicked persons from all prayers in public congregations, as well as from family-duty. But this is so gross, that I suppose you will not own it. You have no reason then for the other.
2. How do you know, when you are confessing sin and acknowledging the evil of it, but God might affect and break their hearts, and they be changed on their knees, and so be saved from damnation?—And will you deny them that means that God may bless for their conversion?
3. Do you indeed use all other means, to your utmost power, to have them better?—Do you reprove them, and show them the danger they are in, and persuade them to turn from sin to God, and this with constancy and compassion to their souls? Or do you scruple this too? Wilt thou neither pray with them, nor speak to them, when thou oughtest to do both? I doubt, it is thy sloth that hinders thee, or the wickedness of thy heart, and that thou pleadest the wickedness of another to cover thine own.
4. Was not Judas graceless?—did he desire truly and sincerely spiritual blessings? and did not Christ say and know he was a devil? and yet did not Christ pray with his disciples, when Judas was among them? (Luke 22:14, 17.)
5. Your words might be so ordered, that you need not make a scruple to pray with them.
6. By kneeling down with you, do they not profess to join with you?—And if they do not that sincerely which they profess to do, the sin is theirs, and none of yours.
7. But be really more careful that you do not pray to God with a reigning lust in your own hearts, than fearful to pray with an unconverted person in your house.
OBJECTION VI. "But I cannot bring my servants to the duty. They are so stubborn and unwilling to it, that all that I can do cannot prevail with them to yield thereto. They will rather leave my house; and so I shall be left to do my work myself."
ANSWER 1. Are they not sometimes as backward to do what you set them about as they be to come to prayer?—But yet do you not bring them to it, and make them stoop and buckle to obedience? Deal plainly: if they did daily totally neglect your work, would you bear it at their hands? Would you not make them know your power and authority over them? Can you use your power effectually to make them do your work, though backward to it; and may you not, can you not, to bring them to prayer, if you were as hearty and as in good earnest for the glory of God, and the good of their souls, as you are in your own concernments?
2. Why did you take no more care whom you did receive for servants into your house?—Why did you not make a better choice? did you not look for one with most* money you could get, rather than one well-educated, and likely to conform to the good government of an house? Servants inquire for places, where they might have least work, and greatest wages and vails, but not where they might have a good master to help forward the good of their souls; and parents put forth their children apprentices, where it might be most for their outward advantage, though there be no religion in the house; a great evil! So, many masters look for greatest profit in taking apprentices that have been without all education as to their souls, and then cry out, their servants will not be brought to family-prayer!
3. But will they not?—And are they such that you may remove and put out of your family, after you have tried all other means you can? If they will not, you had better be without them, than without the worship of God. David would out with them. (Psalm 101:6, 7.)† But do you say, you must then do your work yourself? So you had better. "But why so? Are young people generally so bad, that there are no better to be found?" God forbid! If they be, is it not high time to be in good earnest, and resolved to set-up God's worship in our families, that it might be remedied, and not continue so from one age to another?
OBJECTION VII. "But I have not time to spare, for myself and family to spend time to pray twice every day: this would be an hinderance to me in my calling."
ANSWER 1. Not time, man? What! not to pray?—How justly might God say, "Thou shalt die this day, and thou shalt have no time to pray; no, nor to trade, neither; nor to sport and game, neither!" Thou hast time; what dost thou do with it all? Twenty, forty years are a great deal of time, and much might be done therein; but canst thou find no time out of so many years to pray in thine house? Thou findest time to trade, and work, and eat, and drink, and sleep, yea, and to sin too; and yet hast thou no time to pray? Doth God give thee and thy family all the time that thou and they have, and shall God have none of it?‡ O ungrateful sinner! O unthankful wretch! Let the heavens be astonished, and the earth amazed: the one, that they give light and influence to such a monster; and the other, to bear such a burden, a man so loaden with such impiety!
2. Why dost thou gripe and grasp so much worldly business, and burden thyself and family with so many earthly employments, and then cry out thou hast no time?—If thou canst not trade so much, and pray in thy family too; trade something less, that thou mayest have time to pray. Cannot you get food and raiment while you live, and a winding sheet and coffin when you die, without so great a trade that you have no time to pray? Or will you say, "We must mind more than food and raiment?" and must you not mind heaven too? and look after Christ and grace and your souls too? What, if you be rich while you live, and damned when you die? Is your heart so set upon the world, that you must have it, though you have hell and damnation with it? Well might the poet cry out and wish:—
Χρυσε, κακων αρχηγε, βιοφθορε, ῶαντα χαλεπτων,
Ειθε σε μη θνητοισι γενεσθαι ῶημα ῶοθεινον.*—PHOCYLIDISPoem. Admon. 40.
3. What will you do with those worldly riches [which] you are so eager to obtain? or what can they do for you?—Will you take them with you to your graves, or carry them with you to another world?† You know you cannot. (Job 1:13–21; Eccles. 5:15.) No, not so much as to fill your hand. It was a ridiculous action of a rich man, that Mr. Rogers, in his "Treatise of Love," speaks of, that, being very sick to death, called for his gold; and [it] being brought to him, [he] took a twenty-shillings' piece and put it in his mouth, saying, "Some are wiser than some; this I will take with me, however." If some were not wiser than he, they would all be fools; for he and his gold might perish together: though it may be likely, that, when he was dead, his gold was taken from him; and so, in his own sense, he was not wiser than others. But will gold go in heaven or in hell? There it is nothing worth. When you have got much by your trading, which keeps you from praying, will it not make you loath to die, having laid-up no better treasure elsewhere? and vex you to the heart, that for this you have lost God, and Christ, and heaven, and your souls, and your riches too at last? As Mr. Latimer, in a sermon before king Edward VI., relates of a rich man that was sick; and one, coming to him and seeing how he was, told him, he thought he could not recover, but was a dead man; who presently flew into a rage, saying, "Must I die? Send for the physician! wounds! sides! heart! Must I die? Must I die? wounds! sides! heart! Must I die, and leave all my riches?" and so continued crying out in this language till he died. And are these the things you are so earnest for, that you can find no time to pray for better? A like passage Mr. Jeremy Burroughs, on Psalm 17:14, relates of one that once lived near to him, that being sick called for his bags of silver, and, hugging them in his arms, said, "Must I leave you? must I leave you?" Pray for an interest in God and Christ; and when you die, being his and he yours, you shall not leave him, but be taken into fuller enjoyment of him. Consider, again: as you cannot take them with you when you die, so these things cannot comfort you in your sickness. As the same author mentions another, that on his sick bed called for his bags of gold; which being brought he laid to his breast as near his heart as he could, but after a while said, "Here, take them again! take them again! These will not do, these will not do!" "What! will not bags of gold do?" No: they are trash and dirt to a dying man. "What will they not do?" They will not procure health to a sick man, nor prolong life to a dying man, nor speak peace to a troubled man, nor procure heaven for a graceless man. No, no! it will not do, it will not do! and you shall find it will not do. And are these the things you are so bent upon, that you have no time, for looking after these, to pray to God for something that would do you good while you live, when you die, and after death? Consider, and be wiser.
4. It is a great mistake that prayer will hinder you in your worldly callings.*—To drive a trade for heaven and on earth, may both be done. You cannot love both with a predominate love, nor serve both as principal masters; but you may work for one, and pray for the other. When you are in a journey, doth it hinder you to stay and bait? If you were travelling far, if you bait daily, you may come there in time; but if you did not bait at all, you would never get thither. It is a true proverb, "Prayer and provender hinder no man." Surely, you forget that the success of all your labours depends upon the blessing and providence of God. Cannot God blast your endeavours, and blow upon your estates, and cause you to "put it into a bag with holes?" (Haggai 1:6.) Nothing is more likely to further you than prayer.
5. Tell me, in good earnest, and let thy conscience speak: Dost thou not mis-spend more time every day than this duty would take-up?—Art thou not longer in some impertinent company, and longer in some unnecessary business, or lingering and loitering at home or abroad, or at some club or other, longer than family-prayer may be profitably performed; and yet [dost thou] say, thou hast no time?*
6. What, if God should visit thy family with some lasting sickness, and take thee and thy servants too from your work and callings, and make you spend that time in sickness in your beds from your labour which you would not spend in prayer?—Must you find a time to be sick and die, and yet find no time to pray?
7. Wilt thou tell God so, when thou standest at his judgment-seat?—Which of you is the man, (stand forth!) that shall be accused at the bar of God, that he did not pray to God in his family, that will now say he will give God this answer then?—"Lord, I was so employed in the world, and my family too, that we had no leisure for thy service." "No! not to look after heaven? nor to seek my favour and my love? nor to beg for pardon and salvation? Go, get you gone! Go, get you down to a place of torment. Though you could find no time to pray to me, I will find an eternity to plague and punish you!"†
8. Are you the better for your riches, when you have by this labour got them? or do you work so hard, and spend your time, even all your time, for such things, that, when you have them, you are no better?—You account him the best man in the parish that hath the most riches, and is the greatest; but so doth not God: no, the Heathens would not neither;* but he that is most holy, and loves God best, and serves him most. Those are goods indeed, that make you good indeed: but you are the worse, by how much you spend your time, more precious than all in time you get, with the neglect of your duties unto God.
9. What, if thou shouldest some time sustain some loss in thy outward estate, if it be made-up with the favour of God, and true peace of conscience in the way of duty, and with the real advantage of thy own soul, and the souls of all thy family?—Canst thou be willing to lose nothing for the gaining of heaven? or hadst thou rather that thou and they should lose God, and Christ, and glory, and souls, and all? Surely, when you come to cast-up your accounts, what you have got, and what you have lost, your gains will prove your loss.†
10. If God should bring back some from the grave and hell, and set them in this world again, dost thou think that they would so follow the world, and run up and down after money, that they would say, they could find no time to pray that they might escape that dreadful place of torment [which] they had been in?—If some of those that had been in hell but a month or two, were now in thy circumstances, dost thou think they would not let their work stand still, or rise the sooner, and sit-up the later, or would deny themselves much of their eating-time and sleeping-time, that they might have time to pray?—"Lord, let us not go down to hell again! O let us not return to the place which we have found to be so restless and so dreadful!" And shouldst not thou be as much, and often, and as earnest, with thy family, that neither thou nor any of thine be cast into it?
I durst not let this pass, (though I am sensible I have taken-up too much room,) without endeavouring to remove this hinderance that lies in the way to keep many families from their knees in holy prayer. I beg, for the Lord's sake, and for your souls' sake, that you would watch against it, and resolve against it, and that your worldly interest shall no longer keep you from family-prayer.
In the close, then, of all that hath been said, let me in the name of God exhort you all to the practice of family-prayer. You have heard it proved to be your duty, you have been directed how you might manage it for the good of all in your houses, you have had motives to press you to the performance of it, your pretences and excuses brought against it have been manifested to be frivolous and vain. What say you, sirs? Will you resolve upon it here in the presence of the Lord, or will you still neglect it? Shall I lose all my labour, or shall it be in vain that I have preached, and you have heard this doctrine? I tell you to your faces, it shall not be in vain; the word of the blessed God shall convince you and reform you, or condemn you. What come we hither for, but faithfully to show you your duty, and earnestly to persuade you to obey? Do ministers study for you, when you are sleeping in your beds, and declare the mind and will of God in the congregation? and will you cast all our counsel behind your back? I hope, you will be wiser for your own everlasting happiness. Say, then, are you convinced in this point, that it is your duty? If not, view over again what hath been said, and seriously consider it, and let me beg this at your hands, that you would think of all now, as you, would do if you were with an awakened conscience upon your dying bed, or if you were standing at God's judgment-bar; and when this question is put to you, (whether you ought to pray in your families?) let conscience say, "Yes" or "No," according as its verdict and dictate shall be at death and judgment; and then I am persuaded you will say, you are convinced you ought to do it. And are you indeed? What! and yet go-on in the omission of it? Will you so sin against your consciences? Will you dare so to do? You parents, for God's sake, consider in what a condition you have brought your children into the world; are they not by nature enemies to God, dead in sin, children of wrath, unfit for heaven, and in danger of damnation? And will you not so much as pray daily with them, that they may be delivered out of this condition, and be saved from damnation? Is it nothing to you whether your children are damned or saved? Is it nothing to you whether they live with the blessed, glorious God, or with cursed devils and damned souls? Have you no pity nor compassion for them, that are flesh of your flesh?* Where are the yearnings of your hearts? where are the workings of your bowels? If their bodies were a-dying, would you not pray by their bed-sides, that they may be preserved from the grave? and will you not, that their souls might be saved from hell? Dare you not be guilty of the murder of their bodies? and dare you of their souls? Do not the laws of men justly hang those that do the one, and will not the laws of God righteously damn them that do the other? You fathers, and you mothers, can you look upon your graceless, Christ-less children, and not pity them, and weep over them, and call them to you to come and pray with you? Have you not a word to say to God for them in their hearing? Will you not call them to this duty, and let them be eye-witnesses of the tears that you should shed in lamenting their sinful state and misery thereby, and ear-witnesses of the requests you put-up to God for their conversion? And how might this work upon their hearts, if they were! But what shall I say to you fathers, and to you mothers, that do neglect your duty, which God requireth for the good of your children? The father doth not pray; the mother doth not persuade him, nor entreat him, so to do; and, by the negligence of both, the children are ungodly. Are they more wicked, or you more cruel? They are full of impiety, and you are full of cruelty, both father and mother: because it is so much 'long† of you that they are so bad.
Crudelis mater magis, an puer improbus ille?
Improbus ille puer, crudelis tu quoque mater .—VIRGILIIBucolica, Eclog. viii.
Appendatur et hoc: —
Crudelis pater es; per te puer improbus ille .‡
But if the profane parents and masters amongst us will not reform and pray in their houses, shall I not prevail with many of you professors, that have been shamefully guilty of this neglect? Then pluck-off your vizard of profession abroad, and tell us what you are. Do not deceive us any longer, and make the world believe you are that which you are not, but let us know what you are. What shall I say? Will nothing prevail? Then they that are for hell, are for hell, and we cannot help it. But it will be more profitable for you and your families, that you be really and indeed what you have with much zeal abroad professed yourselves to be. I pray you, be better in your houses, and act as men resolved for heaven, and to have all your family with you there. However, if any do miscarry, let it not be by your neglect. And as for you that have and do make conscience of this duty, go on, and the Lord be with you! Go on, sirs! Hold out; it is but a little while, and your praying shall be turned into perfect praising. Go on, that your children might bless God that they had such parents, and your servants bless God that they had such masters, and that ever they came under your roof, and lived within the walls of your house. You will have comfort when you come to die, in the review of holy diligence, and might leave them with peace; which will be better to you than all the world. Keep fast then your resolution, that, while you live, you and your house will serve the Lord!