The EPISTLE TO THE READER.
THE Decay of Family Piety is an awful Symptom of the Dying State of Reli|gion among a People: And if ever GOD shews Mercy to a Degenerate Land, He will pour out His Spirit upon Families, and thereby give a Glorious Resurrection to Religion in them.
THAT there is a Scandalous Negli|gence in this Day of Apostacy, in all the vi|tal Parts of that Service, which GOD re|quires of Heads of Families with their Houses, is too notorious to be Denyed, Page iiand too reproachful to Christianity, not to be Lamented, with the most sorrow|ful Resentments of Soul, by all, that have the Glory of CHRIST, and the Prospe|rity of Souls at Heart.
THIS flows not from Mens Ignorance of their Duty; but from their resolved obstinacy, and willfull Inconsideration, which hinders them from a just sense of their many Obligations hereto.
THERE are indeed some, who call themselves Christians, who pretend they see no Warrant or Obligation to Family-Prayer, which is a Principal part of that Service, we owe to GOD with our Hou|ses: They therefore Demand an Express Precept for Divine Worship in their Fa|milies: And with this they hope to justify their Criminal Neglect of this Duty. But assuredly whatever trifling Pleas any may make to silence the Cla|mours of Conscience; yet few or none Page iiiin their cool and serious Thoughts, can think them sufficient to acquit them from Guilt at the Bar of Conscience, much less at the Tribunal of CHRIST.
HOWEVER, since there are such, as seem to doubt of their Obligations to this Essential Part of Family-Religion; I shall Offer a few Hints, which may Awa|ken and Assist their Powers of Thought and Reflection to a sight of the Equity and Reasonableness, the Expediency and Necessity of Family Worship.
HERE it may be Observed that the Obligation to this Duty, is Originally Founded in the Law and Light of Na|ture; and not on Positive Institution: And by Consequence, the less need to require an Express Direction for it in Revelation. Yet we are not without plain Intimations of it in Scripture Ex|amples and Precepts.
Page iv AGREEABLE hereto we find Solemn Acts of Worship attended in Adam's Fa|mily; In Abraham's House: for where|ever we find him Pitching his Tent, there we see him Erecting an Altar of Worship: And there appear Evident Indications that this was Job's, Joshua's, and David's Practise. And most proba|bly, this was intended in Cornelius's Cha|racter; Act. 10.2. He feared GOD, i. e. Worshipped Him with all his House. In many Places of the New-Testament we have this Duty pointed at. We are Commanded to Pray with all Prayer, Eph. 6 18. Which certainly includes Family-Prayer. And when the Apostle Paul had lay'd down the Duties of the several Members of a Family, he then Exhorts them as One to continue in Prayer, Col. 4.2. And to Pray together. verse 3. as that Place might be more justly ren|dred. This sort of Prayer the Apostle Peter seems to have his Eye upon, in that Admonition, 1 Pet. 3.7. But we need Page vnot insist on these; since this is an Act of Natural Worship, and not purely In|stituted; and as such approves it self to the •••son and Conscience of Men.
HENCE, all Nations, who were so just as to acknowledge a GOD and a Pro|vidence, have conspired in the Practise hereof. The Heathen under the Con|duct of the Light of Nature Erected their Family-Altars, and Offered Daily Sacri|fices in their Houses.
AND if the Foundation of Divine Worship in General be considered, it will strongly Enforce the Practise of Family-Devotion. The Fundamental Reasons of Divine Worship flow from the Nature of GOD, and that state of absolute Depen|dance, and necessary Subjection that Man stands in to such a Glorious Being. The Relation that reasonable Creatures stand in to the Blessed GOD, a Being of Infinite Excellency and Perfection, as He is their Page viCreator, Preserver and Benefactor, their Owner, Lord and Lawgiver; does Infer an immutable Obligation to pay this Divine Homage and Worship. Now will not our Obligations, for the same Rea|sons, be as strong to pay GOD the Tri|bute of Family-Worship? Sure we are, That GOD is the Founder, Father, Be|nefactor, and Owner of Families: By His Care and Providence our Houses are Built, our Families Subsist, Grow and Flourish. What then more just and rea|sonable than to Worship Him as the GOD of our Families, and the Fountain of all their Blessings? And by Solemn Joynt-Prayer in our Houses religiously to ac|knowledge His Propriety in, and Domi|nion over us and our Houses; and our Dependance on and Subjection to Him. This certainly is one way to give GOD the Honour due to His Name. Family Prayer is on this account GOD's Right; and to with-hold it will be found Gross Injustice, and Black Ingratitude.
Page vii IT is acknowledged by all, that the more Publick the Honour we pay to GOD, the greater it is: Now Family-Worship is more Honourable to GOD on this account, than Solitary: And since we are bound to Worship GOD in the best manner we can, we must conclude our Family-Sacrifices must not be with|held.
AGAIN, The Necessity and Reasona|bleness of Family-Prayer will be Evident if we Consider, That this Religious Practise has a necessary and direct Ten|dency to promote all other Holy, and Religious Intentions in a Family. Here|by Heads of Families themselves are awed to a greater Circumspection and Care in their walk before their Houses: And it has a blessed Tendency to beget and cherish an awful Sense of GOD in the Hearts of the whole Family; and to Awaken them to a just concern for their Souls: This tends to give Life and Force to all the Solemn Counsels, Instructions Page viiiand Admonitions given by Parents and Masters in the Name of GOD to those under their Charge. And in these respects Family-Worship must be accounted what is Good, and what the Lord requires of us.
IN a Word, I can't see what just claim a Family, as such a Society, has to the Character of a Christian or Religious Fa|mily, if Family-Prayer and Worship be wholly neglected.
IF after all, any will indulge themselves in the neglect of this Duty; and please themselves that they are not under Ob|ligation hereto: I would take Liberty to Leave Two or Three Enquiries with them to be resolved.
DO you really believe GOD is as well pleased with, and as much honoured by your Omission of Family-Prayer, as He would be by a Religious Performance of it?
DO you apprehend that you have done all in your power for the Good of the Souls of your Family; while you neglect to Pray with them?
Page ix DARE you advise your Children, when they come to settle in Houses of their own, to follow your Example, and live in the Neg|lect of Prayer in their Families?
IN a Word, Are you willing that Death should overtake you, while you live in the Omission of this part of Worship? Can you say, upon mature Deliberation, that you expect as much Peace and Com|fort in a Dying Hour, from a Reflection on the Neglect, as on the Conscientious Discharge hereof? Let Conscience An|swer: and be Obsequious to it's Voice. And then I doubt not this Neglected Duty would be Revived; and Family-Sacrifices daily offer'd to GOD, i. e. Morning and Evening: Thus was the daily Sacrifice under the Law offer'd Morning and Evening. And if daily Per|sonal Wants and Mercies do Challenge daily Supplications and Thanksgivings from particular Persons: by a Parity of Reason, The Wants and Mercies of a Page xFamily, which are daily and continual, do require daily Addresses from them in Consort. And nothing can be more Come|ly and Beautiful, nor more agreeable to the Ends of such a Duty, than for all the Members of a Family to Unite with one Mouth and Heart to shew forth the Lov|ing Kindness of the LORD in the Morning: however that he, we Evening.
AND nothing can be more Worthy the Thought and Care of CHRIST's Mini|sters, who are called to Watch for Souls, and must give an Account of them, than with great Frequency, and all possible Importunity, to Inculcate this great Duty upon their Charge.
NOW this Principal part of Family-Religion, together with all other Acts and Instances thereof, is recommended to us in the following Solid, and Judicious Dis|courses: which are every way adapted to Revive the Power of Godliness in our Houses.
Page xi I design not an Encomium on the Re|verend Author, or his Performances: His Modesty will not allow me to do him Justice. However I can't but say, that as the Subject of these Sermons are most Important and Weighty, so it is Treated with Perspicuity, Gravity, and due So|lemnity, with that justness of Thought and Language; and the whole quickned with that holy Warmth and Spirit of Piety, that can't fail of an high Relish with every Serious and Judicious Reader.
AND, as I do heartily bless GOD, who directed the Thoughts of His Servant to this Subject, and assisted him in his Me|ditations hereon; so cannot but joyn with him in Recommending the Serious Perusal of them to all Heads of Families; but more especially to those under our Joynt Pastoral Care: And do hope, by the Presence and Blessing of CHRIST with these Labours of my Reverend Bro|ther, more of the Beauty of Holiness may Page xiibe seen, and more of the Gracious Presence of GOD enjoy'd in our Houses.
LET us therefore in Fidelity to the Trust GOD has committed to us; and which ere-long we must give an Account of before the Bar of CHRIST; and in Compassion to the Souls of our Children and Servants, which we have undertaken the Charge of, Let us, I say, Entertain and Practise the Counsels of Wisdom here gi|ven us: Let us use our utmost Endeavours that we and our Houses may Serve the LORD with a perfect Heart and a willing Mind. In this way we may hope to be found of our Judge in Peace, and have our part in the Glories and Satisfactions of the Resurrection-World. For which holy Purposes the following Sermons are with Fervency Recommended to the In|fluences of the Spirit of Grace.
Boston,April 23. 1716.