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Sacred Scriptures, and this as a necessary consequence of their superficial way of reading them; hence the importance of their being perused in the exercise of such dispositions as have been mentioned. As such readers will then no more be satisfied with knowing Scripture historically, or considering it casually, so also, upon their bended knees, will they desire to have their minds, not only impressed with its truths, but imbued with its spirit; while such a course of reading must, of necessity, ever be furnishing them with fresh materials for prayer.
And now, with the single exception of those hallowed moments, when the hearts of the flock, conjoined with their Shepherd, arise to the throne of God; there seems not to be, in this world, a single prospect so engaging and lovely to the eye of the Christian, “ as a Family thus assembled in the morning for their affectionate devotions; combining piety to God, their common Parent, with tenderness to each other," and living through the day in conformity with such a commencement. “In the devotions of this little assembly, Parents pray for their Children, and Children for their Parents; the Husband for his Wife, and the Wife for her Husband; while Brothers and Sisters send up their requests to the throne of Infinite Mercy, to call down blessings on each other. Who, that wears the name of man, can be indifferent here? Must not the venerable character of the Parents, the peculiar tenderness of the conjugal union, the affectionate intimacy of the filial and fraternal relations; must not the nearness of relations long existing, the interchange of kindness long continued, and the oneness of interests long cemented, all warm the heart, heighten the importance of every petition, and increase the fervor of every devotional effort ? "*
Independently, however, of all that is attractive to the
outward eye, to the Christian Parent himself, who has been received into the divine favor under the sovereign shelter of his Mediator, and through his abounding merit alone, these morning Family devotions are productive of great personal advantage. Often does he, when thus engaged, feel an adoptive freedom, and nearness of access to God. Conscious that there is no spiritual blessing so great, and no evil so small, respecting which he may not address his Heavenly Father, whether for himself or those so dear to him, his prayers are circumstantial, without irreverent familiarity, and changing with the aspect of each returning day or revolving year, they are characteristic of the circumstances in which his Family stands at the moment. Certainly he does not thus descend to particulars, because Jehovah does not know them infinitely better than ever he can : but he feels it to be of value to himself, thus to intercede for and with others,-to be of importance to himself, as a Parent, thus to bear his charge on his heart before God; and of value to all who are present, to hear the concerns of the entire family thus acknowledged, as originating with God, or laid down in reverent submission before him. Besides all this, he believes it to be the law of Heaven, that such blessings as he implores, are to be obtained from thence, only by prayer. “God,” he will say, “ does not promise to those who want that they shall have, but to those who ask; nor to those who need that they shall find, but to those who seek. So far, therefore, from his previous knowledge of our wants being a ground of objection to prayer, it is the true ground for our application. Were he not Knowledge itself, our information would be of as little use as our application would be, were he not Goodness itself.''*
It is, however, very much to be feared, that many Christians are not sufficiently aware of the importance
* More's Practical Piety.
which is to be attached to the spirit and temper of such Morning devotion in the Family. The truth is, that these seasons may, in general, be regarded as the index to a man's life, and the probable condition of his Family through the whole day; while the evening prayer itself, will as generally respond or testify to the truth of this remark. Should any Parent not have before observed this sufficiently, let him only recollect, that, as the spirit of prayer must, of necessity precede the act itself, so the design of this exercise is not merely to excite a devotional frame only while he is engaged in it. Its influence, if he and his family have engaged with sincerity, will remain with them, not only after they rise from their knees, but it will extend through the day to its close, and in proportion as they possess the spirit of prayer, will it thus extend ; so that “we may often judge better of our state by the result than by the act of prayer."
The importance of such an extension of influence, or devotional consciousness of the Divine Presence, the Christian reader will be fully impressed with, if he observes what takes place at Evening Family Prayer, or even private devotion afterwards. Have you never then observed, that “we cannot, in retiring into our closets, change our natures as we do our clothes? The disposition we carry thither will be likely to remain with us. We have no right to expect that a new temper will meet us at the door. We can only hope or fear that the spirit we bring thither will be cherished. It is not easy, rather it is not possible, to graft genuine devotion on a life of an opposite tendency; nor can we delight ourselves regularly, for a few stated moments, in that God whom we have not been serving during the day. We may indeed, to quiet our conscience, take up the employment of prayer, but cannot take up the state of mind which will make the employment beneficial to ourselves, or acceptable to God, if all the previous day we have been careless of ourselves, and unmindful of our Maker. They will not pray differently from the rest of the world, who do not live differently."* On the other hand, the consistent Christian Parent, from the morning itself, looks forward to the hours of business and household care. His very supplications have an immediate reference to these hours, intending, whatever he does, “ to do all to the glory of God." He is not to be engaged in any pursuit, or even amusement, inconsistent with such an intention; and he is not going to any place of which he need be ashamed, when he comes to his knees in the evening. Remembering that “the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way,” he, as it were, clears this way before him as he goes; and thus, if in the morning, the devotions of the Family were set forth as incense, at the close of the day, the lifting up of their hands is as the evening sacrifice. Presenting themselves and their supplications before that altar which alone sanctifieth both the giver and the gift, in the name of Jesus they resign themselves to God. “ To Thee,” they say,
“ To Thee our evening homage paid,
And daily faults confess'd,
Resign our powers to rest.
Thus, in thy service, love, and fear,
Let all our days be past;
The advantages resulting from such morning and evening Family Devotion are incalculable. Here, however, I merely advert, for a moment, to its influencé upon Parental Government, and its vital connection with Res ligious Education.
* More's Practical Piety.
“Children,” says Dr. Dwight, “naturally regard a Parent with reverence; but they cannot fail to reverence a Parent, more or less, on account of his personal character. Wherever they have been accustomed to behold their Parent daily sustaining the office of a minister or servant of God, they necessarily associate with every idea which they form of his person and character, this solemn and important apprehension. Every image of this venerable relation presented to their minds, will include in it that of a divinely-appointed guardian of their spiritual concerns; a guide to their duty given them from above; a venerated and beloved intercessor for their salvation." An addition to Parental Authority, so efficacious, and of such inestimable value as this, it seems impossible to conceive.
Such Family Worship, too, as that to which we have referred, in all its parts, “is in truth a primary branch of Religious Education; as that education is a primary source of religion to mankind. Without Family Worship, Religious Education must always prove essentially defective ; and the instructions, the reproofs, and persuasives, be suspected at least, if not accounted, insincere."
Should, therefore, any Parent be remiss and irregular, or conduct such worship in a slovenly or irreverent manner, why should he, at other seasons, complain of the difficulty which he finds in governing, or reforming, or educating his Children? Is there not a cause ? Oh! instead of quieting himself with the idea, that they are so froward as to frustrate every effort, and discourage every hope, let him rather trace the whole to the absence of the divine favor and blessing, and this absence to his own misconduct ; let him rather take shame and confusion to himself, and let him tremble lest the Almighty visit upon his posterity, the threatened reward of his own unheeding negligence and folly.