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really is so. If, therefore, nature itself is supposed in Scripture to teach me so much, assuredly the renewed - nature is there also supposed to teach me much more.
These observations may enable the reader to account for the fact, that the world had gone on for many ages, and been favored too with no small portion of divine revelation, without prayer, in any form, having been once enjoined or instituted as a duty, whether in the closet, the family, or the church: a division, by the way, which, though proper enough for the sake of illustration, is but of comparatively modern date. No; from the beginning the piety of the heart led men to take up this subject in the only way which was natural, and proper, and safe; from the beginning such men had always prayed and worshipped, and that thousands of years before Paul had said to Timothy—“I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
The very first injunction in Scripture, therefore, respecting such a moral duty, was likely to occur not in the way of positive institution, as something which then only had begun to be incumbent, and then only to be begun, and much less something which was before unknown. Accordingly, it turns out, that the “first injunction respecting prayer, in the Volume of Inspiration, the terms of which regard it, as in any sense generally obligatory, does not occur until the world was at least three thousand years old, and the Jewish church about eight hundred.* Perhaps the passage which might be styled the second, does not occur till at least two hundred years later.t”
At the same time, the manner, the seasons, the spirit, the constancy, the universality of prayer, as the attendant of piety, I find scattered over the whole volume, from the earliest times. Nay, it is not a little remarkable, that the
* Psalm cxxii. 6.
+ Jeremiah xxix. 7.
very first passage in which prayer is recorded, happens to be the supplication of a Parent--the fervent wish of a Father for his Son;" and the very next presents this same Parent before us, interceding with peculiar earnestness for the vilest of men.
To return, however; let it be observed, that the human family, being of God's own creation and institution, it owes him, on this account, corresponding acknowledgment and worship. All his works, in all places of his dominion, are therefore called upon to praise him. All things which have been made by him, were made for him; and if this was the end he had in view, when nature itself was framed, it was especially the end with regard to man, in his individual, and relative, and social capacity. If this is true as to nature in all its branches, it is still more so of the system as a whole: if it is true of the individual, it is still more so of the systems or constitutions which he has framed: if true of the man as a solitary being, still more so of the Family: if true as to the Christian, still more so of the Church.
With regard to a Family, in particular, it is more especially bound to own its dependence and subjection to its Divine author, because it is the foundation or first cause of all society, whether moral, political or religious. Hence Abraham obtained the testimony of God's highest approbation : hence, long before the Mosaic economy. was in existence, there were sacrifices peculiar to families, as already noticed, when the Father acted as the administrator. Thus, Job offered burnt-offerings for himself and for his children, and Jacob for his. This is particularly worthy of remark, since, though we have no intimation whatever on the subject, there must have been a revelation here from God; for though the duty rises necessarily
* Gen. xvii. 18.
† Gen. xviii. 24.
out of the Constitution itself, the form of it must have been regulated by his will. For the office and duty of a priest, or an offerer of family sacrifices, neither Job nor Jacob had their warrant from the light or law of nature. Such an office depended on institution; and this institution proves to demonstration the early and peculiar regard of God for the family of human beings. Nor did even the Mosaic economy altogether abolish a practice, which stood on far more ancient grounds. So the family of Jesse had a year-, ly sacrifice, that is, a free-will offering and sacred feast, when the various branches all assembled, even in mature life, to acknowledge a source from whence they had derived such blessings.* Granting that, in this instance, the whole were pretended, no such pretence would have been sustained, had such things not been customary, to a certain extent, although not so frequent as in the patriarchal age, or before the appointment of the tribe of Levi to act as priests.
Independently, however, of all this evidence with any rational Christian Parent, I may confirm and establish his mind on much higher ground than even that which these pointed examples afford. To such a Parent I might say _“Without hesitation, you will admit that your obligations to your family are to be measured and on the day of final account, by your capacity--as a Man by your natural, as a Christian by your spiritual capacity ? And however you may feel conscious of falling short daily, that you are under obligation to honor God to the utmost limit of this capacity? You will also allow that, standing where you do, you are not now, like a solitary orphan without relatives, to be regarded only as a single individual ? God himself, your Creator, your Saviour, and your Judge, regards you as the head of a family, and there
* 1 Samuel xx. 6.
fore, in possession of a sacred trust, you have the care of souls. Now, if you really do measure obligation by capacity, then will you also at once allow, that you must do what you can, that He may, from your Family, have as much honor as possible.
Without hesitation you will also allow that God daily preserves you? And does he not also preserve your Family? But if he preserves, he has a right of property in each and all under your roof. Shall He not, therefore, have from you acknowledgment of this? If daily he preserves, shall he not be daily acknowledged? And if acknowledged at all, how ought he to be so, if not upon your knees ? And how can they know this, if they do not hear it?
Without hesitation you will also allow that you are a social as well as a reasonable being ? And often have you, therefore, felt how much the soothing influence of their sweet society has sustained you under cares, and trials, and grief itself. O! surely then, as a social being, you owe to them social worship; nor should you ever forget, that, in ancient days, there was social worship here before it could be anywhere else. Nay, even after the gates of Zion were known, next to them, Jehovah continued to love the dwellings of Jacob. And why? Because, though less public, they furnished the nearest resemblance to those gates; and his regard for the Church is magnified by its rising above that of the Family. The love of God is represented as being greater in degree; it was therefore on the same account.
To some minds, the obligation to Family Worship will receive additional support, from reference to the connection in which prayer is enforced. But before noticing this, it may be remarked, that between all the relative duties incumbent on man,
there is not only a powerful and natural connection, but the performance of one such
duty often only lays the foundation for the performance of others, or naturally leads to them as incumbent. The division of the Sacred Writings into chapters and verses, useful only for reference, has not only obscured this connection, but, in the course of ages, it has created a number of false associations, as well as prevented many from feeling, as they ought, the indissoluble obligations under which they are laid. This connection is indeed apparent, and often striking, even as the Scriptures are generally printed; but, owing to the divisions referred to, it requires to be much more frequently pointed out.*
Thus, after the relative duties of Parent and Child, of Servant and Master, are mentioned by Paul in his Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, and by Peter in his
* There are few subjects which a public expositor should be more solicitous that his hearers should comprehend, than that of the connection of divine truth, or the manner in which it is introduced to the notice, or enforced on the conscience, of the reader; and it is one which has become far more binding on us, whether ministers or hearers, owing to the universal use of Bibles, divided by fallible men into chapters and verses—"a singular destiny to which no other book has ever been subjected! In all other works, the index, or concordance, or subordinate matter, is fashioned so as to be subordinate to the original work; but in the Bible alone, the text and substance of the work is disfigured, in order to be adapted to the concordance that belongs to it! (a book, by the way, which many a reader never saw), and hence the notion of its being perused has been too often sacrificed to that of its being referred to. In consequence of this division, too, the Bible is to the eye, upon opening it, rather a book of reference than a book of perusal and study; and it is to be feared that this circumstance makes it more frequently used merely as such. At least it is far too often referred to sor verifying a quotation merely; and then, without observing the preceding or following context, which stands as so much independent matter, it is shut or returned to the shelf. Now, what book can be fundamentally understood if consulted only in this manner ?"* Indeed, of all the ordeals through which any work ever passed, I know not one which, in itself, is more
* See the Introduction to Reeve's Bible.