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as loving next only to the temple and the temple-worship? It would even seem, that, when driven out, or far separated, from his tabernacle or his temple, the pious Jew could not forget those devoted hours. Looking in that direction, his language then was “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
however, other considerations than these, which might be adduced, for enforcing the important duty of prayer or worship, in the morning and evening of every day, not only in the chamber, but in the family. “Stated and regular seasons are indispensable to the effectual performance of all business. Method, proverbially styled the soul of business, cannot exist without such seasons.
Irregularity, which is the prevention or the ruin of all valuable efforts, grows of course out of irregular distributions of time. That which is done at accidental seasons only, is not done at all; but no duty demands regularity and method more than prayer. There is in all men naturally a strong indisposition to pray. Stated seasons, therefore, returning at regular periods, are peculiarly necessary to preserve this duty in its full vigour. He who prays at such seasons,
remember this duty; will form his schemes of life so as to provide the proper place for performing it; will be reproached by his conscience for neglecting it; will keep alive the spirit of prayer from one season to another, so as to render the practice delightful; and will be preserved, uninterruptedly, in the practice, by the strong influence of habit. He who prays at accidental seasons only, or then in form attends to this exer
cise, will first neglect, and finally desist from such a practice.”
“ Now, the morning and evening are seasons peculiarly fitted for the regular returns of prayer. They occur at intervals perfectly convenient; terminate successively our sleep and our labour ; are seasons necessarily distinguished ; remind us of all that for which we should pray; and are effectual means of establishing in us immoveable habits of devotion. They involve every thing, therefore, which can be either asked or wished for this interesting purpose."
“As these are seasons eminently advantageous for secret prayer, so they are almost the only possible seasons for the united devotion of families. Then, and then only, are all the members customarily present; then the family business is either not begun or ended, and all are at leisure to employ themselves in the worship of God. Strangers, then, do not intrude, and in this manner prevent the performance of the duty. Every thing, therefore, concurs at these seasons to promote and establish the method, and regularity, and habit, which, necessarily always, are indispensable where numbers are concerned.”*
IV. The profitable Performance of Family Worship. This interesting exercise is generally admitted to include-Praise--the perusal of the Sacred Scriptures and Prayer.
1. Family Praise.—Unquestionably this is one of the most delightful ways of “shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength,
and his wonderful works that he hath done." To
branches of the household it conveys an evident proof, that the hearts of their parents are touched, and that to them praise is pleasant; and long after they are cold in the dust, the recollection of these hallowed moments may, and, in most instances, will return with peculiar and most salutary effect. For what signifies all our talk, whether to Children or Servants, if we discover not at such stated intervals, that our interest in divine things has furnished to us ground for thanksgiving, and the voice of melody? And since the fury of the Almighty is in reserve, for the Families that call not upon
his name, how or where is God “ daily to be praised," if the voice of rejoicing and salvation is not to be heard in the tabernacles of the righteous ? No, this is an appropriate, an incumbent, and a comely exercise ; and often has it most powerfully commanded the willing admiration of only an occasional visitant. When the Children are all seated, according to their age; when every
Servant knows at once, and fills the appropriate place at Family Worship, and the Book of God is opened; how is it, that, before the Parent begins, the eye of the Mother, or of the Christian friend, turns so involuntarily round the room? Is it not because Family order, which is always an interesting and pleasing sight, is now about to shew itself in one of its most endearing aspects ? Besides, when it is remembered, alas, alas! that the most affectionate and interesting Family must sooner or later be broken up, in the very songs of such Families, there are touches which must affect the tenderest strings of the human heart. Hear, for example, while they celebrate the
praises of their only certain dwelling-place-Hear their grave sweet melody going over such lines as
“ Thou, Lord, through ev'ry changing scene,
The nature and spirit, as well as the performance of social praise, might be farther explained; but as the writer has attempted an illustration of each of these, at some length, elsewhere, he need not at present enlarge.*
2. Perusal of the Sacred Volume. This most interesting and important branch of domestic religion, if attended to with becoming solemnity, as the voice of God, cannot fail to acquaint the whole family, in a greater or less degree, with the general contents and main design of divine revelation; as, without such daily perusal of some portion, I may truly assert, not
See the Preface to an arranged Selection of Hymns, adapted for Divine Worship; third edition, 1823.
only that some of the inmates, whether Children or Servants, may and will remain grossly ignorant, but the Family, as such, will be found extremely confused and superficial, and, consequently, at variance in their ideas respecting divine truth. Here, however, I require to remind Parents, as the conductors of Family Worship, of the all-important distinction between the Scriptures, as a book, and all other volumes whatever. Other volumes might be read aloud, with some benefit to your Families, in many
frames of mind, and some in almost any; while, in regard to the Inspired Writings, every thing depends upon the dispositions in which you generally open and read them. There are, in the Family, unprofitable readers, and there may be even in the pulpit; but whereever these exist, the baneful consequence must follow: there are to be found also unprofitable hearers, or mere lookers-on; and these too, observe, as a consequence of the dispositions of the reader. The meekest of men could not be permitted to go over Jordan into Canaan, because he once “ spake unadvisedly with his lips.” What then will become of the Parent, and what impression can he expect to produce, who reads unadvisedly, and thus reads the words of Him who gave us existence, and who is graciously unfolding those eternal truths, according to which the final and everlasting state of the reader, and his hearers, is to be unchangeably determined ?
One essential disposition, therefore, on the part of a Parent, when opening this book daily, is that of reverence. Holy men of God spake these words as they were moved by the Holy Spirit ; how necessary then must it be that we should read them as