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his children were about him, in his own house, and under his immediate care? In this view, the example comes with additional force.
We have also the example of David, 2 Samuel, vi. The king had brought the ark of God and set it in its place, had blessed the people in the name of the Lord, and distributed among them his royal bounty. And when these things were done, all the people departed, every max to his house; then Da. vid returned to bless his household to bless them, as he had before blessed the people. To bless another in the name of the Lord, is to pray for a blessing upon him. Thus Aaron and his sons are directed to bless the people, saying, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee, and make his face to shine upon thee. David's blessing his household, must then mean his praying for the blessing of God to attend. them. And that this was an act of social worship, at which his family were present, is evident from the circumstance of his returning to bless them. Had it been only a secret prayer for them, it might as well have been made elsewhere, as at home.
Our blessed Saviour, whose life was filled up with religious services, often took his disciples apart for prayer, and other acts of worship. We read of his going up with them into a mountain to pray; and of his being alone praying, and his disci ples with him. He was alone in relation to the multitude, whom he had just before dismissed; but in the company of his disciples, who were his family. They were with him, while he prayed.
You remember the high commendation given of the centurion Cornelius, in the xth chapter of the Acts. He was a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house-ond prayed to God alway; or daily, at the stated hours of prayer, which were morning and evening. Can it be thought that this devout Gentile had no prayers in his house? Or,
'That the attendance of his domesticks, at the hours of prayer, was not required?-How then could he be said to pray alway, and to fear God with all his house? The happy consequence of his family devotion, you well know. God heard his prayers, directed him, in a vision, to send for Peter, who, at the same time, was divinely instructed to go with the centurion's messengers, and tell him words, by which he and all his house should be saved. The Apostle went and preached to them. They believed, were baptized and received the Holy Ghost. Salvation, you see, came to his house, in consequence of that devout spirit, by which he worshipped God, gave alms, and prayed alway.
In the apostolick times, frequent mention is made of churches in particular houses. To such an one and the church in his house, is a common salutation. On the other hand, we meet with salutations, from such an one and the church in his house. This phrase cannot import, that all the Christians, in such a city or place, assembled in that house for worship; for then the salutation to, or from, such a person and the church in his house, would be a salutation to, or from, all the Christians in that city where the house was; and the Apostle would not be so particular, as he usually is, in mentioning salutations to, and from, families and persons, in the same city. The meaning therefore must be, Salute such an one, and his Christian family. Now, In what sense is a family called a church? A church, you know, is a society of Christians united for the worship of God. A family then can in no other sense be called a church, than as the members of it agree in acts of social worship, and thus form the resemblance of a church. Family worship, you see, was practised by the primitive Christians, and approved by the Apostles. Surely we need not more examples.
Do you call for express precepts ?-our text is one. Pray always with all prayer. The word always, applied to prayer, is an allusion to the morning and evening sacrifice, which was called, the continual sacrifice, and therefore plainly directs us to morning and evening prayer; as I shall have occasion to shew under the next head. And all prayer must include family prayer. Indeed if no such thing as family worship had ever been known, and the Apostle had been about to introduce a kind of worship entirely new, he would probably have been more explicit. But as it was then, and long had been known and practised in religious families; had been a usage among the patriarchs and the Jews, and was continued among Christians, it must necessarily be included in this universal injunction.
The Lord's prayer is an express command for daily family prayer. It is introduced in the form of a precept. After this manner pray ye. That social prayer is intended, cannot be doubted, for the form runs wholly in the plural number. In the preceding verses, our Lord gives directions for solitary prayer. In treating of this, he uses the singu lar number. When thou prayest enter into thy closet, shut thy door, and pray to thy Father in secret. He then passes to social prayer, and, as his subject naturally led him, he changes the number. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions-after this manner pray ye, Our Father who art in heaven. Not only the change of number, but the disallowance of repetitions and much speaking, shews that social prayer is the subject; for these, though improper in joint prayer, for very obvious reasons, may be admitted in solitary prayer, where we may breathe the feelings of the heart with less regard to order, time or diction, than when we are speaking in behalf of others. Our saviour continued all night in solitary prayer. He prayed three times,
saying the same words. I would observe farther: This form is intended to direct us in daily, as well as social prayer; as appears from the fourth petition, Give us this day, our daily bread. Family prayer must here be principally intended; for a family is the only society that can meet for daily prayer.
You will also find an express command in the ivth chapter of the epistle to the Colossians. The Apostle is here, and in the preceding chapter, treating of domestick and relative duties, as the duties between husbands and wives, parents and, children, masters and servants; and to these he immediately subjoins a precept concerning prayer. Continue instant in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. As the duties incumbent on families are his subject, it is natural to suppose that family prayer is here intended.
I shall mention but one authority more, which is that of the Apostle Peter in the iiid chapter of his 1st Epistle. He there in the first place points out to wives their duty to their husbands, such as obedience, chastity, modesty and peaceableness. He next shews the duty of husbands to their wives, as dwelling with them, giving them honour, and treating them with kindness. In a word, he directs them to regard each other, as being heirs together of the grace of life. And the general reason which he assigns, is this, that their prayers be not hindered. You will here observe, that the necessity of a suitable performance of the duty of prayer, is made an argument for other domestic duties. An argument used to prove the obligation, or urge the practice of any duty, is always supposed to be more plain, if possible, than the duty recommended. When therefore the Apostle, from the danger of the interruption of their prayers, urges the wife to be subject to her husband, and him to give honour to
her, he supposes it to be more obvious, that they should live together in social prayer, than that she should be obedient to him, or that he should give honour to her.
I will only remark farther, that in this passage the Apostle considers joint prayer as incumbent on small families, such as consist only of the husband and wife. He urges a suitable treatment of each other in the conjugal relation, that their prayers may not be interrupted. Let this be considered by those, who have newly entered into a family
I have the more largely stated the arguments for this duty, because some have pretended, that there is no warrant for it in the word of God. Such insinuations are as groundless, as they are dangerous. The very persons who make them, will, under certain circumstances, shew that they do not believe them. If they should hear of some officer in the church, or of some Christian professor, who neglected family worship, they would not fail to censure and reproach him. But, Is this a duty incumbent only on certain characters? In a time of family distress, they will desire that prayer may be made in their houses. But, Are they dependent on God only when they are sick, or when one lies dead by their wall? Live under a sense of your continual dependence, and you will pray always with all prayer.
Let heads of families stand within their houses, as priests of God, offering the sacrifice of prayer and praise continually. Let the younger members give a serious attendance, realizing the divine presence, and approaching it with godly fear. Let your houses become as churches of God; and the churches will become more glorious. Let them be the places, where prayer is wont to be made, where God's word is read, and where suitable in