You look for our annual epistle, hoping, that it will contain something which will direct you to secure present comfort, and to ripen for the heavenly glory. We hope you will not look in vain, nor be disappoint in your hope. In hope to promote your spiritual goal, Brethren, we call your attention to the duty of FAMILY WORSHIP.
We mean by this
[prosteticly] openly, and constantly acknowledging God in your houses, in acts of devotion. As for the scriptural author ity of this duty ye have not read, that we should write unto you. Search the scriptures, and you will find, that they testify of this Duty. Concerning Abraham, God testifies, Gen. 18:19. I know him, that he command his children and his house after him. And the result of this command is, that they would keep the way of the Lord &c. An evident indication, that Abraham openly acknowledged God in his family, and sought to train his family in the fear of God. Which training, being on religious principles, was an act of worship. The language of the venerable Joshua, remains a lasting memorial of family devotion. Josh. 24:15. "As for me and my house, one will serve the Lord." This godly man was not content with secretly believing in God, and worshiping him, but he would have his family, unite, as far as parental instruction and influence would go. Job's offering sacrifices for his children is another instance of a good man acknowledging God in his family. The offering of sacrifices, was the accustomed
way of worshiping God in those times, it was in fact a symbol of praying to God, and praising Him, through the propitiation.
The command in Prov. 22:6. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it, is in effect a precept for family worship, for no one can suppose, that parents and guardians would train up a child in the way he should go, who did not attempt religiously to cultivate his, and teach him by example that it is his duty to call on the name of the Lord We now call your attention to Jeremiah 10:25. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen, and the families, that call not on the name. It seems by this that family prayer is acceptable and well pleasing to God, while its neglect, exposes the prayerless families to his fury. It was while Cornelius, a devout man, that feared God, was praying in his house, at the ninth hour, ( the usual hour of publick prayer,) that he had a vision of a heavenly messenger. From Eph. 6:4. we may draw the same conclusion, as we did on Prov. 22:6.
Three times in a day, Did good Daniel pray in his house, with his face toward Jerusalem—
The exercise of family worship, Brethren, is important, as its scriptural authority seems sufficiently clear.
It is calculated to impress on the minds of children and other members of the family a sence of the authority of God; they early feel how the exercises of family worship, that there is a great Invisible, who has a right over them, and who claims there love, and services. It is calculated to bring, every day, a renewed impression of the fact, "thou God seest me". Family worship is important, for it is daily instruction of the truth and duties of religion. It is impossible, that the scriptures should be read daily,
and attentively, and collectively in families, that supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks should be made by the head of the family, without their directly imparting a vast fund of religious knowledge, or inciting to such enquiries, as shall lead to improvement in divine things. Indeed it is incalculable, the amount of religious knowledge, that may be the result, of fam. Wor. or the igno-rance that may be the fruits of its neglect.
The importance of family worship is manifest, in the influence, which it may in other respects, exert over the members of the family. He, who leads in this exercise habutually, will feel that watchfulness and circumspection become him, who is soon to be, with seriousness, the mouth of the family to God. On the younger members of the fam., it may have a salutary effect. Unwilling, as many of them are, for want of due consideration,
to retire and converse with God, fam. Wor. may lead themto respect the ordinance,
and produce in them habitual reverence for sacred things, and a taste for the habitual and orderly attendance on the more publick wor. of God. It will keep the joys of the fam. within due bounds, when the sum sun of prosperity shines. Being reminded at the seasons of fam. wor. that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from the Father of lights, they will not be elated with pride under the idea of superior wisdom and prudence in calculation. And if adversity should enter the dwelling to throw grief and melancholy around, fam. wor. will tend greatly to dispel the gloom, and introduce reconciliation and serenity. The value of fam. wor. will further appear, when we consider, that it is to the pub. worship of God, what a well kept nursery is to an orchard, it will furnish plants to flourish in the courts of our God. Those families, who are trained up under the influence of fam. wor. are the [things], which furnish the regular, and orderly attendants at the publick worship of God. They are generally the ones who feel its value, and will aid in sustaining it. Once more, fam. wor. is most efficient aid to family government, and of course to civil govern.; since the two are so connected, that whatever tends to strengthen the one, equally fortifies the other. Where is the well regulated family, where the stranger may see parental authority, religiously exercised, and in return receive the fear, the love, the obedience, the honnour due from the several members? it is the family, where fam. wor. is a sacred principle. And where is the well regulated civil community? It is the com. that has the most of such families.
But, Brethren, this subject so important, may become ineffectual for the object for which it was designed, unless due caution is had. We would therefore call your attention to some incidental remarks.
1th Be constant in this duty. Let it not be fluctuated and interrupted by the ever varying feelings, nor subject to the convinience of business. Worship God in your family from principle, and let it take priority of every other business. Say not to day,
lone I am lone in my feelings, must omit devotion in the family. This, brethren, is the very way, to have frequent recurrance of dull feelings. Nothing is a more effectual cure to religious declension, than prayer, accompanied with serious reading of the scriptures. When therefore, your are tempted to neglect this duty, for lack of that religious glow, and warmth of feelings, which you formerly have had; resolutely resolve to engage in it. Whether it be the season for family prayer, or praise, or for instructing your children, go forward, and you will find there the exercises best calculated to warm your feelings. Let not any hurry of worldly pursuits, visits of friends, or the frowns of persecution make any interuption in your fam. wor. [No, br.] be constant. No smiles of friends, nor frowns [apon] foes, could prevent Daniel from praying in house three times in a day.
2 It will greatly promote the usefulness of family wors. to conduct in such a manner as to interest the whole family. To this end let the scriptures be read in course, this will prevent the loss of time, as every [one] will know the portion that comes next.
Let the whole family read one by one this one this will fix the attention, and thus each will be employed, and not be an idle spectator. It is a right, brethren, upon which Angels must rejoice, to see a family receiving instruction from the word of the Lord. This will be a house indeed serving the Lord. Thus will the Godly pursuit be performing that duty which is recorded in Psal. 78:5-8.
To keep up the interest of the family be not tedious in the devotional exercises of the family. Let the portion of scriptures read be short, and do not weary out the patience of the family with a long formal prayer; remember that God is in heaven, and thou upon earth, therefor let thy words be few. Observe the occurrences of Providence, that are passing either in your own house, or around. you, that you may be furnished with, interesting variety in supplications, thanks givings + praise.
Let fam. wor. ever appear, brethren, to be an employment in which you delight. Let it not appear, that you are drove to it, in that case you will not have a blessing; but let it appear, that you are sweetly drawn to this duty, that you love it, and that you meet with great loss
wh were you deprived of it.
Habituate yourselves to think of those seasons as among your sweetest moments; Moments when you sat as in a heavenly place in Christ Jesus.
Again, Brn. give to this exercise the best portions of every day; that is attend to it when the mind is most fresh and vigorous. Give it priority to the main business of the day. Let not the family become scattered in the morning, before God has been ac- knowleged in readings + prayer -- In the evening, delay it not Brn. till the family becomes drowsey, and one half have retired, but secure the time when the duty may be attended to, in a manner most free from sleep. In this way Brn. you will be able to rise and shine; and every day you will manefest that your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. Oh, brethren let your light shine in this way. Be punctual, be fervent, be regular in family worship, and we are persuaded that your souls will receive the comfort, your family will be benefitted, the church strengthened, and the community at large, the gainers.