CONCERNING FAMILY PRAYER.
THE very learned and pious Bishop Pearson took occasion very often and publicly to bless God that he was born and bred in a family in which God was worshipped daily. And certainly, it is a duty which entails very many blessings on posterity; for which reason a pastor should labour with all his might to introduce it into every family under his charge; at least, he should give neither himself nor his people any rest, till he has done all that lies in his power to effect so good a work; which if he does not do, this very intimation will one day rise up in judgment against him.
And in truth this duty is so reasonable and advantageous, that a man who will but set about it in good earnest, will find people less backward than at first he would imagine.
To acknowledge God to be the giver of all good gifts;--to put a man's self, his wife, his children, his servants, and all that belongs to him under God's protection;--to ask from Him, as from a father, whatever we want, and to thank Him for the favours we have received;--these are duties, which the reason of mankind closes with as soon as they are fairly proposed.
And then the advantages of family worship will be evident to the meanest capacities.
First, To begin and end the day with God will be the likeliest ways to make servants faithful, children dutiful, wives obedient and husbands sober, loving and careful; every one acting as in the sight of God.
Secondly, This will be a mighty check upon every one of the family, and will be a means of preventing much wickedness;--at least, people will sin with remorse (which is much better than with a seared conscience) when every one knows he must go upon his knees before he sleeps.
Thirdly, This is the way to entail piety upon the generations to come. When children and servants, coming to have families of their own, cannot be easy, till they fall into the same pious method which they have been long used to. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it; nor perhaps his children after him for many generations.
But if there are persons upon whom these motives make no impressions, let them know the evil consequences of neglecting this duty: --
That the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked.
Pour out Thine indignation, saith the prophet (that is, God will do so) upon the families that call not upon Thy Name.
Add to this, that ignorance, profaneness and a curse must of necessity be in that family where God is not owned; where, as one observes, not a creature but is taken care of, not a swine but shall be served twice a day, and God only is forgotten. I say he must be worse than a heathen, whom these considerations do not influence.
I know of no reason that can "be offered why every family in this diocese might not be brought to observe this duty, except this one; that very many cannot read and are too old to learn the prayers provided for them;" (though it would be well if all that can read did conscientiously discharge this duty!) Now, where this is indeed the case, I make no question but that, with half an hour's patience and pains, a pastor might bring the most ignorant person to observe this following method of orderly devotion:
First, Let him speak to his family and say, Let us confess our sins to God, saying,
Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take Thou vengeance of our sins: spare us, good Lord, spare Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
Then let him say to the family, Let us praise God for all His mercies, saying,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Then let him say to the family, Let us pray for God's blessing and protection, saying,
Our Father, which art in heaven, &c.
And then let him conclude the whole, saying,
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.
There is not one person but can say these prayers already, and only wants to be put into a method of saying them after this orderly manner; and I am sure the comfort and blessing of bringing all our people that cannot read to this, would be unspeakably great both to them and to ourselves; and for the love of God, let it be attempted in good earnest.