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as far as was consistent with a due regard to brevity and variety, to include in the daily devotional exercises of the family, whatever may be considered as most appropriate to personal and social prayer.
Although the volume is intended as a help to those who prefer the use of forms in family devotion, the Author cannot but embrace the opportunity which the publication of it affords, of saying something with a view to recommend the opposite practice. He is aware that the self-possession and ready command of thought and language which are requisite to render prayer without a form easy and edifying, are not enjoyed by all Christians in an equal degree. He would not, therefore, be supposed to urge upon all a practice which, some may be aware from experience, they cannot undertake with satisfaction and advantage. The whole he would entreat of Christians in general, is to make the attempt, and not to be deterred from some considerable perseverance in it, by difficulties at the outset. Few things are easy at first ; and however constrained and embarrassed the head of a family may be, in his early attempts to express devotional feeling in the presence of his household, he may be assured that his greatest difficulties are encountered in the first stages of the experiment. As in other matters, so also here, proficiency can be ex
pected only as the result of frequent essays and patient endeavours.
At no time, perhaps, is it proper to engage in a protracted act of social prayer, without some degree of self-recollection and premeditation. The beginner, therefore, will avail himself of the help of previous consideration, greater or less as he feels the necessity for it, of the topics on which he is to enlarge. As the reading of the scriptures is usually conjoined with prayer, the passage of Scripture which is to form the morning or evening lesson in the family, will furnish him with heads of illustration, by the judicious use of which, and of Scripture language and allusion in general, he will be enabled to give an agreeable variety to the character of the service, and be spared the necessity either of repeating the same petitions day after day, or of drawing upon his invention for new forms of expression, and original trains of devotional sentiment.
Other helps there are, of a less intellectual but of a still more availing character. Prayer in the family differs but by the trifling circumstances of publicity, from prayer in the closet: it is the same Great Being that is addressed ; the same sins that are deplored; the same wants that are confessed; the same mercy and grace that are sought. Let the master of a family, then, in calling his
household together, solemnize his mind by reflecting on the seriousness of the exercise in which he and they are to engage. Let him think of the Presence he is to invoke; let him meditate on the guardian energy, which in his own and in his family's behalf, he is to solicit : let him humble himself in the dust, by reflecting on his littleness, his dependence, his depravity. In the thought of God, of the Saviour, of the soul, of salvation, and of eternity with its boundless immensity of interests and of duration, let him lose sight of the trivial causes of ordinary distraction and embarrassment. By these means, and, above all, by humble entreaty for the Spirit of grace and of supplications, whose aid he has reason to know is as real, as a confiding belief in it is consolatory, he may reckon on attaining a state in which he can scarcely fail to approach the divine throne, and express his own and his family's thanksgivings, confessions and petitions, in an appropriate and edifying manner.
If it be asked, why urge prayer without a form, when by having recourse to forms, the principal objection in some minds to the exercise will be removed, the Author has also to say, that he cannot bring himself to think that a man is entitled to call in help to assist him in a duty, which a little pains will enable him to discharge for himself; and if a
farther reply be required, he has only to add, that of the two ways of performing the duty of family worship, the question, which is to be preferred, will scarcely be entertained but by those who have not made a fair trial of both.
It is possible this volume may fall into the hands of some who have not previously thought of the duty of family worship. To such persons he would say a very few words. If religion be a subject to be introduced at all into domestic intercourse, he does not see how the consequence can be avoided, that its introduction should be attended by the solemnities and sanctions of regular acts of devotion. Indeed, on the supposition stated, he does not see how these acts of devotion will not follow as a matter of course—as a natural expression of the feelings which a sense of religion, and any degree of serious converse on it, will spontaneously produce. A parent who wishes well to his offspring cannot but lead the conversation, from time to time, in the track of religion: he cannot but be impressed with the propriety of making religion a part of the education of his children; he cannot but feel that the best service he can render them is to make them wise towards God, and for eternity. Thus impressed, he must do violence, as well to the best affections of his nature, as to the convictions of con
science, and a prudential regard to the best means of accomplishing his object, if he stop short at instruction, and fail to commend the young under his charge, to the care and mercy of Him who alone can bless them effectually and eternally.
In the same way he must feel, with regard to the other members of his household. His servants and dependents look up to him in some measure, for the formation of their character, and the preservation of their principles; and to keep religion out of view in his intercourse with them, is to turn them over, so far as lies with him, to influences directly hostile to their best interests. In their case, indeed, the argument for family worship acquires a strength which it does not possess in the instance of those, whose nearer relation brings them into closer and more familiar contact with the head of the family ; since, if not summoned to take part in some specific and daily act of religious observance, they have no other opportunity, so far as their place in the family is concerned, of hearing any thing on the subject of religion.
The truth is, no one possessed of real religious principle will, after giving the subject the least consideration, be disposed long to hesitate, as to the course that ought to be pursued in relation to religious observances in the family. As the first im