« AnteriorContinuar »
racteristic in the mind on which the Lord pronounces his first beatitude. To all who desire to enter into heaven after death, this state of mind is indispensably necessary. Without it, our eyes cannot see in its light, our lungs cannot breathe in its atmosphere, and our hearts cannot beat in unison and harmony with its innumerable and unspeakable delights. Spiritual and immortal concerns require and demand this state of mind. In no other state can these all-important concerns be attended to with advantage, or be realized by us. The mind given up to levity considers them with indifference, and not unfrequently with contempt and abhorrence. By such a man, prayer will of course be neglected and forgotten; but by him who knows that there is a heaven, and who desires that his portion and allotment may be there, the spirit of prayer will not be uncherished and forgotten; it will actuate his heart, conduct him to his closet, shut the door against selfish and worldly love and allurements, and cause him to fall prostrate in the dust of humiliation, before the source of all good and the Father of all mercies.
Private and family prayer is of eminent usefulness in enlightening the conscience, and in strengthening and vivifying the “remains ” of love and of goodness within us. The conscience is the plane* of all charity and faith, and the foundation of every thing spiritual and heavenly in the soul. It is of the utmost importance that the conscience should be formed aright; that it should be formed of the genuine truths of God's Holy Word, and that it should daily acquire strength against the assaults of evil spirits, and against the infusions and suggestions of their infernal malignity. Our conscience consists of the “ remains ” of goodness and truth in their actuality and power; it is the plane in which all the operations of infinite mercy for our salvation concentrate and exert their saving influence. The conscience is enlightened and quickened by correct, clear, and copious perceptions of divine truth from the Word; and it is confirmed and strengthened by prayer, and by habitual exercise in overcoming and rejecting all evil, as sin, from the soul. By prayer, its sensibilities are rendered more and more exquisite and sensitive to the slightest insinuations of evil; its eye becomes more acute in discriminating between the degrees of evil, and their opposition to heaven and its purities. As prayer is the great means, through the divine mercy, of quickening and invigorating the conscience, so the neglect of this Christian and heavenly duty, is one of the principal means of“ searing the conscience ;” that is, of blunting all its sensibilities to heavenly
• See Heavenly Doctrine. Art. “ Conscience.”
good, and of banishing all spiritual life from the soul. Much more might be said in respect to the eminent uses of private prayer in strengthening our feeble resolutions to a life of Christian virtue and holiness ; for all obedience springs, in the first place, from resolutions solemnly formed and deeply fixed in the soul. The stronger the resolution, the more certain, prompt, and vigorous the obedience. Sinful depravity lurking and rankling in the mind, or realized in act, is our ruin, our spiritual death; holiness, on the contrary, is our recovery, our eternal salvation. Voluntary obedience to the truth of God's Word, praying for divine help and strength, is the only way of holiness : “this is the way; walk ye in it.” Our elevation in the heavenly kingdom after death, will be precisely in the proportion that holiness has extended its influence and government within us. He who lives in the habitual neglect of private prayer, will feel his resolutions to live a life of christian obedience to the truth, extremely feeble, and easily shaken and subdued. The slightest temptation to fraud, theft, malice, hatred, revenge, envy, fornication, fretfulness, discontent, and the like, will be but feebly resisted and seldom overcome. If these temptations are not realized in the external act, it will not, in most cases, be from motives originating in the internal man, but from motives arising from external considerations, such as fearing the loss of reputation, property, liberty and life in the world. Sin is the great enemy to prayer, as well as to every other Christian duty; it is this “ which hinders our prayers” (1 Pet. 3, ver. 7). He who feels no disposition or delight in performing this duty, may be assured that something is wrong; and he should lose no time in marking the symptoms of the disease, and applying to the great Physician of his soul. A hungry man might as well be expected to abstain from food as the sincere Christian from prayer.
But if private prayer is thus eminently useful to individuals, it must be equally so to the household and the family. A family is a society in its least form; heaven, the great household of God, is a family, a society in its largest form. We learn from the writings of the New Church that things are the same in their least as in their greatest form ; thus an angelic society is an image of the universal heaven, and a single angel an image of the society of which he is a member, and all, both individually and collectively, are images of the Lord, who is the all in all of his kingdom. This sublime and heavenly knowledge plainly shews us the wisdom of the Creator in arranging the human race into families, which are thus intended, by the divine mercy and providence, to become so many Christian and angelic
societies upon earth. Conjugial love, or marriage grounded on genuine religious principles, and guided and influenced by the holy truths of Christianity, is the great means, in the hands of the Divine Husband of the church, of realizing this most desirable and delightful state upon earth. The parent is the proper person, under the instruction and guidance of the Divine Parent, to implant the seeds of every thing good and heavenly in the minds of his children. He is constituted, by divine authority, a “ priest,” as well as a “ king,” in his own family. If he neglects this duty, he violates one of the greatest duties of his being, and casts off the high and honourable prerogative of being the most legitimate and the most proper spiritual instructor and trainer of his children for heaven, with which the divine wisdom and authority have invested him. If he neglects this duty, the supreme and most important link in the golden chain of love, by which the families of the human race are principally conjoined to the Divine Parent of all, is snapped asunder. If the parent neglects this duty, the duty of implanting the seeds of spiritual life in the minds of his children, it can, but with considerable difficulty, be accomplished by others. Others, indeed, may implant the seeds of worldly knowledge, and train the child to become an inhabitant of the world; but they have not the parental affection, authority, and influence by which they can so effectually implant the seeds of heavenly life, and train the child for angelic society in heaven. No priest, no minister, is regarded with so much respect and veneration as a wise and exemplary father ; and no congregation is so tenderly beloved as a wife, children, and faithful domestics. This little and delightful assembly are united together by ties most endearing and peculiar. They look up to their parents for support and protection; their inmost souls are open to receive their words, their wishes, their admonitions, and their precepts. Here is no concealment, no disguise, no bypocrisy. Here no private selfish interests exist, but mutual sympathies of every kind, and of every endearing appellation. They are accustomed to rejoice and grieve, to hope and fear, to weep and smile together. Who that bears the name of a man and a father can be indifferent here? Who that is awakened to a proper sense of his duty can neglect these golden opportunities, and refuse to implant, by family instruction and prayer, the seeds of truth and the germs of every thing heavenly and happy? We know from the doctrines of the New Church that the human form is the perfection of forms,--that it is the FORM of God (see Philip. chap. 2, ver. 6), and that every society, in proportion to its unity, harmony, and perfection, tends to assume the analogy of that
form; on which account the apostle says, when describing the mutual sympathies and harmonies of a Christian society, “ Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” Now this state of sympathy and harmony is more fully exhibited in the family circle than in any other circumstances whatever.
But family prayer eminently tends to promote domestic order, comfort, and happiness. Every father of a family knows how desirable it is to have order and regularity established in his household. He knows how impossible it is for comfort and happiness to exist without them. But how can order and regularity be established on any secure and permanent basis, unless we begin with him who is order and regularity itself? If it be known as a fixed principle of domestic arrangements and order, that the regular reading of a certain portion of Scripture, concluded by family prayer, commences at seven or eight o'clock every morning, and if this practice be adhered to, it will be found to introduce, almost uniformly, order and regularity throughout every transaction of the day, as well as to accompany the performance of every duty with a promptitude peculiarly desirable and important. A sphere of order and solemnity will surround every other duty, and guard the mind against levity, and against the suggestions of influences pernicious and wicked. Every member of the New Church is instructed that the devout reading of the Word opens heaven to the mind; and when heaven is opened the divine influences will necessarily descend; and wherever they descend, blessings will assuredly descend also, and protect and defend us against many curses which would otherwise break in and rob us of our comfort and peace.
The parental influence and government are also greatly strengthened by the regular habit of family prayer. The parental character, when wise and good, is venerable at all times; but it never appears with so much veneration and dignity as when it assumes the office of a priest in the family circle. By the regular performance of this Christian duty, the children see that their parents are sincere in their professions, and that their great object is to realize the life of heaven in the soul. This practice must necessarily invest the parental character with a power and authority that are almost irresistible in the training of their children to religion and virtue, and in the suppressing and correcting of the evil propensities of their hereditary nature, so soon as they become active and manifest: not to mention the influence which this instructive and edifying practice exercises over servants
cted wills of all us but .800d,
and domestics, who should always be considered as belonging to the family circle, and whose instruction and salvation are thereby promoted and secured.
I will conclude this paper by mentioning only one more of the eminent uses of family prayer and worship, which I will select from many others which might be named. By the regular practice of family prayer the children are prepared, in the best manner in which probably they can be prepared, for the public worship of the Lord. Here children learn from the lips and example of those whom they venerate and love that religion is a momentous reality ; that in the practice of its precepts the happiness of all mankind is involved ; that we have nothing really true, good, excellent, amiable, and happy within us or without us but what springs from a religious principle. Every blessing of all the earthly good and comfort we enjoy is here connected with its only author, the Divine Giver of “every good and perfect gift.” Gratitude and love are here directed to their proper OBJECT; and the mind is accustomed to live in habitual reverence of his great and holy name. Heaven is intellectually opened, by a wonderful variety of most valuable knowledge, to the members of the New Church. It remains with them, by putting the knowledge of the ge. nuine doctrines of God's holy Word into life and practice, to have heaven actually opened for their admission and happiness. In the family circle the minds of children are prepared to consider heaven and hell as all-important realities. Thus religion and all its duties wear a solemnity and importance not otherwise attainable; and the members of the family circle go from the house to the church with the most profitable views and impressions, concerning the ordinances and uses of the sabbath and of the public worship of the Lord.
Earnestly would I recommend that all the committees of our different institutions which have been established for the promotion of the Lord's church upon earth, should commence their deliberations with prayer to the Lord for counsel and guidance. The spirit of prayer would subdue the impetuousness, which our natural mind is too apt to bring from its transactions with the world, into the assembly of those who professedly meet together for the purpose of promoting the reign of truth and peace upon earth.
Lastly, I would observe, and with sincere gratitude I make the observation, that one of our ministers has provided us with an excellent manual* of devotion and prayer, which contains every “Help” that can be reasonably required for the performance of these most
* A Help to Family and Private Devotion, by the Rev. W. Mason.