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morning and evening for your family worship, so that you may not be unfit for it, or disturbed and straitened in it; herein wisdom is profitable to direct. Address yourselves to it with reverence and seriousness, and a solemn pause ; that those who join with you may see and say, that God is with you of a truth, and may be struck thereby into a like holy awe. You need not be long in the service, but you ought to be lively in it; not slothful in this business, because it is the business for God and your souls, but “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
4. Let those who have a church in their house be very careful to adorn and beautify it in their conversation. If you pray in your families, and read the Scriptures, and sing psalms, and yet are passionate and froward with your relations, quarrelsome and contentious with your neighbours, unjust and deceitful in your dealings, intemperate and given to tippling, or allow yourselves in any other sinful way, you pull down with one hand what you build up with the other. will be an abomination to God, and to good men too, if they be thus polluted. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.”
See that you be universal in your religion, that it may appear that you are sincere in it.
Show that you believe a reality in it, by acting always under the commanding power and influence of it. Be not Christians upon your knees, and Jews in your shops. While you seem saints in your devotions, prove not yourselves sinners in your conversations. Having begun the day in the fear of God, be in that fear all the day long. Let the example you set your families be throughout good, and by it teach them not only to read and pray, for that is but half their work, but by it teach them to be meek and humble, sober and temperate, loving and peaceable, just and honest ; so shall you adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour ; and those who will not be won by the word, shall be won by your conversation. Your family worship is an honour to you, see to it that neither you nor yours be in any thing a disgrace to it.
5. Let those who are setting out in the world set up a church in their house at first, and not defer it. Plead not youth and bashfulness; if you have confidence enough to rule a family, I hope you have confidence enough to pray with a fainily. Say not, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built,” as they did who “dwelt in their ceiled houses,” while God's house lay waste, Hag. i. 2, 4. It ought to be built immediately; and the longer you put it off, the more difficulty there will be in the doing of it, and the more danger that it will never be done.
Now you are beginning the world, as you call it, is it not your wisdom as well as duty to begin with God ? Can you begin better ? or can you expect to prosper if you do not begin thus ? The fuller your heads are of care about setting up house, and setting up shop, and settling in both, the more need you have of daily prayer, that by it you may cast your care on God, and fetch in wisdom and direction from on high.
6. In all your removals be sure you take the “church in your house” along with you. Abraham often removed his tent, but wherever he pitehed it, there the first thing he did was to build an altar. It is observable concerning Aquila and Priscilla, of whose pious fainily my text speaks, that when St. Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans they were at Rome ; for he sends salutations to them thither, and there it is said they had a church in their house, Rom. xvi. 5. But now, when he wrote this epistle to the Corinthians, they were at Ephesus, for thence it should seem this epistle bore date, and here he sends salutations from them; and at Ephesus also they had a church in their house. As wherever we go ourselves we must take our religion with us; so wherever we take our families, or part of them, we must take our family religion with us ; for in all places we need divine protection, and experience divine goodness. “I will therefore that men pray every where.”
When you are in your city-houses, let not the business
of them crowd out your family religion ; nor let the diversions of your country-houses indispose your minds to these serious exercises. That care and that pleasure are unseasonable and inordinate which leave you not both heart and time to attend the service of the church in your house.
Let me here be an advocate also for those families whose masters are often absent from them, for their health or pleasure, especially on the Lord's day, or long absent upon business. And let me beg these absent masters to consider with whom they leave those few sheep in the wilderness, 1 Sam. xvii. 28, and whether they do not leave them neglected and exposed. Perhaps there is not a just cause for your absence so much, nor can you give a good answer to that question, “ What dost thou here, Elijah ?" But if there be a just cause, you ought to take care that the church in your house be not neglected when you are abroad, but that the work be done when you are not at home to do it.
7. Let inferior relatives help to promote religion in the families where they are. If family worship be not kept up in the houses where you live, let so much the more be done in your closets for Gød and your souls: if it be, yet think not that will excuse you from secret worship. All is little enough to keep up the life of religion in your hearts, and help you forward toward heaven.
Let the children of praying parents, and the servants of praying masters, account it a great privilege to live in houses that have churches in them, and be careful to improve that privilege. Be you also ready to every good work; make the religious exercises of your family easy and pleasant to those who perform them, by showing yourselves forward to attend on them, and careful to attend to them; for your backwardness and carelessness will be their greatest discouragement. Let your lives also be a credit to good education, and make it appear to all with whom you converse, that you are every way the better for living in religious families.
8. Let solitary people, who are not engaged in families,
have churches in their chambers, churches in their closets. When every man repaired the wall of Jerusalem over against his own house, we read of one that repaired over against his chamber, Neh. iii. 30. Those who live alone, out of the way of family worship, ought to take so much the more time for their secret worship, and, if possible, add the more solemnity to it. You have not families to read the Scriptures to, read them so much the more to yourselves. You have not children and servants to catechise, nor parents or masters to be catechised by; catechise yourselves then, that you may hold fast the form of sound words which you have received. “Exhort one another;" so we read it, Heb. iii. 13, TrapakalELTE EAUTOUS—exhort yourselves, so it might as well be read. You are not made keepers of the vineyards, and therefore the greater is your shame if your own vineyard you do not keep. When you are alone, yet you are not alone, for the Father is with you, observe what you do, and to own and accept you if you do well.
9. Let those who are to choose a settlement consult the welfare of their souls in the choice. If a church in the house be so necessary, so comfortable, then be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers, who will have no inclination for the church in the house, nor assist in the support of it, but instead of building this house, pluck it down with their hands, Prov. xiv. 1. Let apprenticeships and other services be chosen by this rule, that “that is best for us which is best for our souls;" and therefore it is our interest to go with those, and be with those, with whom God is, Zech viïi. 23. When Lot was to choose a habitation he was determined therein purely by secular advantages, Gen. xiii. 11, 13, and God justly corrected his sensual choice, for he never had a quiet day in the Sodom he chose till he was fired out of it. The Jewish writer's tell of one of their devout rabbins, who being courted to dwell in a place which was otherwise well accommodated, but had no synagogue near, he utterly refused to accept the invitation, and gave that text for his reason, Ps. cxix. 72, “The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.”
10. Let religious families keep up friendship and fellowship with each other, and as they have opportunity assist one another in doing good. The communion of churches has always been accounted their beauty, strength, and comfort, and so is the communion of these domestic churches. We find here, and in other of St. Paul's epistles, kind salutations sent to and froin the houses that had churches in them. Religious families should greet one another, visit one another, love one another, pray for one another, and, as becomes households of faith, do all the good they can one to another; forasmuch as they all meet daily at the same throne of grace, and hope to meet shortly at the same throne of glory, to be no more, as they are now, divided in Jacob, and scattered in Israel.
Lastly, let those houses that have churches in them, flourishing churches, have comfort in them. Is religion in the power of it uppermost in your houses ? And are you and yours serving the Lord, serving him daily? Go on and prosper, for the Lord is with you while you be with him. See your houses under the protection and blessing of heaven, and be assured that all things shall work together for good
Make it to appear by your holy cheerfulness that you find God a good master, Wisdom's ways pleasantness, and her paths peace; and that you see no reason to envy those who spend their days in carnal mirth, for you are acquainted with better pleasures than any they can pretend to.
Are your houses on earth God's houses ? Are they dedicated to him, and employed for him ? Be of good comfort, his house in heaven shall be yours shortly: “In my
Father's house are many mansio".s;” and there is one, you may be sure, for each of you, who thus “by a patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality.