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THAT Family prayer is an indispensable duty and an important means of religion, are points which are here taken for granted. If this work should fall into the hands of any who need to be convinced of either, they are referred to the many excellent discourses which have been published upon the subject; particularly MR. HENRY'S Church in the House ; DR. DODDRIDGE's Address to the Master of a Family ; MR. JOB ORTON'S and DR. STENNETT's Discourses on Family Worship.
Among the many cxcuses commonly urged for the omission of this duty (which in the above publications are fully answered) one of the most frequent is, the want of ability or courage to pray in the presence of others. This plca is the most effectually obviated by the use of Forms ; the lawfulness and expediency of which, I shall not here attempt to prove. It has been admitted by the best of our divines, several of whom have published Forms of devotion for the use of families. If any should think it better not to worship God in their
houses at all, than to adopt precomposed prayers, they are not to be reasoned with.
The absurdity of such a pretence, the reader may see exposed in Dr. Watts's Recommendatory Preface to MR. Bourne's Christian's Family Prayer-Book.
Very far am I from discouraging the use of ertemporary prayer : it has undoubtedly some advantages peculiar to itself; and I have known many private Christians possessed of such a talent for it as exceeded the best forms which have ever been composed. But some serious persons' are destitute of all ability of this kind. And it must be confessed, that others who can and do pray extempore, would better promote the edification of their families, if they were, occasionally at least, to adopt some good printed compositions.
It is a happiness that we have so many volumes of Family-prayers, both by Churchmen and Dissenters, suited to the different tastes and sentiments of different persons. There is yet, however, room for more, as variety is pleasing and edifying. There seemed particularly to be a want of further assistance for Protestant Dissenters of an evangelical cast ; several of whom have expressed a wish for a publication of this kind, and encouraged me to attempt it. I thought that I could not better answer their end, than by collecting together a number of the excellent forms which had been published, in different volumes, by some of their most favourite writers.
· Mr. Willison, of Scotland, are inserted at the par
ticular request of a pious Lady, who greatly encouraged this publication.*
It may be proper to apprize the reader what liberties have been taken with these composures. Several of them being too prolix are abridged. Sentences which were too long are divided ; the construction of others rendered more easy; and some transposed. The phraseology is altered where it was uncouth, and a few words and sentences are in some places inserted, particularly to adapt the prayers to the case of families; several of them not being originally intended for family-prayers, particularly those taken from Doddridge's Rise and Progress, in some of which the introductions also are entirely new.
As most of these prayers may be thought too long for some families, and for others when the time is short, there are crotchets inserted to denote what passages may be left out without injuring the connexion. For the sake of variety the reader may occasionally adopt these passages, and mark others to be omitted.
Almost all the occasional prayers are new compositions, which are adapted to the most common occurrences, and may easily be altered as circumstances vary t. In all, great attention has been paid
* The late Mrs. Thornton, of Clapham.
+ In this fifth edition two new ones are added. 193.
See page 192,
to plainness and simplicity, both of thought and expression.
On the whole, it is hoped this publication will be acceptable to such as esteem the writings of those ministers from whose works it is compiled ; and it is particularly recommended to young Christians, and to families which have only a female head.
That the God of all grace may bless it as the means of promoting the much-neglected business of family religion, is the ardent prayer of the Editor.
Hackney, June 25, 1783.
** An Abridgement of Mr. MAY's Family Prayer-Book has since been published by the Editor of this, and may be conveniently bound up with it.