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“ hear; thy command I hasten to obey.” Such was the meaning of his words, and of his practice. For he does not delay, or hesitate : “ THEN Jacob faid 6 unto his household, and to all that were with him, " put away the strange gods that are among you, and “ be clean, and change your garments; and let us 6 arise, and go up to Bethel.” From hence we may
observe also, · Fourthly, That holy preparations become the fol
emn service of God. They aregenerally deemed neces
viously alone; to fix their attention ; to impress their minds; to implore the divine, assistance and blessing, But have hearers no need of this ? Are they to engage in the worship of God, entirely regardless of the nature, the importance, and the influence of divine institutions ? To omissions of this kind it is owing, that ordinances in our day are become as unprofitable as they are common. : If before you came together, you retired, and endeavoured to obtain an abstraction of mind; if by reflection you procured a seriousness of frame, so friendly to devotion ; if by examining yourselves, you discovered what finful prejudice, or passion, was likely to render you partial hearers ; if you formed a resolution to lay yourselves open to the influence of the word, and to rectify whatever appeared to be wrong; if you remembered that you are accountable even for your attendance, and that the word you hear will judge you in the last day; if you came with eager desire and earnest expectation, founded on the promise of God, that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him ; and above all, with prayer, knowing that
« neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that wa6 tereth, but God who giveth the increase;" were you thus to enter on the service of the sanctuary ; I ask, would there not be a natural tendency in all this to render the means of grace impressive and efficacious, and is not this the only authorized way in which you can hope for the divine bleffing ? Rafh entering upon duty is rarely profitable. God may meet with us unawares, but where has he promised to do it ? " Draw 6 nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” « Keep «ç thy foot when thou goest to the house of God.” « Offer not the sacrifice of fools.” “ Take heed how 66 ye hear.” ” Wherefore lay apart all filthiness, and 6 fuperfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness as the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." Thefe are the commands of God, and they regulate our hope, as well as our practice. And in this man. ner our good old forefathers worshipped ; then public services were not fo multiplied as to abridge, if not exclude the duties of the family and the closet; then hearing the word was not rendered an entertainment fo customary, common, and trifling; with them divine worship was an awful thing; they prepared for one duty, by another; and like wife performers, they tu
Fifthly, There may be wickedness in a religious family. We find a strange gods" even in Jacob's household. We may view iniquity in fuch a situation two ways. First, as a good man's affliction; and a
ness in his house, but it is worse to have sin, the plague and pestilence of the foul. How, fays he, can I bear to
see the destruction of my kindred ! Secondly, as a good man's fault. Could we see things as God does, and be able to trace back effects to their causes, we should foon perceive the source of the disorders and wicked. ness which prevail in many houses. Masters of families! have you ruled well the charge which God has given you ? Have you behaved towards your servants, as remembering you have a master in heaven? Have you shewn them a kind and a pious attention ? Have you had your children in subjection ? Have you trained them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Have you instructed them only in particular dogmas, or impregnated them with the spirit of christianity; and endeavoured to render its duties lovely and practicable? Have you not provoked them to wrath, till they are discouraged? Or has not your indulgence become connivance, so that you have resembled Eli, whose “ fons made themselves vile, and he restrained them 6 not?” or David, “ who had never displeased Adoni6 jah at any time in saying, why hast thou done so ?” Have you maintained order; or lived in a confusion favourable to every evil work? Has daily devotion been seriously performed ? Have you enforced all by your own walk and conversation? Have you set no evil thing before your eyes ? While you have preached meekness in words, have you not recommended passion by example? While you have taught them humility by precept, have you not enforced pride by practice? And are you surprised to find irregularities in your family? Wonder if you please, but wonder at your own folly in seeking by the wayside to “ gather “ grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.” Complain if
you please, but complain of yourselves.'· Are you so unreasonable as to expect to “ reap where you have “ not sown, and to gather where you have not straw. « ed ?”.
Again, we remark that our religious concern should not be confined to ourselves only; we are to engage our families to accompany us in the exercises of devotion. Thus Jacob would not go alone, but calls upon his household, and all that are with him ; each must prepare, and each must attend. And of Abraham, says God, “ I know him that he will warn his children .“ and his HOUSEHOLD after him, and they shall keep 1.46 the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, " that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which « he hath fpoken of him.” In the same 'disposition was Joshua, who said, “ às for me and my HOUSE, we “ will serve the Lord.” We may add the centurion; 6 he feared God, with all his house.” In your own families you possess an authority and an influence; "a 6 father has honour, a master fear.” Servants and children naturally obey. This authority and influence you are to employ for religious, as well as civil purposes ; and to vary the exercise of them according to the condition of those who are in family connection with you; using command with some, persuasion with others, means with all. As the head of a family, 'you are to mind the souls of those who are under your care, as well as their bodies. They are not designed to live here only, or principally; they are hastening into eternity. And you are not to live here always; you will foon be called “ to give an account of your steward.. « ship,” and you will be judged, not only as an indi, vidual; but as the owner of an HOUSEHOLD: after the man has been tried, the master will be summoned; O that you may “ give up your account with joy, and “ not with grief.” Even here you have the advantage of domestic religion ; 6 the voice of salvation and of 66 rejoicing is in the tabernacles of the righteous ;” such households only are safe and happy. How pleafing is it to see all the members of a family worshipping God together daily in their own houfe ! How lovely to observe them coming forth in the morning of the fabbath, all going to the house of God in company! Ministers are encouraged, while they see in such households the nurseries of their churches, and address with pleasure a hopeful assembly, formed by the union of a number of amiable, orderly, serious families. But they are pained to see you disjoined, and coming in alone; the father without the fon, and the mother without the daughter. Shall I intimate here the propriety not only of your engaging your families in religious duties, but of taking them along with you, as far as circumstances will allow, to the same place of worship? Thus you will be certain of their attendance, by their being under your eye; while they will be preserved from that fastidiousness and vagrancy of mind, so much cherished by loose and various hearing.
Once more we may observe, that deliverance claims service; that prayer answered is to become praise. Jacob resolves to distinguish himself for God, who had appeared so wonderfully for him; and to make the place of mercy, the place of duty: “ there will I make “ an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of 6 my distress, and was with me in the way which I