The James Begg Society

The James Begg Society

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[Part 4 of 4.]

The following is an excerpt from the Rev Thomas Halyburton’s treatise, The Great Concern of Salvation . It is published by the James Begg Society as Volume 2 of the Works of Thomas Halyburton.

The treatise is comprised of a series of sermons and is divided into three parts. The first part is entitled ‘A Discovery of Man's Natural State; or, The Guilty Sinner Convicted'. The second part is ‘Man’s Recovery by Faith in Christ; or, The Convicted Sinner’s Case and Cure’. The third part (from which this excerpt comes) is ‘The Christian’s Duty, with respect to both Personal and Family Religion’.

This third part is a sermon on Joshua 24:15. In the sermon, Halyburton first provides a detailed study of the verse and then derives three doctrines from it, which he then discusses each in turn:

(1.) ‘Such as engage in the service of God, ought to do it deliberately, resolutely, and willingly.’

(2.) ‘True religion begins at home;’ or, ‘A man must be himself a servant of God, before he can engage others aright.’

(3.) ‘Where a man is himself engaged in the Lord’s service, he will endeavour to have his family engaged also.’

This excerpt below contains only the initial study.

This articles was included in our Email Newsletter No.5, 1st November 2006.

The detailed study of the verse was included in Email Newsletter No.2. Halyburton's discussion of the first point listed above was included in Email Newsletter No.3. His discussion of the second point was included in Email Newsletter No.4. The excerpt herein contains Halyburton’s discussion on the third point.

And if it seem evil unto you, to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood; or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ — Josh. 24:15.

Having thus finished the second doctrine, I now proceed to

DOCTRINE III. — ‘Such as are sincerely religious themselves, will take care that their families, and all whom they can have any influence upon, be so too.’ Or shortly thus: ‘Such as are sincere will be really careful to maintain family religion: But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’

Which shows us, 1st. That God requires household religion, even that we and our houses serve the Lord. Now, what is not required, or commanded, cannot be service done to the Lord. 2nd. That we, and our houses or families, should join in, or perform jointly, some part of service to the Lord. 3rd. That a master of a family is called to take care of, and may engage some way for his house or family their serving the Lord.

Now, in the further prosecuting of this point, we shall show you,

Firstly , Wherein family religion lies.

Secondly , Whence it is, that such as are sincere are so much concerned about it, as we here find Joshua, and others of the saints in scripture.

Firstly, Now, we begin with the first, and shall only here observe that family religion consists of three parts, or is comprehensive of the three following particulars:

1. Family instruction. 2. Family worship. 3. Family government, or order. And about these it is that a religious master will be concerned; and he that is not in some measure carefully exercised in these three, there is reason to fear he has no religion. Now, we shall a little open these three unto you.


1. We say, that family instruction is that which such as are sincerely religious will be careful of.

Assuredly there will be nothing that will lie nearer the heart of a conscientious master of a family, next to the salvation of his own soul, than the salvation of his family, his children, and servants; and one part of his care will undoubtedly discover itself this way, in a deep concern to have them accurately instructed in the knowledge of their duty toward God, their neighbour, and themselves; and, in a word, the whole of that knowledge, which is necessary, in order to their walk with God here, and their enjoyment of God hereafter. And this part of family religion we find the Lord very punctual and express in commanding, Deut. 6:6-9 , ‘And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.’ In which observe, 1st. Personal religion enjoined: ‘They shall be in thine heart.’ 2nd. Domestic religion: ‘Thou shalt teach them diligently.’ Here also we have a plain account of this first part of family religion, and a clear command for it; we see who they are about whose instruction we are to concern ourselves; it is our children, and those who are in our house, that is children and servants; for under the notion of children, servants are frequently comprehended, as particularly in the fifth command. There it is agreed by all, that under that of parent and child, all relations, and particularly master and servant, are comprehended. We see also the manner how this duty is to be managed, and that is diligently. And this is yet more particularly opened, as to the way and seasons wherein we are to evidence our diligence and special care of the instruction of those under our charge.

Now, two ways we ought to manage this piece of family religion: 1st. By precept; 2nd. By our walk. We ought to teach them diligently both ways; we ought to inculcate and carefully press upon them the knowledge of the Lord; and what we thus teach them by word, we ought strongly to enforce by a suitable walk. Parents and masters should be in case to say to their children and servants, with Gideon in another case, ‘Look on me, and do likewise,’ Judg. 7:17 ; and with the apostle, Phil. 3:17 , ‘Be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample.’ Then are children and servants like to be won over to a compliance with the will of the Lord in his word, when it is not only clearly held forth to them in word, but when also it is pointed forth in a lively and speaking example. If the Spirit of God gives us ground, as it does, 1 Pet. 3:1 , to believe that a holy and shining conversation, without the word, may prove effectual towards the winning over of unbelievers toward the embracement of religion, what may we expect, if the word and such teaching be joined together! Surely we might think to see somewhat else than what is to be seen at this day. And O how hard will many find it to answer for their defects here, in that day when they shall stand at the bar of God! Nay, would to God we might not say, for their direct counteracting duty, in both these respects, while instead of instructing them in the fear of the Lord, by example and precept, they run them forward, to a course of sin by both! O prodigious villainy! And yet common among men, among Christians!

2. Family worship is comprised under family religion, as a principal part of it;

every family should be a little church unto the Lord: and so we find mention made of the church of God in houses, or of families being churches unto the Lord, ‘Greet (or salute) the church that is in thine house,’ Rom. 16:5 and elsewhere ; and, past all doubt, every family ought to be a church, wherein God should be solemnly worshipped, both on ordinary and extraordinary occasions; so Job’s house was, Job 1:5.

Now, of this family worship, the more ordinary parts are three:

1st. Solemn invocation of the name of God by prayer. Our Lord teaches us to join together in prayer, by putting the persons praying in the plural number in the Lord’s prayer, ‘ Our Father which art in heaven.’ Again, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Our dependence upon God, not only in our single capacities, but as we are members of families, requires suitable acknowledgements of the Lord; and our want of family mercies requires our joining in craving them by prayer from the Lord. Our guilt of family sin requires family-acknowledgements, and applications for pardon; and therefore assuredly families, whether greater, as nations, or lesser, which call not upon the name of God, shall have the Lord’s fury poured out upon them, Jer. 10:25 , ‘Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and on the families that call not on thy name.’ Where, by families, we are to understand all families, whether greater or lesser; for surely if nations, in their national capacity, be called to worship the Lord, and call upon his name, so also lesser families are; and for their neglect, are liable to the same vengeance.

2nd. Solemn reading of the word belongs to family worship. What can be more plain to this purpose, than the command we have formerly quoted from Deut. 6:6 ; and this we are to do, that the ‘word of the Lord may dwell in us richly, in all wisdom,’ Col. 3:16.

3rd. Solemn praises are also required, as a part of family worship, and undoubtedly as family sins and wants call for family prayer, so family mercies require family praises, and bring us under the apostle’s injunction, in that forecited, Col. 3:16 , ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’

3. It remains that we open the third and last branch of family religion, viz. family government, and this lies in several particulars:

1st. In commanding the family, children and servants, to walk in all the ways of obedience. This is that which the Lord so highly praises in Abraham, Gen. 18:19 , ‘I know him, saith the Lord, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,’ &c.

2nd. In obliging, by reproof, admonition, and correction, such as are in the family, to abandon anything sinful and scandalous in their practice, Gen. 35:2,3 ‘Then Jacob said 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 arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.’ Here we have an eminent example, both of family worship, and family order; and indeed, as to the deportment, I mean, as to the outward man, and what is to be seen of servants and children, we see from the fourth command[ment], that parents and masters of families are accountable for it to the Lord, who has not only enjoined them to keep the Sabbath-day, but to take care that all within their doors do.

3rd. This lies in expelling such out of the family as do, notwithstanding the use of these means for their reformation, persist in walking contrary to God. ‘I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.’ Here is the spring. See what follows: ‘He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me; he that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house; he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight,’ Psa. 101:2,6,7. Here we see a lively character of one that has a true regard to the maintenance of family religion. How rare are such instances in our day!

But leaving this, we shall proceed.

Secondly, The next thing we proposed, was to show whence it is that such as are sincerely religious themselves will be careful to maintain family religion.

We might indeed, for the proof of this truth, have mentioned and illustrated the eminent examples of pious care about family religion, recorded in scripture; but what we are to allege under this head will supersede that, and will sufficiently prove the doctrine, and show, that there is an indissoluble tie betwixt sincerity and a regard to this.

1. Then, persons who are themselves sincerely religious, will be careful to maintain family religion, because they have a regard to all God’s commands. The authority of the Lord, wherever it is stamped, binds them to a compliance. Sincerity has for its inseparable companion, a respect to all God’s commands: ‘Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all thy commands,’ Psa. 119:6. And from this respect to the command it is that a care about family religion flows; for undoubtedly it is a part of commanded duty. We are here told, it is a piece of service to the Lord; and what is commanded is only so. What he never required, that he will never own as service done to him; but what has been alleged from the word of God, under the former head, puts this beyond dispute.

2. This regard to the maintenance of family religion, flows from the very nature of that supernatural principle wherewith all that are truly sincere are endued, which in scripture is called, the new heart, a heart of flesh, a new creature, a new spirit, &c. This principle being suited and framed to an universal compliance with the Lord’s will, aims at this in all things. They who have it are said to be ‘created in Christ Jesus to good works,’ Eph. 2:10. And particularly, as the old heart would be in all respects independent of the Lord, so, on the other hand, this new heart is strongly bent to acknowledge its dependence on the Lord, in the ways of his own appointment, in all its ways, in all stations and relations wherein it is put: and hence, as it leads to own the Lord in our single capacity, so it leads also, if we are possessed of it, to do so in our family-capacity; and, in a word, as it leads us to worship and serve the Lord ourselves, so it powerfully influences to lay out ourselves to have all others to serve the same Lord, more especially such as we may have influence upon, our children and servants.

3. Such as are sincere have an entire love to the Lord, and hence a delight in all ordinances, private as well as public, and secret, wherein any measure of communion with the Lord may be reached. ‘Lord,’ says David, ‘I have loved the habitation of thy house, the place where thine honour dwelleth,’ Psa. 26:8. The Lord’s honour dwelleth in all his ordinances, and in every place where he records his name; that is, in every ordinance: there he meets with his people, and there he blesseth them. And indeed by family religion the Lord is signally honoured; for thereby we, 1st. Acknowledge, that we hold our families of the Lord, that it is to him we owe them, and say by our practice what worthy Jacob said, Gen. 32:10 , ‘O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.’ Again, 2nd. We hereby own our families, and all that we are, to be still in the hand of the Lord, and at his sovereign disposal; while all the advantages and mercies we want, and would have or enjoy, and could wish continued with us, we apply to him for them by prayer; and all the evils we would have removed or prevented, we likewise look to him for their removal and prevention, acknowledging him the Author of all our mercies, in the continual ascriptions of praises to him. In this way we acknowledge plainly, that of him, and through him, are all things, in whose hand is the breath, and all the concernments of every living thing; who kills and makes alive, wounds and heals, makes rich and poor. And, in a word, hereby we own him the uncontrollable Lord of all: ‘The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh, and blessed be the name of the Lord. He doth what pleaseth him; and who may say to him, What doest thou?’ 3rd. These acknowledgements honour God, in that they are public, whereby God’s glory is manifested to others, and they instructed, and excited by example unto the like acknowledgements. Assuredly, therefore, they who love the place where God’s honour dwells, and that which contributes toward its manifestation, as all sincere souls do, will not dare to neglect this family religion, whereby it is so signally furthered.

4. Such as are sincerely religious will be careful to maintain family religion, because they have a sincere love to those in their house. They love their neighbour as themselves; and no way can love manifest itself more than in a due care for their salvation, leading to the use of all those means whereby this is promoted. Memorable to this purpose are the Lord’s words concerning Abraham, Gen. 18:19 , ‘For I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.’ Here we have a double connection, very remarkable: 1st. A connection betwixt family religion, a due care of it, and its success. He will command, and they shall keep the way of the Lord; he will take due care, and his care shall not be in vain: ‘Train up a child in the way wherein he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Ordinarily an universal care this way is not altogether without some influence upon some in the family; and if we save one child, one servant by it, is not this a rich reward for all the attendance we can give to it? 2nd. There is a connection betwixt the success and the promised blessings: ‘They shall keep the way of the Lord, and the Lord will bring on Abraham, and his seed, all the good things that he has spoken.’ So here we see of how great consequence it is to those in our families; it is the way to make them religious, and that is the way to make them happy.

5. Such as are sincere will be careful to maintain family religion, from the conscience of the charge they have of them. Masters and parents have the charge of their families, and are in some measure accountable to God for them. Parents are commanded to train up their children, and masters to command their household to keep the way of the Lord, as we see in the Lord’s testimony of Abraham. Thus we see, in the fourth command[ment], the master of the family is obliged to see to the religious observance of the Sabbath by all within his house, and so he has a charge for which he is accountable to the great God; and therefore a sincere person looks on himself as bound to be careful to maintain the worship of God in his family, and amongst those whom he has the charge of. This made holy Job concerned to sacrifice for his children; and the neglect of paternal duty in Eli provoked the Lord’s displeasure.

6. The care of persons who are sincerely religious to maintain family religion, flows from the force of their solemn engagements and vows to the Lord in their baptism, which are again renewed upon offering their children to the Lord in that ordinance. Hear they are solemnly and deeply sworn to be the Lord’s, and to walk with God, in and before their families, to instruct them by example and precept. And this surely cannot be performed where family religion is not taken care of in all its parts. How terrible will it be to parents and masters of families, when their children and servants, from generation to generation, shall accuse them as faulty, and the cause of their want of family religion! Indeed, say they, we never worshipped God in our families; Why? We never saw the worship of God in our father’s or master’s families. How terrible will this be, when God shall say, Is it so? Hast thou damned thy child, thy servant? Is this the performance of the solemn vows which thou tookest on before so many witnesses? How confounded wilt thou then look? Other things to this purpose we may have occasion to touch at afterwards.

From what has been said, it is plain,

1. That all who are sincere will undoubtedly be careful to maintain family religion.

2. Whence it is so. It is from the force of all these ties we have mentioned, and others of the like nature, we may afterwards have occasion to mention. We shall now make some practical improvement of this point.


Use 1. For information.

We may draw from it the few following inferences, amongst many. Is it so, that such as are sincerely religious themselves, will be conscientiously careful about family religion?


1. We have undoubtedly reason to suspect their religion who are triflers in this matter. Since a suitable concern about our own salvation, and the means leading thereto, leads to a due concern about the souls of our families, no doubt, when we see persons trifle here, it gives us ground to be jealous, that they are not under a due concern about their own souls. Now, of triflers in this sort, who seem all to fall under that heavy curse that is pronounced, Jer. 48:10 , against such as do the work of the Lord negligently, there are three sorts:

1st. Such as do the work of the Lord by parts. They will, it may be, read a chapter, but never a word of praying, or of singing praises to the Lord in their families; though there is full as much ground for the one as for the other, from the command of God, and from our own necessities. The reading of the word is not like to turn to any great or good account to us, if we join not prayer for the Lord’s Spirit, to cause us understand what we read. And he well understood this, who spent so great a part of that long psalm in praying for light, Psa. 119:18 : ‘Open mine eyes, that I may see wonders out of thy law,’ is a petition that should go along with reading of the word. And indeed praises ought not to be forgot, and praise will be ever looked on as comely for the upright: ‘It is a good thing to give thanks to the name of the Lord;’ and the true way it is to obtain much of him. Memorable, above many, are the words of the Psalmist to this purpose, ‘Let the people praise thee: O God, let all the people praise thee.’There is the exhortation: well, what follows on it? The ensuing verse tells: ‘Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our God, shall bless us,’ Psa. 67:5,6. All the duties of religion, whether domestic, or public, or secret, have a mutual subservience to one another, as well as a tendency to promote the design of all, and therefore one cannot be taken away, without a manifest injury done to the rest, and done to the very design. Such who deal thus are undoubtedly triflers, and are to be accounted contemners of the Lord’s authority; for assuredly, if it were regard to the Lord’s command that made them careful of one part, the same regard and deference to the Lord’s command would make them perform all the other parts. If we cut and carve, take and leave, as we see meet, in those things which are equally established by the Lord, we do the work of the Lord deceitfully; and ‘cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully.’


2nd. Such are to be accounted triflers as do seldom worship God in their families: it may be, on the Sabbath night they will read or sing, or so, but no more till the next Sabbath. They who confine all their religion to the Sabbath, I dare say they never kept the Sabbath duly. No doubt, we ought to worship God in our families daily, we ought to confess our sins, cry to him for a gracious supply of all our wants, and to praise him for his mercy towards us. surely, when we are bid ‘Pray always with all prayer,’ Eph. 6:18 , this is at least to be understood that we ought to be frequently employed in this sort of prayer, as well as any other. No less can be meant also, where we are bid, 1 Thess. 5:17 , ‘Pray without ceasing.’ Undoubtedly, therefore, triflers they are, who do frequently neglect, who, upon every trifling occasion, will baulk family religion, while there is every day both a clear call to it, and fair occasion for it. The Lord’s mercies are new every morning, and so are both our sins and our wants, and therefore so ought our applications to God. ‘It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises to thy name, O Most High: to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,’ Psa. 92:1,2.

3rd. Such are triflers, as notwithstanding the clear command we have to be ‘fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,’ do yet, with a cold indifference, and even as they were asleep, manage this work. Is this to serve the Lord with all our strength, with all our heart and soul, as we are commanded? Nay, sure it is not. Let such take heed who thus offer to the Lord a carcase, a form, who please themselves with the mere performance of the duties, without considering how they are performed; let such, I say, look with trembling and astonishment to that word of the prophet, ‘Cursed be the deceiver, that hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing,’ Mal. 1:14.

2. We may draw this inference from it, that such as do entirely neglect family religion are undoubtedly strangers to sincerity. Think on this, ye who to this day never bowed a knee to God in your families: undoubtedly, ye are under a mistake as to your case; and, be your thoughts of yourselves what they will, God looks on you as persons void of all religion.


1st. Is not family religion a duty? Sure it is; all the Lord’s people, in all generations, have thought so; the Lord has approven them in it. Abraham, as we have heard, was highly commended for this. It is one of the noted evidences, Job 1:5 , of the piety of Job, of whom God did in a manner glory. It is plainly enjoined in the fourth command[ment], as judicious [James] Durham solidly clears. But what need I say more? It is so clear, that nobody denies it who has any sense of religion; and even they who neglect it must own it a duty.


2nd. Is not, then, your neglect of it a sin against light, that is, a sin of deeper than ordinary dye, a blacker hue, and consequently to be more severely punished by the holy and jealous God? ‘He that knows his master’s will, and does it not, is to be beaten with many stripes.’

3rd. Is it a sin you are only once guilty of in your life? Nay, but it is a sin ye are every day guilty of.

4th. And is it consistent with anything of the reality of religion, to live in the constant and habitual neglect of any duty, or the commission of any known sin? Nay, surely it is not; for the Lord is plain with us in this matter: ‘He that committeth sin (that is, who lives in a course of sin), is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God,’ 1 John 3:8,9. Vain, therefore, are all your pretences to anything of the reality of religion, who live in the neglect of family religion.

3. We may from this doctrine learn, whence it is that there is such a sad neglect of family religion this day. It is from a want of sincere personal religion. Few there are who are themselves under a due concern about their own souls; and hence it is that there are so few careful about the souls of their families. Now, that this flows from a defect of personal religion, is plain beyond contradiction, if we consider,

1st. That where there is that sincerity that will not make ashamed, there undoubtedly is to be found a regard and an equal respect to all God’s commands: ‘Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all thy commands, Psa. 119:6.


2nd. Experience shows, that they who are negligent in this matter, are also careless about their own souls. Look to it, ye who neglect family religion; I fear ye are not careful about personal religion. He that will easily baulk and neglect family prayer, will be as ready to neglect secret prayer. This is well known in experience.

3rd. The very excuses that they make use of for this neglect speak the want of a heart to it; for surely, when people are kept from a thing by frivolous and trifling difficulties, it is a sign they have no great mind to it.

Objection 1. Say some, We cannot pray, we never were taught to pray.

I answer, (1.) If thou meanest that thou canst not do it as thou ought, very true; neither canst thou do any duty: wilt thou therefore give over all? (2.) Didst thou ever try it? Did ye ever sit down with your family, and make a mint at it? What knowest thou, but it might have fallen out to thee, as to the man with the withered hand? If thou hadst made a fair trial to pray, thou perhaps mightest have got strength thou didst never expect. It is want of will and inclination, not of strength and ability, that hinders. (3.) Did ye ever cry to God to teach you? Did ye ever, with the disciples, cry, Master, or Lord, teach us to pray? If not, surely it is want of will that keeps you from duty. Ye have no mind to it. (4.) Can ye do anything? Yes, will ye say, we can work at our ordinary employments. Well, but could ye do this at first? Did ye not come to a skill in these things, after many fainter essays, and pains taken to learn? No doubt ye did. Even so ye must learn to pray. (5.) Have ye any sense of family sins, family mercies, or family wants? If ye have, sure I am, what we are sensible of, ye can speak. Can ye tell your neighbour? and may ye not also tell these things to God?


Objection 2. Say ye, When we come before God, we must speak well, and when we come before the great King, we must have words in good order; and now I cannot order my words aright.

Answer: (1.) It is not words that God seeks. Many a time he has rejected good words, for want of a correspondent frame of heart, Deut. 5:29 ; but he never rejected a prayer, because it was not right worded. (2.) I say, If thy words express the real sentiments of thy heart, and thou be upon the matter right, God will pass by many indecencies and failings in thy words; so he did with Job: Job had many harsh expressions concerning God, both to him, and of him; and yet, because he was upon the matter right, he passes by these failings, while he reproves his three friends: ‘Ye have not spoken of me the things that are right, as my servant Job,’ Job 42:7 . (3.) In prayer, we address God as a Father, and we know parents will not quarrel their children in nonage [under age], though they lisp and speak after their own way; nor will God be worse than our parents in this respect. (4.) Utterance is God’s gift, and therefore would ye have it? To the Lord ye must look for it. (5.) As far as thou understandest thy needs, or the Lord’s mercies, and art affected with them, in so far ye will still find words to express your concern; and if any man teach you to speak beyond your understanding and concern, he teaches you to mock God. But, (6.) If this hold, it strikes as well against secret prayer, as family prayer, and so we must quit all prayer.

Objection 3. But say ye, Ah! I cannot get confidence.

Answer: (1.) Will this excuse bear you out at God’s hand? Dare ye make it to him? No, I am sure, ye dare not. (2.) Whether will it require greater confidence to pray before your family, or to stand at the bar of God, and before angels and men, and tell ye had never confidence to pray in your families? (3.) This is horrible pride; ye think ye cannot pray, so as to gain repute; and because ye cannot gain your end, cursed self, therefore ye rob God of his glory. (4.) Whether is it that thou canst not get confidence to pray before men, or before God? If thou sayest thou canst not get confidence to pray to God, then ye should not pray in secret either, nor yet in public. If thou sayest, it is before men that thou art ashamed, then is not this horrible impiety, to so more influenced by a foolish regard to man, than by a regard to God? If thou hast confidence to appear before God, thou mayest easily appear before men. Place but thyself under the eye of God, and set thyself to prayer, and then all thoughts of men will quickly be gone.

Objection 4. But say some, We cannot get time.

Answer: (1.) For what has God given thee time? Was it not to serve him, to save thine own soul, and the souls of thy family? (2.) Whereon spendest thou thy time? On thy business or family wilt thou answer? Well, if so, this is the compendious, shortest, and surest way to carry all forward. It is the way to get God with you, then ye will be prosperous. Finally, (3.) It is not true, for there is none of you all, but idle away, either upon no business, or worse than none, more than this would require. Now this much for the third inference.

4. We may from our doctrine draw this inference. That ministers have not the only charge, or all the care and charge of the souls of the people; masters of families and parents have also a charge. And think on it, God will require at your hands the blood of your children, and of your servants, if they perish through your negligence. Now, that ye have the charge, and are answerable to God for children and servants, is past all contradiction. For, 1st. Parents and masters of families have a considerable interest with servants and children. Children and servants pay somewhat of reverence and respect unto their parents and masters, and allow them some interest in their affection. Now, all this interest with them should be improved toward their salvation, and their engagement in God’s service. 2nd. Not only have ye an influence upon them this way, but ye have a power of commanding them; and this should be improved likewise toward their engagement in the Lord’s way. 3rd. Ye have frequent opportunities of conversing with them, and ye are accountable for the improvement of these towards their good; God expressly requiring your care as to the improvement of these, Deut.6:6,7. Finally, 4th. Parents have a charge directly given to them; it is enjoined, ‘that they train up their children in the way of the Lord;’ and to them it is that the Lord enjoins the forming of the tender years of their posterity. God has placed his testimonies amongst us; and we are all, according to our respective stations and opportunities, obliged to propagate both the knowledge and the practice of them: ‘He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children,’ Psa. 78:5,6.

Use 2. Of lamentation.

This doctrine may be improven for lamentation. Is it so, that such as are themselves sincerely religious, will be conscientiously careful to maintain family religion? Then surely we have reason to lament the woeful neglect of this duty, and of a due regard unto it in the day wherein we live. That this is either entirely neglected, or lamentably trifled over by the generality of parents and masters of families in our days, is, alas! too, too evident. For,

1. Their horrid and abounding ignorance of God speaks it out. Were parents conscientiously careful to train up their children from their tender years, in the knowledge of God, as they are commanded: were they speaking to them of the things of God, when they sit in their houses, when they walk in the fields, when they lie down and rise up; and were these beginnings cultivated by masters of families, when they get them home to be servants, surely there would not be so much ignorance of God this day in the land as there is. Again,

2. The abounding impiety that there is in the land, speaks few Abrahams to be in it, who will command their children and their servants to walk in the ways of the Lord. Magistrates are no doubt faulty, and ministers too; but the rise of all is, the negligence of parents and masters of families; and at their hand will the Lord require it.

3. The impiety of young ones, in particular, speaks this aloud. O how sadly doth it speak the wickedness of parents, when their children do lisp out oaths as soon as they begin to speak, when children talk obscenely as soon as they begin to converse; it tells us, their parents have not done, and do not their part.

4. Finally, It is what cannot be denied, it is what ye must confess, because there are too many witnesses of its truth, even as many children, as many servants, as many sojourners, as there are in many of your families, as many witnesses there are against most of you, that ye either perfectly trifle in this, or totally neglect family religion.

Now, surely we have reason heavily to lament this, and to mourn over it. For,

1. It gives us a sad character of the present generation. It tells us what sort of persons most part of parents and masters of families are in the day wherein we live, even that they are destitute of anything of real and sincere respect unto the Lord and his service; and though they be called Christians, yet really they know not Christ; nor are they careful to honour him, or engage others to do it; nay more, that they are horribly perjured, because solemnly sworn to instruct by precept and example, and even to train up their children and families in acquaintance with the Lord; and yet they make no conscience of performing what they have vowed to the Lord, the most high God.

2. We have reason to lament this, because it gives us a sad prospect of the rising generation. Who shall form the rising generation? Who shall train them up in the knowledge of the Lord, and engage them to the way of the Lord? It may be ye will say, Let ministers do it. But, Ah! If others do not their part, all that ministers can do will not prevail. Ministers are little with them; ministers have many to attend. Ministers are called to preach the word, to attend to the exercise of discipline, and this takes much of their work and time. But parents and masters of families, they have few only to look to, they are much with them, have more interest with them, and more access to notice them; and if they improve not these advantages, the rising generation is not like to transmit to their posterity a good account of religion. This generation is sensibly worse than the former; and we may expect the next to be worse; and God knows where this neglect is like to land us ere long, even in downright atheism.

3. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation, because of the dreadful and heavy doom it is like to bring on us altogether. Eli’s neglect cost him and his family dear. What sad things this may in time bring upon parents and children, families, congregations, and nations, God only knows. But sure I am, it will make the day of judgment a terrible day to many of them, when children and servants shall go, as it were, in shoals to the pit, cursing their parents and their masters, who brought them there. And parents and masters of families shall be in multitudes plunged headlong in endless destruction, because they have not only murdered their own souls, but also imbrued their hands in the blood of their children and servants. O how doleful will the reckoning be amongst them at that day! when the children and servants shall upbraid their parents and masters: ‘Now, now, we must to the pit, and we have you to blame for it; your cursed example and lamentable negligence have brought us to the pit. We never saw you worship God yourselves, and ye never worshipped God in your families. Ye did not instruct us in the way of the Lord, nor train us up to it, and now we are indeed ruined and damned for our sins; but our blood lies at your doors, who might have done much to have saved us, but did it not.’And, on the other hand, how will the shrieks of parents fill every ear! ‘I have damned myself, I have damned my children, I have damned my servants. While I fed their bodies, and clothed their backs, I have ruined their souls, and brought double damnation on myself.’ O let us mourn over this sad evil, that will undoubtedly have this dismal and terrible issue. What can affect your hearts, if this do not?

4. Let us lament what none can seriously look upon and not lament, even a perishing generation, a ruined and destroyed multitude, and that not without the most terrible aggravations of their misery. 1st. Is it not lamentable to see children and servants fettered in chains of darkness, and reserved in them to judgment? To see them driven, as it were, to damnation and death eternal? 2nd. Is it not yet more dreadful to see them destroyed by those who are under the strongest ties to endeavour their relief? 3rd. Is it not sad to see them, who pretend love to their children, and servants, hugging a bit of clay, their bodies I mean, while they are damning their immortal souls? Surely this is to be lamented; and that it is not more noticed and bewailed, will ere long occasion a bitter lamentation.

But we proceed next to

Use 3. Of reproof;

and that, 1. To such as trifle in this duty. 2. To such as halve family religion. 3. To such as totally neglect it. 4. To such as, instead of family religion, do live in family-wickedness.

1. Then, we say, this reaches a reproof to such as do trifle in family religion:

some there are who make the fashion, at least of attending all the duties of it; but with such faintness, deadness, and coldrifeness [without any warmth], as say their duty is their burden, and not their choice. They can scarce tell what advantage they make of it. Such our doctrine reproves, and faulty ye are. For,

1st. This says personal religion is either altogether wanting, or under a sad decay. Personal and family religion go together; as there is an increase in zeal, and carefulness about the one, so there will be about the other. When David looked well to himself, when he behaved himself wisely in a perfect way, he then also walked within his house with a perfect heart, Psa. 101:2. Surely your trifling in family religion is the genuine fruit of trifling in private and personal religion.

2nd. Ye deprive yourselves of the comfort of family religion. The Lord has not said to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek ye my face in vain;’ nay, he is good to the soul that seeks him, to them that wait for him. ‘In keeping his commands there is great reward;’ but they who trifle, miss this great reward; for he only ‘is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,’ Heb. 11:6.

3rd. Ye miss the mark, ye do not reach the scope and intendment of these duties, the engagement of your families to the Lord. It will not be a coldrife [cold] and formal performance of duty, that will either please God, or profit yourselves, or gain others.

4th. Faulty ye are to a high degree; ye provoke the Lord to anger. God is a Spirit, and he requires those who worship him, to do it in spirit and in truth.We must be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. He spues the lukewarm out of his mouth, and has pronounced a curse against those who serve him with the worst: ‘Cursed be the deceiver, who hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth a corrupt thing,’ Mal. 1:14.

2. This doctrine teaches a reproof to such as halve family religion.

Some there are who will not entirely omit, nor yet will they entirely perform. They go a part of the way with God, but they will not go the whole. To such we say,

1st. Ye disjoin what the Lord has joined. The whole law of the Lord is knit together; and all parts of it are subservient to each other: and it is remarkably so with respect to family religion: and particularly with respect to family worship. Prayer obtains from the Lord influences of light, whereby we are made to understand his word: and discoveries of the Lord in the word fill our mouths with the high praises of the Lord. Let no man, therefore, separate these which the Lord has joined.

2nd. Ye betray naughtiness of heart. A sincere heart counts God’s commands all of them to be right concerning all things. They who have not a respect to all the Lord’s commands, shall, when they are tried, be exposed to just shame and contempt, Psa. 111:6. Now, while ye thus pick out some, and reject others, ye practically declare how naughty your heart is.

3rd. Ye trample upon the authority of the Lord in the command: ‘He that breaks one is guilty of all.’ If the Lord’s authority were the motive that induced you to do the one part of this duty, it would also prevail with you to do the other. If the true reason why ye read a chapter sometimes in your family, were because the Lord commands it, ye would, for the very same reason, pray in your families. It is not the authority of the Lord that sticks with you, otherwise it would be in all respects of the like and equal consideration and weight with you. This is not that which prevails with you, and therefore ye are guilty of the signal contempt of the Lord.

4th. Ye lose even what ye do. God will have all or none. Ye must either receive or reject all his laws. He will allow no man to pick and choose; and since ye are not clear for all, ye will be no better of all the lengths ye go. Instead, therefore, of a reward for what ye have done, ye may expect to be sent to the pit for what has been left undone.

3. This doctrine teaches a sad and sharp reproof to the total neglecters of family religion.

And even of this sort there are not a few. Some there are hearing, it may be, who have lived, some ten, some twenty years and upwards in a family, and never a word all the while of anything like a family religion. To such we say,

1st. Ye are going in the clear way to destruction. Ye heard us prove, from the most solid scripture evidence, that where there is heart-sincerity, anything of real personal godliness, there will be also a conscientious care to maintain the worship of God, and all the parts of family religion.

2nd. As if that were not enough, ye do what in you lies to ruin the souls of your children and families. He as really is guilty of the murder of his son or servant, who neglects his instruction, as he is who stabs a dagger to his heart.

3rd. What in you lies ye do to frustrate the gospel, and make ministers lose their pains. Then is the gospel like to be successful towards the salvation of souls, when everyone doth his part: but ye are so far from furthering the gospel, that ye join issue with the god of this world, in blindfolding the children of men, lest the glorious light of the gospel should shine into their minds.

4th. Ye sin against the Lord with a high hand: ye say upon the matter, that he shall not dwell in your house, when ye refuse to invite him in, and to urge his stay.

4. To those this doctrine reaches a rebuke, who not only neglect family religion, but who, I might say, maintain family irreligion, and instruct their families to neglect the Lord and his service.

1st. By the neglect of family worship, children and servants who never see anything like the worship of God in the families wherein they live, and who are not instructed in the way of the Lord, are thereby laid open to the conduct of their own hearts, and taught also to neglect it.

2nd. By example of many parents, children and servants are taught to go a greater length: not only see the worship of God neglected, family religion trifled over and slighted, but they see their parents and masters living careless of personal religion, neglecting secret prayer, reading of the word; nay more, living in the practice of known sin, drinking, swearing, speaking profanely. Here is the example, and readily it is followed by corrupt nature. Children and servants are ready to write after this copy: ‘As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee: but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil,’ Jer. 44:16,17.

3rd. Children are not only by many parents drawn on to sin, but by some even cherished in it; while they laugh at, and excuse, and sometimes tempt their children to iniquity.

Children are misled by parents not correcting them, and that severely for sin: ‘Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it away;’ and therefore ‘He that spares the rod hates the child.’ Eli stands a monument of the terrible consequences of indulging children in ill.

These and such ways do many in our day teach both children and servants irreligion. Now, to such we say,

1st. Is it not enough that ye yourselves join issue with Satan, but will ye thus draw others into the confederacy? Ye are not only against the Lord, but ye are ringleaders in the way to destruction.

2nd. Not content to draw others, ye drive your children and servants to sin: and is it not enough to destroy your own souls, unless ye openly and evidently murder your families?

3rd. Is it not enough that ye banish God your house, but will ye banish him the world? This is the plain tendency of what ye do. Ye are as they who poison a fountain. By poisoning your children and servants, ye poison, it may be, those who are to be the heads of many families, and thereby spread, or at least contribute your utmost, toward the spreading destruction through the world, and that to all succeeding generations.

5. Finally, that I may shut up this use of reproof, we shall put all the four sorts of persons we have named together, and we have a fourfold heavy charge against them.

1st. We say, ye are guilty of horrid cruelty. He that doth not what in him lies for preventing sin in his neighbour, hates him, in God’s account, in his heart: ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him,’ Lev. 19:17. And he that hates his brother in the least degree, is by our Lord accounted a murderer, and adjudged to punishment, Matt. 5:21,22. Now, according to this law, and righteous it is, ye are guilty of dreadful cruelty, not against an enemy, but against your friends: not against your neighbour, but your own children; not against their bodies, but their souls. To neglect a due care of them, is to murder their souls; and verily ye have the blood of their souls on you.

2nd. Ye are guilty of the most horrid perjury. How oft have some of you sworn, with hands lifted up to the most high God, before many witnesses, to serve the Lord, to worship him? Every child ye have baptised, ye solemnly vowed to serve the Lord, and to cause your houses to do so. But all the vows of God cannot tie you. Well, the time hastens on apace, when the breach of solemn vows of this nature will fall heavy upon you, and the Lord will avenge the quarrel of his covenant. And surely this will end in your utter destruction.

3rd. Ye are guilty of denying the faith, and are indeed worse than infidels, ‘But if any man provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,’ 1 Tim. 5:8. Now, sure, if he who neglects the care of his house in temporals be guilty of this, much more he who is guilty this way in spirituals.

4th. Ye are guilty of an horrid rejection of the Lord and his yoke, in that, (1.) Ye will not stoop to his authority in all his commands. (2.) In that ye openly contemn his authority, before children, and servants, and sojourners. And, (3.) Ye induce others to do the like, and, at least by your example, do encourage others to contemn the Lord; and that such as are most likely to be swayed by it, and even such as you are especially bound to train up in the Lord’s service.

Now, surely when these four are taken together, as they are ground of a just reproof; so they will, if repentance prevent not, be a just ground for a terrible sentence in the great day; and therefore consider of it in time, and betake yourselves to the Lord by the exercise of repentance. But this I leave.

Use 4. Of exhortation.

It now only remains, that we improve this truth in a way of exhortation. Is it so, that such as are themselves sincerely religious will be conscientiously careful to maintain family religion? Then surely all, as they would not be thought either irreligious, or unsound in religion, are obliged to maintain family religion.

Masters of families, I shall here address you in a matter of the highest concernment to your souls, and those of your family: Set up family religion: make conscience of it in all its parts; and be in earnest in this matter, we beseech and obtest [adjure] you. For,

1. The Lord commands you to do so. 

The authority of God, enjoining it in all its parts, will be motive enough to any who have subjected themselves unto the Lord, taken his yoke upon them, and surrendered themselves to his conduct. I need not stand to mention particular testimonies for proof of this, having already done it in the doctrinal part of this discourse: I shall only add that one exhortation of Moses, the man of God, to the people of Israel, ‘Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thine heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons,’ Deut. 4:9.

2. For your upstirring to this duty consider, that, as the whole of religion is a reasonable service, so this in particular is highly so.

The Lord demands nothing that can be denied; and to disobey him is the most unreasonable wickedness, and the height of injustice.

1st. Surely there is nothing more reasonable than family instruction. 

Dost thou think it reasonable to feed and clothe thy children and servants, and is it not fully as much reasonable that thou shouldest instruct them in the things that belong to their everlasting peace? Sure it is. But to clear this yet a little farther, take only these few particulars into consideration.

(1.) Your children are all born ignorant, like the wild ass’s colt, Job 11:12. Children, as when born they know not the ways and means of maintaining themselves in natural life, so they are ignorant of all that concerns their spiritual life. Nor can they understand how to live, without they be taught, far less how to provide for the life of their souls.

(2.) As they have not knowledge, so this their want of it must be ruining to them, if not made up by seasonable instruction; that the soul be without knowledge is not good. A man cannot be without the knowledge of what concerns the present life, without considerable prejudice, far less without the knowledge of those things that concern the life of his soul: ‘The Lord comes in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power,’ 2 Thess. 1:8,9.

(3.) Someone or other, therefore, must instruct your families in the knowledge of God, else they perish eternally. Knowledge of these things is absolutely necessary, and how can they get this, unless somebody teach them? Nay, I may say, not only is instruction requisite, but a considerable care and diligence is necessary. Religion and the truths that concern it, are not all to be learned at one lesson. Nay, but it will require frequent instructions: precept must be upon precept, line upon line, and here a little and there a little. There must be a speaking of the things of God, when we go out and when we come in, when we sit down and when we rise up, as it is enjoined, Deut. 6:6-9 , if we would have them to stick. So dull is man, that he is not taught the easiest arts or sciences without great pains, much less is it then to be expected, that he should learn supernatural and divine truth, without much care about his instruction.

(4.) As children want naturally the knowledge of God, which yet they must have or perish, and which they cannot obtain without they be instructed; so none are in such case, and so much concerned to instruct them, as parents. For,

1. None are so nearly related to them as parents are. Man, woman, what is thy child but a piece of thyself? And who so much concerned to have everything that is needful provided for thee, as thou thyself art and ought to be?

2. None have such a fair opportunity as thou hast; for it is but little others can be with them, but thou art with them when they lie down and rise up, go out and come in, and so hast the most proper opportunities for this end.

3. None else has such access to know the temper of children and servants; and this goes a great way in the instruction of children and others. They who know their tempers and capacities are in best case to deal with them.

4. None are like to prevail so far with them, because none has such an interest in their affections. The more we love the master, the better will his lesson be learned.

5. None are like to be so much the better for it, if thy children and servants be instructed in the way of the Lord, as thou. To whom will the profit, to whom will the comfort come? Surely to thee: ‘A wise son maketh a glad father,’ Prov. 10:1.

6. None are so much concerned, because none are like so to smart by it, if thy children or servants miscarry: ‘A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother,’ Prov. 10:1. And frequently, a son that causeth shame is the name given to such. Now, to whom doth he cause shame and sorrow? Is it not to his parents? Surely it is: ‘For he that begetteth a fool doth it to his sorrow,’ Prov. 17:21.

Many other considerations I might add, to show none so much concerned, nor so much obliged as parents and masters of families, in regard of the dependence of children and servants upon them, and in regard of the access they have to deal with children before they are prepossessed with prejudices. But I proceed,

2nd. Nor is family worship less reasonable than family instruction.


(1.) There is in every family, and I may say every day, a visible ground for it in all its parts. Every family is daily loaded with new mercies that are common to all the family, and redound to the advantage of the whole; surely, then, it is but reasonable that there should be an acknowledgement of the Lord as the Author of those mercies: and his goodness should be celebrated in songs of praise. Every day family sins are committed; and therefore need there is of pardon, of confession, of repentance. Family wants call still for family supplications; and the snares, dangers, and darkness of the way, require a daily attendance to the word, as the unerring guide of your way.

(2.) As there is daily reason for all the parts of it, so there is a reason for a joint and public performance of all those duties:

1. All the family are witnesses of the Lord’s goodness in his bestowing mercies, of his justice in inflicting strokes, of their own sins, and wants, and darkness; and therefore we ought publicly, and together, to acknowledge God’s goodness and justice, and our faith in his mercy and bounty; since the family are witnesses of the one, they ought to be so of the other also.

2. Since, in your family capacity, ye do rejoice for one another and sorrow with one another; since, I say, ye should bear a part with each other, both in prayer and praises, there ought to be a public testification of this, and ye ought to join together for this end.

(3.) Masters of families should undoubtedly acquaint all in their family with the God of their fathers; and no way so effectual for this end, as to bring them all and frequently to the Lord in the duties of his own appointment, in which his power and glory are to be seen.

(4.) All who have families should, before the world, own themselves every way dependent on the Lord, and acknowledge him in all their ways. And this is the true way to answer their duty in this matter.

3rd. There is full as good reason for family government as for any of the rest. 


(1.) To glorify God, and to enjoy him, is the chief end of man, and that which he ought to aim at: as in all other things that he doth, so particularly in entering into family society. Our families surely, and all our concerns, should be so ordered, as to contribute some way toward the furtherance of our eternal advantage.

(2.) This end can never be obtained, unless all in the family be tied to walk according to that rule which the Lord has given us, as the way toward the enjoyment of himself.

(3.) Any in the family who walk not according to the Lord’s will in this matter, they do counteract that which all the family should design; and therefore, if they will persist in that course, they ought to be expelled from the family. All should be obliged to look to the advantage of the family; and such as will not do so, should be turned out of it. And surely every sin allowed has a visible tendency to bring down ruin on the family. Now this much for the second motive.

3. As the Lord’s command, and the reasonableness of the thing, should have weight, so I would have you consider next, that this is a path the Lord’s people have in all generations trod. If thou expect to have their end, thou must walk in their way, and go by the footsteps of the flock; and surely they will all lead you to a careful attendance upon the Lord in the whole of this duty. To which of the saints will ye turn, if ye mean to countenance yourself in a neglect of this? Sure none of them. You will find godly Abraham, we have frequently cited; Jacob and Joshua, Job and David, we have already mentioned also; and they are followed by the saints in all generations.

4. Consider, that a due care for the maintenance of family religion is necessary. For evincing your sincerity, would ye be satisfied that the world look on you as either void of all religion, or not sound in it? And what peace do ye, can you promise yourselves, while conscience has this to throw in your teeth, that ye live either in the neglect or superficial performance of a known duty? How can ye satisfy any other, or yourselves, that ye have any regard at all to that sum of the second table of the law, that requires you to love your neighbour as yourself? I say, who will believe that the man will love his neighbour as himself, who loves not his child, his servant? And who will or can justly believe, that thou lovest child or servant, while thou takest no care of their souls? It is impossible that thou canst satisfy either others or yourselves, that ye are in earnest about religion, while ye fail here.

5. For thy further excitement, know that the vows of God are upon you to this matter. Ye are solemnly sworn, not only when ye yourselves were offered to the Lord, but when ye offered your children; and when ye were married also, then ye entered the relation, and then ye engaged to do all the duties that it doth draw after it. Now, can ye bear the reproach of perjury, of breach of solemn vows to the Lord? Now, here there is a signal defect; and here I would put a question to you all who have thus engaged to a performance of all duties. When ye did vow, were ye really resolved to do what ye promised? If not, ye have mocked God after the boldest manner. If ye were, then what has altered your resolution? Mind, God has no pleasure in fools; and the man who shall ascend to the hill of God, is he that sweareth and changeth not.

6. Consider the great advantages which attend conscientious diligence in performing this duty, and that to yourselves, your children, your servants, and the public:

1st. I say, Ye shall be gainers.

Every part of religion has its own reward: ‘Godliness is profitable for all things;’ and every piece of it is profitable for some valuable end and purpose. Now, this remarkable part of religion is profitable for thyself many ways. For,

(1.) In all the duties of family religion, thou mayest have communion with the Lord, ‘who said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain.’ He never bids the people set about any duty, but that wherein he was to be enjoyed. And there are this day on God’s earth some who can say, as in the sight of God, that some of the sweetest opportunities they ever had on earth, were family occasions; and that never did they more remarkably enjoy the Lord’s presence, than in family worship. Some of considerable quality we have known go into eternity, blessing God for family religion, and others will do so.

(2.) It is the way for thee to win souls; and this is of great advantage to thee: ‘He that winneth souls is wise; and they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars in the firmament for ever and ever.’And surely, if thou win a soul of a son or servant, thou shalt have the advantage and comfort of it doubly. To have contributed towards the salvation of any, gives much pleasure; much more to have done so toward the advantage of a child or servant. Again,

(3.) If thou art successful, and dost gain them, surely it redounds to thy advantage; for it will conciliate and engage their affection much to thee, lay a powerful enforcement to obedience on them, and engage them to improve their interest at the throne of grace on your behalf, and procure a blessing from the Lord to thy family.

(4.) If they be not engaged, yet thy respect to God, in witnessing for him, and cleaving to him, when tempted by so strong a discouragement as the universal backwardness of thy family is, shall not go without a reward.

(5.) Surely, since the Lord, we find, would bless a family for the sake of a religious servant, as we find the Lord blessed Potiphar’s house for Joseph’s sake, Gen. 39:5 , and Laban’s house for Jacob’s sake, he will no less, if not more, bless a house on account of a religious master of a family.

(6.) It is the true way to obtain honour and respect from the Lord, and even intimacy with him. This put Abraham on God’s secrets, Gen. 18:17,18. When God was to do a great work of justice, he would not conceal it from Abraham, because he was one that would, he knew, make conscience in particular of this duty. Finally, the true method to make dutiful children and servants, is to engage them to God’s way. If once they come to have a due regard for the Lord, they will learn soon to pay a due respect to parents and masters.

2nd. This family religion will be no less profitable to thy children; and, ye know, their gain should be accounted gain by you.

Every parent should be of John’s mind, 3 John 4 , ‘I have no greater joy, than to hear that my children walk in the truth;’ and that particularly because it contributes to their advantage, and that many ways:

(1.) It is God’s way, the means of his appointment toward their engagement in the Lord’s way: ‘Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it;’ Prov. 22:6. The way to engage them to the Lord, is to ‘bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,’ Eph. 6:4. And what can be so much to their advantage as peace and acquaintance with God, whereby good shall come to them, in time, and to eternity?

(2.) If this be not reached, yet it is a way that will not readily fail of keeping them from running to the same excess of riot with others, whereby they make themselves a disgrace to their parents, and all concerned in them. It would be a check to them, whereby they might be kept from adventuring upon those bold heights that some run to. I remember the noble Lord Russell, son to the Marquis of Bedford, in his speech on the scaffold, July 21, 1683, blesses God for religious education: ‘For (says he) even when I minded it least, it still hung about me, and gave me checks; and hath now for many years so influenced and possessed me, that I feel the happy effects of it in this my extremity.’

(3.) Though the advantage may never be seen by you, yet it may lay a foundation for their happiness, when far from you. Good education may be like seeds in the ground, which may lie dead till a shower come, and then it will bud and bring forth fruit. It may be, when thy eyes are shut, and thy children in some far country, God may tryst [meet] them with some awakening providence, that may put life in the seed thou hast sown. It is the unhappiness of many in this day, that they are not acquaint with the first principles of religion; and therefore, when evil befalls them afar off, or among persons ignorant of God, whither their wickedness drives them, then there is nothing in them to work upon. Providences that are the most rousing, are like showers falling upon earth, without seed in it, that surely will have no product.

3rd. We have likewise an inducement to this, from its advantage to servants.

Servants are called children in scripture: Naaman’s servants call him father, 2 Kin. 5:13 ; and no doubt a fatherly care there should be of servants. They are undoubtedly at least to come in amongst the first rank of neighbours, whom ye should love as yourself. Now, they have a double advantage:

(1.) It is the way to bring them to saving acquaintance with the Lord: ‘Abraham will command his house after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,’ Gen. 18:19.

(2.) It is the way to make them useful as a servant to thee; and what he doth this way is both his advantage and thine.

(3.) When he comes to be a master, it is like to engage him to the same course; and this will be not only his, but his posterity’s advantage.

4th. The advantage of this to the public, both church and state, should invite you.

For consider,

(1.) Hereby you train up persons fit to serve God and their country faithfully, in public employments, either in church or state.

(2.) Hereby ye propose a good example to engage others to those ways that are for the good and honour of the state. They that are good Christians will ever be good subjects.

(3.) Thou contributest a notable part toward the maintenance both of church and state, inasmuch as thou endeavourest, as far as thy power reaches, to keep the subjects of either of them up in their fear of God, and their duty toward both church and commonwealth.

7. On the other hand, consider the sad and lamentable consequences of a neglect in this matter, with respect to your children and servants, yourself and the public.

1st. I say, Consider the sad disadvantages with respect unto the children themselves. They are left,

(1.) Destitute of that which is most profitable and useful for them in time, and after time; for ‘godliness is profitable for all things, having the promises of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’

(2.) They are exposed, as it were, to wild beasts. If you will not educate them in the way of the Lord, the devil and their own corruptions will educate them in the way to hell; if ye will not teach them to pray, the devil will teach them to swear. A young man, void of understanding, is a prey to every destroying lust. See Prov. 7:6,7,&c.

(3.) Not only so, but hereby they are, as it were, hedged and fenced against both ordinances and providences, through their ignorance of God, and the principles of religion; they can be bettered by neither of them.

2nd. It is sadly disadvantageous with respect unto the public: for,

(1.) The public loses the use and advantage which either church or state might have had by them, if they had been duly educate. Again,

(2.) Instead of being helpful, they are hurtful.

(3.) Not only hurtful, but even destructive and ruining; for to corrupt a family, is in effect to corrupt a nation; because a family quickly spreads itself, and is like to carry this plague along with it.

3rd. It is sadly disadvantageous to you: for,

(1.) It is not like that your children shall prove, as they otherwise might, the stay and comfort of your old age; it is not probable, that they who have not been dutifully used by you, shall use you dutifully. Lycurgus made a law, that children who were not well educate should not provide for their parents when old.

(2.) They are like to procure the sorrow, inasmuch as they are like to run to evil, and fall into mischief; which will be so much the heavier to thee, because thou art faulty in it. The Swiss have a law, that when children are guilty of any capital offence, parents are to be the executioners, to teach that they are to blame in this matter.

(3.) They are like, not only to perish, but to sink you with them. They will be as so many millstones tied about your neck, to make you sink the deeper under the wrath of God: and your misery will forever be increased, by the accession you have had to theirs.

Now, for your help in this duty, I shall conclude with two or three advices:

1. Would ye deal to any purpose in this matter? Then be sure that you be personally religious.

2. Begin early to be so: put off no time, but set about the study of it now.

3. Study much the worth of souls, the worth of children and servants’ souls.

4. Learn well the meaning of that command, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’

5. Finally, study to be lively in religion, and then ye will go on without constraint. Now, upon the whole consider: ‘And if it seem evil to you this day to serve the Lord, choose ye whom ye will serve;’ but through grace, the advice I give, I resolve to follow: ‘But as for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.’

[The end of this series of excerpts.]