The Christian’s Duty,
with respect to
Personal and Family Religion
~ Part 4 of 4 ~
by Thomas Halyburton
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.’ — Joshua 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.’
HICH shows us,
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.
Now, we begin with the first, and shall only here observe that family
religion consists of three parts, or is comprehensive of the three
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.
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.’
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;
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,
‘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
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
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,’
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,
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.
The next thing we proposed, was to show whence it is that such as are
sincerely religious themselves will be careful to maintain family
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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?
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
But we proceed next to
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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.
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,
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
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,
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
(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,
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
(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
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
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.
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
4. Consider, that a due care for the maintenance of family religion is
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
5. For thy further excitement, know that the vows of God are upon you to
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.
Consider the great advantages which attend conscientious diligence in
performing this duty, and that to yourselves, your children, your
servants, and the public:
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.
(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,’
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
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
The advantage of this to the public, both church and state, should invite you.
(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.
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
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.
(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 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
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