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religious government, there will be strange gods and strange lords.
2. A family may need to be reformed respecting the neglect and delay of important duties. The whole time and strength of a family and of all its members can do no more than meet and perform their duties as they rise. But the present performance of duty requires attention and exertion, watchfulness and decision, which never exist without self-denial. In families the present performance of duty is liable to continued interruption; and therefore they are always liable to neglect and delay some duty.
3. Reformation may be needed in religious families in respect to the commission of various offenses. The heart may be easily disturbed and the spirit wounded by some evil look, or unkind word, or selfish and careless act. And how commonly does one small evil produce greater evils ! One offense after another may arise, until the spirit of holiness is removed and the family become lukewarm, unwatchful and disobedient in respect to the commands of God and their own actions and affections.
4. A religious family may need to be reformed in respect to their constancy and progress in the practice of holiness. If a family are not constant in the duties of religion, they will decline ; and if they do not advance in religious attainments they will retreat, stumble and fall. God has often occasion to say to the heads of religious families, " Arise and go to Bethel." And they have often great reason to say to their households, “ Řemove the strange gods that are among you and be clean
and change your garments and let us arise and go to Bethel." If religious families did not greatly need to be reformed, they would find a Bethel in every place. And of every place they might say, “ This is none other than the house of God; and this is the gate of heaven.”
It is now proposed,
III. To show that the reformation of religious families is an important object.
1. Such a reformation is the only proper acknowledgment they can make to God for the numerous mercies which they have received from him. God reminded
Jacob and he reminded his family of the great mercies they had received in former days. These mercies were urged as powerful and decisive reasons for a thorough reformation in his family. Let any religious family seriously review the mercies they have received ; and they will be disposed to inquire, What shall we render anto the Lord for all his benefits?
2. Reformation in families is the only suitable improvement of their afflictions. God afflicts and chastises his people, not for his pleasure, but for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness. “Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend
any more: that which I see not teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.”
3. It is only by reformation that religious families can discharge their solemn and peculiar obligations. They have professed the name of God and devoted themselves to his service and praise. They have placed themselves under special bonds to walk in his commandments and ordinances blameless.
4. The reformation of religious families is necessary, in order to promote the general interests of religion. The effects of their sentiments and practices are not confined to themselves. Their example will have an influence as far as it is known; and may extend beyond the limits of
1; earth and time.
5. Religious families cannot, any farther than they are truly reformed, enjoy the blessing and presence of God. God cannot be graciously present with any family that depart from him ; nor can he bless those who sin against him. When Jacob arose and went to Bethel God appeared again to him and blessed him. Every family need the presence and blessing of God; and they are enjoyed by religious families in proportion to their reformation and holiness.
The importance of reformation in religious families suggests the following observations.
1. The enemies of religion will attempt to corrupt religious families. Religion in families is the strongest barrier that can be raised against the rising floods of error and wickedness. If this barrier can be removed, or weakened, the enemies of truth and goodness can
. Their object, therefore, is to induce the members of religious families to conform to the errors and sins of the world.
2. It is in religious families that declensions commonly begin in communities. If families were constant and faithful in the service of God, they would maintain the standard of holiness and happiness. But when religious families decline in their sentiments, affections and actions from truth and duty, impiety and irreligion extend their influence without rebuke and without restraint.
3. Without decided reformations in families, apparent reformations in communities will not be permanent. There may be extensive excitements on religious subjects and numerous professions of piety, but the permanent character of individuals and communities will agree with the noral conduct and condition of families. Such movements as do not reach and reform families, however powerful and promising they may seem to be, will soon subside.
4. Every person can form the most correct judgment respecting himself from his conduct in the family. There our principles and affections are most constantly tried and shown. There we are commonly the least influenced by other persons and act the most according to our own feelings.
5. Every member of a family should regard and discharge his domestic obligations. In families our influence is most constant and permanent. There we shall do and receive the greatest good, or the greatest evil
. 6. The reformation of religious families should be a constant object of attention and exertion. Schools and churches, states and nations will be what families shall be.
And Israel said, It is enough.
GENESIS, XLV. 28.
This he said, when he was persuaded, that his beloved Joseph, whom he had supposed to be dead many years, was yet alive. Sɔ afflictive had been the events that were connected with his supposed death, that his father a refused to be comforted ; and he said, For 1 will
go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” But in respect to these events he was relieved and satisfied, when he was assured Joseph was alive. 6 And Israel said, It is enough." Yet he then saw only to a small extent the happy connections of the providential dispensations, which had been so painful to his heart. From the words of the text may be derived the following sentiment,
The friends of God will be satisfied respecting the most trying events of his providence. To illustrate this sentiment, it is proposed,
1. To show why the events of providence may be very trying to the friends of God.
1. They may be so on account of the darkness that exists in their own minds respecting these events. Jacob was wholly ignorant and deceived in respect to Joseph, when he believed he was dead. He mourned for the supposed death of his son, when he was alive and was “governor over all the land of Egypt;" and when God was dealing with him in such a manner, as preserved his father and family from famine and death. When the friends of God attempt to discover the design and effects of his dispensations, they will find themselves in painful darkness. The Psalmist says to God, “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path is in the great waters and thy foot-steps are not
known." It is very trying to the children of God to be in such darkness respecting the most painful events of his providence.
2. The events of providence towards the friends of God often destroy their most pleasing prospects. They may have pleasing prospects respecting their temporal interests, their domestic relations and enjoyments, their Christian friends, the churches of Christ and the progress of his kingdom. But these prospects may be so changed and destroyed, that they can truly adopt the words of Job: “When I looked for good, then evil came unto me; an dwhen I waited for light, there came darkness.”
3. The events of providence often oppose their fondest affections. With tender affections pious persons regard their beloved relatives and connections. They often indulge serious and confident desires and hopes to be useful in the cause of God and to be blessings to their fellow-creatures. But they may soon be obliged to say, My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart.” The Psalmist says to God, " He
" weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.” It is very afflictive to their hearts to be obliged to renounce the objects and purposes of their tenderest affections.
4. The events of divine providence are suited to humble their spirits. To break and subdue their proud and selfish spirits requires many heavy strokes and painful changes from the hand of God. They must have thorns in the flesh and be buffeted by messengers of Satan, lest they should be exalted above measure. The Psalmist says unto God, 66 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth." Deeply wounding are the events, which are necessary to humble their hearts, so that they shall be still and know for ever, that the Lord is God; and that they are nothing and worse than nothing.
II. It is proposed to show, that the people of God will be satisfied respecting the most trying events of his providence.
1. They will perceive that God had, in these events, a faithful regard to their highest interests. In their trials he takes the wisest method to promote their knowledge,