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2 SAMUEL vi. 20.
Then David returned to bless his Household.
FROM the example of this great and good man, I propose to recommend to you the important, but much neglected duty of family-worship. And I have chosen the example of a king for two rea
1st, Because the actions of one in that elevated station are commonly more regarded than those of a meaner person. "The poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard;" but if one arrayed in royal apparel make an oration from a throne, the people shall give a shout, saying," It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." This partial regard is indeed a sore evil under the sun; but in the present case, it is possible to bring good out of it, by making that pomp or splendour, which so often covers the deformity of vice, a mean of throwing a lustre upon religion, VOL. III. B
and of rendering a thing so truly excellent in itself more respectable in our eyes.
2dly, It is but too obvious, that the neglect of family-worship prevails chiefly among those who either are, or imagine themselves to be, of a better rank than others; nay, some who were punctual in the performance of this duty while their station and circumstances were low, have been observed to lay it aside, when, by the bounty of Providence, their state became more prosperous. This presents us with a very melancholy prospect, and threatens nothing less than the utter extinction of family-religion. For if once it becomes a maxim, that this duty is below the rank of a gentleman, then every one who affects to be thought of that rank will forbear it. In this case, it is impossible to foresee where the evil may stop; as there are few people in the world who do not imagine that they either are, or deserve to be, of equal consideration with their neighbours. I have therefore thought it necessary to pitch upon nothing lower than a royal example, that the vanity of no man may take it amiss when I call upon him to follow it.
We have an account, in the preceding verses, of David's bringing up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into his own city. This was done with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet; the king himself, girded with a linen ephod, attending the solemnity, with the highest
expressions of thankfulness and joy. When the ark was set in its place, in the midst of the tabernacle that was prepared for it, then David, as we read in the 17th verse, offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord, and afterwards dismissed the assembly with presents which he dealt among all the people, having first blessed them in the name of the Lord of hosts. This he did as the Father of his people. But he did not stop here. The duties of his public office and character did not make him forget what was incumbent upon him in his private capacity; for, as my text informs us, "Then David returned to bless his household;" i. e. to pray with them and for them, and probably to offer up his familythanksgivings for the great national mercy which he had been celebrating in the public assembly. From this plain and instructive passage of Scripture-history I shall take occasion, in the
First place, To prove, that it is the indispensable duty of all to whom God hath given families, to worship God publicly in their own houses; or, that every man is bound, according to the example of David, "to bless his household." In the
Second place, I shall show you the reasonableness of this duty. And then, in the
Third place, I shall represent to you the ad. vantages which accompany the practice of it, and
the pernicious consequences which must follow from the neglect of it.
I BEGIN with proving, that it is the indispensable duty of all to whom God hath given families, to worship God publicly in their own houses. This is a truth which even the light of Nature doth very plainly teach us. A family is a society connected together by such strict ties, that every argument for the propriety of private prayer is equally conclusive for that of family devotion. Of this even the Heathens were sensible; for besides their tutelar deities, who were supposed to preside over cities and nations, and who had public honours paid to them in that character, we read of household-gods, whom every private family worshipped at home as their immediate guardians and benefactors.
But the light of Scripture affords us a more clear and satisfying discovery of our obligations to this duty, as well as of the proper manner of performing it. It reveals to us that great Mediator, by whom we have access to the throne of grace, and through whom all our religious servi- * ces are accepted by God. It not only represents prayer as a privilege which we are permitted to use, but expressly requires it as a duty which we are bound to perform. Thus we are commanded, "In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to make our requests known
unto God; to pray always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and to continue in prayer." And it is observable, that this last exhortation is particularly addressed to masters of families, as you may read, (Coloss. iv. 1, 2.), "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven." The Apostle goes on, still addressing them in the same character; "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same, with thanksgiving." In the same strain Paul writes to Timothy, (1 Tim. ii. 8.), "I will therefore, that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting." And surely, if in all places men ought to lift up holy hands unto God, much more ought they to do so in their own families, which are immediately under their care, and for whose spiritual as well as temporal interest they ought to be chiefly concerned. Accordingly, we learn from the sacred history, that this has been the uniform practice of good men in all ages of the world. The care of the ancient Patriarchs, to keep up family-religion, is very remarkable. We find Abraham rearing up altars wherever he came: And for what end did he this, but that on these altars he might offer sacrifices, and call upon God with his household? We have another bright example of this in Job, of whom we read, (Job i. 5.), that "he sent for his sons and sanctified them, and rose up early in the