« AnteriorContinuar »
wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings,"-so will you lift up your immortal eaglets on the wings of your fireside prayer, and accustom them to soar, so that they will learn to mount on like wings heavenward. You teach your children to ask pardon of an offended neighbor, and you lead them by the hand for that purpose; you sedulously instruct them to thank every friend who makes them a gift; many a mother has gone with her children to a governor or sovereign, to plead for some favor. Shall they not be led by the hand, unitedly, to God-trained, at morning and evening, to pray and praise the Eternal King, the Almighty Friend? Nay, shall they be taught to walk the ground, and never to mount above the world-taught to reverence an earthly father, and never, by example, to adore the Heavenly Father? In truth, all your nightly injunctions on them to "say their prayers," will have little weight, compared with your own example at the family altar. Then, too, how much Divine truth may indirectly and sweetly be instilled into them at such times, not coldly taught in lessons! How much kind rebuke may touch them thus, instead of being sharply uttered, as it is likely to be when directly spoken! How much persuasion, warmed by the spirit of prayer, may reach them thus! Fireside prayer is an education of the household, an education of mind, conscience and heart. It helps, likewise, to complete and supply what is lacking in example and other instruction-not only to correct what is wrong therein, but to fill up what is sadly wanting. Above all it is a tender education-heart teaching heart; its lessons are written with a pen of fire-are burned forever into the soul.
But this is not all. In my view, one of the chief reasons for the usage is this, namely, it familiarizes us, from our earliest years, with invisible things; it makes real the unseen; especially does it bring home to us the being and presence of God, converting it from a shadowy mystery to a bright reality, so that we may have an undoubting, untroubled faith in God, which shall grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength. Look at that home!-see those children kneeling daily before the Invisible One, as if He were verily present in His glory; see them close their eyes, and thus impressed with the truth, that there is a Being and a world which mortal eye beholds not, but the eye of the soul; hear the voice which they daily hear, addressing Him in whom we live and move; and let them see others kneeling with them in reverence to Him. Let all this be a daily customary thing, making impression after impression on the young heart, through many long years-that heart which is always, at first, full of trust, belief, vivid imagination and ready feeling. Will not God and Heaven become as real to its apprehension, by this daily exercise, as any visible person, or the visible world? Will not God and heaven be brought home, familiarized, so that doubt and worldliness, even atheism itself, can never wholly pluck out
the soul's conviction? And how is it in families where the voice of prayer is never heard-where the knee never bows-where, in a word, there is no God? Must not He and heaven ever seem strange, unreal? Yes, though He be afterwards found, yet must not faith, in a soul so educated, be weak and perplexed? Family Worship at least saves a family from being absolutely godless, heathenish-or, rather, worse than heathenish, for the pagan has his gods, which he and all his household worship. Every family, where there is no altar, and no prayer at all, is worse than pagan; it is, both in its tendencies and in its just classification, an atheistical family-a godless, infidel house-almost a home of irrational animals, that know no God, no eternity, but eat, and drink, and sleep, and die. "Like sheep," says David, "they are laid in the grave-they are like the beasts that perish." Jeremiah pronounces a curse on 66 the heathen that know not God, and the families that call not upon his name." Let no one say that a prayerful spirit, or private prayer, or sacred reading, is enough; for where there is either of these truly, there Household Devotion is prized; and where there is a living piety, there it is usually maintained.
Consider, however, still further, the mighty influence of early associations, as it concerns this practice. Consider it not alone as domesticating in the heart all invisible realities, but as something that throws a lasting charm over religion, and throws a chain of blessed restraint around us, in after years. Have you been trained up so godlessly, or have you been accustomed to hear so unpleasant or heartless prayers at home, or are you, and have you been, yourself so averse to God from infancy, that you never love to recall the heavenly scene where your father, mother, brother and sister, have knelt with you, morning and evening-never melt in heart with sweet sadness at that sacred recollection, softened and beautified as it is by distance of time-never feel that recollection hanging upon you as a priceless amulet, to protect you from the evil of the world, as a potent charm, to save you from indifference, scepticism and sin-never feel it as a thread, small but strong, binding you back to the trust and innocence of childhood, to the hallowed memories of home, holding you back from doubt, denial, if not crime and ruin, yea, drawing you, year after year, with gentle but powerful influence, towards Christ and heaven. It would be enough argument for Home Worship, if but the word "God," and the word "Christ," daily heard in tones of reverence and entreaty, were forever after to ring and echo in a man's memory, calling him, in all his wanderings, to return to his Maker and Redeemer.
There is another thought. This worship unites a family in a more sacred and sweet union of love on earth, and tends so to unite them spiritually, that their oneness shall be eternal. It draws them to the same Saviour; it kindles in them a desire and
hope to meet in the same heaven; and it is a foretaste of the holy blissful commingling of the great family above, where are no mortal cares and wants, no old age and bereavement, no strife and alienation, no pain, no tears, no separation.
It will be seen that some of the reasons in this discourse have special regard to the young, but other of the reasons-strong and sufficient in themselves-are for Household Devotion, whether there be young children or not. There is nothing more desirable and beautiful than that a married life be begun in prayer-that hands, joined in the sacred vow of fidelity, be joined also daily before the Throne of Grace. Though there be but two, let them build the Home Altar, and never let its flame expire. And beautiful and blessed is it, where children are grown up and scattered abroad, or laid in the grave, to see the united head of the house, though left alone and silvered with age, still daily feeding that altar-flame, around which their children had been wont to gather-still feeding it to cheerful brightness and warmth, even as the only surviving travelers in a wilderness would maintain a watch-fire, though all their companions had been lost, or had perished, by the way. And blessed and lovely is it where the widowed mother, or the wife in the absence of her husband, still offers the morning and evening sacrifice in the presence of her children, though perhaps not in the presence of strangers; her more plaintive and tender prayers deepening the impressions made by the father's-certainly leaving an impres sion, a heavenly echo, which never can die-which follows us to the grave, follows us to all eternity.
As to "the stranger that is within thy gate," it was once required of him to keep the Sabbath of his host, to conform to the religious habits of the house. Assuredly, civility and propriety, if nothing more, would seem to teach that all who sojourn beneath a roof, should conform to the household worship there, if it be not idolatrous, and thus sinful.
I have spoken of the usage as imperative in a pious household, meaning by that where either parent is a believer. Let me repeat the exhortation to strive after a life consistent with the prayers offered, so that these shall not be in vain, nor made worse than vain. The text speaks of Cornelius as "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway." His alms-giving has a double interest in this connection; beneficence is one feature of practical religion; and it shows that his prayers were reduced to practice. The other value of this allusion is that it illustrates the tendency and fruits of fireside devotion. It tends to practical religion; it prepares the family, and every member of it, for usefulness in the world; and this is the crowning argument for Home Worship, that it is the fountain of a Christian spirit which blesses not the home alone, but overflows its narrow boundaries,
and spreads abroad through the community, the church, the nation and the wide earth.
But I do not mean to confine the duty to those who consider themselves regenerate. It is just one of those simple duties which if a man set himself to perform, he may find, in the very act of its discharge, a willingness to do all other duty-a willingness, a yielding, which may be the turning-point of his soul's history. I have heard of an instance where an irreligious man resolved, perhaps for his family's sake, to do this one duty, and who has since dated his conversion from that hour. But aside from these considerations, I cannot conceive how a man, surrounded with all the delights of home, his heart glowing with the warm happiness which God gives him, can refuse to kneel with his companion, or his family, and at least say with a full heart, though it be in broken words" Our Father in heaven, we thank thee-we bless thee; forgive us our sins, for Jesus' sake; keep us this day, or this night; bring us all at last to thy presence and joy." How can any man, who is not an atheist, neglect to thank God thus for his mercies, and pray for grace, for continued blessings, for eternal union in heaven? And how, still further, can a father, or mother, in this Christian land, if not absolute atheists, fail to join with their beloved children in acknowledging the God of mercies? How can they permit their house, their children, their home, to be godless? Yes, how do they even dare to have it so?
Oh! build the Family Altar, if it never has been built in your home; repair it, maintain it, if it has fallen into decay. Let Joshua's be your steadfast purpose, your lofty joy-"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Weep-melt in heart for all your disastrous and guilty neglect, or poor, hurried, heartless performance, in times past. Hallow the table of God's daily bounty, with a blessing sincerely asked, thanks sincerely given. Bring forth the dusty Bible-confess your neglect to your fireside companions-read and pray with them, at morning, or evening, or both, as did your father, and your father's father before you. Can you not find words nor courage? You find it for conversation--for everything else; nothing but practice makes anything easy; nor is it what you say, but how you say it-in what spirit you pray that is the great thing. Or if your words be many, recollect that we are not heard for our much speaking; be not tediously prolix in reading nor in supplication. Yet be not hurried; take time, if you have it not; the time spent in God's worship is never lost, even in an earthly point of view. Let not the Sabbath be the only day when you observe the duty-say not thus, in effect, to your family, that you worship God only when you have nothing else to do. Read, if it seem best, with a commentary beneath the text, at which your eyes may glance for an explanation of a difficult verse, and so elicit attention and interest. Sing, if you can, if it be in your hearts, and
circumstances admit-sing, though it be but one sweet stanza of praise. Teach the young hearts, whom God has given you to train-teach them to join in the prayer. Let it be the simple outpouring of whatever gratitude or wish may spring up in your soul, and not a set form of speech, mechanically repeated. Thus perpetuate, in its life and beauty, this right and happy institution. Hand it down as a rich legacy to those who come after you. So shall your father's God be your God, and your children's-so shall you and they be ripening for the family of the redeemedthe worship above-the Heavenly Home.
A CONSECRATED MINISTRY.
BY BISHOP POTTER, NEW YORK.
What have the ministers of Christ to do with pride and self seeking? What have they to do with scheming and contriving for their own advancement? What have they to do with good or evil fortune in the things of this world? What have they to do with aping the silly fashions and vanities of the day? What have they to do with the gross manners, the irritable tempers, the sensual habits, the vulgar, ignoble thoughts, the idle words, the wretched bickering and jealousies, and the unkind judgments and harsh speeches of the men of this world? What have the ministers of Christ to do with studying how they may please themselves, and how they may win those places which will be most in the eye of the world, and most abundant in comfort and luxury? If every follower of Christ is commanded, on pain of rejection or reprobation, "to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," and that, too, with the promise that all other things needful shall be added unto him, with what fitness or decency can a minister of Christ hold back from the work given him to do, (which he has been set apart and empowered, and bound by a vow to do,) until he can find where he may do it with the most comfort and on the best terms. What sort of spectacle is presented to the eye of God and holy Angels, to the earnest-minded in the church, when, on the one side, churches are seen closed, stations left vacant, sheep wandering without a shepherd, souls perishing for lack of bread; and, on the other, ten, twenty, thirty ministers of Christ looking for fields of labor, standing all the day idle, asking, not where most and, hardest work is to be done, but where a certain style of living can be maintained, and a certain scale of expense be provided for? What idea shall we form of that candidate for the sacred minis