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deed which will justify even an occasional neglect of this rule. But it may be questioned, whether the same strictness ought to be observed with respect to family-worship; and it is, therefore, to this point that the following observations especially apply.
It is evident that there are some families in which family-prayer, every morning and evening, may and ought to be said, families whose habits have always been particularly serious, and who are not prevented from the daily performance of this duty by any particular pressure of temporal business. At the same time, the author doubts whether this rule can be considered as binding upon all, or whether, indeed, it would in every case be expedient that it should be adopted. His reason is the following:
The calling together of a family for worship ought, in the author's opinion, to be regarded as a duty of more than usual solemnity, and such a duty as demands peculiar preparation. The members of the household should be taught to look to it in this light, and to come to it, not as something which is part of their ordinary routine, but as a peculiarly pleasing and sacred task, which is to unite them all
in the presence of their common God and common Saviour.
Now private prayer can be performed without any particular note of preparation. It is only necessary that the individual should collect his own thoughts, and, in a humble, and fervent, and sincere frame of mind, offer up the desires of his heart unto God. Even amidst the business and changes of the day, such a duty may be performed in a becoming manner; and indeed, according to a homely but expressive figure of Mr Henry, “ A golden thread of heart-prayer ought to run through the whole web of a good man's life.”
But a family cannot be called together without some adjustment of business and of relative occupations; and it is to be feared, that, in those families in which this duty is performed every day, it is sometimes
about with more unconcern than is becoming, or, at least, without that feeling of its peculiar solemnity and beauty, which, if it were performed less frequently, and with more preparation, it would assuredly inspire.
The public worship of God in the church is evidently appropriated with becoming effect to the
Sabbath-day; and it is the author's opinion, that family-worship, though it may not be confined entirely to the Sabbath, ought, however, to be considered as the meeting of a company for a service of more than ordinary sanctity, and as most likely to be performed with effect when every thing conspires to aid this impression.
It is earnestly hoped, that it will not be supposed, from these observations, that the author discourages family-worship, in all families, on every day of the week. He only means to say, that there are many families in which it is not likely to be performed in a proper manner, if it is attempted to render it so frequent ;—and that in such families, it may be better to have it performed at stated intervals, with which all the members of the family are acquainted, and for the recurrence of which, therefore, they can duly prepare themselves.
But, unquestionably, every family ought to meet together on the Sabbath-day for the performance of this service; and, indeed, it is not easy to understand how any family, in which so becoming and useful a duty is neglected on that day, can be re
garded as in any degree entitled to the character of a family of Christians.
The prayers contained in the preceding part of this volume have been composed for private persons, and are intended to be used by them on the morning and evening of every day of the week. The prayers of this Second Part, however, which are family-prayers, are adapted only to the Sabbathday; not because the author thinks that familyworship may not be usefully performed on any other day of the week, but because it is his opinion, that the Sabbath is the day on which most families are likely to attend to this duty.
Any one of the prayers in the First Part may, however, be employed as a family-prayer, either simply by the person who pronounces it using the plural instead of the singular number, or without this alteration, by every person, who hears it pronounced, considering it not merely as the prayer of him who speaks it, but as offered for every member of the family who is present. This, indeed, is the light in which every prayer ought to be regarded.
May the Almighty grant his blessing to this
sincere attempt to assist and improve the devotion of Christian families; and, if the author is not unworthy of so high an honour, may his humble labours be the means of giving comfort and illumination in the performance of a service, which has always appeared to himself to be one of the most truly lovely and beneficial which this world presents.