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MEDITATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD PIETY.
1. If thou be called to the government of a family, thou must not hold it sufficient to serve God and live uprightly in thy own person, unless thou cause all under thy charge to do the same with thee. For the performance of this duty God was so well pleased with Abraham, that he would not hide from him his counsel: “For,” saith God, “I know him that he will command his sons and his household after him that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that he hath spoken unto him.” (Gen. xviii. 19.) And Abraham had 318 men-servants, which were thus born and catechised in his house (Gen. xiv. 14;) with whose help he rescued also his nephew Lot from the captivity of his enemies. And religiously valiant Joshua protesteth before all the people, that if they all would fell away from the true worship of God, yet that he and his house would serve the Lord (Josh. xxiv. 15.) And God himself gives a special charge to all householders, that they instruct their family in his word, and train them up in his fear and service: “These words which I command thee this day shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt whet them continually upon thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou tarriest in thine house, and as thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up,” &c. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve him.” (Deut. vi. 6, 7.) David, according to this law, had so ordered his family, that no deceitful person should dwell in his house, but such as would serve God and walk in his way (Psal. ci. 6, 7.). And religious Esther 144had taught her maids to serve God in fasting and prayer (Esth. iv. 16.) And, the more to further thy family in the zeal of religion, settle ever thy chiefest affection on those whom thou shalt perceive to be best addicted to true religion. This also will turn to thine own advantage in a double respect—First, God will the rather bless and prosper the labour and handiwork of such godly servants; for Laban perceived that God blessed him for Jacob’s sake (Gen. xxx. 27;) and Potiphar saw that the Lord made all that Joseph did to prosper in his hand (Gen. xxxix. 3;) yea, when innocent Joseph was cast into prison, his keeper saw that whatsoever he did the Lord made it to prosper (Gen. xxxix. 22, 23;) and therefore the keeper committed all the charge of the prisoners into Joseph’s hand. Secondly, the trulier a man serves God, the more faithfully he will serve thee.
2. If every householder were thus careful, according to his duty, to bring up his children and family in the service and fear of God in his own house, then the house of God should be better filled, and the Lord’s table more frequented every Sabbath day, and the pastors’ public preaching and labour would take more effect than it doth;—the streets of towns and cities would not abound with so many drunkards, swearers, whoremongers, and profane scorners of true piety and religion;—our courts would not be so full of contentions, wrangling suits, and unchristian debates;—and the prisons would not be every session so full of thieves, robbers, traitors, murderers. But alas! most householders make no other use of their servants than they do of their beasts: whilst they may have their bodies to do their service, they care not if their souls serve the devil. Yet the common complaint is, that faithful and good servants are scarce to be found. True, but the reason is, because there are so many profane and irreligious masters; for the example and instruction of a godly and religious master will make a good and a faithful servant; as may witness the examples of Abraham, Joshua, David, Cornelius, &c., who 145had good servants because they were religious masters, such as were careful to make their servants God’s servants.
It is the chief labour and care of most men to raise and to advance their house: yet let them “rise up early and lie down late, and eat the bread of carefulness,” all will be but in vain; for “except the Lord build a house,” that is, raise up a family, “they labour in vain.” (Psal. cxxvii. 1, 2.) For God hath sealed this as an irrevocable decree, that he will pour out his wrath upon the families that call not upon his name (Jer. x. 25;) yea, “God will take the wicked, and pluck him out of his tabernacle, and root him out of the land,” &c. (Psal. lii. 5;) yea, when his iniquities are full (Gen. xv. 16), he will make the land to spue out every Canaanite (Lev. xviii. 25.) Religion, then, and the service of God in a family, is the best building, and surest entailing of house and land to a man and his posterity; for “the righteous man shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.” (Psal. xxxvii. 29.)
Therefore, if thou desirest to have the blessing of God upon thyself and upon thy family, either before or after thy own private devotions, call every morning all the family to some convenient room; and first either read to them thyself a chapter in the word of God, or cause it to be read distinctly by some other. If leisure serve, thou mayest admonish them of some remarkable notes;4848Origen would have the word expounded in Christian houses.—Hom. 9, in Lev. Augustine saith, That what the preacher is in the pulpit, the same the householder is in the house. and then kneeling down with them in reverent sort, as is before described, pray with them in this manner:—
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