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Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.-To shew forth thy loving kindness every morning, and thy faithfulness every evening.
PRAYER to the Father of all the families on earth, is an ordinance which he has appointed, as the condition of having our wants supplied, and as one special means of keeping up in our hearts a constant sense of his majesty and goodness, and thereby a due fear, and love, and reverence of his name. Our wants are daily, and the temptations which draw our hearts from God to the things of this world are also daily; and upon both these accounts our prayers ought also to be daily. Daily prayer has been the practice of good and religious men in all ages. They scarce deserve the name of christians, who can lie down to rest without praying for the protection of God, and rise again without thanking him for that protection, and begging his blessing upon themselves and their undertakings the following day. The only way to have these duties surely and effectually performed by christians, is to settle the practice of morning and evening prayers in their families; the members of which, at least the greatest part of them, are supposed ordinarily to be together at these two seasons. When the times of prayer are thus settled, it will be accounted part of the business of the day. As the neglect of family prayer occasions an habitual forgetfulness of God, and the things of another life; so the daily practice of it keeps up in families the honour and spirit of religion; and is the best means that fathers and mothers, masters and mistresses, can use, to preserve in themselves, their children, and servants, such a religious and heavenly frame of soul as becomes a society of christians. It brings down upon families the blessing of God, and supplies of grace to assist and direct those members who heartily join with their brethren in daily prayer for it. If there be any members of a family wicked, or ill-disposed, this practice is the way to reclaim them and make them good, by bringing to their minds every day the thoughts of God and another world and keeping their consciences awake. As to those of a family who are good, and desirous to grow every day better, the practice of daily prayer makes them fixed and steadfast in their religious dispositions. It keeps their souls bent towards heaven and heavenly things; it raises them more and more to such a spirit of devotion, as both prepares them, while they live, to be fervent and zealous amongst the faithful in the public service of God's church; and when they come to die, fits them for spiritual joys and exercises among the blessed in heaven.
The neglect of this duty breaks that delightful connection which the soul has with God; it brings an indifference to spiritual objects, and incapacitates the mind for the highest and noblest action which is allowed it in this world or the next.
Let us resolve to kneel side by side at the family altar,-and when we read the same gospel, and kindle over the same page, then let us pour forth in mingling sacrifice our devotion, believing that He, who numbers the hairs of our heads, will not disregard the anxious supplications of our souls, especially when they ascend for others as well as ourselves.
To God may each assembled house
EXPLANATION OF SCRIPTURE TERMS AND PHRASES.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
GRACE, is favour, mercy, bounty. Sometimes some particular or especial favour: sometimes that invaluable exhibition of God's favour to mankind, the gospel. As it often signifies the unmerited favour of God, so it also signifies that which is a ground of divine favour, or a recommendation to it, good temper and good conduct, the natural effects of that grace of God, the gospel. Children, or subjects of God's grace, signifies sometimes those who enjoy the advantages of the christian, sometimes those who acceptably improve them; that is, in other words, those who are possessed of that character in which God delights. Quickening grace, enlivening grace, when it is not referred to natural but to moral things, is the favour of God by his providence or his word, animating and invigorating us in the exercise and the culture of all christian virtues, and in the discharge of all christian obligations. In consideration of the efficacy of his providence and of his word to convey to us the best of blessings, that is, to form us to good character, to comfort and to confirm us in it, God is sometimes called the God of grace, and, by a mode of speaking, similar to that in which Christ is said to be "of God, made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," God is called the Lord our righteousness and strength. To feel the grace of God, is to experience the just effects of his holy word, the gospel.
FAITH. Fidelity or truth, either of God or man: belief: sometimes belief of the word of God credit given to Christ, apostles, evangelists sometimes that persuasion of mind by which we become sensible to things invisible, past, or future; sometimes the doctrine of the gospel considered as depending upon the testimony of Christ and sometimes that same doctrine considered as a deposite entrusted with those to whom it is made known.
COVENANT. Mutual agreement or stipulation, conditional promIn the language of scripture, it sometimes signifies absolute promise or engagement; ordinance, instruction, appointment, injunction, precept, command. Blood of the covenant: death of an animal, by which, anciently, in some countries, covenants were confirmed and ratified; the parties imprecating upon themselves a death as miserable as that which the animal struck by them or before them, which they touched or through the divided parts of which they walked, had suffered, if they did not the things they said, or did not perform the things they stipulated That by which both, or either of the contracting parties, on such occasions, give proof of their sincerity, and create confidence in their fidelity; that by which a promise is solemnly confirmed. See Heb. ix. 16. &c. Jer. xxxiv. 18. &c. Gen. xv. 9. &c. Exod. xxiv.3—8. Ruth i. 17. 1. Sam. xiv. 44 and elsewhere.
COMMUNION. Joint participation in any sentiment, action, character, privilege or enjoyment: approximation; intercourse. communion, a body or society.
TO JUSTIFY, in the language of scripture, to release; discharge; absolve; acquit; pronounce just; consider as such; treat with mercy, favour, liberality; approve, bless.
Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
AT this season when the bounties of heaven are presented in the harvest, and the sterile winter is approaching, we are forcibly reminded of the duty of saving. Next in value to the industry which accumulates, is the economy which preserves; and we must always distinguish between the virtue of frugality and the vice of avarice. Frugality is strongly recommended by the precept and example of Christ. It seems to be the practice of Omnipotence itself, as there is no waste throughout creation. It is a virtue which can be practised by all during every day. It is recommended in the mournful effects of prodigality. It is the wisest use of wealth, and permits the prudent man to be charitable.-Frugality is the daughter of prudence, the sister of temperance, and the parent of liberty. In our favoured land every man may, by industry, temperance and economy, secure himself a cheerful competence for the decline of life.
Because I deem frugality a virtue, and its opposite a vice, I shall admit here a few prudential maxims, which are demanded by the heedless wastefulness of the present times.-A penny saved is twopence got. This may be accommodated to all conditions, by observing not only that they who pursue any lucrative employment will save time when they forbear expense, and that the time may be employed to the increase of profit; but that they who are above such minute considerations will find, by every victory over appetite or passion, new strength added to the mind, will gain the power of refusing those solicitations by which the young and vivacious are hourly assaulted, and in time set themselves above the reach of extravagance and folly.
It may, perhaps, be inquired by those who are willing rather to cavil than to learn, what is the just measure of frugality? and when expense, not absolutely necessary, degenerates into profusion? To such questions no general answer can be returned; since the liberty of spending, or necessity of saving, may be varied without end by different circumstances. It may, however, be laid down as a rule never to be broken, that a man's voluntary expense should not exceed his revenue. A maxim so obvious and incontrovertible, that the civil law ranks the prodigal with the madman, and debars them equally from the conduct of their own affairs. Another precept arising from the former, and indeed included in it, is yet necessary to be distinctly impressed upon the warm, the fanciful, and the brave: Let no man anticipate uncertain profits. Let no man presume to spend upon hopes, to trust his own abilities for means of deliverance from penury, to give a loose to his present desires, and leave the reckoning to fortune or to virtue.
To these cautions, which I suppose are, at least among the graver part of mankind, undisputed, I will add another, Let no man squander against his inclination. With this precept it may be, perhaps, imagined easy to comply; yet if those whom profusion has buried in prisons, or driven into banishment, were examined, it would be found that very few were ruined by their own choice, or purchased pleasure with the loss of their estates; but that they suffered themselves to be borne away by the violence of those with whom they conversed, and yielded reluctantly to a thousand prodigalities, either from a trivial emulation of wealth and spirit, or a mean fear of contempt and ridicule.
GOD'S PROVIDENCE A SOURCE OF TRUST AND JOY.
The Lord reigneth,-let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad.
GOD's Providence is the proper object of absolute confidence. We ught to trust in it with firmness, and to throw upon it all our cares. The belief of it should render us serene in all seasons, and support and encourage us in the worst extremities. It is impossible that any event in which our interest is concerned should be neglected. We are under the protection of infinite power; and the charge of sovereign goodness. No perplexing fears, therefore, or desponding solicitude should at any time enter into our breasts. One truth, however, let us carefully attend to. Let us remember that our trust in God's Providence ought to be regulated by a regard to the spotless purity of his character, and accompanied always with the practice of virtue, and our own utmost prudence and diligence. Without this our expectations from Providence are vain, and our trust in it will be presumption.
God's Providence is a source of the highest joy. Almighty power, guided by infinite wisdom and limited by infinite goodness, can bring about none but the happiest results. How delightful are these truths! With what exultation and triumph should they fill us? Do you suffer under any calamity? Remember that the eye of the Deity is upon you, and that you can suffer nothing but in consequence of the disposals and counsels of his ever attentive and unerring Providence. Accept then your sufferings with a zeal becoming his faithful subject. Submit to them with loyal and hearty affection, and never indulge a repining thought. Wherein can your dignity consist except in having one will with God? Can you be displeased with what is right? Would you have the world governed wrong? No degree of improper pain, no sufferings inconsistent with a perfect order of administration can ever find admission into the world. The universal order has already brought us much happiness; and we are assured that, if we avoid vice and discharge our duty, happiness shall not cease at death, but be renewed in brighter regions, and there go on increasing and improving through eternity. Oh! ravishing hope.-Glory for ever be to that inconceivable grace which thus blesses us.
Let us labour earnestly to bring our minds into that temper which the doctrine of Providence requires.-Let us follow implicitly wherever it leads us, and make an absolute surrender of our wills to God's will, suppressing all solicitude about every thing but acting faithfully the part he has assigned us, maintaining inviolably our allegiance to his government, and never wishing to enjoy any advantage which he is pleased to deny, or to be exempted from any troubles which he can permit to come upon us. Thus shall we be eased of all unnecessary cares, enjoy that peace of God which passeth all understanding, and attain to the highest dignity and bliss of which rational beings are capable.--Oh! joyful reflection! God reigns, and all is well. Eternal wisdom and benevolence are present every where, and govern all things. Welcome then every event. Welcome disappointment, sickness or death. Let tempests roar. Let thunder tear the heavens, or earthquakes overturn cities and kingdoms. In all we may hear the voice of the presiding divinity assuring us that we need not fear. Within the embraces of his arms we must be always safe.
FAITH-OR BELIEVING WITH THE HEART.
With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.
BELIEF, or faith, strictly defined, is the assent of the understanding to a stated and intelligible proposition. But this assent may be given to errour, as well as to truth; and it may be rendered when it ought to be withheld, and withheld when it ought to be rendered; for the decisions of the understanding are not infallible. On many subjects, evidence seems to be equally balanced; and authority, if authority be consulted, is divided too. Yet, if we would have any regular principles of action, we must form for ourselves a belief; for belief is the foundation of principle. In religion this is especially important, as all the obligations and duties which belong to us in the character of created and dependant beings, are designated by that sacred word.
How then is our religious faith to be regulated? How are we to be preserved from errour, where errour may be so fatal, and where truth is surely so desirable? Is there no general rule, which, though it may admit of a great variety and difference of opinion, will yet guard us against fundamental mistake, and guide us to a faith, which shall have the best influence on our lives and conversation?
Such a rule is given by St. Paul in a few words. With the heart, says he, man believeth unto righteousness. Here we are told, that if a man would believe unto righteousness, that is, if he would have his belief terminate in those moral and spiritual qualifications, which God will accept and bless, he must believe vith heart; we are told, that the only principles on which we can place a well grounded reliance, are those whose foundation is the heart; that the only religion, which will effectually assist and console us, is the religion of the heart; that the only faith which will save us, is the faith of the heart.
I. By the faith of the heart, is to be understood, a faith which does not terminate in speculation. By the religion of the heart, is to be understood a vital religion, a religion which lives, and breathes, and moves, and acts; which prompts the virtues, and regulates the conduct; a religion which tells the heart to beat, whenever the blessed names and offices of integrity, purity, and justice are recited; which commands the affections to fly, wherever there is a tear flowing, which they can wipe away, or a bosom bleeding, which they can bind, or a care which they can render lighter by their support, or a sorrow which they can alleviate by their sympathy; a religion which bids its votaries lift a reverend and grateful eye to the Creator for his ceaseless and unspeakable bounties, and then look down again on the world-and endeavour to deserve them.
II. To believe with the heart is to make our opinions invariably respect the good affections of our nature, and to admit no principles which are opposed to them; not indeed to be guided by the heart, but never to offer any violence to its dictates. There is no heresy so dangerous, as that which rebels against the innocent and regulated feelings of humanity. There is no schism so dreadful, as that which breaks away from the communion and companionship of the heart. There is no belief so widely unchristian and unsound, as that which would in the least degree contribute to weaken or to sever the bonds of society, and the ties of neighbourhood, friendship and affection. That counsel is of Moloch, and not of God, which proclaims a war upon charity and love.