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PLAIN AND SERIOUS ADDRESS, &c.
You may easily apprehend, that the many interruptions
to which personal visits are liable, make it difficult for ministers to find a convenient time, in which they may apply themselves suitably and largely to those committed to their care; or at least, if they resolve to do it, will necessarily make their progress through large congregations very slow. I therefore take this method of visiting you while alone, and of addressing you on the very important subject of family religion. For your own sake, and the sake of those dearest to you, I intreat you to give me a calm attentive hearing. And I would particularly desire, that if it be by any means practicable, (as with little contrivance and resolution I hope it may,) you would secure one hour on the morning of the Lord's-day after you receive it, not merely to run over this letter in a cursory manner, but deliberately to weigh and consider it, and to come to some determination, as in the sight of God, that you will, or that you will not, comply with the petition which it brings; if I may not rather say, with the demand which in his name it makes upon you.
As I purpose to deliver it to every master of a family under stated care, or to every mistress where there is no master, (that no offence of any kind may be taken, which it is in my power to prevent,) I know it will come to many, who have long been exemplary for their diligence and zeal in the duties I am recommending; to many, whom their own experience hath instructed in the pleasures and advantages which flow from them; an experience, which will inforce them more effectually than any thing which it is possible for me to say. Such will, I hope, by what they read, be confirmed in pursuing the good resolution they have taken, and the good customs they have formed; and will also be excited more earnestly to endeavour to contribute towards introducing the like, into other families over which they have any influence, and especially into those which may branch out from their own, by the settlement of children or servants. In this view, as well as to awaken their thankfulness to divine grace, which hath inclined them to the 4 E
discharge of their duty in so great, yet so frequently neglected, an article of it, I hope the heads of praying families will not peruse this letter in vain. But it is intended as an address to those, who have hitherto lived in the omission of it: And if there were but one such master of a family under my care, I would gladly submit to the labour in which I am now engaging for his sake alone. To such therefore I now turn myself; and Oh that divine grace might engage every one of such a character to hear me with attention, and might enforce upon his conscience the weight of reasons, the evidence of which the lowest may receive, and to which it is impossible that the highest should find any thing solid to object!
Oh my dear friend, whoever you are, (for I know no one under my care to whom I may not address that appellation,) give me leave to tell you plainly, that while I write this I have that awakening scripture in my view: Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the FAMILIES THAT CALL NOT ON THY NAME.* I appeal to you as a man of ordinary sense and understanding, (as it needs no more,) to judge whether this do not strongly imply that it may be taken for granted, every family, which is not a heathen family, which is not quite ignorant of the living and true God, will call upon his name. Well may it then pain my heart, to think that there should be a professedly christian family, whom this dreadful character suits. Well may it pain my heart, to think of the divine fury, which may be poured out on the heads and on the members of it: And well may it make me desirous, to do my utmost to secure you and yours, from every appearance, from every possibility of such danger. Excuse the earnestness with which I may address you. I really fear, lest while you delay, the fire of the divine displeasure should fall upon yout: And as I adore the patience of God in having thus long suspended the storm, I am anxious about every hour's delay, lest it should fall the heavier. I will therefore, as plainly and seriously as I can, endeayour to convince you of your duty, if peradventure you are not already secretly convinced of it; as truly I believe, most who neglect it, under the regular administration of gospel ordinances, are. I will then touch on a few of those objections, which have been pleaded to excuse in some degree so shameful an omission. And this will naturally lead me to conclude with a few hints, which may serve by way of direction, for the proper introduction and discharge of the services to which I am endeavouring to engage you.
I mean not to handle the subject at large, which would
• Jer. x. 25.
+ Gen. xix. 16, 17.
afford abundant matter for a considerable volume; as indeed several volumes have been written upon it, by divines of different denominations, who, however various in other opinions, agree here; as what intelligent christian can disagree? But I mean to suggest a few plain things, which it is evident you have not sufficiently considered, and which if duly weighed, may by the blessing of God answer my present purpose. Now the arguments I shall propose will be such, that if you will not regard them, little is to be hoped from any other: For surely the mind of man can discover none of greater and more universal importance; though I readily acknowledge, that many others might inforce them with greater energy and address. Yet if the desire, the most earnest desire of succeeding can add any of the proper arts of persuasion, they will not be wanting here. And I would fain speak, as one who considers, how much of the glory of God, how much of your own happiness, and that of your dear children, for time and eternity, depends on the success of what I am now to lay before you.
What I desire and intreat of you is, that you would honour and acknowledge God in your families, by calling them together every day, to hear some part of his word read to them, and to offer, for a few minutes at least, your united confessions, prayers and praises to him. And is this a cause, that should need to be pleaded at large by a great variety of united motives? Truly the petition seems so reasonable, and a compliance with it from one who has not quite renounced religion might seem so natural, that one would think the bare proposing it might suffice. Yet experience tells us, it is much otherwise. This letter will come into the hands of some, who, though they maintain a public profession of religion, have been again and again exhorted to it in vain, and that perhaps for succeeding years. I might say a great deal to upbraid such especially, on account of this neglect; but I rather chuse to intreat to the future performance of the duty; humbly hoping, that, criminal as former negligence has been, a gracious God will mercifully forgive it, to those who repent and desire to reform.
And Oh that I could engage you to this, by representing in the plainest, kindest, and most affectionate manner, the reasonableness, and advantage of this duty! For if it be reasonable, if it be evidently advantageous, there are numberless general precepts of scripture, which must comprehend and inforce it, if it were less immediately supported than it is by particular passages; which yet, as I shall presently shew, do many of them strongly recommend it to us.