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FAMILY Religion has ever been justly deemed of immense importance, as it respects the spiritual welfare of families, towns, and nations. The religious principles and practices of families have great effect upon Church and State. The latter have always risen or declined, according to the prevalence or declension of the former. Hence arises the importance of Family Religion. This consists of
prayer, praise, and religious instruction. These services are, ordinarily, to be conducted by heads of families. That they may be acceptable and profitable, very much depends upon the right performance of them. Every thing, therefore, which contributes to this is desirable, and is to be viewed subsidiary to the cause of religion, and to the prosperity and happiness of man. -The following work is designed to promote in this way the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. It was thought proper, therefore, to commence with a discussion of the subject of Family Religion. This is done in a sermon in which the arguments in favour of Family Religion are presented, the time for the observance of it, and the duties included in it are pointed out, the manner in which it should be observed is stated, and an attempt to answer the excuses for the neglect of Family Religion is made. As family instruction is an important part of Family Religion, the princi
pal doctrines and duties of religion, systematically arranged, and treated in the way of Question and Answer, accompanied with Scripture proofs, are embraced in this work. The catechetical mode of instruction was much adopted by the Reformers in the sixteenth century as a happy and easy way of communicating divine knowledge. Å knowledge of truths, classified, or connected in a methodical manner,
assists the mind to think and reason systematically. Compendiums of divinity are valuable, as they contain much in little, and as they may be obtained and used by those, who are not disposed, and who have not ability, to purchase, and have not time to read, large systems of divinity. Christians too frequently are unarmed, and consequently, unable, to vindicate as they ought, the doctrines of Christianity. One design of this work is to furnish them with arguments, especially Scriptural arguments, by which to oppose errour and defend the truth. In this state of sin, temptation, and afflictions, every thing, which will help to guard us from vice, to urge us to duty and holiness, and to excite us to watchfulness and prayer, is to be viewed very desirable. As an important auxiliary in this respect, good people in all ages have adopted certain resolutions as a sort of directory in their conduct, and observed the practice of frequent self-examination. This led to the introduction of a series of Resolutions and of Questions of Self-examination.Prayer seems to be the principal part in the offices of devotion in families. But some pious persons are diffident, and seem not to possess the gift of prayer.
To assist such in matter and language, Prayers for Morning and Evening, together with a number of occasional ones, are inserted. As the Bible contains the happiest language to be used in invocation, adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition, intercession, , pleading, self-dedication, and ascription; so much
pains has been taken to interweave, in the composition of these prayers, the best passages, which could be selected from it. Scripture, pertinently introduced in prayer, has a striking effect upon the mind. It carries dignity, weight and authority with it. Besides, the language, taught by the Holy Spirit, it may be supposed, God will be likely to bless. It is not intended, that written prayers should take the place in all respects of extemporaneous prayers; but that they should be merely, as Bishop Wilkins calls them, crutches," or helps in matter, method, and expression, to those who want the ability, or the confidence to pray extemporaneously. Extemporaneous prayer should by all means be encouraged. To assist in obtaining a holy skill in this way is the principal design of these written forms of prayer.*
The primitive practice of singing in domestick worship, has been greatly neglected of late years. Singing of sacred song is a delightful part of worship, and may be the means of promoting the life and power of godliness in the soul. To aid in this duty, a number of Psalms and Hymns, well adapted to family worship, have been selected and introduced.
--It was believed, that were select harmony or psalm tunes of a judicious kind, added at the close of the book, it would be of great convenience, in refreshing the memory with respect to the tune to be sung, and in this way more would be
* Dr. Watts writes on this subject nearly in the following language: Are not such forms of pious address to God, as are drawn from a serious sense of divine things, and written by a skilful and judicious hand, of real adyantage to å sincere worshipper, both in solitary and social worship? Has not many a holy soul found its inward powers awakened and excited to lively religion by such assistances? May not many a penitential wish be excited under the sense of sin? May not many an ardent and suitable ejaculation be offered for some peculiar grace? May not many a pious aspiration of heart, many a joyful sound of praise, have owed its rise to the words and language of some well composed form? When we find the temper, the wants, and wishes of our hearts happily expressed in the words of a form so suitable and so expressive, that we know not how to form other words so suitable and 80 expressive of our own present state and case, why should we not make our addresses to God in this borrowed language?
able to join in worship. Some tunes have been chosen, not because they are peculiarly calculated for family devotion; but because they are of general use, and many persons are already acquainted with them. Others are specially adapted to private worship. All of them possess real excellence, and have an approved standard character.-—A book of the above description it was thought by the Author, and by many others, whose opinion is to be highly respected, is a desideratum in the present day. — How the work is executed, the publick must decide. The Author would commend it to the candour of families with the devout hope, that it may conduce to their spiritual benefit, and, above all, to the favour of the Great Head of the Church, with fervent prayer,
that He would bless this humble effort to advance the praise and glory of His adorable Name.