1. What an honourable and advantageous thing is it, to have God shining in love on a family, and dwelling in it, as his temple and habitation: And when families are as churches and sanctuaries unto the Lord, by offering up unto him daily the sacrifices of praise, and the calves of the lips. When the Apostle, 2 Cor. 6.14. is pressing the Corinthians, not to be unequally yoked; that is, That Christians should not marry with infidels; he useth these arguments in the following Verses, 15-18, For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. &c. Whereby we see, That when families are consisting of Christians, and they demeaning themselves, as becometh Christians, they are the temple of God, wherein dwelleth righteousness, and light, and Christ; God dwelleth in them, and walketh in them, and becometh their God, when they carry as his people: And when they touch no unclean thing, he becometh a father unto them, and they his sons and daughters.
2. When families are thus carrying as Christian families, devoting themselves unto God, and worshipping him, they are fair to receive rich blessings from God, and lie open to his influences of love and mercy: When Jacob purged his family, and erected an altar unto the Lord, at Luz, or Bethel, Gen. 35. God appeared unto him, and blessed him, and gave him the name Israel, and renewed the promises made to Abraham and to Isaac, Verses 10-12.
3. God who heareth prayers, will hear Family-prayers, & give a return in mercy, when he is sought unto, and served in the due manner: He is called the hearer of Prayers indefinitely, without restriction to individual persons, or to churches. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears open unto their cry, Psalm. 34.15. So his eyes are upon righteous families, and his ears open to their cry; as the opposition in the next verse will clear; for there he saith, The face of the Lord, is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth: Now this cutting off their remembrance is a stroke against their families and posterity; when families are wicked, God’s face is against them to destroy them; but when families are righteous, the Lord’s eyes are upon them, to bless them, to preserve their memorial and remembrance, and to multiply them. Beside that, righteous families may meet with trouble: And so when they cry, the Lord heareth and delivereth them out of all their troubles, verses 17,19. O! what a rich & noble advantage is this, that they have God’s ear? We see what a rich blessing came on Cornelius’s family, which was a family of prayer, their prayer was heard, and fully answered, Acts. 10.4,5, &c. How blessed must that family be, that hath God so near to them, in all that they need, dwelling in the midst of them, hearkening to their supplications, taking all their petition out of their hand. When a family becometh the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their off-spring with them; as it is Isa. 65.23. then it cometh to pass, as it is in the following Verse, That before they call, I will answer, & whilest they are yet speaking, I will hear saith the Lord: And who can imagine what the worth of this advantage is?
4. As families receive outward favours from the hand of God, as well as particular persons; so when these come unto them by the means of Prayer, how sweet and singular do these favours become? How do they smell of heaven, & of love of free grace? when families are fearing the Lord, and hoping in his mercy, and evidencing the same in their instant Prayer unto him, then his keeping them alive in famine, & becoming their help and their shield, as it is, Psalm 33.18,19. hath a peculiar sweetness and relish of fatherly care and protection. It is said, Psalm. 34.7-10. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste & see, that the Lord is good, blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the Lord ye his saints, for there is no want to them, that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord, shall not want any good thing. And as this holdeth good of particular saints; so also of families; for the angel of the Lord encampeth about families that fear him; as we see he did encamp about Jacob’s family, that their neighbors did not pursue after them, when Simeon and Levi, had committed that bloody act upon the Shechemites, See Gen. 35.5. When families fear the Lord, and draw nigh him in fear, they need not fear want; for they that seek the Lord, be they nations, cities, churches, families or persons, shall not want any good thing. And when praying families receive all their good thus, what a peculiar heavenly smell must they have; when they flow from free grace, through a promise, after prayer, and dependence upon him by Prayer; they cannot be common favours, but special tokens of love, care, kindness, & faithfulness.
5. Prayer is the mean to obtain the sanctified blessing unto family-mercies; The family must have food and raiment, and other things of that nature necessary for its sustentation and preservation: Now all these things are sanctified by Prayer, 1 Timothy 4.4,5. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God, and Prayer.
6. There may be in the family some young or old, one or other, or more, who have need of the pouring out of the spirit, for their conviction and conversion; who stand in need of clean water to be poured upon them, and of the spirit to sanctify and purge them: There may be one or other carried away with corruption, and under the power thereof, under the power of some lust: And much sin may be lying upon the family; Now, in order to the obtaining of the spirit of God, in order to, the delivery from these evils, Prayer is requisite, for as to all these things, promised in the new covenant, the Lord will be enquired of by the house of Israel. Ezek. 36 & 47. and consequently by every family & the house of Israel, Job was careful to sanctify his family, & to offer burnt offerings, according to the number of them all; For he said, It may be that they have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. And this was Job’s daily work. Job. 1.5.
7. It is pleasant and comely, to see families walking in the fear of God, each minding their duty to other, in a Christian manner, and all walking in their places, and stations, in an edifying and holy way. Husbands and wives carrying to other as becometh; Masters and servants minding their mutual duties to one another; and parents and children walking each in their station, in the fear of God; whileas, when all things are out of course, mutual duties laid aside, the fear of God cast off, and all things turned upside down; yea, or when any one person in the family is out of order, what a discord is caused, where a sweet harmony ought to be? and how do the family become worse than a prison? Now, by continuing in Prayer, is this great good had; for it is a mean to keep all the respective members of the family, in their due places, and to keep them at their several respective duties, as we cleared above, from Coloss. 3. & 4.
8. What a comely, pleasant, and desirable sight is it to a spiritual soul, to see a family assembling together, and daily devoting themselves unto God, to be for him, all the day; to be led by his counsel, to be guided by his spirit, in all Christian obedience, to be devoted to his fear, and service, as wholly for him and his glory in the world; and subordinating all things, that concern them, unto him, and his interest. And again returning at evening, giving due thanks unto the Lord for favours received, and consecrating the gain of all unto him? Now all this is done by Prayer, rightly gone about, in the family; There, all with one voice offer up themselves, and present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, even their reasonable service, Rom. 12.1. and all again with one voice, offer him the calves of their lips, and return him thanks for his goodness and mercy: How desirable a thing is this to see families like temples, wherein was daily the morning and evening sacrifice offered up upon the Altar.
9. When any visitation, ordinary or extraordinary, is on the family, any rod upon any member thereof, any cross, or sad dispensation upon the whole, or upon any part, young or old, what a great advantage have such families, as have been and are making conscience of this duty? For they have no ground to look upon that plague, as a fruit of that wrath, which God poureth forth on the families, that call not on his name; in regard that they have been in some measure, aiming and minting at the duty: They have access to God through Jesus Christ, for seeking of his blessing unto that dispensation, and the sanctified improvement thereof: every creature of God (and crosses may be reckoned among his creatures) is sanctified by Prayer.
10. This moreover is a great advantage, that they are not in such hazard (ordinarily) of Satan’s wiles, who daily watcheth [for] opportunity to ensnare; and hath his baits and temptations shaped for families, as well as for private persons; and families must wrestle against these principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against wicked spirits, as well as others; and therefore they must be armed, with the whole armour of God; and must pray always with all prayer and supplication, Eph. 6.11,12,18. Now such families, as are thus praying always with all Prayer and supplication, and are delivering themselves over unto the protection of God, that they may be kept from the snares of that fowler, have a great advantage of [over] others, who laying aside this duty, lie open unto the arrows of that wicked one; how soon can satan sow discord in a family, whether betwixt man and wife, or betwixt master and servant, or betwixt parents and children, to the disturbance of the whole? And what peace can such families have, when it is so with them, & that as the fruit of their neglect of this duty? or what ground of hope can any family have, of being protected herefrom, which neglecteth this mean of safety?
11. Where families are making conscience of this duty, they are all in a better case to serve God acceptably in the more public assemblies of his People, than otherwise. When churches are made up of churches, and every family is a small church; and when God is worshipped in those smaller churches carefully and religiously; the public worship, in the assemblies of the saints, must be carried on with greater beauty, unanimity, cheerfulness, and heavenly concord: but on the contrary, where this is neglected, and families assemble together without this previous preparation, how little spiritual harmony can there be expected? When hearts are out of tune, the sound must be jarring.
12. Families have hereby their communion kept with God, & thus are kept in the suburbs of heaven; hereby they tell him all their wants, and make known to him all their desires, cast all their care and burdens on him, consult him in all difficult cases, & get their resolutions from: Thus they get help, relief, strength, support, light, and what their case calleth for. O! what a satisfying, pleasant, and delectable life must this be?
By these things we may see what an advantageous duty this is, and how much good it is to be expected thereby, and how hurtful the neglect of it must needs be, whereby all such as are concerned should consider the encouragements they have hereby unto this duty, which should be as so many arguments.
~ John Brown of Wamphray