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النشر الإلكتروني

SECTION II.

PRAYER.

WE seem, at length, by God's peculiar blessing, to have arrived in this country at a period in its religious advancement, when family worship at the beginning and end of each day is quite of course among all professing Christians who have any right apprehension of what that name imports. Very few that entertain any serious prospects beyond the present world are now deterred by the silly dread of profane ridicule from instituting in their families the decent, daily recognition of man's dependence upon the Author of his being; and even among those with whom that feeling of dependence is never present with its becoming influence, the disposition to ridicule what is in itself so reasonable, and so manifestly belongs to the creed to which they nominally subscribe, grows gadually weaker as common sense advances with the progress of experience.

It is, however, too true that many masters and fathers, decorous in their lives, omit the practice of family prayer. Some seem to imagine that their decorous lives render unnecessary either

prayer or intercession. Some revolt at the humiliating posture and character of suppliants; some appear to be unconcerned at the inconsistencies they display before the Creator, so long as they stand before his criminal creatures acquitted of hypocrisy.

On the class of the self-satisfied, it is not within my purpose to employ many words.' They have taken religion by the wrong handle, and have turned it upside down. They begin with pretension, instead of confession; with claim, instead of renunciation; with security, instead of alarm; and it is impossible, while the man continues thus estranged from himself, for any just notion to be felt by him of his relation to God. With such a person, it is necessary, as a preliminary to prayer, that the whole order of his religious ideas should be inverted, and a new basis of thought and reflection set up in his mind. Till the worshipper of God shall have attained to this right view of himself and of his doings, in comparison with the holy law of him. whom he addresses, and of the fearful exigence of his perfect justice, he can have no proper subjects of prayer, which are all suggested by the abject state of the soul of man, apart from the hope of forgiveness through the Saviour.

With respect to that class whom a false shame

and an ill-directed fear deters from this essential duty, who may, doubtless, often be wrong, rather from the perversion of sentiment than from the corruption of principle, a hope may be cherished that in the progress of religious knowledge their understandings may come to adjust the case between man and his Maker with better discernment, and to settle their proportionate dues with more correctness of comparison. When sanity of sentiment is thus restored, and shame and glory settle upon their proper objects, order and arrangement will succeed to disturbance and confusion, and the lights and shadows will be distinctly and beautifully disposed throughout the moral picture.

Where prayer is a novel exercise, it may, perhaps, exhibit itself in a family with a certain degree of awkwardness. On our first essay to proceed in untried armour, our gait may be ungraceful and constrained; and a consciousness or apprehension of this will be apt to embarrass the beginner. This ineptitude may remain for some time after the false shame above alluded to has ceased to operate; but none can have passed the first month of initiation in this good work with his family, without experiencing an internal sense of security that invigorates his hopes and cheers his prospects; his house seems

more his castle; and an invisible guard encamps about his bed.

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Prayer flourishes and grows in beauty like a flower in a state of domestic culture. It has a small beginning, but a bright consummation: it is cradled in the clod, but crowned in the sunbeam. To accomplish it well, we have often to begin it ill, that is, as we can, in the midst of retardments and avocations; if not holily, yet humbly; if not with the unction of divine grace, at least with a full feeling of human depravity: if not with assurance of success, at least with the conviction of need; finding the strongest motive to prayer in the weakness of our efforts to pray. Prayer thrives with repetition. All can try; all can ask; all can kneel; and most idle and dangerous it is to trust to anticipating grace, or to wait in expectation of gratuitous mercy, without putting forth such natural strength as we possess, in confessing inability and imploring succour. The holy will, the sanctified wish, the steady purpose, are of the free bounty of God to impart; but to do the act of prayer with humble endeavour; to do it with exemplary frequency; to avow a sinner's concern for his soul, and to supplicate forgiveness, are simple doings within the competency of miserable flesh; duties which humanity is a debtor to perform,

and from which beginnings we may mount on the promises of Scripture to that high and "holy hill," where our Maker will shed the dew of his blessings on all sincere suppliants.

In the exhibition of domestic worship the Christian head of a family has a charge of great importance, and a task which calls for discretion. His primary object should be, as I reason from personal experience, to keep his own mind in an honest state, really occupied with that in which he professes to be engaged. In the style of our prayers, public and private, our language is usually suited to the urgency and solemnity of their objects; but often, while the lips are importunate, the heart is cold and unconscious; while the organs are busy, the thoughts are rambling over the fields of illusory hope and turbid anxiety. To keep the thoughts at home, and the sympathies alert; to sustain in the little circle assembled around him, an attention to the thing they are doing and the Majesty they are addressing, is the difficult task of the domestic officiator. Prayer should, on these considerations, have the precedence in the day's arrangements. The sacred duty should open freshly with the dawn, and drink in the dewy ray of the morning; it should meet the orient sun when 'he comes as a bridegroom out of his chamber,

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