Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.—Judges 20.7.

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A

Pastoral Letter

To the

Old Dissenters,

Concerning

Family & Social Duties,

By the

Reformed Presbytery.

Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day; which ye shall command your children to observe, to do all the words of this law. . . . . . . . . . . . DEUT. xxxii. 46.


Paisley:

Printed by Stephen Young.

1808.

HAMILTON, 9th Nov. 1808.

The Presbytery met and constituted, &c.

A motion was made to the Presbytery, at a former meeting, that they should publish a short Pastoral Letter, addressed to the people under their inspection, in order to excite them, to a more regular observation of family and social duties, which was agreed to.  The Presbytery, at that meeting, appointed the Moderator to prepare it as soon as possible.

At this meeting, a draught of said Letter, was, at the Presbytery’s call, laid upon their table.  The Presbytery heard it read, approved it, and ordered it to be speedily printed and dispersed among the people.

The Presbytery earnestly recommend the careful perusal of it, and the conscientious performance of family and social worship to every one, who is under their pastoral and presbyterial care, wishing it to be impressed on their minds, that the neglect of those duties will subject them, to the judicial cognizance of the church.

Extracted by ADAM BROWN, P. C.


A

PASTORAL LETTER, &c.


Christian Friends & Brethren,

WE believe the words of the Apostle contain a divine direction to us, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20.28.  Of persons who are placed in our situation, the Apostle also says, “They watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” Heb. 13.17.  These words apply to us, both in our personal ministrations, and judicial procedure.  It is, therefore, our duty, to take heed to all the flock, to feed the church of God, and to watch for your souls, with a view to that account, which we must give, when we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Impressed with a sense of the importance of those duties, and the solemnity of that account, we judge it incumbent on us, now to address you in this manner.

We are certain, that some of you live in the total or partial neglect of social duties, and, that this, of late years, has much increased.  The meetings of Christians among you, for prayer and spiritual conference, with which the members of our church, were once closely connected, are now forsaken by some of you, and irregularly attended by others.  We have also reason to fear, that individuals are found among you, who partially neglect the worship of God in your families.  This did not use to be the case, with the members of the church to which you belong; it was, therefore, heard by us, with astonishment, as well sorrow.  That we, as your spiritual overseers, may discharge our duty to you, by calling you, in the name of the Lord, to the regular and conscientious performance of these duties, we propose, to your most serious attention, the following considerations.

The reasonableness of these duties deserves to be mentioned.  Is it not most reasonable, that the dependant beneficiaries of the great Jehovah, should render praise to him, who is {4} their bountiful Benefactor?  Christians, in their family capacities, are receiving manifold mercies from him, both by day, and by night; it is, therefore, most reasonable, that they, in that capacity, should pay the tribute of praise to him, every morning and evening.  They are committing sins against him, and are standing in need of favours from him, both in the watches of the night, and throughout the day; how reasonable then must it be, to pour out confessions, and send up supplications unto him, at the commencement and conclusions of every day.  As those families, who neglect this duty, act a most ungrateful and irrational part; so those who perform it are fully justified therein, by the soundest principles of reason.  It is also most reasonable, that Christians statedly meet, and, by prayer and spiritual conference, endeavour to promote their religious improvement.  If the men of the world, who follow the same pursuits, agricultural, commercial, literary, or political, hold their meetings, for mutual improvement, assistance, and success in their designs; must it not be also necessary and proper, that those who are engaged in the practice of religion, meet together, to encourage one another in the ways of the Lord?  “I beseech you, therefore, Brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies,” in the performance of these duties, “a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” [Rom. 12.1.]

The authority of God in his holy word binds those duties on your consciousness.  This is a consideration of the greatest importance, and merits your most careful attention.  The warrant for the duties of family worship may be learned, from the ancient ritual of Israel.  A sacrifice was to be offered, incense was to be burned, and prayers were to be made by the officiating priests, for all Israel, on the morning and evening of every day.  This proves that it is the duty of the spiritual Israel of God, to worship him in their families, at these particular seasons.  Besides, we are expressly told, Psalm 92.1,2, “It is a good thing,—to shew forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.”  The duty of Christians, both in their personal and family capacities, is here plainly declared.  We may add to these, the words of the Prophet, Jer. 10.25, “Pour out thy fury upon the—families that call not on thy {5} name.”  Were it not the duty of Christian families to call upon God, they would not be exposed to the effects of his wrath for neglecting it.  The divine warrant, for social worship, is equally clear from the word of God.  To these religious exercises, the scriptural injunctions by the Apostle, have a particular respect. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin.” Heb. 3.13.  “And let us consider one another, to provoke unto love, and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” Heb. 10.24,25.  That these precepts have a respect to Christians in their private capacity, is evident from the Apostle’s manner of speaking; they are to do these things to one another. Their mutual duties are to exhort one another daily, to provoke one another to love, and to good works.  For these valuable purposes, they are to meet together, and not to forsake such assemblies.  If you live in the neglect of family or social duties, either in whole or in part, you are guilty of rebellion against God; but if you are found practising them, you are yielding obedience to his command.

The approved examples of the saints, which you are bound to imitate, furnish you with another consideration, that should induce you to the performance of those duties.  We have this example, respecting family worship, in the practice of Joshua and David.  Joshua’s practice is stated by himself, in the form of a solemn resolution; “But as for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Jos. 24.15.  The practice of David is stated by the sacred historian; “Then David returned,” after he had been employed through the day, in a most public and solemn work, “then David returned, to bless his household.”  By the worship of God in our families, we serve the Lord; most honourable, important, and profitable employment.  By this exercise also we bless our household; we pray for the blessing upon them, exhibit the blessing before them, and use an appointed mean, whereby the Spirit conveys the blessing unto them.   The example of the saints is also clear, with respect to social duties.  Of this, the words of Malachi are a proof; chapter {6} 3.16, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”  The words of David confirm it also; “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” Psalm 66.16.  For this important duty, we have also apostolic example. After the ascension of Christ, it is said of the disciples, “These all continued with one accord, in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Acts 1.14.  Of Paul and his company, the inspired historian narrates, “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women who resorted thither.” Acts 16.13.  These two instances bear a stronger resemblance to the ordinance of fellowship meetings, than they do to any other ordinance of God; and, therefore, as an instructive and encouraging example to these duties, they may be contemplated.  O consider, Brethren, that in your neglecting them, you are not going forth by the footsteps of the flock; but, by your performance of them, you are the followers of those, who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises. [Cant. 1.8; Heb. 6.12.]

The evangelic obligations, by which we are bound to the service of the Lord our God, present to your view, a consideration of the greatest importance, for constraining you to perform those duties of religion.  These obligations arise from the grace of God, the work of Christ, and the inhabitation and influence of the Holy Spirit.  Since the adorable Three, who bear record in heaven, are particularly employed about our salvation, we are bound, by ties of the most peculiar and affecting nature, to exercise holy diligence, about all divine ordinances.  “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.  Not of works, lest any man should boast.” By the exercise of his grace to us in our salvation, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2.8,9,10.  The religious duties, which we are recommending unto you, are among the good works, to the performance of {7} which we should be constrained, from the consideration of the rich, free, and sovereign grace of God, exercised to us, for our eternal salvation.  If we enquire after the work of Christ, we will find, “that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” 2 Cor. 5.15.  He died an infinitely meritorious and satisfactory death for them, to procure it for them as a blessing, and to bring them under special obligations to it as their duty, to live, not to themselves, but to him, who was delivered for their offences, and rose again for their justification.  In the neglect of those duties, you certainly live unto yourselves; but in the performance of them, you endeavour to live to the glory of him, who died for you, and rose again.  Of the glorious privilege of the inhabitation and influence of the Holy Ghost, this is Jehovah’s promise, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezek. 36.27.  The duties of family and social worship belong unto those statutes and judgments of the Lord in which we are to walk, and which we are to do, under the divine and supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit of God; our neglecting them, therefore, must manifest, that we are either basely ungrateful to him for the gift of his Spirit, or that we are entirely sensual, not having the Spirit.  In connection with those evangelical obligations to the performance of duty, it may be proper to observe, that Christian parents, when bringing their seed to God in the ordinance of baptism, in which they are baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by whose grace, work, and influence they are saved, vow unto the Lord, that they will perform all religious duties, particularly family and social duties; it is therefore necessary, that they daily hearken to that authoritative voice, which says unto them, Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God. [Psalm 76.11.]

You should diligently perform family and social duties, that you may duly improve your mercies and privileges.  When the Lord, in his holy providence, gives you an opportunity of worshipping him, either in a family or social capacity, it is a great mercy.  Access to God, on the throne of grace, in these divine ordinances, is also a great privilege.  Many of our fellow creatures {8} are denied the enjoyment of these mercies and privileges.  Christians, who have opportunities of enjoying those means of salvation, are singularly privileged of the Lord.  For such opportunities, whether they are improved or not, you must give an account to him that judgeth righteously.  If you are enabled to improve them religiously, your account shall be given with joy, and not with grief; but if they are despised and neglected, how can you expect to stand before the Son of man?  All Christians, who carefully perform family and social duties, improve the unmerited mercies the Lord hath conferred on them, and dutifully use the distinguishing privileges, which he hath graciously given them.  When the day of his reckoning with them shall arrive, to them he will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”  But, alas!  Christians who neglect those duties, despise Jehovah’s mercies to them, contemn the privileges of his grace, and reject his counsel against their own souls.  To them the words of Moses are most applicable, “Do ye thus requite the Lord?  O foolish people and unwise!” Deut. 32.6.  Besides, have they not reason to tremble, lest he say of them, on the day of final reckoning, “Cast ye the unprofitable servant, into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth?” [Matt. 25.30.]

The general neglect of these duties, by the generation of professors, amongst whom you live, should induce you to a zealous and habitual performance of them.  When the truths of Christ are openly opposed, we should bear testimony to them, in the most public manner.  In the same way should we act, with respect to divine ordinances.  When these are despised, and the Christian duties relative to them are neglected, by the generality of professors; we should then observe them, with affection and perseverance.  The generation of Christians, in the present age, are remarkable, for their neglect of divine ordinances; it is therefore our duty, by a careful observation of them, both to condemn the world, and to evidence ourselves to be the “heirs of the righteousness which is by faith.” [Heb. 11.7.]  The neglect of the ordinance of family worship is mournfully prevalent in our day. {9} In some of the families of those who bear the Christian name, it is totally neglected, in others it is observed in the evening of the day only, and in not a few, it is performed only upon the sabbath.  Many of those who are even office-bearers in the church, are guilty of this neglect, either in whole, or in part.  To the duties of social worship, the greater part of professed Christians, in our times, are entire strangers.  If you are guilty of the same neglect, either in whole, or in part, where is your testimony against the abounding profanation of Christ’s ordinances, with which the generation is chargeable?  Are you not, in a most inconsistent manner, saying a confederacy with them, in this evil work?  By your criminal neglect of either of these duties, are you endeavouring to stop the torrent of impiety, or to stand in the gap to turn away wrath?  Are you not rather strengthening the hands of evil-doers, encouraging them in their sinful way, and laying yourselves obnoxious to their punishment?  Let all such careless professors of religion, attend to the divine calls, “Be not ye partakers with them,—walk as children of the light.—Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph. 5.7,8,10,11.

The awful nature of the times in which you live, should determine you, to a most careful and constant performance of family and social duties.  Two things characterise an evil day: The abounding of sin among a people, and the pouring out of the judgments of God on them, because of their iniquity.  On both these accounts the days that are passing over us, and the nations of the earth, are evil.  How dreadfully is sin abounding?  Sins of every description are prevailing greatly among all ranks and ages, and in every part of the world.  The judgments of God are also abroad in the earth.  How remarkably has the cup of divine judgments gone round, from nation to nation, of late years?  How deeply are the nations, even at the present time, drinking of that cup?  We know not how soon the cup, in a more particular manner, may pass over, and come to us.  Of the time in which we live, it may be said, “It is the day of the Lord’s vengeance; and the year of recompense, for the controversy of Zion.” Isa. 34.8.  The Lord seems to be pouring {10} out his judgments, on the children of men, for their contempt of the gospel of Christ, for their opposition to the kingdom of Messiah, for their attachment to systems of false religion, and for their practical immoralities.  In times of abounding sin, Christians are exposed to many snares, against which they cannot expect to be fortified, unless they are diligent in performing religious duties.  When divine judgments are in the earth, the children of God are exposed to much suffering, for which they cannot be prepared, if they neglect the ordinances of God.  It is therefore incumbent on you, at such a time as this, most carefully to perform social and family duties.  It was when men called the proud happy, when they that wrought wickedness were set up, and when they that tempted God were even delivered, that they who feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it. Mal. 3.15,16.  In the Apostle’s exhortation to this duty, he calls up this idea to the Christian’s view: “But exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Heb. 10.25.  Your neglect of those duties is most particularly aggravated, when days of trial are approaching, and when alarms are sounding on God’s holy mountain.  The duties of which we are now speaking, are among the church’s chambers, into which her members are called to enter and hide themselves, till his indignation be overpast; it is, therefore, most necessary, that all who name the name of Christ, should feel in their minds, the influence of this motive to diligence, in family and social duties.

The promotion of the glory of God, should determine Christians, to the unwearied performance of those duties.  The glorifying of God is the highest end, we can have in view, in any action.  There are other ends of religious duties, such as, our own advantage, and the spiritual good of others; but these, and the like, are subordinate to the divine glory.  By the command of God, we are bound to make this our principal end in all our actions.  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10.31.  No action is excepted, every one is included.  No action must be neglected, that tends to promote his glory; and none should be done, by which he is dishonoured.  The words of the Apostle present the {11} same truth to our view: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him, who hath called you out of darkness, into his marvellous light.” 1 Pet. 2.9.  Some of the most exalted privileges, which God graciously gives to his people for Christ’s sake, are here mentioned.  The grand design of his bestowing them on us, is that we should actively shew forth the praises, celebrate the glory, and advance the renown and memorial of the God of our salvation.  To the same purpose, are the words of the Saviour himself, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” John 15.8.  And again, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5.16.  The fruit which Christians ought to bear, and the light they should make shine, comprehend the whole of their holy conversation in the world, whether it relates to duties civil or religious.  The due performance of family and social duties, belongs to that fruit, by which they glorify God, and makes a part of that light, whereby others are brought to glorify their heavenly Father.  They are acts of divine worship, whereby we glorify God, and may be instrumental in bringing others to glorify him.  All Christians, who live in the due observation of those duties, glorify God, by adoring his supremacy and grace, in the appointment of these ordinances; and by submissively yielding obedience to his authority, in their attending on them.  The language of their practice is this, we believe these are institutions of thy grace, and here we are in thy presence to worship thee, in these courts of thy house.  But, alas! the practice of these Christians who neglect family or social duties, speaks a very different language.  They say, by their conduct, we do not believe these duties to be ordinances of thine, and we are not careful to obey thy authority, concerning those matters.  Such behaviour is as dishonouring to God, as it is rebellious and ungrateful.  The happiness of the former, and the misery of the latter of these classes of professors, are clearly stated in these remarkable words of Jehovah, which are of perpetual application to the members of the church, “They that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me, shall be {12} lightly esteemed.” 1 Sam. 2.30.  That you may be found, O Christians, giving to the Lord the glory due to his name, worship him in your households, and in the private meetings of his people.

Christians should be stirred up to a careful performance of these duties, because of the profitableness thereof, to their own souls.  You certainly do not consult your own spiritual advantage, if you live in the neglect of them.  They are precious means of increasing your religious knowledge, and of stirring up your pure minds in the way of remembrance.  To the souls of believers, they have been often blessed, for promoting their religious improvement.  By these they have often enjoyed communications of grace from the fulness of Christ, manifestations of divine love, and powerful applications of the word to their souls.  By these duties, they have an opportunity of pouring out their hearts to God in prayer, of obtaining more clear and impressive views of divine truths, and of presenting their offerings of praise and thanksgiving, to the God of their salvation.  In them, the true interests of the conviction, sanctification, and comfort of their souls, have often been greatly promoted.  By them, believers sometimes obtain sensible communion with God, delightful encouragement in the way of duty, and heart establishment in the exercises of religion.  By waiting on God in them, Christians sometimes experience the solution of the doubts, the dispelling of the fears, and the removing of the temptations, with which they have been afflicted.  Those duties, like other ordinances of religion, are divinely appointed means of exhibiting to believers their spiritual food, and of bringing them to feed thereon, in the exercise of faith.  In the religious performance of them, may not Christians, therefore, say: “It is good for us to draw near to God”? [Psalm 73.28.]  Instances are not wanting among us, of the accomplishment of remarkable conversions, by the instrumentality of social duties.  Martyrs, when just about to be offered upon the sacrifice and service of the church’s faith, have testified, with rapturous joy, to the goodness of God, and the power of the Spirit, in remarkably blessing social duties to their souls; and, with their dying breath, have most earnestly recommended the observation of them, to the followers of the {13} Lamb.  Let us therefore, O Christians, give ourselves to the regular performance of them, for the sake of the spiritual edification of our own souls.

The profitableness of family and social duties to the souls of others, should constrain us to observe them.  As they are the means of spiritual good to ourselves; so, by the performance of them, we contribute to the edification of others.  Your regular performance of family worship, is a special mean of promoting the salvation of the members of your household.  This duty is a precious institution for increasing the knowledge of God, of Christ, and of the scriptures, in those who use them; and how valuable is that knowledge!  “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17.3.  What an honour does the Lord confer on the family shepherds, when he makes them instrumental in conveying this knowledge, into the minds of their family flock!  By your practising family worship, you use a mean for bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, you discharge a part of the parental trust, which is committed to you for their good, and you set an example of religion before them, which, you may hope, they will imitate.  Who can tell how many spiritual advantages your children, and your other domestics, may reap, from having an opportunity, morning and evening, to join in praising God, in reading his word, and in calling upon him by prayer.  All those who neglect the worship of God in their family, cut off their dear children from these means of grace, prevent them from enjoying their spiritual food in them, and consent to their remaining under the power of sin and satan.  How dreadfully aggravated must such conduct be, in the sight of God!   Our regular attendance on social duties also advances the spiritual good of our Christian brethren.  The Lord hath bestowed gifts on the members of his church, which they should exercise, in social duties, for the edification of others.  The Apostle’s words may be applied to you: “I myself also am persuaded of you; My brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Rom. 15.14.  With respect to the exercise of these gifts, in social duties, Christ is saying to {14} every one of you, “Occupy till I come.” [Luke 19.13.]  What shall we say of that Christian, who, by his neglect of these duties, hides his talent in a napkin, buries it in the earth, and refuses to contribute to the spiritual edification of those, for whom Christ died?  Is the religious improvement of your fellow travellers to the heavenly Sion, a matter of small importance, in your view?  Are you not filled with a desire to be an instrument in the hand of the Spirit, for augmenting their knowledge, increasing their faith, quickening their love, advancing their sanctification, enlarging their spiritual strength, and promoting their consolation and joy in the Lord?  Your neglect of social duties may make you guilty of other men’s sins.  As you are guilty of the sins of others, by leading them, either by counsel or example, to the commission of them; so shall you be involved in their guilt, if you neglect those duties, which are means of encouraging them in the way of holiness, and of turning them from the paths of sin.  In order then that others may receive edification, let it be your study, in a most conscientious and regular manner, to observe family and social duties.

The hurtfulness of the Christian’s negligence in these duties, to all concerned, should dispose you to holy diligence therein.  Your negligence in this is hurtful to yourselves.  The disciple Thomas, for his absence from a meeting of the Apostles, suffered much, by a sore fit of unbelief, into which he was suffered to fall.  The same chastisement may overtake those, who follow this part of his example.  It is impossible to tell what spiritual loss Christians sustain, besides the guilt they incur, by neglecting such opportunities of grace.—Your negligence is hurtful to your fellow Christians.  It prevents their edification by your instrumentality, it weakens their hands and discourages their heart in the Lord’s work, and it puts them in danger of following your pernicious example.—Your conduct is hurtful to the rising generation.  It may cause them [to] undervalue the ordinances, they see you practically despise, and may prevent them, to their great sin and loss, from joining themselves, to the societies of the Lord’s people.—Your negligence is hurtful to the generation of careless professors, among whom you dwell.  It encourages them in their neglect of divine ordinances, hardens them in {15} their apostacy from God, and increases their opposition to the cause of truth.—Your neglect of these duties is hurtful to the Ministers of the gospel.  It weakens their hands, and discourages their heart, in the work of the Lord; it forces them to conclude, that their labours are in vain, among you; and causes them to weep in secret, on account of those, of whom they should have joy.—Your carelessness about these duties is hurtful to the Rulers in the church.  It discourages them also, in labours of this kind; it makes them suspicious of your progress in religion, and steadfastness in the testimony of Jesus; and it fills them with perplexity and fear, lest, when they admit you to the seals of the covenant, they become partakers of your sins.—This conduct of yours is also hurtful to the church of God. When the church’s members are steadfast and regular, in the observation of all divine ordinances in their season, her beauty and uniformity are preserved, and she is like Jerusalem, builded as a city, that is compact together:  But alas! when her members act a different part, her beauty is greatly gone, and she resembles a besieged city, that is broken down and without walls. Besides, your neglect of these duties is a provocation in the eyes of Jehovah’s holiness: and may bring down upon the church, both spiritual and temporal judgments from his hand.—Your conduct in this matter is hurtful to the testimony of Jesus, which you profess.  By such neglects of duty as these, Jesus has many wounds in his hands, which he has received in the house of his friends. [Zech. 13.6.]  Christians may be unfaithful witnesses for divine truths, not only because of the matter of their testimony, but also on account of the manner in which they manage it; not by erroneous principles only, but by unholy practices also.  By these neglects of duty the cause of Christ suffers, as they prevent some from joining it, dishearten others in maintaining it, and produce defections from it.  By these hints, you may see, how Christians, who neglect these religious ordinances, may become “injurious,” as the Apostle Paul acknowledged himself to be, in his state of unregeneracy. 1 Tim. 1.13.

We now beseech you, Christian Friends and Brethren, to ponder seriously, the things which are here presented to your view.  Do not satisfy yourselves, with a single and superficial {16} reading of them.  Read them carefully, again and again.  Suffer the word of exhortation.  Meditate on what you have read. Converse with one another concerning it, in the house and by the way; that you may stir up yourselves and others to diligence, in family and social duties.  In so far as you have been deficient in them, confess it before the Lord, humble yourselves in his presence on that account, exercise faith on his mercy through the blood of Christ for pardon, and plead with him, both for the remission of your sin, and for a comforting sense of his gracious forgiveness.  Cry to him for these communications of his grace to your souls, by which you shall be better disposed to these duties, and qualified for their performance.  Begin, or renew your diligent and regular observation of family and social duties, and pray that he may bless them to your spiritual good, so shall you become experimentally attached to them, with love and delight.  Endeavour to perform them always in obedience to the command of God, for promoting his glory, with a dependance on his Spirit and grace; in hope of acceptance with him through Christ’s mediation, and for the spiritual profit of yourselves and others.

Let not your worldly concerns prevent you, from walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.  Grudge not the time, which you spend in the service of him, who is the Lord of all your time, and the giver of all your mercies.  Your employment is either unlawful in itself, or it is sinfully pursued by you; if it will not admit of your spending a due portion of your time, in the various duties of religion.  Break off then from your worldly employments, when the Lord is calling you to religious duties; that you may exercise that diligence in business, which is consistent with fervency of spirit, that in both you may serve the Lord.

Spiritual sloth and the love of carnal ease sometimes hinder Christians, in the performance of these duties.  Let them not exercise their influence on you.  We may express our concern for you, in the words of the Apostle, “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end; That ye be not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” {17} Heb. 6.11,12.  It does not become the followers of Jesus, from love of carnal ease, to neglect the service of him, who steadfastly set his face to go up to Jerusalem, that he might perform that infinitely arduous work, by which God was glorified in the highest, and their salvation was secured to the uttermost.  If Jesus, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate; let us, therefore, go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Take care that natural bashfulness do not cause you omit family and social duties.  Some may be under the influence of this principal, to a very hurtful degree.  Pride is often the cause of their neglecting duty, and bashfulness only the pretence.  If you judge your gifts are small, they can be increased only by their improvement [usage].  Let it be your study to perform family and social duties, according to the calls of the word and providence of God to you, as the best mean, both for removing your natural bashfulness, and for slaying the pride of your heart.

Be not ashamed of those duties of religion, before the world. This may be another hinderance to some, in the performance of them.  Shall believers in Christ be prevented from serving him in the ordinances of his institution, for his glory and their good, by the laughter of fools, the scorn of the profane, or the mockery of wicked men!  Remember his own words, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.” Mark. 8.38.

Let not personal differences among fellow Christians, or grounds of offence among them, continue to prevent your attendance on social duties.  Use scriptural means for their removal, and suffer them not to remain in your heart.  By means of these, the great enemy of man’s salvation works upon the natural temper, the pride, and the fancied honour of Christians, till he produces breaches among them, wide as the sea.  By following the example of Jesus, who was meek and lowly in heart, by the exercise of brotherly love, and by confessing your faults one to another, praying for one another, and forgiving one another, {18} be ye the repairers of those breaches, and the restorers of paths to dwell in.

Avoid all unscriptural and imprudent conduct, in your religious societies, which has a tendency to prevent edification, and which has sometimes been the mean of dissolving them entirely.  Some have acted this conduct, by introducing critical and controversial points in divinity, as subjects of conversation, about which the members could not agree, and from which they could receive no edification.  Others have done this, by an unnecessary contradicting the sentiments, which had been already expressed, and which were quite agreeable to the analogy of faith, and the matter of their present consideration.  Some have been chargeable with this conduct, by presuming, on all occasions, to dictate to their Brethren, and by manifesting a desire to have the pre-eminence over them.  Others do the same thing, by making long, incoherent and disgustful speeches, whereby the time is consumed, and others are prevented from giving their opinion, on the subject of conversation.  When Christians act in any of these ways, they err exceedingly.  It must be a strange principle of selfishness and pride that leads persons to behave in this manner.  Against these gross improprieties, we earnestly warn, all the members of the church.

Let not your enjoyment of the public ordinances, in a more frequent and regular manner than formerly, cool your zeal for social duties.  Were a Christian deprived of access to family duties, and, during that time, had been particularly careful in performing secret duties; would it be a good reason for him to become careless, about the exercise of the closet, when he was providentially restored to those of the family?  certainly not.  No divine ordinance is intended to supersede another.  We are bound to observe every one of them in its season.  Our enjoyment of one mean of salvation, should increase our desire for another, and should constrain us to say, Evermore give us this bread. [John 6.34.]

While you are attentive to family and social duties, neither neglect, nor carelessly perform the secret exercises of religion.  Secret prayer, praise, confession, meditation, self-examination, personal covenanting and the like, performed under the influence {19} of the Spirit, and in the exercise of grace, are precious means of salvation, in which believers enjoy intimate communion with God.  Endeavour to perform these, in a conscientious and spiritual manner, that you may be found exercising yourselves unto godliness. [1 Tim. 4.7.]  The Christian who is remiss in secret duties, will not find his soul either disposed unto, or prepared for family and social duties; but, if he is enlarged in the one, he will thirst as dry land for God, in the other.  With respect to your performance of secret duties, O Christians, remember that you are accountable to that God who judgeth righteously; and that you are ever in the presence of him, who understandeth your thoughts afar off, who compasseth your path and your lying down, and is acquainted with all your ways. [Psalm 139.2-3.]

Be diligent and persevering, in your attendance on the public ordinances.  O how great a privilege is it to enjoy them!  When these are dispensed to the church, let not your seats be empty.  Endure cheerfully all that bodily fatigue, to which you may be exposed, in the performance of this duty.  Give glory to God, put honour on Christ, and seek the food of your souls, by attending on those means of grace; so shall you be able to say, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth, How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! [Psalm 26.8; 84.1.]  By a due improvement of the public exhibition, that is made to you, of the spiritual provision of your souls, in these ordinances, your inclination and ability for discharging secret, family, and social duties, will be increased.

Be ye always zealously affected, in the public cause and testimony of Christ.  You live in a time when error, superstition, defection and immorality greatly abound.  Be not ye leavened with any of these; but contend earnestly for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints.  Search the scriptures and get much acquaintance with the word of God; that ye may be always ready, to give an answer to every one that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. [John 5.39; 1 Pet. 3.15.]  Inform yourselves particularly about the attainments of the church, in the periods of her reformation; and her wrestlings for truth, in the times of her persecution.  Read carefully the subordinate standards of the church, in her Confession of Faith, Catechisms, Form of Government, {20} Books of Discipline, Directory for Worship, and Public Covenants with God.  Consult the Presbytery’s Testimony; their Warnings against Popery, Socinian and Unitarian Errors, and the Practical Immoralities of the Age; their Explanation of their Terms of Communion; and their Short Account of the Church to which you belong, with an Abstract of their Principles.  Endeavour to maintain on your minds a deep sense of the precious nature of the truth for which you contend, and the hurtful tendency of the evils against which you testify.  Let every part of your conversation in the world, be agreeable to his word and law, so that you may adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour, in all things. [Titus 2.10.]  Study to take direction and encouragement to your souls, in your witnessing work, from the comfort you receive from God, by the public ordinances, and by the secret, family, and social duties of religion.  Consider, Christians, what we have said to you, and the Lord give you understanding in all things. [2 Tim. 2.7.]

And now, Brethren, we commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance, among all them that are sanctified.

Printed by Stephen Young.