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This little volume has been compiled with a view to promote edification in that important and interesting part of Christian duty, Family worship. It has often seemed to the author, that the wisdom shewn by the compilers of our national Liturgy and of all more ancient liturgies, in so frequently calling on the congregation to bear a part in the worship of God, should not be lost sight of, when her members assemble at the family altar : also, that extempore prayers, even of a customary length, and much more when prolonged, have a tendency to distract the attention, and deaden the devotion of the younger members and domestics of the family, not to say, of all who are not of eminent attainment in spirituality and devout recollectedness. It is not so much the length of the service altogether which is objectionable, as the want of participation and consequently of interest, the fatiguing attention required, first, to apprehend an unbroken succession of petitions unknown, till uttered, and then, to turn them into personal prayer; the monotony in short, of the worship.
The author has sought to remedy these evils by drawing up a course of prayers on the plan of a liturgy: so as really to unite in prayer and praise, the whole assembled household : to recal the wandering attention by a frequent summons to take part in the sacred duty ; to relieve it by the pauses and breaks oft recurring between prayer and prayer; to make the sentiments and expressions familiar by use : and thus to render the worship of God a pleasure and not a weariness. If he mistakes not, these were designs of the compilers of the national Liturgy, as they are undoubtedly some of its excellences.
Yet he has not selected from that Liturgy, much as he admires, and yearly more and more, its contents. He has carefully avoided introducing any of the public prayers and thanksgivings of the Church into this little manual of family worship : not as supposing he could approach, even near to their excellency, but as regarding a certain variety not less conducive to edification, than considerable
familiarity with the matter and language of the devotions used. He wishes the services of the sanctuary to come fresh on the ear and soul of the worshipper when he goes up thither : and conceiving that an interest in both public and domestic worship will be best secured, under the divine blessing, by keeping them distinct both as to expressions, and form, he has endeavoured to preserve this distinction, even where he has borrowed words, and occasionally a sentence, from the Common Prayer Book.
This course of Family Prayer is intended for more than one week's use : there being assigned to every day such a choice of Psalms, Prayers, Thanksgivings, &c. as will enable the head of the family, or whoever ministers in it, by judiciously varying them, (a liberty which the compilers of our Liturgy have given,) to make it supply the constant morning and evening devotions of the household. , Nothing would more counteract his design than to have used at one time the whole assigned service.
He begs more particularly to impress on those who may adopt this manual, that its interest and utility greatly depend on the part assigned to the family being borne by them. The children and domestics should be required distinctly and audibly to repeat their responses. There must be in every family a minister and congregation, and both officiating, both in their places and turns vocally worshipping their Creator, Redeemer, and Father. Every member of the household should have his Book of Family Prayers in the room, 'as he has his Book of Common Prayer at church.
The directions given for the Monday, will serve as a rubric for every succeeding day.
The Author has not scrupled to borrow from previously existing books of devotion; with all which aid, he is sensible that this little book of Prayer is very defective. But conscious of having sought by it the edification of Christian families, and thereby the glory of God their Saviour, he commends it to His blessing, to whom be all praise and honour, and power, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ryde, February, 1836.