The Family Altar

THAT is a pitiable family in which there is no prayer.

Heaven, whence proceed all our blessings, will be inquired of, asked of; and the lips that frame no petitions are ungrateful indeed.

When a man arises in the morning and thinks not who hath made him to dwell in safety - when a man goes forth to his daily duty unrefreshed by prayer - for that man, sleep and safety are as water poured upon the ground, and as for his duties, they will be hard and cumbrous.

When friends bring to us good gifts, we do cover them with thanks; when a sister or a brother do bestow rich presents upon us, we repay them with wordy benisons. Wherefore are the gifts of the great Benefactor less than man's gifts?  Why do we acknowledge earthly bestowments and ignore those that the Father scatters around us and distills upon us?

So, they who rear no family altar, around which they may gather when the dawn has blossomed, or the evening has frowned, are of all men most miserable.

The ghosts of apprehension haunt their hearts - fears cluster before their eyes, presentiments brood about them, like dark shapes from Erebus, and all the time they are beset by a thousand evils. They need the purifying influences of prayer - they need the strength, the peace, the consolation, which it imparts.

We know a man who has allied himself to no church, professes no religious belief, mingles not with the elect, but reads some chapter in the Scriptures, and frames a simple prayer with his family, morning and evening. He is a man of the world in the strictest sense: but he says he would not dare to leave his treasures at home without first committing them to the care of Heaven, or part with them at night until he had entrusted them to the keeping of the Most High.  That man may not be saved; but his life is happier than the life of him who reads no chapter and offers no petition.

If there is a spot around which God's angels love to cluster, sunning it with their shining countenances, and shading it with their beautiful wings, that spot is where a family kneel to breathe out thanks and supplications.

Hast thou pearls, and no prayer? Then art thou a beggar.  Canst thou adore earthly beauties, and see no loveliness in the Crucified?  Then God be merciful unto thee! Hast thou an earthly mansion filled with all the luxuries of art, and hast no family altar? Alas, thou art poorer than Lazarus!

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