We must have a special eye upon families, to see that they are well ordered. The welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we shall undo all. Therefore, if you desire reformation, do all you can to promote family religion.
Masters of families, who preside in the other affairs of the house, must go before their households in the things of God. They must be as prophets, priests, and kings in their own families; and as such they must keep up family-doctrine, family-worship, and family-discipline: then is there a church in the house, and this is the family religion I am persuading you to. You must read the scriptures to your families, in a solemn manner, requiring their attendance on your reading, and their attention to it: and inquiring sometimes whether they understand what you read.
But, my brethren, if the love of God be in your hearts, and if you feel that, being bought with a price, you ought to glorify God in your bodies and spirits, which are his, where do you love to glorify him rather than in your families and in your houses? You love to unite with your brethren in worshipping him publicly in the church; you love to pour out your souls before him in your closets. Is it only in the presence of that being with whom God has connected you for life and before your children, that you can not think of God? Is it, then, only, that you have no blessings to ascribe? Is it, then, only, that you have no mercies and protection to implore? You can speak of every thing when with them; your conversation is upon a thousand different matters; but your tongue and your heart can not find room for one word about God! You will not look up as a family to him who is the true Father of your family; you will not converse with your wife and your children about that Being who will one day, perhaps, be the only husband of your wife, the only Father of your children!
Parents! if your children do not meet with a spirit of piety in your houses, if, on the contrary, your pride consists in surrounding them with external gifts, introducing them into worldly society, indulging all their whims, letting them follow their own course, you will see them grow vain, proud, idle, disobedient, impudent, and extravagant! They will treat you with contempt; and the more your hearts are wrapped up in them, the less they will think of you. This is seen but too often to be the case; but ask yourselves if you are not responsible for their bad habits and practices; and your conscience will reply that you are; that you are now eating the bread of bitterness which you have prepared for yourself. May you learn thereby how great has been your sin against God in neglecting the means which were in your power for influencing their hearts; and may others take warning from your misfortune, and bring up their children in the Lord! Nothing is more effectual in doing this than an example of domestic piety.
They are not merely to be taught out of some elementary book that they must love God, but you must show them God is loved. If they observe that no worship is paid to that God of whom they hear, the very best instruction will prove useless; but by means of Family Worship, these young plants will grow “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither.
J.H. Merle D’Aubigne, 1827
Family Worship increases the spirit of reverence for God and His Word. Children copy their parents’ spirit and example. If parents begin the day by invoking God’s blessing, by consecrating the early hour to His service, they show their estimate of the value of worship. If business, society, wealth, and pleasure are deferred for worship, the youth feels that the claims of Deity are above all other claims. Parents thus show that they can do nothing rightly without the divine blessing, and that Divine approval is far more precious than the approval of men. God’s Book is honored. The Bible is for every day, and for the morning hour of every day. If to the parent it is more precious than gold and sweeter also than the honey and the honey comb, will not the child learn to value a volume so honored and treasured?
Rev. M. Simpson, 1882 – The Influence of Family Worship
As touching the spiritual state of his family; he ought to be very diligent and circumspect, doing his utmost endeavour both to increase faith where it is begun, and to begin it where it is not. Wherefore, to this end, he ought diligently and frequently to lay before his household such things of God, out of his word, as are suitable for each particular. Thy children have souls, and they must be begotten of God as well as of thee, or they perish. And know also, that unless thou be very circumspect in thy behavior to and before them, they may perish through thee: the thoughts of which should provoke thee, both to instruct, and also to correct them.
John Bunyan – Duties of Fathers and Parents
Would then the present generation have their posterity be true lovers and honorers of God; masters and parents must take Solomon’s good advice, and train up and catechize their respective households in the way wherein they should go. I am aware but of one objection, that can, with any show of reason, be urged against what has been advanced; which is, that such a procedure as this will take up too much time, and hinder families too long from their worldly business. But it is much to be questioned, whether persons that start such an objection, are not of the same hypocritical spirit as the traitor Judas, who had indignation against devout Mary, for being so profuse of her ointment, in anointing our blessed Lord, and asked why it might not be sold for two hundred pence, and given to the poor. For has God given us so much time to work for ourselves, and shall we not allow some small pittance of it, morning and evening, to be devoted to his more immediate worship and service? Have not people read, that it is God who gives men power to get wealth, and therefore that the best way to prosper in the world, is to secure his favor? And has not our blessed Lord himself promised, that if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all outward necessaries shall be added unto us?
George Whitefield – Morning and Evening, Part 2
Husbands duty to wives – In seeking her spiritual welfare; her conversion, if unconverted, and her spiritual peace, comfort, and edification, she being an heir with him of the grace of life; by joining with her in all religions exercises; in family worship, in reading, in prayer, in praise, in Christian conference and conversation; by instructing her in everything relating to doctrine, duty, and church discipline; in answer to questions she may and has a right to ask him at home (1 Cor. 14:35).
Parents duty to children – It is proper to instruct them in the necessity of faith in God and in Christ, and of the use of prayer; and to lay before them the sinfulness of sin, and show them what an evil thing it is, and what are the sad effects of it; to teach them their miserable estate by nature, and the way of recovery and salvation by Christ; and to learn them from childhood to read and know the holy scriptures, according to their capacity; and by these to be “admonished” of sin, and of their duty, to fear God, and keep his commandments; which may be meant by the “admonition of the Lord”; and the proper opportunity should be taken to instil these things into their minds.
John Gill – Christian Duty
But family worship was also, to the Puritans, vitally important. Daily and indeed twice daily, the Puritans recommended, the family as a family should hear the Word read, and pray to God.
JI Packer – Of Vital Importance
Brethren, you are ordained of God to rule your own houses in his true fear, and according to his word. Within your houses, I say, in some cases, you are bishops and kings; your wife, children, servants, and family are your bishopric and charge. Of you it shall be required how carefully and diligently you have instructed them in God’s true knowledge, how you have studied to plant virtue in them, and [to] repress vice. And therefore I say, you must make them partakers in reading, exhorting, and in making common prayers, which I would in every house were used once a day at least. But above all things, dear brethren, study to practice in life that which the Lord commands, and then be you assured that you shall never hear nor read the same without fruit.
John Knox – Giving Account
Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove in effectual. If these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful. Let me now therefore, once more, before I finally cease to speak to this congregation, repeat, and earnestly press the counsel which I have often urged on the heads of families, while I was their pastor, to great painfulness in teaching, warning, and directing their children; bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord; beginning early, where there is yet opportunity, and maintaining constant diligence in labors of this kind. Remember that, as you would not have all your instructions and counsels ineffectual, there must be government as well as instructions, which must be maintained with an even hand, and steady resolution, as a guard to the religion and morals of your family, and the support of its good order. Take heed that it not be with any of you as it was with Eli of old, who reproved his children, but restrained them not; and that, by this means, you do not bring the like curse on your families as he did on his.
Jonathan Edwards – Every Christian Family a Little Church,
On the other hand, we may observe what fearful threatenings are pronounced against those who disregard this duty. We wonder how many of our readers have seriously pondered those awe-inspiring words “Pour out Thy fury upon the heathen that know Thee not, and upon the families that call not on Thy name” (Jer. 10:25)! How unspeakably solemn to find that prayerless families are here coupled with the heathen that know not the Lord. Yet need that surprise us? Why there are many heathen families who unite together in worshiping their false gods. And do not they put thousands of professing Christians to shame? Observe too that Jer. 10:25 recorded a fearful imprecation upon both classes alike: “Pour out Thy fury upon …” How loudly should these words speak to us. It is not enough that we pray as private individuals in our dosets; we are required to honor God in our families as well. At least twice each day—in the morning and in the evening—the whole household should be gathered together to bow before the Lord—parents and children, master and servant — to confess their sins, to give thanks for God’s mercies, to seek His help and blessing. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with this duty: all other domestic arrangements are to bend to it. The head of the house is the one to lead the devotions. but if he be absent, or seriously ill, or an unbeliever, then the wife should take his place. Under no circumstances should family worship be omitted. If we would enjoy the blessing of God upon our family then let its members gather together daily for praise and prayer. “Them that honour Me I will honour” is His promise.
AW Pink – Disregarding Duty
2. The ordinary duties which should be part of a godly family met for family worship are these: Firstly, prayer and praise touching the life and present needs of the church at large, the nation, and of every member of the family. Secondly the reading of the Scriptures, with a plain explanation of the text so that all [children especially] may be better able to benefit from attendance at public worship, and profit from their own private reading. As well, there should be some discussion with application to all members of the family, with appropriate rebukes and corrections explained by those in authority in the home.
3. Just as the duty and office of interpreting the Scriptures is a ministerial office, and no-one regardless of their qualifications should usurp that without being properly called and set apart for that office, so too it is the specially called duty of the head of the family, to read the scriptures plainly to the family. After this, it is commendable that there be some discussion and application of what has been read. For example, if in the reading there is some sin rebuked, then the whole family should be warned against it and urged to be watchful. If there is a Divine judgement threatened, or described, then all should be cautioned lest through their complacency and lack of watchfulness, the same judgement, or even something worse, should come upon them. Finally, if there is some duty commanded, or some comfort promised, this can be used to stir up each one to seek Christ’s strength to perform that duty, or to seek His gracious provision of that comfort. In all of this the head of the family is to give the lead, and family members should seek answers to their questions and doubts from him.
4. The head of the family is to take care that no-one in the family withdraws from family worship. Further, since the responsibility for family worship belongs to the head of the home, the minister is to stir up those who are lazy, and train those who are weak, so that all will be equipped properly. It is also quite proper for a man to engage anyone else approved by the Presbytery to train him and his family. Then too if the head of the family is unfit to lead family worship, another member of the family approved by the minister and session may be given that task. The minister and session are accountable to the presbytery for those whom they recommend in this way. If through the providence of God the minister should be present and convene family worship, he should do so with the whole family present, unless there are special reasons [eg something that should be discussed privately] for meeting only with some.
5. No-one who is lazy, whose Christian faith is unknown, or who is unsettled in their faith should be allowed to lead family worship even if they volunteer themselves. This is the way error subtly and deceitfully enters homes, causes division, and leads the gullible and unthinking astray.
6. Family worship should be kept a private matter, and not the opportunity for wider invitations to others, unless they are visitors in the home, or guests for meals, etc. when they should most definitely be invited to be a part.
7. Even though God has clearly used and blessed the gathering together of different families for worship in times of great difficulty and trouble [when the usual order of things can be often overturned] yet in times of peace and stability and gospel purity, we believe that multiple gatherings of families should not be encouraged. It tends to limit the fuller participation of each family and family member; and in time can prejudice against the need for public ministry, cause divisions between families in congregations, and even split the Church. All this can be the entry point for further error, cause the ungodly to harden their hearts further, and bring great grief to the godly.
8. On the Lord’s Day, after every member of the family separately, and the whole family together have sought the Lord to prepare their hearts and fit them for worship and make that time a blessing to them, the head of the home is to take care that all under his care then attend public worship and be part of the local congregation. Then, after public worship is concluded, and a time of prayer, he is to go over what they have heard with them. The rest of the day ought to be set apart for catechising and discussing some aspect of the Word of God together. Alternatively, family members should give themselves to private reading, contemplation and prayer, so that their own fellowship with God is increased. All of this is so that the blessing and benefits of publicly gathering together will be increased and appreciated properly, and each person given a greater appreciation of Eternal Life.
9. All those who can pray should do so remembering that prayer is a gift from God to be used, and those who are young in the faith can well begin by using set outlines for prayer. However they should not be content with that, or use it as an excuse for spiritual sluggishness. Rather, in their own private devotions they should frequently and earnestly ask God to enable them to pray, by moving their hearts to think of and their mouths to express, those things that are necessary for their family. A sample set form is outlined below:
The Westminster Directory fot Publick Worship
The Gloria Patri
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen, amen.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him, all creatures here below: praise Him
above ye heavenly host: praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.