A Family Day…of Worship

A Family Day…of Worship

A Family Day…of Worship
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
1 Apr, 2016

In the recent “Keep Sunday Special” campaign against extending “Sunday Trading” it was said frequently that the Lord’s Day is “a family day”. From one point of view this is not correct at all. The Lord’s Day is the Lord’s Day. Yet the fourth commandment does have a lot to say about families. About how they should keep the Lord’s Day together as a day of worship. So in one sense it is a family day. Not a day for the family to do as it wishes and do what pleases them but a day for the family to obtain an eternal perspective.

The Larger Catechism (Q117) shows the various matters required in the fourth commandment. One of them is “the public and private exercises of God’s worship”. As well as attending Church, we are to seek to worship God in private in the way described in Isaiah 58:13. As well as personal devotions, this includes family worship: reading and explaining Scripture, prayer and praise.

The Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities. They can have spiritual discussions about the sermon that they have heard and other things that they read together. Catechising is another vital way of saturating the minds of your family in the truth.

It is interesting that the Larger Catechism emphasises the family dimension of the fourth commandment. In Q118 it asks “Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?” The answer it gives cuts across some of the individualised ideas of religion cherished in our own day. “The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge”. Parents have a responsibility to direct their children with wisdom to seek spiritual priorities on this day and lay aside whatever may distract from that.

James Durham focusses on how we should worship God privately not only as individuals but as families. He shows how the fourth commandment commands famiy worship, particularly on the Lord’s Day. The following is an updated extract from a free e-book that you can download at the bottom of this post.

The fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) requires family worship distinct from public and secret worship. It requires the worship of God amongst those that are related to each other, which is not required of others in the same way.

 

1. Not Just Secret Worship

It cannot simply mean the head of the family engaging in secret worship himself and directing the members of the family to seek and worship God separately. Although that is worship, it is not family worship jointly offered by those in a family relationship more than if they were not in such a relationship or family.

While it might be said that those individuals kept the Sabbath holy, it could not be said that the family as such did. Even as families seeking God in secret does not replace public worship in the congregation if it is possible to attend. In the same way that this commandment requires a congregation and minister to come together in order to keep the Lord’s Day so it requires a family and its head to worship together.

 

2. Joint Worship within the Home

More is required in this commandment than keeping the Sabbath holy individually even within one family distinct from another. If the Lord only addressed individuals in the commandment without repeating son, daughter etc. this would have required secret worship as individuals only. Identifying each members of the whole family must imply something else. Individual duty is implied in all the commandments.

Special worship is implied here because the fourth commandment speaks of those within a man’s gates or doors. Ordinarily this does not include the congregation or people from other families. It extends to the members of a family who are within a man’s gates or doors. It must therefore be distinct family worship mainly performed by that family together.

 

3. What it Involves

The duties required by the Lord’s Day imply this. These include instructing, exhorting and admonishing one another. Comforting, strengthening and talking with one another of the Word (Deuteronomy 6:7-8). These are undeniably duties for the Lord’s Day, but they can only be done together. It follows that family-worship, at least on the Lords-day, is commanded here. If families are called to worship God together on the Lords-day in its particular duties they are also called to worship him jointly on other days in a way befitting to that time.

 

4. Me and My House

Families are required to worship God in this way on the Lord’s Day. Even if there was no public worship of God to attend. If no other family in the world worshipped God, they are still required to do so. Joshua said that whatever anyone else would do, he and his house would serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).   Sanctifying His sabbath is a special aspect of serving God. Suppose there was no worship of God in the whole world except in one family. This worship would be a joint family worship: “me and my house”. Otherwise, it would be the same as saying that there might be many worshippers of God in the world but they did not need to join together in worship. This is absurd and certainly contrary to Joshua’s religious resolve.

Our online store offers various booklets including one entitled Family Worship. This gives practical guidance in all of the aspects of family worship, including the Lord’s Day. Click here to view sample and purchase.

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9 Spiritual Benefits from Family Worship

9 Spiritual Benefits from Family Worship

9 Spiritual Benefits from Family Worship
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
5 Feb, 2016

Families today are under intense pressure. Frequently, they are struggling to keep up with the relentless pace. Activities, expectations and ever-changing peer pressures all make their demands. It can seem like parenting takes place within a maelstrom of economic, social and media pressures.  They take their toll on those who strive towards faithful parenting. Against this, it might seem that daily family worship is just one more pressure. In fact, it is a relief from other pressures and an opportunity to get family life in true perspective. It is a means of grace especially designed to strengthen family life in the midst of intense pressure. Many advantages could be emphasised but the spiritual benefits are of greatest value.

The following list of spiritual benefits has been updated and extracted from a longer piece on family worship by James Durham.  These benefits focus on the long term spiritual good of family members. They also focus on the benefits for parents personally. These benefits are not mechanically generated. As with any means of grace, we must engage with God and His Word in a spiritual way with faith and dependence. They do not the guarantee that your children will be truly converted or that you will never have problems in the family. Yet is a special means which God has appointed to bless families and parents. 

1. FAMILY WORSHIP Increases God’s Delight in You

He gives special approval, testimony and commendation to family worship. God has great delight and satisfaction in those who practice it diligently and faithfully (Genesis 18:19).

2. FAMILY WORSHIP Increases Your Nearness to God

It advances to a high degree of familiarity with God. Those who are faithful in family worship may experience sweet fellowship with God. He may, as He sees fit, share His mind with them (Genesis 18:19 compared with verses 17 and 18). 

3. Family Worship Brings Spiritual Blessing to Your Family

Family worship is easily and often followed with blessing to the family. This may be to a greater or lesser extent. It promotes the spiritual good of members of the family and builds them up spiritually. The father may see this during his own lifetime or it may be more evident when he is gone. In Genesis 18: 19 God says that Abraham will “command his children and household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord”. Note carefully the phrase, “they shall keep”.  This emphasise that it brings promised blessings on the head of the family. The Lord promises to bring upon Abraham the promises He had made to him.

4. Family Worship Increases Your Family’s Knowledge of God

What abundant growth in the knowledge of God there would be in the Church if every head of the home was conscientious in family religion! You need to pay particular attention to catechising and instructing their family to know the key principles of Christian truth. What can one minister do in this on his own if he has a large congregation? All negligent heads of families must answer to God for the souls of their children. Just as surely as the minister must answer for the souls of all under his charge. Fathers are as responsible for their children’s spiritual welfare as ministers are for their congregation.

5. Family Worship Helps Your Family Benefit from Public Worship

Worship as a family prepares the whole family to benefit from the preaching of the Word and the rest of public worship.

6. Family Worship Enables Your Family to Fulfil All Other Duties

Family worship is a useful and suitable help towards fulfilling all sorts of duties. In their respective capacities all members of the family have such duties and are in need of such help. 

7. Family Worship Helps Restrain Your Family from Outward Sins

Through God’s blessing it is a notable help to prevent many public scandals in the Church. Such scandals greatly dishonour the name of God and disgrace the profession of that name. 

8. Family Worship Strengthens Your Spiritual Leadership

If a man rules his own house well it greatly helps him rule in the house of God. Assuming he is otherwise qualified and called (1 Timothy 3:4). It also helps in any other sphere of service. 

9. Family Worship Helps Your Peace of Conscience

Diligence in family worship gives ease of conscience when we experience trials. This is particularly true when we come to die. But if we have failed to maintain it or altogether neglected it there will be many sad and bitter rebukes of conscience. This seems clear from David’s last words. “Although my house be not so with God” (2 Samuel 23:5).

Reflecting on these benefits helps to avoid entirely neglecting family worship or engaging in it in a careless way. These considerations underline with even greater seriousness the grievous sin of neglecting family worship. It is so clearly commanded, so much commended and urged in Scripture. It has been practised so much by godly people. Anyone who gives serious consideration to these things must clearly see how vital it is. They will see how much it is commended by such advantages but also severely threatened if neglected.

The Suburbs of Heaven: The Blessings of Family Worship is a brief inexpensive booklet that you can purchase at our store. It unfolds more of the spiritual benefits of family worship as well as clear and concise answers about how the Bible requires family worship.

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What’s Missing from Your Home?

What’s Missing from Your Home?

What’s Missing from Your Home?
Alexander Henderson (c. 1583 – 1646) was the most influential of the Covenanting ministers in the Church of Scotland who took the leading role in all major events, co-drafting the National Covenant (1638) and authoring the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). A three-time moderator of the General Assembly, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly.
5 Nov, 2015

What’s missing from this photograph?

The answer is of course – handheld technology. Eric Pickersgill has deliberately removed smart phones from a series of photographs. Meanwhile, those in the photographs are posed as though still using them. The intention is to demonstrate visually how unreal our lives can look when we are joined to these devices.

It arose from the experience of being near a family in a café who were disconnected from interacting due to their devices. He says: “I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience”. There are of course benefits to technology. Perhaps it helps to connect and coordinate family members and their activities. In some cases, parents may read together with their children in a new way and share other interests together. Parents may have more time for their family if technology can be used to work in a more flexible way. These positives can also turn into opposite negatives, however. It is not the technology but rather how we choose to use it.

 

1. Missing the Main Thing

What is missing in the photograph? More than devices. Conversation, full attention, personal interest, family interaction etc. The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes. That is interacting about spiritual things. In the past, this was called family religion. It didn’t just mean saying grace before meals and going to Church. It meant the type of interaction that we read of in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. This is clearly natural interaction as part of family life. Spiritual realities are to have a powerful impact in our homes. This can only happen as it is made clear that technology and all other things must take a second place to the things of God.

 

2. God-centred Homes

Perhaps we should speak about a God-centred family more than family religion. This is what Joshua meant when he said “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It should become natural that questions are asked and answered and discussion takes place. This can arise informally because it takes place regularly when the family worships God together. In these activities, we have a golden opportunity to communicate together in a meaningful way about the most important matters.

Why is family religion important? Because it shapes the lifelong attitude that children will have in relation to spiritual things. They take this with them where they go, whether in the life of the Church or of society. It brings the whole of life into an eternal and Godward perspective. George Whitefield believed that the spirituality of the early church could never be revived unless there was a revival of family religion. No wonder the Puritan Richard Baxter strongly exhorted ministers on this subject. He said: “if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion”.

 

3. Authentic Religion

Family Religion is our faith made real. It is easy to attend Church and engage in public and outward acts. Living out our faith in the everyday warp and woof of life is more challenging. Spiritual realities are made a vital part of life by family religion.

Family religion was one of the foundations laid by the Second Reformation in Scotland. Everything possible was done to encourage it. Family Worship draws on a guide produced by Alexander Henderson. In it he outlines what family religion should look like. Many writers describe it in terms of family instruction, worship and discipline (where required). Henderson’s definition goes wider.

The main matter he emphasises more than others is providence. In other words, teaching children how to understand and respond to the events of life. These may be blessings or difficulties requiring thanksgiving or earnest prayer. Our world is full of sad calamities personal and public. Our society does not know how best to deal with them. Certainly not in a way that is God-centred. There can be great outpourings of grief which people try to express in any way they think best. Children should be given an example of how to respond to these things in a God-honouring way.

1. Teaching or Catechising.

It is not enough that members of the family are catechised at Church. They must also be instructed in a plain and simple way at home. This will include the basic principles of Christianity and the doctrine which is according to godliness.

 

2. Prayer and thanksgiving

Morning and evening, before and after meals together with psalm-singing where possible.

 

3. Discipline exercised with wisdom and patience.

This is necessary for practising godliness. There must be warning, reproof and correction for faults that are appropriately dealt with in the family. For this reason the head ought to observe diligently the ways of all within the family.

 

4. Observing the providence of God.

We must learn about God from His works of justice and mercy both past and present.

 

5. Private fasting and humbling ourselves in response to God’s call in providence.

This may arise from public calamities or the private distress of the family.  The Scriptures read and the prayers poured out at this time must be relevant to the situation. Such duties help in abasing ourselves and strengthening our faith.

 

Whatever else may be missing from you home, it is vital for the glory of God and the good of your children that family religion prevails.

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This is the spirit of prayer that animated those who prayed for the Second Reformation to come in Scotland as a spiritual revival (read more about Scotland’s Greatest Revival).

How does it compare to prayer as we know it? As Thomas Watson put it: our prayers do not need eloquence but violence.

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