How to Share The Faith With Your Child

How to Share The Faith With Your Child

How to Share The Faith With Your Child
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
23 Jan, 2020

Controversy recently surrounded the directives laid down by an ex-evangelical who counsels people to raise their children “unfundamentalist”. “Do not evangelize a child”, Cindy Wang Brandt commanded in a tweet. “Your religion does not have a right to stake claim to a child’s allegiance.” We might ask what authority she has for her edicts and what she believes should claim a child’s allegiance. She thinks children should be shaped by certain “progressive” values, but who says these are the right ones? It’s still a call to evangelise children, only with agnosticism. Christian parents face a stark choice: if we don’t evangelise our children, the world will. It’s not about imposing our personal religion. The God who created and sustains them has a claim on them as moral creatures. Their ultimate purpose for living is to love and serve Him with all that they are. Not to raise children diligently in relation to this is the greatest possible neglect.

How will you prepare your children for the future when you don’t know what that future will hold? That’s a thought that can quickly overwhelm any parent but it’s one for which the Christian parent should be well equipped. It begins with realising that God’s truth is sufficient for living in God’s world. God’s Word is sufficient for teaching us all that we need to know for life and godliness.

1. Share the Faith Comprehensively

Teach them to remember what God’s Word says. That way they can recall it whenever they need it and it will shape their thinking. This is the importance of catechising. When children have the complete system of doctrine stored in their minds it not only shapes their thinking, it protects them from error.

In addition to teaching them what to think, we also have to teach them how to think. Show them how to discover Scripture’s doctrine for themselves. They will then be able to apply Scripture to any future challenges they encounter.

The authority of Scripture is what undergirds this. How are children to be raised? “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This involves loving spiritual instruction and discipline. It can be done in a wrong and deficient way. We can be stumbling blocks to our children through a bad attitude and example. This is why the Apostle Paul prefaces these words with a caution against provoking our children to wrath and anger.

Sharing the faith with our children is a process of discipleship, patiently teaching and correcting them over many years. We want to see them embrace Christ by faith for themselves and live for Him and so we will stress the urgency of eternal realities but also the need to devote our whole lives to Christ. In the midst of busy family lives it may seem challenging to make room for nurturing our children in faith but what could be more important? It will not simply happen spontaneously, we have to set aside time for it and patiently commit ourselves to it.

James Fergusson has some helpful comments on Ephesians 6:4 and how it counsels us to share our faith with our children. It is a verse that outlines the duty of parents in a way that carries a necessary caution. We have to recognise that we can be apt to abuse our parental authority.

2. Share the Faith Without Embittering Them

There are various ways in which we can provoke our children to anger or embitter their spirits.

  • by denying them their due, in food, clothing or means of education (Lamentations 4:3).
  • by commanding things that are in themselves unjust (1 Samuel 20:31).
  • by unjust and rigorous commands about things that are in themselves indifferent (1 Samuel 14:29).
  • by castigating them with bitter words, especially when there is no cause, (1 Samuel 20:30).
  • by chastising them unjustly, when there is no fault (1 Samuel 20:33)
  • by chastising them too harshly or at the wrong time and in a wrong way when there is a fault.

3. Share the Faith Practically

Paul guards us from the other extreme of too much indulgence towards our children. He exhorts us to bring them up, or (as it is in the original) to nourish them. This includes not only giving them what they need to be sustained from the womb onwards (Genesis 21:7). It also means making provision for their future (2 Corinthians 12:14). It involves training them up in any lawful employment by which they may be able under God to sustain themselves and their own (Genesis 4:2).

4. Share the Faith Intelligently

Parents must combine nurture and admonition with the education of their children. Nurture means timely and compassionate correction (Proverbs 13:24). Admonition means informing their understanding, teaching them how they ought to conduct themselves towards God in religious things (Genesis 18:19). Teach them also how to conduct themselves towards others in righteousness, politeness and good manners. This is also a great part of the duty of parents towards children (Proverbs 31:1, 8, 9).

5. Share the Faith Evangelistically

Their education must be in the admonition of the Lord Christ. This means, as becomes Christians, and by which young ones are instructed primarily in the knowledge of God’s Word, of Jesus Christ, and of the way of salvation declared by Him.

6. Share the Faith With Natural Affection

The prevalence and influence of sin in the souls of fallen men and women is so great that in some it entirely extinguishes, or greatly weakens the most intense of our natural affections. It can make them run in the opposite direction from that which they ought to. The apostle assumes that in some parents even natural affection to their own children will be weakened to such an extent. They will provoke them to anger and embitter them through unnatural behaviour towards them.

7. Share the Faith Without Provoking Them

To provoke or stir up others to sin makes us guilty before the Lord. It makes us guilty of those sins which we provoke others to commit (Hosea 6:9). Paul forbids and condemns this as sin in parents’ behaviour towards their children. Everyone naturally has such little command over their passions (especially when provoked by real injuries from others) that the strongest of natural bonds cannot keep them under and in order. Unless restrained by grace, they will transgress their bounds. Even children cannot put up with injuries from their very parents, without being incited to sinful anger. Indeed the corruption of some children is such that they can endure less from their parents than from anyone else.

8. Share the Faith Diligently

A necessary duty is not to be neglected under the pretence that others may us it for an occasion to sin against the Lord. In particular, parents are not to withhold timely and necessary correction from their children, even though their children would be enraged and provoked to anger by it. Even though Paul forbids them from provoking their children to anger, he will not have them use that pretence to neglect to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

9. Share the Faith in a Balanced Way

People are most ready to run from one extreme of any sin to the other. They go from extravagant expenditure to sinful miserliness, from rigidity to too much lenience. So the servants of Christ, while they are dissuading people from one extreme need most carefully to guard, lest under pretence of avoiding that, people rush to the other. While the apostle forbids too much rigidity in parents, he sees it necessary to guard them against the other extreme of too much indulgence and lenience. So he emphasises, “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.

10. Share the Faith with Love for their Souls

It is the duty of parents, not only to provide for the bodies and outward condition of their children, but also, and mainly to care for their souls. They must endeavour by all means possible to bring them up as sons and daughters for the Lord Almighty. As they are to bring them up or nourish them, so they are also to suppress sin in them by nurture or correction. They are to make them know Jesus Christ the Lord.

11. Share the Faith in the Way that You Correct Them

As parents have to correct their children from time to time they must not do it to satisfy their own rage. Rather, they must engage in it with a composed mind, as service required by God. They must aiming mainly at how the child can  amend their faults. In order to do this they need to combine instruction and admonition with correction. They must also seek the blessing of Christ to accompany it. The apostle says that nurture and admonition must be united together, and both of them must be in the Lord.

Further Reading

The article What’s Missing From Your Home? considers what it means to make the things of God real within family life in the home. The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

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Who Are You?

Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
18 Jan, 2019

From gender to nationality to race–can we choose the identity we want? Are these things that drive identity politics real? Even if we resist every other label – what exactly does human mean these days? Other subtle influences within society point us to find our identity in what we have and what do. Is there something fixed that goes beyond changeable subjective notions?

Yes. We can draw our identity from what God has done and what God has said. We need to go back to the beginning, to creation. We cannot understand who we are without this. This is the foundation of understanding our personal identity. That is exactly what Hugh Binning does in the following updated extract.

 

1. Our Original Identity

It is certain, that you will never rightly understand yourselves or what you are, until you know first what humanity was made to be. You cannot imagine what your present misery is until you know the happiness man had when he was created: “let us make man in our image”.

Some have called Adam a microcosm of the world, because he had heaven and earth as it were married together in him. He united two very remote and distant natures. The dust of the earth and the immortal spirit  (called the breath of God) sweetly linked, conjoined and inclined to one another. In this piece of workmanship the Lord made a microcosm of all His works. He brought together in one creation the marvellous wisdom, being, living, moving, sense and intelligence which are scattered across the other creatures. We carry around in ourselves the wonders we admire in the rest of creation.

With a mere simple word, this huge framework of the world started out of nothing. But in creating humanity God acts as a skilful craftsman: “Let us make man”. He makes rather than creates. He first raises the walls of flesh, builds the house of the body with all its organs, all its rooms, and then He makes a noble and divine guest to dwell in it. He breathes into it the breath of life.

 

2. Our Unique Original Identity

But what the Lord would have us consider most is the image of Himself imprinted on man —“Let us make man in our own image.” There was no creature without some engravings of God and His power, wisdom, and goodness. The heavens are said to declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). But whatever they have, it is only the lower part of that image, some dark shadows and resemblances of Him. But the final work of creation is made according to His own image. He reflects Himself in this as with a mirror. The rest of creation resembles His footstep but man resembles His face. He was made “in our image, after our likeness”.

It is true that only Jesus Christ His Son is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person”. He alone  resembles Him perfectly and thoroughly in all properties. He is another self in nature, properties and operations. He is so like Him that He is one with Him, it is really a oneness, than a likeness.

But man was created according to God’s own image, with some likeness (not sameness or oneness) to Himself. That is a high privilege indeed, to be like God. How could man be like God, who is infinite, incomprehensible, whose glory cannot be given to or shared with another? There are unique aspects of His being in which He not only has no equal not none even to compare to Him. In these He is to be adored as infinitely transcending all created perfections and conceptions. But yet in others He reveals Himself so as to be imitated and followed. For this purpose He first stamps these qualities on man in shaping him at first.

 

3. Our Original Moral Identity

If you want to know what those qualities are in particular the apostle defines them.  They include “knowledge” (Colossians 3:10), “righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21). This is the “image of him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).  It is the image which the Creator stamped on man, that he might seek Him. He set him apart for Himself to keep communion with him and to bless him. There is a spirit given to man with a capacity to know and to will. This is God’s face sketched out and this is not engraved on any other creature that has feeling. One of the most noble and excellent operations of life which exalts human beings above brute beasts is the capacity to reflect on ourselves and to know ourselves and our Creator. Other things have natural instincts suitable to their own nature, but none of them have a capacity to know what they are or what they have. They cannot conceive ideas of He who gave them a being.

He has limited the eye to respond to colours and light, He has limited the ear so that it cannot act without sounds. He has assigned every sense its own proper range within which it moves. But He teaches man knowledge, and He enlarges the sphere of his understanding beyond visible things to invisible things or spirits. He has put a capacity in the soul to know all things, including itself. The eye discerns light, but does not see itself. But He gives a spirit to man to know himself and his God.

And then there is a willing power in the soul by which it gives itself towards any thing that is conceived as good. The understanding directs and the will commands according to its direction. Then the whole faculties and senses obeying these commands make up an excellent portrait of the image of God. There was a sweet proportion and harmony in Adam, all was in due place and subordination. The motions of immortal man began within. The lamp of reason shone and gave light. There was no stirring, choosing or refusing until reason moved. This was like a ray of God’s light reflected into the soul of man.

When reason discerned good and evil this power in the soul influenced the whole person accordingly, to choose good and refuse evil. There would have been no living resemblance to God if there was only power to know and will.  These capacities must also be beautified and adorned with supernatural and divine graces of spiritual light, holiness and righteousness. These complete the image of God on the soul in full colour.

There was a divine light which shone on the understanding until sin intervened and eclipsed it. The sweet heat and warmness of holiness and uprightness in the affections came from the light of God’s face.  There was nothing but purity and cleanness in the soul, no darkness of ignorance, no muddiness of carnal affections. The soul was pure and transparent, able to receive the refreshing and enlightening rays of God’s glorious countenance.

This was the very face and beauty of the soul. This is the beauty and excellency: conformity to God. This was throughout the whole: in the understanding and the affections. The understanding had to be conformed to God’s understanding, discerning between good and evil. As a ray of that sun, a stream from that fountain of wisdom, a light from God’s understanding it has to be conformed to Him.

The will agreed with His will: approving and choosing what He approved and refusing what He hated. This union was closer than any bond among men. It was as if there were not two wills but as it were, one. The love of God reflecting into the soul drew the soul back to Him again. Love was the conforming principle which shaped the whole person without and within to be like God and obey Him.  Man was formed for communion with God, and he must have this likeness or else they could not join as friends.

 

4. Our Original Moral Identity Destroyed

But it is sad to think where we have fallen from and how great our fall is. To fall from such a blessed condition is great misery indeed. Satan has robbed us of our rich treasure, the glorious image of holiness. He has drawn the very image of hell on our souls the very visage of hell, the distinctive features of his hellish countenance. But most people are unaware of anything of this. If we could consider all the sad and awful consequences of sin in the world and what miseries that one fall has brought on all humanity we would see what a fearful fall it has been.

Sin intervened between God and us, this darkened our souls and killed them. The light of knowledge was put out, the life of holiness extinguished. There now remains nothing of all of that stately building except some ruins of common principles of reason and honesty in everyone’s consciences. These merely show us what the building was like. We have fallen from holiness and therefore from happiness. Our souls are deformed and defiled. If sin was visible, how ugly the shape of the soul would be to us. This is because it has lost its very beauty, which is God’s image.

 

5. Our Original Moral Identity Restored

We must know where we have fallen from and into what a gulf of sin and misery we have fallen. When we know this, the news of Jesus Christ, a Mediator and Redeemer of fallen man will be sweet to us. It was the Lord’s will to let His image be marred and ruined in us because He had this purpose to repair and renew even better than of old. He created (the human nature of) Christ according to His image for this purpose. He stamped that image of holiness on His humanity. This was so as to be a pattern and pledge of restoring original glory and excellence to the souls that flee to Him for refuge. He has made His Son like us that we might once again be made like Him. He said in eternity, “let one of us be made man”. This was so that it might be said once more, “let man be made like us, in our image”. Only a second creation can do this. Look at your hearts to enquire if it this new creation has been formed in you. You must be re-created in that image if you belong to Christ.

 

Conclusion

There are many voices in our generation encouraging everyone to seek their own identity. Young people are often on a quest to find an identity even if it means that their minds and bodies are at odds with one another. But this will never bring the happiness and peace we seek. We have lost an identity and we need it recovered, but it is the identity God has given and offers not the one that we choose out of our own preferences. In one sense the gospel is saying to us, “be who you were meant to be, who you were created to be.” We will only find that if we are a new creation in Christ. This is the true basis for our personal identity.

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Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
27 Sep, 2018

You can protect your children with the best intellectual arguments and the strictest controls on unhealthy influences. Yet the all-important matter is a life that matches up to what we profess. Scripture tells us this (Proverbs 22:6; Genesis 18:19). Recent research confirms this (for what it may be worth).  One study concludes that the degree to which parents consistently live out their professed convictions has a strong impact on when and whether their children become atheists. Of course such research leaves no room for the grace of God. Yet we know from Scripture that example can have a powerful impact through God’s grace (Matthew 5:16; 1 Timothy 4:12; Philippians 3:17). What does our life say about what we believe?​

It’s a huge responsibility. We are so imperfect. But we need to use this too to show our children that we (like them) are sinners in need of grace. How can we be more real? We can only be the best example we can be if we follow the best example ourselves. The Apostle Paul underlines the importance of parental example when he commands us to be “followers of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). We are to show mutual kindness and mercy in forgiving one another, because of Gods example in forgiving them for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32). They are to be followers of God in showing kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Following God in these things is commanded in Matthew 5:44-45 and Luke 6:35. In 1 Peter 1:16 it relates to all the virtues that we can display in following God.

Paul gives a reason why they should imitate God in this way. It is because they were His children by adoption. They are not only children, but dear children and dearly beloved by God their Father. They are therefore to imitate Him in displaying those virtues that would evidence themselves to be of His children.

 

1. We Have God’s Example

God’s works of mercy towards believers not only free them from sin and misery but also given them a motive to show mercy to others.  God in forgiving them has created a pattern to be followed by believers in forgiving one another and be “followers of God”.

2. We Must Follow God’s Example as Far as We Can

We neither ought nor can imitate God in His works of creation and providence (Isaiah 14:13-14). Neither can we presume to imitate Him in anything beyond His revealed will prescribes as our duty, (Isaiah 8:20). We should, however, look at whether there is any resemblance between any of His attributes or actions and any virtue or duty prescribed for us. We ought to look on it as a pattern for us to follow. He says “followers of God” in relation to His forgiving them for Christ’s sake.

3. We Must Follow God’s Example in How as Well as What He Does

It is not enough to do to others the same things which God has done to us.  We must also seek to follow Him in the way in which He does them. This will mean we do not do them from any base motive or wrong objective but rather from a desire to be conformed to Him and what He requires of us in His Word. Following God implies an endeavour to conform ourselves to Him.

4. We Have No Excuse for Not Following God’s Example

God’s example (in the things where we can follow it) is the only unerring pattern to be absolutely followed without any reserve. Anyone else’s practice is only to be followed as far as their example co-oincides with God’s Word and practice. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul commands them to follow him with an express qualification, as far as he was a follower of Christ. Here his command is absolute and unlimited: be followers of God.

5. We Have the Strongest Motives to Follow God’s Example

The Lord enters into the most intimate friendship and relationship with those whose sins He pardons. He not only frees them from deserved wrath but places them among the children and makes them His adopted sons and daughters. He calls them here God’s dear children, of whom He said in chapter 4:32 that God had forgiven them for Christ’s sake.

All those who are dear children to God by adoption should consider their highest privileges as the strongest motives for duty. In particular they must set themselves to imitate Him in showing mercy, kindness, forgiveness the other duties that He has made lovely by His own example. Paul makes their privileges a motive to imitate God and be followers of God as dear children.

6. We Must Follow God’s Example Lovingly

We must not only seek to imitate God, but also do it as dear children. This means following Him humbly (Matthew 18:2-3). It also means natural affection (children love to imitate and so please their parents) not being compelled as servants and slaves. He says “as dear children” pointing out not only why but how, they should follow Him.

Conclusion

“Do as I say, not as I do”, is not a good enough maxim for Christians or for Christian parents. A great deal depends not only on what parents say to their children but whether they themselves do as they say. Thomas Gouge (1605-1681) wrote a lot about how life in the home should be shaped by God’s Word. He says that when children follow the good example of their parents in spiritual things and upright living it preserves their influence even after their death. He points to how Scripture stresses that the good kings of Judah were following David’s example (1 Kings 3:3; 2 Kings 22:2). Yet it is solemn to think that the reverse influence may also continue from the example of parents (Genesis 12:10-20; 26:7-11).

In what we have considered we have great encouragement to seek to have the image of God more and more renewed in us. Although we fail frequently, we have the resources of grace to be the example we ought to our children. The mercy of God in forgiving is held out to us as an encouragement to followers of Him and provide an example to all around us.

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Is the Christian Family Disappearing in a Post-Familial Age?

Is the Christian Family Disappearing in a Post-Familial Age?

Is the Christian Family Disappearing in a Post-Familial Age?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
4 May, 2018

One phrase stood out in the comments on the sad headlines about the plight and death of little Alfie Evans last week. This heart-wrenching case moved many across a large number of countries. Ross Douthat wrote of a wider “tendency to arrogate power away from the family” to “the system” in “the coming world of post-familialism”. It is “not just an issue for extreme medical cases, it applies to many other situations in our post-modern culture as well”. Government begins to assume the roles, responsibilities and rights of parents. But they are moving into a space that modern society is vacating. Post-familialism means moving beyond the family as the most basic unit of civilisation. It is replaced by individualism and personal fulfilment. Even where families exist modern life seems to have eroded relationships. The Bible focuses on family a great deal, we need to follow its cue.

Few wrote more extensively about how to shape family life according to Scripture than William Gouge (1575–1653). He takes his foundation principles from Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God”. This means having the same affection towards one another, “serving one another in love, according to the Apostle’s rule. Let this duty of submission be first well learned, and then all other duties will be better performed”.

Gouge stressed that the family is the foundation of the Church and nation. It is like a beehive “out of which are sent many swarms of bees”.  God first placed us into a family (and it is important to note that married people are a family) and provided for the future of mankind in that way. Gouge notes that “husband and wife, parent and child were before” rulers and subjects, ministers and congregations. When God destroyed the world with a flood he preserved humanity by means of a family. “A family is a little Church and a little commonwealth”. It is the training ground for authority, order and obedience in society.

Gouge was a member of the Westminster Assembly. This body of pastors and statesmen also focussed on the family in the documents they carefully crafted for the Church. They showed of course how the Church is a family and how adoption brings us into God’s family. Various members preached and wrote about the reformation needed in the family so that it would be glorifying to God.

One of the contemporaries of the Westminster Assembly who ministered in London was the presbyterian Robert Abbott (1588?–1662?). He published a book in a similar vein to Gouge called A Christian family builded by God. He uses the verse Psalm 127:1 to show how families must be built by God or they will not be happy and blessed. In a practical way he goes on to consider this in different aspects of family life.  Building a Christian home is not simply about going to Church and having some Christian interests and activities that influence the family in a vague way. He also shows how members of the extended family have a role in the family. How does God build Christian families?

 

1. The Importance of God Building the Family

The first government there ever was in this world was in a family. The first disorder there ever was in the world was also in a Family. All the disorders that have every happened since have sprung from families. If families had been better, Churches and communities would have prospered all the way along. It would be and would have been a thousand times better with them if:

  • young and old had been right set before they entered into a family;
  • the family was founded in marriage in the Lord;
  • relations between wife and husband, children and parents were conducted in a holy way according to the rule of Christ;
  • the house been furnished with a wise, holy, and careful father and mother of the family;
  • the house had furnished with just getting and giving.

 

2. The Materials With Which God Builds a Family

If we want to have blessed families we must get them built by God. Husband, wife and children must not be like rotten posts or like straw, hay and stubble on a good foundation. They must be built by God. The whole house must be finished and furnished by God. Abraham was built by God and see how he teaches his family (Genesis 18:19). Joshua was built by God and see what he says (Joshua 24:15). Naomi was built by God and notice what is said about her (Ruth 1:16 and 3:1).

If a whole family is built in this way, what a joint serving of God there is. Husbands, and wives are faithful; children are obedient; goods are blessed. Most complain (and they have just cause) that husbands are drunkards and tyrants, wives are stubborn and children are disorderly. More complain that there is little love, much contention, many fights, floods of drunkenness and volleys of oaths. The reason of it all is because they are not built by God.

 

3. How Does God Build Families?

God’s building is a family well ordered by the Word of God. It is an orderly head and orderly members in fitting mutual relations with each other. An orderly head is one who can with good conscience say, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2). Orderly members are those that depend on the head and can say with a good conscience what Ruth said to Naomi in Ruth 1:16.

The Word of God is the rule by which this house is built. A house must be built “through wisdom” (Proverbs 24:3-4). Not the wisdom of the world, for that is foolishness: but that of the Word. We may use common sense and natural wisdom to establish good order in the family. We read of this in Scripture (Proverbs 31:15-16). But beware of natural wisdom that conflicts with God’s Word. Observe four rules in this: (a) It must not prejudice the honour of God; (b). It must not prejudice the truth of a good conscience; (c) It must not prejudice the justice which is due to man; and (d) It must not stretch further than our callings. First consider whether the thing to be done is lawful or unlawful; second whether it is within your calling.

 

Conclusion

We should be concerned about the way that the state encroaches on the rights of parents and undermines the family. We need more than this however. We need families built with the right foundation of Christ and His Word (Matthew 7:24-27). Without the right foundation we can have successful careers, bank balances and to do lists but not blessed families. We will build but we will “labour in vain” (Psalm 127:1). If families lack such a foundation it will affect the Church and Nation who are in turn built on families. Let’s start with ourselves. 

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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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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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No to Named Person, But Yes to What?

No to Named Person, But Yes to What?

No to Named Person, But Yes to What?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
11 Sep, 2015

Article updated 19 Sep, 2019

Through the Named Person scheme, the State proposed to steal the authority of parents for itself. But how did we arrive at this extent of interference and abuse of authority? Standing up to the scheme has been unquestionably correct. That has been vindicated in its being scrapped. So, even the Scottish Government have now come around to saying “No” to it. But we still need to ask ourselves the question, “Yes to what?”

It is because we have lost true values about government, the family and conscience. These positive values are part of our Reformation heritage as a nation, but we have sold them away. In exchange, we have adopted values that are subject to changing whims, opinions and arbitrary power. These are the forces now dismantling society and the family. These extreme measures provide us with an opportunity to reflect on how far we have moved away from where we ought to be.

Yes, to Biblical Freedom of Conscience

The State is disregarding freedom of conscience and privacy in the family in seizing such powers. True freedom of conscience has been carefully defined by the Westminster Confession (Chapter 20). “God alone is Lord of the conscience”. It can only be bound by His commands.  Anything else betrays and destroys true liberty of conscience.  The State must not intervene to impair a child’s responsibility to obey their parents in lawful things. God has required such obedience in the fifth commandment. The State robs God Himself of lawful authority as well as parents when it exceeds its proper bounds in this way.

Yes, to Biblical Responsibilities for Parents

The State now refuses to respect the authority of parents in relation to their own children. Parents are responsible to God in this area. Again, this is according to the fifth commandment (see Larger Catechism Q123-130). The State does not lord it over parents with absolute power. Of course, it must intervene in cases of criminal harm and neglect. But the Named Person scheme goes far beyond this. In parenting and child development, the State is the equal not superior of parents. It must assist rather than direct. As the Larger Catechism  (Q. 131-2) shows, equals are to honour not undervalue or usurp one another.

Yes, to Biblical Responsibilities for Government

The State owes its authority to God alone. It is responsible to Him for the exercise of its power. God establishes authority in order not to destroy but “uphold and preserve” true liberty.   The State should also encourage parents to fulfil their responsibilities towards God. It is not only to punish wrongdoing but reward welldoing (Westminster Confession chapter 23). The Named Person scheme is fraught with changeable, subjective definitions of “wellbeing”. The only definitions of welldoing and wellbeing with true authority come from God. Of course, spiritual welfare is a key aspect of wellbeing.

These are the values of the Ten Commandments that must undergird society and the family. The Westminster Confession and Larger Catechism faithfully explain them. This has been at the heart of Scottish society and family life in past generations. In current developments, we are reaping what we have sown in having rejected such standards.

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