Family Worship

The constituent parts of Family-Worship, when fully observed, are, first, the reading of the Scriptures; secondly, the singing of praise to God; and, thirdly, prayer; and these may very properly follow each other in this order. But we propose to enlarge on these particulars below.

The length of the domestic service is worthy of attention. It was the fault of our forefathers to make it insufferably long. This goes far to destroy all good influence on the young, by creating weariness and disgust. "It is difficult," says Cecil, "to fix and quiet your family. The servants are eager to be gone, to do something in hand. There has been some disagreement, perhaps, between them and their mis- tress. We must seize opportunities. We must not drive hard at such times as these. Religion should be prudently brought before a family. The old Dissenters wearied their families. Jacob reasoned well with Esau, about the tenderness of his children, and his flocks, and herds. Something gentle, quiet, moderate, should be our aim" (Cecil’s Remains).

The manner and spirit of the service should never be neglected. In every part it should be solemn, and fitted to repress all levity. Of course, every secular task or amusement will be suspended, and absolute silence and quiet will be enforced, even in the case of the youngest children, who thereby gain a most important lesson. The greatest simplicity should characterize every word, and every petition. Those who have the greatest interest in the worship are often little more than babes. But we would especially recommend a holy animation, as that which will arrest attention, and make way for pleasant memories. Here again we avail ourselves of the language of the Rev. Richard Cecil. Speaking of children and servants, he says: "Tediousness will weary them. Fine language will shoot above them. Formality of connection, or composition in prayer, they will not comprehend. Gloominess, or austerity of devotion, will make them think it a hard service. Let them be met with smiles. Let them be met as friends. Let them be met as for the most delightful service in which they can be engaged. Let them find it short, savory, simple, plain, tender, heavenly. I find it easy to keep the attention of a congregation, compared with that of my family."

Prayer is the essential part of Family-Worship, and therefore merits the first place in our consideration. It is no1 necessary to enlarge on those things which are common to all acts of prayer; these belong to another subject. That which concerns us is family prayer. This, its distinguishing charac- ter, ought never to be out of sight. It is the worship of those who are joined together by Providence as dwellers in the same house, and who now come to the throne of grace in their family capacity. This will give a tinge to the whole service, where it is conducted with life and discrimination. Many things may be proper her, which would be out of place in a promiscuous assembly, or eve’n a small meeting. There is no domestic want, danger, sorrow, or dispensation, which may not be remembered. Special cases in the household, will be faithfully and affectionately commended to God, but with- out that rudeness and irreverence with which we have known vulgar minds to drag ’forward the circumstances, and even names of shrinking individuals. But our Heavenly Father permits us to spread before him our minutest trials, and this is one of the principal blessings of domestic religion.

What has been said of brevity, applies especially to prayer, as a part of Family-Worship. Few things are more hardening and deadening in their influence, than the daily recurrence of long and unawakening prayers. For these there is no necessity. For, while family-prayer includes petitions for blessings far more wide than those of the family alone, it may be comprised within easy limits; and nothing will so much tend to this as earnestness and directness in supplica- tion. The prayer should be by all means simple and intelli- gible; free from hard words and involved periods; because he who leads is putting words into the mouths of children. The best model is found in the brief and childlike petitions which we find in the Psalms, and other parts of Scripture.

Family-prayer should be varied, otherwise the inevitable result will be formalism and tediousness. Indeed the snare into which we are most prone to fall, in this service, is that of sameness and routine. Daily changes in the condition of a family will infallibly work a corresponding change in the prayers, if they be sincere. Nothing will really secure this needful quality, but the "spirit of grace and of supplications," shed down from on high, which should, therefore, be most earnestly sought by every head of a household with reference to this daily service; for which purpose no preparation can be so valuable, as attendance on the previous devotions of the closet.