Motives for Family Worship - by Dr. J. Merle D'Aubigne (1794-1872)Articles on The Christian Family
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“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15
“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” Numbers 23:10
WE have said, my brethren, on a former occasion, that if we would die His death, we must live His life. It is true that there are cases in which the Lord shows His mercy and His glory to men who are already lying on the death-bed, and says to them, as to the thief on the cross, “ Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Lord still gives the Church similar examples from time to time for the purpose of displaying His sovereign power by which, when He is pleased to do so, He can break the hardest hearts and convert the souls most estranged1 to show that all depends on His grace, and that He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy. Yet these are but rare exceptions on which you can not rely absolutely; and if you wish, my dear hearers, to die the Christian’s death, you must live the Christian’s life. Your heart must be truly converted to the Lord; truly prepared for the kingdom; and trusting only in the mercy of Christ, desirous of going to dwell with Him. Now, my brethren, there are various means by which you can be made ready in life to obtain at a future day a blessed end. It is on one of the most efficacious of these means that we wish to dwell today. This mean is Family Worship; that is, the daily edification which the members of a Christian family may mutually enjoy. “As for me and my house,” said Joshua to Israel, “we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). We wish, my brethren, to give you the motives which should induce us to make this resolution of Joshua and the directions necessary to fulfill it.
Why Family Worship?
1. To bring glory to God: 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 a scribe” 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! It is the Gospel that has formed domestic society. It did not exist before it; it does not exist without it. It would, therefore, seem to be the duty of that society, full of gratitude to the God of the Gospel, to be peculiarly consecrated to it. And yet, my brethren, how many couples, how many families there are, nominally Christian, and who even have some respect for religion, where God is never named! How many cases there are in which immortal souls that have been united have never asked one another who united them, and what their future destiny and objects are to be! How often it happens that, while they endeavor to assist each other in every thing else, they do not even think of assisting each other in searching for the one thing needful, in conversing, in reading, in praying, with reference to their eternal interests! Christian spouses! Is it in the flesh and for time alone that you are to be united” Is it not in the spirit and for eternity also” Are you beings who have met by accident, whom another accident, death, is soon to separate” Do you not wish to be united by God, in God, and for God” Religion would unite your souls by immortal ties! But do not reject them; draw them, on the contrary, tighter every day, by worshipping together under the domestic roof. Voyagers on the same vessel converse of the place to which they are going; and will not you, fellow-travelers to an eternal world, speak together of that world, of the route which leads to it, of your fears and your hopes” “For many walk,” says St. Paul, “Of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phi 3:18); but “our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phi 3:20).
2. To protect your children from sin: But if it be your duty to be engaged with reference to God in your houses for your own sakes, ought you not to be so engaged for the sakes of those of your households whose souls have been committed to your care, and especially for your children? You are greatly concerned for their prosperity, for their temporal happiness; but does not this concern make your neglect of their eternal prosperity and happiness still more palpable? Your children are young trees entrusted to you; your house is the nursery where they ought to grow, and you are the gardeners. But, oh! Will you plant those tender and precious saplings in a sterile and sandy soil” Yet this is what you are doing, if there be nothing in your house to make them grow in the knowledge and love of their God and Savior. Are you not preparing for them a favorable soil, from which they can derive sap and life? What will become of your children in the midst of all the temptations that will surround them and draw them into sin? What will become of them in these troublous times, in which it is so necessary to strengthen the soul of the young man by the fear of God, and thus to give that fragile bark the ballast needed for launching it upon the vast ocean?
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. Public worship is often too vague and general for children, and does not sufficiently interest them; as to the worship of the closet, they do not yet understand it. A lesson learned by rote, if unaccompanied by any thing else, may lead them to look upon religion as a study, like those of foreign languages or history. Here as everywhere, and more than elsewhere, example is more effectual than precept. 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” (Psa 1:13). Your children may leave the parental roof, but they will remember in foreign lands the prayers of the parental roof, and those prayers will protect them. “If any,” says the Scripture, “Have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home” (1 Tim 5:4).
3. To produce real joy in the home: And what delight, what peace, what real happiness a Christian family will find in erecting a family altar in their midst, and in uniting to offer up sacrifice unto the Lord! Such is the occupation of angels in heaven; and blessed are those who anticipate those pure and immortal joys! “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psa 133). O what new grace and life piety gives to a family! In a house where God is forgotten, there is rudeness, ill-humor, and vexation of spirit. Without the knowledge and the love of God, a family is but a collection of individuals who may have more or less natural affection for one another; but the real bond, the love of God our Father in Jesus Christ our Lord, is wanting. The poets are full of beautiful descriptions of domestic life; but, alas! how different the pictures often are from the reality! Sometimes there is a want of confidence in the providence of God; sometimes there is love of riches; at others, a difference of character; at others, an opposition of principles. O how many troubles, how many cares there are in the bosoms of families!
Domestic piety will prevent all these evils; it will give perfect confidence in that God who gives food to the birds of the air; it will give true love toward those with whom we have to live: not an exacting, sensitive love, but a merciful love, which excuses and forgives, like that of God Himself; not a proud love, but a humble love, accompanied by a sense of one’s own faults and weakness; not a fickle love, but a love unchangeable as eternal charity. “The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacle of the righteous,” (Psa 118:15).
4. To console during times of trial: And when the hour of trial comes, that hour which must come sooner or later, and which sometimes visits the homes of men more than once, what consolation will domestic piety afford! Where do trials occur, if not in the bosoms of families” Where then ought the remedy for trials to be administered, if not in the bosoms of families” How much a family where there is mourning is to be pitied if it has not that consolation! The various members of whom it is composed increase one another’s sadness. But if, on the contrary, that family loves God, if it is in the habit of meeting to invoke the holy name of God, from Whom comes every trial, as well as every good gift; then how will the souls that are cast down be raised up! The members of the family who still remain around the table on which is laid the Book of God, that book where they find the words of resurrection, life, and immortality, where they find sure pledges of the happiness of the being who is no more among them, as well as the warrant of their own hopes.
The Lord is pleased to send down the Comforter to them; the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon them; an ineffable balm is poured upon their wounds, and gives them much consolation; peace is communicated from one heart to another. They enjoy moments of celestial bliss. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” (Psalm 23:4). “O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave! Thine anger endureth but a moment: in thy favour is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:3).
5. To influence society: And who can tell, my brethren, what an influence domestic piety might exert over society itself” What encouragements all men would have in doing their duty, from the statesman down to the poorest mechanic! How would all become accustomed to act with respect not only to the opinions of men, but also to the judgment of God! How would each learn to be satisfied with the position in which he is placed! Good habits would be adopted; the powerful voice of conscience would be strengthened: prudence, propriety, talent, social virtues, would be developed with renewed vigor. This is what we might expect both for ourselves and for society. Godliness hath promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Taken from his work, “Family Worship”.
1. estranged: alienated; separated; turned from kindness to hostility.
2. efficacious: having the power to produce a desired effect.
3. mean: method by which something is accomplished.
4. ascribe: to attribute as to a cause.
5. nominally: existing in name only.
6. bark: a small ship.
7. ineffible: indescribable; incapable of being expressed.