This document is from a series of nine "editorial" essays on family worship which appeared in every number of The Christian Magazine of the South, from the March, 1845 issue to the October, 1847 issue. This publication is considered to be the predecessor to The A.R.P. magazine. Although persons outside the Associate Reformed Synod of the South, as the ARP was then known, contributed to The Christian Magazine of the South, this article references the constitution of the Associate Reformed Church, which was held unamended by the Synod of the South. We reprint this excerpt not to endorse every view expressed (for example, exclusive psalmody) or past policies of discipline in the ARP, but to give our readers a sense of how seriously Presbyterians in the past viewed the practice of family worship.
"To this subject, in a series of essays, the attention of your readers is most earnestly invited. We do not expect to say anything that has not been as well said. But knowing that 'Precept must be upon precept; line upon line; here a little and there a little,' I will not, dear readers, "be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance." And in this matter, we feel more deeply concerned, from the fact, that an easy, polite, and fashionable religion has become, or is fast becoming, the order of the day -- a religion, that consists in an attendance at the house of God -- as a matter of civility or from habit -- and a seat at the Lord's table; while the distinguishing traits, 'the singular actions of sanctified Christians,' are often looked for in vain.
"Now, Family Worship is one of [the] singular actions of God's people. We do not look for this, we do not expect it, from those 'who are the enemies of the cross of Christ.' When, therefore, those who claim to be followers of Christ, as distinct from the world, are asked -- What do ye more than others? their daily practice in this matter should speak in the language of David: we find 'It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises unto the Most High: to shew forth his loving kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night.'
"'The ordinary duties,' says our Directory for Secret and Private Worship, 'to be performed in FAMILY WORSHIP morning and evening are these:
'PRAISE; which is to be done by singing a Psalm or part of a Psalm; and wherein all the members of the family should be careful to join.
'REVERENT READING OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
'SOLEMN PRAYER, with reference as well to the public condition of the Church, and of the land, as to the present case of the family, and the special circumstances of any of the members thereof.'
"After hinting [at] some topics as the subject matter of prayer, which will suggest themselves to those who feel their wants, our Directory proceeds by remarking 'These exercises ought to be performed in great sincerity and regularity, neither tediously prolonged, nor slightly passed over; laying aside all worldly business; studiously avoiding and removing every hindrance; and persisting therein with holy firmness, notwithstanding the common and sinful negligence of professors of religion [that is, those who profess to be religious -- editor], and the scoffings of ungodly men.
'The head of the family, to whom belongeth the ordinary performance of the exercise of family worship, is to see that none of the family withdraw from any part thereof. And that the attendance of all the members of the family may be punctual, and interruptions from others prevented, it would be profitable to observe, as much as may be, a stated hour, especially in the evening; which should always be so early, that the family, when called to the worship of God, may not be disfitted with sleep.'
"After some suitable remarks, it concludes by saying: 'Forasmuch as the conscientious observance of family worship hath lamentably fallen into decay among professors, it is enjoined on the officers of the Church, to use every exertion that it may be duly maintained by those under their charge; to deal with, and censure, according to their offense, such church-members as shall be found remiss therein; and by no means to admit either to the table of the Lord, or to baptism for their children, any by whom it is habitually neglected.'
"Here may be seen what our Directory for Worship, which is part of our Constitution, says on the subject under consideration. It is to the last clause of this chapter that Church courts are referred to in answer to the interrogatory, 'If sessions are not under obligation to subject to the censure of the Church heads of families, delinquent as to family worship?' One of our Presbyteries in her last report states, "a failure on the part of some Church-members in performing their often repeated covenant engagements, entered into at baptism, when they publicly promised, in presence of God, angels, and the visible church, to pray with and for their children, "by worshipping the Lord regularly morning and evening, agreeably to the Directory for Family Worship." By this lamentable neglect, on the part of church members, not only conformity to the world is evinced, continues the report, 'but most solemn perjury is committed.' And then follows the question above quoted. "But why make it a question? Is not the statute plain? Do not all who become members of the Associate Reformed Church know that this duty is required of them, and that they bind themselves with the solemnity of an oath to perform it? Yes; all this is known, or ought to be known, and still the question has become necessary. Conformity to the world has so carried away the Church, that it has become a question whether an attempt should be made to bring her back. Church officers have so long neglected their solemn duty, that they must now ask, shall we attempt it? There can be no question that, according to our Constitution, sessions are solemnly bound, not only to attend punctually to the duty of family worship themselves; but to see to it, that all under their inspection do so likewise."
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