Tuesday, January 23, 2007

family worship

Returning to the Family Altar: A Commentary and Study Guide on the
Directory for Family Worship, Douglas W. Comin, £3.00 (including postage within UK),ISBN 0-9539241-2-2, 64 pp., booklet, James Begg Society, 2005(order from Donald Morgan, 7 Cearn Sheileidh, STORNOWAY, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2YW.

In a generation which as witness unprecedented attacks upon the family, so that Christian parents are struggling to raise a godly seed in the fear and admonition of the Lord, every help possible must surely be welcome. The wellbeing and future prospects of society and the Church have a connection with the vitality of family religion. It is no surprise therefore that the devil seeks to attack the very keystone of family religion, which is family worship. As the author of this booklet puts it: “ A big part of the solution to the erosion of Biblical family life lies in a return to the sincere and consistent practice of family worship.”

This booklet is a commentary and study guide on the somewhat neglected Directory for Family Worship which was approved by the Church of Scotland in 1647. It was not part of the documents produced by the Westminster Assembly which perhaps accounts for some of its neglect. It is no coincidence, however, that the Directory was approved by the Church of Scotland in the same year that they ratified the Westminster Confession of Faith. It expands in a practical way upon the Westminster Confession's requirement of the worship of God “in private families daily” and the relevant parts of the Larger Catechism Q129-130.

Describing family worship as “a necessary duty”, the Directory gives especially practical help and guidance as to why, when, how and by whom it is to be conducted. With fifteen sections in total, other matters are also addressed such as the elements of family worship, its benefits and how it is to be maintained on the Lord's Day. The language of duty is in no way extreme as the American Presbyterian John Girardeau indicates: “the awful imprecation, 'Pour out Thy fury upon the heathen that know Thee not, and upon the families that call not on Thy name' (Jer. 10:25), while it furnishes support to the view just expressed, also enforces, under sanctions of the most dreadful character, the duty of family worship...They who neglect this obligation are classed with heathen, and are threatened with the fury of the Almighty poured upon them like a storm.”

Comin makes brief comments on each section, highlighting the spiritual wisdom of the Directory and seeks to apply it. He makes the telling point that churches have devised all kinds of meetings for all kinds of age groups yet often never emphasise and enforce family worship. It might have been better to give a fuller defence of the biblical requirement of family worship and deal with potential objections in view of the sad fact that it is so widely neglected. Others have undertaken this before, however, for instance the Covenanter John Brown of Wamphray gave twenty four proofs that family worship is required by God together with answers to seven objections. . More could be said on the subject, and there are other longer treatments such as J W Alexander's Thoughts on Family Worship. This is, however, a very helpful and inexpensive booklet on the subject which will be of great benefit to those that have been engaged in family worship over many years as well as those that need encouragement to begin by God's grace.