The Fourth Commandment
Part 1a: Family Worship
Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press
1a. Family Worship
Among other things in this command, there is more express mention of whole families joining in this duty than is in other commands. Therefore it being a concerning duty to us, and a special thing included in the command, we shall speak to that point concerning family worship (before we speak of the second general proposed about the particular morality of this command and the meaning of the words of it), that you may see that it is no invention of men when you are called to it and when it is pressed upon you.
We shall here, first, show you that this command holds forth a family or domestic worship. Secondly, we shall confirm it more largely from other Scriptures and grounds of reason. Thirdly, we shall show wherein it consists in particular, and on whom it mainly lies to be discharged. Fourthly, we shall show the advantages of conscientious discharging of it and the prejudices of neglecting it, with the aggravations of that sin.
THIS COMMAND HOLDS FORTH A FAMILY WORSHIP.
That there is such a thing as family worship included in this command will be clear by considering, 1. what worship to God in general is. 2. What family worship is. 3. What this command requires.
1. By worship is understood some tribute paid by the reasonable creature to God as the Great and Sovereign Lord Creator, whether it is immediately and directly paid and performed to Him, as prayer and praise, or for Him and at His command and for His honor, as preaching, hearing, and receiving of sacraments, which are worship when rightly gone about. In a word, we call that worship, more strictly and properly, which is a duty of the first table, and comes in as commanded in it for the honor of God, and not for our own or another’s external profit, which though commanded in the second table, cannot be so properly called worship, much less immediate worship. Thus, teaching others the duties of piety may be worship when teaching the duties of any other ordinary calling is not.
2. We call that family worship which is to be performed by such and such relations, or by all the constituent members of the family jointly. And so it differs: (1) From secret or solitary worship which one performs alone to and before God. (2) From public worship which one performs by joining in a congregation of many families together. (3) From that worship performed occasionally, in mutual fellowship among believers or professors, of divers families. For , that may not be ordinary as this, nor so frequent.  That is free to this or that believer as they shall choose, or as occasions do cast them to be together. This is not at choice, but is necessary as to the same persons.  This is performed by virtue of domestic relations, and not of Christian only.  This may have, and should have a domestic authority in its regulation. For a master of a family may authoritatively command the members of the family to pray, keep the Sabbath, etc., and may suitably correct for the neglect of those duties; whereas that other is by Christian communion and admonition only.
You will see this family worship clear: (1) By considering the Jews’ eating of the Passover where there was,  secret worship, no question apart;  there was public worship; a holy convocation the first day and the last; but , there was peculiarly a family worship, or if the family was little, two joined together for eating the Passover, within the house, wherein all the members of that family (or of those two little families) that were circumcised were necessarily to be present, and to be joiners. This is family worship.
(2) By considering Ps. 101, compared with other Scriptures, where you have:  David mentioning his private carriage and longing for God, and walking in a perfect way.  His public carriage as a Magistrate in cutting off the wicked from the City of God, as you have.  Elsewhere his public worship as Ps. 122:1 and 2 Sam. 6.  His fellowship with all the godly, being a companion to them that feared God (Ps. 119:63).  Lastly, you have a walk within his house with a perfect heart mentioned there as contra-distinct from all; which must infer some religious performances of duties, or exercises of worship in his house in reference to that station, as well as in private or in public, yea a joint exercise; because it is such an exercise as he performed only at home in his house. Whereas had it been praying for them, or anything that otherwise he might have done apart, he needed not go home to them, for [the] performing of it. Yet (2 Sam. 6:20) when the public worship is done, he goes home to bless his house, which manifestly shows a peculiar duty performed by him in his family, according as he resolved in that 101st Psalm.
(3) It will yet further appear, that there is such a thing, and some way what it is, by considering Zach. 12 from v. 10 to the last.  A public mourning of the whole land.  Of several families together, families shall mourn then.  Families apart.  Their wives apart, and so every particular person in secret. In which place it is clear:  That there is a worship of families, besides public and secret worship.  That that worship includes the same duties jointly performed by the members of the family, which persons in secret perform; and so family worship will be a worshipping of God (besides what is in public and secret), in a domestic and family relation jointly.
3. That this command requires such a family worship distinct from public and secret, and something to be performed in worshipping of God among persons so related, which is not required of others, may thus be made out.
(1) The thing called for in this command is certainly worship, yea immediate worship, it being a command of the first table, and such a thing as the sanctifying of the Sabbath.
(2) This command takes in all domestic relations: parents, children, sons and daughters, masters and servants, men or women; yea and strangers that may be for the time, or on that day, sojourning there. These are all constituent members of a family.
(3) The thing required of them is not simply rest from labor. For , that is commanded for the beasts (lest men should be hindered from, or interrupted in their holy rest by their waiting on them), and none will say, we hope, that there is no more required as to children or servants, than as to the beasts.  Under the negative, Thou shalt do no work, is included the affirmative, Thou shalt sanctify that day to the Lord.  The same duty is required of all alike (in some respect); thou father, and thou son, thou master, and thou servant. And if worship is called for from the father and master, for the sanctifying of that day, so it must be also from the child and servant.
(4) The manner of performing this worship of sanctifying the Lord’s Day in holy duties, is required not only to be in public, nor only in secret, but by the members of each family jointly, and apart from other families.
 It cannot be understood to require worship only in public together; because (a) there may be in some cases no access to public worship, and yet the command of sanctifying the Lord’s Day lies still on, and no doubt by families. (b) Waiting on public worship is but one piece of sanctifying the Lord’s Day, and that but in a part of it; therefore there must be some other thing included here.
 It cannot be understood of the master of the family, his putting the members of the family separately to seek and worship God, and of his own going about holy duties himself apart.
For (a), though that is worship, yet is it not worship from persons in such a relation or family worship more than if they were not in such a relation, or of such a family; and though it might be said that such and such persons sanctified the Sabbath, yet could it not be said that the family as such did it; even as families or persons seeking God in secret, could not be exonered thereby, as to their being in the congregation; nor their serving of God be so accepted as congregational service, if they met not together when they might. Just so it is here, yea as it lies by this command on a congregation and a minister to sanctify the Lord’s Day, and to come together for that end; so it lies on the family, and master of it.
(b) By this command there is more required than secret or solitary sanctifying of the Sabbath, even a peculiar sanctification of it within one family distinct from another. I say, [a] more than solitary worship, because the Lord’s saying thou, without repeating son, daughter, etc., had been sufficient to have laid it on all separately for themselves. The enumeration therefore of the whole members of a family must import some other thing, for the former is implied in all commands, as Thou shalt not kill, that is, as far as in you lies, you nor your son, etc. There must I say, be something more understood by the peculiar enumeration pressed in this fourth command. I say, [b] even a peculiar worship, because it’s something laid on by this command which is held within gates or doors, and neither goes to the congregation, nor to the persons of other families, at least ordinarily, but reaches the members of such a family who are within such a man’s gates or doors. Therefore it must be a distinct family worship, mainly performed by that family together.
 The thing required here is not only worship simply, but worship as from a member of such a family; therefore it is not solitary worship. For seeking of God and moral duties in secret still agrees to persons in all places and families alike, but this draws a line as it were between families, and so divides one family from another; yet makes the duty more obliging to these within such a man’s gates or doors, than others without doors. Therefore it must be joint worship; for, apart, or as concerning secret worship, all are everywhere alike obliged.
 If by this command something more in the worship of this day is required of a person that is a member of a family, in reference to that family, than there is required of one who is not a member of such a family, or is required of that person in reference to another family, whereof he is not a member; then it requires a distinct family worship. For no other thing can be understood but a joint going about the sanctifying of that day in a stricter and nearer way of communion among the members of that family, than with persons and families in and to whom they are not so interested and related.
 If secret and public worship were only required in this command, then should we equally and alike sanctify the Lord’s Day with other families and persons not of that family whereof we are members. For in these we join alike, for them and with them; but there is some peculiar thing required here which will not agree to be performed by all alike. Therefore it is family worship that must be here required.
 This command requires of masters (suppose them to be ministers or magistrates), another way of sanctifying the Sabbath and worshipping of God, in and with their families, than it does in reference to other families. The command being so particular, to him, and to all that are within his gates or doors, and members of his family, speaks this clearly. But except it is joint going about of duties with them, there can be no other thing understood to be required. For (a), one may exhort another. (b) All come in public together. (c) By the master’s example after the public [worship] they all withdraw (or should at least) to secret exercises. (d) Magistrates and ministers may command other families to sanctify that day. What is peculiar then, as to their own families, but to join with them in duties of worship?
 If there were not domestic worship required on this day, then except it were in public, members of a family could not converse together. For they cannot converse together in doing their own works or in speaking their own words, their fellowship therefore must be in exercises of worship, and so that must needs be required in this command.
 Some other thing is required by this command of a member of a family which seeks God, than of a person in a heathenish family; or some other thing is required from so many persons, joined together as members in one family, than from such persons suppose them to be scattered from one another among heathenish families. Certainly where husband, wife, children, and servants are Christians and professors of the same true religion, there is some other thing required of them than where only the husband, the wife, the child, or the servant is so; but if they were scattered and became parts or members of diverse families among heathens, they would be obliged to seek God apart. Therefore no less, but much more is joint seeking of God required of them when they are united together as members of one family.
 This command (when it mentions all within his gates or doors) requires some other thing of a master when at home with his family, than when he is withdrawn from them. But a master at a distance may command all in his family to worship God and pray to God for them, and so may they all if they were scattered, worship God secretly. Therefore when they are together, there is some other thing required of them by this command, which is, no doubt, to worship God together.
 The duties that are to be performed on this day will require this; such as instructing one another, exhorting, admonishing, comforting, strengthening one another, and talking to, or conferring with one another, of the Word (Deut. 6:7-8), which cannot be denied to be duties called for on this day. And yet they cannot be done but by joint concurring together in that work, and therefore it concludes strongly that family worship, at least on the Lord’s Day, is commanded here; and if families are called to worship God jointly on the Lord’s Day by the worship competent for that day, then by proportion are they also called to worship him jointly on other days by the worship suitable to them, there being the like ground for all.
 And lastly, that which is required of families, is such a worship as ought to be performed by them, supposing there were no public worship, nor yet any other family worshipping him in the world. So Joshua resolves (chap. 24:15), I and my house will serve the Lord, and sanctify his Sabbath (that being a special piece of His service) whatever you will do. But if there were no worshipping of God in all the world but in one family, then ought that worship to be joint according to that same word of Joshua’s, I and my house; otherwise we behooved to say that there might be a plurality of worshippers of God in the world, and yet without any joining together in worship, which were in itself absurd and contrary to Joshua’s religious resolution.
THE SCRIPTURES OTHERWISE HOLD FORTH FAMILY WORSHIP.
It being thus made out by this command that there is such a worship as family worship, and that it is commanded, we shall consider in the next place, how the Scriptures do otherwise hold it out.
1. Then consider that where the Scriptures speak of eminently godly men, they speak of them as making conscience of this, and take notice of their honoring of God in their families as a special part of their eminency. So Abraham (Gen. 18:19), Joshua (24:15), Job in the first chapter of his book, and David (Ps. 101) are noted. It must then be a commanded and commendable duty, which is so particularly remarked in them.
2. You will find it almost in all parts of Scripture (as Gen. 18, Ex. 12, Deut. 6, Joshua. 24, Job 1, Ps. 101, Ps. 30). At the dedication of David’s house, which was not, surely, without some peculiar worship and craving of God’s blessing; even as in other cases, those who had built houses were to dedicate them or to consecrate them. And wherefore? Because they were [be]hoven in a manner, and as it were offered to the Lord, for seeking and worshipping Him in them. So, alters (Numb. 7: 84) were said to be dedicated when they were set apart for God’s service, and consecrated for that use. So in Neh. 12:27, the walls were dedicated and the Levites brought out for that end, which dedication no doubt had a religious use. And will any think that they began with prayer or praise as David did, and left off such exercises afterward? See also 2 Sam. 6:20, where mention is made of David’s blessing his house. Esther and the maids of her house, and the rest of the Jews in their several families, fasted and prayed. We see it spoken of by the Prophets (as Jer. 10:ult. and Zach. 12:12), and that as a prophesy of the convert’s carriage under the New Testament. We find it also mentioned [in] 1 Tim. 3:4, 5:8 and Titus 1:6.
3. You will see it thus practiced and pressed before the Flood. God was honored and worshipped in families after it (before the Law) by Abraham, Job and others in their families. Under it, there was the observation of it, and that by peculiar ordinances, as namely, by the Passover. Yea it is mentioned, and that most expressly in the very Law, as is said. It was kept up under the Captivity, and after the return renewed by Zachariah especially. Yea, it is also renewed in the New Testament, whereby it appears to be of very special observation; from all which it is not a little commended to us.
4. If we consider the many ways whereby the Scriptures press this duty, it will be found that there is hardly any duty more cleared and pressed than it. It is pressed: (1) By command. (2) By examples of godly men held forth as patterns for imitation. (3) By promises made to it, and (4) by blessings conferred on the conscientious practicers of it (Gen. 18; Deut. 11:18-21). (5) As evidencing sincerity (Gen. 18; Joshua. 24). (6) As making folks liable to the curse and wrath of God when neglected (Jer. 10:25). (7) As a fruit of the Spirit, and as a companion of true repentance (Zach. 12). (8) As a specially commending and adorning qualification of persons that have it, and scandalous where it is wanting, and as declaring one unmeet for public charge (Gen. 18; 1 Tim. 3:4; Tit. 1:6).
Hence the argument runs strong, that duty which in Scripture is commanded, by many examples commended, and by other motives pressed, the neglect whereof brings guilt and offense upon the persons neglecting, is no doubt a necessary duty. But family worship is such; therefore it is a necessary duty.
1. That it is commanded, what we have said from this fourth command may sufficiently make it out, yet we further add, Deut. 6:7-8 and Deut. 11:18-19. In which two places it is clear that observing of the law, is not only to be studied by a master of a family himself alone, but that the religious duties of frequent speaking of it, diligent teaching of it, whetting and pressing of it on his family, are to be performed by him. Yea it is to be written on the posts of his door to show that religion must be in the family and in all that enter into it, even as carrying the word on the frontlets between their eyes was to mind them of the peculiar and particular sanctification that was called for from them.
2. That it is commended by examples is clear in Abraham’s, who deals both with children and servants in the family, and that in things concerning the worshipping of God, as well as in things concerning his own particular affairs. He circumcised them and commanded, yea charged them to serve the Lord, which cannot be supposed to have been done without other duties of worship. And in David’s (2 Sam. 6:20), who when he has been at public worship goes home to bless his family, which was certainly to go about some religious duty with them as he had been doing with the people in the public. In the one he behaved himself as King, in the other as a governor and head of his own family in particular; and had it been only to pray for them, that might have been done elsewhere than at home; but it denotes the changing of public worship (wherein he had blessed the people as a public man, as a Prophet and godly King, and had joined with them, v. 18) into family duties, wherein he goes to concur with them; intimating that a holy solemnity should be partly spent in public, and partly in family duties without neglect of secret duties. Besides that in Ps. 30 and Ps. 101, it is clear and appears to have been also practiced by all that built houses, who did dedicate them, and that not without prayer, as is manifest by David’s dedication of his (Ps. 30), as is said. Job’s example likewise makes it out (chap. 1), where there are: (1) sacrifices in his family, as well as for his family. (2) He sends to sanctify them who were absent, that is to put them in a readiness for joining with him in that service with those that were at home, which he needed not to have done had they been beside or present with him. Yea (3), when he cannot do it personally, he will do it by another, that God may be worshipped by them all, some way together.
3. I say the neglect of it is sadly threatened (as Jer. 10:ult.) Pour out thy fury on the heathen that know thee not, and on the families which call not on thy name. If the not worshipping of God in families is a character of a family appointed to destruction, and is threatened with a curse, then prayer-worship in families is a necessary duty. For it is clear from that place, (1) that by calling on God’s name, is meant God’s worship in general, and prayer in particular, which is a special part of it. (2) That by families are meant particular societies and companies, whether lesser or greater, that want this worship, and so are the objects of that curse.
Objection. If it is said that by families there are meant people and nations, yea (comparing this place with Ps. 79:6) heathens that called not on God.
Answer. (1) That does confirm the argument. For if heathens, whether kingdoms or families are described by this, that they call not on God, then still it must be a heathenish kingdom that has not public worship, a heathenish person who [has not] secret worship, and so a heathenish family that [has not] family worship.
(2) The curse here is not threatened to families as families, but as such families that call not on God’s name; therefore it reaches them for à quateniu ad omne [from the specific to the general]. So then whatever profession families have otherwise, if they [lack] this duty they are thereby laid open to the curse.
(3) It is all one upon the matter, whether by families are meant societies lesser or greater; for if it is a fault in nations to neglect God’s worship, and if the neglect thereof brings a curse on them, will it not be a fault in particular families and bring a curse on them?
(4) Families cannot be excluded, seeing they are expressly named; though more are included, to wit, that the curse comes on multitudes of families, or upon nations made up of families. And we conceive families to be particularly named,  to show that the curse will reach all societies lesser as well as greater, who have this character.  Because nations are made up of families, and because there is fitness (to say so) between the carriage of families in religious worship, and the carriage of the whole land.
(5) The comparing of Jer. 10 with Ps. 79 will not enervate any of the places; but, when put together, they show that the Holy Ghost means both families and kingdoms, and that what is implied in the one place is expressed in the other, to show that God will have both public worship from whole kingdoms, and family worship from particular families as parts of these kingdoms.
(6) The ground whence the curse is derived, is because that such a society neglects such a duty, and therefore however we expound the place and the word family there, it will hold of all societies in general.
4. I said that the having of family worship is looked upon as a special qualification, and the want of it as a scandal and offense. For (1), who are to be admitted elders or deacons? Is it not such who have this qualification of ruling their own houses well (1 Tim. 3:4, Tit. 1:6). Yea even widows (1 Tim. 5:10) are to be tried by this, that they have brought up children, no doubt christianly and religiously, which can very hardly be, if at all, without worshipping of God with them. (2) If that qualification, to wit, ruling their own house well, is found to be wanting, they are accounted to be unmeet to rule in God’s house (1 Tim. 3:5).
Whence we may reason thus: That which casts a man as unmeet for bearing rule in Christ’s house, however otherwise he is qualified, is an offense and a scandal; but the want of family worship does that; therefore the want of it is a scandal.
In these places it is clear, That ruling of their own house is meant not only in outward and temporal things, but also, if not mainly, in what concerns the honor, service and worship of God. For (1), it’s the ruling of servants and children together (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Now it is clear that children are to be brought up in the fear of the Lord. (2) It’s a ruling that commends them as gracious, which no ruling in temporal things will do, seeing many mere natural men, are wiser in their own generation that way, than the children of light. (3) Many much less fit for ruling in these things, may yet be fit to rule in God’s house, as experience clears. (4) These words, having children in subjection in all gravity, speak out a Christian and religious rule and order to be kept in the house or family in reference to a religious end, which cannot but take in family worship.
Yet it is also clear, that he means not simply of inability which God had given for ruling; therefore it is not said here, he that cannot rule his house (though that is in part truth), but he that does not rule; and it is ranked with excessive drinking, striking, pride, and other gross ills, it having that same effect that they had, to wit, to declare incapacity for such offices. Hence this is not to be the rule of trial, if he can rule his own house well, as having gifts fitting him for it, but (supposing him to have these) it’s to be inquired if he does actually rule well, which is the evidence of the right improving of his gifts; therefore here ruling in the man’s own house, and ruling in the church or house of God, are looked on as two degrees of one thing of the same nature; because both take in not only gifts fitting for the discharge of the duty of this respective ruling it, but conscience and faithfulness in the improving of them. We shall not here to this purpose insist on the frequent mention that is made in the Scripture of Churches being in families, but shall proceed to add to what we have said, six or seven reasons or grounds that will further prove and clear the thing.
Reason One. The first is drawn from nature, which teaches not only that the true God should be alone served and worshipped, but that according to the station God has put men in, they should improve them with their gifts and parts for a higher end than their own behoof or advantage, to wit, his glory. And that as they have a peculiar fellowship given them by him as his gift, so he should have answerable and peculiar acknowledgment from them. Therefore seeing the appointment of families is God’s ordinance, and that it is he that gives to some, children and servants, which are withheld from others, there ought in all reason a tribute to be given to him resulting from that society and fellowship. Hence it was that before the law, the patriarchs had their worship specially in their families; yea heathens beside their public idolatrous worship, and idolatrous temples, had their peculiar penates or household gods, on whom, for their particular families delivery from enemies and protection, they depended.
Reason Two. A second is drawn from the nature of Christian communion among believers, which as it requires the performing of Christian duties according as we are in providence called to them, so it requires the making use of that type of family interest or relation superadded to the former, for furtherance and entertaining of that communion, because there is a special access ministered by such a relation to the attaining of that end. Hence it is we conceive (as is said) that some Christian families are called churches, because so many Christians often together, lived in a Christian discharge of all family ordinances (so to speak).
Reason Three. The Lord by his covenant does especially (though not always) derive mercies to families, taking them in together, and making promise to them, and conferring privileges on them. So Abraham’s whole family was taken in covenant (Gen. 17). And in the New Testament, whole families were at once baptized, which certainly calls them to a peculiar way of being answerable to such privileges and engagements. And is not this one special and very proper way of being answerable to them, that they worship God together, and join in blessing him for such mercies, and in prayer to him for grace to carry suitably to them?
Reason Four. The mutual interest that usually is in the condition of members of the same family, calls for joint seeking of God, and worshipping of him, as they are jointly concerned in the same dangers, the same sins often, the same strokes, the same duties, the same mercies. For what is so to one, is ordinarily some way so to all; therefore ought they to join in confessing of sins, acknowledging mercies, deprecating dangers and strokes, and discharging of duties.
Reason Five. Family worship is profitable to all the ends of a family. It is an acknowledging of God and honoring of him. It helps the master to keep his authority, and makes every one in their family to walk the more respectively towards the rest. And it keeps from many out breakings, when they are to meet so often together to seek and worship God. Hence in experience we often see that these families, where religious worship is, are generally more civil at least, than other families, where it is not, and that the children and servants of such families readily profit most, are most countenanced by God’s blessing, and are in greatest capacity to get good of the public ordinances.
Reason Six. The Lord loves to have a distinction between these that serve him, and these that serve him not. Now as to a family relation, what difference is there between a professing Christian family, where the joint worship of God is not, and a heathen family? Heathens live and eat and work together, and when no more is seen, they look very like the one to the other. Even as in a nation where no public worship is, though private persons privately seek God, yet there seems to be no public national difference between that nation and a heathen nation. So in the former case a family difference will hardly be found, if any should inquire of what sort of families these are.
Add that it will be hard to say that a man should take care of the outward estate of his family, and neglect the spiritual, and keep communion with his family in temporal things, and none in spiritual duties, yea doubtless he should be much more in these, as being both more necessary and more excellent.
THIS FAMILY WORSHIP DESCRIBED FROM SCRIPTURE.
Having first showed that this fourth command holds forth a family worship, and having secondly confirm it more largely from other Scriptures and ground of reason, it follows now according to the method proposed, that we show in the third place how particularly the Scripture describes wherein it does consist, whereby it will further appear to be of God. The Scripture describes it four ways.
1. In general it is called in Abraham and Joshua’s case, keeping the way of the Lord, serving the Lord — very comprehensive expressions, taking in much. And here it’s sanctifying of the Sabbath, that is, performing of the duties which are to be discharged for the right sanctifying of that day. We conceive it to be in short, to do these things in a joint family way, which a servant of God may, and ought to do alone, that is, to pray, read, sing psalms, and etc., or to do in a domestic way, what Christians in providence cast together may do, as to pray, read, further one another’s’ edification by repeating of sermons, spiritual conference, instruction, exhortation, admonition, etc. For they have their tie of Christianity, and this of a family relation besides, which does not abrogate the former, nor derogate from it, but further corroborates and adds more strength to it, as to make it more necessary and less elective, more frequent and less occasional, and to be now by domestic rules authoritatively regular for edification, which cannot so be by the simple tie of Christian communion.
2. It speaks of particular duties, wherein they should join. As (1), here of sanctifying the Sabbath in all the duties of it, adding more to our family worship, for the Sabbath was to have its double offering. (2) Of praying (Jer. 19:ult), which is necessarily included in that mourning, mentioned [in] Zach. 12, a fruit of the poured out Spirit of grace and supplications. So (2 Sam. 6) David’s blessing his family is to be understood of his going before them in prayer to God for a blessing on them, not in common as a public Prophet, which he did with the people, but as a peculiar duty discharged by him to his family, whereof he was head. (3) Of family fasting, or setting of time apart in the family extraordinarily for fasting and prayer, as in Zach. 12 in that solemn mourning, and in Esther 4 where it is recorded, that she and her maids (who were her family) and all the Jews at Shusan (who yet could not have in that place a public fast) did go about that duty. (4) Of instruction, a most necessary duty to instruct and teach the family the knowledge of God; the command goes expressly on this (Deut. 6:7-8, and 11:19-20) where we are commanded to talk of the law within the house, to teach it to our children diligently, or (as the word is) to wet it on them by catechizing, and to write on the posts of our doors and on the walls of the house. For what end I pray? Surely for this very end, that the house might have the means of knowledge in it. And that the knowledge of God’s law might be taught and learned in it, and will any think that the walls should teach and the master be silent? Especially seeing it is for the families behalf, that these things were written. What if some in the family could not read? Which on several accounts might be, then it would follow that they were lost, if there were no more nor other teaching than what was by writing on the walls. When Abraham commanded his house to keep the way of the Lord, and to serve him, will any think he did not teach them, who He was, and how He should be served? By proportion other things fit for edification, and as worship to God, come in here, particularly praise, as appears by the 30th Psalm entitled a Psalm (or Song) at the dedication of David’s house.
3. The Scripture speaks of, and holds out the duty of the particular members of the family, and that in reference to the stations they are in, and the relations they sustain and stand under; as of husband and wife, that they live together, as the heirs of the grace of life, and so as their prayers may not be hindered; of parents, that they do not only provide for their children temporal things, but that they also bring them up on the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and (1 Tim. 3:4, 12) both children and servants are put in together.
4. The Scripture speaks of ordering of families by a special family discipline and authority, therefore it is called in Abraham, commanding (or charging) his servants to keep the way of the Lord, and (1 Tim. 3), a ruling of their own house well, with some resemblance unto ruling in the Church by ecclesiastical discipline, with which it is some way compared, as having a fitness, or as being an evidence of fitness for that.
This discipline consists especially in these three: (1) In making good domestic laws for children and servants in ordering everything aright, that concerns the promoting of godliness and edification among them, and in timing of things rightly so as every duty that is to be done in the family, may be done in the beautiful season of it. (2) In putting forth a paternal or parental and masterly authority in carrying on these ends, commanding or charging as Abraham did, ruling so as children and servants may be kept in subjection. It is very unsuitable and no ways allowable, that masters should command in their own business, and only entreat in the things of God. (3) In exacting an account of obedience and censuring disobedience, Job and David do reprove their own wives, by virtue of the authority of their headship. David will not suffer a wicked person to abide in his house; that is, when commands and rebukes will not do, he will even extrude and put away.
Question. If it is asked here, on whom does the burden of discharging duties in the family especially lie, and what is to be thought of chaplains?
Answer. I will not altogether condemn chaplains, for certainly masters may make use of helps, and God has often blessed it, and that practice of Levites being in families (Deut. 12:13, 18-19), though it was a snare through his own fault to that Levite, who went seeking a place to sojourn (in Judg. 17) in Micah’s house, seems to insinuate that there has been, and might have been, somewhat of this, and good if well improved. Yet when putting the charge upon chaplains, either merely for masters of families, their own ease, and when they think themselves altogether exhonored of that burden, because they have such with them, or when it’s because they think less of, and undervalue that duty themselves, or account it below them to catechize and instruct fervently or to pray in their families, or because they cannot bestow so much time on these duties, who yet can bestow much more idly, that is utterly culpable and inexcusable.
The burden lies on the master primarily and chiefly, and therefore he can never denude himself wholly of it, more than of his other necessary affairs, except when more public affairs call him, or when infirmities impede him. For here the command says, thou, to wit, master, nor thy son, nor servant, etc. It speaks directly and immediately to him, because the performance of the duty is especially called for from him. So in that example of Abraham it’s he that commands his household to keep the way of the Lord. Job himself offers the sacrifice. David will not send home, but goes himself to bless his house (though they had otherwise much employment if that could excuse). And the man that is to be chosen an elder, is such as rules his own house well. Having of a chaplain will give no great proof of the master’s own dexterity, yet we say that one may, for the better effectuating the end take help, though he cannot altogether devolve the burden on another. Yea we think when the master is negligent or absent, duty falls to be performed by these of the family, on whom the weight of his affairs does in his failing or falling short lie, if qualified. So that among other defects they should make up this, or in such a case the most fit and best qualified in the family ought to be pitched on for this.
From what has been said, family worship appears to be so convincingly clear, necessary and important a duty, that any objections or scruples that can be moved against it, must [necessarily] be but of little weight and importance, and may be easily solved and satisfied. It will not therefore be needful to condescend particularly on them. And as for the advantages that wait on the conscientious and suitable practice of this duty, they are many, a few whereof we shall very briefly touch upon as:
1. It has God’s special approbation, testimony, and commendation, and he has a great delight and complacency in the diligent and faithful practicers of it (Gen. 18:19).
2. It advances to a high degree of familiarity with God, and is attended with sweet communications of his mind as himself thinks fit (ibid. comparing v. 19 with v. 17 and v. 18).
3. It is readily and often followed with success more or less towards the spiritual good and edification of servants and children, either in the masters lifetime, or when he is gone (Gen. 18:19). Abraham will command his children and household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord. They shall keep is emphatic and observable; and with promised blessings on the master, or head of the family. Ibid., that the Lord may bring upon Abraham, that which he hath spoken of him.
4. It is a notable means of the propagation and increase of the knowledge of God. What plenty of the growth of the knowledge of God might, and would be in the Church, if all masters of families made conscience of family duties? And particularly of catechizing and instructing them in the knowledge of the principles of religion! And what can one minister do as to this alone in a numerous congregation, if all, or most masters of families are negligent, who yet must answer to God for the souls of their children and servants, as well as the minister must for the souls of all under his charge; these being under their charge as well as the other are under his, as is clear from this same command.
5. It very much furthers through God’s blessing, all the family for profiting by the ministry of the Word, and for joining in public duties of worship, as is obvious.
6. It procures, or at least is a fit hopeful and promising means for procuring a suitable discharge of all sorts of duties, called for from the several members of the family in their respective capacities.
7. It is notably contributive, through God’s blessing, for preventing many public scandals in the Church, whereby the name of God is much dishonored, and the profession thereof disgraced.
8. The ruling of a man’s own house well, does not a little fit him, that is otherwise qualified for it, and called to it, for ruling in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:4). And by proportion for other public employments, whereof he is capable, and to which he is called.
9. It is waited [attended] with sweetly, smiling, quieting and satisfying reflections in a strait, and particularly at death. And failings in it (let be utter neglects) are waited then with sad and bitter challenges, as may be gathered from David’s last words (2 Sam. 23:5), although my house be not so with God, etc. The contrary prejudices either of the utter neglect, or of the careless and orderly performance of these family duties, may be rashly discovered by the due consideration of these aforementioned, and other such like advantages. And from all that is said on this subject, the horrid aggravations of the grievous sin of neglecting family worship so clearly commanded, so much commended and pressed, so much practiced by the saints, held forth to be so advantageous in its practice, and so prejudicial and severely threatened in its neglect, cannot be but at first view obvious to any that will by with ordinary seriousness take notice of them.