On Family Worship by John Newton

A letter from John Newton on Family Worship. Banner of Truth, The Works of John Newton, Volume 1, pgs. 100-104.

Works of John Newton are available at Banner of Truth

 

On Family Worship

Sir,

A neglect of family prayer is, I am afraid, too common amongst professors in this day. I am glad that you consider it both as a duty and a privilege, and are by grace determined, that, when you shall commence master of a family, you will worship God with all your house. It was Abraham’s commendation, that he not only served the Lord himself, but was solicitous that his children and household might serve him likewise. I trust that he who inclines your heart to walk in the footsteps of faithful Abraham, will bless you in the attempt, and give you peace in your dwelling; a mercy which is seldom enjoyed, which indeed can hardly be expected, by those families which call not upon the Lord.

Though I readily comply with your request, and would be glad if I can offer anything that may assist or animate you in your good purpose, I am afraid I shall not answer your expectations with regard to the particulars of your inquiry, concerning the most proper method of conducting family worship. The circumstances of families are so various, that no determinate rules can be laid down: nor has the word of God prescribed any; because, being of universal obligation, it is wisely and graciously accommodated to suit the different situations of his people. You must, therefore, as to circumstantials, judge for yourself. You will do well to pursue such a method as you shall find most convenient to yourself and family, without scrupulously binding yourself, when the Scripture has left you free.

We have no positive precept enjoining us any set time for prayer, nor even how often we should pray, either in public or private; though the expressions of “continuing instant in prayer,” “praying without ceasing,” and the like, plainly intimate that prayer should be frequent. Daniel prayed three times a day; which the Psalmist speaks of as his practice likewise; and in one place declares his purpose of praising God seven times a day. This last expression is perhaps indefinite, not precisely seven times—but very often. Indeed, a person who lives in the exercise of faith and love, and who finds by experience that it is good for him to draw nigh to God, will not want to be told how often he must pray, any more than how often he must converse with an earthly friend. Those whom we love, we love to be much with. Love is the best casuist, and either resolves or prevents a thousand scruples and questions, which may perplex those who only serve God from principles of constraint and fear. A believer will account those his happiest days, when he has most leisure and most liberty of spirit for the exercise of prayer.

However, I think family prayer cannot be said to be stated, unless it be performed at least daily, and, when unavoidable hindrances do not prevent, twice a day. Though all times and seasons are alike to the Lord, and his ear is always open whenever we have a heart to call upon him; yet to us there is a peculiar suitableness in beginning and closing the day with prayer: in the morning, to acknowledge his goodness in our preservation through the night, and entreat his presence and blessing on our persons and callings in the course of the day; and at night, to praise him for the mercies of the day past, to humble ourselves before him for what has been amiss, to wait on him for a renewed manifestation of his pardoning love, and to commit ourselves and our concerns to his care and protection while we sleep.

You will, of course, choose those hours when you are least liable to be incommoded by the calls of business, and when the family can assemble with the most convenience: only I would observe, that it greatly preserves regularity and good order in a house, to keep constantly to the same hours when it is practicable; and likewise, that it is best not to defer evening prayer until late, if it can be well avoided; lest some who join in the exercise, and perhaps the person himself who leads in it, should be too weary or sleepy to give a due attention. On this account, I should advise to have family prayer before supper, where people have the choice and disposal of their own hours.

I think, with you, that it is very expedient and proper that reading a portion of the word of God should be ordinarily a part of our family worship; so likewise to sing a hymn or psalm, or part of one, at discretion; provided there are some persons in the family who have enough of a musical ear and voice to conduct the singing in a tolerable manner: otherwise, perhaps, it may be better omitted. If you read and sing, as well as pray, care should be taken that the combined services do not run into an inconvenient length.

The chief thing to be attended to is, that it may be a spiritual service; and the great evil to be dreaded and guarded against in the exercise of every duty that returns frequently upon us, is formality. If a stated course of family prayer is kept up as constantly in its season as the striking of the clock, in time it may come to be almost as mechanically performed, unless we are continually looking to the Lord to keep our hearts alive.

It most frequently happens, that one or more members of a family are unconverted persons. When there are such present, a great regard should be had to them, and everything conducted with a view to their edification, that they may not be disgusted or wearied, or tempted to think that it is little more than the fashion or custom of the house; which will probably be the case, unless the master of the family is lively and earnest in performance of the duty, and likewise circumspect and consistent in every part of his behavior at other times. By leading in the worship of God before children, servants, or strangers, a man gives bond (as it were) for his behavior, and adds strength to every other motive which should engage him to abstain from all appearance of evil. It should be a constant check upon our language and tempers in the presence of our families, to consider that we began the day, and propose to end it, with them in prayer. The Apostle Peter uses this argument to influence the conduct of husbands and wives towards each other; and it is equally applicable to all the members of a family; “That your prayers be not hindered,” that is, either prevented and put off, or despoiled of all life and efficacy, by the ferment of sinful passions.

On the other hand, the proper exercise of family prayer, when recommended by a suitable deportment, is a happy means of instructing children and servants in the great truths of religion, of softening their prejudices, and inspiring them with a temper of respect and affection, which will dispose them to cheerful obedience, and make them unwilling to grieve or offend.

In this instance, as in every other, we may observe, that the Lord’s commands to his people are not arbitrary appointments; but that, so far as they are conscientiously complied with, they have an evident tendency and suitableness to promote our own advantage. He requires us to acknowledge him in our families, for our own sakes; not because he has need of our poor services, but because we have need of his blessing, and without the influence of his grace (which is promised to all who seek it) are sure to be unhappy in ourselves and in all our connections.

When husband and wife are happily partakers of the same faith, it seems expedient, and for their mutual good, that, besides their private devotions, and joining in family prayer, they should pray together. They have many wants, mercies, and concerns, in common with each other, and distinct from the rest of the family. The manner in which they should improve a little time in this joint exercise cannot well be prescribed by a third person: yet I will venture to suggest one thing; and the rather, as I do not remember to have met with it in print. I conceive that it may prove much to their comfort to pray alternately, not only the husband with and for the wife, but the wife with and for the husband. The Spirit of God, by the Apostle, has expressly restrained women from the exercise of spiritual gifts in public; but I apprehend the practice I am speaking of can no way interfere with that restriction. I suppose them in private together, and then I judge it to be equally right and proper for either of them to pray with the other. Nor do I meet anything in Paul’s writings to prevent my thinking, that if he had been a married man, he would, though an Apostle, have been glad for the prayers of his wife. If you ask, how often they should pray together? I think the oftener the better, provided it does not break in upon their duties; once a day at least; and if there is a choice of hours, it might be as well at some distance from their other seasons of worship. But I would observe, as before, that in matters not expressly commanded, prudence and experience must direct.

I have written upon a supposition that you use extempore prayer; but as there are many heads of families who fear the Lord, and have not yet attained liberty to pray extempore before others, I would add, that their inability in this respect, whether real, or whether only proceeding from fear, and an undue regard to self, will not justify them in the omission of family prayer. Helps may be procured. Mr. Jenks’s Devotions are in many hands; and I doubt not but there are other excellent books of the same kind, with which I am not acquainted. If they begin with a form, not with a design to confine themselves always to one, but make it a part of their secret pleading at the Throne of Grace, that they may be favored with the gift and spirit of prayer; and accustom themselves, while they use a form, to intersperse some petitions of their own; there is little doubt but they will in time find a growth in liberty and ability, and at length lay their book entirely aside. For it being every believer’s duty to worship God in his family, his promise may be depended upon, to give them a sufficiency in all things, for those services which he requires of them.

Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power. I do not say, that, by honoring God in your house, you will wholly escape a share in the trials incident to the present uncertain state of things. A measure of such trials will be necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces; to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction; to mortify the body of sin; and to wean you more effectually from the world. But this I will confidently say, that the Lord will both honor and comfort those who thus honor him. Seasons will occur in which you shall know, and probably your neighbors shall be constrained to take notice, that He has not bid you seek him in vain. If you meet with troubles, they shall be accompanied by supports, and followed by deliverance; and you shall upon many occasions experience, that He is your protector, preserving you and yours from the evils by which you will see others suffering around you.

I have rather exceeded the limits I proposed; and therefore shall only add a request, that in your addresses at the Throne of Grace you will remember, &c (Newton’s Signature).

Sermons from Sunday (April 5th, 2020)

Deep South Reformation would like these sermons to benefit and be an aid to help you understand the Scripture for God’s Glory. If you are a pastor and would like your sermons on DSR, let us know. If you have any other questions, please contact us!

1. North Hills in West Monroe, Jon McCartney

2. New Testament Baptist Church in Biloxi, Jake Stone

3. Springs of Grace Baptist Church in Shreveport, Jahill Richards

4. Highland Park Baptist Church in Monroe, Larry Linson

5. Bullitt Lick Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Jim Orrick

6. Shiloh Church – Jacksonville, HB Charles. HB will also be preaching at T4G20 this week!

7. Christ the Redeemer Church of Pine Bluff, Creston Thomas

http://www.tinysa.com/sermon/45201831264384

Book Briefs: Practical Religion By JC Ryle

JC Ryle was born in 1816. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1841. He became the rector of St. Thomas’s, Winchester in 1843, then to Helmingham, Suffolk the following year. From 1843 to 1879, he wrote various works and gospel tracts. In 1880, Ryle became the bishop of Liverpool and retired in 1900 at age 83. He died later that year.fullsizeoutput_5b9

I have benefited from the writings of Bunyan, Calvin, Luther, etc. But none have been more beneficial than JC Ryle. In his work Practical Religion, Ryle cuts to the heart of the Christian life. He saw problems in his day and addressed those. But those same problems are present today.

Practical Religion is divided into 21 Chapters: Self-Inquiry, Self-Exertion, Reality, Prayer, Bible Reading, Going to the Table, Charity, Zeal, Freedom, Happiness, Formality, The World, Riches and Poverty, The Best Friend, Sickness, The Family of God, Our Home, Heirs of God, The Great Gathering, The Great Separation, and Eternity.fullsizeoutput_5b8

Ryle addressed the skewed views of the gospel of grace such as “nominal Christianity”. Ryle calls it “churchianity”. But it is the same problem that still exists in many of our Churches today. Some claim Christ when it benefits them, but when life is tough, those  “nominal” believers are found not to be true. In reading Practical Religionthe Christian will be encouraged in Praying and Reading their Bible. But they will also feel conviction on living this life for eternity, not for the “here and now”.

fullsizeoutput_5baI am thankful to God for the life of JC Ryle and his influence in my life. But I am also thankful for Banner of Truth for publishing his works and other various works that are so important for the Christian life.

If you would like to purchase Practical Religion, you may do so here.

Banner has recently released Ryle’s Autobiography, you can purchase it here.


Evan Knies is a student at SBTS, grad of Boyce College, and Minister of Students at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. He is married to Lauren and you can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Knies.

No Moody Deity: Why the Wrath of God is Unlike the Wrath of Man

By Mathew Gilbert

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Lion King, then you’ll surely remember the scene where Mufasa, king of the lion tribe, gazes out at his entire kingdom with his young son, Simba. Mufasa is trying to help Simba see that one day he will be gone and the kingdom will belong to him. The royal lions are gazing out into their dominion of the African safari, which is marked by a glorious and booming sun shining down. Mufasa’s words are, “Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” Then, little Simba notices another part of the kingdom that is untouched by the sun. He curiously asks his father, “But what about the shadowy place?” Mufasa responds, “That’s beyond our borders. You must never go there, Simba.”

Romans 1 is much like this scene from The Lion King. The first 17 verses shine with the glorious light of the gospel. However, picking up in verse 18 until the end of the chapter, Paul goes to a very dark place. The first half of Romans 1 is the domain of light we not only want to walk in, but all we want to talk about. The second half of Romans 1 is the domain of darkness we would rather ignore. Indeed, we stay away from this shadowy place in thought and action. But as New Testament scholar Douglas Moo has said, “Only when we have really come to grips with the extent of the human dilemma will we be able to respond as we should to the answer to that dilemma found in the good news about Jesus.”

Romans 1:18-32 really is a shadowy place filled with the wrath of God, the power and curse of sin, idolatry, depravity, and judgment. Paul seems to move from the light of the gospel to the darkness of sin and judgment to answer one question: “Why do we need the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation?”

There are few topics or truths in the Bible that ruffle feathers quite like the wrath of God. Even saying, the wrath of God, sounds scary. It’s not something we like to talk about much. In fact, I’ve heard non-Christians say they could easily believe in a God of love, but they could never believe in a God of wrath. In other words, they can believe in a John 3:16 God, but not a Romans 1:18 God.

The problem with this concern is that the John 3:16 God is also the Romans 1:18 God. There aren’t multiple gods revealed in Scripture. There is only one true and living God revealed in Scripture, and he is both loving and holy. Actually, because he is loving and holy, he pours out his wrath against unrighteousness and the unrighteous. But an important question for us to ask is, “What is the wrath of God?”

Wrath is just an intense word that basically means anger. God is angry at unrighteousness and ungodliness. But it is important to remember that God’s anger is not like our anger. It is possible for us to be angry in a righteous or holy way. For example, it is good to be angry at murder, injustice, and evil of all kinds. But most of the time we are angry in sinful ways. Our motivations and actions fueled by anger are usually sinful.

God is never angry in an unrighteous or sinful way. His anger is pure, holy, and right. It is also wrong to think about God’s wrath as the attitude and action of a moody deity. God doesn’t have mood swings or a temper. Instead, in the words of John Stott, “God’s wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it.”

God’s righteousness is the origin of his wrath. If he did not hate and destroy that which is unrighteous, he would rob himself of glory and his people of joy. It is amazing news that God opposes unrighteousness and sin because he also absorbs the very wrath the unrighteous deserve. God’s wrath and God’s love are not enemies. The enemy of God’s wrath is neutrality. If God just ignored our sin, he could not save us from our sin. Instead, God’s wrath is against sin and sinners. And in God’s love he sent Jesus to fully bear his wrath in our place. In the finished work of Christ, God saves us from himself, to himself, and for himself.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.