Thursday, January 05, 2006

Armour for Family Worship

In addition to the Post 1920 weekly entries, there will be periodic posts dealing with the important subject of family worship. These will be called "Armour for Family Worship." Let me explain the nature and purpose of this series to you. To be very frank, we live in an age of surrogate parenting, that is, many parents today are too content to have someone else raise their children for them to the exclusion of their own responsibilities as parents. What I have said here is not some implicit statement addressing homeschooling versus public education. No, not at all. In fact, while we are a homeschooling family ourselves, I must admit that it is just as possible for homeschool parents to give their children over to some curriculum without ever exercising the oversight that is required to affirm that their pedagogy is soundly Christ centered. The point is simply this - parents of all backgrounds must guard themselves from the dangers of becoming indifferent to their privileged duties as parents. Even the local church must be careful to nurture the family through its ministries in order to strengthen familial bonds, rather than divide them (more will be said on that later). The Scriptures clearly define for us what is a right and wholesome ministry to youth, and it is clearly laid out for us in Ephesians 6:1-4; particularly when the Apostle declares to fathers: "...bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." If the Bible offers us a "formula" for ministry to youth, it is this: Parents, principally through the clear leadership of the father, are to nurture their own children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Because of the imortance of this subject, this series, "Armour for Family Worship" will become a regular feature on The Armoury. I will begin this first post with a very brief entry, offering you the wisdom of Mr. Thomas Manton, who wrote the following in his Epistle to the Reader contained in the Confession of Faith of the church of Scotland:


“CHRISTIAN READER, I CANNOT suppose thee to be such a stranger in England as to be ignorant of the general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and more especially of the great corruption of youth. Wherever thou goest, thou wilt hear men crying out of bad children and bad servants; whereas, indeed, the source of the mischief must be sought a little higher: it is bad parents and bad masters that make bad children and bad servants; and we cannot blame so much their untowardness, as our own negligence in their education. The devil hath a great spite at the kingdom of Christ, and he knoweth no such compendious way to crush it in the egg, as by the perversion of youth, and supplanting family duties. He striketh at all those duties which are public in the assemblies of the saints; but these are too well guarded by the solemn injunctions and dying charge of Jesus Christ, as that he should ever hope totally to subvert and undermine them; but at family duties he striketh with the more success, because the institution is not so solemn, and the practice not so seriously and conscientiously regarded as it should be, and the omission is not so liable to notice and public censure. Now the devil knoweth that this is a blow at the root, and a ready way to prevent the succession of churches: if he can subvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigour; for there is the stock from whence they are supplied both for the present and for the future. For the present: A family is the seminary of church and state; and if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth: a fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second; if youth be bred ill in the family, they prove ill in church and commonwealth. By family discipline, officers are trained up for the Church, (1 Timothy 3:4). Upon all these considerations how careful should ministers and parents be to train up young ones whilst they are yet pliable, and, like wax, capable of any form and impression in the knowledge and fear of God.” [The Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (William S. Young, 173 Race Street, Philadelphia, 1851), pgs. 5-6.]

As parents, we ought to be warned concerning the dangers of parental lethargy. The doctrines of sovereign grace remind us that it is not our work that we depend upon, for the sake of our children, rather we look to the work of God in their lives. However, this truth does not grant us permission to become unprincipled in the nurture of those gifts that God has given to us (Psalm 127). Fathers are commanded in Scripture to equip their families with the whole counsel of God’s Word. Thus, it is a loving father who girds his children with truth before sending them out into this spiritually violent world. You see, there are really only two options in parenting: there is a right and a wrong path when it comes to raising our children. The right path is one that nurtures children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord - all for the glory of God alone.


For a family devotion, I would recommend reading Ephesians 6:1-4 and then either portions or all of Manton’s preface above; then I would offer the following little hymn as a reminder of what our goal must be in training children at all:


Now Let the Children of the Saints (Sir Robert P. Stewart)

Tune (midi file): Mount Calvary

1. Now let the children of the saints Be dedicate to God; Pour out Thy Spirit on them, Lord, And wash them in Thy blood.


2. Thus to their parents and their seed Shall Thy salvation come; And numerous households meet at last In one eternal home.