Family Worship (Part 1)
By J. R. Miller (1840 – 1912)
[Editor’s Note: The following article refers to the home altar or family altar, terms used by previous generations in regard to family Bible study, prayer and worship time.]
Every home in this world is exposed to a thousand dangers. Enemies seek to destroy it, to desecrate its holy beauty and to carry away its sacred treasures. The very institution itself is assailed by the apostles of infidelity and licentiousness. Countless social influences tend to disintegrate the home, to rob it of its sanctities, to break down its sacred barriers and to sully its purity. Nothing but the Cross of Christ will save it. Those who are setting up a home, their hearts full of precious hopes of happiness and blessing, should consecrate it at once, by erecting the altar of God [that is, family worship] in the midst of it. This will throw over it the protecting hand of divine love.
We need true religion in our homes to help us to do each his own part faithfully. Take the parents, for example, into whose hands come tender young lives with infinite possibilities of development. They are to train these immortal souls in beauty and build up in them a noble manhood or womanhood. These lives are so sensitive that the slightest influences will leave imperishable impressions upon them, that a wrong touch may mar them forever. They may have in them the elements of great power or usefulness; God may want them trained to be leaders in the world. For the upbuilding of their character, for the impressions that shall be stamped upon their souls, for their protection from unholy influences, for the molding and shaping of their lives, for the development and training of their powers and for their preparation of life’s mission and for eternity – the parents are responsible.
God’s Divine Help
Who is sufficient alone for these things? Where is the parent who feels ready in himself to assume all this responsibility – to take an infant child from God’s hands to be tended, sheltered, taught, trained and led, and to answer at the end before God’s bar, for the faithful keeping of his sacred trust? Where is the parent who is prepared to engage to do all this and who wants no help from God? That so many do become fathers and mothers who never ask divine aid and wisdom, only proves how thoughtlessly men and women can enter the most solemn duties of life, and with how little conception of their responsibility, they accept the most momentous duties. Only the religion of Christ can fit parents for their high and holy responsibility.
Where shall we find protection for these tender lives – but in the keeping of the almighty Savior? We cannot shelter them ourselves. We cannot make our home doors strong enough to shield them. We cannot protect them even by love’s tenderness or by the influence of beautiful things – of art, of luxury, of music, or by the refinements of the truest and best culture. From amid all these things, children’s souls are every day stolen away. All history and all experience prove that nothing but the religion of Christ, can be a shelter for our loved ones from this world’s dangers and temptations.
Rooted in Christ
A friend was telling of a wonderful little flower which he discovered high up on the Rocky Mountains. In a deep fissure among the rocks, one midsummer day, he found the snow still lying unmelted, and on the surface of the snow he saw a lovely flower. When he looked closely he perceived that it had a long, delicate white stem, coming up through the deep snow from the soil in a crevice of the rock underneath. The little plant had grown up in spite of all obstacles, its tender stem unharmed by the cold drifts, until it blossomed out in loveliness above the snow. The secret was its root in the rich soil in the cleft of the rock, from which it drew such fullness of life that it rose through all hindrances – to perfect beauty.
That little flower is a fit picture of every tender child-life in this world. Over it are chilling masses of evil and destructive influences, and if it ever grows up into noble and lovely character, it must conquer its way by the force of its own inward life, until it stands crowned with beauty, with every obstacle beneath it. This it can do, only through the power of the divine grace within. Its root must be homed in the sheltered warmth of piety, in the cleft of the Rock of Ages.
Those who grow up in truly Christian homes, imbibing in their souls from infancy the very life of Christ, will be strong to overcome every obstacle and resist every temptation. The influence of godly example, the memories of the home altar, the abiding power of holy teachings, and the grace of God descending perpetually upon the young life in answer to believing prayer, give it such inspirations and impulses toward all that is noble and heavenly – that it will stand at last crowned with honor and beauty. To make a home godless and prayerless is to send our children out to meet all the world’s evil without either the shelter of covenant love to cover them in the storm or the strength of holy principle in their hearts to make them able to endure.
Worship in the Home
What should be the religious atmosphere of a home, to make it a true spiritual conservatory? There must be a home altar. No Christian home-life can be complete where the family does not daily gather for worship. All the members may meet in God’s house on Sunday for public service; each one may maintain strict habits of secret devotion; but if there is to be a family religion, a home-life blessed and sweetened by the grace of Christ – there must also be a family worship where all assemble to listen devoutly to God’s Word, and bow reverently in supplication at God’s feet.
There are many reasons why such worship should be observed. Shall we take all God’s daily benefits from His hand – and return to Him no thanks? Shall we be continually dependent on His bountiful providence for food, for raiment, for protection, for love and all the tender joys of home – and shall we never ask Him for one of these blessings?
Shall we call our home a Christian home, and yet never worship Christ within our doors? Shall we call ourselves God’s children, and yet never offer any praise to our Father? Should there not be some difference between a Christian and a heathen home? Should not God’s children live differently from the children of this world? What mark is there that distinguishes our home, from the home of our godless neighbor – if there is no family altar?
Bowing in prayer together in the morning strengthens all the household for life’s active duties. Wisdom is sought and obtained for the decisions and plans of the day. Guidance is asked and received. Help is drawn down from the throne of God. The children go out under sheltering wings and are safe in danger, guarded by angels and kept by Christ Himself.
(To be continued)