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Concerning Secret and Private Worship, and mutual Edi
fication; for cherishing Piety, for maintaining Unity, and avoiding Schism and Division.
ESIDES the publick worship in congregations, merci
fully established in this land, in great purity; it is expedient and necessary, that secret worship of each person alone, and private worship of families, be pressed and set up: That, with national reformation, the profession and power of godliness, both personal and domestick, be advanced.
I. And first, For secret worship, it is most necessary, that every one apart, and by themselves, be given to prayer, and meditation, the unspeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercised therein; this being the mean whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, aud right preparation for all other duties obtained: and therefore it becometh not only pastors, within their several charges, to press persons of all sorts to perform this duty, morning and evening, and at other occasions; but also it is incumbent to the head of every family to have a care that both themselves, and all within their charge, be daily diligent herein.
II. The ordinary duties comprehended under the exercise of piety, which should be in families, when they are conveen-. ed to that effect, are thefe; First, Prayer and praises performed, with a special reference, as well to the publick condition of the kirk of God, and this kingdom, as to the present case
of the family, and every member thereof. Next, Reading of the scriptures, with catechising in a plain way, that the understandings of the simpler may be the better enabled to profit under the publick ordinances, and they made more capable to understand the scriptures, when they are read: together with godly conferences tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith: as also, admonition and rebuke, upon just reasons, from those who have authority in the family.
III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy scriptures, is a part of the ministerial calling, which none (however otherwise qualified) should take upon him in any place, but he that is duly called thereunto by God and his kirk; so in every family, where there is any that can read, the holy scriptures should be read ordinarily to the family; and it is commendable, that thereafter they confer, and by way of conference make some good use of what hath been read and heard : as for example, if any fin be reproved in the word read, use may be made thereof to make all the family circumspect and watchful against the fame; or if any judgment be threatned, or mentioned to have been inflicted in that portion of scripture which is read, use may be made to make all the family fear, lest the same or a worse judgment befal them, unless they beware of the sin that procured it. And finally, if any duty be required, or comfort held forth in a promise, use may be iade to stir up themselves to employ Christ for strength to enable them for doing the commanded duty, and to apply the offered comfort. In all which, the master of the family is to have the chief hand; and any member of the family may propone a question or doubt for resolution.
IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family withdraw himself from any part of family-worship: and, seeing the ordinary performance of all the parts of family.worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minister is to stir up such as are lazy, and train
up such as
are weak, to a fitness to these exercises; it being always free to persons of quality, to entertain one approved by the presbytery for performing family-exercise. And in other families
where the head of the family is unfit, that another constantly e residing in the family, approved by the minister and sellion,
may be employed in that service; wherein the minister and
session are to be countable to the presbytery. And, if a mini- ster by divine providence be brought to any family, it is re
quisite, that at no time he conveen a part of the family for worship, secluding the rest, except in singular cases, especially concerning these parties, which (in Christian prudence) need not, or ought not, to be imparted to others.
V. Let no idler who hath no particular calling, or vagrant person under pretence of a calling, be suffered to perform worship in families, to, or for the same; seeing persons tainted with errors, or aiming at division, may be ready (after that manner) to creep into houses, and lead captive filly and unstable souls.
VI. At family worship, a special care is to be had that each family keep by themselves. Neither requiring, inviting, nor admitting persons from diverse families, unless it be those who are lodged with them, or at meals or otherwise with them upon some lawful occasion.
VII. Whatsoever have been the effects and fruits of meetings of persons of diverse families, in the times of corruption or trouble (in which cases many things are commendable, which otherwise are not tolerable) yet, when God hath blessed us with peace and purity of the gospel, such meetings of persons of divers families (except in cases mentioned in these directions) are to be disapproved, as tending to the hindrance. of the religious exercise of each family by itself, to the prejudice of the publick ministry, to the renting of the families of particular congregations, and (in progress of time) of the whole kirk. Besides many offences which may come thereby,
to the hardning of the hearts of carnal men, and grief of the
VIII. On the Lord's day, after every one of the family apart, and the whole family together, have sought the Lord (in whose hands the preparation of mens hearts are) to fit them for the publick worship, and to bless to them the publick ordinances; the master of the family ought to take care, that all within his charge repair to the publick worship, that he and they may join with the rest of the congregation; and the publick worship being finished, after prayer, he should take an account what they have heard; and thereafter, to spend the rest of the time, which they may spare, in catechising, and in spiritual conferences upon the word of God: or else (going apart) they ought to apply themselves to reading, meditation, and secret prayer, that they may confirm and increase their communion with God, that so the profit which they found in the publick ordinances may be cherished and promoved, and they more edified unto eternal life.
IX. So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a fer form of prayer, but so as they be not sluge gish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure: to which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to express convenient désires to God for their family: and in the mean time, for their greater encouragment, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of, as followeth.
· Let them confess to God how unworthy they are to come in his presence, and how unfit to worship his majesty: and therefore earnestly ask of God the spirit of prayer.
They are to confess their fins, and the sins of the family; & accusing, judging and condemning themselves for them, till
they bring their souls to some measure of true humiliation,
They are to pour out their souls to God, in the name of · Christ, by the Spirit, for forgiveness of lins; for grace to
repent, to believe, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and that they may serve God with joy and delight, - walking before him. They are to give thanks to God for his
mercies to his people and to themselves, and especially for his love in Christ, and for the light of the gospel.
They are to pray for such particular benefits, spiritual * and temporal, as they stand in need of for the time (whe. ther it be morning, or evening) as anent health or sickness, prosperity or adversity.
They ought to pray for the kirk of Christ in general, · for all the reformed kirks, and for this kirk in particular,
and for all that suffer for the name of Christ; for all our superiors, the king's majesty, the queen, and their children; for the magistrates, ministers, and whole body of the congregation whereof they are members, as well for their
neighbours absent in their lawful affairs, as for those that • are at home.
• The prayer may be closed with an earnest desire that • God may be glorified in the coming of the kingdom of his
Son, and in doing of his will, and with assurance that them· selves are accepted, and what they have asked according to his will shall be done.'
X. These exercises ought to be performed in great sincerity, without delay, laying aside all exercises of wordly business or hinderances, notwithstanding the mockings of atheists and profane men; in respect of the great mercies of God to this land, and of his severe corrections wherewith lately he hath exercised us. And, to this effect, persons of eminency (and all elders of the kirk) not only ought to stir up themselves and families to diligence herein; but also to concur effectually, that in all other families, where they have power PP2