Alexander MacWhorter on Family Worship

Alexander MacWhorter (1734-1807) was an important leader in the early American Presbyterian Church. He served as a chaplain during the American War of Independence; served as President of Liberty Hall Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina; ministered to the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, New Jersey for many years; was a founder of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA); and served as a trustee of Princeton for 35 years.

Many of his sermons were collected into two volumes and published in 1803 under the title A Series of Sermons, Upon the Most Important Principles of Our Holy Religion, each volume contained 42 sermons.

The second volume contains sermons on prayer in general, on private prayer and on family worship. We draw your attention to his sermon on family worship because it is a duty just as important in our day as in his, and even more prone to be neglected in our day than his.

MacWhorter’s text is Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He begins by reinforcing the Scriptural basis for this duty: “If it be the duty of Christians to pray everywhere proper and convenient, to continue in prayer, be instant therein, and to pray always with all prayer, and that without ceasing, these things clearly show, that at all times we should possess a praying frame of heart, and be ready on all fit occasions to perform devotional service. Then it evidently follows that they ought to worship God in their families.” Many examples from both the Old and New Testaments are given of this practice. And the warning from Jeremiah 10:25 that God will pour out his fury upon the nations and families that call not upon his name is highlighted.

The reader is reminded of both of the benefits of family worship and the unhappy consequences that proceed from failure to do so. He quotes Richard Baxter, “A holy, well-governed family is the preparative to a holy and well-governed church” and adds that “When we begin the day with God, there is ground to hope we will ‘be in his fear all the day long.’” Encouragement is given to the heads of households charged with this duty. MacWhorter reminds us again and again that great blessings are in store for the families that do call upon his name.

Take time to read this sermon by Alexander MacWhorter (Sermon IV, “The Duty of Family Prayer,” in Vol. 2 of A Series of Sermons). It will remind you why you undertake this daily devotional practice or else it will encourage you to take up this daily devotional practice. It is never too late to begin. God seeks families to worship and praise him, as this remarkable colonial Presbyterian minister teaches us.