Family Religion Recommended by William Arthur

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A notable sermon on family worship has recently been added to Log College Press. Preached by William Arthur (1769-1827), who came to America from Scotland in 1793, it is titled “Family Religion Recommended,” and it is based on Joshua 24:15: “As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Rev. Arthur preached this sermon on two occasions in 1794 — once in the congregation of Robert Annan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and once in the congregation of Arthur’s cousin, John Mitchell Mason, in New York City. Published later the same year, Arthur’s sermon still serves his stated goal of “doing good” to many.

Reminding us that God sovereignly makes families, and that he deals with families as families, Arthur teaches that families have a duty to serve God. Thus, family worship is both the return of a debt of gratitude for mercies received and a duty owed to the God who has ordained the institution, and seeks such to worship him in spirit and in truth.

He bemoans the families who neglect this duty, and sit down to eat without so much as giving thanks to God for their daily bread. Without dismissing the importance of personal and private religious duties, Arthur emphasizes the Scriptural examples of families who worship together and mourn their family sins together, and teaches that this is a regular, not an occasional, duty. Family worship, he says, is recommended to us by the practice in Scripture of many faithful and godly witnesses.

Also, Arthur commends to us the promises of the God who says that will manifest himself through his covenant to families.

How animating is the following promise; which has, I suppose, a primary view to the return of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity; but has a running applicability, and a continued accomplishment, especially in the New Testament times! At the same time saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Says he, in another part of scripture, In all places, where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee; and is not his name recorded in our habitations?

Arthur went on to serve the congregation of the Pequea Presbyterian Church in Gap, Pennsylvania for 22 years. He died in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1827, but he is remembered as a faithful and godly minister who encouraged family, as well as corporate and private, worship.