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PIETY and UNIFORMITY in Secret and Private WORSHIP and mutual EDIFICATION,
An Act of the General Affembly, anno 1647, for obferving the fame.
Affembly at Edinburgh, Auguft 24. 1647. Seff. 10.
ACT for obferving the directions of the Genera! Affembly, for fecret and private worship, and mutual edification, and cenfuring fuch as neglect family-worship.
HE General Affembly, after mature deliberation, doth approve the following rules and directions, for cherishing piety, and preventing divifion and fchifm; and doth appoint Ministers and ruling elders, in each congregation, to take fpecial care that these directions be obferved and followed; as likewife, that prefbyteries and provincial Synods inquire and make trial, whether the faid directions be duly obferved in their bounds: and to reprove or cenfure (according to the quality of the offence) fuch as fhall be found to be reproveable or cenfureable therein. And, to the end that these directions may not be rendered ineffectual and unprofitable among fome, through the ufual neglect of the very fubftance of the duty of family-worship; the Affembly doth further require and appoint Minifters and ruling elders to make diligent fearch and inquiry, in the congregations committed to their charge refpectively, whether there be among them any family or families, which ufe to neglect this neceflary duty; and, if any fuch family be found, the head of the family is to be first admonished privately to amend his fault; and in cafe of his continuing therein, he is to be gravely and fadly reproved by the feffion; after which reproof, if he be found ftill to neglect family-worship, let him be, for his obftinacy in fuch an offence, fufpended and debarred from the Lord's fupper, as being justly esteemed unworthy to communicate therein, till he amend.
Secret and private Worship, and mutual Edification; for cherishing Piety, for maintaining Unity, and avoiding Schifm and Division.
Efides the public worship in congregations, mercifully established in this land, in great purity; it is expedient and neceflary, that fecret worship of each perfon alone, and private worship of families, be preffed and fet up; that, with national reformation, the profeffion and power of godlinefs, both perfonal and domeftic, be advanced. I. And firft, for fecret worship, it is moft neceflary, that every one apart, and by themselves, be given to prayer and meditation, the unfpeakable benefit whereof it is best known to them who are most exercised therein; this being the mean whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, and right preparation for all other duties obtained: and therefore it becometh not only paftors, with in their feveral charges, to prefs perfons of all forts to perform this duty morning and evening, and at other occafions; but alfo it is incumbent to the head of every family to have a care that both themfelves, 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 conveened to that effect, are these First, Prayer and praifes performed with a fpecial refe ṛence, as well to the public condition of the kirk of God, and this kingdom, as to the prefent cafe of the family, and every member thereof. Next, Reading of the fcriptures, with catechifing in a plain way, that the understandings of the fimpler may be the better enabled to profit under the public ordinances, and they made more ca
pable to underftand the fcriptures, when they are read: together with godly conferences tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith: as alfo admonition and rebuke, upon just reasons, from those who have authority in the family.
III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy fcriptures, is a part of the ministerial calling, which none (however otherwife qualified) fhould take upon him in any place, but he that is duly called thereunto by God and his kirk; fo in every family where there Is any that can read, the holy fcriptures fhould be read ordinarily to the family; and it is commendable, that thereafter they confer, and by way of conference make fome good ufe of what hath been read and heard. As, for example, if any fin be reproved in the word read, ufe may be made thereof to make all the family circum fpect and watchful against the fame; or if any judgment be threatened, or mentioned to have been inflicted in that portion of fcripture which is read, ufe may be made to make all the family fear, least the fame or a worfe judgment befal them, unless they beware of the fin that procured it. And, finally, if any duty be required, or comfort held forth in a promise, ufe may be made to ftir up themfelves to employ Chrift for ftrength 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 refolution.
IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the famity withdraw himself from any part of family-worship: and, feeing the ordinary performance of all the parts of family-worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minifter is to ftir up fuch as are lazy, and train up fuch as are weak, to a fitness to these exercises; it being always free to perfons of quality, to entertain one approved by the prefbytery for performing family-exercife. And in other families, where the head of the family is unfit, that another conftantly refiding in the family, approved by the minister and feffion may be employed in that fervice wherein the minister and feffion are to be countable to the presbytery. And if a minister, by divine providence, be brought to any family, it is requifite that at no time he convene a part of the family for worship, fecluding the rest, except in fingular cafes, especially concerning these parties, which (in Chriftian prudence, need not, nor ought not, to be imparted to others.
V. Let no idler who hath no particular calling, or vagrant perfon under pretence of a calling, be fuffered to perform worship in families, to or for the fame; feeing perfons tainted with errors, or aiming at divifion, may be ready (after that manner) to creep into houfes, and lead captive filly and unftable fouls.
VI. At family-worship a special care is to be had that each family keep by themselves; neither requiring, inviting, or admitting perfons from divers families, unless it be thofe who are lodged with them, or at meals, or otherwife with them upon fome lawful occafi
VII. Whatfoever have been the effects and fruits of meetings of perfons of divers families, in the times of corruption or trouble, (in which cafes many things are conimendable, which otherwife are not tolerable,) yet when God hath bleffed us with peace and purity of the gospel, fuch meetings of perfons of divers families (except in cafes mentioned in thefe directions) are to be difapproved, as tending to the hinderance of the religious exercife of each family by itself, to the prejudice of the public miniftry, to the renting of the families of particular congregations, and (in progrefs of time) of the whole kirk. Befides many offences which may come thereby, to the hardening of the hearts of carnal men, and grief of the godly.
VIII. On the Lord's day, after every one of the family apart, and the whole family together, have fought the Lord (in whofe hands the preparation of mens hearts are) to fit them for the public worfhip, and to bless to them the public ordinances; the mafter of the family ought to take care that all within his charge repair to the public worship, that he and they may join with the reft of the congregation. And the public worship being finished, after prayer, he fhould take an account what they have heard: and thereafter, to fpend the rest of the time, which they may fpare, in catechifung, and in fpiritual conferences upon the word of God: or else (going apart) they ought to apply themselves to reading, meditation, and fecret prayer, that they may confirm and increafe their communion with God that fo the profit which they found in the public ordinances may be cherished and promoted, and they more edified unto eternal life.
IX. So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make ufe of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a fet form of prayer, but fo as they be not fluggish in ftirring up in themselves, (according to their daily neceffities) the fpirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in fome measure. Το which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in fecret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to exprefs convenient defires to God for their family. And in the mean time, for their greater encouragement, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of, as followeth.
"Let them confefs to God how unworthy they are to come in his "prefence, and how unfit to worship his Majefty; and therefore "earneftly afk of God the fpirit of prayer.
"They are to confefs their fins, and the fins of the family; accufing, judging, and condemning themfelves for them, till they "bring their fouls to fome meafure of true humiliation.
"They are to pour out their fouls to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgiveness of fins; for grace to repent, to be«lieve, and to live foberly, righteously, and godly; and that they "may ferve God with joy, and delight, walking before him.
"They are to give thanks to God for his many mercies to his people, and to themselves, and efpecially for his love in Chrift, and for the light of the gospel.