• Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Family Worship

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.  Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. (NKJ Mark 10:13-16)


The day has finally arrived: we are building for the next generation. I think our passage above reminds us about how crucial a role we play in the lives of the next generation. As we build for the future, may we consider our past and move forward with caution and much prayer, recognizing it is God alone who establishes and preserves us. In our passage of Scripture we see four things: first, people are bringing their children (even their babies) to Jesus; secondly, the disciples are rebuking the crowd which hinders the children from coming to Him; thirdly, Jesus is outraged that someone would hinder children from coming to Him; lastly, Jesus is absolutely willing to bless the little children! Indeed, it is a great crime against our Lord and Savior to NOT bring our children to Him.


If you are familiar with church history, you can certainly testify to how each and every Reformed Presbyterian denomination has compromised, departed, and eventually denied the historic Reformed faith. We must never forget God has ordained three institutions: the Family, the Church, and the Government. If the Family declines, then the Church declines. If the Church declines, then the Government declines. Yes, I’m declaring that as the family goes so goes the Church and the State. So what practice or means of grace will yield great blessing and spiritual prosperity for each of these three institutions? I believe our Presbyterian forefathers have great wisdom to offer us concerning this matter of spiritual decline. Below is a brief account of what led to the collapse of the Southern Presbyterian Church, which before its decline yielded such stalwarts as Dabney, Thornwell, Girardeu, B.M. Palmer, and many other spiritual redwoods.


Family worship led by the male head of the household was in decline among Presbyterians in the latter half of the 19th century. The following are some excerpts from statements of the General Assembly of the PCUS:

‘We think that it is plainly inculcated in the word of God, as well as in our standards, that the children of pious parents are integral parts of God’s Church, and that their certain and early conversion is to be secured by faithful instruction in the principles of the Christian religion’…’This is heaven’s appointed way for securing the early conversion of your children. But we greatly apprehend that this solemn duty is often deferred too long, and sometimes neglected altogether. The children of the Church are suffered to grow up uninstructed and unwarned; no efforts are made to inflame their hearts with love for the Redeemer or for His blessed kingdom. God’s appointed way for saving them is thus abandoned; the most propitious time for effecting the desired end is lost, and the most powerful means are left unimproved; while parents indulge a vague and languid hope that in coming years, by the improvement of some extraordinary means, their salvation will be effected. We most affectionately warn you beloved brethren against such neglect. God’s ways are ever best; follow after His appointments if you would be blessed by the early conversion of your children. Around your own happy hearthstone talk to them of the love of Christ; of their relation to God and to His Church, and the consequent duties devolving upon them’ [Pastoral Letter, 1873, pp. 335-336].
‘From the Narratives of the Presbyteries, either by explicit statement or through a silence as significant, it appears that family worship as a duty has greatly declined, and as a privilege has lost its hold on the affections of our people which once gave it such power over the habits of our households, that it became a distinguishing mark of our Presbyterian ancestry….The family altar is the determining factor in the security, perpetuity and efficiency of family life. Family worship is a test of the faith of parents and the reality of religion. It is the union of precept and example in the instruction of children…Our beloved Church has always stood for family religion as the sine qua non of the Christian home, and of scriptural Church life. The lamentable fact is shown in the reports which come up from our Presbyteries that there is not only no decided improvement among our people with regard to family worship, but in some instances there seems to be a positive decline’ [Report of the Standing Committee on the Sabbath and Family Religion, 1912, pp. 69-70]’

Presbyterians have been and should be known for family religion. From John Knox to John Girardeu, family worship has always been emphasized & expected of Christian families. As Thomas Manton once said, “A family is the seminary of Church and State; and if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth: a fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second; if youth be bred ill in the family, they prove ill in Church and Commonwealth; there is the first making or marring, and the presage of their future lives to be thence taken, Prov. 20:11.” May we build for the next generation by teaching our children to follow Jesus and may God be pleased to bless them for the glorifying of His name and the furtherance of His Kingdom.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

Reformed doctrine. Reverent worship. Real life.

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