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PIETY and UNIFORMITY in Secret and Private WORSHIP, and mutual EDIFICATION:
An Act of the General Affembly, Anno 1648, for obferving the Same.
Printed in the Year, M,DCC,LV.
Affembly at Edinburgh. Aug. 24, 1647, Seff. 10.
ACT for oblerving the Directions of the General Alfembly, for fecret and private Worship, and mutual Edification and centuring fuch as neglect Family Worthip.
THE General Affembly, after mature deliberation, doth approve the following rules and directions, for cherifbing piety and preventing division and senifm; and dath appoint minifters and ruling elders, in each congregation, to take special care that thefe directions be obferved and followed; as likewife, that prefbyteries and provincial fynods enquire 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 bould be found to be reproveable or cenfureable therein. And, to the end that thefe 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 enquiry, in the congregations committed to their charge refpectively, whether there be among them any family or families, which use to neglect this neceffary duty; and, if any fuch family be found. the head of the family is to be firft admonished privately to amend his fault; and, in cafe of his continuing therein, he is to be gravely and ladly reproved by the feffion: after which reproot, if he be found ftill to neglect family worship let him be, for bis obftinacy in fuch an offence, fufpended and debarred from the Lord's fupper, as being justly esteemed unworthy to communicate therein, till he amend.
DIRECTIONS of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY, concerning Secret and Private Worship, and mutual Edification; for cherishing Piety, for maintaining Unity, and avoiding Schifm and Divifion.
ESIDES the public worship in congregations, mercifully eftablished in this land, in great purity; it is expedient and neceffary, that fecret worship of each perton alone, and private worthip of families, be preffed and fet up: That, with national refor nation, the profeffion and power of godliness, both perfonal and domeftic, be advanced.
I. And Firft, For fecret worship, it is moft neceffary, that every one apart, and by themfelves, be given to prayer, and meditation, the unfpeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercifed 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 pastors, within their several charges, to prefs perfons of all forts to perform this duty, morning and evening, and at other occafions; but alio it is incum
bent to the heads 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 exercife of piety, which should be in families, when they are conveened to that effect, are thefe; Firft, Prayer and praifes performed, with a fpecial reference, 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 fcriptares, 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 capable to underftand the fcriptures, when they are read; together with godly conterences tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith: As alfo, admonition and rebuke, upon just reafons, from thofe who have authority in the family.
III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy fcriptures, is a part of the minifterial 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; 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 ot 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 circumfpect and watchful against the fame or if any judgment be threatened, or mentioned to have been in icted in that portion of fcriptúre which is read, ufe may be made to make all the family fear, left 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 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 queftion or doubt for refolution.
IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family 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 Jazy, and train up uch as are weak to a fitnefs to thefe exercifes; it being always free to perfons of quality, to entertain one approved by the prefbytery for performing family exercise And in other families where the head of the family is unfit, that another conftantly refiding in the family, approved by the minifter and feffion, may be employed in that fervice; wherein the minifter and feffion are to be countable to the presbytery. And, if a minifter by divine providence be brought to any family, it is requifite, that at no time he conveen a part of the family for worship, fecluding the reft, except in fingulur cafes, especi
eally concerning thele parties, which (in Chriftian prudence) need not, or 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 from the fame; feeing perfons tainted with errors, or aiming at divifion, may be ready (atter that manner) to creep into houses, and lead captive filly and unftabe fouls.
VI. At family worship, a locial care is to be had 'that each family keep by themselves. Neither requiring, inviting, nor admitting perfons from diverfe families, unliefs it be thofe who are lodged with them, or at meals or otherwife with them upon fome lawrul occafion
VII. Whatfoever have been the eff.&ts and fruits of meetings of perfons of diverie families, in the times of corruption or trouble (in which cafes many things are commendable, which otherwile are not tolerable) yet, when God hath bleffed us with peace and purity of the gofpel, fuch meetings of perfons of divers families (except in cales mentioned in thefe directions) are to be disapproved, as tending to the hinderance of the religious exercife of each family by itfelt, 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 worship, 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 rest of the congregation; and the public worship being fiaifhed, after prayer, he should take an account what they have heard; and thereafter, to spend the rest of the time, which they may fpare, in catechifing, and in fpiritual conferences upon the word of God: or elie (going apart) they ought to apply themfelves to reading, meditation, and lecret prayer, that they may confirm and increase their communion with God, that fo the profit which they found in the public 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 thofe who are rude and weaker may begin at a fet form of prayer, but fo as they be not fluggish in itirring up in themfelves (according to their daily neceffities the fpirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in fome meature: to 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 thefe materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made ufe 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; accuf ing, judging and condemning themselves or them, tili they bring their fouls to fome measure of true humiliation.
They are to pour out their fouls to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgivenefs of fins; for grace to repent, to believe, 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 them elves, and especially for his love in Christ, and for the light of the golpel.
They are to pray for fuch particular benefits. fpiritual and temporal, as they stand in need for the time (whether it be morning, or evening) as anent health or fickness profperity or adversity
They ought to pray for the kink of Chrift in general, for all the reformed kirks, and for this kirk in particular, and tor all that fuffer ⚫ for the name of Chrift; for all our fuperiors, the king's majefty, the ⚫ queen, and their children; for the magiftrates, minifters, and whole body of the congregation whereof they are members, as well for their neighbours ablen in hit lawful affairs, as for thote that are • at home.
The prayer may be closed with an earnest defire that God may be 'glorified in the coming of the kingdom of his Son, and in doing of his will, and with ffurance that themselves are accepted, and what they have afked acco diag to his will fhad be done.'
X Thefe exercites ought to be performed in great fincerity, without delay, laying afide all exercifes of worldly buline's or hinderances, notwithstanding the mockings of atheifts and profane men; in respect of the great mercies of God to this land, and of his fevere corrections wherewith lately he hath exercised us. And, to this effect, perfons of eminency (and all elders of the kirk) not only ought to ftir up theinfelves and families to diligence herein; but alfo to concur effectually, that in all other families, where they have power and charge, the faid exercifes be conscionably performed.
XI. Befides the ordinary duties in families, which are above-mentioned, extraordinary duties, both of humiliation and thanksgiving, are to be carefully performed in families, when the Lord by extraordinary occafions (private or public) calleth for them.
XII. Seeing the word of God requireth, that we fhould confider one another to provoke unto love and good works; therefore, at all times, and fpecially in this time, wherein profanity abounds, and mockers, walking after their own lufts. think it ftrange that others run not with them to the fame excefs of riot; every member of this kirk ought to itir up themselves, and one another, to the duties of mutual ed fitation,