It is not enough that you and yours are baptized into the Christian faith, and profess to own the truth as it is in Jesus, but care must be taken, and means used, that you and yours be well acquainted with that truth, and that you grow in that acquaintance, to the honour of Christ and his holy religion, and the improvement of your own minds, and theirs who are under your charge. You must deal with your families as men of knowledge (1 Pet. 3:7) that is, as men who desire to grow in knowledge yourselves, and to communicate your knowledge for the benefit of others, which are the two good properties of those who deserve to be called men of knowledge. (p. 33, Family Religion, Matthew Henry)As I noted in a previous post just yesterday discussing John Flavel, if we are to find any fruit in the work of cultivating our hearts, and caring for them, then the Word of God must be central to our task. It is the only proper instrument for discerning the good from the refuse, dividing bone from marrow, as the Scripture teaches.
Just as we are convicted individually that the Word of God must be part of our daily diet as Christians, so too even moreso for those of us tasked with raising children and guiding families in God's service. How we can be devoted to such folly that the world tells us we have to be interested in as fathers and children... and miss the central part of our family's nourishment and needs! Henry writes:
READ THE SCRIPTURES TO YOUR FAMILIES, in a solemn manner, requiring their attendance on your reading, and their attention to it; and inquiring sometimes whether they understand what you read. I hope you are none of you without Bibles in your houses, store of Bibles, every one a Bible. Thanks be to God, we have them cheap and common in a language that we understand. The book of the law is not such a rarity with us as it was in Josiah's time. We need not fetch this knowledge from afar, nor send from sea to sea, and from river to the ends of the earth, to seek the word of God; no, the Word is near us. When popery reigned in our land, English Bibles were scarce things; a load of hay (it is said) was once given for one torn leaf of a Bible. But now Bibles are everyone's money. You know where to buy them; or if not able to do that, perhaps in this charitable city you may know where to beg them. It is better to be without bread in your houses than without Bibles, for the words of God's mouth are and should be to you more than your necessary food. (pp. 33-34, Family Religion, Matthew Henry)Today, as in Henry's day, there is no excuse to be without the Word of God in one's home. It is such a precious gift to us, that we are free to obtain the Word for a pittance - the investment is the best one can possibly make in any purchase. Henry then points out, though, that to have the Word at your ready is not sufficient... we do not learn by osmosis, but by reading. To have the Word and neglect it is grievous:
But what will it avail you to have Bibles in your houses if you do not use them? To have the great things of God's law and gospel written to you, if you count them as a strange thing? ... It is not now penal to read the Scriptures in your families, as it was in the dawning of the day of reformation from popery, when there were those who were accused and prosecuted mid-prose for reading in a certain great heretical book, called an English Bible...if you or yours perish for lack of this knowledge, as you certainly will if you persist in the neglect of it, you may thank yourselves, the guilt will lie wholly at your own doors. (p. 34, Family Religion, Matthew Henry)Strong words to be sure, but consider it well. We have the blessing of God's Word - what FOLLY it is to neglect it in our families!
Let me, therefore, with all earnestness press it upon you to maket he solemn reading of the Scripture a part of your daily worship in your families. When you speak to God by prayer, be willing to hear him speak to you in his word, that there may be a complete communion between you and God. This will add much to the solemnity of your family worship, and will make the transaction the more awful (awe-ful: TKP) and serious, if it be done in a right manner; which will conduce much to the honour of God, and your own and your family's edification. It will help to make the word of God familiar to yourselves, and to your children and servants, that you may be ready and mighty in the Scriptures, and may from thence be thoroughly furnished for every good word and work. It will likewise furnish you with matter and words for prayer, and so be helpful to you in other parts of the service. (pp. 34-35, Family Religion, Matthew Henry)I can vouch for this statement of Henry's directly. It is amazing what the girls have learned as we have made Scripture reading a part of our exercises of family worship morning and evening. It is fantastic to see what they retain, even at the very young ages, when familiar words come up again as a passage is read again to them - or as passages in the Old Testament are referred to in the new. If you have any doubts about the word "sinking in" through simply reading the Word straight from your Bibles, you can cast them aside. The Word is powerful and lively to cut to the heart even of your youngest children - it is a mighty blessing.
As the new year dawns, perhaps you would consider, if it is not part of your daily practice in your families, to dedicate time and effort to systematic reading of the Scriptures in family worship? It has blessed us in our home - and I trust the Lord will bless you as you undertake to serve Him in this duty as well in yours. He has promised His children blessing as they seek Him and His will - and a choice means to that end is the regular dedication to the reading and study of God's Holy and Powerful Word.