by Ray Rhodes
Charles and Susannah Spurgeon’s marriage provides an exemplary model of employing spiritual means in the regular routine of family life. This is especially evident in their commitment to family worship. In a sermon from Philemon 1:2, Spurgeon explained that the church which met in Philemon’s home mostly or perhaps even exclusively consisted of his own family.
Spurgeon asked his congregation if they, like Philemon, had a church in their homes. He then challenged his congregants:
In order to form a Church, they must worship together. Happy is the household, which meets every morning for prayer! Happy are they who let not the evening depart without uniting in supplication! Brothers and Sisters, I wish it were more common—I wish it were universal, with all professors of religion—to have family prayer! We sometimes hear of the children of Christian parents who do not grow up in the fear of God and we are asked how it is that they turn out so badly. In many, very many cases, I fear there is such a neglect of family worship that it is not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents! Family prayer in our old Puritan households was a matter of very great importance. Let me tell you what Philip Henry used to do. He was a minister and of course had more time to give to it than many of you in business have. But he went through the whole Bible in course, expounding it, chapter by chapter, and accompanying it by prayer and singing. One reason he gave for singing was that it was like Rahab’s tying the crimson line in the window—everyone who went by would know what she had done—and he said that the sound of singing at family prayers was a distinct confession that that family loved and worshipped God! (1)
Spurgeon connects happiness with the spiritual exercises of Bible intake, prayer, and singing in family worship. Note especially, “Happy are they who let not the evening depart without uniting in supplication.” When Charles was out of town, Susannah maintained family devotions with their twin sons. This practice of godly women leading family worship had been modeled for Spurgeon from his childhood.
His grandfather or father led family devotions when they were at home, but when they were away, their wives kept up the spiritual discipline. Charles and Susannah’s example is an encouragement to every Christian, including single mothers and wives of husbands who often travel for business. Whenever there is a Christian in the home who can read the Bible and pray, family worship is possible. (2) Spurgeon asserted, “Parents—and mothers in particular—have a sweet influence on the family and the little ones.” (3) Family worship need not be complicated. The elements of family devotions modeled in the Spurgeon home included Bible reading, prayer, and hymn singing. Spurgeon quoted Matthew Henry, as an example: “They who pray in the family, do well. They, who read and pray, do better. But they who sing, and read, and pray, do best of all.” (4) Charles and Susannah’s piety in the home is an encouragement to Christian families today to worship God together.
Are you consistently practicing family worship in your home? If not, you can start today. Though there may be logistical challenges to gathering with your family several times each week for devotional exercises, family worship itself is not complex.
Make family devotional times a priority and ask God to help you. All that you need, to follow Spurgeon’s pattern, is a Bible, a hymnbook, and a willingness to pray. I suggest that everyone in your family should have their own Bible, even young children. If your children cannot yet read, you are still teaching them that the Bible is an important book. Start with ten minutes of family worship three to five times a week. Read five to ten Bible verses, sing a hymn (you do not have to be musically inclined, just sing a familiar hymn or chorus), and pray.
Ray Rhodes Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries (www.nourishedintheword.org) and pastor of Grace Community Church of North Georgia (www.gracechurchdawsonville.org). He is the author of Family Worship for the Christmas Season, Family Worship for the Thanksgiving Season, Family Worship for the Reformation Season, The Marriage Bed, and The Visionary Marriage, and has edited two other booklets. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family, and a regular contributor to The Dancing Puritan (www.dancingpuritan.com). He is a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is writing a dissertation on “The Role of Bible Intake and Prayer in the Marriage of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon.” He plans to continue his research in hopes of writing a book about Spurgeon’s marriage. Ray is married to Lori and they are blessed with six daughters, one son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Lori blogs at www.nitw4ladies.blogspot.com. You can connect with Ray on Facebook and at Nourished in the Word.
- C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1970-2006), 54:362-63.
- The Puritan pastor, Thomas Manton, encouraged women to be faithful in instructing their children: “Especially women should be careful of this duty; because as they are most about their children, and have early and frequent opportunities to instruct them, so this is the principal service they can do to God in this world, being restrained from more publick (sic.) work. And doubtless many an excellent magistrate hath been sent into the Commonwealth, and many an excellent pastor into the Church, and many a precious saint to heaven, through the happy preparations of a holy education, perhaps by a woman that thought herself useless and unserviceable to the Church.” Thomas Manton, “Epistle to the Reader” in The Confession of Faith; The Larger and Shorter Catechisms, 8, accessed January 5, 2016, https://books.google.com/books?id=3dlUAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1970-2006), 54:367.
- Ibid., 54:363.
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