The Young Man's Guide to the Harmonious
Development of Christian Character

by Harvey Newcomb, 1847


All well-regulated Christian families are assembled, morning and evening, to worship God. Seeing we are dependent on him for all things, it is suitable and proper that we should daily acknowledge our dependence—by asking him for what we need, and thanking him for what we receive. That we should do this as a family is highly proper. But if it is our duty to worship God as a family, it is the duty of everyone in particular. It is as much your duty as it is your father's. You must, therefore, not only make it a principle to be in your place punctually at the time, but to enter heartily into all the exercises. Some children and youth appear as if they had no interest in what is going on, at this most interesting household service. But this is not only showing great disrespect to your parents, but great irreverence toward God. It will help you to right feelings, on these occasions, if you imagine Christ Jesus present in person. God is present spiritually, and in a peculiar manner, at such times, to bless the families which call on his name. When, therefore, the family is assembled for prayers, you should put away all vain or wandering thoughts. When the time arrives, and the family are assembled for devotion, seat yourself, in a serious, reverent manner; and if there should be a few moments' delay, do not engage in conversation, nor in reading newspapers, or anything calculated to divert your mind; but direct your thoughts upward to God, and seek a preparation for his worship. Do not allow your mind to be occupied with anything but the service before you. Let not your eyes wander about, to catch vagrant thoughts. Let not your hands be occupied with anything, to divert your attention or to disturb others. Have your Bible, and take your turn in reading. Be attentive and devout, during the reading of God's holy word, endeavoring to apply it to your heart.

If the family sings, enter into this sweet service, not only with your lips, but with your heart. When prayer is offered, place yourself in the posture which is taken by your father and mother. If they kneel, you kneel also—in a reverent posture. Shut your eyes, and keep your heart. Let your heart embrace the words of the prayer, and make them your own. Remember that the devotional habits you form at the family altar, are the habits that will follow you to God's house, and probably adhere to you through life. And what can be more shocking than to see people pretending to gentility, who do not know how to behave with propriety before the great God who made them! If you were in company, and should treat the person that invited you with as much indifference as you treat God by such conduct, you would be considered a very ill-bred person. He has invited you to come to his mercy-seat to converse with him, and to receive favors at his hand; and yet, by such conduct as I have named, you show no interest at all in the matter.

Family devotion, when rightly improved, is a very important means of grace. If you attend upon it seriously and reverently, you may hope that God will bless it to your soul. It tends, also, to tranquillize the feelings, and prepare you to engage in the duties of the day with serenity and cheerfulness.