Category Archives: Family worship

Deadbolting the Idols Out

While intermarriage appears to have been tolerated early in Israel’s history (Abraham, Joseph, and Moses married foreign women, perhaps for political reasons), this later changed. In fact, intermarriage was especially forbidden when Israel was at its weakest, according to John Goldengay. “Ezra and Nehemiah assume that the little Second Temple community living among other peoples is too weak to risk the loss of its identity by absorption into the wider group through intermarriage” (OTT1:747–748). But the concern was larger than identity, and it’s not hard to imagine why. A foreign wife carried her foreign-deity-baggage into a marriage, and likewise, a foreign husband carried his foreign-deity-baggage into a marriage. The addition of these deities into an Israelite home invariably shaped the spiritual devotion and worship practices of a family, making any wholehearted worship of the living God impossible (see 1 Kings 11:1–13). Goldengay takes this one step further by suggesting that Israelites may have been tempted to intermarry to secure divine insurance, a way to broaden one’s base of collected gods to better ensure personal blessing, peace, and financial prosperity. Whatever the motive, intermarriage with a non-believer, he writes, “compromises the principle that Yhwh alone is the one from whom the community must seek help and guidance for its life concerning matters of a moral and religious kind and concerning the future” (Ex. 34:12-16, Deut. 7:1-4, Ps. 106:34–36). Thus, the forbidding of intermarriage in Old Testament history was not a matter of racial preference, a point made especially clear with the Moabite people. It was faithless Moabite women who led Solomon’s heart astray and it was the faithful God-fearing woman named Ruth, also a Moabite, who became the great-grandmother of King David, thus finding herself in the lineage of the Savior. The bottom line: intermarriage was forbidden to preserve undistracted devotion to Yhwh. John Piper summarizes the point well: “The issue is not color mixing, or customs mixing, or clan identity. The issue is: will there be one common allegiance to the true God in this marriage or will there be divided affections?” God wants our homes to be places of guarded worship for Himself alone. There’s application in there for us all.

Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts by Octavius Winslow

Book review (from 2007)
Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts
by Octavius Winslow

Over the past five years, Reformation Heritage Books (Grand Rapids, MI) has become a household name in reformed publishing. It was RHB, under the direction of Dr. Joel Beeke, that brought us the Works of Thomas Goodwin 12 volume reprint (2006), The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety by J. Stephen Yuille (2007), Jeremiah Burrough’s commentary on Hosea (2006), The Path of True Godliness by William Teellinck (2003), A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards (2007) and the other ‘Profiles in Reformed Spirituality.’ RHB produced the 2006 TSS book of the year, Meet the Puritans, by Beeke and Randall Peterson.

Another noteworthy achievement from this five-year span is the re-typeset and newly reissued devotionals written by Octavius Winslow – Morning Thoughts (2003) and Evening Thoughts (2005). These two volumes, first published 150 years ago, should be considered some of the best devotional literature in print today.

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

Winslow enjoyed a lengthy ministry as a pastor and writer. His many books all rise to peak expressions of the beauty of our Savior. Rich reformed spirituality saturates each page and few authors have risen to his levels of sustained doxological expression of thanks for the Cross, of sobering real-life reminders of living under the Cross, and helping the reader draw spiritual strength from the Cross.

Several years ago, at a time when I needed to learn how to affectionately respond to my growing theology, I was told to read The Precious Things of God (incredibly it remains out-of-print). This was my introduction to Winslow and it made a significant impact on my soul. became, from that point onward, one of my favorite books apart from Scripture. It continues to be–I think–Winslow’s greatest achievement although it’s one of the most difficult of his books to find in printed form [although it is available as online text, at Google books, the Internet Archive, and now on the Kindle].

Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts both capture this same warm spirituality of Winslow. It’s no surprise his many works are accessible online for free. Thankfully this has not prevented many of his works to be reprinted by multiple publishers like Banner of Truth and Tentmaker. Just recently RHB has edited, re-typset and reprinted The Fullness of Christ (2006) and Our God (2007). Both are classics!

Morning and Evening

A morning with Christ is the best way to begin a day with Christ. But the evening devotions – oftentimes overlooked – play an important role as well. Winslow begins the second volume by looking to the evening temple lamb sacrifice as our pattern. “The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even” (Num. 28:4 KJV).

“The devout Israelite was thus taught to close the day as he began it: with a sacrifice for sin” Winslow writes in the preface to Evening Thoughts. “Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, meets this new and depressed condition of the believer. To Him how blessed, before slumber seals the eyelid, to take all the sins, the imperfections, the wanderings of the day, and with a fresh believing view of the cross lie down peacefully and repose beneath a loving, forgiving Father’s care!”


These two devotionals were originally published in 1856 and 1858. The selections are hand-picked by Winslow from his pre-existing works. They begin with a passage (KJV) and then expound one or two principles from the text at hand. The text has been re-typeset and slightly edited to increase the readability of Winslow’s writing.

Morning Thoughts was originally published in a larger print to accommodate an elderly audience (approximately 14 pt font). The text in the second volume, Evening Thoughts, was shrunk because of space limitations (approximately 12 pt font). The sharp re-typeset editions make them easy to read in either size.

The readings are short (2+/- pages each) and I normally read them slowly, and always I read them twice.

Both volumes are similar in size and construction. Morning Thoughts is 788 pages and Evening Thoughts is 733 pages in length. Both are hardcover and feature durable Smyth-sewn binding and very clean white paper. An index to all main Scripture citations is found at the end of the second volume. There is no topical index, which would have been helpful for preachers and readers using the devotionals as a reference.


The text is only slightly edited and eliminates minor hindrances to readability. One example will highlight this. Here is the original text from the morning of January 7th:

“The Atonement itself precludes all idea of human merit, and, from its very nature, proclaims that it is free. Consider the grandeur of the Atonement- contemplate its costliness: incarnate Deity- perfect obedience- spotless purity- unparalleled grace and love- acute and mysterious sufferings- wondrous death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Savior, all conspire to constitute it the most august sacrifice that could possibly be offered.”

And here is the edited RHB text:

“The atonement itself precludes all idea of human merit, and, from its very nature, proclaims that it is free. Consider the grandeur of the atonement, contemplate its costliness: incarnate Deity, perfect obedience, spotless purity, unparalleled grace and love, acute and mysterious sufferings, wondrous death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Savior. All conspire to constitute it the most noble sacrifice that could possibly be offered.”

Notice the many dashes are removed for commas and “august” is replaced with a more contemporary word “noble.” On the whole, the editing is minimal but effective.


Winslow was particularly skilled at broad application to hit each reader. He would apply one theme across a wide spectrum of saints in various life situations – the joyful, the suffering, the lazy, the struggling, the young and the old. These volumes will appeal to a broad readership and will make great general gifts for Christian friends. The choice selections are easy-to-read and will suit family reading times. Even small children can easily follow the beautiful selections. And family prayer will be compelled from these powerful readings. Pastors will find here a wealth of quotable material.

It’s with great joy I recommend Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts.


Title: Morning Thoughts (1856) / Evening Thoughts (1858)
Author: Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)
Editors: Joel R. Beeke and Kate DeVries
Reading level: 1.5/5.0 > excellent editing makes them very readable
Boards: hardcover (not cloth)
Pages: 788 / 733 = 1,521
Volumes: 2
Dust jacket: no
Binding: Smyth-sewn
Paper: very white and clean
Topical index: no (would be helpful)
Scriptural index: yes (for both volumes at end of Evening Thoughts)
Text: perfect type, re-typeset
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 1856 and 2003 / 1858 and 2005
Price USD: $20.00 from RHB / $20.00 from RHB
ISBNs: 1892777290 / 1892777452

QA: Family worship and unattentive children

tssqa.jpgThe TSS mailbag is filled with excellent questions from readers. One such question comes from Phil, a man striving for a consistent family worship schedule despite an unattentive little child. What to do? Dr. J. Ligon Duncan has written about family worship and so I passed the question along to him for his advice. He kindly responded with this excellent perspective:

My own answer is you start family worship as soon as possible, as soon as one is married, and continue it after children come along, no matter how young the children are (and the younger the better). The point is not for the youngest children to be able to comprehend (or even to sit still during it!). The point is impress upon them, by paternal example the priority of God and his word in all of life. They learn this, even if they comprehend nothing in the reading, praying and singing, simply by seeing a father pausing day after day to read the word with his family.

Here is what I said in Give Praise to God (P&R):

“Now there is a whole host of practical questions and problems that come to mind once we determine to begin family worship. How long should it last? It should be regularly brief, as little as 10 minutes when the children are very young. Gradually, it will run a little longer as they grow older and conversations strike up. Don’t kill it by trying to go too long. Pace yourself. Regularity and repetition is the key. When should we do family worship? When it works – morning/breakfast, suppertime or bedtime are the three most common times.

“… There are dozens of potential hindrances: a lack of discipline, a lack of sense of the importance of family worship, a lack of experience of family worship in one’s own upbringing and more.

“But above all, there is the enemy of idealism. You have this picture of a Puritan family sitting around the table attentively and reverently reading the whole book of 1 Chronicles at a sitting, singing half the Psalter from memory, and praying for ninety minutes, and then you look around your table and your wife is rolling her eyes, your two-year old is throwing left-over spaghetti around the kitchen, your eight-year old is making faces at her sister and your teenager would rather do calculus. Don’t let the gap between the ideal and the reality stop you! Those unattentive children will grow up and thank you for persevering, and the memories of a father who loved them enough to make that kind of an effort will etch a permanent affection in their hearts.”

J. Ligon Duncan
First Presbyterian Church

Excellent advice! Thank you Dr. Duncan. For more insight on family worship see Duncan’s chapter in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (P&R: 2003). Duncan lays the foundation for family worship – Scripture reading, song and prayer – and then addresses several other common hurdles to success.


Have a question to throw in the TSS mailbag? Pass it along via email (tony AT takeupandread DOT com). Thanks for reading! Tony

The importance of family worship

“Worship God in your family. – If you do not worship God in your family, you are living in positive sin; you may be quite sure you do not care for the souls of your family. If you neglect to spread a meal for your children to eat, would it not be said that you did not care for their bodies? And if you do not lead your children and servants to the green pastures of God’s Word, and to seek the living water, how plain is it that you do not care for their souls! Do it regularly, morning and evening. It is more needful than your daily food, more needful than your work. How vain and silly all your excuses will appear, when you look back from Hell! Do it fully. Some clip off the psalm, and some the reading of the Word; and so the worship of God is reduced to a mockery. Do it in a spiritual, lively manner, go to it as to a well of salvation.”

- Robert Murray M’Cheyne


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