Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meet Pastor Henry

I have been wanting to introduce you to my friend Matthew Henry.  Well, I call him my friend, because I have been reading his four volume commentary quite a while and it seems like he is always giving some good advice in addition to elaboarating on the scriptures in detailed and historic manners.

For example, reading through his commentary on Haggai and Zachariah, he taught me that both Haggai and Zachariah lived at the same time, which illustrates how God confirmed his Word with two or three witnesses.

Haggai and Zachariah were living when Israel was returning to their land from being captives in Babylon.  They started rebuilding the temple but were discouraged, since they didn't have the resources to build the temple as good as when Solomn orginally built it. They had completed the foundation, but then quit when Haggai came to the scene. Haggai tells them that they were not prospering because they were not building the temple, they then repent, build the temple and their prospering returns.

To illustrate the good counsel that Matthew Henry often conveys, like a pastor to his church, he first exposites on the scripture and historical context, then adds in chapter one of Haggai:

Note, Many a good work is put by by being put off...There is an aptness in us to misinterpret providential discouragements in our duty, as if they amounted to a discharge from our duty, when they are only intended for the trial and exercise of our courage and faith. It is bad to neglect our duty, but it is worse to vouch Providence for the patronising of our neglects... 
They neglected the building of God’s house, and put that off, that they might have time and money for their secular affairs. They desired to be excused from such an expensive piece of work under this pretence, that they must provide for their families; their children must have meat and portions too, and, until they have got before-hand in the world, they cannot think of rebuilding the temple. Now, that the punishment might answer to the sin, God by his providence kept them still behind-hand, and that poverty which they thought to prevent by not building the temple God brought upon them for not building it. They were sensible of the smart of the judgment, and every one complained of the unseasonable weather, the great losses they sustained in their corn and cattle, and the decay of trade; but they were not sensible of the cause of the judgment, and the ground of God’s controversy with them. They did not, or would not, see and own that it was for their putting off the building of the temple that they lay under these manifest tokens of God’s displeasure; and therefore God here gives them notice that this is that for which he contended with them. Note, We need the help of God’s prophets and ministers to expound to us, not only the judgments of God’s mouth, but the judgments of his hands, that we may understand his mind and meaning in his rod as well as in his word, to discover to us not only wherein we have offended God, but wherein God shows himself offended at us.

This type of helpful counsel is found on every page of Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible.  Here is a link to read some or all of it for free:

Here are the highlights of his biography and how he is a good example to us in convenantal home life:

This commentary was written in about 1714.  The first volume contains a biography of Matthew Henry.  At three years old Matthew Henry could read the Bible with distinctness and observation. His mother had to call him out of the closet where he was reading, because she was worried about his health. At age 13 he experienced a deepening walk with God after hearing a sermon his father preached.  His father was a pastor and puritan at the time of Westminster Assembly.   His father recommended that Matthew copy sermons to become more familiar with the details, a practice which he did himself.

Matthew's father Phillip Henry changed his mind about the value of college and rather than sending Matthew to Oxford or Cambridge, he sent his son to be in the family and "under the tuition of that holy, faithful minister, Mr. Thomas Doolittle, in 1680.  His issue with the colleges of 1680 were "where so many temptations were presented."

Matthew Henry didn't always use his time wisely, but did come to this realization:
"What a great deal of precious time I have trfled away and misspent in folly and vanity, and things that do not profit. Time is a precious talent which my Master hath entrusted me with and yet how long hath it been buried, and how much hath it run waste?"
One way that he got control of his time was through journaling. 

"This day I concluded my subject of redeeming time from Eph. 5:16; and amoung other things, directed as very useful, to keep a short account every night how the day had been spent.  This will discover what are the theives of our time, and will show us what progress we make in holiness; and now, why should not I make the experiment?"
Matthew Henry was ordained as a Presbyterian minister on May 9th, 1687.  His confession of faith reads like the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Read the Pastor Henry blog. Read and take notes from the link on his family life. Pick a favorite book of the bible and then read slowly and take notes from Matthew Henry’s commentary introduction to the book and commentary on just the first chapter of that book. Provide a copy of your notes to Heather along with your answers to the following questions.  1. What do you like and dislike about Matthew Henry.  2. What new things did you learn from Matthew Henry’s commentary on the Bible that apply directly to your life? 3. How was Matthew Henry a good example in his family life?  4. What was the most tragic situation that he faced in his life? 5. What is the connection between his commentary and his family life?