A Church in the House will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you…to build upon….A family altar will be the best entail (cause) to rise up and call you blessed. It may be hoped they will be praising God for you, and praising God like you, here on earth, when you are praising Him in Heaven.[*]
[*] Matthew Henry, Family Religion: Principles for raising a godly family, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, 2008)p.51
Matthew Henry & the impact of Family Worship –
Matthew Henry, born in 1662, commented that his parents ‘taught us the good knowledge of the Lord, of the Lord Jesus, and led us into an acquaintance with Jesus Christ, and Him crucified’. At the age of twenty, he numbered some of the blessings he had received from God. One of them was: ‘That I had a religious education, the principles of religion instill’d into me with my very milk, and from a child have been taught the good knowledge of God’.
Sunday was kept as the Lord’s Day, and it was a special, joyful day for the family.
- Philip Henry, Matthew’s father a dejected Puritan Pastor, often greeted his family with the words used in the early church: ‘The Lord is risen; He is risen indeed.’
- Family worship, both morning and evening, was longer than on other days of the week.
- In addition, the children and servants were catechized, (as he wanted to ensure that they were not just memorizing by rote).
- At the end he prayed for the entire household, and for the ministry of their church.
Weekdays were crafted by the regular Puritan habit of worship in the family circle.
- After prayer asking for help in understanding the Scripture a biblical passage was read, often accompanied by some appropriate comments by the father.
- A Psalm was sung as well, singing quickly with the use of a good variety of tunes.
- The children were briefly questioned as to what they remembered of the reading and exposition, before the family knelt in prayer.
- Philip Henry prayed, confessing family sins but also giving thanks for family mercies.
Evening worship followed much the same pattern, sometimes with a longer explanation of the passage and perhaps catechising of the children.
In writing the life of his father, Matthew Henry documented something of the religious practice of the family home. While the father had the main responsibility of leading the family worship, Philip Henry recommended that the wife should sometimes pray with the husband, so that she would be familiar with leading worship in his absence, or carry it on if he died. He wanted others to follow similar practices in their homes, and encouraged them to make their home a little church.
Spurgeon would add years later: I agree with Matthew Henry
1. Pray – Good
2. Devotions – Better
3. Family Worship – Best
Here are some excerpts from my Paper on Matthew Henry….
Masters of families, who preside in the other affairs of the house, must go before their households in the things of God. They must be as:
- Priests and
in their own families; and as such they must keep up family doctrine, family worship and family discipline; then is there a church in the house, and this is the family religion that I am persuading you to.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Preached in 1704 “A Church in The House, A Sermon Concerning Family Religion,” (1 Corinthians 16:19 -The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.)
The above quote by Dr. Matthew Henry contains the cure to today’s cultural crisis, a disease that is infecting our churches, homes, and the billions of eternal souls that depend upon what we do with this prescription. The crisis is fatherlessness enflamed by sexual role identification misperception and divergence from the biblical vision of masculinity and femininity. Men are becoming increasingly sterile as spiritual leaders in our modern society.
- Fatherlessness is drowning our culture.
- Missing male leadership in the Church is dwindling its vitality and valor(Google: Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow).
- Homes where the father has abdicated his role as spiritual leader leave essentially no virtue or spiritual legacy.
- Men are hurting. They have no vision of manhood in their heart, no vigor in exercising masculine leadership in their homes, and no valor in their churches. If men voice a vision of Trinitarian-based manhood, or initiate gospel-shaped masculinity in the home, or even suggest a Bible-based male leadership model in the church, they are decried. It is as if our culture is hostile to Biblical masculinity.
Matthew Henry is calling men to be the masters of families in their homes as prophet, priests, and kings as a Biblical touchstone of how manhood is lived out in these offices of masculinity. Men were created and are called to be spiritual leaders. These offices determine a man’s roles and goals in his heart, home, church, and culture. If we will simply follow Dr. Henry’s Godly instruction, hearts could be converted, homes revived, churches reformed, and culture transformed.
We need to affirm that this designation as male and female defines us from creation, fall, redemption, salvation, and sanctification with implications following us into our glorification. Masculinity and femininity were not defined by the curse although they are being infected by the fall. Notice how Mr. Henry articulates that masculine and feminine roles are our strengths to be accentuated in cooperation as well as our weaknesses to be composed in a harmonious symphony. They are to be experienced and expressed by us for our joy, the benefit of others, and ultimately, God’s glory. As one of Matthew Henry’s most common and often recited quotes attests and illustrates:
“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
Matthew Henry is simply calling men to be spiritual leaders. Masters of families, who preside in the other affairs of the house, must go before their households in the things of God. They must be prophets, as men who are called to keep up family doctrine. They are priests, men who must make sure that Family Worship has a tone of love and the seriousness of eternity for the souls of the household. Men are kings who are responsible to maintain family discipline and delight in honoring God; then there is a church in the house, and this is the family religion that I am persuading you to.3
A Call to Father-led Family Worship
Matthew Henry first presented a gospel that was counter-intuitive, and then he challenged Christians to become counter-cultural. The purpose of this article is the same – to challenge men to be counter-cultural by focusing on Trinitarian-based, gospel-shaped, and grace-paced masculinity in leading family worship in the roles of prophet, priest and king. Father-led family worship is both the cure and the call to masculinity defined by the offices of prophet, priest and king. It is God’s prescription for each home prescribed by the Rev., Dr. Matthew Henry.
“I know not any thing that will contribute more to the furtherance of this good work than the bringing of family religion (Family Worship) more into practice and reputation. Here the reformation must begin. Other methods may check the disease we complain of, but this, if it might universally obtain, would cure it.”4
I close with the burning question placed in my conscience by Matthew Henry:
Consider especially what they [your children] are designed for in another world; they are made for eternity. Every child thou hast hath a precious and immortal soul, that must be for ever either in heaven or hell, according as it is prepared in this present state, – and perhaps it must remove to that world of spirits very shortly.” How have you prepared your family for eternity? 
- Henry, Matthew. Building A God Centered Family A Father’s Manual. Wake Forest: Merchant Adventures LLC, 2010. N. p. 34
- In 1960, only one out of ten households was maintained with no husband present; by 1996, it became two out of every five (Steve Farrar, Point Man). p. 23 (Release of a report from the US Census Bureau showing that 62 percent of new moms in their early 20s are unmarried. The report also found that 36 percent of all moms were unwed in 2011, up from 31 percent in 2005. In families with incomes of less than $10,000, that number goes up to 69 percent.)
- Henry, Building A God Centered Family A Father’s Manual. 34.
- Matthew Henry, Family Religion: Principles For Raising a Godly Family. Reprint, Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2008. 28.
- Beeke, Jones, 874
More Quotes from Matthew Henry on Father-led Family Worship…
All agree that masters of families who profess religion, and the fear of God themselves, should, according to the talents they are entrusted with, maintain and keep up religion and the fear of God in their families, ‘as those who must give account’, and that families as such should contribute to the support of Christianity in a nation whose honour and happiness is to be a Christian nation. As nature makes families little kingdoms, and perhaps economics were the first and most ancient politics, so grace makes families little churches; and those were the primitive churches of the Old Testament, before ‘men began to call upon the name of the Lord’ in solemn assemblies, and ‘the sons of God came together to present themselves’ before him.
 Mathew Henry, Family Region, 29
Masters of Families
Let those masters of families who have hitherto lived in the neglect of family religion be persuaded now to set it up, and henceforward to make conscience of it. I know it is hard to persuade people to begin even a good work that they have not been used to; yet, if God by his grace apply this word, who can tell but some may be wrought upon to comply with the design of it? We have no ill design in urging you to this part of your duty: we aim not at the advantage of a party, but purely all the prosperity of your families. We are sure we have reason on our side, and if you will but suffer that to rule you, we shall gain our point; and you will all go home firmly resolved, as Joshua was, that whatever others do themselves, and whatever they say of you, You and your houses will serve the Lord. God put it into, and keep it in, the imagination of the thought of your heart, and establish your way therein before him!
 Matthew Henry Church in the House, A Sermon Concerning Family Religion, III. THE APPLICATION first paragraph
Those masters of families who make conscience of doing this (this refers to father-led Family Worship) daily, morning and evening, reckoning it part of that which the duty of every day requires, — I am sure they have comfort and satisfaction in so doing, and find it contributes much to their own improvement in Christian knowledge, and the edification of those that dwell under their shadow; and the more, if those that are ministers expound themselves, and other masters of families read some plain and profitable exposition of what is read, or of some part of it.’
A Church in the House, A Sermon Concerning Family Religion by Matthew Henry. Posted on January 1, 2009 by Anthony Caetanohttp://truthlife.net/2009/01/01/a-church-in-the-house-a-sermon-concerning-family-religion-by-matthew-henry/
Matthew Henry wrote, ‘Consider especially what they [your children] are designed for in another world; they are made for eternity. Every child thou hast hath a precious and immortal soul, that must be for ever either in heaven or hell, according as it is prepared in this present state, – and perhaps it must remove to that world of spirits very shortly.’ How have you prepared your family for eternity?  Beeke, Jones, 874
A Church in the House will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you…to build upon….A family altar will be the best entail (cause) to rise up and call you blessed. It may be hoped they will be praising God for you, and praising God like you, here on earth, when you are praising Him in Heaven.
 Matthew Henry, Family Religion: Principles for raising a godly family, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, 2008)p.51