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
- Pray – Good
- Devotions – Better
- Family Worship – Best