Matthew Henry was born in 1662 at Broad Oak, Flintshire, Wales. Son of the evangelical Church of England minister, Philip Henry, he was educated privately in the home by his father, and later at an academy at Islington. A studious boy, he learned well Latin, Greek, Hebrew and French. Matthew Henry dated his conversion to Christ at about ten years of age. After his formal education, he went to London to attend a Nonconformist academy and then read law at Gray’s Inn. His father had been ejected from his living as a preacher as a result of the Act of Uniformity, thus becoming a very distinguished Nonconformist minister during his day. At first, Matthew considered becoming an Episcopalian minister and bend to the law of the land, but later decided to be a nonconformist, like his father, and was ordained as a Presbyterian. His first pastorate was in Chester where he stayed for twenty-five years (1687-1712). His final two years of pastoral ministry were in Hackney, near London. In 1714, while on a preaching mission at Chester he died, at only age 52, and was buried there. Married twice, and the father of nine daughters and one son, Matthew was a faithful minister of the gospel and student of the Word, and without question, had a pastor’s heart. It was his habit to begin his work by four or five a.m. each morning, aiming to use his time to the fullest extent. In 1704 he began his work on his famous Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, now known as the Matthew Henry’s Commentary, which both pastors and lay people have owned and used over the years. He finished through the Book of Acts and the remaining N.T. books were completed after his death by several Nonconformist ministerial friends using his notes and writings. Even Charles Spurgeon acknowledged his debt to Henry. The value of his commentary, no doubt due to his pastor’s heart, lies not in its critical, but rather in its practical and devotional emphasis. Matthew Henry once wrote a three-part sermon outline on Genesis 26:34! Why not look up that text and see what you might make out of it!
Having said all of this, I want you to hear the heartbeat of a godly servant of another day and era as he shares his innermost feelings as he stood at the beginning of a new year. May it challenge each of us to once again search our hearts, recommit our lives to Him, and determine that with God’s help, we will stay true to Him as we enter into another unknown year. On January 1, 1705, this is the resolution that Matthew Henry wrote in his journal:
“Not renouncing, but repeating and ratifying all my former covenants with God, and lamenting it, that I have not lived up more closely to them; I do in the beginning of this New Year solemnly make a fresh surrender of myself, my whole self, body, soul and spirit, to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, my Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, covenanting and promising, not in any strength of my own, for I am very weak, but in the strength of the grace of Jesus Christ, that I will endeavor this year to stand complete in all the will of God.
I know this is the will of God, even my sanctification; Lord grant that this year I may be more holy, and walk more closely than ever in all holy conversation; I earnestly desire to be filled with Thy holy thoughts, to be carried out in holy affections, determined by holy aims and intentions, and governed in all my words and actions by holy principles. O, that a golden thread of holiness may run through the whole web of this year.”
–Maynard H. Belt
“You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.”