Church History and Child Care?

How in the world could church history have anything to do with today’s child care issues?

Mary Henry could tell us. Her husband wrote one of the most used and most often published Bible commentaries ever. They lived in Chester, England, two miles from the border with Wales during the late 1600’s. She came from a distinguished family. Her grandfather was Chief Justice of Chester and her father was remembered for his help to nonconforming ministers and their families. Her mother was from London. Public worship and such things as your choice of schools and jobs were all restricted by the English government which sought to suppress their “dissenting” view of Christianity. (Only the Anglicans had full freedoms in these areas. A Dissenter (or Nonconformist) was similar to today’s conservative Presbyterians or Baptists.) Matthew became a Dissenting pastor and Bible teacher anyway.

Because he was born just as the Puritan era of power came to a close, Matthew Henry is considered as a bridge between the Puritans and the 1700’s. His diary and other personal papers were preserved by his sister and Mary. These papers give us a glimpse into this Puritan approach to living just as his commentary shows us a Puritan approach to the Bible.

Mary and Matthew had eight children of their own; at least two died in infancy. In addition, he had one daughter by his first marriage. Then, when his sister and her husband died, Mary agreed to take in their four children. That makes eleven kids! I wonder what Mary could tell us about their home life and her work load! We can only imagine. Have you seen “Pride and Prejudice?” Remember the home-life confusion portrayed with only four girls?

Unlike that movie household, the Henry home was a Christian one. Matthew’s childhood home has been held up as a model for Christian families, and he sought to do the same thing with his own. I wonder what it was like to study the Old Testament in family devotions in the morning and the New Testament at night? Morning and Evening– imagine getting everyone together and quiet! Restless kids; Mary was probably nursing one most of the time; servants were also included. No wonder Matthew Henry is remembered for his ability to apply the Bible to everyday life. He had plenty of practice. And don’t get the idea he was at home all day. He preached elsewhere six days a week.

This example of day by day reading and explaining the scriptures to children of all ages is the lesson glimpsed from church history for today’s care of children. It leaves us looking foolish as we excuse our failure to have family Bible studies. But, don’t try to copy someone from the 1600’s. Adapt the principle to your own life. We need to lead our children to God through Bible study and family worship. That is not so easy, but it wasn’t so easy then either. Mary was widowed after only twenty-four years of marriage. I bet she was thankful they did what they could during those family days in Cheshire County, England.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary can help you. Google Matthew Henry. Find the verses you are teaching your kids about. See how his explanations are amazingly applicable to your life right now. He teaches sound doctrine in such a way that God is exalted and we are helped. It is a quick, handy tool to use to care for your children. And it is at your finger-tips.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

(See J. B. Williams, The Life of the Reverend Matthew Henry, (Bridge-Logos, Gainesville, Fl., reprint of 1828), 2004.)

About Carol Brandt

I earned a B.A. in History from Florida State University and M.Ed in.Higher Education from Florida Atlantic University. I taught high school social studies before “retiring” to full-time homemaking and raising two daughters. Now I love being a grandmother to four boys and a girl. I have also raised five collies.

My husband, John, was an optometrist, who worked tirelessly for his profession through private practice and as a consultant, and served on the Board of Trustees of Illinois College of Optometry for twenty years.

Ernest Reisinger was my chief mentor in this warm-hearted application of Calvinism. He gave me many books! The Founders Journal and Founders Conferences, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Charles Spurgeon have been other sources of Reformed thinking as well as the other warm-hearted ones listed in my book, “Warm-hearted Calvinists.”

One Comment

  1. What a great illustration of the duties of parenthood with relation to spiritual upbringing. Other tasks (ie: work outside the home, chores, etc…) should not take presidence over teaching our children the Word of God. I cannot image 11 children, but certainly can apply Mary’s work with my one child.

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