The Communicant’s Companion
Instructions for Rightly Receiving the Lord’s Supper
Of all the many treatises on the Lord’s Table, none possess more excellencies or fewer defects than Matthew Henry’s Communicant’s Companion. It is very plain, very pious, and very practical. There is a simplicity, a naturalness, and a familiarity, which renders it peculiarly delightful reading, and makes us almost fancy ourselves enjoying the conversation of its venerable author.” -Rev. John Brown of Edinburgh, Scotland (1825)
Table of Contents
- Names by which this Ordinance is usually called
- Nature of this Ordinance
- An Invitation to the Ordinance
- Helps for Self-Examination before we come to thisOrdinance
- Instructions for Renewing our Covenants with God in our Preparation for this Ordinance
- Helps for Meditation and Prayer in our Preparation for this Ordinance
- Directions in what frame of spirit we should come to and attend upon this Ordinance
- Some account of the affecting sights that are to be seen by Faith in this Ordinance
- Some account of the precious Benefits which are to be received by Faith in this Ordinance
- Helps for the exciting of those pious and devout affections which should be working in us while we attend this Ordinance
- Directions concerning the solemn Vows we are to make to God in this
- Directions concerning the frame of our spirits when we come away from this Ordinance
- An Exhortation to order the Conversation aright after this Ordinance
- Some Words of Comfort which this Ordinance speaks to serious Christians
About the Author
Matthew Henry was born at Broad Oak, Flintshire, in October 1662, into the godly home of Philip and Katharine Henry. This was less than two months after his father was ejected under the Act of Uniformity from ministry in the Church of England. He had one brother, John who died at the age of six, and four sisters, Sarah (the oldest), Katharine, Eleanor, and Ann (the youngest). It is said that Matthew could read the Bible distinctly at three years of age. He early showed a strong passion for books. Matthew was educated primarily by his father, with the assistance of tutors.
In 1680 his father took him, aged 18, to the academy of Thomas Doolittle at Hackney, where he studied for two years under Doolittle and Thomas Vincent, until persecution forced the academy to relocate. Henry moved to the estate of Bronington, Flintshire, which he inherited from his maternal grandfather, Daniel Matthews. The next time he returned to London it was to study law, and he was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1685.
Ministry in Chester
He continued his theological study in private, and began to preach in his father’s neighborhood in 1686. He moved to Chester the following year, and was asked to become the local minister. The penalties against dissent having been somewhat relaxed, he was privately ordained a minister in London in 1687. Returning to Chester, he began his twenty-five-year ministry of the Presbyterian congregation there. That same year, he married Katherine Hardware of Bromborough, Cheshire. She died in childbirth in February 1689, at the age of 25.
The following year, Henry married Mary Warburton, with whom he had one son, Philip, and eight daughters, three of whom died in infancy. Henry saw much success in his Chester ministry – the number of communicants was eventually 350, and a meetinghouse was built for him in Crook Lane, opened in 1700, with a gallery added in 1706. As well as his congregational work, Henry held monthly services in surrounding villages and preached to prisoners in the castle.
His Bible Commentary
He began work on his famous Commentary on the Whole Bible in 1704, completing it from Genesis to Acts by his death ten years later. Several of his fellow ministers compiled the remainder of the Commentary (Romans to Revelation) primarily from Henry’s own notes and writings. While still at Chester, Henry also completed his A Method for Prayer with Scripture Expressions proper to be used under each head (an edition of which, edited by O. Palmer Robertson, published as A Way to Pray).
As his Commentary began to be published, Henry became increasingly well-known, and was eventually prevailed upon to move to Mare Street, Hackney in London in 1712. This gave him opportunities of preaching almost every day of the week, and sometimes two or three time on the same day. It was probably in this way that he accomplished most, for his Hackney congregation was not large. He found only a hundred communicants. It was not a lively period in the history of religion anywhere, and the London churches widely shared the spiritual torpor which soon after his decease transformed the Presbyterian chapel at Chester into a Unitarian meeting-house.
An unusual Death
Revisiting Cheshire in 1714, on Monday, June 21, Henry set out on his return to London. He was engaged to preach at Nantwich on the way. At Tarporley, his horse threw him, but he denied that he had sustained any injury. Accordingly, he preached on Proverbs 31:18; but everyone noticed that he was not so lively as usual. He was short, and afterwards very heavy and sleepy; he was soon seized with apoplexy, and at eight on the following morning he fell asleep in the Lord. Rev. Henry was buried in the chancel of Trinity Church, Chester.
The Communicant’s Companion