BOWEN COLUMN: For 2022, support your long-time local and friendly newspaper columnist

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Very happy New Year to all of you. Thanks for including reading our column here as part of your new year!

Here’s an inspirational thought to begin the year of the Lord two-thousand and twenty-two: Begin, and spend, and conclude each day with God.

More on that thought momentarily. One of the big new things we are diving into this year is doing a series of Bible study courses for a number of people at church and on Facebook. If you would like, you should be able to access the studies on my Facebook, at Steven Ray Bowen. Or I can send the “sessions” to you by email if you’ll write me at steven.bowen@redoakisd.org.

The first course is a study in the book of Mark, with Matthew Henry’s commentary being a secondary source. You can find his commentary on-line if you do not have a copy. Our first “session” is more of a devotion, so I thought it would be especially fitting to begin this year.

The thoughts come from a little of the biographical information for Matthew Henry, who has been my number-one outside reading source for years. He is unlike some of the other major classic commentators – such as Albert Barnes and Adam Clark – in that his notes look more like sermon notes than an academic commentary. He does not do a great deal with Greek or Hebrew and word studies but focuses more on the practical lessons from each section (He goes by sections, not verse by verse, too.)

Besides the fact that I like Matthew Henry’s approach, I chose him for this first course here in 2022 to introduce an old writer to my ‘original student’ Seth Johnson, from my home church in Red Oak, Texas. Seth and I are studying in person weekly; and I wanted to introduce him to some classic writers, beginning here with Matthew Henry. Future courses we plan to read from men such as J.W. McGarvey, an old-time church of Christ preacher who lived during the turn of the twentieth century — and others.  There is a great of information out there on podcasts and the internet, but I think it is hard to beat the scholarship of these old writers.

If you have ever read Mr. Henry, you will have noted that the syntax of his writing carries a more poetic rhythm than most writers today Sometimes you will have to re-read what he writes. It is often very thought-provoking.

Matthew Henry lived from 1662 – 1714. He was a Presbyterian preacher for most of his life; and what stands out most in his writings and in his life is his piety and devotion. Seth — showing an example where the student teaches the teacher — sent me a writing from a Dr. James Hamilton, who is a contemporary of Mr. Henry. Dr. Hamilton’s words, alone, serve as a great devotion. Note these poetic observations:

“The great business of Mr. Henry’s life was the cultivation of piety in himself and others. His religion was not the less profound (because) it was mild and lowly; nor is it the less fitted for imitation that it adorned and cheered a life of tranquil tenor. His own practice was a constant effort to ‘begin, and spend, and conclude each day with God.’ Besides the full and deliberated worship of God in his family, he abounded in secret prayer. It was his recourse in every undertaking. His sermons were begun, his books were published, his journeys were commenced, and the important steps of his history were taken with prayer.”

Then Dr. Hamilton, clearly an eloquent writer himself, explains the source of the grace in Mr. Henry’s life:

“What incomes of grace, yea, and outward good things, as far as they are indeed good for us, have we by an access to God in Christ! Such have a companion ready in all their solitudes, a counselor in all their doubts, a comforter in all their sorrows, a supply in all their wants, a support under all their burdens, a shelter in all their dangers, strength for all their performances, and salvation insured by a sweet undeceiving earnest. What is heaven but an everlasting access to God?”

Appropriately, as I turned to read in the first chapter of Mark, I found this thought that fits snugly into today’s thoughts: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, (Jesus) went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” ~ Mark 1:35.

Yes, for 2022, we will do well to begin, spend, and conclude each day with the Lord.

P.S. Oh, regarding the title of today’s column. Thanks are in order to you for your longtime support of this one particular local and friendly newspaper columnist who hails from LaGrange. Thanks, too, to the LDN for their years of allowing us to meet together here. Today’s a very special year. I’ll tell you why next week.