January 11: Fredna W. Bennett

For today’s post, we have nothing more of the calendar to hang our hat on than that the content that follows was first posted on this day, January 11, in 2010. At that time, my friend Andrew Myers posted the following from Fredna W. Bennett, a woman most of us have perhaps never heard of. And that is to our loss. She is noted for her devotional writing based on Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. And while the year is still young, we would invite you to consider beginning the discipline of reading through the whole of Matthew Henry’s great work. As Fredna said, your time will be well spent. One tip: you might consider tackling just one book of the Bible in Henry’s Commentary. Perhaps a Gospel, Romans, or the Psalms. Completing just one such portion will encourage you to continue, as you see the value of Henry’s great work.

Testimony of a Farmer’s Wife

Fredna W. Bennett, author/editor of Moments of Meditation from Matthew Henry: 366 Daily Devotions Gleaned from the Greatest Devotional Commentary of All Time (1963), wrote how reading through Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible over a period of three years changed her life. It lead to her compilation of extracts from Henry’s Commentary for devotional meditation throughout the year. Her testimony was so encouraging to me, both as a writer and a reader, that I wanted to share it with others.
Her Preface reads thus:

Books don’t just happen! There is always a compelling reason that makes an author put on paper the thoughts he has to share with others. And so, I’d like to tell you how Moments of Meditation came into being.

I was just a farmer’s wife — not a writer at all. In 1944 the startling thought came to me that if an ordinary church member such as I ever was to learn any Bible, it was time to get busy. I started daily Bible reading. After a year’s reading, I knew one thing — I needed help to understand what I read.

I went to my Pastor. He recommended Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. And so in 1945 I bought the big six-volume Commentary and began reading. Beginning with the first chapter of Genesis, it took me three years to read the six volumes; but it was the most thrilling experience I had ever had in all my forty years.

Before I had finished reading it the second time, I was trying to influence my friends to read it too. But they said, The print is too fine, and the work is too long.

I began to wonder why some writer didn’t condense the Commentary and unlock the treasures of the Bible for the layman. Written over 250 years ago in England, it had no copyright to keep it from being used for the good of all men everywhere. Surely the spirit of that great work could be kept, and yet it could be shortened enough to challenge the layman to read it!

Suddenly one day the thought struck me: Maybe I ought to try to do it! Even the thought of such a thing scared me! That was work for a scholar — not a lay person. That was work for a writer — not a farmer’s wife! I simply could not do it! I couldn’t even type!

But finally, despite all the obstacles, I decided, by the grace of God, to start and not to stop until I could go no further. So I bought a portable typewriter, borrowed a textbook from the high school, and started on the hardest job I’ve tackled. Middle age is too late for such a thing I often thought; I’ll never be a good typist!

But in 1953 I started on the work I longed to do and condensed the book of Genesis. I didn’t know I had the cart before the horse; I didn’t know that first I needed to study the basic principles of writing! Nor was I aware that far away in England a dedicated scholar, the late Dr. Leslie F. Church, was already engaged in condensing the complete work into one large volume.

About that time other hindrances appeared. There was a severe drought, a devastating flood, and a sharp decline in cattle prices. To escape financial disaster we had to increase our laying flock to 1000 hens — a 12-hour job for every day. And then in 1956, due to a malignancy, I had to have major surgery.

In the midst of all these things, however, a bright spot appeared. The editors of The Claude News asked me to write an article for the weekly church page of their paper, and the opportunity dawned to use the treasures from Matthew Henry! And so Moments of Meditation came into being.

And now, if I can do anything more to share the rich blessings that have been mine during these years of study and work, I will be happy. If not, my time has been well spent — for I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.

Fredna W. Bennett

Andrew Myers originally posted the above statement by Fredna W. Bennett on his blog, Virginia is for Huguenots.


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