Matthew Henry- Oct. 18, 1662 - June 22 1714
©Heath Christian Book Shop Charitable TrustMatthew Henry, 1662-1714:
Preacher and Scholar
For many Christians the name Matthew Henry is immediately associated with his "Commentary" on the Bible which has deservedly gained a reputation as the best and most widely used work of its kind. It is in every sense a massive exposition of scripture and has been of enormous benefit to Christians from Henry's contemporaries such as Watts and Doddridge down to our present time nearly three centuries later. It was the product of many years of scholarship and industry by Henry who lived through a period of great turmoil in the religious life of the Country [England].
Marks of Grace.
Matthew was born in 1662 at a farm named Broadoak about three miles from Whitchurch in Shropshire and was the second son of Philip and Katherine Henry. His father had been an ordained clergyman in the parish of Worthenbury but because his conscience would not allow him to use the new forms of liturgy introduced by the Act of Uniformity in 1662, he had been ejected from his church.
Matthew was brought up with all the advantages of a Christian home and family, and he showed such an aptitude for learning that he was able to read the Bible by the age of three. Each day his parents gathered the children for morning and evening devotions, and after prayers and scripture readings, it was customary for his father to give a brief exposition of a passage from the Bible on which the children were encouraged to write their own accounts. The value of this practice was shown when Matthew later recognised that it was hearing his father speaking on the text, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," (Psalm 51:17) which melted his heart and caused him "to enquire after Christ."
Matthew's fondness for learning thrived rapidly under this routine and he spent several hours each day in private study even though his health was not very robust. After surviving a serious attack of fever at the age of ten, his thoughts were drawn to his own spiritual condition and on 7 December 1673 he was deeply moved by a sermon on the subject of judgment. He wrote, "I was under great fear of hell, till the Lord comforted me. I, having engaged in serious examination — what hopes I have that when I die and leave this earthly tabernacle I shall be received into heaven — I have found several marks that I am a Child of God."Vanity of the World.
Because of the exclusion of nonconformists from Oxford and Cambridge and the low moral tone of university life during the Restoration period, Matthew's father secured a place for him in 1680 in a "dissenting academy" at Islington in London, but his stay there was short-lived because the master Thomas Doolittle was compelled by laws to live elsewhere and the scholars were dispersed.
As a result, Matthew continued his studies at home for several more years and then in 1685 he went to London again, this time to study law at Grays Inn. However, he found no satisfaction in this pursuit and soon he wrote a letter to his father stating, "The more I see of the world and the various affairs of the children of men in it, the more I see of the vanity of it, and the more I would fain have my heart taken off from it, and fixed upon the invisible realities of the other world."
After barely a year he abandoned his legal studies and returned to Broadoak where a friend named George Illidge prevailed upon him to preach at local meetings. Typically Henry prepared himself with great thoroughness, and his zeal for the work of the gospel was so evident that he quickly began to receive invitations to preach in towns such as Chester and Nantwich. Henry knew without a doubt that this was the work God had been preparing him for and in May 1687 he agreed to become the pastor of a congregation in Chester.Labouring in the Word.
For twenty-five years Henry devoted himself to proclaiming the gospel in Chester at every possible opportunity. In addition to two services on Sunday and two meetings during the week, he frequently preached in the neighbouring villages and to the prisoners in Chester Castle. His faithful exposition of the scriptures was richly blessed during these years as God opened a wider region for Henry's ministry. He was invited to hold monthly meetings at Wrexham and Beeston, and to preach in many towns including London, while at the same time the congregation attending his meeting house in Chester grew so large that a new building had to be erected in 1699.
It is perhaps significant to note that Henry maintained this intensive preaching and pastoral ministry through a period when his personal life was afflicted by tragedy. His first wife Katherine died in child-birth in 1689 after only two years of marriage, and although he remarried in 1690, he and his second wife, Mary, lost three children in infancy in the following seven years. Henry refused to blame God for these losses, for he accepted that, "the Lord is righteous, He takes and gives, and gives and takes again." Nor did he allow his sorrows to hinder his work since he believed, "weeping must not prevent sowing," and so he went on with perseverance and assurance.Faithful unto Death.
Towards the end of 1704, when Henry was forty two years old, he began to collect together the vast amount of notes and writings which he had made on the Bible during his ministry. He had learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew as a child, and he also had a good knowledge of French, so that his reading had covered a wide field over many years. To this was added a keen spirit of inquiry, a profound knowledge and an ability to convey doctrinal matters in a simple yet clear form. From this emerged his "Commentary" as he gradually completed the books of the Old and New Testament over the following ten years.
In 1712, after twenty-five years in the ministry at Chester, Henry accepted a call to a dissenting Chapel at Hackney in London. He had never anticipated leaving Chester, but he trusted God's purposes in leading him to London and faithfully obeyed. His preaching was blessed with much fruit and he made preparations to complete his "Commentary," having reached Acts by 1714. Henry often returned to Chester to conduct services amongst his former congregation and in June 1714, while honouring a promise to preach at Chester and Nantwich, he was taken ill. As he rode back to London the next day, he fell from his horse at Tarporley and was taken to the house of a neighbouring minister where he died the following day.
The importance and value of Henry's "Commentary" was so evident to his fellow ministers that steps were soon taken to collect the notes he had prepared on the remaining books from Romans to Revelation, so that the whole of the Bible might be included in the final work. Henry's "Commentary" quickly became an indispensable work of reference for Christians — Whitfield read it regularly and thoroughly as part of his devotional reading — and Doddridge's opinion is as relevant for us today as it was in his own day, "Henry is, perhaps, the only commentator, so large, that deserves to be entirely and attentively read through."
Author unknown. Copyright ©1996 Heath Christian Book Shop Charitable Trust, United Kingdom.
"Those that are full of tongue seldom look well to their feet, and therefore stumble and fall."
"Sometimes the only way we have of reproving wicked discourse and witnessing against it is by leaving the company and going out of the hearing of it."
"The sorrows of the saints will end in everlasting joy (Psalm 126:5) but the laughter of fools will end in endless weeping and wailing."
"As sinners never think they have sin enough till it brings them to hell, so saints never think they have grace enough till it brings them to heaven."
"A good conscience will make death easy, and take off the terror of it; it is the priveledge of the righteous only not to be hurt of the second death, and so not much hurt by the first."
"Let a sense of honor therefore keep us in the paths of virtue, that we may live desired and die lamented, and not be hissed off the stage."
"The more violent a man is in sinful pursuits the more eagerly bent he is in his own destruction."
"Proud men are frequently most proud, and insolent, and haughty, just before their destruction, so that it is a certain presage that they are upon the brink of it. When proud men set God's judgments at defiance, and think themselves at the greatest distance from them, it is a sign that they are at the door." (Proverbs 16:18)
"The best man is no better than God makes him; and every creature is that to us which it is the will of God that it should be."
"Nothing is so fatal to precious souls as this, they will not take warning."
"If what a wise man says in his wisdom will not be heard, let him hold his peace, and try whether the wisdom of that will be regarded." (Proverbs 23:9)
"All the philosophy and politics in the world will not restore the corrupt nature of man to its primitive rectitude; we find the insufficiency of them both in others and in ourselves. Learning will not alter men's natural tempers, nor cure them of their sinful distempers; nor will it change the constitution of things in the world; a vale of tears it is and so it will be when all is done."
HE NEVER INTENDED THIS WORLD FOR OUR REST, AND THEREFORE NEVER APPOINTED US TO TAKE OUR EASE IN IT... THIS TRAVAIL IS GIVEN TO US TO MAKE US WEARY OF THE WORLD AND DESIROUS OF THE REMAINING REST. IT IS GIVEN TO US THAT WE MAY BE KEPT IN ACTION, AND MAY ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO DO; FOR WE WERE NONE OF US SENT INTO THE WORLD TO BE IDLE. EVERY CHANGE CUTS US OUT SOME NEW WORK, WHICH WE SHOULD BE MORE SOLICITOUS ABOUT, THAN THE EVENT.
THOSE THAT WILL NOT BE REFORMED MUST EXPECT TO BE RUINED; IF THE ROD ANSWERS NOT THE END EXPECT THE AXES. (Prov. 29:1)
THE WISEST MAN MUST EXPECT TO BE EITHER SCOLDED OR RIDICULED IF HE CONTEND WITH A FOOL. HE THAT FIGHTS WITH A DUNGHILL, WHETHER HE BE CONQUEROR OR CONQUERED, IS SURE TO BE DEFILED.
WE MUST BE CONTENT WITH WHAT GOD HAS THOUGHT FIT TO MAKE KNOWN TO US OF HIS MIND, AND NOT COVET TO BE "WISE ABOVE WHAT IS WRITTEN".
IT IS BAD TO THINK ILL, BUT IT IS MUCH WORSE TO SPEAK IT, FOR THAT IMPLIES A CONSENT TO THE EVIL THOUGHT AND A WILLINGNESS TO INFECT OTHERS WITH IT.
THOSE THAT TAKE PAINS WHEN THEY ARE IN THEIR PRIME WILL HAVE THE PLEASURE AND JOY OF IT WHEN THEY ARE OLD, BOTH IN REFLECTING UPON IT AND IN REAPING THE BENEFIT OF IT
TAKE AWAY RELIGION, AND THERE IS NOTHING VALUABLE AMOUNG MEN, NOTHING FOR THE SAKE OF WHICH A WISE MAN WOULD THINK IT WORTHWHILE TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD.
A GOOD MAN, HOW CALAMITOUS A CONDITION SOEVER HE IS IN IN THIS WORLD, CANNOT HAVE CAUSE TO WISH HE HAD NEVER BEEN BORN, SINCE HE IS GLORIFYING THE LORD EVEN IN THE FIRES, AND WILL BE HAPPY AT LAST, FOREVER HAPPY. NOR OUGHT ANY TO WISH SO WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE, FOR WHILE THERE IS LIFE THERE IS HOPE; A MAN IS NEVER UNDONE TILL HE IS IN HELL.
NATURAL DESIRES ARE AT REST WHEN THAT WHICH IS DESIRED IS OBTAINED, BUT CORRUPT DESIRES ARE INSATIABLE. NATURE IS CONTENT WITH LITTLE, GRACE WITH LESS, BUT LUST WITH NOTHING.
THAT WILL BREAK A PROUD MAN'S HEART, WHICH WILL NOT BREAK A HUMBLE MAN'S SLEEP.
THE CALAMITIES OF THE RIGHTEOUS ARE PREPARING THEM FOR THEIR FUTURE BLESSEDNESS, AND THE WICKED, WHILE THEIR DAYS ARE PROLONGED, ARE BUT RIPENING FOR RUIN. THERE IS A JUDGMENT TO COME, WHICH WILL RECTIFY THIS SEEMING IRREGULARITY, TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE FULL SATISFACTION OF ALL HIS PEOPLE, AND WE MUST WAIT WITH PATIENCE TILL THEN.
IT IS DANGEROUS BEING IN BAD COMPANY, AND HELPING THOSE WHOM GOD IS ABOUT TO DESTROY. (Isa.13:15, Rev.18:4)
WHEN WE ARE PAMPERING AND DECKING OUR BODIES IT IS GOOD TO REMEMBER THEY WILL BE WORM'S-MEAT SHORTLY.
WHEN A PEOPLE HAVE NOTHING AMOUNG THEM BUT DIRT AND FILTH, AND WILL NOT BE MADE CLEAN WITH THE BROOM OF REFORMATION, WHAT CAN THEY EXPECT BUT TO BE SWEPT OFF THE EARTH WITH THE BROOM OF DESTRUCTION. (Isa.14:2
THOSE THAT WILL NOT YIELD TO THE FEAR OF GOD SHALL BE MADE TO YIELD TO THE FEAR OF EVERYTHING ELSE.
THIS IS THE WORLD OF SERVICE; THAT TO COME IS THE WORLD OF RECOMPENCE. THIS IS THE WORLD OF PROBATION AND PREPARATION FOR ETERNITY; WE ARE HERE UPON BUSINESS, AND UPON OUR GOOD BEHAVIOR. OPPORTUNITY IS TO DIRECT AND QUICKEN DUTY.(Eccl.9:4-10)...HARVEST DAYS ARE BUSY DAYS; AND WE MUST MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES. (Jn.9:4)
CALL A MAN UNGRATEFUL AND YOU CAN CALL HIM NO WORSE.
GRACIOUS SOULS PRESS THROUGH CROWDS OF OTHER DELIGHTS AND CONTENTMENTS IN PURSUIT OF CHRIST, WHOM THEY PREFER BEFORE THEIR CHIEF JOY. MARY MAGDALEN SEES ANGELS IN THE SEPULCHRE, BUT THAT WILL NOT DO TILL SHE SEE JESUS.
THOSE THAT ARE PLEASED WITH CHRIST MUST STUDY TO BE PLEASING TO HIM; AND THEY WILL NOT FIND HIM HARD TO BE PLEASED.
HE EXPECTS RENT FROM THOSE THAT ARE EMPLOYED IN HIS VINEYARD AND ENTRUSTED WITH IT. HE COMES, SEEKING FRUIT, AND REQUIRES GOSPEL - DUTY OF ALL THOSE THAT ENJOY GOSPEL - PRIVILEGES. (SofS 8:11,12, Matt.21:33, Isa.7:23)
GOD, SOMETIMES, IN A WAY OF RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT, CEASES TO CORRECT THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN LONG INCORRIGIBLE, AND WHOM THEREFORE HE DESIGNS TO DESTROY. THE REPROBATE SILVER SHALL BE CAST, NOT INTO THE FURNACE, BUT TO THE DUNGHILL. HE THAT IS FILTHY, LET HIM BE FILTHY STILL.
WHEN SINNERS ARE UNDER THE JUDGMENT OF GOD THEY WILL MORE EASILY BE BROUGHT TO FLY TO THEIR DEVOTIONS THAN TO FORSAKE THEIR SINS AND REFORM THEIR LIVES.
MANY THAT WILL READILY PART WITH THEIR SACRIFICES WILL NOT BE PERSUADED TO PART WITH THEIR SINS.
THOSE, AND THOSE ONLY, THAT BREAK OFF THEIR LEAGUE WITH SIN, SHALL BE WELCOME INTO COVENANT AND COMMUNION WITH GOD.
THOSE THAT WILL NOT BE GOVERNED BY GOD'S SCEPTER WILL CERTAINLY AND JUSTLY BE DEVOURED BY HIS SWORD.
THOSE WHO SLIGHT TRUE DIVINITY ARE JUSTLY GIVEN UP TO LYING DIVINATIONS; AND THOSE WILL CERTAINLY BE FORSAKEN OF GOD WHO THUS FORSAKE HIM AND THEIR OWN MERCIES FOR LYING VANITIES.
THOSE THAT WILL NOT FEAR GOD AND FLEE TO HIM WILL BE FORCED TO FEAR HIM AND FLEE FROM HIM TO A REFUGE OF LIES.
THOSE THAT WILL NOT BE REASONED OUT OF THEIR SINS SOONER OR LATER SHALL BE FRIGHTENED OUT OF THEM.
GOD DOES NOT REJECT MEN FOR EVERY TRANSGRESSION OF HIS LAW AND WORD; BUT, WHEN HIS WORD IS DESPISED AND HIS LAW CAST AWAY, WHAT CAN THEY EXPECT BUT THAT GOD SHOULD UTTERLY ABANDON THEM?
NOTHING IS MORE GREIVOUS TO THE GOD OF HEAVEN THAN TO BE DISTRUSTED.
IT CONCERNS US, IN TIME OF TROUBLE, TO WATCH AGAINST ALL SUCH FEARS AS PUT US UPON TAKING ANY INDIRECT COURSES FOR OUR OWN SECURITY.
WHAT LIFE OR LIGHT CAN WE LOOK FOR FROM THOSE WHO HAVE NO LIGHT OR LIFE THEMSELVES?
GOD TRIES WHAT LESS JUDGMENTS WILL DO WITH A PEOPLE BEFORE HE BRINGS GREATER; BUT IF A LIGHT AFFLICTION DO NOT DO IT'S WORK WITH US, TO HUMBLE AND REFORM US, WE MUST EXPECT TO BE AFFLICTED MORE GRIEVOUSLY; FOR WHEN GOD JUDGES HE WILL OVERCOME.
THOSE THAT ARE WILLINGLY IGNORANT OF THE WRATH OF GOD REVEALED FROM HEAVEN AGAINST SIN AND SINNERS SHALL BE MADE TO KNOW IT.
THE DESIGN OF THE GOSPEL, AND THE GRACE OF IT, IS TO BREAK THE YOKE OF SIN AND SATAN, TO REMOVE THE BURDEN OF GUILT AND CORRUPTION, AND TO FREE US FROM THE ROD OF THOSE OPPRESSORS, THAT WE MIGHT BE BROUGHT INTO THE GLORIOUS LIBERTY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
THOSE ARE RIPENING APACE FOR RUIN WHOSE HEARTS ARE UNHUMBLED UNDER HUMBLING PROVIDENCES; FOR GOD WILL WALK CONTRARY TO THOSE WHO THUS WALK CONTRARY TO HIM AND PROVOKE HIM TO JEALOUSY, AS IF THEY WERE STRONGER THAN HE.
THAT WHICH GOD DESIGNS, IN SMITING US, IS TO TURN US TO HIMSELF AND TO SET US A SEEKING HIM; AND IF THIS POINT BE NOT GAINED BY LESS JUDGMENTS, GREATER MAY BE EXPECTED. GOD SMITES THAT HE MAY NOT KILL.
WHEN MEN'S WAYS DISPLEASE THE LORD HE MAKES EVEN HIS FRIENDS TO BE AT WAR WITH HIM.
THE REASONS WHY THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD ARE PROLONGED IS BECAUSE THE POINT IS NOT GAINED, SINNERS ARE NOT BROUGHT TO REPENTANCE BY THEM. "THE PEOPLE TURN NOT TO HIM WHO SMITES THEM," AND THEREFORE HE CONTINUES TO SMITE THEM; FOR WHEN GOD JUDGES HE WILL OVERCOME, AND THE PROUDEST, STOUTEST SINNER SHALL EITHER BEND OR BREAK.
GOD USUALLY GIVES A MORNING OF OPPORTUNITY BEFORE HE SENDS A NIGHT OF CALAMITY, THAT HIS OWN PEOPLE MAY BE PREPARED FOR THE STORM AND OTHERS LEFT INEXCUSABLE.
A PRACTICAL DISBELIEF OF ANOTHER LIFE AFTER THIS IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CARNAL SECURITY AND BRUTISH SENSUALITY WHICH ARE THE SIN, AND SHAME, AND RUIN OF SO GREAT A PART OF MANKIND, AS OF THE OLD WORLD WHO WERE "EATING AND DRINKING TILL THE FLOOD CAME." (ISA.22:12-14)
WE DECEIVE OURSELVES IF WE PROMISE OURSELVES REST ANYWHERE IN THIS WORLD. THOSE THAT ARE UNEASY IN ONE PLACE WILL BE SO IN ANOTHER; AND WHEN GOD'S JUDGMENTS PURSUE SINNERS, THEY WILL OVERTAKE HIM.
THOSE THAT WILL NOT WITH ANGELS FEAR AND WORSHIP SHALL FOREVER WITH DEVILS FEAR AND TREMBLE.
MONEY IS LIKE MANURE, GOOD FOR NOTHING IF IT BE NOT SPREAD.
THOSE WHO WILL NOT BE PERSUADED NOW TO FLY TO THE ARMS OF DIVINE GRACE, WHICH ARE STRETCHED OUT TO RECEIVE THEM, WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FLEE FROM THE ARMS OF DIVINE WRATH, WHICH WILL SHORTLY BE STRETCHED OUT TO DESTROY THEM.
THERE IS NO ESCAPING GOD'S AVENGING EYE, NO GOING OUT OF REACH OF HIS HAND; ROCKS AND MOUNTAINS WILL BE NO BETTER SHELTER AT LAST THAN FIG LEAVES WERE AT FIRST.
WHEN WE LACK THE FAITH OF ASSURANCE WE MUST LIVE BY A FAITH OF ADHERENCE.
THE OPENING OF HIS HAND WILL SATISFY THE DESIRE OF OTHER LIVING THINGS, BUT IT IS ONLY THE SHINING OF HIS FACE THAT WILL SATISFY THE DESIRE OF A LIVING SOUL.
SINNERS ARE SELF-DESTROYERS BY BEING SELF-FLATTERERS. SATAN COULD NOT DECEIVE THEM IF THEY DID NOT DECEIVE THEMSELVES.
SALVATION ITSELF WILL NOT SAVE THOSE THAT ARE NOT WILLING TO BE RULED BY IT. BEHOLD THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD. (Ps.69:22-29)
WE MUST FOLLOW PROVIDENCE AND NOT FORCE IT, SUBSCRIBE TO INFINITE WISDOM, NOT PRESCRIBE.
TO APPEAR BEFORE GOD IS AS MUCH THE DESIRE OF THE UPRIGHT AS IT IS THE DREAD OF THE HYPOCRITE.
PRECEPTS NOT PROPHECIES ARE OUR RULE.
THOSE THAT ARE GOVERNED BY THE PRECEPTS OF THE WORD AND ARE RESOLVED TO KEEP THEM MAY PLEAD THE PROMISES OF THE WORD AND TAKE THE COMFORT OF THEM.
TRUE RELIGION, IF IT IS WORTH ANYTHING IS WORTH EVERYTHING, AND THEREFORE WORTH SUFFERING FOR.