What is by far the most beloved and widely read Bible Commentary ever published?1 Without doubt, it is that of Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714).
This has seen many editions and impressions. As the famous Anglican scholar Rev. William Romaine pointed out at the front of the fifth edition (in his own 1761 Recommendation to the Public): “There is no Comment[aryl upon the Bible, either ancient or modern, in all respects equal to Mr. Henry’s.”2 Remarked the renowned Baptist Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon:3 “Every Minister ought to read Matthew Henry entirely and carefully through.”
Rev. Dr. A.R.Vidler wrote: “There is nothing like Matthew Henry’s Commentary; it ought always to be in print.” Professor Dr. F.F. Bruce called it: “One of the greatest theological classics of English literature.” And ‘Mr. Evangelical’ – Rev. Professor Dr. Wilbur M. Smith – called it: “The greatest devotional commentary ever written.”4
The Methodist, Rev. Dr. Leslie F. Church (Ph. D. & F. R. Hist. S.), in his own 1960 edition and abridgement thereof, rightly observed that “the Commentary on the Bible by Matthew Henry…is the outcome of personal and pastoral experience. In family worship in his father’s home [while Matthew himself was growing up in the home of his godly father the Welsh Presbyterian Rev. Philip Henry]; and later in daily prayers with his own family [attended by Matthew’s wife and children]; and in the homes of his neighbours [while Matthew visited them pastorally] – he not only studied the Scriptures but learned how best to apply them to the lives and needs of people young and old….
“The beauty of his home life…was moulded on the pattern of his father’s house…, as ‘a house of God and a gate of Heaven.’” Genesis 28:17 cf. John 1:51. Indeed, Matthew Henry himself “conducted family prayers in his home at the beginning and the end of the day. In the morning he expounded the Old Testament, and in the evening the New…. These expositions, amended as the result of questions and comments from his family and his neighbours, were the basis of his Commentary”5
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It is therefore appropriate to take a look at the Henry’s covenantal ancestry. Cromwell had fallen; the Stuarts had been restored; Presbyterians were being persecuted. Matthew was born in 1662, to a well known Welsh Presbyterian Minister – just after the latter had been ejected from his manse under the new and infamous Act of Uniformity. The infant Matthew could thus then be baptized not by his own father but solely by the local Anglican Rector (and without godparents).
Nevertheless, Matthew was still given a thoroughly Calvinistic upbringing by his godly parents – who held family worship in their home every morning and evening. So, even when only three years old, he could read the Bible both distinctly and observantly.6
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Of that Christian rearing by his parents, Matthew later testified on his twentieth birthday – in his memorial entitled Mercies Received. There,7 Matthew thanked God “that I have been born in a place and time of Gospel light…. I had a religious education, the principles of religion instilled into me with my very milk, and from a child…taught the knowledge of God…. I was in infancy brought within the pale of the Visible Church in my Baptism….
“I have had the Scriptures – and means for understanding them – by daily expositions…. I am blessed with such parents as few have, and sisters also that I have reason to rejoice in…. All these mercies are but the earnest [or guarantee] of more, and pledges of better, in the Kingdom of Glory…. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, the Fountain and Foundation of all my mercies. Amen, hallelujah!”