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The Puritans: Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry was born in 1662, the same year that the Act of Uniformity barred his father, Phillip, and 2000 other pastors (including Thomas Brooks) from official ministry in the Church of England.

Henry was raised by godly parents in the Puritan way (daily Bible reading, prayer, self-examination, etc.) and always wanted to be a pastor. However, believing there was little chance of ever becoming one, he decided to study law and pursue theological study only on the side. Before long he began preaching on the side as well. This led to him being asked to serve as a local minister, at which point he became ordained as a Presbyterian minister and took up the pastorate in Chester.

That same year, 1687, he married Katherine Hardware. Sadly, she passed away just two years later during childbirth. A year after Katherin’s death he married Mary Warburton. Between them they bore a son, Philip, and eight daughters, three of whom would die in infancy.

Henry was a popular preacher who, by principle, never refused an invitation if he could possible accept it. In addition to his own church, which grew steadily, he took on monthly engagements in five other villages, along with regular visits to preach to prisoners.

After serving for 25 years in Chester, in 1712 Henry accepted an invitation to pastor a church in Hackney, an important congregation near London. Just two years after that transition, in May of 1714, while returning home from a visit to Cheshire, he fell from his horse and passed away the following day. He was 52 years old.

Unique Contribution

Matthew Henry is most remembered today for his Commentary on the Whole Bible. He began work on it in 1704, laboring diligently until his death. In those ten years he completed and published volumes covering Genesis through Acts. After his death, a group of 13 fellow ministers compiled notes from his preaching to complete the Commentary from Romans through Revelation.

The Commentary was and remains so well known because of its ability to apply the Scriptures to life. It “has never been surpassed in its practical emphasis. Its divisions, main points, and practical applications are invaluable,” write Beeke and Pederson (Meet the Puritans). And J. I. Packer concludes,

Simple and practical in style while thoroughly scholarly and well-informed for substance, the Commentary remains an all-time classic, standing head and shoulders above any other popular exposition produced either before or since. (Puritan Portraits)

Indeed. We may at times shun older commentaries in favor of more modern ones, but we lose too much if we forget about Henry’s. He is a master of the pithy phrase and at distilling whole sections of Scripture to one or two pertinent, heart-searching points of application.

If you are going to read just one of his works, make sure you reference his commentary. There is nothing quite like it.

Most Important Works

  • The Deconstruction of Christianity

    The Deconstruction of Christianity

    There is nothing new and nothing particularly unusual about apostasy—about people who once professed the Christian faith coming to deny it. From the early church to the present day, we have witnessed a long and sad succession of people walking away from Christianity and often doing so with expressions of anger, animosity, and personal superiority.…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (February 2)

    A La Carte: When your spouse won’t join a solid church / The gospel gives us courage / The beautiful burden of caregiving / At work in his Word / Do I have a hard heart? / Surrendering rights for the sake of the gospel / and more.

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 1)

    A La Carte: Vetting kids’ entertainment isn’t a one-and-done / Joni Eareckson Tada’s resilient joy in pain / Honor marriage / How can the church remain faithful in this current cultural climate? / What senior pastors should know about the younger generations / and more.

  • When God Gives Us a Platform

    When God Gives Us a Platform

    There are many ways we may respond to the sudden onrush of some new pain or the sudden onset of some fresh sorrow. There are many options set before us when health fails and uncertainty draws near, when wealth collapses and bankruptcy looms, when a loved one is taken and we are left alone. There…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (January 31)

    A La Carte: What are demons and how should we think about them? / It’s time to stop bagging out the “average church member” / Alistair Begg and the loving thing / The internal contradiction in transgender theories / Seeing in color / The sad relief / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (January 30)

    A La Carte: Evangelicals need a constructive vision / He’s with you, no matter what / Keeping singing the (whole) gospel / Abundant life in room 129 / On pastors and professors / Was Jesus confused by the cross? / and more.