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great point gained, if ministers could learn the art of studying their sermons with the heart as well as the head; and I know of few things which would more effectually tend to bring this about, than a frequent and serious perusal of Henry's Commentary; especially if fervent prayer were combined with the reading.
But after all that I have said, with the view of exhibiting the characteristics of this work, I am sensible that such general description can, at best, afford but inadequate ideas of the spirit and style of an author, so peculiar in his manner. There is in good writing, as in the human countenance, an expression, which mere words cannot depict. There is a penetrating savour,-a diffusive spirit, which takes hold of the feelings of the reader, and for the time, assimilates his emotions and sentiments to those of the writer. To understand how this effect is produced by the tones of the living voice, accompanied with the animated expression of the countenance of a public speaker, is not so difficult; but to explain how the composition of one, long since dead, should still retain that penetrating, spirit-stirring energy, which we find in the writings of men, whose hearts were warm with holy affections, is not easy. The fact, however, is certain ; we experience the salutary effect, when we peruse their works. In reading for edification, therefore, it is of much greater utility to apply ourselves to the writings of men, who, while they wrote, felt the sacred flame of divine love glowing in their breasts, than to such as excel in mere intellectual vigour, or in elegance of style.
My principal object in this preface is, to persuade those who may take the trouble to read it, to enter seriously and resolutely on the perusal of the following work. Whatever other books of this kind may be possessed, still Henry's Exposition will prove a treasure to any family, if it be diligently studied ; without which no book can be useful.
Hitherto, this commentary has not been in general use in this country, because copies were not abundant; and the price of the work placed it beyond the reach of many, who would have been much pleased to possess it: but now, when a cheap, handsome American edition is issuing from the press, there is the best reason to hope, that it will be widely circulated and extensively read. It is worthy of notice, also, that the work is now presented to the public, not only in a very clear type, but also in a portable and convenient form. Many persons, who have not much leisure for reading, are intimidated at the sight of folio volumes; and to every one their use is inconvenient. But I am still apprehensive, that the number and bulk of the volumes, will be a formidable obstacle to many. They will be apt to think, that they have neither time nor patience to finish such a task, and therefore will be disposed to decline the undertaking. But such persons ought to reflect, that it will not be necessary to read the whole, to obtain the benefit of a part; a single book perused with care, will not be without its advantage. There is no solid reason, however, for those persons, who sincerely wish to study the Scriptures, to be discouraged by the extent of the work : for, although viewed in mass, it may seem to be an almost endless labour to those who can devote but liitle time to reading; yet, if any one would form a simple calculation. he would find, that the task can be accomplished with ease, in a very reasonable time.
Let us suppose, that only one half hour be appropriated to the perusal of this commentary in each of the days of the week, except the Lord's day, on which two hours might be conveniently spent in this exercise ; and at this moderate rate of progress, the whole work would be finished in less than three years.
But although we have spoken of this undertaking as a “ labour” and “a task,” yet we are confident, that to the reader who thirsts for an increase of divine knowledge, it would be found, on experiment, to be a very precious privilege. Such a person would experience so much pleasure in the contemplation of scriptural truth, as here exhibited, and would find his mind so enriched with spiritual thoughts, that he would contract a lively relish for the exercise, and would be drawn to his work, when the season of performing it occurred, with something of the same strength of appetite, as that which urges him to partake of his daily food; and would feel the privation as sensibly when debarred from it, as when prevented from taking his usual bodily repast. Citizens, who have been long accustomed to spend an hour, in the morning, in reading the news of the day, when, by any circumstance, this gratification is abstracted from them, appear really to feel as much uneasiness, as if prevented from breaking their fast. And why may not a spiritual taste become as lively, as that which is experienced for the contents of a newspaper ? Why may we not enjoy the contemplation of divine things with as strong a zest, as knowledge of another kind ? Surely nothing is wanting to produce this effect, but a right disposition in ourselves. And the person who thus contracts a taste for the contents of these volumes, will find means for redeeming more time for reading than we have specified; so that the work, for which we have allowed three years, would, by many, be completed in one. And this exposition is not a composition of that kind, which when once read, leaves no desire for a second perusal, but the spiritual reader will be led to mark many passages for a reperusal; not because they were not understood at first, but because they afforded him so much delight, or communicated such seasonable instruction, that he desires to come again and again to the fountain, that he may be refreshed and strengthened.
But while we wish to raise in the minds of our readers a high estimation of the value of Henry's Commentary, we would not dismiss the subject without observing, that whatever lustre the work possesses, it is all borrowed. The light with which it shines is reflected light. The whole value of this or any other similar work, consists merely in holding up clearly and distinctly, the truth which is contained in the sacred records. And whatever of spiritual wisdom, or of the savour of piety, is found in these pages, was all derived from the influence of that Holy Spirit, who inspired the prophets and apostles to write the Scriptures, and who still bestows grace and spiritual endowments on his chosen servants, by which they are qualified, to preach and write, in such a manner, as to promote the edification of his church. In every age, God raises up men for the defence of the gospel, and also for the exposition of his word; and some of these are honoured not only with usefulness while they live, but with more abundant and extensive usefulness after their decease; so that being dead they still speak. It is impos
sible to calculate how much good has been, and will still be effected by the pious labours of such men as HENRY and Scott. Their works will be read in regions so remote and obscurt', that they never came to the knowledge of the pious writers. They will be read in the distant islands of the Pacific, and in the central regions of Africa, as well as in the inost retired recesses of our own country. What an encouragement is this for men, who have the ability, to labour indefatigably in the communication and diffusion of divine truth? Of books we have a superabundance, but of books of the proper kind, we have not half enough. Copies of works of undisputed excellence ought to be multiplied, until all who can read are supplied with the precious treasure.
But let God have the glory of every invention, of every gift, and of every work, by which the progress and diffusion of truth are promoted or facilitated ; and let all that is said in praise of men, be so spoken, as to redound to the honour and glory of the Triune God !Amen.
REV. MATTHEW HENRY.
Most readers of a work which has acquired any degree of thoughtful turn, so that it was remarked his childhood had less celebrity, feel a desire to know something of the author; and of vanity than that of most children, and that at an earlier that desire is increased, in proportion as they find themselves period than is usual, he put away childish things. He was interested in the work itself. It may therefore be presumed, able to read a chapter in the Bible distinctly when he was but that the readers of Mr. Henry's writings, which have long been about three years old, and was used to make pertinent remarks in high repute in the religious world, will wish for some intor- on what he read. mation concerning the character and life of that excellent man, His first abiding convictions of religion, according to his whose pen produced so many admirable performances. This own written account, in the paper above referred to, were is not merely an innocent, but a laudable curiosity, which we wrought when he was ten years of age, in consequence of a are happy to have the present opportunity of gratisying, on the sermon preached by his excellent father, on Psalm li. 17. republication of his smaller pieces, as well as his larger work on The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a the Bible; most of which pieces have long been out of print; contrite h-art, o God, thou wilt not despise. "I think it was and we are persuaded, that the more the author is known, the that,” says he, " that melted me : afterward I began to greater pleasure pious readers will feel in the perusal of his inquire after Christ.” He was carly accustomed to make writings.
memorandums of the sermons which he heard, and of the A Life of Mr. Henry was published, shortly after his effect they had upon his mind. From one of these papers, decease, by his intimate friend, the Rev. Mr. Tong, but it is dated December 17, 1673, it appears that he heard a sermon now become exceedingly scarce; and though it contains a on the signs of true grace, which put him upon the strict just character and a faithful narrative, drawn from personal examination of himself by the rules which had been laid down; knowledge, as well as from private papers, the manner in and, after opening his mind to his father, he was encouraged to which it is drawn up is not the most pleasing, the writer being draw a favourable conclusion respecting his spiritual state. then far advanced in life, and it is rendered prolix, and even He particularly mentions his repeptance for sin, according to tedious, by the insertion of too many extracts from his diary, the scripture account of ii, in many passages which he tranand too many articles relative to Mr. Henry's acquaintance scribes; his solemn dedication of himself to God, according to and his own, as well as various other particulars, which at the tenor of the gospel covenant, and his love to God, as this distance of time are become uninteresting. On these evidenced by his love to the people of God, whom he chose as accounts it was judged adviseable, instead of reprinting that his best companions; and his love to the word of God, copwork, to compose a new one. In this, however, all that cerning which he expresses himself thus: “I esteem it abovo appeared interesting in the former is retained, and whatever all; I desire it as the food of my soul; I greatly delight both in else could be collected, is inserted, particularly in relation to reading and hearing it; and my soul can witness subjection to his settlement at Hackney, where some persons were living it, in some measure; I think I love the word of God for the when the writer of this first came to that place, who had purity of it; I love the ministers and messengers of it; I the happiness to be Mr. Henry's hearers, and remembered rejoice in the good success of it; all which were given as him well,
marks of true love to the word, in a sermon I lately heard, on Mr.MATTHEW HENRY was the second son of the eminently Psalm cxix. 140. Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant pious and excellent Mr. Philip HENRY, whose Life, pub- loveth it.” lished by him, is an admirable piece of biography, and who In the same paper, which contains a catalogue “ of the was ejected by the Act of Uniformity from his living in the mercies of God to him, both temporal and spiritual,” he parish of Worthenbury, in Flintshire, A. D. 1662. This his mentions it as matter of peculiar thankfulness that he was son was born October 28, in the same year, which also, he blessed with pious parents, who took so much pains in his observes with pleasure in his diary, gave birth to many other education, and by whose means he was brought so early to ministers of his acquaintance, to whom God had appointed devote himself to God. After noticing with thankfulness his more peaceful days than their predecessors, whom their recovery from an ague which had hung long upon him, he brethren, who hated them, had cast out. His birthplace was mentions his first application to learning. It will be pleasing Broad-Oak, in Iscoid, Flintshire, within the parish of Malpal, to the reader to see his own words. which is in Cheshire; a district signalized in the British “After this sickness, in the year 1669, I had health and annals for the famous monastery of Bangor. Hither his began to learn my grammar.
Blessed be God that gave me father removed but a fortnight before his birth, not being an understanding! Mr. Turner entered me a little into the suffered any longer to continue in the place of his former principles of grammar, and my father has carried me on in it; ministry; and here he spent the remainder of his days. Mr. the Lord grant that he may live to perfect it!" As a proof of Henry's mother was Mrs. Katharine Matthews, the daughter his affection to this his excellent father, as well as of his piety and heiress of Mr. Daniel Matthews, a gentleman of an ancient to God, the following addition is here subjoined: “In March, family and a considerable estate, which, upon his death, came 1669, my dear father had a sore fever: we thought he would into the possession of Mr. Philip Henry, by which he was have died; but our extremity was God's opportunity, and he enabled to live in comfort after his ejectment, and not only arose and helped us. preach the gospel gratis, as he had opportunity, but likewise It was observed by all who knew him, that he was remarkably to relieve several of his necessitous brethren. But his wife quick in learning any thing, and that he possessed a strong proved to him a greater treasure, as she was a woman equally memory to retain it. He was early addicted to close applicaeminent for piety and every other endowment. Her son has tion to his studies, and remarkably provident of his time ; so done ample justice to her character, in an excellent discourse, that his good mother, fearful lest he should injure his health, occasioned by her death, on Prov. xxxi. 28. Her children was sometimes obliged to call him down from his closet, and arise up, and call her blessed. It is subjoined to the Life of his advise him to take a walk in the fields. father.
His whole conduct, in the happy family of which he was a The circumstances of Mr. Henry's birth were rather remark- member, was amiable and exemplary. As he ever manifested able. Besides its being premature, (as the writer of this has the greatest duty and deference to both his pious parents, so been credibly informed,) his mother's labour was so sudden, he exercised the utmost affection and kindness towards his that she was delivered before any assistance could be procured; sisters. They all lived together in the most delightful unity: and he was so weakly a child that no one expected him to and he made it his business and his pleasure to promote their live. He was therefore baptized the next day after he was best interests, both by his admonitions and his prayers. His born, by Mr. Holland, the minister of the parish, but without father recommended it to them to spend an hour together every godfather or godmother; and his father desired the sign of the Saturday afternoon, in religious exercises, with a view to cross might not be used, but the minister said he durst not their preparation for the sabbath; and he conducted them with omit it.
great propriety, to their mutual advantage. When he was about five years old, he had the measles, by He was always very regardful of his father's instructions, which his brother, who was a year older than himself, was cut and with uncommon diligence he attended to his preaching; off; a circumstance which deeply affected him, and which he with which he was sometimes so deeply affected, that, as soon noticed with great seriousness, in a paper written on his birth as the service was ended, he would retire to his closet, to weep day, when he had completed his thirteenth year, wherein he and pray over what he had been hearing, and would hardly be drew out a list of the mercies which he had received, with prevailed upon to come down to dinner, lest the memory and lively expressions of gratitude to the Author of them. He impression of it should be effaced. He sometimes took an long continued weakly, subject to agues and other complaints; opportunity, especially in walking with his father, to relate to but he very early discovered a good mental capacity, and a him the impressions which his discourses made upon him, and
to open to him freely any difficulties that occurred to his Mr. Henry was now twenty years of age, and had made mind; which proved of excellent use for his further information great improvement in all the branches of science, which tended and encouragement.
to fit him for appearing with great advantage under the minisIt seems that Mr. Henry had an inclination to the ministry terial character. But it does not appear that he had yet begun from his childhood. This partly appeared in his fondness for to exercise his talents in public. He was, however, frequently imitating preaching, which he did with a great degree of engaged in social exercises of devotion among the good people propriety and gravity beyond his years; as also in his frequent of his father's acquaintance, and who resorted to that house of attendance at the private meetings of good people, with whom prayer. His company was much coveted by them, and they he would pray, and repeat sermons, and sometimes expound were highly gratitied by his visits, which he was ever ready to the scriptures, to the surprise of all present. One of them onco make to the meanest of them; when he was used to pray with expressed to his father some concern lest his son should be them, and converse with great freedom, affection, and judgment, too forward, and fall into the snare of spiritual pride ; to whom on their spiritual concerns. Greatly delighted were they to see the good man replied, “Let him go on; he fears God and such a son treading so closely in the steps of such a father; and designs well, and I hope God will keep him and bless him." his memory was long precious in that neighbourhood, and in
Mr. Philip Henry was used generally to have some young the adjacent country, where Mr. Philip Henry used frequently student in his house, previous to his entrance on the ministry, to preach in the houses of those pious gentlemen who enterwho, while he was a pupil to Mr. Henry, acted as a tutor to tained the ejected ministers, though they generally attended his children. One of these was Mr. William Turner, who was the worship of the established church. born in that neighbourhood, and had studied at Edmund Hall, As the times were dark, and the circumstances of dissenting Oxford. He was afterward many years vicar of Walburton, ministers were very discouraging, Mr. Henry had no prospect in Sussex, and was the author of a work in folio, on the History of a pastoral settlement with a congregation; he therefore, with of remarkable Providences. He lived with Mr. Henry at the the advice of friends, direcied his ihoughts to another and time his son entered on his grammar, and was the person very different employment. He had formed an intimacy with referred to by him in the papers quoted above, as having Rowland Hunt, Esq. of Bureaton, who married the daughinitiated him into the Latin language; and it may be supposed, ter of Lord Paget, and at whose house Mr. P. Henry used to from his great picty and studious turn, that he was in other preach once a quarter, and administer the Lord's supper. respects useful to himn. Mr. M. Henry remained under his This worthy gentleman advised his father to enter him in one father's eye and tuition till he was about eighteen years of of the inns of court, for the study of the law. His view in this age, from which he enjoyed singular advantage for both literary was not to divert him from his design of pursuing the work of and religious attainments, to qualify him for the ministerial the ministry, but to find him some present einployment of his office; and he soon afforded ample proof that he had not time, as he was but young, which might hereafter be advantaenjoyed them in vain. As his constitution grew stronger with seous to him, not only in a temporal view, as he was heir to a his growing years, his mind also improved in knowledge, grace, handsome estate, but as it might be subservient to his usefuland holiness, so that he was richly furnished betimes for the ness as a minister. Accordingly, Mr. Henry went to Gray's. important office to which he had devoted his life, and seemed Inn, about the end of April, 1085. not to need any further assistance than he had enjoyed, or Some of his friends discovered painful apprehensions lest might yet enjoy, under the tuition, and from the example, of this situation, and the connexions he might here form, should such a father, who was not only an excellent scholar himself, prove unfavourable to his religious interest, and, in the issue, but had an admirable method of communicating knowledge to divert him from the sacred office to which his former studies others. He was desirous, however, that his son might enjoy had been directed, and for which he discovered such peculiar some further advantages in his education at some more public qualifications. But their fears happily proved groundless; his seminary.
heart was fully bent for God, and established with grace; so Mr. P. Henry had been partial to a University, having that he still maintained his steadfastness and all the temphimself passed some years at Christ Church, Oxford. But / tations with which he was surrounded. He happily formed an the sad alteration which had taken place in those seats of acquaintance with several young gentlemen, then students of learning, after the Restoration, greatly altered his opinion; so the law, who were exemplary for sobriety, diligence, and relithat, to preserve his son from the snares and temptations to gion, who were glad to receive him as an intimate associate, which he might have been exposed from the want of proper and with whom a mutual friendship continued to the last. Here discipline, he determined upon sending him, in the year 1680, his diligence in study, his quick apprehension, his rapid profito an academy which was then kept at Islington by the learned ciency, his tenacious memory, and his ready utterance, induced and pious Mr. Thomas Doolittle, who trained up many some of the profession to think that he would have been emiyoung men for the ministry, who made a distinguished figure nent in the practice of the law, had be applied himself to it as among the Protestant dissenters. Here, among many other his business. But he felt himself under no temptation to relinexcellent young persons, he enjoyed the society of Mr. Bury, quish the object of his first resolution, and he continually kept who was from the same neighbourhood, and afterward an that in his view, habituating himself to those exercises which eminent minister, who bore this honourable testimony to Mr. might further his preparation for it. He heard the most celeHenry's character during the course of his studies : "I was brated preachers in town; among whom he seemed to be best never better pleased," says he, “when I was at Mr. Doolittle's, pleased with Dr. Stillingfleet, at St. Andrew's, Holborn, for his than when I was in young Mr. Henry's company. He had serious, practical preaching; and with Dr. Tillotson, at Lawsuch a savour of religion always upon his spirit, was of such a rence Jewry, for his admirable sermons against popery. He cheerful temper, so diffusive of all knowledge, so ready in the accustomed himself to take notes of what he heard; and he scriptures, so pertinent in all his petitions, so full and clear in constantly sent a short scheme of the sermons to his father, to all his performances, &c. that he was to me a most desirable whom he generally wrote iwice every week, giving him an friend, and I love heaven the better since he went thither.” Mr. account of all remarkable occurrences with great judgment, yet Bury observes, however, that " he had an almost inconceivable with all the caution and prudence which the difficulties of the quickness in his speech, but that he afterward happily corrected times required. it, as well for his own sake, as for the benefit of others.” During his residence in London, Mr. Henry not only attended
Another of Mr. Henry's fellow-students was Mr. HENRY with constancy on the public worship of God, but he promoted CHANDLER, afterward an eminent minister at Bath, and social prayer and religious conference with his particular father of the learned Dr. Chandler, of the Old Jewry, London. friends, and he sometimes expounded the scripture to them. In a letter to Mr. Tong, he speaks of Mr. Henry in the fol- When he was about to leave them he delivered to them an lowing respectful terms: "It is now thirty-five years since I excellent and afiecting discourse, on? Thess. ii. 1. By the had the happiness of being in the same house with him, so that coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together it is impossible I should recollect the several (particulars) that unto him; recommending to himself and them the hope of that fixed in me such an honourable idea of him, that nothing can blessed meeting, as their greatest comfort, now they were about efface while life and reason last. This I perfectly well rernem to part.
The letters which he wrote to his friends while he ber; that, for serious piety and the most obliging behaviour, continued at Gray's-Inn, discover the lively sense of divine he was universally beloved by all the house. We were near things which he preserved upon his mind, of which an excelthirty pupils when Mr. Henry graced and entertained the fa- lent one of great length is published by Tong, to his friend Mr. mily, and I remember not that I ever heard one of the number G. Hidge, of Nantwich, whose father's Memoirs he afterward speak a word to his disparagement. I am sure it was the printed: frora whence it appears how valuable a correspondent common opinion, that he was as sweet tempered, courteous, he was, and how much he aimed at usefulness, in his letters as and obliging a gentleman as could come into a house ; his going well as in his conversation. from us was universally lamented."
But though his time was not unprofitably spent in London, How long he continued with Mr. Doolittle is not quite cer- he sometimes complained of the want which he felt of those tain. Such was the persecuting temper of the times, that this opportunities which he had enjoyed in his father's house : his good man was obliged to leave Islington, (upon which he “Broad-Oak sabbaths, and the heavenly manna," which he removed to Battersea,) and soon after to disperse his pupils had tasted there; and expressed his earnest wishes to return. into private families at Clapham, to which place it does not Accordingly in the month of June, 1686, he went down to appear that Mr. Henry followed them. It is certain, however, Broad-Oak, and continued several months in the country; when that when he quitted this academy, he returned to his father's he made it appear that his residence in London, and his study house, where he pursued his studies with great assiduity. of the law, had been no way prejudicial to his religious temper, Among his papers is one dated Broad-Oak, 1682, (about which or his ministerial qualificatjons. He now began to preach frelime it seems probable that he returned thither,) which is a quently as a candidate for the ministry, and he every where memorial of the mercies which he had received from the band met with great acceptance. of God from his birth to that time, which was his birthday: it About this time he went to visit his friend Mr. Illidge, at consists of twenty-six particulars, and discovers a lively spirit Nantwich, who had been in a remarkable manner brought to a of devotion.
sense of religion by the ministry of Mr. P. Henry, and who (6)