M a t t h e w    H e n r y



Charles G. Trumbull in his introduction to Matthew Henry's Commentary wrote, "The apostolic Whitefield...even the pen of Cowper was trained, as a Christian and a preacher by Mr. Henry's Commentary..."


Matthew Henry's commentary was used by many who helped to bring about in the 1700s, what has been called "the great awakening".   But it was written during a time when doubts about the Bible - its author, its purity, its infallibility - and about the divinity of Jesus Christ were beginning to be raised in places of higher learning.   New doctrines were gathering a following.   And those who held fast to the belief in the infallibility of the Word of God were being challenged.  Matthew Henry was one who did not waver.


During the time of his father, Rev. Phillip Henry, who became a non-conformist the year of Matthew's birth in 1662, as well as during his own time, non-conformists or dissenters were being shunned and often denied the right to preach and to have a church of their own.  It was the latter half of the 1600s after the restoration of the Stuart monarchy and the expulsion of the Puritan Commonwealth government of Oliver Cromwell.


When it was time for Matthew to attend college, his father would normally have selected for him Christ Church, Oxford.   But he saw that the teaching in that college concerning the scriptures had been so altered since the restoration that he opted instead for an academy kept by Thomas Doolittle who trained men for the ministry and was a distinguished figure among Protestant Dissenters.

Matthew began his studies at Mr. Doolittle's Academy in Islington in 1680.  Two years later, Mr. Doolittle had to leave Islington due to "the persecuting temper of the times", and soon after, all his pupils were dispersed into private homes.  Matthew Henry returned to his father's home.   The times were dark for those who would not compromise Biblical doctrines.


In 1685, three years later, he decided to study law instead and entered Gray's Inn in London.   During his time in London while studying law, he started prayer groups and Bible studies among his friends.   The next year, however, he decided against continuing his study of the law and responded to the Lord's call that he preach whether or not he had a church of his own.   He returned to his home and began to preach in private homes.


Two years later, the king allowed for the first time the right for dissenters to preach if they came to London and bought a license which cost at the time 10 pounds.  Now for the first time dissenters could worship publicly.  Matthew Henry was ordained this year in a private ordination among those who shared his views.


Trumbull in his introduction to Henry's Commentary says this about Henry's character.

"In regard to public affairs, he was never guilty of profaning the worship of God by introducing anything obnoxious to the government, or offensive to persons of any party; nor on the other hand, by giving flattering titles to any description of men.   The state of the reformed churches abroad was much upon his heart, and he was a fervent intercessor for those of them that suffered persecution for righteousness sake.   He shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God.   He delighted in preaching Christ and the doctrines of free grace; but also holiness."


After many years of faithful service to his congregation, caring for their spiritual and physical needs, he accepted a call to a pastorate in London.  He was much sought after as a speaker and expounder of scripture, but he had always turned down calls to other churches in order to remain faithful to his own church.  However, he accepted this call in 1704 and it was while in London and after recovering from a serious illness, that he began work on his Commentary.


In 1714, ten years later, he died.  Attending his funeral, in addition to the many dissenting ministers, were many from other denominations, and a universal respect was paid to him, even by those who were no friends of the dissenters.   But the attempts to silence the dissenters continued.   This same year the British parliament voted to suppress the schools of the dissenters.
 

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