1902 Encyclopedia > Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry
English commentator on the Bible and Presbyterian minister

MATTHEW HENRY, (1662-1714), the author of the well known and justly popular Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, was born at Broad Oak, a farm-house on the confines of Flintshire and Shropshire, on the 18th of October 1662. He was the son of Philip Henry, one of the 2000 ministers who were ejected from their livings in 1662 for refusing to conform to the Act of Uniformity. Unlike the majority of his fellow-sufferers, Philip Henry, who through his wife was the possessor of private means, was spared all personal privation or hardship as the con-sequence of his nonconformity, and was thus enabled to give a good education to his son. Having received his preliminary education from his father and a tutor named Turner, Henry was next removed to an academy at Islington, whence he proceeded to become a student of law at Gray's Inn. His legal studies, however, had not advanced far when he relinquished them for theology, to which he thenceforth devoted himself. In 1687 he became minister of a Pres-byterian congregation at Chester, whence in 1712 he was translated to Hackney. Two years later (June 22, 1714), he died suddenly of apoplexy at Nantwich while on a journey from Chester to London. Henry's Exposition, the work by which he is now chiefly remembered, is a commen-tary of a practical and devotional rather than of a critical kind, ranging over the whole of the Old Testament and extending into the New as far as to the end of the Acts. At this point it was broken off by the author's death, but the work was finished by a number of clergymen, whose names are recorded in most editions of the book. In a critical point of view, it may be said to be quite valueless; yet its unfailing good sense, its discriminating thought, its high moral tone, its simple piety, and its altogether singular felicity of practical application, combine with the well-sus-tained flow of its racy English style to secure for it, and deservedly, the foremost place among works of its class.

Besides the Exposition, Matthew Henry wrote a Life of Mr Philip Henry; The Communicant's Companion ; Directions for Daily Communion with God; A Method for Prayer; and A Scriptural Catechism, all of which, along with numerous sermons, have been frequently reprinted, both separately and in complete editions of his Miscellaneous Works. His life has been written by W. Tong (London, 1816), by Davis (prefixed to Exposition, ed. 1844), by Hamilton (Christian Biography, 1853), by C. Chapman (1859), and by J. B. Williams (1828, new ed. 1865).

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