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Heroes of the Faith: 2014 marks 300th anniversary of ‘Commentary on the Whole Bible’ author Henry’s deathcomment (0)

June 19, 2014

By Joanne Sloan

Matthew Henry (1662–1714) wrote “Commentary on the Whole Bible,” the most famous and most widely used commentary in the world. English Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon said of the classic work: “Every minister ought to read it entirely and carefully through once at least.”

This year marks the 300th anniversary of Henry’s death June 22, 1714.

He was born near Wales on Oct. 18, 1662. His father, Philip Henry, had been expelled from his Anglican church because he disagreed with the liturgy introduced by the Act of Uniformity in 1662.

Although he was born sickly and weak, Matthew Henry’s aptitude for learning was demonstrated by his reading some of the Bible at age 3. His father educated him at home until he was 18. He was then sent to an academy in London to study for two years. 

After surviving a serious fever at the age of 10, he was convicted about his spiritual condition after hearing a sermon on judgment. “I was under great fear of hell,” he said, “till the Lord comforted me. I, having engaged in serious examination — what hopes I have that when I die and leave this earthly tabernacle I shall be received into heaven — I have found several marks that I am a child of God.” He made a public profession of faith several years later. 

In 1685 he went to London to study law. He left within a year to preach. Ordained in London, on June 2, 1687, he became a nonconformist pastor of a Presbyterian congregation at Chester. He remained there for 25 years.

Matthew Henry experienced much personal tragedy. His first wife died in childbirth. He and his second wife lost three infant children. He refused to stop working.

His legacy rests upon his famous, massive commentary. In 1704 he collected the vast amount of notes and writings he had made on the Bible during his ministry. His knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, as well as his wide reading, aided him in his writing. On Nov. 12, 1704, he started work on his exposition of the Old Testament and completed it July 18, 1712. He completed an exposition of the New Testament through Acts on April 17, 1714, two months before his death. Others took up his work using his notes and completed Romans through Revelation.

His six-volume “Commentary” quickly became an indispensable reference work for many Christians. It conveyed doctrinal truths in a simple, yet clear manner. Evangelist George Whitefield read it through four times, the last time on his knees.

Last visit

Matthew Henry accepted a call to a church in Hackney, London, in 1712, but he often returned to Chester. His last visit was to preach in June 1714. Returning to London, he reached Nantwich on June 21. The next morning he suffered a stroke and died soon afterward. His body was returned to Chester, where he was interred in the Anglican church building beside his first wife.

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