A Classic: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
—comments by Greg Strand, EFCA Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible is a classic. It has been used profitably by many since the time it was written. What he accomplished is incredible. In the first installment, the Pentateuch, Henry began with a preface, written on October 2, 1706. In it he spells out six principles. In his final principle, Henry emphasizes the important role of ministers to assist and guide believers in the understanding of the Bible.
I include a quote from Spurgeon on his assessment of the importance of Henry’s Commentary. I also include a link to Henry’s complete Commentary.
Though it is most my concern, that I be able to give a good account to God and my own conscience, yet, perhaps, it will be expected that I give the world also some account of this bold undertaking; which I shall endeavour to do with all plainness, and as one who believes, that if men must be reckoned with in the great day, for every vain and idle word they speak, much more for every vain and idle line they write. And it may be of use, in the first place, to lay down those great and sacred principles which I go upon, and am governed by, in this endeavour to explain and improve these portions of holy writ; which endeavour I humbly offer to the service of those (and to those only I expect it will be acceptable) who agree with me in these six principles:
- That religion is the one thing useful; and to know, and love, and fear God our Maker, and in all the instances both of devout affection, and of good conversation, to keep his commandments, (Eccles. 12:13) is, without doubt, the whole of man; it is all in all to him.
- That divine revelation is necessary to true religion, to the being and support of it. That faith without which it is impossible to please God, cannot come to any perfection by seeing the works of God, but it must come by hearing the word of God, Rom. 10:17.
- That divine revelation is not now to be found nor expected any where but in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and there it is
- That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were purposely designed for our learning.
- That the holy scriptures were not only designed for our learning, but are the settled standing rule of our faith and practice, by which we must be governed now and judged shortly: it is not only a book of general use (so the writings of good and wise men may be), but it is of sovereign and commanding authority, the statute-book of God’s kingdom, which our oath of allegiance to him, as our supreme Lord, binds us to the observance of.
- That therefore it is the duty of all Christians diligently to search the scriptures, and it is the office of ministers to guide and assist them therein.
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), ix-x.
C. H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (1876; repr. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1969), 2-3, wrote the following about Henry’s work:
He is the most pious and pithy, sound and sensible, suggestive and sober, terse and trustworthy. You will find him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing will illustrations, superabundant in reflections… Every minister ought to read Matthew Henry entirely and carefully through once at least.
By the way, the full text of Henry’s work is available at Christian Classics Ethereal Library: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/