That Matthew Henry's commentaries are still being reprinted nearly 300 years after his death and found in many serious Christian homes is a testimony to the soundness and acceptability of his teaching. Although there are edited and concise editions, yet no home should be without his large 6 volume set. The amazing thing about Henry's commentary is that it is recommended by many who basically agree with him in the fundamentals of the faith, but who almost violently disagree with him in the matters of his adherance to Calvinism.
1) MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY - A FIVE POINT CALVINIST COMMENTARY
Secondly, The privilege of regeneration (Joh_1:13): Which were born. Note, All the children of God are born again; all that are adopted are regenerated. This real change evermore attends that relative one. Wherever God confers the dignity of children, he creates the nature and disposition of children. Men cannot do so when they adopt. Now here we have an account of the original of this new birth. 1. Negatively. (1.) It is not propagated by natural generation from our parents. It is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of corruptible seed, 1Pe_1:23. Man is called flesh and blood, because thence he has his original: but we do not become the children of God as we become the children of our natural parents. Note, Grace does not run in the blood, as corruption does. Man polluted begat a son in his own likeness (Gen_5:3); but man sanctified and renewed does not beget a son in that likeness. The Jews gloried much in their parentage, and the noble blood that ran in their veins: We are Abraham's seed; and therefore to them pertained the adoption because they were born of that blood; but this New Testament adoption is not founded in any such natural relation. (2.) It is not produced by the natural power of our own will. As it is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, so neither is it of the will of man, which labours under a moral impotency of determining itself to that which is good; so that the principles of the divine life are not of our own planting, it is the grace of God that makes us willing to be his. Nor can human laws or writings prevail to sanctify and regenerate a soul; if they could, the new birth would be by the will of man. (Comments on John 1:12)
Secondly, The reason why they did not believe his report was because the arm of the Lord was not revealed to them (Joh_6:65): Therefore said I unto you that no man can come to me, except it be given unto him of my Father; referring to Joh_6:44. Christ therefore could not but know who believed and who did not, because faith is the gift and work of God, and all his Father's gifts and works could not but be known to him, for they all passed through his hands. There he had said that none could come to him, except the Father draw him; here he saith, except it be given him of my Father, which shows that God draws souls by giving them grace and strength, and a heart to come, without which, such is the moral impotency of man, in his fallen state, that he cannot come. (Comments on John 6:65)
And blessed be God that there are many brethren; though they seem but a few in one place at one time, yet, when they come all together, they will be a great many. There is, therefore, a certain number predestinated, that the end of Christ's undertaking might be infallibly secured. Had the event been left at uncertainties in the divine counsels, to depend upon the contingent turn of man's will, Christ might have been the first-born among but few or no brethren - a captain without soldiers and a prince without subjects - to prevent which, and to secure to him many brethren, the decree is absolute, the thing ascertained, that he might be sure to see his seed, there is a remnant predestinated to be conformed to his image, which decree will certainly have its accomplishment in the holiness and happiness of that chosen race; and so, in spite of all the opposition of the powers of darkness, Christ will be the first-born among many, very many brethren. (Comments on Romans 8:28)
1. In respect of those to whom he shows mercy, Rom_9:15, Rom_9:16. He quotes that scripture to show God's sovereignty in dispensing his favours (Exo_33:19): I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. All God's reasons of mercy are taken from within himself. All the children of men being plunged alike into a state of sin and misery, equally under guilt and wrath, God, in a way of sovereignty, picks out some from this fallen apostatized race, to be vessels of grace and glory. He dispenses his gifts to whom he will, without giving us any reason: according to his own good pleasure he pitches upon some to be monuments of mercy and grace, preventing grace, effectual grace, while he passes by others. The expression is very emphatic, and the repetition makes it more so: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. It imports a perfect absoluteness in God's will; he will do what he will, and giveth not account of any of his matters, nor is it fit he should. As these great words, I am that I am (Exo_3:14) do abundantly express the absolute independency of his being, so these words, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, do as fully express the absolute prerogative and sovereignty of his will. To vindicate the righteousness of God, in showing mercy to whom he will, the apostle appeals to that which God himself had spoken, wherein he claims this sovereign power and liberty. God is a competent judge, even in his own case. Whatsoever God does, or is resolved to do, is both by the one and the other proved to be just. Eleēsō on han heleō - I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. When I begin, I will make an end. Therefore God's mercy endures for ever, because the reason of it is fetched from within himself; therefore his gifts and callings are without repentance. Hence he infers (Rom_9:16), It is not of him that willeth. Whatever good comes from God to man, the glory of it is not to be ascribed to the most generous desire, nor to the most industrious endeavour, of man, but only and purely to the free grace and mercy of God In Jacob's case it was not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; it was not the earnest will and desire of Rebecca that Jacob might have the blessing; it was not Jacob's haste to get it (for he was compelled to run for it) that procured him the blessing, but only the mercy and grace of God. Wherein the holy happy people of God differ from other people, it is God and his grace that make them differ. Applying this general rule to the particular case that Paul has before him, the reason why the unworthy, undeserving, ill-deserving Gentiles are called, and grafted into the church, while the greatest part of the Jews are left to perish in unbelief, is not because those Gentiles were better deserving or better disposed for such a favour, but because of God's free grace that made that difference. The Gentiles did neither will it, nor run for it, for they sat in darkness, Mat_4:16. In darkness, therefore not willing what they knew not; sitting in darkness, a contented posture, therefore not running to meet it, but anticipated with these invaluable blessings of goodness. Such is the method of God's grace towards all that partake of it, for he is found of those that sought him not (Isa_65:1); in this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. Our eye therefore must not be evil because his is good; but, of all the grace that we or others have, he must have the glory: Not unto us, Psa_115:1. (Comments on Romans 9:15-16)
Here is also the rule and the fontal cause of God's election: it is according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph_1:5), not for the sake of any thing in them foreseen, but because it was his sovereign will, and a thing highly pleasing to him. It is according to the purpose, the fixed and unalterable will, of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph_1:11), who powerfully accomplishes whatever concerns his elect, as he has wisely and freely fore-ordained and decreed, the last and great end and design of all which is his own glory: To the praise of the glory of his grace (Eph_1:6), that we should be to the praise of his glory (Eph_1:12), that is, that we should live and behave ourselves in such a manner that his rich grace might be magnified, and appear glorious, and worthy of the highest praise. All is of God, and from him, and through him, and therefore all must be to him, and centre in his praise. Note, The glory of God is his own end, and it should be ours in all that we do. (Comments on Ephesians 1:4-5)
By the extent of his plea, the latitude of his propitiation. It is not confined to one nation; and not particularly to the ancient Israel of God: He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only (not only for the sins of us Jews, us that are Abraham's seed according to the flesh), but also for those of the whole world (1Jo_2:2); not only for the past, or us present believers, but for the sins of all who shall hereafter believe on him or come to God through him. The extent and intent of the Mediator's death reach to all tribes, nations, and countries. As he is the only, so he is the universal atonement and propitiation for all that are saved and brought home to God, and to his favour and forgiveness. (Comments on 1 John 2:2)
[2.] That the Father will, without fail, bring all those to him in due time that were given him. In the federal transactions between the Father and the Son, relating to man's redemption, as the Son undertook for the justification, sanctification, and salvation, of all that should come to him(“Let me have them put into my hands, and then leave the management of them to me”), so the Father, the fountain and original of being, life, and grace, undertook to put into his hand all that were given him, and bring them to him. Now,
First, He here assures us that this shall be done: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, Joh_6:37. Christ had complained (Joh_6:36) of those who, though they had seen him, yet would not believe on him; and then he adds this...
... b. For his own comfort and encouragement: Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious. The election has obtained, and shall though multitudes be blinded, Rom_11:7. Though he lose many of his creatures, yet none of his charge: All that the Father gives him shall come to him notwithstanding. Here we have, (a.) The election described: All that the father giveth me, pan ho didōsi - every thing which the Father giveth to me; the persons of the elect, and all that belongs to them; all their services, all their interests. As all that he has is theirs, so all that they have is his, and he speaks of them as his all: they were given him in full recompense of his undertaking. Not only all persons, but all things, are gathered together in Christ (Eph_1:10) and reconciled, Col_1:20. The giving of the chosen remnant to Christ is spoken of (Joh_6:39) as a thing done; he hath given them. Here it is spoken of as a thing in the doing; he giveth them; because, when the first begotten was brought into the world, it should seem, there was a renewal of the grant; see Heb_10:5, etc. God was now about to give him the heathen for his inheritance (Psa_2:8), to put him in possession of the desolate heritages (Isa_49:8), to divide him a portion with the great, Isa_53:12. And though the Jews, who saw him, believed not on him, yet these (saith he) shall come to me; the other sheep, which are not of this fold, shall be brought, Joh_10:15, Joh_10:16. See Act_13:45-48. (b.) The effect of it secured: They shall come to me. This is not in the nature of a promise, but a prediction, that as many as were in the counsel of God ordained to life shall be brought to life by being brought to Christ. They are scattered, are mingled among the nations, yet none of them shall be forgotten; not a grain of God's corn shall be lost, as is promised, Amo_9:9. They are by nature alienated from Christ, and averse to him, and yet they shall come. As God's omniscience is engaged for the finding of them all out, so is his omnipotence for the bringing of them all in. Not, They shall be driven, to me, but, They shall come freely, shall be made willing. (Comments on John 6:37)
3. That they should be so in the day of his power, in the day of thy muster (so some); when thou art enlisting soldiers thou shalt find a multitude of volunteers forward to be enlisted; let but the standard be set up and the Gentiles will seek to it, Isa_11:10; Isa_60:3. Or when thou art drawing them out to battle they shall be willing to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes, Rev_14:4. In the day of thy armies (so some); “when the first preachers of the gospel shall be sent forth, as Christ's armies, to reduce apostate men, and to ruin the kingdom of apostate angels, then all that are thy people shall be willing; that will be thy time of setting up thy kingdom.” In the day of thy strength, so we take it. There is a general power which goes along with the gospel to all, proper to make them willing to be Christ's people, arising from the supreme authority of its great author and the intrinsic excellency of the things themselves contained in it, besides the undeniable miracles that were wrought for the confirmation of it. And there is also a particular power, the power of the Spirit, going along with the power of the word, to the people of Christ, which is effectual to make them willing. The former leaves sinners without matter of excuse; this leaves saints without matter of boasting. Whoever are willing to be Christ's people, it is the free and mighty grace of God that makes them so. (Comments on Psalm 110:3)
Whom he did predestinate those he also called, not only with the external call (so many are called that were not chosen, Mat_20:16; Mat_22:14), but with the internal and effectual call. The former comes to the ear only, but this to the heart. All that God did from eternity predestinate to grace and glory he does, in the fulness of time, effectually call. The call is then effectual when we come at the call; and we then come at the call when the Spirit draws us, convinces the conscience of guilt and wrath, enlightens the understanding, bows the will, persuades and enables us to embrace Christ in the promises, makes us willing in the day of his power. It is an effectual call from self and earth to God, and Christ, and heaven, as our end - from sin and vanity to grace, and holiness, and seriousness as our way. This is the gospel call. Them he called, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand: we are called to that to which we were chosen. So that the only way to make our election sure is to make sure our calling, 2Pe_1:10. (Comments on Romans 8:29)
2. That they had reason to fear, lest they themselves should be found hypocrites at last; for many are called but few chosen. This is applied to the Jews (Mat_22:14); it was so then, it is too true still; many are called with a common call, that are not chosen with a saving choice. All that are chosen from eternity, are effectually called, in the fulness of time (Rom_8:30), so that in making our effectual calling sure we make sure our election (2Pe_1:10); but it is not so as to the outward call; many are called, and yet refuse (Pro_1:24), nay, as they are called to God, so they go from him (Hos_11:2, Hos_11:7), by which it appears that they were not chosen, for the election will obtain, Rom_11:7. Note, There are but few chosen Christians, in comparison with the many that are only called Christians; it therefore highly concerns us to build our hope for heaven upon the rock of an eternal choice, and not upon the sand of an external call; and we should fear lest we be found but seeming Christians, and so should really come short; nay, lest we be found blemished Christians, and so should seem to come short, Heb_4:1. (Comments on Matthew 20:16)
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
IV. Whom he justified those he also glorified. The power of corruption being broken in effectual calling, and the guilt of sin removed in justification, all that which hinders is taken out of the way, and nothing can come between that soul and glory. Observe, It is spoken of as a thing done: He glorified, because of the certainty of it; he hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling. In the eternal glorification of all the elect, God's design of love has its full accomplishment. This was what he aimed at all along - to bring them to heaven. Nothing less than that glory would make up the fulness of his covenant relation to them as God; and therefore, in all he does for them, and in them, he has this in his eye. Are they chosen? It is to salvation. Called? It is to his kingdom and glory. Begotten again? It is to an inheritance incorruptible. Afflicted: It is to work for them this exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Observe, The author of all these is the same. It is God himself that predestinated, calleth, justifieth, glorifieth; so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him. Created wills are so very fickle, and created powers so very feeble, that, if any of these did depend upon the creature, the whole would shake. But God himself hath undertaken the doing of it from first to last, that we might abide in a constant dependence upon him and subjection to him, and ascribe all the praise to him - that every crown may be cast before the throne. This is a mighty encouragement to our faith and hope; for, as for God, his way, his work, is perfect. He that hath laid the foundation will build upon it, and the top-stone will at length be brought forth with shoutings, and it will be our eternal work to cry, Grace, grace to it. (Comments on Romans 8:30)
Thirdly, He has undertaken for their security and preservation to this happiness.
a. They shall be saved from everlasting perdition. They shall by no means perish for ever; so the words are. As there is an eternal life, so there is an eternal destruction; the soul not annihilated, but ruined; its being continued, but its comfort and happiness irrecoverably lost. All believers are saved from this; whatever cross they may come under, they shall not come into condemnation. A man is never undone till he is in hell, and they shall not go down to that. Shepherds that have large flocks often lose some of the sheep and suffer them to perish; but Christ has engaged that none of his sheep shall perish, not one.
b. They cannot be kept from their everlasting happiness; it is in reserve, but he that gives it to them will preserve them to it. (a.) His own power is engaged for them: Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. A mighty contest is here supposed about these sheep. The Shepherd is so careful of their welfare that he has them not only within his fold, and under his eye, but in his hand, interested in his special love and taken under his special protection (all his saints are in thy hand, Deu_33:3); yet their enemies are so daring that they attempt to pluck them out of his hand - his whose own they are, whose care they are; but they cannot, they shall not, do it. Note, Those are safe who are in the hands of the Lord Jesus. The saints are preserved in Christ Jesus: and their salvation is not in their own keeping, but in the keeping of a Mediator. The Pharisees and rulers did all they could to frighten the disciples of Christ from following him, reproving and threatening them, but Christ saith that they shall not prevail. (b.) His Father's power is likewise engaged for their preservation, Joh_10:29. He now appeared in weakness, and, lest his security should therefore be thought insufficient, he brings in his Father as a further security. Observe, [a.] The power of the Father: My Father is greater than all; greater than all the other friends of the church, all the other shepherds, magistrates or ministers, and able to do that for them which they cannot do. Those shepherds slumber and sleep, and it will be easy to pluck the sheep out of their hands; but he keeps his flock day and night. He is greater than all the enemies of the church, all the opposition given to her interests, and able to secure his own against all their insults; he is greater than all the combined force of hell and earth. He is greater in wisdom than the old serpent, though noted for subtlety; greater in strength than the great red dragon, though his name be legion, and his title principalities and powers. The devil and his angels have had many a push, many a pluck for the mastery, but have never yet prevailed, Rev_12:7, Rev_12:8. The Lord on high is mightier. [b.] The interest of the Father in the sheep, for the sake of which this power is engaged for them: “It is my Father that gave them to me, and he is concerned in honour to uphold his gift.” They were given to the Son as a trust to be managed by him, and therefore God will still look after them. All the divine power is engaged for the accomplishment of all the divine counsels. [c.] The safety of the saints inferred from these two. If this be so, then none (neither man nor devil) is able to pluck them out of the Father's hand, not able to deprive them of the grace they have, nor to hinder them from the glory that is designed them; not able to put them out of God's protection, nor get them into their own power. Christ had himself experienced the power of his Father upholding and strengthening him, and therefore puts all his followers into his hand too. He that secured the glory of the Redeemer will secure the glory of the redeemed. Further to corroborate the security, that the sheep of Christ may have strong consolation, he asserts the union of these two undertakers: “I and my Father are one, and have jointly and severally undertaken for the protection of the saints and their perfection.” This denotes more than the harmony, and consent, and good understanding, that were between the Father and the Son in the work of man's redemption. Every good man is so far one with God as to concur with him; therefore it must be meant of the oneness of the nature of Father and Son, that they are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. The fathers urged this both against the Sabellians, to prove the distinction and plurality of the persons, that the Father and the Son are two, and against the Arians, to prove the unity of the nature, that these two are one. If we should altogether hold our peace concerning this sense of the words, even the stones which the Jews took up to cast at him would speak it out, for the Jews understood him as hereby making himself God (Joh_10:33) and he did not deny it. He proves that none could pluck them out of his hand because they could not pluck them out of the Father's hand, which had not been a conclusive argument if the Son had not had the same almighty power with the Father, and consequently been one with him in essence and operation. (Comments on John 10:28)
We might have added more verses and comments to these, but we trust that we have proved our point.
2) MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY - A REFUTATION OF HYPER CALVINISM COMMENTARY
MATTHEW HENRY BELIEVED IN THE FREE OFFER OF THE GOSPEL
II. The commission which he gave them to set up his kingdom among men by the preaching of his gospel, the glad tidings of reconciliation to God through a Mediator. Now observe, 1. To whom they were to preach the gospel. Hitherto they had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and were forbidden to go into the way of the Gentiles, or into any city of the Samaritans; but now their commission is enlarged, and they are authorized to go into all the world, into all parts of the world, the habitable world, and to preach the gospel of Christ to every creature, to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews; to every human creature that is capable of receiving it. “Inform them concerning Christ, the history of his life, and death, and resurrection; instruct them in the meaning and intention of these, and of the advantages which the children of men have, or may have, hereby; and invite them, without exception, to come and share in them. This is gospel. Let this be preached in all places, to all persons.” These eleven men could not themselves preach it to all the world, much less to every creature in it; but they and the other disciples, seventy in number, with those who should afterward to be added to them, must disperse themselves several ways, and, wherever they went, carry the gospel along with them. They must send others to those places whither they could not go themselves, and, in short, make it the business of their lives to send those glad tidings up and down the world with all possible fidelity and care, not as an amusement or entertainment, but as a solemn message from God to men, and an appointed means of making men happy. “Tell as many as you can, and bid them tell others; it is a message of universal concern, and therefore, ought to have a universal welcome, because it gives a universal welcome.” (Mark 16:15)
MATTHEW HENRY BELIEVED IN THE DUTY AND NEED OF EVANGELISM:
He staid so long, 1. For the bringing in of those that were without. Christ had many people there, and by the power of his grace he could have had them all converted in one month or week, as at the first preaching of the gospel, when thousands were enclosed at one cast of the net; but God works variously. The people Christ has at Corinth must be called in by degrees, some by one sermon, others by another; we see not yet all things put under Christ. Let Christ's ministers go on in their duty, though their work be not done all at once; nay, though it be done but a little at a time.2. For the building up of those that were within. (Comments on Acts 18:10)
MATTHEW HENRY TAUGHT THAT MEN ARE FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SINS AND THE SOLE AUTHORS OF THEIR OWN CONDEMNATION:
(1.) Read here the doom of those that will not believe in Christ: they are condemned already. Observe, [1.] How great the sin of unbelievers is; it is aggravated from the dignity of the person they slight; they believe not in the name of the only-begotten Son of God, who is infinitely true, and deserves to be believed, infinitely good, and deserves to be embraced. God sent one to save us that was dearest to himself; and shall not he be dearest to us? Shall we not believe on his name who has a name above every name? [2.] How great the misery of unbelievers is: they are condemned already; which bespeaks, First, A certain condemnation. They are as sure to be condemned in the judgment of the great day as if they were condemned already. Secondly, A present condemnation. The curse has already taken hold of them; the wrath of God now fastens upon them.They are condemned already, for their own hearts condemn them. Thirdly, A condemnation grounded upon their former guilt: He is condemned already, for he lies open to the law for all his sins; the obligation of the law is in full force, power, and virtue, against him, because he is not by faith interested in the gospel defeasance; he is condemned already, because he has not believed. Unbelief may truly be called the great damning sin, because it leaves us under the guilt of all our other sins; it is a sin against the remedy, against our appeal. (Comments on John 3:18)
[4.] Wilful ignorance is so far from excusing sin that it will be found, at the great day, to aggravate the condemnation: This is the condemnation, this is what ruins souls, that they shut their eyes against the light, and will not so much as admit a parley with Christ and his gospel; they set God so much at defiance that they desire not the knowledge of his ways, Job_21:14. We must account in the judgment, not only for the knowledge we had, and used not, but for the knowledge we might have had, and would not; not only for the knowledge we sinned against, but for the knowledge we sinned away. For the further illustration of this he shows (Joh_3:20, Joh_3:21) that according as men's hearts and lives are good or bad, so they stand affected to the light Christ has brought into the world. (Comments on John 3:19)
[2.] The Spirit, in conviction, fastens especially upon the sin of unbelief, their not believing in Christ, First, As the great reigning sin. There was, and is, a world of people, that believe not in Jesus Christ, and they are not sensible that it is their sin. Natural conscience tells them that murder and theft are sin; but it is a supernatural work of the spirit to convince them that it is a sin to suspend their belief of the gospel, and to reject the salvation offered by it. Natural religion, after it has given us its best discoveries and directions, lays and leaves us under this further obligation, that whatever divine revelation shall be made to us at any time, with sufficient evidence to prove it divine, we accept it, and submit to it. This law those transgress who, when God speaketh to us by his Son, refuse him that speaketh; and therefore it is sin. Secondly, As the great ruining sin. Every sin is so in its own nature; no sin is so to them that believe in Christ; so that it is unbelief that damns sinners. It is because of this that they cannot enter into rest, that they cannot escape the wrath of God; it is a sin against the remedy. Thirdly, As that which is at the bottom of all sin; so Calvin takes it. The Spirit shall convince the world that the true reason why sin reigns among them is because they are not by faith united to Christ. - Let us not suppose that, apart from Christ, we have a drop of rectitude. - Calvin. (Comments on John 16:8)
3) MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BY NON CALVINIST WRITERS
NOTE: These are men/organisations which are noted for the opposition to Calvinism
JOHN WESLEY wrote at length about Matthew Henry's commentary; too much to reproduce it all here. The whole may be found in Volume 14 of Wesley's works where there is a detailed list of all the books etc., which he abridged or revised. Wesley decided to abridge it because it was too long and beyond the pocket of many who would otherwise profit. He claimed not to have tinkered with the sentiments of the writer: "And let it not be objected, that the making any alteration with regard to a point of doctrine is a misrepresentation of the author’s sense, and consequently an injury done to him. It would be so, if an alteration were made of his words, so as to make them bear a different meaning; or if any words were recited as his which he did not write. But neither of these is the case. Nothing is recited here as written by him which he did not write. Neither is any construction put upon his words different from his own. But what he wrote in favor of particular redemption is totally left out. And of this I here give express notice to the reader once for all."
3. Indeed these considerations, the last in particular, still appear to me of such weight, that I cannot entertain a thought of composing a body of Notes on the whole Old Testament. All the question remaining was, “Is there extant any Exposition which is worth abridging?” Abundantly lesstime will suffice for this, and less abilities of every kind. In considering this question, I soon turned my thought on the well-known Mr. Henry. He is allowed by all competent judges to have been a person of strong understanding, of various learning, of solid piety, and much experience in the ways of God. And his exposition is generally clear and intelligible, the thoughts being expressed in plain words: It is also sound, agreeable to the tenor of Scripture, and to the analogy of faith. It is frequently full, giving a sufficient explication of the passages which require explaining. It is in many parts deep, penetrating farther into the inspired writings than most other comments do. It does not entertain us with vain speculations, but is practical throughout; and usually spiritual too, teaching us how to worship God, not in form only, but “in spirit and in truth.”
4. But it may be reasonably inquired, “If Mr. Henry’s exposition be not only plain, sound, full, and deep, but practical, yea, and spiritual too, what need is there of any other? Or how is it possible to mend this? to alter it for the better?” I answer, Very many who have this have no need of any other, particularly those who believe (what runs through the whole work, and will much recommend it to them) the doctrine of absolute, irrespective, unconditional predestination. I do not advise these much to trouble themselves about any other exposition than Mr. Henry’s; this is sufficient, through the assistance of the blessed Spirit, to make private Christians “wise unto salvation,” and (the Lord applying his word) “thoroughly furnished unto every good work.”
JOHN R RICE was asked to suggest some good historical and prophetical books for study. He said this of Matthew Henry: "But I would start with Matthew Henry. It is sweet, devotional, true to the Bible and teaches salvation by the blood all the way through. It is easy reading. It has good homiletic outlines. Matthew Henry is my favourite of commentaries on the whole Bible." (Dr Rice, Here are more Questions Vol II p.73)
DAVID CLOUD put Matthew Henry at the top of his list of Recommended Commentary Sets and wrote: "EXPOSITION OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS by Matthew Henry (1662-1714). This set of early 18th-century commentaries (first published in part in 1708-10) remains one of the most helpful in print, in my estimation. In many areas we disagree with old Henry's position, but rarely do we regret having consulted him. Henry, a noncomformist Presbyterian pastor, was a master of biblical languages and a diligent Bible student who ransacked the old commentary material of his day to pass the meat along to us. He had a lovely gift for organizing and expressing his thoughts. He died before completing the full commentary, having finished his work only through the book of Acts. The New Testament commentary from Romans to Revelation was completed by 14 contemporary preachers of that day, all dissenters from the Church of England. (Do not settle for an abridged edition of the full set.) There is now an NIV edition of the Matthew Henry Commentary, and it is possible that the publishers will allow the KJV edition to go out of print at some point. We agree with Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon's assessment of Matthew Henry: "You will find him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing with illustrations, superabundant in reflections. Every minister ought to read Matthew Henry entirely and carefully through once at least. You will acquire a vast store of sermons if you read with your note-book close at hand; and as for thoughts, they will swarm around you like twittering swallows around an old gable towards the close of autumn." He notes that George Whitefield read Matthew Henry through four times during his life. All of this reminds us that men of God used to study the Bible much more than do now. I am convinced that if the average independent Baptist preacher were assigned the task of reading through the entire set of Matthew Henry, he would protest that he needed at least 10 years to complete the assignment."
SWORD OF THE LORD PUBLISHERS currently sell Matthew Henry's commentary and include this recommendation on their website: "Read just a few lines of Matthew Henry's biblical insights and you'll discover why this classic commentary written hundreds of years ago is still so relevant today. This redesigned, easy-to-read, one-volume edition offers a valuable, exclusive feature: Matthew Henry's own study outlines in today's language, perfect for developing lessons and sermons and for highlighting the organization of each book and chapter. Unlike some other versions, this edition lets Matthew Henry's inviting wisdom speak for itself. Henry's biblical insights inform and inspire Bible students and devotional readers of all ages. His masterwork reinforces the seamless truth of God's Word. "Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible" will motivate, educate and challenge you as you gain a deeper understanding of God's Word. Ordained in 1687 by the Presbyterian Church, Matthew Henry compiled a total of six volumes of biblical commentary still revered by pastors and exegetes today. His wealth of insights recorded in the "Commentary" and other devotional works and sermons have earned him worldwide acclaim that has transcended the centuries."
We intend to add to this section if and when more material becomes available to us.
4) MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY - PRACTICAL LESSONS TO BE LEARNT
1) Here is the ultimate proof that Calvinists are capable to reading and interpreting the Bible in a balanced way. Of course, this is nothing new. Arminius spoke highly of John Calvin's commentaries, because (as Spurgeon noted) "Of all commentators I believe John Calvin to be the most candid. In his expositions he is not always what moderns would call Calvinistic; that is to say, where Scripture maintains the doctrine of predestination and grace he flinches in no degree, but inasmuch as some Scriptures bear the impress of human free action and responsibility, he does not shun to expound their meaning in all fairness and integrity. He was no trimmer and pruner of texts. He gave their meaning as far as he knew it. His honest intention was to translate the Hebrew and the Greek originals as accurately as he possibly could, and then to give the meaning which would naturally be conveyed by such Greek and Hebrew words: he laboured, in fact, to declare, not his own mind upon the Spirit's words, but the mind of the Spirit as couched in those words." Such might be said also of Matthew Henry. Let those who accuse Calvinists of always reading election etc., into places where it is not found consult Matthew Henry and ponder why then his commentary is found in so many homes of Christians of all schools and has survived so long. Many of the "big names" (for the dire need of another description) in Bible exposition and preaching among all schools were Calvinists. They are consulted, not because (in some quarters) of their Calvinism, but because they were bigger than the Five Points. This is why John Bunyan, to take another example, is so popular. You don't have Calvinism shoved into every scene in Pilgrim's Progress, although it's interpretation of Scripture does form the bedrock of that great allegory.
2) There is a way to propagate any controversial doctrine - Henry captures it completely in these notes. He just lets the Bible do the talking. This is not to say that there is no room for the apologetic route or engaging in debate etc., Perhaps Henry had cause to do that in his day in other situations, but his Commentary sits as his magus opus with its solid observations and practical application, backed up Henry's godly life.
3) Matthew Henry's commentary shows us what can be done for God. Matthew Henry had only 24 hours in his days like the rest of us. He pastored a church as well as writing these notes with all the duties of visiting the sick and evangelising etc.,(He preached often to the prisoners in the local jail and regularly in the local villages.) He laboured without all the mod cons that we take for granted. There were no telephones (mobile or otherwise) in his day or computers or easy access to the internet to a wealth of Bible helps. Yet what an achievement that he should compile such a commentary. It is true that he did not live to see it completed and that 13 others contributed to the portions after the book of Acts. However some of Henry's other material was added. Overall, we have a great example here of a man sold out for God.
4) Great men who profited from Henry's commentary include folk like George Whitefield who claimed to have read this massive 6 volume commentary no less than four times., the last time "on his knees". (See Archibald Alexander's Preface to the American edition here.) CH Spurgeon was another who claimed help from Henry, claiming to have found "him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing with illustrations, superabundant in reflections. Every minister ought to read Matthew Henry entirely and carefully through once at least. You will acquire a vast store of sermons if you read with your note-book close at hand; and as for thoughts, they will swarm around you like twittering swallows around an old gable towards the close of autumn."
We intend to add to this section if and when more material becomes available to us.