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service, for I am not par negotio; yet in the strength of God, and I hope with a single eye to his glory, I set about it, that I may endeavour something and spend my time to some good purpose, and let the Lord make what use he pleaseth of me. I go about it with fear and trembling, lest I exercise myself in things too high for me. The Lord help me to set about it with great humility.” Yes,—“Fear and trembling,” and “many prayers,”—these are the secret of its success. All the author's fitness, and all his fondness for the work would have availed little, had not the Lord made it grow. In September, 1706, he finished the Pentateuch, and on the 21st of November that year he writes: “This evening I received a parcel of the Exposition of the Pentateuch. I desire to bless God that he has given me to see it finished. I had comfort from that promise, Thou shalt find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
.?” That volume came out separately, and though near her eightieth year, his mother lived to see it, and, scarcely hoping to read all the volume, the good old lady began with Deuteronomy. Every second year produced another volume, till April 17th, 1714, he records: “Finished Acts, and with it the fifth volume. Blessed be God that has helped me and spared me. All the praise be to God.” Two months after he ceased from all his labours, and Dr. Evans and others took up the fallen pen. They completed a sixth volume, but did not continue “Matthew Henry.”
The zest with which he began lasted all along. So dear was the employment that it was not easy to divert him from it, and each possible moment was devoted to it. Even when roused from slumber hy illness in the family, his
eye would brighten at the sight of it, and he would draw in his studying-chair“ to do a little at the exposition.” What he says in the preface to the Prophecies—his least successful volume—will awaken the fellow-feeling of the reader, and remind him of Bishop Horne's touching farewell to the Book of Psalms. “The pleasure I have had in studying and meditating on those parts of these prophecies which are plain and practical, and especially those that are evangelical, has been an abundant balance to and recompense for the harder tasks we have met with in other parts that are more obscure. In many parts of this field the treasure must be digged for, as that in the mines; but in other parts the surface is covered with rich and precious products, with corn and flocks, and of which we may say, as was said of Noah, ' These same have comforted us greatly concerning our work, and the toil of our hands,' and have made it
very pleasant and delightful. God grant it may be no less so to the readers.”
It would be easy to name commentators more critical, more philosophical, or more severely erudite ; but none so successful in making the Bible understood. And the question with sensible readers will always be, not, What did the commentator bring to the Bible? but, What did he bring out of it? And tried by this test, Henry will bear the perpetual palm. His curious inferences, and his just though ingenious “ Note!”s, are such as could only have occurred to one mighty in the Scriptures, and minute in the particular text; and to the eager Bible-student, they often present themselves with as welcome surprise as the basket of unexpected
ore which a skilful miner sends up from a deserted shaft. Nor dare we admire them the less because detected in passages where our duller eye or blunter hammer had often explored in vain. On the other hand it is possible to name some who have commented more fully on particular books ; but most of them are something more than expositions. They are homiletic notes and expository dissertations. In the language of quaint old Berridge, a preacher is
“Gospel-baker.” In the same idiom, a commentator should be a “ Bible-miller.” Bread-corn must be bruised; and it is the business of the skilful interpreter to give nothing but the text transformed—bread-corn in the guise of flour. This was what Matthew Henry did, and he left it to “ Gospel-bakers” to add the salt and leaven, or mayhap the sugar and the laurel-leaf, and make a sermon or an essay as the case might be.
To its author the exposition was a blessed toil; but he could not foresee the wide acceptance and growing favour which awaited it. He could not anticipate that the most powerful minds of after-ages should be its most ardent admirers, or that the panegyrics should be passed on it which we know that Ryland, and Hall, and Chalmers have pronounced. Still less could it occur to him that the kindness with which cotemporaries received it should be a hundredfold exceeded by a generation so fastidious and book-surfeited as our own. But could its subsequent history have been revealed to his benignant eye, the circumstance which would have elicited the gladdest and most thankful sparkle would have been to behold it in thousands of Christian families, the Sabbath-companion and the household book.
It is not only through the glass doors of stately book-cases that its gilt folios shine, nor on the study-shelves of manses and evangelical parsonages that its brown symbol of orthodoxy may be recognised; but in the parlour of many a quiet tradesman, and the cupboard of many a little farmer, and on the drawers-head of many a mechanic or day-labourer, the well-conned quartos hold their ancestral station, themselves an abundant library, and hallowed as the heirloom of a bygone piety. In the words of a beloved friend, who has done much for Henry's Commentary, “It has now lasted more than one hundred and thirty years, and is at this moment more popular than ever, gathering strength as it rolls down the stream of time; and it bids fair to be The Comment for all coming time. True to God, true to nature, true to common sense, and true to the text, how can it ever be superseded? Waiting pilgrims will be reading it when the last trumpet sounds, Come to judgment."
FROM THE FUNERAL SERMONS
DEATH OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY.
DANIEL WILLIAMS, D.D., AND REV. W. TONG.
FROM SERMON BY D. WILLIAMS, ŪD.
ALL of you must die, “it is appointed.” You shail die when, and where, and how the Lord pleaseth, whether you consent or not. But would you find death unstung, and friendly? Would you have Christ receive your departing souls, to fit them for, and admit them into, the heavenly mansions? Would you find it a release from all that is grievous, and to be a "joyful entrance into the everlasting kingdom of your Saviour ?" Then live unto the Lord. These are inseparably joined by the gospel constitution. Oh ask then, to whom do you live, is it to God or the devil ? After what do you walk, is it after the flesh or the Spirit ? This is your seed-time; “ If you sow to the Spirit, you shall reap life everlasting: if you sow to the flesh, you shall of the flesh reap corruption.” It is high time the youngest of you should begin to live to the Lord, for you may die in youth. It is truest wisdom in any of you who have begun,