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Matthew Henry (18 October 1662 – 22 June 1714) was a nonconformist minister and author, born in Wales but spending much of his life in England. He is best known for the six-volume biblical commentary Exposition of the Old and New Testaments.

Matthew Henry
Born18 October 1662
Flintshire, Wales
Died22 June 1714 (1714-06-23) (aged 51)
Cheshire, England
EducationGray's Inn
Notable work
Exposition of the Old and New Testaments



Henry was born at Broad Oak, Iscoyd, a farmhouse on the borders of Flintshire and Shropshire. His father, Philip Henry, was a Church of England cleric and had just been ejected under the Act of Uniformity 1662. Unlike most of his fellow-sufferers, Philip possessed some private means, and was thus able to give his son a good education. Henry's sister was diarist Sarah Savage.[1] Matthew went first to a school at Islington, at that time a village just outside London, and then to Gray's Inn, in the heart of the capital. He soon gave up his legal studies for theology, and in 1687 became minister of a Presbyterian congregation at Chester.[2] While in Chester, Henry founded the Presbyterian Chapel in Trinity Street.[3] He moved again in 1712 to Mare Street, Hackney. Two years later, on 22 June 1714, he died suddenly of apoplexy at the Queen's Aid House (41 High Street) in Nantwich, while on a journey from Chester to London.[4]

Literary workEdit

The Biblical commentaries written by Matthew Henry

Henry's well-known six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (1708–10) or Complete Commentary, provides an exhaustive verse-by-verse study of the Bible, covering the whole of the Old Testament, and the Gospels and Acts in the New Testament. After the author's death, the sixth volume (Romans through Revelation) was finished by thirteen other nonconformist ministers, partly based upon notes taken by Henry's hearers. The entire Commentary was re-edited by George Burder and John Hughes in 1811.[5]

Henry's commentaries are primarily exegetical, dealing with the scripture text as presented, with his prime intention being explanation, for practical and devotional purposes. While not being a work of textual research, for which Henry recommended Matthew Poole's Synopsis Criticorum, Henry's Exposition gives the result of a critical account of the original as of his time, with practical application.[5][6] It was considered sensible and stylish, a commentary for devotional purposes.

Famous evangelical Protestant preachers such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon used and heartily commended the work, with Whitefield reading it through four times – the last time on his knees.[7] Spurgeon stated, "Every minister ought to read it entirely and carefully through once at least."[8] John Wesley, who himself published an abbreviated edition of the Commentary, wrote of 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 found, 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.[9]

Several abbreviated editions of the Commentary were published in the twentieth century; more recently the Christian linguist and author of reference books, Martin H. Manser, edited a version in modern English: The New Matthew Henry Commentary: The Classic Work with Updated Language.

Anti-papism in the CommentaryEdit

In agreement with many other reformed Christian theologians, the Commentary identifies the "man of sin", the focus of latter day apostasy, and the Antichrist as the papacy in his interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The author lists three "blasphemous titles" that he states have been attached to the "bishops of Rome".[10]

This stridently anti-papist passage in the Commentary was not directly authored by Henry, but occurs in the sixth volume, on Romans to Revelation, completed posthumously by his thirteen friends, as noted above. It has been influential nonetheless.

Worthy of note is that this "Son of Perdition sets himself forth as God". The present participle ("sets forth continually") reveals that this presumptive posture is characteristic of the Man of Sin.[11]

This person represents himself as God, either:

  • by making claims that belong only to deity;
  • by receiving adoration reserved exclusively for God; or,
  • by usurping prerogatives which only God can accomplish.


Perhaps his best-known quotation is about the relationship between men and women, from the story of the creation of Eve, in the Book of Genesis:

The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.[12]

Although John Trapp wrote something similar before Matthew Henry was born:

And he took one of his ribs. The woman was made of a bone, saith a reverend writer, (c) and but one bone, {ne esset ossea} lest she should be stiff and stubborn. The species of the bone is expressed to be a rib, a bone that might be best spared, because there are many of them: a bone of the side, not of the head; the wife must not usurp authority over her husband: nor yet of the foot; she is not a slave, but a fellow-helper. A bone, not of any anterior part; she is not praelata, preferred before the man: neither yet of any hinder part; she is not post-posita, set behind the man: but a bone of the side, of the middle and indifferent part, to show that she is a companion, and "the wife of thy covenant". [Malachi 2:14] A bone she is from under the arm, to put man in mind of protection and defence to the woman. A bone not far from his heart, to put him in mind of dilection and love to the woman. A bone from the left side, as many think likely, (d) where the heart is, to teach that hearty love ought to be betwixt married couples. (John Trapp Complete Commentary, Genesis)[13]


In 1860, a memorial was erected in Chester to commemorate Henry. This consists of an obelisk designed by Thomas Harrison that incorporates a bronze medallion by Matthew Noble. The obelisk originally stood in the churchyard of St Bridget's Church, and was moved in the 1960s to stand on a roundabout opposite the entrance to Chester Castle.[3]



  1. ^ Patricia M. Crawford; Laura Gowing (2000). Women's Worlds in Seventeenth-century England. Psychology Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-0-415-15637-0.
  2. ^ "Henry, Matthew". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Volume 13.
  3. ^ a b Morris, Edward; Roberts, Emma (2012), Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside (excluding Liverpool), Public Sculpture of Britain, 15, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, pp. 66–67, ISBN 978-1-84631-492-6
  4. ^ Religious Tract Society, Christian Biography: Lives of William Cowper, Mrs. Ann H. Judson, Anna Jane Linnard, Matthew Henry, 1799, Matthew Henry
  5. ^ a b "Matthew Henry Minister and Bible commentator". Christian Biography Resources. Wholesome words. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  6. ^ "General Information", Henry, Matthew, Blue Letter Bible, 19 September 2010 [1 March 1996], archived from the original on 9 October 2012
  7. ^ Schaff, Philip, "Matthew Henry", The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, V, TLogical
  8. ^ Commenting and Commentaries, p. 3
  9. ^ Wesley, John, Preface to the Old Testament Notes, NNU, retrieved 23 September 2015
  10. ^ Henry, Matthew. (1991). Matthew Henry's commentary. v.6 (New Modern ed.) Peabody, Mass. : Hendrickson Publishers. p. 643. ISBN 9781598564358
  11. ^ "Who Is Paul's "Man of Sin"?". Christian Courier. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Genesis 2". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Genesis 2 Commentary - John Trapp Complete Commentary".
  14. ^ "Matthew Henry's Miscellaneous Writings". Copac. Retrieved 5 December 2009.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Henry, Matthew" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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