Every year during the month-long break between the fall and spring semesters, I try to read a biography or two (Admittedly, my default response when presented with extra leisure time is to fill it with more reading). This year, I am finishing up a short little biography on the English Presbyterian Matthew Henry (1662-1714). Most well-known for his Commentary on the Whole Bible and Method for Prayer, this short little biography by Allan Harman (Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence, Christian Focus, 2012, 208 pages) is a wonderful introduction to the life and impact of this godly man.
Here, I just want to list a few of his choice quotations and aphorisms. As you read these short samplings from the pen of Mr. Henry, I hope that you will appreciate the “gravity in brevity”, and the sense of piety and devotion that they so wonderfully display.
Henry’s works are surprisingly accessible; I’ve found reading him to be no more difficult that reading the King James Version of the Bible. I am convinced that, in the Christian life and in our pursuit of godliness, we have a brilliant aid in Mr. Henry.
I hope to eventually write a fuller review of the book. But for now, consider a few of the rich, little aphorisms of Matthew Henry that Harman lists on page 145:
God’s beloved ones are the world’s hated ones and we are not to marvel at it.
When we come for the pardon of our sins we must come with a Christ in the arms of our faith and love.
In the want of the faith of assurance, live by the faith of adherence.
Are you in doubt about your spiritual state? Put the matter out of doubt by a present consent—if I never did, I do it now!
Every transgression in the covenant doth not put us out of covenant. Especially understand that our salvation is not in our own keeping, but in the hands of the mediator.
Assure yourselves none shall come to heaven hereafter but those that are fitted for it by grace here. ‘Tis only the pure in heart that shall see God (Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14).
Believe that you have a holy God above you, a precious soul within you, and an awful eternity before you, either of weal or woe.
Our rule is to do as we would be done by, not as we are done unto.
God will break those hearts that will never bend.
Grow upwards in heavenly mindedness, downward in humility. Be pressing forward. The way to grow in grace is to use what we have. The Word is the means of our growth. Make daily use of it (2 Tim. 3:17).
I especially appreciate Henry’s emphasis on grace in a Savior who keeps covenant on behalf of his covenant-breaking people, and a Savior who provides the holiness for his people that God requires.
Is the pursuit of Christ-likeness and Godliness an enrichment of our own humanity? The Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews would seem to reason so (Hebrews 2:17, 3:1-6, 4:14-16). Perhaps, then, you will find the life, wisdom, and writings of dear Mr. Henry a help to that end.