I have been so delighted with the book reviews I have been offered over the last several months and this one is no exception. I have been a fan of Matthew Henry’s commentaries for years, and have quoted my favorite Henry quote (click here to read it) to many an infertile woman. Like most, I have read and used his commentaries without ever knowing much about the man himself, so when offered a chance to review a biography of his life, I was decidedly enthusiastic.
As indicated by the title, the book is divided into two parts. The first is a very complete chronological account of Henry’s life and times, including one of the best summaries of the Puritan era in England I have ever read, and a chapter devoted to the life of Patrick Henry – Matthew’s father and greatest influence. Biographies have two potential pitfalls: a dry delineation of dates and facts, or a work so filled with speculation on the subjects emotions and thoughts as to be almost fictional. Harman manages to write a compelling factual biography without wandering into the realm of conjecture. Where the original sources are silent, Harman acknowledges the absence without apologizing or hypothesizing. He does, however, draw such a clear picture of Matthew Henry’s life, that I found myself tearing up a little as the final biographical chapter that contained Henry’s death drew to its inevitable conclusion.
The second portion of the book is a systematic analysis of Henry’s primary areas of influence. This includes Matthew Henry the Preacher, Matthew Henry the Commentator, his other writings, and his impact on Christendom. It is here that Harman allows his voice to stand out and his admiration for the subject of his work is clear. I really enjoyed the second half of the book with one exception. There are pages at the beginning of each influence chapter that seem to be copied verbatim from the biographical chapters. Having just read those chapters, with the material so fresh in my mind, I would have preferred a brief summary. This being my only complaint, I am happy to heartily recommend Matthew Henry: His Life andInfluence by Allan Harman to anyone who has used Matthew Henry’s commentaries and would like to make the acquaintance of the pastor’s heart behind the words.
From the CFP website:
Allan Harman has had a life-time interest in exposition of the biblical text, and also in the history of interpretation. He is Research Professor of Old Testament at the Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. He has lectured and preached in many countries, and continues to serve as the senior editor of the Reformed Theological Review, Australia’s oldest theological journal.
Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence is a publication of Christian Focus Publications who provided me a digital copy of the book for review purposes. I was not required to write a favorable review, nor was I compensated in any way. You can find my disclosure statement here.