great point gained, if ministers could learn the art of studying their sermons with the heart as well as the head; and I know of few things which would more effectually tend to bring this about, than a frequent and serious perusal of Henry's Commentary, especially if fervent prayer were combined with the reading.
But after all that I have said, with the view of exhibiting the characteristics of this work, I am sensible that such general description can, at best, afford but inadequate ideas of the spirit and style of an author, so peculiar in his manner. There is in good writing, as in the human countenance, an expression, which mere words cannot depict. There is a penetrating savour,—a diffusive spirit, which takes hold of the feelings of the reader, and for the time, assimilates his emotions and sentiments to those of the writer. To understand how this effect is produced by the tones of the living voice, accompanied with the animated expression of the countenance of a public speaker, is not so difficult; but to explain how the composition of one, long since dead, should still retain that penetrating, spirit-stirring energy, which we find in the writings of men, whose hearts were warm with holy affections, is not easy. The fact, however, is certain; we experience the salutary effect, when we peruse their works. In reading for edification, therefore, it is of much greater utility to apply ourselves to the writings of men, who, while they wrote, felt the sacred flame of divine love glowing in their breasts, than to such as excel in mere intellectual vigour, or in elegance of style.
My principal object in this preface is, to persuade those who may take the trouble to read it, to enter seriously and resolutely on the perusal of the following work. Whatever other books of this kind may be possessed, still Henry's Exposition will prove a treasure to any family, if it be diligently studied; without which no book can be useful.
Hitherto, this commentary has not been in general use in this country, because copies were not abundant; and the price of the work placed it beyond the reach of many, who would have been much pleased to possess it: but now, when a cheap, handsome American edition is issuing from the press, there is the best reason to hope, that it will be widely circulated and extensively read. It is worthy of notice, also, that the work is now presented to the public, not only in a very clear type, but also in a portable and convenient form. Many persons, who have not much leisure for reading, are intimidated at the sight of folio volumes; and to every one their use is inconvenient. But I am still apprehensive, that the number and bulk of the volumes, will be a formidable obstacle to many. They will be apt to think, that they have neither time nor patience to finish such a task, and therefore will be disposed to decline the undertaking. But such persons ought to reflect, that it will not be necessary to read the whole, to obtain the benefit of a part; a single book perused with care, will not be without its advantage. There is no solid reason, however, for those persons, who sincerely wish to study the Scriptures, to be discouraged by the extent of the work: for, although viewed in mass, it may seem to be an almost endless labour to those who can devote but little time to reading; yet, if any one would form a simple calculation, he would find, that the task can be accomplished with ease, in a very reasonable time.