Besides, some truths, not more important than many others, occupy a large space in systems of polemic theology, because they have often been opposed or disputed.
No man who has written so much, and expressed so many opinions, as Mr. Henry has done in this commentary, will be likely to have the concurrence of any one thinking man, on every minute point; but it would be extremely difficult to find a book of such extent, which unites so many minds in its approbation. Men, who seem to differ considerably in doctrinal views, read this work respectively, with pleasure and edification. It is no difficult matter, indeed, to ascertain the author's theological opinions which are freely expressed, when the exposition of Scripture requires it; but he is moderate, and cautious of giving offence to those who differ from him; and by his unceasing effort to give a practical turn to every passage, he conciliates the pious reader's mind, even while he delivers opinions which he cannot adopt.
The end at which the author aimed, and of which he never lost sight in expounding a single text, was, to make men wise unto salvation; and the whole tendency of the work is to produce spiritual wisdom, an ardent love of holiness, and a conscientious and diligent regard to all the revealed will of God, in the performance of public and private duties.
It is an excellency, in this commentary, that the truths of Scripture are adapted, with great spiritual skill, to the various afflictions, conflicts, and temptations which are incident to the christian life. The erring will here find reproof and direction, the sluggish excitement, the timid encouragement, the mourner comfort, and the growing christian, confirmation, and increase of knowledge and assurance.
It may be more necessary for the unlearned to read such works as this, than for the learned; yet I am persuaded, that there is no man living, however learned, but might derive much practical instruction from Henry's Exposition of the Bible: and if ministers of the gospel would spend much time in perusing this work, it would manifest itself by the richness and spirituality of their sermons and lectures. The celebrated George Whitefield states, when speaking of his preparation for the work of the ministry, that he had read the whole of Henry's Exposition of the Bible, on his knees. One principal reason why young clergymen, who possess this work, derive less benefit from it than they might, is, that they are in the habit, probably, of merely consulting the work, occasionally, when they want some aid in composing a sermon, or preparing an expository lecture for their people. But the full value of this commentary will never be perceived by those who thus use it. It should be carefully read, in course, and with a view to personal improvement. It is a melancholy fact, that our intellect may be vigorously exercised in discovering and arranging truths of the most important and practical kind, without the least personal edification. This is one of the many snares to which preachers of the gospel are liable, and from which it results, that their hearers often derive much more benefit from their studies, than they do themselves. It would be a
- See the author's general Preface, prefixed to the 1st volume.