Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 1.djvu/23

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MOST readers of a work which has acquired any degree of celebrity, feel a desire to know something of the author; and that desire is increased, in proportion as they find themselves interested in the work itself. It may therefore be presumed, that the readers of Mr. Henry's writings, which have long been in high repute in the religious world, will wish for some information concerning the character and life of that excellent man, whose pen produced so many admirable performances. This is not merely an innocent, but a laudable curiosity, which we are happy to have the present opportunity of gratifying, on the republication of his smaller pieces, as well as his larger work on the Bible; most of which pieces have long been out of print; and we are persuaded, that the more the author is known, the greater pleasure pious readers will feel in the perusal of his writings.

A Life of Mr. Henry was published, shortly after his decease, by his intimate friend, the Rev. Mr. Tong, but it is now become exceedingly scarce; and though it contains a just character and a faithful narrative, drawn from personal knowledge, as well as from private papers, the manner in which it is drawn up is not the most pleasing, the writer being then far advanced in life; and it is rendered prolix, and even tedious, by the insertion of too many extracts from his diary, and too many articles relative to Mr. Henry's acquaintance and his own, as well as various other particulars, which at this distance of time are become uninteresting. On these accounts it was judged advisable, instead of reprinting that work, to compose a new one. In this, however, all that appeared interesting in the former is retained, and whatever else could be collected, is inserted, particularly in relation to his settlement at Hackney, where some persons were living when the writer of this first came to that place, who had the happiness to be Mr. Henry's hearers, and remembered him well.

Mr. Matthew Henry was the second son of the eminently pious and excellent Mr. Philip Henry, whose Life, published by him, is an admirable piece of biography, and who was ejected by the Act of Uniformity from his living in the parish of Worthenbury, in Flintshire, A. D. 1662. This his son was born October 28, in the same year, which also, he observes with pleasure in his diary, gave birth to many other ministers of his acquaintance, to whom God had appointed more peaceful days than their predecessors, whom their brethren, who hated them, had cast out. His birthplace was Broad-Oak, in Iscoid, Flintshire, within the parish of Malpal, which is in Cheshire; a district signalized in the British annals for the famous monastery of Bangor. Hither his father removed but a fortnight before his birth, not being suffered any longer to continue in the place of his former ministry; and here he spent the remainder of his days. Mr. Henry's mother was Mrs. Katharine Matthews, the daughter and heiress of Mr. Daniel Matthews, a gentleman of an ancient family and a considerable estate, which, upon his death, came into the possession of Mr. Philip Henry, by which he was enabled to live in comfort after his ejectment, and not only preach the gospel gratis, as he had opportunity, but likewise to relieve several of his necessitous brethren. But his wife proved to him a greater treasure, as she was a woman equally eminent for piety and every other endowment. Her son has done ample justice to her character, in an excellent discourse, occasioned by her death, on Prov. xxxi. 28. Her children arise up, and call her blessed. It is subjoined to the Life of his father.

The circumstances of Mr. Henry's birth were rather remarkable. Besides its being premature, (as the writer of this has been credibly informed,) his mother's labour was so sudden, that she was delivered before any assistance could be procured; and he was so weakly a child that no one expected him to live. He was therefore baptized the next day after he was born, by Mr. Holland, the minister of the parish, but without godfather or godmother; and his father desired the sign of the cross might not be used, but the minister said he durst not omit it.

When he was about five years old, he had the measles, by which his brother, who was a year older than himself, was cut off; a circumstance which deeply affected him, and which he noticed with great seriousness, in a paper written on his birth day, when he had completed his thirteenth year, wherein he drew out a list of the mercies which he had received, with lively expressions of gratitude to the Author of them. He long continued weakly, subject to agues and other complaints; but he very early discovered a good mental capacity, and a thoughtful turn, so that it was remarked his childhood had less of vanity than that of most children, and that at an earlier period than is usual, he put away childish things. He was able to read a chapter in the Bible distinctly when he was but about three years old, and was used to make pertinent remarks on what he read.

His first abiding convictions of religion, according to his own written account, in the paper above referred to, were wrought when he was ten years of age, in consequence of a sermon preached by his excellent father, on Psalm li. 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. "I think it was that," says he, "that melted me: afterward I began to inquire after Christ." He was early accustomed to make memorandums of the sermons which he heard, and of the effect they had upon his mind. From one of these papers, dated December 17,