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FILM REVIEW: Matthew Henry — The life and times of the Bible commentator

By Dan Pugh
May 2020 | Review by Matthew Cox
  • Publisher: Media Gratiae
  • ISBN: 978-0-28108-069-4
  • Price: $24.00
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Book Review

Although the name of Matthew Henry has become synonymous with the whole-Bible commentary which he authored in the early 18th century, there is also much to learn from his remarkable life and the tumultuous times through which he lived. This two-hour documentary film traces the main events of Henry’s biography and the effects of his ministry in his own day and subsequently.

Born in 1662, the year of the Act of Uniformity, he grew up with a deep awareness of its effects, his father Philip being among the ejected ministers. The film describes Matthew’s Puritan upbringing, including his conversion, love of the Scriptures, and early thoughts of ministry.

There is an attractive account of his first pastorate in Chester from 1687. There he laboured diligently in visitation, catechising, young people’s meetings, prison ministry, and work among the elderly. His congregation grew as sinners were saved and believers were drawn to his biblical teaching. And he was much in demand as a counsellor, travelling long distances by horseback to provide spiritual care to ministers and churches throughout Cheshire and Northeast Wales.

Having refused numerous invitations to pastor other churches, Henry moved to a smaller congregation in Hackney in 1712, despite having misgivings. Again his impressive ministerial efforts are demonstrated, as is his growing reputation for his printed sermons and other writings, which are summarised in the documentary.

It is good to be reminded of the sadness and hardships of family life in times gone by. Henry suffered the bereavement of his first wife, three daughters by his second wife, both his parents, and two of his sisters. He went on to adopt his late sister’s four orphaned children.

Inevitably much attention is given to his famous commentary, which Henry began writing for pleasure in his spare time! The film presents testimonies from present day Christians who commend it for both sermon preparation and personal reading. They point out the elegant prose, pointed application, and Christ-centred devotion which account for its enduring global appeal.

The documentary is presented by Philip Eveson with warmth and sparkle, much of it filmed at locations in Cheshire and London which featured in Henry’s life. Interest is maintained through written excerpts of his letters and diaries, and interviews with expert contributors including Joel Beeke, Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, Allan Harman, Stuart Olyott, and Jeremy Walker.

This is an interesting and enjoyable film, produced to a high professional standard and recommended enthusiastically for all Christians. Readers can purchase it on DVD from https://shop.mediagratiae.org/collections/all-products/products/matthew-henry-doc, or streamed online at https://mediagrati.ae/henrydoc (the websites convert the price into Pound Sterling).

Matthew Cox

Bethersden, Kent

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