How do you make Matthew Henry bitesize? Randall Pederson appears to have done it. According to his introduction, Pederson, a research assistant at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, took a break from his normal work to select and edit 366 passages from Henry’s great 18th-century commentary.
He gently updated the English to become more accessible to the 21st century reader; he replaced KJV quotations with the language of the ESV; and added a heading and Scripture text (usually, though not always, a text from the passage being commented upon) to each daily two- or three-hundred-word section.
The whole thing ended up a leather-bound ‘Matthew Henry for the departure-lounge generation’. The result is pleasing.
I did not expect Matthew Henry’s commentary to be easy to convert into daily readings. I thought his lengthy expositions would resist the editor’s knife and only hold together when seen as a whole and alongside an open Bible with the full passage in view. But I was wrong.
The full passage is given in a footnote, so that readers can refer to it if they like, but the daily comments sit well as units in their own right.
They spur on to holiness; encourage a re-tightening of grip upon Christ; or perhaps deliver a short, sharp rebuke. This is no doubt a testimony to Pederson’s care in his selection process.
He skilfully handles the language, retaining Henry’s pithy and poetic turn-of-phrase, but removing the smokescreen of ‘haths’ and ‘thences’ that the plain-speaking commentator might have shunned were he writing today.
For it is Matthew Henry himself who is the hero here. His easy style, heart-engagement with the Bible and pastoral wisdom make the 300-year gap seem unimportant. This little devotional is a worthy companion for any Christian prepared to stop and chew on good meat for ten minutes every day. Well done, Mr Pederson. Thank you, Mr Henry.