“I actually grew up on Matthew Henry. Henry’s positive attitude was something I needed. I grew up in a more depressing, hyper-Calvinistic tendency where religion was, I wouldn’t say a burden, but it was very, very heavy and there were very few moments of joy. I saw joy in Matthew Henry’s writings―a joy to serve the Lord, a joy to be a minister of the gospel.”
Matthew Henry was a 17th century nonconformist minister and author, born in Wales but spending much of his life in England. Henry is best known for his six-volume commentary on the Bible.
"The more cheerful we are in our religious exercises the more we shall abound in them. 'For all that which you have to do in conformity to the law of God which has been read to you.' . . . Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience."
Henry writes on Nehemiah 8:9–12 in his Commentary on the Whole Bible:
Now Nehemiah is brought in, and not before, in this chapter; he took notice of the people’s weeping. Ezra was pleased to see them so affected with the word, but Nehemiah observed to him, and Ezra concurred in the thought, that it was now unseasonable. This day was holy (it is called a sabbath, Lev. 23:24), and therefore was to be celebrated with joy and praise, not as if it were a day to afflict their souls.
They forbade the people to mourn and weep (Neh. 8:9): Be not sorry (Neh. 8:10); hold your peace, neither be you grieved, Neh. 8:11. Every thing is beautiful in its season; as we must not be merry when God calls to mourning, so we must not frighten and afflict ourselves when God gives us occasion to rejoice. Even sorrow for sin must not grow so excessive as to hinder our joy in God and our cheerfulness in his service . . .
It must be with piety and devotion: The joy of the Lord is your strength. Let it not be a carnal sensual joy, but holy and spiritual, the joy of the Lord, joy in the goodness of God, under the direction and government of the grace of God, joy arising from our interest in the love and favour of God and the tokens of his favour. “This joy will be your strength, therefore encourage it; it will be your strength, First, For the performance of the other duties of the feast.” The more cheerful we are in our religious exercises the more we shall abound in them. Secondly, “For all that which you have to do in conformity to the law of God which has been read to you.” Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience.
Thirdly, “For the resisting of your enemies that are plotting against you.” The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies, and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.
Matthew Henry: The Life and Times of the Bible Commentator - A documentary on the story of the man behind the Commentary, exploring his life, ministry, and context.