Matthew Henry (1662–1714) was a notable Presbyterian minister and author in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, most known for his comprehensive commentary on the Bible. The Reformed tradition shaped Henry’s theology, and the Puritans deeply influenced him.
Matthew Henry held strong Reformed beliefs. He upheld Sola Scriptura, viewing the Bible as the supreme authority. Covenant Theology and Predestination were central to his worldview. He believed in Justification by Faith Alone and observed the Regulative Principle of Worship in Christian practices.
How does Sola Scriptura compare to other views on Scripture? What is Covenant Theology? What is predestination, and how does it contrast with free-will theology? What are the key aspects of the Regulative Principle? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.
Matthew Henry Believed in Sola Scriptura
Like other Reformed theologians, Henry firmly believed in the concept of Sola Scriptura – that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. This belief is clearly visible in his exhaustive commentary on the entire Bible.
|Aspect||Sola Scriptura||Non-Sola Scriptura|
|Definition||The belief that the Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice.||The belief that the Bible is the primary, but not the sole, source of theological authority.|
|Role of Tradition||Tradition is valuable but subordinate to Scripture. Scripture tests and corrects tradition.||Tradition, reason, and experience are used alongside Scripture to guide faith and practice.|
|Handling of Disputes||Scripture alone is used to settle theological disputes.||Scripture, tradition, reason, and sometimes experience are used together to settle theological disputes.|
|Typical Adherents||Protestants, especially those from Reformed traditions.||Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some mainline Protestants.|
He Affirmed Covenant Theology
Matthew Henry held to Covenant Theology, which sees God’s relationship with humanity through the lens of two main covenants, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.
|Definition||The belief that God’s relationship with humanity is understood through two or three overarching covenants: works, grace, and sometimes redemption.||The belief that God’s dealings with humanity are divided into distinct periods or “dispensations.”|
|Israel and the Church||The Church is seen as the continuation or fulfillment of Israel.||Israel and the Church are generally seen as separate entities with distinct futures.|
|Interpretation of Scripture||More likely to employ a typological or spiritual interpretation of prophecy.||Often favors a more literal interpretation of prophecy, including Old Testament promises to Israel.|
|Salvation||Salvation has always been by grace through faith, in all ages/dispensations.||While salvation is always by grace, the specific requirements or expectations can vary between dispensations.|
|Eschatology (end times)||Amillennial and postmillennial views are common, but premillennial views are also possible.||Often premillennial, specifically pre-tribulational.|
Henry Held to Predestination
As a Presbyterian, he would have affirmed the doctrine of predestination, that God has chosen those who will be saved.
|Definition||The belief that God, before the foundation of the world, chose who would be saved and who would not.||The belief that humans have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation.|
|God’s Sovereignty||God is completely sovereign over salvation, including the decision of who will be saved.||God’s sovereignty allows for human free will; God sovereignly chose to give humans the ability to choose.|
|Role of Human Will||Humans choose God because God first chose them. The will is freed by God to believe.||Humans can choose to accept or reject God. This choice is not predetermined.|
|Basis of Salvation||Salvation is based solely on God’s grace and election, not on any human decision or merit.||While salvation is through God’s grace, human free will plays a role in accepting or rejecting this grace.|
|Security of Salvation||Typically affirms “perseverance of the saints” — those God has chosen cannot lose their salvation.||Views vary; some believe it is possible to lose salvation, while others hold to “eternal security” with conditions.|
He Believed in Justification by Faith Alone
He held the Reformation belief that salvation is by faith alone, not by works, yet a living faith will result in a life of good works.
|Aspect||Justification by Faith Alone||Justification by Faith and Works|
|Definition||The belief that faith in Jesus Christ is the sole means by which a person is justified, or declared righteous, before God.||The belief that faith in Jesus Christ and the works produced by that faith contributes to a person’s justification before God.|
|Role of Faith||Faith alone, apart from works, is the instrument through which one is justified.||Faith, while necessary, is not sufficient for justification without the accompaniment of good works.|
|Role of Works||Good works are the fruit and evidence of justifying faith but do not contribute to justification.||Good works play a contributory role in one’s justification and are necessary for salvation.|
|Grace||Salvation is entirely by God’s grace. Faith itself is a gift from God and not a work.||Grace initiates salvation and faith, but a faithful response of good works is also necessary.|
|Typical Adherents||Most Protestant denominations, especially those from Reformed traditions.||Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and some mainline Protestant denominations.|
Regulative Principle of Worship
The Regulative Principle of Worship is a doctrine held by some Christian denominations, particularly those in the Reformed tradition, which teaches that the corporate worship of God is to be regulated strictly by what Scripture commands. The key characteristics of the Regulative Principle of Worship are:
Biblical Regulation: Worship practices must be directly prescribed in the Bible. This means if a particular practice or element is not commanded in the Bible, it should not be included in worship.
God’s Sovereignty: This principle upholds the belief in God’s sovereignty, asserting that God has the authority to determine how He should be worshiped.
Simplicity in Worship: The regulative principle often results in more simplistic worship services devoid of practices not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, such as liturgical dance, drama performances, or even certain instruments.
Protection against Innovation: The regulative principle aims to guard against human innovation in worship, keeping the focus on God and His Word.
Focus on Word and Sacrament: Adherents believe that the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, as ordained in the New Testament, are the central elements of worship.
Controversy: It is a subject of controversy even within Reformed circles due to differences in interpreting what constitutes a “biblical command” for worship.
Also, see Best Christian Commentaries for more.