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FRONT PORCH GOSPEL: Scholars Henry, Maclaren join us on the ‘Front Porch’

Part 1

Every now and then I will run across a writer whom I find particularly intriguing. I was just a young man when I happened onto a one-volume commentary on the Bible by Matthew Henry, written in 1706. I say “happened onto” because I do not remember how I came across it, whether a gift or something I picked up on my own. Over the years I wore that bulky commentary out, and its cover hung by a thread for as long as I can remember. I continued to use it that way until my friend Carl Martin gave me his set, saying, “I want you to have this. I’d rather read on-line.”

I appreciated the gift tremendously, because I still like to hold a book in my hand. It was especially nice that it was a six-volume set, allowing me to grab one book at a time and not have to lug around a boulder. Its print also was slightly bigger than the medicine-bottle print in the old commentary, a feature my tiring eyes continue to appreciate. For years now, whether using the old volume or the new, I seldom do a study without reading – underlining as I go – the thoughts of Matthew Henry. Although he was a Methodist preacher, he refers to the “church of Christ” the same way I do, understanding the truth of the singularity of the church of the New Testament.

I ran across another writer about a year ago, this one a Baptist preacher who lived from 1826-1910 in Glasgow, Scotland. Just as it is with Matthew Henry, Alexander Maclaren writes in an elegant, fluid style that befits the era in which these men lived. Both writers often require you to stop, re-read a statement a time or two, tap your pencil contemplatingly, and look at the wall while you ponder the depth of some amazing thought.

As difficult as some find Mr. Henry to read, I think Maclaren actually trumps him. If you’ve ever read America’s Henry David Thoreau or Ralph Walden Emerson, then you will recognize the similarities in the style and thinking. Maclaren, in particular, sees the word of God in a deeply spiritual way, similar to Thoreau and Emerson’s view of nature. Their philosophies are completely different, of course, but their mode of thinking is not.

Part 2 (Maclaren) next week

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