Friday, April 9, 2010

MHCC 28: Bishop Patrick

In Matthew Henry's Commentary, he often refers to the "learned bishop Patrick." For those reading along in the Matthew Henry Commentary Challenge, and for others who may be interested, it is worthwhile to note that Henry is not referring to St. Patrick, Bishop of Ireland, but Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707), the Biblical commentator. The reader will note that Henry refers to, often quotes, and relied significantly upon, Patrick's Commentary on the Historical and Poetical Books of the Old Testament (1693-1727) which covers from Genesis to the Song of Solomon. In the preface to the first volume of his commentary, Henry writes:

The learned have of late received very great advantage in their searches into this part of holy writ, and the books that follow (and still hope for more), by the excellent and most valuable labours of that great and good man bishop Patrick, whom, for vast reading, solid judgment, and a most happy application to these best of studies, even in his advanced years and honours, succeeding ages no doubt will rank among the first three of commentators, and bless God for him.

Patrick was convinced of episcopal church government, despite being trained by men such as Herbert Palmer, the Westminster divine, and yet, as an irenic man, he was friendly towards nonconformists, even in the post-Restoration era. His commentary and devotional works have long been appreciated for their gospel flavor. Patrick himself was a patron of Matthew Poole's Latin Synopsis Criticorum.

The Comprehensive Commentary upon the Holy Bible
refers to Patrick thus:

He was a sincere Christian, an excellent scholar, a judicious commentator, an able writer, and a worthy, honest man. His style of writing was easy and pleasant; his attachment to truth inviolable and active. His works are replete with sound sense and true religion; and his 'Sermons,' 'Tracts against Popery,' and 'Paraphrases and Commentaries upon the Holy Scriptures,' justly entitle him to the eulogy of [Gilbert] Burnet, 'that he was an honor to the church, and to the age in which he lived.'

As a young man, as he records in his Autobiography, found in his Works, Vol. 9, pp. 424-425, he wrote "in a little book that...set out a great many rules and admonitions to himself, which be well disposed to do God service." These provide a window into his soul and are therefore worth noting here:

Remember thy promises when made a minister. Remember the preciousness of a soul; how much we should do for its good. Read St. Chrysostom xxix. Hom. in Rom. Observe every good motion in thy spirit, and cherish them. Let them not die, lest God's Spirit depart from thee. Consider often how long thou hast lived, and how ignorant still thou art: now almost twenty-seven years old, and yet a child. Pray to God to learn thee the divine skill of working truths into thy heart as principles of life; that they may be as fixed and settled there, as the understanding and will, and all the natural faculties are.

Remember my father's saying, "The more you spend, the more you have; viz. in spiritual things."

Look upon prayer as that which, in the very act of it, brings thee the blessing thou most desirest. For when we beg any heavenly quality, if our mind be intent towards it, that very intention works and frames our soul into that disposition. We become more able to act any virtue, by desiring it earnestly in prayer.

Embrace that which is good in any man, and look not strangely upon him because he differs from thee in some opinions.

Be moderate in thy desires of what thou hast not; and moderate in the use of what thou hast.

Be sure to mend that in thyself which thou observest dost exceedingly displease thee in others.

By such meditations as these, (which I shall not further relate,) I find my endeavour was, blessed be God, to frame myself to a holy temper of mind; having no other design in the world (as it there follows in a pious desire) but to be good and to do good; no other interest but to please God, and to enjoy him and glorify his name.

And now you know a little about the "learned bishop Patrick" to whom Matthew Henry alludes.


  1. Thanks for your post on Bishop Patick. Having just read a passage in Matthew Henry's commentary where he referred to him, I became interested in the connection between the two. Your research in this matter has been a help to me to gain insight.


  2. You're very welcome, Adam. Blessings!

  3. Thank you for the article. I came across this just like Adam, the author of the previous comment. Is the commentary by Bishop Patrick available online?


  4. You're most welcome. Yes, his commentary is indeed available online. You can find it here: