"The Better Day The Worse Deed"
Context: Matthew Henry was an English noncomformist clergyman whose father, Philip Henry, was a clergyman before him and was persecuted for his beliefs. Matthew became minister of a Presbyterian church in Chester in 1687, remaining there until 1712. In the latter year he moved to Hackney, and two years later he died suddenly at Nantwich. He wrote a number of doctrinal works and a moving biography of his father, but he is best remembered for his commentaries on the Bible. These represent a truly monumental achievement and were published under the title Expositions of the Old and New Testaments. To many, this lengthy and exhaustive work still holds first place for general usefulness in its field. The lessons which Henry draws from his text are both sound and sensible, and he presents them in memorable fashion. Much use is made of metaphor, analogy, and illustration; the language is direct and simple, homely and warm without loss of dignity. His writing abounds with pithy observations and quotable expressions, and his reflective statements give evidence that his work was a labor of devotion. It is obvious to the reader that Henry had a warm understanding of the world and of man, that he was deeply pious, and that his knowledge of scripture was keen and searching. His commentaries are practical and devotional in nature; they are expositions and explanations of the material and do not undertake to criticize it. In his discussion of the third chapter of Genesis, he describes the transgression of Eve when she partook of the forbidden fruit, and the transgression of Adam when he joined her in surrendering to the wiles of the Serpent. Then he explains the enormity of Adam's guilt in no uncertain terms:
. . . In neglecting the tree of life which he was allowed to eat of, and eating of the tree of knowledge which was forbidden, he plainly shewed a contempt of the favours which God had bestowed on him, and a preference given to those God did not see fit for him. He would be both his own carver, and his own master; would have what he pleased, and do what he pleased; his sin was, in one word, disobedience . . . to a plain, easy, and express command, which, probably, he knew to be a command of trial. He sins against great knowledge, against many mercies, against light and love, the clearest light, and the dearest love, that ever sinner sinned against. He had no corrupt nature within him to betray him; but had a freedom of will, not enslaved, and was in his full strength, not weakened or impaired. He turned aside quickly. Some think he fell the very same day on which he was made: though I see not how to reconcile that with God's pronouncing all very good, in the close of that day: others suppose he fell on the sabbath day; the better day the worse deed: however, it is certain that he kept his integrity but a very little while; being in honour, he continued not. But the greatest aggravation of his sin, was, that he involved all his posterity in sin and ruin by it. God having told him that his race should replenish the earth, surely he could not but know that he stood as a public person, and that his disobedience would be fatal to all his seed; and if so, it was certainly the greatest treachery as well as the greatest cruelty that ever was.