A Catalogue Of Mercies
I think it was three years ago that I began to be convinced, hearing a sermon by my father on Psalm 51:17. 'The sacrifices of God are of a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou will not despise.' It think it was that that melted me; afterwards I began to inquire after Christ.
December 7, 1673. on a Sabbath-day morning, I heard a sermon that had in it the marks of true grace. I tried myself by them, and told my father my evidences; he liked them and said, if those evidences were true, (as I think they were) I had true grace. Yet, after this, for two or three days, I was under great fear of hell, till the Lord comforted me. I having been engaged in serious examination--What hope I have that when I die, and leave this earthly tabernacle, I shall be received into heaven--I have found several marks that I am a child of God. His ministers say:
1. There is true conversion where there have been covenant transactions between God and the soul. And I found that there have been such between God and my soul, and I hope in truth and righteousness. If I never did this before, I do it now; for I take God in Christ to be mine. I give up myself to be his in the bond of an everlasting covenant never-to-be-forgotten. But hath it been in truth? As far as I know my own heart, I do it in truth and sincerity. I did it December 7, and September 5, and October 13, and many other times. I do it every day.
2. Where there hath been true repentance for sin, and grief, and shame, and sorrow, for it, as to what is past, with all the ingredients of it, as confession, aggravation, self-judging, self condemning, &c. And I have found this in me, though not in that measure that I should ever affront him as I have done; and ministers have assured me, that having repented of sin and believed on Christ, I am to believe that I am pardoned. Now I have done this, and I do really believe I am forgiven for Christ's sake. This is grounded on several Scriptures, Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 55:7; Matthew 5:4; Acts 2:37,38; Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9. And many other Scriptures there are where God doth expressly call people to return and repent. But hath this sorrow been true? As far as I know my own heart, it hath been true. 'But I sin often.' I lament and bewail it before the Lord, and I endeavor, by the grace of God, to do so no more.
3. Where there is true love of God. For to love the Lord our God with all our soul, and with all our strength, is better than whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices. Now, as far as I know my own heart, I love God in sincerity. But is that love indeed sincere? As far as I can judge it is so; for,
(1) I love the people of God; all the Lord's people shall be my people.
(2) I love the Word of God. I esteem it above all. I find my heart so inclined. I desire it as the food of my soul. I greatly delight in it, both in reading and hearing of it; and my soul can witness subjection to it in some measure. I think I love the Word of God for the purity of it. I love the ministers and messengers of the Word. I am often reading it. I rejoice in the good success of it. All which were given as marks of true love for the Word, in a sermon I lately heard on Psalm 119:140: 'Thy word is pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.'"
And later, when Henry was 20 years old, he wrote:
1. That I am endued with a rational, immortal soul, capable of serving God here, and enjoying Him hereafter, and was not made as the beasts that perish.
2. That having powers and faculties, the exercise of them has been no wise obstructed by frenzies, lunacy, &c., but happily continued in their primitive (nay happily advanced to greater) vigor, and activity.
3. That I have all my senses; that I was neither born, nor by accident made, blind, or deaf, or dumb, either in whole, or in part.
4. That I have a complete body in all its parts; that I am not lame or crooked, either through original, or providential want, or a defect, or the dislocation of any part, or member.
5. That I was formed, and curiously fashioned by an All wise hand in the womb, and there kept, nourished, and preserved, by the same gracious hand, till the appointed time.
6. That, at that appointed time, I was brought into the world, the living child of a living mother; and that, though means were wanting, yet He that can work without means, was not.
7. That I have been ever since comfortably provided for with bread to eat, and raiment to put on, not for necessity only, but for ornament, and delight; and that without my pains or cares.
8. That I have had a very great measure of health (the sweetness of all temporal mercies), and that when infectious diseases have been abroad, I have hitherto been preserved from them.
9. That, when I have been visited with sickness, it hath been in measure, and heath hath been restored to me, when a brother dear, and companion as dear, hath been taken away at the same time, and by the same sickness.
10. That I have been kept and protected from many dangers that I have been exposed to by night and by day, at home and abroad, especially in journeys.
11. That I have had comfortable accommodations as to house, lodging, fuel, &c.' and have been a stranger to the wants of many thousands in that hand.
12. That I was born to a competency of estate in the world so that, as long as God pleases to continue it, I am likely to be on the giving, and not on the receiving hand.
13. That I have had, and still have comfort, more than ordinary, in relations; that I am blessed with such parents as few have, and sisters also that I have reason to rejoice in.
14. That I have had a liberal education, having a capacity for, and been bred up to, the knowledge of the language, arts, and sciences; and that, through God's blessing on my studies, I have made some progress therein.
15. That I have been born in a place and time of gospel light; that I have had the Scriptures, and means for understanding them, by daily expositions, and many good books; and that I have had a heart to give myself to, and delight in the study of them.
16. That I have been hitherto enabled so to demean myself, as to gain a share in the love, and prayers of God's people.
17. That I was in infancy brought within the pale of the visible Church in my baptism.
18. That I had a religious education, the principles of religion instilled into me with my very milk, and from a child have been taught the knowledge of God.
19. That I have been endued with a good measure of praying gifts, being enabled to express my mind to God in prayer, in words of my own, not only alone, but as the mouth of others.
20. That God hath inclined my heart to devote and dedicate myself to him, and to His service, and the service of His Church in the work of the ministry, if ever He shall please to use me.
21. That I have had so many sweet, and precious opportunities, and means of grace, Sabbaths, sermons, sacraments, and have enjoyed, not only the ordinances, themselves, the shell, but communion with God the Kernel.
22. That I have a good hope, through grace, that, being chosen of God from eternity, I was, in the fullness of time called, and that good work begun in me, which I trust God will perform.
23. That I have had some sight of the majesty of God, the sweetness of Christ, the evil of sin, the worth of my soul, the vanity of the world, and the reality, and weight of invisible things.
24. That when I have been in doubt I have been guided; in danger I have been guarded; in temptation I have been succored [comforted]; under guilt I have been pardoned; when I have prayed, I have been heard and answered; when I have been under afflictions they have been sanctified; and all by Divine grace.
25. That I am not without hope, that all these mercies are but the earnest of more, and pledges of better in the kingdom of glory; and that I shall rest in Abraham's bosom, world without end.
26. Lastly; thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, the fountain and foundation of all my mercies. Amen. Hallelujah. Matthew Henry, October 18, 1682