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matter too low, and sometimes such as a wise and good man
How great a talent he had in PREACHING, is sufficiently known, from the many sermons of his which are before the public. He was very happy in his choice of subjects, and of apposite texts, especially on particular occasions and occurrences, public or private, which he was always ready to improve. His method in his sermons was just and easy; his language plain, sententious, and scriptural; his elocution natural, and free from any odd or affected tone; his address was popular, earnest, and affectionate; both he himself and his auditory were often transported into tears. The strain of his preaching was spiritual, evangelical, and practical. He shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. He delighted preaching Christ and the doctrines of free grace; but with equal zeal he preached up holiness in all its branches, constantly affirming it to be a faithful saying, That they who believe in God should be careful to maintain good works. He was indeed so practical a preacher, and sometimes used such a phraseology in treating on practical subjects, that some have censured him as being too legal; but he was no more of a legalist than the apostle James, whom he knew well how to reconcile with the apostle Paul.
various directions concerning each. After this, he delivered another series, on relative duties in all their extent. These, with some others in connexion with them, brought him to the year 1698, when he began a body of divinity, which (with occasional discourses) occupied him till the year 1712. Thoso who wish to see the whole plan, which is very extensive and methodical, are referred to Mr. Tong's Life of the author; where may be seen a sketch of his lectures on a weekday, and his sacramental discourses.
Mr. Henry's judgment and practice in this matter deserve the serious consideration of those who perpetually sing Hymns of mere human compotion almost to the exclusion of David's Pealms.
Another part of Mr. Henry's constant work was CATECHISING, in which he engaged with peculiar delight, from his affection to the young; for which he was eminently qualified, by his happy talent for adapting his instructions to the weakest capacities. The timo which he set apart for this service was the Saturday afternoon, when many besides the catechumens were used to attend, and esteemed it a profitable exercise. He usually spent about an hour in it, and both began and ended with prayer, in which his expressions were very plain and affectionate. He used the Assembly's Catechism with the elder children: but did not content himself with hearing them repeat the answers, but divided them into several short propositions, and put a distinct question to each, explaining every part in a familiar manner, and supporting it by a suitable text of scripture. His method of catechising may be seen in the addition to the Assembly's Catechism which he published, which is entitled, A Scripture Catechism in the method of the Assembly's ;' a text of scripture being annexed to the answer to every subordinate question, grounded on the general answer in that system; by which means children had a large collection of scripture passages treasured up in their memories.
But we are informed that an excellent and judicious friend of Mr. Henry, "Mr. CHARLTON of Manchester, thinking even the Shorter Catechism of the Assembly too long for children, and some parts of it too abstruse, and quite above their capacity, desired and pressed Mr. Henry to draw up a shorter and plainer catechism for children very young," which accordingly he did; and in the collection of his works it is prefixed to the former. Its title is, "A plain Catechism for Children." To which is added, "Another for the instruction of those who are to be admitted to the Lord's Supper."
In this work of catechising, Mr. Henry was remarkably blessed of God: for he had the desire of his soul, in seeing the good work of grace begun in many of his young people, in whom he afterward had much pleasure, as they proved honourable and useful members of his church; though some, of whom he had entertained good hopes, turned out loose and vain, to his unspeakable sorrow.
It was a common custom with Mr. Henry to preach a series of sermons upon a particular subject, which sometimes took up several years. But he did not follow the practice of several old divines, who delivered a great number of discourses on the same text: his method was, to prevent the tediousness of such a practice, to fix upon different texts for all the different parts of the subject which he discussed. By thus treating upon the various branches of faith and practice in this connected view, as well as by his exposition of the Bible in course, his hearers had peculiar advantage for improving in scripture knowledge, above those whose ministers only discourse upon short detached passages: accordingly it was remarked, that Mr. Henry's people in general greatly excelled in judgment and spiritual understanding.
The ordinance of the LORD's SUPPER Mr. Henry was used constantly to administer on the first Lord's day in every month, not merely as this was customary in most other churches, but in conformity to the practice of the Jews, who observed the beginnings of their months as holy, though he did not think their law about the new moons, &c. to be obligatory on Christians. In the manner of administering this ordinance he was particularly excellent, and is said herein to have excelled himself. On his lecture-days in the week before the sacrament, he had a series of subjects adapted to that institution. And he followed his father's judgment and practice in encouraging young persons to come to the table of the Lord, to fulfil their baptismal covenant. Among his catechumens he marked those whom he looked upon as intelligent and serious, with this view; when he had a competent number of such in his eye, he appointed them separately to come to him, to converse with them about their spiritual state; and if he perceived good evidence of their real piety, he recommended it to them to give themselves up to the Lord and his church. For several Lord's days he cate chised them publicly concerning this ordinance; and the week preceding the administration, he preached a sermon adapted to their circumstances, accompanied with suitable prayers for them, and then they were all received into the church together. This Mr. P. Henry considered as the proper confirmation, or transition into a state of adult and complete church membership; and his son, in all that was material, adopted this method, in which he had much satisfaction, from observing the great utility of it.
Mr. Tong has given a list of the subjects which Mr. Henry thus discussed in their connexion, which would here occupy too much room. The following is a brief specimen. Soon after he settled at Chester, he delivered a set of sermons on the guilt and misery of an unconverted state, from several texts: in another, he treated on conversions. After these, he preached a series of discourses on a well-ordered conversation, beginning with one on Psalm 1. 23. Each sermon contained a distinct direction, grounded on a separate text. A brief sketch of these may be acceptable and useful. 1. Fix a right principle of grace in the heart, 2 Cor. i. 12. latter part. 2. Eye the gospel of Christ as your great rule, Phil. i. 27. 3. Set the Lord always before you, Ps. xvi. 8. 4. Keep your hearts with all diligence, Prov. iv. 23. 5. Abide under the fear of God, Prov. xxiii. 17. 6. Be not conformed to the world, Rom. xii. 2. 7. Live in constant dependence upon Christ, Col. iii. 17. 8. Take off your affections from present things, 1 John ii. 15. 9. Be always upon your watch, Mark xiii. 37. 10. Keep a conscience void of offence, Acts xxiv. 16. 11. Live by faith, Gal. ii. 20. 12. Commune much with your own hearts, Ps. iv. 4. 13. Watch the door of your lips, Ps. xxxix. 1. 14. Follow the steps of the Lord Jesus, 1 Pet. ii. 21. 15. Set before you the example of the saints, Heb. vi. 12. 16. Be very cautious of your company, Prov. xiii. 20. 17. Make conscience how you spend your time, Eph. v. 16. 18. Pray to God for holy wisdom, James v. 1. 19. Often think of death and judgment, 2 Pet. ii. 11. 20. Converse much with heaven, Phil. iii. 20. He next delivered a set of sermons for the consolation of God's people, on the covenant of grace: e. g. God in the covenant; a Father-a Husband-a Shepherd-a King, &c. Christ in the covenant; our Righteousness-our Life-our Peaceour Hope: in all his offices; Redeemer, High Priest, Captain, Forerunner, and Friend. The Holy Spirit in the covenant; a Teacher-a Comforter-a Spirit of adoption-an Earnest. Mr. Tong, in this part of Mr. Henry's Life, says, "His Blessings in the covenant; pardon-peace-grace-access to thoughts (upon this subject) he has with great judgment digesGod-ordinances-providences-creatures-death-heaven. ted, in an excellent treatise, which well deserves to be made These took him nearly a year and a half. He next treated on public, and I hope will be in a little time. The doctrinal, hissanctification, in all its branches; which sermons were follow- torical, and practical part of the ordinance are stated and dised by another set, on divine worship, private and public, with cussed with great perspicuity, seriousness, and spirituality." The writer of this narrative can attest the justice of Mr. Tong's account of the work, having had the pleasure of perusing the manuscript. It may seem surprising that so elaborate a performance, by so eminent a writer, should have been suffered to lie so long in obscurity; especially as it is written not merely in a controversial manner, but for the most part practical, and (9)
The other positive institution, that of BAPTISM, he administered with equal solemnity, and he always desired to have it in Mr. public, unless there was some peculiar reason against it. Henry had as little of the spirit of a sectarian about him as any man, and he lived in great friendship and affection with many good men, who differed from him in regard to this controverted subject. But he was firm in his opinion about infant baptism, and thought it a matter of no small importance, though by no means one of the essentials of religion; as he considered it to be capable of being applied to very good purpose in a practical view, which was his grand object in his administration of it.
very much in the spirit of his "Treatise on the Lord's Supper." | tence of condemnation for the murder of their bastard children, One chief reason might probably be, its prolixity; and another, when he preached on James i. 5. Then when lust hath conhis laying on some things more stress than they will bear.ceived, it bringeth forth sin : and sin, when it is finished, brinThese circumstances rendered it highly desirable that the work geth forth death. The persons who attended on this occasion should be abridged. This was accordingly undertaken, at the (as many were wont to do) were dissolved in tears, and the poor urgent desire of some judicious persons who were acquainted wretches themselves trembled exceedingly. He repeated his with the manuscript, by the Rev. THOMAS ROBINS, when visits to them till the day of their execution, and they thanked tutor of the academy at Daventry, who had been the pastor of him for his compassion to their souls; as also many other prisome of the author's descendants, at Westbromwich; and he soners did, who were acquitted or pardoned. The last time he executed the work with such propriety, that the abridgment is performed this humane office, was in the year 1710, when he better adapted to answer the worthy author's end, as a useful was sent for by one who was condemned to death, and by the family book, than the original, and well deserves to be repub- desire of the other prisoners. He had consented to go in the lished. This treatise is particularly calculated to lead those morning, but the curate of St. Mary's, in order to prevent it, sent who approve infant baptism, both parents and children, to make word that he would go and preach himself, which he accordingly the best practical use of the ordinance. did. However, Mr. Henry went in the evening, and preached respecting the thief upon the cross. Upon which the governor of the castle was prevailed with to interpose, and prevent any more preaching there, except by the proper chaplain; and thus Mr. Henry was discharged from the arduous service which he had so long performed, without any other recompense than the pleasure of doing good to the souls of these wretched creatures, who greatly lamented their loss-a loss which was never made up, for no man in like manner ever cared for their souls.
VISITING the SICK Mr. Henry considered as an important part of ministerial duty, and he was diligent in the discharge of it. He never refused to attend the rich or the poor, when sent for, whether they were such as he knew, or strangers, whether resident in the town, or travellers, among whom were many passengers to or from Ireland; or whether they were persons of his own communion, or of the established church, among the latter of whom many desired his attendance in their illness. He often inquired of his friends whether they knew of any who were sick; and when bills were put up, desiring the prayers of the congregation, he requested that those who sent them would make themselves known, in order that he might properly attend to their cases. His prayers and conversation with sick persons were pertinent, affectionate, and useful. And if they recovered, he assisted them in their expressions of gratitude, reminded them of their sickbed thoughts and promises, faithfully exhorting them to improve their renewed lives to the best purposes.
Mr. Henry was considered by his people as a wise and faithful counsellor; they therefore often sent for him, to consult with him on affairs of importance relating to themselves or their families, on which occasions he was always ready to interest himself in their concerns, and to give them his best advice, which he followed with his prayers for their direction and sucBut it was not merely on special occasions that he visited his flock; he maintained habitual intercourse with them, and promoted Christian conference among them. Some of the more considerable and intelligent of his congregation had meetings at their own houses, to partake of a friendly entertainment, and enjoy rational and useful conversation. On these occasions, Mr. Henry was usually of the party, and he was one of the best companions in the world. His extensive knowledge, his good sense and ready wit, his cheerfulness of temper, his readiness to communicate what was entertaining and useful, together with his unaffected piety and humility, rendered his conversation highly agreeable; and these interviews contributed greatly to promote knowledge, Christian friendship, and real religion; for they were always closed with prayer, and he had no relish for any visits without it.
Another useful service in which Mr. Henry zealously engaged in Chester, (beside many occasional discourses on fast days, and others relative to public affairs, in which he took great interest,) was his concurrence with the clergy in forming a society for the reformation of manners, similar to that in London. This good work was promoted by the bishop and the dean, who had the interest of religion much at heart. A monthly lecture on a Friday was set up at St. Peter's church, which Mr. Henry constantly attended. The good bishop preached the first sermon, which afforded him great satisfaction. Dr. Fogg, the dean, preached next, on which Mr. Henry writes, "It was an excellent discourse, much to the purpose. I bless God for this sermon; and as I have from my heart forgiven, so will I endeavour to forget, all that the dean has at any time said against dissenters, and me in particular. Such preaching against sin, and such endeavours to suppress it, will contribute, as much as any thing, to heal differences among those that fear God." Mr. Henry, the same year, began a course of reformation sermons on his lecture-day; and the dissenting ministers in Chester settled a reformation lecture in several parts of the country, the first of which was at Macclesfield, when Mr. Henry preached on the sanctification of the sabbath. Though the monthly sermons were carried on for some time at St. Peter's in Chester, the good work had many enemies, some of whom began openly to deride it, and form parties against it. Mr. Henry Newcomb, of Manchester, (though a son of the eminent nonconformist,) in a sermon which he preached at that church, broke out into severe invectives against the dissenters; sugges ting, that because they did not conform to the church, they hardened the profane, and disabled themselves to reform them. On which Mr. Henry writes, "The Lord be Judge between us; perhaps it will be found that the body of dissenters have been the strongest bulwark against profaneness in England." The bishop and dean much lamented such obstructions to the work of refor mation, but met with such discouragements from the misconduct of those who should have been most active in promoting the design, that at length it was resolved to adjourn this lecture sine die. This was matter of much grief to Mr. Henry, but it did not discourage him from proceeding in his own lecture, or uniting with his brethren in adjacent parts, in prosecuting this great object, though they laboured under great discouragement, for want of power to enforce the laws against profaneness.
But besides these friendly meetings, he had others more stated, especially appointed for Christian conference and prayer, particularly with young persons of his congregation, in which he always presided. The subjects of these conferences "were not unprofitable questions, or matters of doubtful disputation, but points of faith and cases of conscience; and care was taken to prevent all vain jangling, and whatever might tend to puff up the minds of young people, or make them despise [or envy] one another;" which, as Mr. Tong observes, "every one who has made the trial, has found to require much wisdom." That wisdom Mr. Henry (as appears from his diary) was very desirous to obtain; and as his heart was much set upon this business, so he was very prudent and successful in it.
But Mr. Henry's sphere of activity and attempts for usefulness were yet more extensive. Though his own flock was never neglected, he had a care for all the churches within his line, and readily lent his assistance to his brethren in all the adjacent parts; sometimes taking a compass of thirty miles, preaching every day in the week, but always returning home at the end of it. The towns and villages which lay near Chester enjoyed a large share of his labours, in several of which he had a monthly lecture. Beside attending stated meetings of ministers twice a year, he was frequently called upon to attend ordinations, to preach funeral sermons for his deceased brethren and other respectable persons at a distance: and he never refused complying with invitations to preach on any occasion, when he was able to do it; the great strength of his constitu tion, and the vigour of his mind, rendering these uncommon exertions easy and pleasant to him.
He was used to take a yearly journey to Nantwich, Newcastle, &c. preaching wherever he came; and another into Lancashire, to preach at Manchester, Chowbent, Warrington, &c. where he was highly valued; but he performed all within the week, choosing to be at any labour or expense rather than not to be with his own people on the Lord's day, from whom he was not absent on that day for ten years together; and never on the first sabbath in the month, but once, for twenty four years, and that was when he was in London, after a long absence from it: for though he had many connexions in the metropolis, he rarely visited it, as he had no apprehension that his services were there needed so much as in the country, where they had been eminently useful in the revival of religion all around him, both among ministers and people, but particularly in his own congregation, where he had the pleasure of seeing the Redeemer's interest greatly to flourish, and many families rising
He was also a great example of ministerial wisdom and fidelity in general. He carefully watched over his flock, and attended with diligence to the respective cases of individuals in it. When he heard an ill report of any, he would go to them, or send for them, and inquire impartially into the truth of the case. If he found the persons guilty, he would deal plainly and faithfully with them in his admonitions, and urge a speedy repentance, in which he was in most instances happily successful; and there were, comparatively, few whom he was obliged to cast out of his church. When any such case occurred, his diary shows how much his soul was grieved, and what a discouragement it was to him in his ministerial labours. But his sorrow for such awful instances of apostacy was abundantly over-balanced by the joy he felt on the success of the ministry with the far greater part of his people, whom he saw growing up in wisdom and holiness, adorning the doctrine of God their Saviour, and strengthening the hands of their pastor.
One uncommon instance of his zeal, and his love to souls, was, the pains he took in visiting the prisoners and malefactors in the jail of Chester castle; which, it is said, he was first led to do on the request of the jailer's wife, who was a pious woman, and was much concerned at the remissness of those whose province it was to attend these unhappy objects, to whom she showed so much tenderness in other instances, that they yielded to her proposal to send for Mr. Henry to instruct and pray with them. This he did with constancy, and the most tender compassion, for the space of twenty years. And sometimes he preached to them, especially to the condemned malefactors, not without some good appearance of success. The subjects on which he discoursed were admirably appropriate to their condition. At one time three women were under sen-up to call him blessed.
In the year 1700, Mr. Henry's congregation built a new meeting-house for him, which was decent, large, and commodious. On the first opening of it, August 8, he preached an appropriate and excellent sermon on Joshua xxii. 22, 23, The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, he knows, and Israel he shall know, if it be in rebellion, or if it be in transgression against the Lord, that we have built an altar. This sermon, which is entitled, "Separation without Rebellion," was not published by the author, though fairly transcribed; most probably by reason of his great solicitude to avoid giving offence to any members of the established church. It was printed in the year 1725, with a preface written by Dr. WATTS, who bestows a high encomium upon the author, but hints at some expressions in the sermon which may not gain the entire assent of some of his present readers" referring, doubtless, to what relates to national establishments of religion, to which the worthy author was not averse. It is rather extraordinary that this discourse was not included in the folio edition of Mr. Henry's separate publications, which was printed in the year 1726, in the preface to which it is said, "that this volume contains them all." In the year 1781, the writer of this narrative published "Select Sermons of Mr. Henry," in a large octavo volume, in which this valuable discourse was inserted.
After the building of this new meeting-house, the congregation much increased, especially by the accession of the greatest part of the people that had attended Mr. HARVEY, who in the year 1706, desisted from preaching in Chester, on account of the declining state of his health, and some difficulties about his place of worship; so that Mr. Henry's was now too strait for his hearers, and required a new gallery to be built. It was rather a singular circumstance, that Mr. Harvey's congregation (according to the tradition still current at Chester) occupied this new gallery, and there continued by themselves. But it is presumed that those of them who had been church members, united with Mr. Henry's church in the ordinance of the Lord's supper; for it appears that his church had considerably increased, so that he had at this time above three hundred and fifty communicants: and he had much comfort in them, as there was great unanimity among them, for which he expressed great thankfulness to God.
This being the case, it may appear matter of surprise and lamentation that he should ever have quitted Chester, and accepted an invitation to a congregation in the vicinity of London. Of this great change, the cause and the consequences of it, an account shall now be given. He had received repeated invitations from congregations in or near London, before that which separated him from his friends at Chester, upon which he put an absolute negative without hesitation. The first of these was soon after his visit to London, in the year 1698. In consequence of his preaching at several principal meetings in the city, for instance, Mr. Doolittle's and Mr. Howe's, he became better known than he had been before, and acquired a considerable degree of fame and reputation as a preacher. It was at this time that he preached the excellent discourse, which was published, on "Christianity not a Sect, yet every where spoken against."
The following year a vacancy took place in the congregation at HACKNEY, (where a great number of wealthy dissenters resided,) by the death of Dr. WILLIAM BATES, a man of distinguished piety, learning, and abilities, who had refused a bishopric, and would have honoured the first episcopal see in the kingdom. The first person thought of to succeed him was Mr. Matthew Henry; and it was unanimously agreed to send him an invitation to become their pastor, though they had no ground to suppose that he was at all dissatisfied with his present situation; and they desired Mr. Shower, an eminent minister at the Old Jewry, to give him a letter, in order to apprize him of their intention. Mr. Shower accordingly wrote; but Mr. Henry, by the next post, sent a strong negative to the application, assigning, as a principal reason, his affection for the people at Chester, and theirs for him; and he desired that he might have no further solicitation to leave them. The congregation at Hackney, however, not satisfied with this peremptory answer, wrote to him themselves, and sent him a most pressing invitation to accept their proposal. Mr. Henry, after taking a few days to deliberate upon the matter, wrote them a very respectful letter, in which he gave them a decisive negative, which put an end, for the present, to the negotiation.
But after this, (so lightly have dissenters been wont to view the evil of being robbers of churches,) there was not a considerable vacancy in any London congregation, but Mr. Henry was thought of to fill it. Upon the death of Mr. NATHANIEL TAYLOR, minister of SALTER'S HALL, the people there had their eye upon Mr. Henry, but were discouraged from applying to him, at first, by the negative which he put upon the invitation from Hackney. However, after being disappointed in their expectations from Mr. Chorley of Norwich, and being much divided about an application to another minister, they unanimously agreed to make a vigorous effort to obtain Mr. Henry. Accordingly, letters were written to him by Mr. Howe, Mr. (afterward Dr.) Williams, and Dr. Hamilton, urging this, among other arguments, that by coming to this place he would unite both sides, between whom there had been some contests. These letters occasioned him some serious and uneasy thoughts, as appears from his diary, in which he expresses himself willing to be determined by the will of God, if he did but know it, whatever it might be. He afterward takes notice that a dozen of his congregation had been with him to desire that he would
not leave them, to whom he answered, that he had once and again given a denial to this invitation, and that it was his present purpose not to leave them, though he could not tell what might happen hereafter.
In the review of this year, he takes particular notice of his invitation to Salter's Hall, as what surprised him; and he adds as follows: "I begged of God to keep me from being lifted up with pride by it. I sought of God the right way. Had I consulted my own fancy, which always had a kindness for London ever since I knew it, or the worldly advantage of my family, I had closed with it. And I was sometimes tempted to think it might open me a door of greater usefulness. I had also reason to think Mr. John Evans [then at Wrexham, afterward Dr. Evans of London, author of the Christian Temper'] might have been had here, and might have been more acceptable to some, and more useful than I. But I had not courage to break through the opposition of the affections of my friends here to me, and mine to them, nor to venture upon a new and unknown place and work, which I feared myself unfit for. I bless God, I am well satisfied in what I did in that matter. If it ever please God to call me from this place, I depend upon him to make my way clear. Lord, lead me in a plain path!" No candid person, after reading this, will be disposed to question Mr. Henry's integrity in the future part of his conduct, in quitting Chester, especially considering other invitations from the great city.
In the year 1704, Mr. Henry took another journey to London, accompanied by Mrs. Henry, to visit two of her sisters then in town, one of whom was dangerously ill. He takes notice of the pleasure he had in hearing Mr. Howe preach, on the morning of June 21. In the afternoon of the same day he preached at Salter's Hall, where Mr. Tong was then minister, who mentions his text, Prov. xvi. 16. After visiting many friends, and preaching many sermons, he returned home with great satisfaction, and thankfully recorded some dangers which he had escaped in travelling, the roads being so bad, that in one place the coach was set fast; not apprehending or wishing for another call to the metropolis.
He had hitherto enjoyed a great share of health, but this year he had a very dangerous illness. As he was reading the scripture on Lord's day morning, August 27, he suddenly fainted away, but soon recovered so as to go on with his work, In the evening, however, feeling himself unwell, he writes, "A fever is coming upon me; let me be found ready whenever my Lord comes.' He had a very restless night; but, having an appointment at Nantwich the next day, he went and preached on Psalm cx. 3. "And then," says he, "I was well." The day following, he went to Haslington Chapel, to preach the funeral sermon of Mr. Cope, an aged minister, who had spent some years there, and who had requested this of him. Mr. Egerton, the Rector, gave his consent. But this, Mr. Henry remarks, was likely to be the last sermon preached there by a dissenter; and it was like to have proved his last; for, on his return home, the fever came on with great violence, and confined him for more than three weeks,
It was soon after his recovery from this severe illness, that he began his elaborate work on the Bible. A friend has communicated the following passage, extracted from his diary, which Mr. Tong had overlooked, but which will appear to most readers both curious and interesting. "Nov. 12, 1704. This night, after many thoughts of heart, and many prayers concerning it, I began my Notes on the Old Testament. 'Tis not likely I should live to finish it; or, if I should, that it should be of [much] public service, for I am not par negotiis. Yet, in the strength of God, and I hope with a single eye to his glory, I set about it, that I may be endeavouring something, and spend my time to some good purpose; and let the Lord make what he pleaseth of me. I go about it with fear and trembling, lest I exercise myself in things too high for me. The Lord help me to set about it with great humility." Many passages in his diary, written during the progress of this great work, would be pleasing and edifying to the reader, but the proposed limits of these memoirs forbid the insertion of them.
In the year 1709, Mr. Henry received a letter, dated Febru ary 18, informing him that the congregation in which Mr. Howe and Mr. Spademan had been joint pastors, in SILVER STREET, (both of them now deceased,) had chosen him to succeed the latter, as co-pastor with Mr. Rosewell, and that some of them purposed to go down to Chester, to treat with him on this business. He also received many letters from ministers and gentlemen, pressing his acceptance of this call, with a view to his more extensive usefulness. Suffice it to say, he still remained immoveable, "his affection for his people prevailing" (as he expressed it, in his letter to Mr. Rosewell,) "above his judgment, interest, and inclination."
After this, we might naturally have expected to find that Mr. Henry would have ended his days at Chester, and that no society would have attempted to remove him. But the congregation at HACKNEY being again vacant, by the death of the worthy Mr. BILLIO, (who died of the smallpox, in the year 1710,) they determined upon renewing their application to Mr. Henry, which they did with increased importunity; and after a long negotiation, and repeated denials, they at length prevailed. As the best justification of his conduct in yielding to their desires, and as a further illustration of his integrity and
The Rev. Thomas Stedman, of St. Chads, Shrewsbury.
piety, as well as his regard to his affectionate friends at Chester, the reader shall have the account of the transaction in his own words, extracted from his diary.
"About midsummer, 1710, I had a letter from the congregation at Hackney, signifying that they had unanimously chosen me to be their minister, and that I should find them as the importunate widow, that would have no nay. I several times denied them. At length they wrote, that some of them would come down hither; to prevent which, (not being unwilling to take a London journey in the interval between my third and fourth volume,) I wrote them word I would come up to them, and did so. Then I laid myself open to the temptation, by increasing my acquaintance in the city. They followed me, after I came down again, with letters to me and the congregation. In October I wrote to them that if they would stay for me till next spring, (which I was in hopes they would not have done,) I would come up, and make a longer stay, for mutual trial. They wrote, they would wait till then. In May, 1711, I went to them, and stayed till the end of July, and, before I parted with them, signified my acceptance of their invitation, and my purpose to come to them, God willing, the next spring. However, I [should have] denied them, but that Mr. Gunston, Mr. Smith, and some others, came to me from London, and begged me [not to refuse] for the sake of the public-which was the thing that turned the scales. By this determination I have brought upon myself more grief and care than I could have imagined, and have many a time wished it undone; but, having opened my mouth, I could not go back. I did with the utmost impartiality (if I know any thing of myself) beg of God to incline my heart that way which would be most for his glory; and I trust I have a good conscience, willing to be found in the way of my duty. Wherein I have done amiss, the Lord forgive me for Jesus' sake, and make this change concerning the congregation to work together for good to it!"
Another paper, dated HACKNEY, July 13, 1711, written after fervent prayer to God, contains the reasons which occurred to him why he should accept his invitation, which he wrote to be a satisfaction to him afterward. The following is a brief epitome of them: "1. I am abundantly satisfied that it is lawful for ministers to remove, and in many cases expedient. 2. My invitation to Hackney is not only unanimous, but pressing; and, upon many weeks' trial, I do not perceive any thing discouraging, but every thing that promises comfort and usefulness. 3. There seems an intimation of Providence in the many calls I have had that way before. 4. There is manifestly a wider door of opportunity to do good opened to me at London than at Chester, which is my main inducement. 5. In drawing up and publishing my Exposition, it will be a great convenience to be near the press-also to have books at hand to consult, and learned men to converse with, for my own improvement. 6. I have followed Providence in this affair, and referred myself to its disposal. 7. I have asked the advice of many ministers, and judicious Christians. 8. I have some reason to hope that my poor endeavours may be more useful to those to whom they are new. 9. I have not been without my discouragements at Chester, which have tempted me to think my work there in a great measure done; many have left us, and few been [of late] added. 10. I am not able to ride long journeys, as formerly, to preach, which last winter brought illness upon me, so that my services would be confined within the walls of Chester. 11. The congregation, though unwilling to part with me, have left the matter under their hands to my own conscience," &c.
It appears from Mr. Henry's diary, that his journey to London at the time here referred to was very uncomfortable, by reason of the badness of the roads, but especially by his great indisposition and pain, which much discouraged him. "I begged," says he, "that these frequent returning illnesses might be sanctified to me. I see how easily God can break our measures, and disappoint us, and make that tedious which we hoped would be pleasant." However, he arrived safe, May 12; when he writes thus: "And now I look back upon the week with thankfulness for the mercies of God, and the rebukes I have been under; such as give me cause to be jealous of myself, whether I be in my way. Lord, show me wherefore thou contendest with me, and wherefore thou relievest me!Lord's day, 13. I had but a bad night, yet better in the morning. Preached, 2 Pet. i. 4, Partake of a divine nature. Administered the Lord's supper to the congregation at Hackney. Not a hundred communicants.* I was somewhat enlarged in preaching, but at the Lord's supper very much straitened, and not as I used to be at Chester.-14. A very good night, and perfectly well, blessed be God. Mr. Tong and Mr. Evans came, and stayed with me most of the day. We talked much to and fro of my coming hither, but brought it to no issue, The congregation seems very unanimous."
During this visit at Hackney, Mr. Henry preached frequently in the city, and several of his sermons at Salter's Hall were published: viz. On Faith in Christ-On Forgiveness of Sin as a Debt--Hope and Fear balanced. Many entertaining articles appear in his journal respecting the visits he made, and the occurrences he met with, during his stay at Hackney,
* How much they were increased afterward, does not appear; but it is probable that they were never very numerous, as many dissenters, who live in the villages near London, keep up their connexion with the churches of which they had been members when they resided there.
which must be passed over. On the whole, he seems to be better reconciled by it to the thoughts of returning. In one place he says, "Blessed be God, I meet with a praying people, and that love prayer." His last entry is July 29. Preached, 1 John ii. 25, This is the promise, &c. Administered the Lord's supper. We had a very full congregation, which is some encouragement, at parting, to think of coming again." This he did much sooner than he expected; for it appears from his MS. now before me, that, in the next January, he had a subpoena to be a witness in a cause to be tried in the Queen's Bench, which greatly perplexed him. On this occasion he preached at Hackney, January 27, and again on the 30th, being the lecture-day; when he writes, that he "met some of the heads of the congregation, carnestly begging them, with tears, to release him from his promise," who told him that "they could not in conscience do it, because they thought his coming was for the public good." On February 4, he had a fit of the stone. On the 18th, he set off very willingly for Chester, and arrived in better health than when he set out. But he had frequent returns of that complaint soon afterward, which however did not occasion him to spare his labours.
The time now approached for him to fulfil his engagement with the people at Hackney, but the thought of leaving his friends at Chester proved a very severe trial to him, and pressed down his spirit beyond measure, as appears from many passages in his diary written about this time. On May 11, 1712, when he took his leave of his flock, he expounded the last chapter of Joshua in the morning, and of Matthew in the afternoon, and preached on 1 Thess. iv. 17, 18. After this service he writes, "A very sad day-I see I have been unkind to the congregation, who love me too well.-May 12, In much heaviness I set out in the coach for London, not knowing the things that shall befall me there. 15. Came to London-But Lord, am I in my way? I look back with sorrow for leaving Chester: I look forward with fear; but unto thee, O Lord! do I look up.' Mr. Henry commenced his pastoral work at Hackney on the Lord's day, May 18. The appearance of the meeting-house, which then stood on the opposite side of the way to the present, where three houses now stand, was not very inviting, either without or within. It was an old irregular building, originally formed out of dwelling-houses; but it was large, and the congregation was in a flourishing state, both in point of numbers and of wealth; for it is said, no less than thirty gentlemen's carriages constantly attended the meeting, and that the annual collection for the Presbyterian Fund for poor ministers was three hundred pounds. This being the case, it seems surprising that in Mr. Henry's time a better place of worship should not have been erected. What his salary was does not appear, doubtless it was something considerable; but that was with him no object in his removal. His grand motive was usefulness to the church of God; and of this he had here a very encouraging prospect.
On his first appearance as the minister in this congregation, in the morning he expounded Genesis i, and in the afternoon Matthew i. thus beginning, as it were, the world anew. He preached on Acts xvi. 9, Come over to Macedonia, and help us. "O that good," says he, "may be done to precious souls! But I am sad in spirit, lamenting my departure from my friends in Chester. And yet if they be well provided for, I shall be easy, whatever discouragements I may meet with here."
Mr. Henry conducted his ministerial work at Hackney in much the same manner as he had done at Chester. He began the morning service on the Lord's day, (as the writer has heard some of his hearers relate,) at nine o'clock. Though the people had not been accustomed to so early an hour, they came into it without reluctance, and many of them were well pleased with it. The only difference in the order of service was, that he began with a short prayer, which it is supposed had been the custom, as it is to this day. In labours he was more abundant here even than he had been at Chester, excepting that he did not now take such frequent journeys, so that he soon made it appear that he did not remove with a view to his own case and pleasure. Though his bodily strength was abated, and some disorders began to grow upon him, his zeal and activity continued the same, in expounding, catechising, and preaching, both to his own congregation and in various other places. As he found here a larger field of service, his heart was equally enlarged. He sometimes preached the Lord's day morning lecture at Little St. Helen's, at seven o'clock, and afterward went through the whole of his work at Hackney; and frequently, after both these services at home, he preached the evening lecture to the charity school at Mr. Lloyd's meeting, in Shakspeare's Walk, Wapping; and, at other times, he preached in the evening at Redriff; after which he performed the whole of his family worship as usual. Sometimes he was employed in preaching at one place or other every day in the week, and even twice or thrice on the same day. He showed himself ready to every good work, as if he had a secret impression that his time would be short; and the nearer he came to the end of his course, the swifter was his progress in holiness and all useful services. Nor did he appear to labour in vain, for he had many pleasing proofs of success. He had great encouragement soon after his coming to Hackney, from the usefulness of some sermons which he preached, on Matth. xvi. 26, What is a man profited, &c.; many of his hearers were greatly affected, and some of them said they were resolved never to pursue the world so eagerly as they had before done. This was preaching to good purpose. So many were the calls which Mr. Henry had to preach in
and about London, and so ready was he to comply with them, | Hackney, as usual, and administered the Lord's supper. But that he sometimes appears in his diary to think that he needed it appeared that his late great exertions in preaching and tra an apology, and to excuse it to himself, that he preached so velling were too much for him; so that it was no wonder he often. After opening an evening lecture near Shadwell Church, should, on the day following, have complained of great weariJanuary 25, 1712, when his text was Psalin lxxiii. 28, he writes ness, which was attended with drowsiness. Sir Richard Blackthus: "I hope, through grace, I can say, the reason why I am more being sent for, perceived symptoms of a diabetes, which so much in my work is, because the love of Christ constrains obliged him to confine himself to the house. The doctor absome, and I find, by experience, it is good for me to draw near to lutely forbid his going out the next Lord's day; upon which he God." writes-"A melancholy day: yet not without some communion with God. Perhaps I have been inordinately desirous to be at my study and work again." By the blessing of God, however, upon the means prescribed, his disorder was removed in a few days after this, and the following sabbath he went on in his ordinary work. "Blessed be my God," says he, "who carried me through it with ease and pleasure.'
The next month, September 20, he had a severe fit of the stone, and it happened to be on the Lord's day but it did not prevent his going through his public work. That evening, and the day following, he voided several stones, and rather large ones. He went, however, on the Tuesday, to catechise in London, and on Wednesday preached his weekly lecture at Hackney; on Thursday evening a lecture in Spitalfields, and on Friday joined in the service of a fast, at Mr. Fleming's meeting, at Founder's Hall, where he preached the sermon. This seemed to be trying his strength beyond the rule of prudence or of duty. However on the Saturday he writes-“I bless God, I have now my health well again." But the painful disorder several times returned. Early on Lord's day morning, December 13, he was seized with another fit, but the pain went off in about an hour, and, notwithstanding the fatigue it had occasioned, he ventured to London, to preach the morning lecture, before it was light, when he took that text, John xx. 1, The first day of the week early, while it was yet dark, &c.; and, after this, he performed the whole service at Hackney. Having related these circumstances, he says-" Blessed be God for help from on high!" On the following Thursday he had another very violent fit of the stone, of which his own account is as follows-"I went to my study very early, but before seven o'clock I was seized with a fit of the stone, which held me all day: pained and sick, I lay much on the bed, but had comfort in lifting up my heart to God, &c. About five o'clock in the evening I had ease, and about ten I voided a large stone. Though my God caused me grief, yet he had compassion. December 18. Very well to-day, though very ill yesterday. How is this life counterchanged! And yet I am but girding on my harness; the Lord prepare me for the next fit, and the Lord prepare me for the last!"
Beside catechising on Saturday at Hackney, which he began to do the second month after his coming thither, he had a catechetical lecture in London, which he undertook at the request of some serious Christians in the city, but not without the approbation of several of his brethren. Such was his humility, and his respect for the ministers in London, that he declined giving an answer to the proposal till he had consulted them on the subject; when they all expressed their cordial approbation of the design, and several of them, of different denominations, sent their sons to attend his instructions, and often attended themselves. The place fixed upon for this service, was Mr. Wilcox's meeting-house, in Monkwell Street, where his tutor, Mr. Doolittle, formerly preached, and had been used to catechise. The time was Tuesday evening, when considerable numbers, besides the catechumens, were used to attend; and there was great reason to believe that Mr. Henry's labours on these occasions were very useful to numbers of both. It may not be amiss here to introduce an anecdote which he records of a robbery, after one of his evening lectures, for the sake of his pious reflections upon it. As he was coming home,* he was stopped by four men, within half a mile of Hackney, who took from him ten or cleven shillings; upon which he writes, "What reason have I to be thankful to God, that having travelled so much, I was never robbed before! What abundance of evil this love of money is the root of, that four men should venture their lives and souls for about half a crown apiece! See the vanity of worldly wealth, how soon we may be stript of it, how loose we ought to sit to it."
Mr. Henry's tender concern for the best interests of young persons, made him very desirous that they might enjoy all proper means for instruction in the knowledge of divine things. With this view, he exerted himself to increase the number of charity schools, for the promoting of which he drew up the following paper: "It is humbly proposed that some endeavours may be used to form and maintain charity schools among the dissenters, for the teaching of poor children to read and write, &c. to clothe them, and teach them the Assembly's Catechism. It is thought advisable, and not impracticable.' He then goes on to prove both, and produces a series of arguments at some considerable length, which it is unnecessary here to specify, and answers some objections which might be urged against his plan.
While he was thus laying himself out for the good both of old and young, in and about London, his mind was deeply affected with the state of his congregation at Chester, which was yet destitute of a settled minister; and the disappointment they had met with in their applications to several cost him many prayers and tears. When he took his leave of his old friends, he promised them that he would make them a visit every year, and spend some sabbaths with them. This his friends at Hackney not only consented to, but recommended. Accordingly, July 20, 1713, he set out on a journey to Chester in the coach, and in his diary he records the particulars of it, with many pious and benevolent remarks, and the sermons which he preached at the different places he visited. An extract may be acceptable, as it discovers his unabated zeal, and his unwearied diligence, in doing good wherever he went; in comparison with which, he says, The charge and the trouble of the journey shall be as nothing to me. "July 23. Came to Whitchurch: a wet day, but many friends met me there, to my great reviving. In the afternoon, went to Broad-Oak, and preached from Rom. i. 11, I long to see you, &c. Next day went to Chester, where my friends received me with much affection and respect. Lord's day, preached from 1 Tim. vi. 12, Lay hold on eternal life. It was very pleasant for me to preach in the old place, where I have often met with God, and been owned by him. On Wednesday kept a congregational fast. The next Lord's day preached and administered the Lord's supper to my beloved flock: a great congregation. Monday went to Middlewich; preached from Matth. xxiv. 12, Iniquity abounds. The next day to Knutsford, to a meeting of ministers: preached from Col. ii. 8, Though absent in the flesh, yet present in the spirit. Lord's day, August 9, preached at Chester, Tit. ii. 13, Looking for the blessed hope. I took an affectionate farewell of my friends; prayed with many of them: the next day set out, with much ado, for Nantwich, where Mr. Mottershed is well settled: preached from Jos. i. 5, 6, As I was with Moses, I will be with thee, &c. From thence, that night, went to Wrenbury-wood, and preached there from John i. 48; from thence to Danford, and preached at Whitchurch, on 1 Pet. v. 10; took leave of my dear friends there, and went in the coach alone. Came to London the 15th, and found my tabernacle in peace." The following day being the sabbath, he preached twice at
Mr. Tong saya, from catechising on Tuesday; but from his own MS. it appears it was on Lord's day evening, after preaching
at Mr. Rosewell's.
That period was not now very distant, though none apprehended it to be so near as it proved. Though his constitution was strong, his uncommon exertions must have tended to weaken it; and his close application in his study doubtless occasioned his nephritic complaint. It was also said, by those who knew him at Hackney, that after his settlement there, he yielded to the many invitations he had to sup with his friends, when he was under the temptation, though not to any unbecoming excess, yet to eat and drink what was unfavourable to the health of so studious a man, and one who had been used to a more abstemious mode of life, and had grown corpulent, as his portrait shows him to have been. It is not improbable that this circumstance tended to shorten his days.
At the beginning of this his last year (for so it proved to be) Mr. Henry's mind appears from his diary to have been filled with dark apprehensions, on account of public affairs. The bill which had passed for suppressing the schools of the dissenters he looked upon not only as a heavy grievance in itself, but as a prelude to further severities. On this occasion he preached an excellent discourse at Mr. Bush's meeting, on 2 Chron. xx. 12, Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are up unto thee.
The following week he took his journey to Chester, from whence he never returned. On May 30, he administered the Lord's supper, as the best way of parting with his friends at Hackney. In the morning he expounded Exodus xxxviii. in the afternoon Luke vii. and preached on Rev. v. 9, For thou wast slain, &c. On the next day he took the coach for Chester. Mr. Tong, and some other friends, going to Coventry, accompanied him as far as St. Albans, and there they parted with him, never to see his face any more! From a letter to Mrs. Henry, dated June 7, it appeared that he bore the journey well, and that his friends told him he looked better than he did when they saw him the last year. In the same letter he expressed much joy on account of his old congregation being well settled with a minister, with whom he had communicated at the Lord's table the day preceding, much to his satisfaction. With pleasure he remarks-"They had a full communion: none of the congregation are gone off: if none have left it while it was unsettled, I hope none will leave it now."
From a subsequent article in Mr. Tong's narrative, it appears that Mr. Gardiner was not the sole minister of the congregation, but that a Mr. Withington was united with him. How long the church and congregation continued in the flourishing state in which Mr. Henry now beheld it, is uncertain; but it is well known that, whatever was the cause, Mr. Gardiner lived to see it greatly decline. This, however, was no just reflection upon him: it has been the common affliction of the best of ministers, especially when they have been advanced in years. Mr. Henry, however, was gone to a better world before the sad change took place, the knowledge of which would