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As for the broken family, I am persuaded there are great mercies in store for them: the fatherless children are left with God, and he will keep them alive; and let the widow trust in him. Though God in this sad providence seems to have spoken against them, I believe he will earnestly and affectionately remember them still.
I know no family in which the entail of the covenant from one generation to another has more evidently appeared. I know no family more enriched with a large stock of treasure of prayers by religious predecessors on both sides. And a family that is thus rich in prayer, is rich in the promises too, while the present branches of it adhere to the covenant, and live up to their education; and we rejoice to see that it is thus with them, and daily pray for their growth and establishment in wisdom
And for this afflicted broken congregation, though they ought to be sensible what they have lost, a skilful guide, ard a faithful helper of their souls; one who, they hoped, would have been the happy instrument of great good, not only to themselves, but to their families; one that was wonderfully fitted to feed the lambs of the flock, and took great delight in that part of his work.
Yet let them not distrust the care of the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. This place and people have been signally owned and favoured of God, from one time to another. In the mount it has been seen that God has provided; and we hope he will have the same care and concern for you still. And the great respect you always had for your faithful ministers while they were with you, and the true Christian generosity with which you have treated their families when they have been gone, gives us good encouragement that the presence of God shall be the glory in the midst of you; and that you shall yet have a pastor according to his own heart, who shall carry on the same work, feed you with the same sincere milk of the word, and be a great blessing to you, and the rising generation among you.
And though the church of God in general feels this loss, and laments it greatly, that this your minister was taken away before he had finished the great undertaking, his noble, delightful task, the Exposition of the Bible; yet we have all cause to bless God, who spared him so long, and helped him to carry it on so far.
It is the observation of a worthy minister, on the death of a person of great note in all the churches, who had a heart enlarged for God, and bent upon doing more eminent service, “that no one ever finished all the great designs he had for the glory of God in this world, excepting the Lord Jesus Christ. He indeed could say, 'It is finished.'' As for others, their good desires and purposes go beyond the limits of their time and life; but they have finished all that God designed to do by them; and he is able to carry on his own work by other hands, and thereby to make it evident that he is to his people “all in all.”
And I hope those who have attended long upon the ministry of good Mr. Henry, and taken down his expositions upon that part of the Bible that yet remains, whether in the public assembly or in his family, will carefully gather up those precious fragments, that none may be lost; and will communicate them to the world in the best way they can, that this great work may be finished, and be as much as possible his own performance.
To conclude : We must flee to this as our last resort; though ministers, the best of ministers, die, the gospel does not die with them ; Pet. i. 24, 25, “ All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
TO THE READER.
The first two of these discourses were preached (that is, the substance of them,) at the morning lecture at Bcdnal Green, thc former August 13th, the other August 21st, 1712. The latter of them I was much importuned to publish by many who heard it; which I then had no thoughts at all of doing, because in divers practical treatises we have excellent directions given, of the same nature and tendency, by better hands than mine. But upon second thoughts I considered, that both those sermons of beginning and spending the day with God, put together, might perhaps be of some use to those into whose hands those larger treatises do not fall. And the truth is, the subject of them is of such a nature, that if they may be of any use, they may be of general and lasting use; whereupon I entertained the thought of writing them over, with very large additions throughout, as God should enable me, for the press. Communicating this thought to some of my friends, they very much encouraged me to proceed in it, but advised me to add a third discourse of closing the day with God, which I thereupon took for my subject at an evening lecture, September 3rd, and have likewise much enlarged and altered that. And so this came to be what it is.
I am not without hopes, that something may hereby be contributed among plain people, by the blessing of God upon the endeavour, and the working of his grace with it, to the promoting of serious godliness, which is the thing I aim at; and yet I confess that I should not have
published it, had I not designed it for a present to my dearly beloved friends in the country, whom I have lately been rent from.
And to them, with the most tender affection, and most sincere respects, I dedicate it, as a testimony of my abiding concern for their spiritual welfare; hoping and praying that their conversation may be in every thing as becomes the gospel of Christ, that whether I come and see them, or else be absent, I may hear comfortably of their affairs, that they stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.
Their cordial and affectionate Well-wisher,
Sept. 8, 1712.