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Divines, then in session, and were Mr. Marshall, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Herle, Dr. Staunton, Mr. Nye, Mr. Whitaker, and Mr. Hill. His mother requested of Dr. Busby to give her son permission to attend that lecture, daily, not abating, however, of his school exercise, in which he kept pace with the rest; but only dispensing with his absence for that hour. And the Lord was pleased to make good impressions on his soul by the sermons he heard there. His mother also took him, every Thursday, to Mr. Case's lecture, at St. Martin's. On the Lord's day, he sat under the powerful ministry of Mr. Stephen Marshall. This ministry he spake of to the last with great respect and gratitude to God, as that by which he was, through grace, begotten again to a lively hope. He has often been heard to remark, that it was the saying of some judicious men, at that time, that if all the Presbyterians had been like Stephen Marshall, all the Independents like Jeremiah Burroughs, and all the Episcopalians like Archbishop Usher, the breaches of the church would soon have been healed.
Mr. Henry also attended punctually on the monthly fasts at St. Margaret's chapel, where the ablest and best ministers of England preached before the House of Commons. On these days the solemn services of the church were continued from eight in the morning, to four in the afternoon. It was his constant practice to write all the sermons which he heard from the time that he had reached his eleventh or twelfth year. At these public meetings, he experienced often, sweet meltings of soul in prayer; and once, in particular, when Mr. Bridge prayed, many warm and lively truths came home to his heart. Under such means he daily increased in that wisdom and knowledge, which is unto salvation. His own reflections on the benefits and privileges now enjoyed, made long afterwards, are worthy of being perused. “ If ever any child,” says he, “such as I then was, between the tenth and fifteenth years of my age, enjoyed line upon line, and precept upon precept, I did. And was it in vain? I trust not altogether in vain. My soul rejoiceth and is glad at the remembrance of it. The word distilled as the dew and dropped as the rain. I loved it, and loved the messengers of it; their very feet were beautiful to me. And, Lord, what a mercy was it, that at a time when the poor country was laid waste, when the noise of trumpets and drums, and the clattering of arms was heard there; and the ways to Zion mourned, that then my lot should be, where there was peace and quietness; where the voice of the turtle was heard, and where there was great plenty of gospel opportunities. Bless the Lord, O my soul! As long as I live, I will bless the Lord, I will praise my God, while I have my being. Had it been only the restraint that was laid upon me, whereby I was kept from the sins of other children and youths; such as cursing, swearing, Sabbath breaking, and the like, I were bound to be very thankful; but that it prevailed through grace effectually to bring me to God, how much am I indebted, and what shall I render?"
From his own early experience he drew several important practical inferences, as 1. That they were to be blamed who laid too much stress on knowing the precise time of conversion. 2. That early piety should be recommended to all young people, as being attended with many benefits and much comfort. He was wont often to say to the young, “ You cannot begin too soon to be religious,
but you may put it off too long.” When discoursing one day, on Matthew xi. 30, in the conclusion, he appealed to the experience of all who had drawn in that yoke. “Turn,” said he,“ to which of the saints you will, and they will all agree, that they have found wisdom's ways pleasantness,' and Christ's commandments not grievous. And I will here witness for one, who through grace has in some poor measure, been drawing in this yoke, now above thirty years, and has found it an easy yoke, and likes the choice too well to change.”
3. He also recommended it to parents to bring their children betimes to public ordinances. He would say, they are capable sooner than we are aware of receiving good by them.
4. He also recommended to young persons, the practice of writing sermons. He not only followed this practice while young, but continued it until near the close of life. He never wrote short hand, but had the art of taking the substance of a sermon in a very plain and legible hand, and with a great deal of ease.
But to return to the thread of our history.
At Westminster school, Mr. Henry had the happiness to gain the favour of that eminent teacher, Dr. Busby, who took up a particular kindness for the lad, and called him, his child. It is known to all, that Dr. Busby was famed for the rigour of his discipline, and severity of his punishments. But Mr. Henry well observes, that in so large a school, there was need of a strict discipline: and as to himself, in the four years that he was under him, he never felt the weight of his hand but once, and then he richly deserved all that he got; for being sent in pursuit of one who had played truant-he found him out where he had hid himself; but, at his earnest request, promised that he would say that he could not find him. Next morning, the truant coming under examination was asked, whether he had seen the monitor, and acknowledged that he had; at which Dr. Busby was much surprised, and turned his eyes on the monitor, with these words, “What thou, my son!” and corrected him on the spot, and appointed him to make some penitential verses in Latin; which when he brought, he gave him sixpence, and received him into his favour again.