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That which we aim at in this undertaking, and which we would set before us at our entrance upon it, is, not so much to embalm the memory of this good man, (though that also is blessed, as to exhibit to the world a pattern of that primitive Christianity, which all that knew him well, observed to be exemplified in him while he lived; and when they saw the end of his conversation, as it were with one consent, desired a public and lasting account of, or rather demanded it, as a just debt owing to the world, by those into whose hands his papers came, as judging such an account likely to conduce much to the glory of God's grace, and to the edification of many, especially of those that were acquainted with him. He was one whom the Divine Providence did not call out (as neither did his own inclination lead him) to any very public scene of action; he was none of the forward men of the age, that make themselves talked of: the world scarce knew that there was such a man in it. But in his low and narrow sphere he was a burning and shining light, and therefore we think his pious example is the more adapted to general use, especially consisting not in the extacies and raptures of zeal and devotion, which are looked upon rather as admirable than imitable; but in the long series of an even, regular, prudent, and wellordered conversation, which he had in the world, and in the ordinary business of it, with simplicity and godly sincerity; not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God.
It has been said, that quiet and peaceable reigns, though they are the best to live in, yet they are the worst to write of, as yielding least variety of matter for the historian's pen to work upon: but a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty, being the sum and substance of practical Christianity, the recommending of the example of such a life, in the common and familiar instances of it; together with the kind and gracious providences of God attending it, may be, if not as diverting to the curious, yet every whit as useful and instructive to the pious readers.
According to the excellent and royal laws of this holy religion, his life was led with a
strict and conscientious adherence to truth and equity; a great tenderness and inoffensiveness to all mankind; and a strong tincture of sincere piety and devotedness to God: and according to those sacred rules we shall endeavour, in justice to him, as well as to our reader, to represent him in the following account; and if any thing should drop from our pen, which might justly give offence to any, (which we promise industriously to avoid,) we desire it may be looked upon as a false stroke; and so far not truly representing him, who was so blameless and harmless, and without rebuke.
Much of our materials for this structure we have out of his own papers, (especially his diary,) for by them his picture may be drawn nearest to the life, and from thence we may take the truest idea of him, and of the spirit he was of. Those notes being intended for his own private use in the review, and never communicated to any person whatsoever, and appearing here (as they ought to do) in their own native dress, the candid reader will excuse it, if sometimes the expressions should seem abrupt; they are the genuine, unforced and unstudied breathings of a
gracious soul; and we hope will be rather the more acceptable to those, who, through grace, are conscious to themselves of the same devout and pious motions; for as in water face answers to face, so does one sanctified and renewed soul to another; and (as Mr. Baxter observes in his Preface to Mr. Clark's Lives) God's graces are much the same in all his holy ones; and therefore we must not think that such instances as these are extraordinary rarities; but God has in wonderful mercy raised up many, by whose graces even this earth is perfumed and enlightened. But if one star be allowed to differ from another star in glory, perhaps our reader will say, when he has gone through the following account, that Mr. Henry may be ranked among those of the first magnitude.