1673, It appears that he he heard a sermon on the signs of true grace, which put him upon the strict examination of himself by the rules which had been laid down; and, after opening his mind to his father, he was encouraged to draw a favourable conclusion respecting his spiritual state. He particularly mentions his repentance for sin, according to the scripture account of it, in many passages which he transcribes; his solemn dedication of himself to God, according to the tenor of the gospel covenant, and his love to God, as evidenced by his love to the people of God, whom he chose as his best companions; and his love to the word of God, concerning which he expresses himself thus: "I esteem it above all; I desire it as the food of my soul; I greatly delight both in reading and hearing 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 it; I rejoice in the good success of it; all which were given as marks of true love to the word, in a sermon I lately heard, on Psalm cxix. 140. Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it."
In the same paper, which contains a catalogue "of the mercies of God to him, both temporal and spiritual," he mentions it as matter of peculiar thankfulness that he was blessed with pious parents, who took so much pains in his education, and by whose means he was brought so early to devote himself to God. After noticing with thankfulness his recovery from an ague which had hung long upon him, he mentions his first application to learning. It will be pleasing to the reader to see his own words.
"After this sickness, in the year 1669, I had health, and began to learn my grammar. Blessed be God that gave me an understanding! Mr. Turner entered me a little into the principles of grammar, and my father has carried me on in it; the Lord grant that he may live to perfect it!" As a proof of his affection to this his excellent father, as well as of his piety to God, the following addition is here subjoined: "In March, 1669, my dear father had a sore fever; we thought he would have died; but our extremity was God's opportunity, and he arose and helped us."
It was observed by all who knew him, that he was remarkably quick in learning any thing, and that he possessed a strong memory to retain it. He was early addicted to close application to his studies, and remarkably provident of his time; so that his good mother, fearful lest he should injure his health, was sometimes obliged to call him down from his closet and advise him to take a walk in the fields.
His whole conduct, in the happy family of which he was a member, was amiable and exemplary. As he ever manifested the greatest duty and deference to both his pious parents, so he exercised the utmost affection and kindness towards his sisters. They all lived together in the most delightful unity: and he made it his business and his pleasure to promote their best interests, both by his admonitions and his prayers. His father recommended it to them to spend an hour together every Saturday afternoon, in religious exercises, with a view to their preparation for the sabbath; and he conducted them with great propriety, to their mutual advantage.
He was always very regardful of his father's instructions, and with uncommon diligence he attended to his preaching; with which he was sometimes so deeply affected, that, as soon as the service was ended, he would retire to his closet, to weep and pray over what he had been hearing, and would hardly be prevailed upon to come down to dinner, lest the memory and impression of it should be effaced. He sometimes took an opportunity, especially in walking with his father, to relate to him the impressions which his discourses made upon him, and to open to him freely any difficulties that occurred to his mind; which proved of excellent use for his further information and encouragement.
It seems that Mr. Henry had an inclination to the ministry from his childhood. This partly appeared in his fondness for imitating preaching, which he did with a great degree of propriety and gravity beyond his years; as also in his frequent attendance at the private meetings of good people, with whom he would pray, and repeat sermons, and sometimes expound the scriptures, to the surprise of all present. One of them once expressed to his father some concern lest his son should be too forward, and fall into the snare of spiritual pride; to whom the good man replied," Let him go on; he fears God and designs well, and I hope God will keep him and bless him."
Mr. Philip Henry was used generally to have some young student in his house, previous to his entrance on the ministry, who, while he was a pupil to Mr. Henry, acted as a tutor to his children. One of these was Mr. William Turner, who was born in that neighbourhood, and had studied at Edmund Hall, Oxford. He was afterward many years vicar of Walburton, in Sussex, and was the author of a work in folio, on the History of remarkable Providences. He lived with Mr. Henry at the time his son entered on his grammar, and was the person referred to by him in the papers quoted above, as having initiated him into the Latin language; and it may be supposed, from his great piety and studious turn, that he was in other respects useful to him. Mr. M. Henry remained under his father's eye and tuition till he was about eighteen years of age, from which he enjoyed singular advantage for both literary and religious attainments, to qualify him for the ministerial office; and he soon afforded ample proof that he had not enjoyed them in vain. As his constitution grew stronger with his growing years, his mind also improved in knowledge, grace, and holiness, so that he was richly furnished betimes for the important office to which he had devoted his life, and seemed not to need any further assistance than he had enjoyed, or might yet enjoy, under the tuition, and from the example, of such a father, who was not only an excellent scholar himself, but had an admirable method of communicating knowledge to others. He was desirous, however, that his son might enjoy some further advantages in his education at some more public seminary.
Mr. P. Henry had been partial to a University, having himself passed some years at Christ Church, Oxford. But the sad alteration which had taken place in those seats of learning, after the Restoration, greatly altered his opinion; so that, to preserve his son from the snares and temptations to which he might have been exposed from the want of proper discipline, he determined upon sending him, in the year 1680, to an academy which was then kept at Islington by the learned and pious Mr. Thomas Doolittle, who trained up many young men for the ministry, who made a distinguished figure among the Protestant dissenters. Here, among many other excellent young persons, he enjoyed the society of Mr. Bury, who was from the same neighbourhood, and afterward an eminent minister, who bore this honourable testimony to Mr. Henry's character during the course of his studies: "I was never better pleased," says he, "when I was at Mr. Doolittle's, than when I was in young Mr. Henry's company. He had such a savour of religion always upon his spirit, was of such a cheerful temper, so diffusive of all knowledge, so ready in the scriptures, so pertinent in all his petitions, so full and clear in all his performances, &c. that he was