When I grew up, Catalogues were the Internet. We waited every quarter for 2-3 inch thick tomes in the mail, packed with thousands of color pictures of every possible kind of item. I can still smell the paper as we kids rushed to the toy pages in the Christmas issues. I suppose it was Amazon in paper form – an innumerable number of goods for sale, organized and presented in such a way to ensure as big a spend as possible.
Some younger readers probably have no idea what I’m talking about. But even my fellow oldies might never have heard of a Catalogue of Mercies. Neither had I until I read about it in J. B. Williams biography of Matthew Henry.
Henry wrote this detailed catalogue in 1675, aged 13, a couple of years after his conversion to Christ, to record the progress of religion in his soul together with what he believed were the three evidences of this being a genuine work of God’s grace. These were:
1. Covenant transactions between God and the soul
Henry was confident that there had been such covenanting, but to be sure, said:
“If I never did this before, I do it now; for I take God in Christ to be mine. I give up myself to be his in the bond of an everlasting covenant never-to-be-forgotten…I do this every day.”
What’s interesting here is that although the Puritans have been accused of being overly introspective, the first evidence that Henry focused on was “I have looked to Christ and given myself away to Him.”
2. True repentance for sin, and grief, and shame, and sorrow for it
Again, Henry found evidence of this, “though not in that measure that I could desire.”
“I have been heartily sorry for what is past. I judge myself before the Lord, blushing for shame that I should ever affront him as I have done.”
This evidence of repentance assured him that God had pardoned him, an assurance he based on several Scriptures (e.g. Prov. 28:13; Isa. 1:18; Matt. 5:4, etc.)
3. True love of God
Henry was convinced that he loved God on two grounds – he loved the people of God and he loved the Word of God.
Just like the catalogues of my youth, Henry’s Catalogue of Mercies were skillfully and persuasively organized, all with the great and glorious aim of commending the mercies of God.
Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works
Which you have done;
And your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to you in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered (Psalm 40:5).