Daily Devotionals: (March 10th): “Before I knew Him”

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Patrick was born into a Christian home. He “had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest” (Confession, sec. 1). He continues his Confession, however: “I did not know the true God and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with so many thousands; and we deserved it, because we drew away from God and did not keep His commandments and did not obey our priests who kept reminding us of our salvation; and the Lord brought on us the fury of His anger and scattered us among many peoples even to the ends of the earth, where now I in my insignificance find myself among foreigners” (Confession, sec. 1).

It was at this point in his life that Patrick found Christ. He writes, “And there the Lord opened up my awareness of my unbelief, so that I might, however late, remember my faults and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my lowly estate and took pity on my youth and ignorance and watched over me before I knew Him and before I learned sense or could distinguish between good and evil and who protected me and comforted me as a father might his son” (Confession, sec. 2).

How deeply Patrick recognized and appreciated the prevenient grace of God that “watched over [him] before [he] knew Christ,” the grace that followed him when he was dead in sin. He describes it thus: “Before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mud; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up and indeed raised me up and placed me on the top of the wall” (Confession, sec. 12). How tender is our gracious God, who watched over us “as a father might his son.” Take time, my soul, to appreciate this and to be humbled by this thought that when I was in the filth of my sin, “he saw me” (Ezekiel 16:6) and “chose me” (Ephesians 1:4) “before I knew him!” And He saved me! If this is true—as it is—then can I not have peace knowing that my salvation is secure?

“Grace was given to us before we existed, before the world began, and, of course, before we had done any good or evil. It was therefore not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.”—Charles Hodge

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

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