A Spiritual Sea Voyage
William Huntington (1745-1813)
I AM very fond of visiting; and I must inform thee that I have lately paid several visits from the press. A most cordial reception I have met with from some, and burning entertainment from others. Whether my present reader may prove a friend or a foe, I know not: but, if he be a friend, I am not to trust in him, Micah vii. 6; and, if he be a foe, I am not to fear him, Jer. i. 8. I believe the grace of God is sufficient to keep me from making my reader either the object of fear or of trust.
After God had stripped me of all confidence in the flesh, I paid a visit to the public in the shape of a "Skeleton:" When ho brought me forth from a heavy persecution more than conqueror, I paid another visit in arms, called "The Naked Bow of God." When kind Providence began to appear conspicuous, then I gossiped about the country in "The Bank of Faith." When my family increased, and my circumstances were bettered, I gadded about with my "Last Will and Testament." And when I arrived at the fullest assurance of gospel faith, I then renewed my visits as a subject of the kingdom of God. Now, as times get better and better, I am come to pay a visit on board a ship. I have been promoted so fast, than in less than eight years I have ascended from the servile slavery of coal-heaving on board a barge, to the dignity of flag-officer on board a man of war. Thus my reader may see how we clergy get up in the world. But "kissing goes by favour;" favour precedes choice; both favour and choice are the result of sovereign love; and all sovereignty centres only in God.
The divine birth and life of a real Christian are compared to five things, which have a deep effect on the sensations of mortals. First, to the scrutiny of a guilty criminal at the bar of judgment, 1 Cor, xi. 32. Secondly, to the purifying of gold in a refiner's furnace, Zech. xiii. 9. Thirdly, to a severe battle, where victory hangs in an even balance, 2 Cor. vii. 5. Fourthly, to the dreadful pains of childbirth; John xvi. 21. And lastly, to a ship in a violent storm, Psalm x. 7.
As the Holy Ghost makes use of a vessel in a storm as a similitude of the perils of a spiritual conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil, it is to be hoped that none will take offence at my paying the world a visit by sea, especially as I am not come in the character of a Spaniard to invade the land, nor to storm any fort; but only to let the carnally-minded know how we mariners fare at sea; the difficulties we meet with, and the dangers we encounter before we reach the desired haven.
This little pamphlet appeared, in its original form, about thirteen years ago, and was written at the time I carried coals. I studied it while at my labour, to prevent my ears being stormed with vain conversion; and what I studied at my work I penned at my dinner hour, and corrected in the evening. The poetry was entirely spontaneous, but the printer made it worse; and, as I could not attend the press, I was obliged to leave it at the mercy of many critics, who of course showed me none: their censures, however, neither stemmed the blessing of God which attended it, nor hurt the sale.
But my reader may probably ask, How came you to address us from the press in sea terms, and represent our trials by a sea voyage, seeing you never were at sea yourself? It is true I never was literally at sea in my life; nor was I ever on board a real ship until this summer, when kind Providence sent me down to Chatham in Dent, where I intended to furnish myself with a store of knowledge sufficient for this voyage. Accordingly a gentleman took me on board a ship that lay in the dock for repair; but, as all her rigging and guns were taken out, and nothing left but the hull, that was not sufficient. I therefore resolved to go on board a new guard ship, of the first rate, that was both rigged and manned. Two gentlemen accompanied me, and spoke to the gunner in my behalf, who very politely told me he would shew me the ship throughout: and indeed so he did; for he took me into every hole and corner, from head to stern, except the great cabin, and solved all the questions that I asked him. Had I not been about my master's business I would have gone on board again, being highly delighted with the amazing construction and architecture of so noble a machine. But we need not wonder at the architecture either of a ship or of Solomon's temple, seeing the plan of both were given by God; Gen, xiv. and Exodus, xxv,
The first edition of this work savoured more of divinity than of the sea, which some seafaring men found fault with, for the want of knowing more of the bible; and this edition will, I suppose, savour too much of the sea for the palate of landmen. However, as the Saviour himself pleased but a very few it would be in vain for me to think of succeeding better.
Some of my friends desired me to write a key to this work; but I found the key would be bigger than the lock, if it was to be notched and cut so as to fit every ward: besides, to print a key would be the ready way to let carnal critics come on board, who would be for overhauling the rigging and scrutinizing the work-manship; by which means they would disorder the crew, and do more mischief than enough: wherefore I have, in this work, compared these carnal critics, or hardened hypocrites, to barnacles, a sort of shell-fish, that stick to the ship's bottom, and obstruct her in sailing; which we must scrape off as well as we can. But it is better for them to stick to the bottom of the ship than to come on board with their shells; for one thief within is worse than ten without.
The best key is the spirit of revelation and understanding, which is given by the blessed Saviour himself; who is the storehouse, the door, and the lock; in whom lie all the treasures of grace, wisdom, and knowledge; and the Holy Ghost is the key that lets us into his fullness: and with this key it is that we "go in and out, and find pasture." For the scriptures say that we know not "the things of God, but by the Spirit of God;" therefore he is the key of knowledge. And the treasures of knowledge are in Christ; who is the storehouse, whence all supplies may be had in answer to humble prayer.
Reader, I wish thee a prosperous voyage, and advise thee to make what astronomical observations thou canst in the way. Discern the signs of the times; and, among all the planets that shore, be sure to put no confidence in the crab, or the bear, Prov. xxviii. 1.5; the dog, Phil. iii. 2; the scorpion, Rev. ix. .5; the eagle, Lev. xi. 13; the rabbit, Prov. xxx. 26; nor in the dolphin, Hab. i, 14; nor pay any regard to the comets or wandering stars, Jude, 13. Castor and Pollux are twin brothers, and shed no baleful influence on us, and therefore are not to be despised. Observe the ram, Gen. xxxi. 10; and the lion, Rev. v. 5; for they are great friends to us. Prize highly the sweet influence of Pleides; but, above all, cleave close to "him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning," Amos, v. 8. And be sure to take heed that thou dost never attempt, in thy contracted frames, to "bind the sweet influences of Pleiades;" nor by the strength of free-will to "loose the bands of Orion," Job, xxxviii. 31. Admire the morning star, Rev. xxii. 16; observe the milky way, Prov. iv. 18; and sail as far as possible from the dragon's tail, Rev, xii. 4.
In all your engagements, be sure to keep off your enemy from thwarting your hawse. If a whole fleet chase you, or if they attack you both on the larboard and starboard sides, they will do you but little damage; but, if they thwart your hawse, or get under your counter, they will rake you, until every comfort is disabled, and not a grace left fit for exercise. It is better to have a whole fleet on your sides than to have the piercing guilt of one sin lie between God and your conscience; therefore be sure to keep your enemy from thwarting your hawse.
And now, Reader, I shall leave thee to the direction of him who knows "the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, and the way of a ship in the midst of the sea," Prov. xxx. 19. Consequently he must be thy all-sufficient pilot; and will be thy sure protection too, Unless thou fleest out of the ship under colour, Acts, xxvii. 30. if thou dost so, thou gettest out of the promised protection of the Lord; for Truth hath said that, "except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved," Acts, xxvii. 31.
Reader, farewell; thine affectionate messmate, and ready friend, as long as one farthing of heavenly bounty, pay, or prise-money, lasts,