Tidings from Wallingford
William Huntington S.S. (1745-1813)
To the Children of God, at Providence Chapel, at Monkwell Street, at Jewin Street, at Richmond in Surry, and to all Lovers of the Truth in the Kingdom of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, &c.
Dearly Beloved in the Lord, Grace and Peace be multiplied, through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I AM now at Wallingford, in Berkshire, with the flock that was lately scattered into corners, by the sudden inundation of Arminianism, by a certain Vicar: but, blessed be God, his truth stands fast to his own Elect; for though some cleave to the church of God by flatteries, yet "the people do know their God, shall be strong and do exploits," Dan. xi. 32.
Here are a few souls sweetly united together; these have had their feet kept in the path of truth, and are blessed with a circumcised ear, and seem to observe the Lord's caution, "Take heed what ye hear." It is true, their peace has been much disturbed, their comforts scattered, and their judgments confused: but they have neither lost their legs nor their ears; for they run away from the Arminian, and hear others; as it is written, "Thus saith the Lord, as the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in [mongrel] Samaria, in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch," Amos. iii.12.
I must confess I am much surprised to hear that the Reverend Gentleman should so often in his pulpit utter the words, 'Under this holy roof,' meaning the church; and, after all his consecration, defile the same by an absolute denial of her doctrinal articles, which himself must have subscribed by oath, as well as a renunciation of the supremacy of the Pope.
About twelve months ago, the Rev. Mr. P. told his audience, that he saw a heavy cloud hang over Wallingford, and desired them to pray for him. This prediction is really verified, and himself appears to be the cloud, as saith the wise man, "Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift, is like clouds and wind without rain," Prov. xxv. 14.
Thus the prediction is more than fulfilled, for there is a dry wind as well as an empty cloud; but I trust both will be of use under the management of infinite wisdom; the wind seems to sever the chaff from the wheat, and the empty cloud drives them to the fountain of living waters, where they are sure of a supply; as it is written, "when they are sure of a supply; as it is written, "when poor and needy seek water, and there is none, their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them," Isaiah xli. 17. The shaking of this apparent column has filled many with filial fear; it has brought others to self-examination, and some few to the work of digging deep to find the rock which God has laid, in order to build a gospel hope for themselves.
As for the doctrines that have been lately advanced by this reverend divine, they go by various names; which, as I am not a master of arts, it is not in my power to explain; nor do I believe there is a doctor of divinity in all the world that can make these following assertions harmonize.
The Vicar styles them 'The doctrines of grace,with some improvements;' but what improvement the carnal wisdom of blind, fallen and corrupt nature can make on the grace of God, is a mystery too profound for an illiterate coalheaver to fathom; therefore I am constrained to leave this with the learned.
From a text in Matthew, chap. viii, personal purity was forcibly insisted on, from which discourse Jesus Christ and faith in his blood were wholly excluded, and yet his audience were commanded never to set themselves down as Christians till every precept was fulfilled, and every command obeyed. If this is a true son of the Church of England, how comes he to differ so much from the reformers' introduction to the Lord's prayer in the catechism? 'My good child, know this, that thou art not able to do these things of thyself, nor to walk in the commandments of God, and to serve him without his special grace, which thou must learn at all times to call for by diligent prayer.
It appears to me that the improvements which he has made on the doctrines of grace, have led him to contradict the articles which he subscribed to, and by enforcing the doctrines of popery, he is guilty of perjury; and has in effect forfeited all right and title to any offerings, tythes, or surplice fees belonging to the Church of England.
Another strange improvement on the doctrines of grace is, that 'All the promise's in the 17th chapter of St. John are never to be taken or applied to any Christian, for they all belong to the saints in glory, and to none else.' But what occasion the saints in glory can have for promises, I know not; seeing that they are already in full possession of the promised blessings. The heir does not live by faith on the testament, when he is in full possession of the inheritance. The promises are not made, nor left upon record to support the hope of glorified souls. God has made them happy in full fruition, his word is to his church militant, "Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men."
When a certain Mr. W. complained of his comfortless state to the Rev. Mr. P, the Vicar desired to know if the fault lay in the preacher, or in the pious hearer; the hearer replied, He was not a competent judge to determine; but as the honest Mr. W. was esteemed by the Vicar to be a most discerning Christian, the preacher was obliged to own himself and his doctrine to be in the fault; and that he had altered the system of his preaching, and had not apprized them of it; and therefore, said he, I have distressed you all by it.' But though he owned that he had made the heart of them sad, whom the Lord had not made sad, yet it had no effect on the preacher; for instead of Wisdom being justified by her children, Wisdom's children were left to sink in their own verdict; while human wisdom in the Vicar was kept in the full possession of infallibility. This is not bringing the faults of individuals to the body of Christ, which is his church, where Christ has left the decision; but it is bringing the jury to the humour of the supposed infallible judge.
Another account of the improvements of grace is in the following public confession that he made. 'And as to election,' said the divine, 'and predestination, they are stumblingblocks to the world, and to many people: for instance, here is on the other side of Benson, an old woman who cannot bear the doctrines, and she is in perpetual doubts and fears about her election,' &c. So the sovereignty of God, his revealed will, and the whole covenant of discriminating grace, are to creep behind the scene, that the judgment of an old woman may be exalted; and the preacher is to alter his doctrine to please the world. If a bible was to be compiled by a few doubting, distrusting women, all the world would be at a loss to find the path of life. I never found any means so effectual to establish a doubting troubled soul, as delivering from the bible, what election is, what election does, and what the elected are predestinated to; and the difficulties the elect have to cope with.
'But as for election, God forbid that I should give it up in my private opinion,' said the Vicar; 'but I choose not to preach it, it is such a stumbling block. And as for them that hold it, I see that one is a snivelling Christian, another a wild-brain fancied Christian, another an Enthusiast, and a fourth, a street-walking Christian.' My friends will observe, that although the Vicar holds election in his own private opinion, yet he will eat that morsel alone; he does not choose to declare the whole counsel of God, nor yet to proclaim on the house-top, what he has heard of the Lord in secret. So, instead of speaking out of the abundance of his heart, he is determined to keep the good heart treasure to himself and deliver to the people the improvement of his own brains. Surely this is not preaching from the heart to the heart, nor yet appealing to God and conscience in God's right. And according to the Vicar's account of free sovereign grace, it only teaches people to snivel, to be wild in their brain, to be enthusiastic in their notions, and to run about the streets. If witness be true, I wonder that the Vicar was not a snivelling enthusiast before now; for he has been paddling in election for these ten years past. However, my reader will see by this, that himself is wild-brained enough; and I am sure that he needeth a world of tame brains to make a consistent chain of doctrines out of such inconsistent materials as these.
I will never believe that he would have given up the doctrines of election, if he had been in the happy enjoyment of what the doctrine of election holds forth, and secures to the humble believer.
The word of God says, that the elect are ordained to eternal life, which is comfortable tidings to him that sensibly knows the damps of legal and spiritual death. The word of God declares that we are ordained to peace, which is sweet to every sensible rebel. Paul says we are predestinated to the adoption of children; which is pleasing to the soul that is sick of the slavery of Satan's family; and that we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's son, and any sinner will be glad of this, who knows the self-condemned and fallen image of the Earthly Adam.
We are likewise predestinated to good works, and to eternal glory; and what chosen vessel in his right mind, would wish to preach against these things, suppose he could please all the old women in Benson by doing of it? He avowed in the presence of man, that Christ died for all men; for them that were in prison, 'for that man on horseback also,' said he, and that many were in hell for whom Christ died. If so, then Christ's death avails but little. 'As for universal redemption,' said he, 'it is a truth, and I am determined to abide by that system, although it should offend those who were so closely connected with me, and all my congregation beside;' being determined to set his face like a flint, and stand like an iron pillar to defend it. Yea, he declared himself bent upon this, even if all his congregation left him, and he himself be forced to preach to a new people.
That very night in which he gave his people this his confession and determination, that very night God laid his afflicting hand upon him, and he preached no more for eight weeks. Those that feared God saw visibly that he had visited his apostasy with the rod, and his erroneous confession with stripes; but after he was bruised in the mortar, he came out like the wise man's fool, just as he went in; for neither his errors nor his impenitency departed from him; for he even opposed the testimony of a faithful divine in the establishment, who came from Reading, and would not let him preach for him. The pious parson of Wallingford gave me leave to publish his name, if I chose; and the whole of this I had from them to whom he delivered this confession: and yet in a letter which he sent to a friend, he flatly denied all this, and said it was a false report. But alas! a man who will deal falsely in God's covenant, and deceive souls with false doctrines, will stick at nothing. But how the Rev. Mr. H. could stand forth and vindicate him in his pulpit in London, I know not. However, when he got into his pulpit at Wallingford, Mr. H. overthrew the whole doctrine, so strenuously contended for by Mr. P. For the people informed me, that while he rebuked them, and vindicated Mr. P. he at the same time took his text out of the seventeenth chapter of St. John, which Mr. P. had declared belonged to none but the spirits of just men made perfect. This was an entertainment for the people that feared God; for they saw that he innocently tore Mr. P's doctrine to pieces, even while he was endeavouring to vindicate him, and blaming people for leaving him.
He publicly declared, that the devils were in heaven, which he attempted to prove from the beginning of the book of Job, but that they could not stay there, because they could not sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. But how the devils, who are bound in chains under darkness, and reserved unto the judgment of the great day, should come into the realms of everlasting light, I know not!
He also laboured hard to enforce the doctrine of final apostasy from grace, which he endeavoured to prove from a most comfortable part of the word of God, namely, "If his children for sake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from Him." Here he artfully secured all the loving-kindness to Him, but excluded all the family beside. The redeemed, he said, were in heaven already, and loving-kindness is secured only to Him the head; not to them. It would be endless for me to give you an account of all the improvements that he has made on the doctrines of grace; and what improvements we are further to expect may be guessed at by this sample. However, he honestly owns, that if universal redemption be not a truth, that he himself shall never be saved. You see his case is desperate; he hopes to be saved, because he thinks none will be lost. From all such conspiracy and rebellion, from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism, from hardness of heart, and contempt of God's word and commandment, Good Lord deliver us!
P. S. I have found some simple honest souls at Wallingford, who saw Mr. P's first slip, and seem to have better eyes than the preacher; they are fitting up a little place, and will want some assistance from us, which I hope will not be long wanting on our part. Farewell; may the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his son Jesus Christ our Lord; and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be with us all. Amen and Amen; saith; our souls' well-wisher in Christ Jesus.