Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO MR. JAMES RHINE.
Winchester Row, 4th June, 1884.
BY my desire your letter is brought to me, and indeed it should have been sent to me at first, as I was the person who wrote the letter concerning you. But perhaps you had your private reasons for this step.
You begin your letter thus: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God, that God in all things may be glorified."
I will in this letter prove to you, that you do not speak as the oracles of God; consequently he is not glorified. You say, you are called upon to give an answer of the reason of the hope that Is in you. If any man gives a reason of the hope that is in him, he should tell us how this hope held him up, as an anchor through all the storms of life, and give an account of the quickening power of the Spirit, who formed Christ in his heart, as a lively hope of glory. The joy likewise that attends this hope; "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God," with Paul. To give a reason of a man's hope, is to tell how he came by it, and what the experience was, that wrought this hope in him; for it is experience that worketh hope; also who the object is that he hopes in, and what the truths are that he grounds his hope upon. Christ formed in the heart is a hope of glory within, and through the mediator they hope in the Father. They shall set their hope in God, says David, for he is the object of hope. "Remember thy word unto thy servant," says David, "upon which thou hast caused me to hope:" there is the foundation of his hope. And now Sir, give me leave to refer you to the 26th chapter of the Acts, where Paul gives a reason of the hope that was in him. You will not be displeased at this, because your letter expresses, that a man ought to speak as the oracles of God, that God may be glorified. In Acts the 26th, Paul says, "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our Fathers; for which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews." Here Paul is accused for his hope; and he stands to be judged for his hope; and now his business is, to give a reason of the hope that is in him; and let us see how he does it. First, Paul tells them what a sinner he was by nature, and how he persecuted the preachers of the gospel, and did things contrary to the name of Jesus. Secondly, He tells them how he was enlightened by Christ the true light, and thus delivered from darkness. Thirdly, How the word of Christ came with power to his heart. Fourthly, How Jesus appeared to him, to make him a minister, and a witness of all that he had seen, mark that; he was to be a minister of the things which he had seen. Fifthly, He obtains a promise that Christ would appear to him again, and that Paul should be a witness, and a minister of the things which Christ would reveal, when he appeared again. Sixthly, He receives a promise of Christ's protecting and delivering grace. Seventhly He is to preach that glorious change, which was wrought in his own heart, and no other. I send thee to open blind eyes, says Christ, as I have caused the scales to drop from your's; to turn people from darkness to, light, as I have turned you; and from the power of Satan unto God, as Christ had turned him: that they might receive an inheritance among them that are pardoned, and sanctified, by faith that is in Christ. Thus Paul gives a reason of the hope that was in him; mark that, that was in him. And then he goes on to the warranted foundation of this hope within him; which is, the hope or testimony experienced, and left upon record by Moses and the Prophets. "Having therefore," said he, "obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets did say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead; and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles," Acts xxvi. 9-13.
But perhaps you may object, and say, all are not taught as Paul was. To which I answer, they must all be enlightened as well as Paul: "Whoso believeth on me," says the Saviour, "shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life." All must hear Christ's voice as well as Paul; "My sheep," says Christ, "hear my voice, and they follow me." They must all be taught of Jesus as well as Paul. It is written, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be their peace." All must see Jesus as well as Paul; "And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him; we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Thus, Sir, I have spewed you what it is to give a reason of the hope that is in a man, and of God's word, as a warrant for faith, and a foundation for hope, upon which we build our expectations of heaven and glory. And now I am willing to appeal to any righteous man, or even to your own conscience, in God's sight, whether or not I have spoken in. this letter agreeably to the oracles of God.
Now, sir, you call yourself a child of God, as well as Paul. You appear in the character of a gospel minister, as well as he:' you say in your letter, God is your reward and rewarder; and that you are called upon to give a reason of the hope that is in you, as well as Paul. If you read the 29th chapter of Isaiah, and 16th verse, you will find, turning things upside down is esteemed of God as potter's clay; and afterwards the prophet goes on to shew what experience the righteous have, which begetteth hope within them. The deaf shall hear, the blind shall sec, the meek shall increase their joy, and rejoice in the Holy One of Israel, ver. 18, 19. Now, I think you, in your letter, have begun where the apostle Paul left off; and thus your house stands on the chimney: this is turning things upside down indeed! and I think, sir, if you will compare your letter to God's word, you will be humble enough to own, that you have not given a reason of a good hope within you, nor even how you came by, it; nor have you proved that you have any hope at all. Your hope seems to be without, even in the bible only, but not in the heart, as an anchor of the soul. Surely you cannot call this, speaking as the oracles of God or giving a reason of your hope, as God's witnesses have done, and as all his witnesses ought to do. Give me leave to recite the reason which you have given of your hope within; and I think you begin thus; "I am called upon to give an answer of the reason of the hope that is in me." Now, let us see how you answer your call. Then you go on; "I therefore tell you, that it was not from either Luther or Calvin" That is, you did not receive your hope from either of these men, if I understand you right. Pray where did you get it then? But you go on, and say, You cannot find the name of Luther or Calvin in the Bible. Nor can I find the name of Mr. Rhine there; yet he says his hope is there. But, sir, a good hope must be within you. But you proceed: "I am so taught to look no where else." No where else but where'! You don't tell us where. You again proceed; "As the lively oracles are sufficient, when I am enabled by the Holy Ghost to believe them." But let me tell you, sir, that Christ is the object of faith; he says, the scriptures testify of him; and again, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me." We must believe in the object the scriptures testify of; but your faith stands in the letter only. The word left upon record is to lead faith to the Son of God; the word is the record given of the Son.
You now proceed, "That there is sure standing, when upheld by God the Father in his love, the Son in his work, and the Spirit in his grace." Pray, is this speaking as the oracles of God? No; the oracles of God tell us, our standing sure is thus: "I will go in the strength of the Lord God," and the arm, or power of the Lord shall uphold me; and again, "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus;" and again, "Be strengthened by the Spirit's might in the inner man." So we are to lean on the Father's arm, be strong in the Saviour's grace, and to be strengthened by the Spirit's might in the new man, which you have left quite out of your confession. You have attributed the grace of God all to the Spirit, contrary to the blessings of all the Apostles. Grace is God's favour freely given us in Christ, and treasured up for us in him. "It hath pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell;" and out of his fullness we must receive grace for grace, for he is full of grace and truth. The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of his grace, or of his love; because he reveals this grace to us, and sheds abroad God's love in us.
You say, that you are upheld by the Son in his work: is this speaking as the oracles of God! I answer, No. The work is finished, which his Father gave him to do. Be strong in faith, as Abraham was, and believe as Christ tells you; believe me, saith he, for the work's sake. Your hope within you, as you call it, is only a creed or a confession of your faith, and a very corrupt one at best. I hope you will for the future do as you leave commanded others to do; that is, speak as the oracles of God; and do not say, I am upheld by the Father in his love, the Son in his work, and the Spirit in his grace: but say, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with me, and uphold me; and then, but not till then, will you speak as the oracles of God. You next go on, saying; that is, speaking of your confused ideas of the most Holy Trinity, that your standing, as before cited, is in these three faithful in covenant, unchangeable in nature, unalterable in purpose, uncontrollable in his providences; and all these attributes to be engaged in the behalf of his chosen people; of which number, not one can be lost, or by any means perish at last. Sir, the unchangeableness of God in his nature, causes him to be unchangeable in his purpose, and unchangeable in leis providence; for a being that is unalterable in himself, is the same in his purpose, and cannot be changed by his creatures: this is no more than one attribute; namely, the immutability of God. Thus, sir, you have jumbled the doctrine of the Trinity into what you call the engaged attributes of God; and it amounts to no more than the immutability of him. This is all that you can bring out of the ever-adorable Trinity: this therefore is not speaking as the oracles of God; consequently he is not glorified. But you proceed; "I am convinced, that many of them [that is, of God's people, if I understand you right] have been brought low by and for their sins; but not to satisfy justice, or make an atonement, but to bring them to their right mind and to their right place." If a person is by sin brought low, he feels the fear of death, and hell, and is in bondage to them; but he is not brought to his right mind, nor to his right place, till the Holy Ghost delivers him. "Ye," says Paul, "have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;" but we have received the spirit of love, and of a sound mind: In this you have not spoken as the oracles of God; consequently he is not glorified. You proceed further, and I follow you: That they are brought to their right mind and place to make a proper use of the advocacy of Christ. Pray, what is advocacy? I never read of the word advocacy in the bible, no nor in any dictionary; therefore this is not speaking as the oracles of God; this is a very rotten part of your creed; for if a sinner is brought low for sin, it is that he may fly to the atonement for pardon and peace; but the advocateship of Jesus is to be applied to, when the law or Satan accuse, either before or after justification has taken place. You likewise say, that "I also am taught by the scriptures, [not by the Holy Ghost who is to guide us into all truth,] that it is in time they are separated by his grace; to be a people to himself, and not to be numbered among the nations among whom they sojourn." I read, that from all eternity their number and names were written in the Lamb's book of life; and that the others have their names written in the dust; and thus speak the oracles of God. You go on, that when these are called, but you don't tell us how; that they receive a new language, but you don't tell us what; which the world cannot understand, but you don't tell us why; and that such are pilgrims, but you don't tell us how; and strangers, but you never tell us in what sense. But you say, the country to which they go is now realized by faith; which you go on to explain thus, if it has any meaning at all: "And of the fruits, which grow on that tree, the root, and they as branches in him, grafted in, and drawing sap from the blessed root Christ Jesus, the fruit holiness, and the end everlasting life." Now, sir, in this you have not spoken as the oracles of God; if you had, you would have described the Holy Ghost's operations, and have owned that the Spirit is an earnest of our future inheritance, which you call a land realized by faith, and that we derive life from Christ the root of David, by faith; and so pass from death to life by believing, and not call the fruit holiness, for God is holiness: but you would have spoken as Paul did, namely, that believers have their fruit unto holiness; mark that, unto holiness. The fruits of the Spirit are one thing; fruit unto holiness is fruit produced by the Spirit unto God, who is holiness itself. Here you have not spoken as the oracles of God; therefore God is not glorified.
You say, it is necessary for such, that is, the saints as I suppose, or the world I don't know which, that they should chew forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into marvellous light. But who are they? I read that a preacher is to be eyes to the blind; and Christ says, if the eye, or the preacher, be singly directed, all the whole mystical body, which he is the leader of, and the eye too, shall be full of light: for he is to be God's candle, to give light to all that are in the house. Now many at Sunbury declare this your letter to be written in a Christian spirit, and to be sound doctrine; and I will prove that there is not one line of sound divinity in it; and this either personally or by letter, which you please; and I will submit to the judgment of any you shall choose. But as your judgment is rotten, and your eye evil, it proves, that the greater part of the body you minister to at Sunbury, agreeably to scripture, is full of darkness; and if the whole body be darkness in a gospel profession, then, says Christ, how great is that darkness which keeps its veil in an enlightened age, and under one called a gospel minister! You inform us, that you are not for rendering railing for railing, but blessing for cursing. I suppose the railer is myself; and you the blesser. But let me tell you, it is better to rail against a fellow creature for his faults, than to corrupt the word of God, or deal deceitfully in the covenant: for the oracles of God say, that if a man sins against another, the judges shall plead for him: but if a man sins against God, as Eli's sons did, who were false priests, who shall plead for him? Railing may wound a man in his reputation, but dealing hypocritically in the word of God, damns the soul. "My people perish for lack of knowledge," and a blind guide leads many to the ditch; therefore, God says, "cursed is he that causeth the blind to wander out of his way." You own yourself to be the Jonah that has occasioned this storm, and I believe you are; because you have in your ministry fled from the presence of God, and have not preached that doctrine which the Oracles of God bid you; and as you confess yourself willing to be thrown overboard, that there may be a calm, my soul's desire is, that you may occupy a little business in deep waters, and not come up again, till you can say of your errors as Jonah did of his, namely, "they that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercies." When this is the case, you will own, as he did; that salvation is all of the Lord. But I suppose you are desirous of going overboard, because the mariners have cast the lot on you. One word in your letter I like much; that is, you call yourself an unprofitable servant; God grant the Judge may not bind you both hand and foot, and cast you, as such, into utter darkness.
I must, by your leave, go on to inform you of my writing about your doctrine. When I was at Barnet, they told me, that they would be glad of a change of preachers, if I could get any. I mentioned you, as Mr. Ruff had given me such a wonderful account of you, and told them I had no doubt but you would please them, if I could prevail on you to come and preach to them. I therefore prevailed, and got you to go. The last time I was there, they told me, that when they heard you, they concluded among themselves that you were not the man I recommended, but some person you had got in your room; till by inquiring they found your name to be Rhine, agreeably to the name I promised to send. Then they asked if you were a Lutheran, and told me that you were not a Calvinist, or in other words a sound scripturalist. You owned you were a Lutheran, though at the same time you said, Calvin was of the best spirit. I asked the man all the particulars about it, who I believe to be as sound a man, as experimental, as zealous, and as circumspect, as any I ever met with; and he told me that you was within one step of rank Arminianism. One of them came to me before, and desired me to let you come there no more, and asked me if I had ever heard you; I said, No, I had not; but some friends had spoken very highly of you. And indeed I have been sorely displeased with some who have spoken lightly of your doctrine to me; and as Mr. Ruff, the last time he went with me to Woking, wished me to hear you; saying you trod in the same steps with me, and that you spake the same things, I was determined last Lord's day to hear you myself; and as I had heard various reports, you must needs think I came with all he ears of a critic: at the same time I prayed God to be with you, and convince me from your own mouth what you really was; that I might either justify or censure you, as every faithful minister ought to do. I therefore did as you do, when you come to hear me, that is, I stood incog. that I might not intimidate you, nor draw any thing out of your mouth contrary to the usual stream. And now give me leave to correct some of your unwarrantable assertions. I shall be glad to inform your judgment, and I will be open to conviction, if you can object, agreeably to scripture. Your text was, "I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only." Your work was, to contradict yourself; You took a text, and then exclaimed against taking texts. You said, the prophets never used any such methods, nor the apostles; they made the whole scriptures their text. I believe I can prove several sermons left on record in the bible, that were preached from a single text, that is, The promise made to Abraham. And the first sermon that Christ ever preached in the flesh, was from a text in Isaiah, and he stuck to his text, and told them it was fulfilled in their ears; then closed the book, and said no more. The last chapter of Habakkuk is a sermon from one text out of Deuteronomy. And when Christ sent out his twelve apostles, he sent them with one text, which is this, "The kingdom of heaven is come nigh unto you." But you affirm, that taking texts was by many wire-drawing the scriptures; that is not speaking as the oracles of God. I do not read that divinity is compared to bell-wire, to be played with. You said many brought more out of their text than there was in it: but I believe no man can drive to the bottom of any one text in the bible. Paul only knew in part, and prophesied in part; therefore left a part unprophesied or unpreached. However, you did not run to the extreme of bringing more out than there was in; for you never explained a word of your text, nor did you bring out one word of real experience, nor apply a word to conscience. You drew the bow at a venture indeed, for you aimed at nothing. David's saying, "By thee I have been holden up from the womb;" you said he meant the womb of spiritual conversion: but read the whole verse, and there he tells you, God took him out of his mother's bowels, Psalm lxxi. 6. The womb of God's secret decree, and my mother's bowels, are different things: my mother's womb is an unclean thing; but that which is born of God, sinneth not. You said, "David could not mean a natural birth, for the elect were children of wrath, even as others." But David tells you, in God's book were all his members written, when as yet there were none of them; and God's eye did see his substance: and Jude saith, We are preserved in Christ Jesus and called, that is, called after we were preserved, and preserved in our calling, and after being called; and though many are called and few chosen, yet only the chosen are said to be preserved in Christ Jesus.
You say, the saints did not trust in persons or things, but in the word. I wish all the saints to trust in the persons of the ever-blessed Trinity; and this is brought to pass by the things which belong to a sound experience. Your main drift is to lead people to trust in the written word, and those whose trust stands in the letter, will be sadly foiled when the bibles are burnt up: the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. The word must come to the heart with power, and in the Holy Ghost; when the law of his God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide.
As you were speaking of a guilty sinner, you said he feared, till he was brought to see the surety had doubly paid Justice his debt; and brought a passage out of Isaiah to prove it. This is representing God in an awful light; for if he exacted of the surety double the sum that was due, the Judge of all the earth did wrong; and Christ must offer up two bodies, two souls, and two masses of blood. But read the law, sir, and I will shew you a mystery. Most of the legal. threatenings are in the singular number: "The soul that sinneth it shall die;" "Cursed is he that continueth not," &c. "Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree." This was to skew one sacrifice, one surety would do. Pray read the text you perverted, Isaiah, xl. 2. "She hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Who? I answer, Jerusalem. It is not said, God received of the surety's hands double for all her debts; but it is said, Jerusalem hath received of the Lord's hands double for all her sins. The meaning is this; where sin hath abounded, grace from God, through Christ, hath much more abounded, to remove the guilt of it, and subdue its reigning power. This woman's sins are many, and much grace she required to cast out seven devils, and to set her down a true penitent; and as she received much forgiving grace, she loved much. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God, that God may be glorified. As you was speaking of the fall of saints, you referred them to a passage in Micah, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy," &c., Micah, vii. 8. You said that that enemy was the plague of the heart; if it was the plague of the heart, it should be called, it, in the neuter gender: and if it was the old man of sin, it should have been called him, in the masculine; but if you read the passage, you will find the enemy to be called, her: literally it was his persecuting wife; keep thy lips, saith he, from her that lieth in thy bosom. And Christ applied it to the foes of our own household; household is a family, not the sawn of sin in the heart; but figuratively it means a false church, or an oppressing nation. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.
The words which you commented on, "Deliver me in thy righteousness," did not mean the imputed righteousness of Christ; for David was delivered from' the law and wrath by the faith of that before; but he meant, Remember how many promises of protection I had from thee, and how thou chose and anointed me; be just to thy word, and deliver me in righteousness, justice, or faithfulness, according to thy promise.
The part of your discourse about Cornelius was a stolen morsel, believe from Luther, about his having the faith of the fathers before Peter came to him. Doubtless, he had legal convictions, and groans after ease; and gave alms and wrought for life; but he was to hear words from Peter, by which he and his house were to be saved. You never made any difference between Christ's active and passive obedience, which the scripture doth abundantly. Excuse my freedom, Sir, though you are an older preacher than myself; I write not in anger, but to be of use to you.Farewell; thine to serve,
W. H.William Huntington