Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
Winchester Row, June 6, 1784.
YOURS I received; and return you my best wishes, with the ancient blessings in their gospel significations, namely, that of grace, mercy, and peace, be with thee, from him who ever lives, and ever loves. I have also returned your tribute of thankfulness to your greatest creditor, knowing that you are a debtor to grace.
I find a degree of gratitude to God, for his condescending to own any feeble attempt of mine, to the refreshing the bowels of his saints. I am willing, Madam, to entertain you with a second epistle on the pleasing subject of the gospel of faith, if I can get my cruse to spring again. But you know I live upon divine alms myself; and I doubt you will be more earnest in petitioning at second hand, than I am at the first. I find by daily experience that it is an easy matter for a thirsty inquisitive soul to drain a preacher dry; but truth hath said, "He that watereth, shall be watered also himself." Faith is not only an eye, by which our forefathers saw the promised seed at a distance, but the encircling arm, by which they embraced the promise; and that soul-emptying, God-honouring, and victorious grace, by which they went from one nation to another, without suffering harm.
Faith led their hearts and affections from the vanities of time and sense, so that they had no desire to return to that country from whence they came, though they had an opportunity.
Faith led them to trust in God, and to walk before him as in his immediate presence; and to place their confidence in him as their shield, and their exceeding great reward. Faith thus purifying their hearts, and overcoming the world in them, led them to seek a better country, that is, an heavenly; and often reminding them, that this was not their rest; sweetly led them to look for a continuing city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God.
Thus faith led them to credit omnipotence for protection, strength, and safety; and to look out for a glorious accomplishment of the promises; persuading them that he was faithful who had promised.
Under faith's influence, they confessed themselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth; strangers, because none knew their birth or nativity; pilgrims, because they viewed not themselves at home on this side the grave; foreigners, because their birth was from heaven, and heaven was their journey's end.
God's irrevocable decree brought them forth into this world as into a fining pot; and when they were tried, purified, and polished, they went back again. After faith had done its last office for them, which was to make their dying bed easy, and their views of heaven clear, these all died in faith; and now they burn in love, shine in glory, and bathe in pleasure; in love that knows no bounds; in glory that knows no period; and in pleasure that never can he fathomed. Oh, happy souls! happy state! and happy place!
Faith is a viewing of Christ, Heb. xi. 27; a longing for Christ, Psalm, lxiii. 1; a coming to Christ, Heb. xi. 6; a laying hold of Christ, 1 Tim. vi. 12; a closing in with Christ, Ps. xxvii. 13; a dwelling in Christ, Psalm, xc. 1; a receiving of Christ, John, i. 12: and is attended with a cordial love to Christ, Gal. v. 6. Faith puts on Christ, Rom. xiii. 14; stands fast in Christ, 1 Thess. iii. 8; and is a walking in Christ, Col. ii. 6; and the end of faith is the salvation of the soul, 1 Peter, i. 9. The Lord attend my friend with this soul-establishing grace, which leads us to see the glorious end of all real religion. Faith feeds upon Christ in the promises; mixes her influence with the promises; and kills the soul to all but Christ Jesus the Lord revealed in the promises.
Beware of that faith that boasts in temporal prosperity, but is dashed out of countenance in adversity; "He that believeth shall not be confounded." Fiery trials discover gospel faith from daring presumption; hence the trial of faith is more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.
I never could trust an untried faith; when faith hath been once tried, her language is, God hath delivered, and we trust that he will yet deliver us.
Real faith will find her way to God in a storm, and bring help from him too. "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
That is a precious faith, that will never give up prayer till it gets relief; then faith appears in character, as it is written, "Oh, woman, great in thy faith!" Her faith had stood three discouraging rebuffs, and yet it overcame by importunity.
That is a precious faith that persuades the mind it shall surely obtain its request, even when there is no visible signs of it. It was this faith that set Habakkuk the prophet upon his watch-tower, and kept him waiting till the vision revealed the way of life; "The just shall live by faith" Thus faith appears the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.
Faith, as an eye, keeps looking to Jesus; and as a hand, she will keep her hold. "I held him and would not let him go." Who can lose their way with such an eye? And who can drop into hell with such a hand? " He that believeth is passed from death unto life, and shall never come into condemnation"
Faith is like a salamander, she can exist in the flames; by faith they quenched the violence of fire, Heb. xi. 34. Or, she is like the ark, she can swim in the floods. "By faith Noah being warned of God, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." Faith is like an eel, she can dive in the mud; she dived with Jonah into the whale's belly, and made him look towards the holy temple, and directed a petition to enter the ears of the Almighty, even from the depth of the sea: and in answer to faith's petitions, the living house of prayer vomited up the prophet. "My prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited up Jonah upon dry land."
The grace of faith is better felt and enjoyed than described; lint it may be discerned by the fruit of the lips; by her fruits in our life, and by her spiritual effects on our souls. When we hear nothing come out of a man's mouth but pure, unmixed truth, directed to the honour of God, without being tinctured by human worth, or savouring of fleshly confidence, we are informed that that springs from a good treasure in the heart. When we hear a man's delivering, in an experimental manner; the mysteries of God: and can find that God gives his approbation of it, by the preacher's lively frame, by his cheerful countenance, and by the irresistible spirit of truth, so that scoffers are astonished, the mouths of fools stopped, the judgments of saints informed, and their bowels refreshed, we may conclude that that man holds the mystery of faith in a pure conscience, 1 Tim. iii. 9.
And when we see a person wholly unsupported by friends, and furiously opposed by enemies, who use both fraud and force against him; and yet this man perseveres in the path of holiness, we may say he walks by faith, and not by sight: for here is nothing before his eyes but discouragements.
And when we see such a person sorely thrust at; that he may fall; and others setting traps in his way; others watching for his halting; others laying things to his charge that he knows not of; and others crediting false reports, begin to triumph, and say, ah, ah, so would we have it! and yet that man stands firm in the testimony both of God and saints; we may conclude, that he is strong in the Lord; for by faith he stands, 2 Cor. i. 24.
Justifying faith is known by the internal blessings that attend it; faith works by love, and is a companion of peace; "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God."
A divine faith is known by her leading the soul to live on divine food; "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." A living faith is known by the living object she applies; "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The faith of God's elect is known, because it submits to, and rejoices in the doctrine of God's election. "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?"
The doctrine of eternal election is known by faith; "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." An active faith is known by her choice foundation and her spiritual industry. "Building up yourselves on your most holy fait, praying in the Holy Ghost."
False faith is known both by her confessions and fruits: by her confessions, as they are never consistent with the Spirit's work, if they are with the outlines of scripture. "And none of the wicked shall understand," Dan. xii. 10. Secondly, by her fruit. False faith pleases the world, unites with the world, and is of the world. But true faith displeases the world, comes out from the world, fights against the world, and overcomes the world.
My cruse, Madam, is almost out again; and my pen always drags heavily, when reflection and recollection are obliged to travel so far to fetch matter in. Writing is a pleasure to me, when matter flows easily, without labour, because it refreshes my soul as it runs. You may expect a line drawn between true faith and false, when the great master of lively figures shall draw the outlines of my mind. In the mean while, dear madam, believe me to beDevotedly thine in all godliness,
W. H. S. S.William Huntington