Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
Winchester Row, July 19, 1784.
I RECEIVED yours, dated June the 25th, and would have answered it before, if either a will or an opportunity had offered. As for the wonderful prophet, which you have heard so much of, and now inquire after, he lives in Shoreditch work-house. You mistake the place, Sir. The report which you have heard is true; he is attended both by high and low, saint and sinner, ministers not excepted. This is a wonder, but not from the Lord of Hosts.
The man was formerly an arminian, and you know that mane lying wonders have chewed forth themselves in them. I believe the man went on for some years as a child of that popish family, working in his own strength, and boasting of his own power, merit, and perfection, till being exalted above measure, he fell into the condemnation of the devil.
By what I could learn, he had formerly been very strong in human confidence, and sinless perfection; and that being the only anchorage of his legal hope, I believe a strong temptation came upon him, while he rode at that anchor, and driving him from his moorings, he fell, and made a shipwreck of his arminian faith in the gulf of despair. The devil having lifted him up in the pride of himself, a just God left him in Satan's hands, and Satan having gained an ascendancy over him, bereft him of his rationality, which came upon him, as I am credibly informed, in the following manner. He lived with an Upholsterer, in the capacity of a foreman, and was greatly esteemed by his master, consequently trusted with every thing. But the master having, at certain seasons, missed goods from his shop, and not knowing which way they went, one night concealed himself in his shop, and saw the foreman come in, and take what he thought proper, and withdrew. The master pursued him, and caught him by the shoulder, and calling him by his name, it so struck him, that he fell into fits. His prophesying originated here. This I believe to be the real case, as far as I am able to judge.
About two or three years ago, a gentleman .desired me to go with him and see him, as there had been so much talk about him.
I refused to comply with his request, as I am slow of heart to believe; but he much pressed me, and at last I went with him, though with much reluctance; yea, and got many a secret lash from conscience in the way.
Before we got to the place, a small quantity of pound-cake was bought, to take as a present, because he takes no money, the devil knows that that would be a hindrance to his market, therefore pound-cake is the only reward of divination. When we were let into the house, we were conducted to the prophet's room, which is a large one; and there we found this surprising being. He is a little thin man, with his own black hair, mingled a little with white. He was sitting in a low chair by the fire side, and had got an hank of crewel, or worsted of various colours, about his neck, and his needle in his hand: whether he has been a brother stitch by trade or not, I know not. On his left hand there lay a little lump of straw, with which he makes straw rings, with knobs, and then quilts and ornaments the knobs of the rings with this crewel of divers colours.
His fingers were ornamented with the rings of his own manufactory, and by his side stood a basket, with many of those straw trinkets in it; he gave his rings various names, some he called the Star of Bethlehem, &c., and some of those rings he gave to us.
I cannot say but I looked at the creature with astonishment; as I had been informed by several people who profess the gospel, that he was filled with the Spirit of God, and lived all the year round quite out of the body, as Paul did when he was caught up into the third heaven.
A likely matter that these childish baubles should he the production of inspiration. When Paul became a man, he put away childish things. He generally calls his visitors by some nick name; one in the company be called by the name of Germain; but this I observed, that he never called any one of us by a name that was famous either for grace or valour. I am told that a gospel minister, who once went to him, received the name of God's fiery dragon: it is true, we read of dragons and serpents, but these names are always applied to devils and tyrants; but by no means applicable to an ambassador of peace.
However, the magician's head being stuffed with such names as these, chews us plain enough that his mind is not in heaven, because there are no such names there; the dragon hath been cast out from thence long ago; his mind therefore is employed in another region.
But the magician begins to divine: You must say something to him, and then be tells you to look at such a chapter, and at such a verse, and that will do for you. Some in company wanted me to speak to him, but I would not, for I thought that if he was filled with God's Spirit, he would know something of me. But so far from my thinking him inspired, I thought, and thought right, that he was possessed with the devil, as sure as ever Simon Magus, or the witch of Endor was.
After we had been some time in the room, the gentleman that took me there, wanted him to go up and shew us his chamber of imagery, which he refused to do; but a maid servant was called, who it seemed could do any thing with him; when she came, and had spoken a little childish gibberish to him, and taking him by the arm, be leaped up like a March hare, and scampered all the way across the room; he then galloped up stairs with her like a young kitten, and went into the curious chamber, which is a large unfurnished room, kept on purpose for this man's exhibition of straw work. There we saw the Saviour's sepulchre, made of straw; the twelve apostles also, if I remember right; and the ever-blessed Trinity, represented by three little figures of straw.
He pointed with his finger to one of the little images, and told us that he had set Christ upon the throne.
Is it not strange, Sir, that gospel professors should think that a man, whose whole employ is a violation of the second commandment, should be under the influence of God's Spirit? What is this but fathering idolatry rpm divine inspiration?
The Bible informs us, that the Spirit of God is to repair and renew the disordered faculties of our souls, and set us down at Jesus's feet in our right mind, but not to drive us out of our mind, much less into hellish frenzies!
The Spirit of God brought the prodigal son to himself, but never drove any man beside himself. To suppose a madman possessed with the Spirit of God, is to justify the Pharisees of old, who declared the Saviour's divine, miracles done by the Spirit to be done by Beelzebub, the prince of devils, for the which they were charged with the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. A likely matter, that a man who has been for years in the damnable delusion of arminianism, until the Almighty, in justice, gave him up to the prevalency of the devil, should be a prophet of God! I am informed he left his wife and children to shift for themselves, and got into the workhouse. Since he has been there, it seems, he will not so much as allow them to come and see him. What! does the Spirit of God teach us without any just cause to bate and forsake our family? Does inspiration submit to be supported as a parish charge? To suppose a madman influenced by the Holy Ghost, is to cast a most cruel reflection on the Spirit of God, and to level his influence with those of devils. Of this be assured, that whenever the Spirit of God comes to inspire a man, he comes with a threefold energy; to deliver the conscience, the affections, and the mind, from the power of the devil; not to lead us to hate our wives and children, but to love them; and to deliver us from all madness, which is of the devil: therefore the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. i. 7.
After we had seen the straw exhibition, we went down stairs again, into the shop of labour, where the rings are made, and there we sat down. My friends in company pulled out their Bibles, and said a word to him, and he then referred them to some passage in scripture, which he said would suit them, and then they doubled them down. But I observed that he never referred them to any passage where the doctrine of God's election is mentioned. This gave me clearly to see, that whether an arminian be in his senses, or mad; whether he be in the land of hope, or is bell, he will still hold his principles. This appears plain by the Saviour's parable of the rich man, who desired Abraham to amid Lazarus to his father's house, to warn his brethren; but when Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them;" he answered, "Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." But Abraham stuck to his text saying, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
These arminian gentlemen, who have got such a stock of human talents to trade with, vainly imagine that the fears of death, hell, and damnation, are sufficient to alarm them to perform all the task that God requires of them; this their way is their folly.
The gentleman that was with me, desired me to give the prophet a word, that he might begin to prophesy concerning me, but I would not. The gentleman told him, that I was a preacher of his brother, as he was pleased to term Christ: the madman said, Yes, but he has not been diligent; they told him they thought I had: he answered, that I had not been faithful; they told him, Yes, they thought I bad: be said, that his Father, as he was pleased to term God, would scourge me, &c. At this I laughed heartily, which provoked the prophet exceedingly, and caused him, with a pale face, and much bitterness, to tell me that if I laughed at him, I laughed at God. My friends again desired me to speak a word to him, and after much importunity I mentioned a word which I thought he would not like, in the state he appeared to me to be in; for I look upon it, that a person who is sunk into despair and madness, is wholly destitute of hope, either in God, or in himself, therefore I mentioned the word, hope, to him. "Hope!" said he, "away with hope." This fully convinced me that he was without God, and having no hope in the world; for Paul says, "Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
The man that casts away hope, casts away the anchor of his soul; the word of his God, and the salvation of the Saviour; but we have not so learned Christ.
The gentleman that was with me, desired him to prophesy something concerning me; he at last was prevailed on to look at the wrinkles in the palm of my hand, and to give me likewise a pat on the hand. What he could find out by the wrinkles of my hand, I know not; but I know it is the way that vagrant fortune-tellers use.
I have read in Cave's Lives of the Fathers, that Julian, the great apostate, divined by the liver of a woman, whom his priest had killed for that purpose, just before the judgment of God overtook him; and I read that the King of Babylon divined by the same article; but whether it was a human liver, or the liver of a brute, I know not; but it was one of them; "For the King of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver."
Others, in old time, have divined by the flight of birds, the smoke of chimneys, the motions of insects, the croaking of reptiles. But all our modern conjurors divine by the spots of cards, the wrinkles of the hand, the sticking of pins, or the grounds of a tea-cup.
Old Doll Bridget, the famous Norwood gipsy, used to peep at the wrinkles of the hand, the same as this arminian conjuror did. But surely the Spirit of God never sends a believer to seek instruction at the hand of any such; but tells us to have nothing to do with wizards that peep and mutter, but to seek unto our God to the living from the dead? Isaiah, viii. 19.
Before we departed from him, he spoke some words which made me shudder: he said, "I have set my brother upon the throne now, if my Father don't save me through my brother, I will tell him that he is a liar." By brother, he meant Christ: and by father he meant God. This shewed me the rebellion of his heart. I believe some of the hypocritical tribe have got a little comfort from him, which has lasted for awhile; for I am told, that some who are very strongly suspected to be of that number, have gone to him, to whom he has said, "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord," and applied a passage out of the prophet Isaiah to them, "Oh, thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted; behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours," &c.
The friends that went with me, asked me, after we had left him, what I thought of him: I said, that I thought the devil was in him, and I am still of the same mind. The Lord keep us from all such delusions; we have no occasion to go to mad persons to cast the nativity of our spiritual birth; the testimony of the Spirit within, and the written testimony, are quite sufficient for that purpose. I did not think to have sent you so long an epistle about a madman; but as you seem so very inquisitive, I have related all that I know about him.
I am credibly informed that some poor weak minds have gone to him, to know whether they belong to God or not; and if he has spoken comfortably to them, and called them the blessed of the Lord, or the children of God, a deal of dependence has been put upon this delirious oracle; and after a time they have visited him again, and taken their neighbours with them. I think the Saviour's predictions are daily fulfilled; "If it were possible, they should deceive the very elect"
That which deceives so many of these simple ones, for I can in conscience call them no better, is his having so much scripture in his head, and his seeming to have such a love to Christ, and talking so comfortably about him. This is the devil transformed into an angel of light. I once knew a man who was a violent persecutor of the gospel, and even of his wife, whom God called under my ministry, who had long laboured against the profession of his wife; but when he found he could not drive the grace of God out of her heart, he attempted to hang himself, but was prevented. He was a very strict Pharisee, therefore further from the kingdom of God than publicans and harlots. However, at last he was prevailed on to come and hear me; and I believe his carnal conscience did her office sufficient to chew him that he was wrong, and his wife was right Directly after this, God struck him with a .stroke of the palsy, which turned him into an idiot; and after that, he attended me for some time; be soon after began to talk much about Jesus Christ, but in a childish way, as the Moravians do. However, at last he was seized with a frenzy in his head, and lost all his rationality. During his affliction I visited him several times, and he kept continually talking about Christ, and of his love to Christ However, I thought the devil had got the possession of his heart, and influenced him to speak in that manner, to prevent truth from dethroning of him; and so it seemed to fall out; for soon after this he became quite violent, and so desperately mischievous, that he aimed at the life of his wife and children, and would not hear the Lord's name mentioned, or even a prayer put up for him; and thus he died. I knew a man at Cranbrook, in the wild of Kent, named Thomas Fielder, who fell in love with a woman, but not obtaining her, he lost his senses; and from that time he would talk about scripture from morning till night; but before his madness came on him, he never used to speak a word about it that ever I heard of. The devil knows how to mimic religion, or else where do all our tribes of hypocrites come from? and who influences them, that they deceive so many good men? Why, the same that influenced Ananias and Sapphira. Peter tells you that Satan filled their hearts. As for the madman's quoting the scriptures, it is no wonder at all; the devil can fill his head with scripture on purpose to deceive poor simple people. The devil is not ignorant of scripture; our Saviour shews us this plain enough, when he mentions how many suitable passages he brought to him when he tempted him; first in the wilderness, then on the pinnacle of the temple, then on the mount. If the scriptures were then extant, one would be inclined to think that Satan had his eye on a certain passage, when he tempted Job to curse God; and Satan knew that if he could have gained this point with Job he should have him safe enough. The passage is in Levit. xxiv. 15. "And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God, shall bear his sin" The devil knew there was no pardon promised for that sin, therefore he laboured the harder. When the devil deceived Adam and Eve, he brought the word of God in his mouth. God had commanded the man, saying, "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt. surely die." Satan quoted twice from this passage; "Yea, hath God said," mark that, hath God said, "Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" The devil quoted again, and contradicted the command; "Ye shall not surely die." I shall have reason to bless God as long as I live, for bringing me through so many temptations; for I declare there are numbers of professors in London, who constantly attend the gospel, that do not know the works of God from the works of the devil. The scriptures inform us; that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; and if .there is a man in the world that can prove that the comfortable testimony of Christ Jesus ever rested in the heart of a man mad, or ever made any man mad, let him answer this letter; and if God enables me, I will answer him. A man under his first awakenings may be ready to lose his rationality, especially if he be delivered up to the temptations of Satan, as the incestuous person was, for the destruction of fleshly lusts; as you read, l Cor. v. 4, &c. But depend upon it, that if ever the Holy Ghost brings the criminal out of his bondage into liberty, he regenerates the faculties of such a soul. This I know by happy experience.
For a person to suppose that the spirit of love and of a sound mind dwells in the heart of a madman, is as great an absurdity as to say, that eternal darkness reigns in heaven; or that the sin of righteousness shines in hell.
As for his speaking many truths, that has no weight with me. I believe the devils know when they shall be finally tormented; which you and I do not; as appears from their question put to Christ: "Art thou come to torment us before the time? we know who thou art, the Holy One of God." I believe that those assertions which Satan mentioned, to be true, where preventing grace is withheld; "Skin for skin, yea all that a man hath will he give for his life." I believe that the evil spirit that followed Paul, and others of his companions, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, that shew unto us the way of salvation;" I say, I believe the devil told the truth; nevertheless Paul rebuked him; and cast him out, as you read, Acts xvi. 17,18.
It is strange indeed, to think, that a man who, when in his senses, was an Arminian in principle; one that exalts himself to the dishonour of God; who has left his wife and family; lost his senses; lives as a parish charge; whose whole employ is in childish idolatry; who has cast away all hope; and tells us, that if God does not save him through Christ, he will tell him he is a liar (when I know there are many that never will be saved through Christ, and yet God will be true, and every man a liar); I say, is it not strange that such a monster should be called a prophet of God? I believe if that devil that followed Paul was to preach the same doctrine in our day, as he did then, he would not only be called a prophet, but even the Messiah; "For many," says Christ, "shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many."
Excuse my long letter: I should not have written so much, if I had not been a little inflamed with your curiosity, Sir. "Try the spirits, whether they are of God; for many false spirits are Zone out into the world, therefore believe not every spirit." If the testimony of God's word, and that of God's Spirit in a purged conscience, be not sufficient, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Farewell; the God of love and peace be with thee; while I remain in cordial affection, reverend Sir,Thine to command in all godliness,
W. H.William Huntington