Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
Winchester Row, Sept. 3, 1784
I RECEIVED yours, dated August 21st, and am sorry to find you are sunk into such distress: but I must tell you, that I thought you set out wrong at the first.
A man may feel many severe lashes from an unenlightened conscience; which may set him about an external reformation: and by these means he may stop the mouth of conscience with a few dead works. And if such a person attends the gospel, and gets a little light in his head, and this light be attended with a gift of utterance, so that he be able to speak in prayer, and in gospel conversation, he is then ready to judge himself converted to the faith of Christ. This I take to be the beginning of your profession, Sir; and to be plain with you, I think it was pride and blind zeal, that first prompted you to take upon you the ministry of the word. I dropt many hints to you at first about the necessity of a sound and savoury experience, a heart fixed in the faith, and of a well informed judgment, in order to qualify a man for the discharge of the ministry; but I plainly saw you was bent upon it, though I thought you was not fit for it. Your uncouth way of reproving every person you met, was very displeasing to me. Storming poor sinners' ears with hell and damnation, without appealing to their thoughts, conscience, or the natural workings of their mind, only hardens their hearts, and drives them further into sin; and sometimes it fixes such a bar of prejudice against the ever-blessed gospel, that they fly from it as if it consisted of nothing but bell torments.
You are now sunk into the very bowels of Arminianism; and every letter that you send to me fulfils this scripture But deceivers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." I thought at times you seemed to speak a pure language about some few truths of the gospel; but that lamp is now gone out, and I always thought it would; for the Spirit of Christ, and the true oil of grace, I fear, was wanting.
Your fighting against the sovereignty of God, is a proof of your rebellion, not of your faith. Paul found it hard work to kick against the pricks, and you will find it still harder to kick against a mountain of brass, Zech. vi 1. If you had tasted the bread of eternal life, you would not lift up your heels against the sovereign giver. I think my friend is making wretched work for conscience, and this he will feel when God calls him to a reckoning. Your preaching up universal mercy to all the human race, without any regard paid to truth and justice, is very dishonourable to God; and in the end will prove destructive to you, if sovereign grace prevent not. Your own life hangs in doubt, and I do not wonder at it: and how any man can contend for the salvation of all men, while himself is filled with the fears of damnation, I know not. This can be no less than offering violence to your own conscience; and, as Milton says, "Who against faith and conscience can be heard?" However, to preach up such doctrines, while a man's fallen countenance and guilty conscience give every sentence the lie, is a hard task, and a task that will prove bitter in the end.
Declaring God's saving mercy to all the human race, cannot be called taking forth the vile from the precious; nor is crying up human will and power doing the work of an evangelist. Preaching universal redemption is not rightly dividing the word of truth; he that explains away the doctrine of election, cannot be said to declare the whole counsel of God. While you are trampling on the sovereignty of God, you are no ambassador of Christ. And he that preaches up the delusions of Satan, will make a shocking proof of his ministry.
I have often tried the doctrines that I preach by the great standard; and they are the truths that I received from God himself, and I hope I shall never conceal them, shun to declare them, or ever err from them, be ashamed of them, or a shame to them.
I have lately been led to examine the book of John's Revelation very deliberately, and I find the doctrine of the three persons in the Godhead, the doctrine of eternal election and reprobation, particular redemption, effectual calling, justification by faith, sovereign and all conquering grace, with the final perseverance of the saints, are mentioned and admired by all the spirits of just men made perfect.
But as for Arminianism, there is no mention made of it; your doctrines, of free-will, or free-agency, universal redemption, universal love, final apostasy from grace, and human righteousness, are never once mentioned in any of the hymns of heaven; and I think, As they are perfect in knowledge, they must be better judges than you. No mention is made of your doctrine of any glorified spirit above; therefore they must come from another quarter; and I think they are what Paul calls the doctrines of devils, and I am sorry to see you Sir, sinking so fast into them.
I have often wondered what the apostle Paul could mean by telling us to beware of dogs; but as the same apostle calls the doctrine of election strong meat, I was lead to see that the Arminian is that dog who is always gnashing his teeth at that doctrine, and turning that glorious truth into a bone of contention; but it is such a tough morsel, that he cannot rob God's children of it, nor fill his own belly with it.
Every letter that I receive from you convinces me of your dangerous state; and, on the other hand only serves to confirm me in the truths of the gospel. I mention this, that you may give up all hopes of making me a proselyte to your unscriptural notions. Besides, what can I find in you, to tempt me to be one with you in sentiment? For you have no faith, no peace, no joy, nor any life; you own that you have nothing but distress and confusion. I hope God will deliver my poor deluded friend out of that strong hold of the devil, which I hope God will enable me to pray for; and may he favour me with the pleasing view of your establishment in the faith of God's elect; until which I desire to drop all correspondence with you. I hope ever to remain a well-wisher to your soul, but a sworn enemy to every error you hold.W. H.