Epistles of Faith

Letter XVII

William Huntington (1745-1813)

To the highly favoured Hanna of a sorrowful spirit, at the sign of the Unstrung Harp, in the valley of Baca, between the tree of life and the weeping willow.

I RECEIVED my friend's mournful epistle, dated in the month Nisan, from Abel-mizraim; and am glad to find her removed to the valley. Hope that the Most High will cause bright clouds to arise in their season, and send a shower of blessings, that the rain may fill the pools, and make the once barren heart a springing well. When this happy moment shall arrive, I predict that my friend will find her outward cross more weighty than now it is. A barren heart turned into a springing well, will soon rise up and overflow its banks, as Jordan did in the time of harvest, which will cause joy, peace, and praise to spring up, so that the very belly will emit its living waters. And depend upon it, that celestial liberty will produce such joyful exclamations and holy triumphs, that will make those that now only sneer at your melancholy, spend their venom in desperation. You will then understand the language of pious Job They that know not the wag of the vineyards, will rebel against the light.

God has wonderfully shewed you the astonishing power of grace, even in its infant state; for he has kept your convictions alive, in the company of hypocritical mockers, under all the daring contempt of deists and atheistical clergy, at the ball, also at the rout, and even in the theatre; all these false pleasures have stirred up that holy indignation in thy soul, against vanity, and served as fuel to keep convicting grace burning. This is as great a miracle, as for a fleeting taper to keep its flame alive in the Bay of Biscay. Of all the ranks of men under heaven, grace meets with the coldest reception among those that are falsely called nobility; and it meets with the hardest struggle in, such a heart as yours, where there is all the pomp and pride of life to cope with; besides perishing wealth, fading beauty, and soul-destroying honour to root up; and a deal of natural and acquired parts and abilities, flying imaginations, towering dignity, and a rooted attachment to pleasure; all which grace has to reduce to the obedience of the cross, which in the eyes of the polite world, is deemed the quintessence of folly. Yet you see God still keeps his own begun work going on, though it be even where Satan's seat is. Let them stuff your hands with novels; if God fills thy heart with grace, they will do no hurt. It is not the fictions of Shakespeare, the fables of Don Quixote, nor the impious jests of Rochester, that can root the word and power of God out of the soul: being compelled to read them, will make you hate them the more; grace will grow in the mind, and keep its throne in the affections, however opposed, either from without or from within.

"Marriage is honourable and appointed by God, and not to be despised by any." But a husband will not answer their end, in driving away what they call melancholy. Grace reigned in the heart of Abigail, though her husband's name, disposition, and actions, were nothing but folly.

But if Abigail married Nabal after she was called by grace, his churlishness was a scourge on her for her folly; but if she was called by grace after wedlock, it was an humbling cross sent entirely for her good, and so made her marriage with David appear the greater blessing, and to excite her gratitude to God.

I can sympathize with thee; for I know what an insipid thing carnal courtship must be, when it is forced as a rape on the mind. carried on over the shafts of wrath and sting of death, and untended only as a rival to Christ. A wounded spirit is a very improper soil for wanton passions. A soul under real concern, will be sure to erect a bulwark of prejudice against all the fawning flattery of a deistical lover. Such souls can find no more union, than pious Joseph in his exile state, found with his wanton mistress; nor can your soul expect any more pleasure in a deist, than I could in the witch of Endor. It is true, this is the worst trap that has hitherto been set for thee, but God's grace is sufficient to keep thee, and he will do it in answer to prayer, agreeably to his promise.

Compulsion in wedlock is a violation of choice; there is nothing so cross to nature, as to be forced by parents, and bound by law, to a partner in life, where the main cementing bond of mutual affections is wanting; and that man who will attempt to imprison a person, before he has made a willing captive of her affections, goes the ready way to make two people miserable. As an injured lover, he will get into the strong hold of jealousy, and as a violent plunderer of your person and conscience, he will raise in you a bar of prejudice against himself.

Matrimony is a wretched jarring piece of music, if either of the strings of love be out of tune. A deist can find but little comfort in a broken-hearted consort; nor can a contrite spirit take pleasure in a reprobate mind, or a seared conscience: this is worse than singing songs to a heavy heart.

God alone is sufficient to direct my friend in this critical affair; "Commit thy way to him, and thy thoughts shall be established." For my part, I know not what counsel I can give thee better. I should endeavour to entertain my lover as much as I could with lectures upon the wickedness of man's heart, the woful state of graceless souls, the emptiness of transient enjoyments, the sweet privilege of spiritual prayer, the preciousness of God's word, and the super-excellency of Jesus Christ. And if any thing under heaven will torment his conscience, or provoke his indignation against you, I think that will.

God hath hitherto kept thee from apostasy and his hand is not shortened; nor is his ear heavy; nor have I a doubt but he will make a way for your escape, in answer to prayer.

I thought my friend was too secure before, therefore I cautioned her in my last; true, a sense of fresh contracted guilt, attended with shame, turns in one sense, the sweetest privileges of a child, into the slavery of a convict. But here is no room for a parley; remember it is a throne of grace where pardons are dispensed, and there you must go at last; therefore never give up prayer, though heaven and earth seem in arms against you. Hezekiah was obliged to pray against death itself, and the prophet's message too, and by faith he prevailed.

Go to God, and tell him the worst of it; bless his name, he never changes in his love, though he makes us feel a change in his countenance; be sure to justify God, and condemn thyself; that is the only way to be justified in thy sayings, and clear when thou judgest. One single breath of his Spirit will dissolve the stone, sink the mountains, and make thy standing more firm than before; for it is by these slips that we are taught to know where our strength lies.

Let patience have her perfect work; thy strength is almost gone, and God has promised to appear, when that is the case; you shall find the surety as soon as you have nothing to pay; the shepherd will find thee when thou art sensibly lost. He will justify thee when thou hast willingly passed the sentence on thyself, and lift thee up when truly humbled; and bring thee out into liberty, when thou art well disciplined with thy chains.

I am fully persuaded by the Lord, that thy long night is far spent, and that the day-spring is at hand. The day-star will soon give way to daylight, and them comes the sun of righteousness with healing in his rays. This will rend the veil of ignorance, and scatter the clouds of dejection, and turn the shadow of death into the morning. When this is thy happy case, thy mind will be divinely fortified against all the outward attacks that Satan can make. A few more days will shew my friend whether this prophecy be true or false. Peruse God's word day and night, credit his promise, and expect his promised help; pray without fainting, and always pray against unbelief, for an increase of faith also; for a tender conscience, for filial fear; and above all, for God to reveal his Son in your heart, and then you have got all at once. God forbid that I should cease praying for you a few days more, and you will see the land that is very far off. I have composed your epitaph, which you may have out on your monument, without deceiving the reader; as soon as you can say from an heartfelt peace, My beloved is mine. Dear Miss adren.

Thy willing Servant in the Gospel of Christ.

W. H.


'HERE lies a saint, a favour'd child of God,
Who in the path of tribulation trod;
Redeem'd by blood, and wed to Jesus Christ,
As pre-ordained, to reign in paradise.

To soul-distress this saint was oft inur'd,
Nor could her mind by vanity be cured
By mental grief her frame was oft impair'd
Nor could her health by human skill be rear'd.

One blessed object, distant from her view,
Constant, tender, loving, kind, and true,
A sacred shaft into her soul convey'd,
Which she could ne'er extract by mortal aid;

She sought relief, each effort prov'd in vain,
The wound was noble, though severe the pain.
No human skill can heal a wounded mind,
A wound immortal needs a balm divine.

The great Jehovah, sovereign Lord above,
Beheld this chosen damsel sick of love;
Unveil'd his face, appear'd inclin'd to woo;
In him she found her health, a husband too.

In love divine her raptur'd soul was fixed,
With other lovers he could ne'er be mix'd;
In him she sleeps, in him she'll wake again,
Then ask. no more, her husband knows her name.

William Huntington