Epistles of Faith

Letter XX

William Huntington (1745-1813)


Winchester Row, Feb. 1, 1786.

Dear Brethren in Christ Jesus,

PEACE, and truth be with you. I thank you for informing me of the malicious report that is gone abroad, relative to a false doctrine, said to have been advanced by me; because it affords me an opportunity of defending myself, and coming forth to the light, as I am not fond of things done in a corner.

"That the Lord Jesus Christ derived all the corruption of fallen Adam from his other, and that he was a sinner in the same sense that we are, either by birth or practice," is a doctrine which the bible never mentions, a doctrine which never escaped my lips. Therefore, Wo, unto him through whom the offence or slander cometh.

That Christ was sanctified and sent into the world, is a doctrine of the Bible, and a doctrine of my heart. That he was made sin for us, in the same legal sense that an engaged surety is made a debtor, is a doctrine of the bible, a truth that I have ever preached, and, I trust, with some degree of clearness. That Christ's human nature was capable of hungering, thirsting, weariness, and fearing, is what the scriptures declare, and what I have often advanced: not with a view to lessen the Saviour's Godhead, or human innocence, but to encourage the timid soul in the Saviour's sympathy towards us in our infirmities.

God the great creditor laid upon him, Christ, the iniquity of us all, as a rigid creditor would lay the whole burthen of an insolvent's debt on the person who became a voluntary surety vv his own act and deed: for the language of justice to such an undertaker is, "He that becometh surety for a stranger, shall smart for it." Our debt was twofold; first the debt of prefect and perpetual obedience to the perceptive part of the law; and in case of failure, a debt of eternal suffering, as the penal sum due to offended justice, who stands bound by the fourfold immutable ties of righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, and veracity, to see the sentence of the law fully and eternally executed on every transgressor. Thus the Saviour's active obedience becomes our justifying righteousness before God, and is by him, the great creditor, imputed to the debtor, as a full discharge from the unlimited demands of a righteous law, as a covenant of works; and by faith in the penal sum of the Saviour's suffering's, we are justified from the eternal demands of vindictive justice. Hence we are said to be justified by his active obedience to the law; and we are said, to be justified likewise by his blood, Rom. v. 9, 19. By the first we are justified from the strict demands of law as a killing covenant; by the second, we are justified from the dreadful demands of justice, as transgressors of it. Thus the believer is justified freely from all things, from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses.

The sins of all God's elect were laid upon Christ by the great creditor, and they became his own by his voluntary undertaking; and without the offering up of a living sacrifice by his life, and the perfect sacrifice of body, blood, and soul by his death, he could not get discharged from them. A sacrifice under the law, was to live a certain time, and then be offered up, if it was found to be without spot or blemish: but he washed away our sins from himself, by shedding his own blood. "I have a [bloody] baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?" Hence he is said to be clothed in a garment of human nature dipped in blood; he sanctified himself from our sins by it, and he is said to be clothed with the church, and to sanctify it by the same atonement. Now as the human nature of Christ is called a garment, and his church is called his clothing; by his blood he sanctified the first, from our sins being imputed to him; and by the application of it he sanctifies and cleanses his church from all sin committed by her; as it is written, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" Thus he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes, Gen. xlix. 11; which I believe to be the gospel sense of the text.

These distinctions, which appear to me to be scriptural, I have often seen needful to insist on, because of the outcry of the Arminian, who, while he says we are justified by his blood, yet laughs at imputed righteousness. He catches at the atonement, to justify him from the demands of avenging justice, and thinks to make himself meet for heaven by leis own merit. However, he that becomes a surety, must give a perfect obedience to the precept, and submit to the full execution of the sentence. And the soul that is saved, must not only be washed in a Redeemer's blood, but clothed with the surety's righteousness. He must not only be redeemed, but justified. That God, who made Christ tube redemption, made him also to be righteousness; the law will have a perfect righteousness, and justice will have a full execution of the sentence. It is in vain that the Arminian labours to set law and justice at variance; Christ is made of God unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. i. 30. But the Arminian puts his own perfection in the place of sanctification, and his own merit in the room of his righteousness, and his own infallibility in the place of wisdom; and then he shouts, we are justified by his blood; and laughs heartily at the doctrine of imputed righteousness. Let him go on so, and trust to a justification by his blood, and see whether Moses does not arrest him in the way, for want of a divine righteousness; let him watch the event, and see if the Judge of all the earth will not agree with Moses in the just demand of his laws; I think he will, when he comes in, and sees the Arminian boasting of redemption, and laughing at the same time at imputed righteousness. "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment?" That was the only thing wanting; he talked of washing, but laughed at a covering; and for the want of that, he was cast into outer darkness. The law is an adversary, and must be agreed with by a perfect righteousness; without this, it will not agree with any one; but will hale the unjustified sinner to the judge, and the judge will deliver the self-righteous to the officer, and the officer will cast him into prison, until he can pay the utmost mite, Luke, xii. 58. The above adversary is the law; it is the work of the law to bring the transgressor to justice; and the business of justice to see judgment done. These are the doctrines which I hold, and which thousands in London have heard me preach, as they are here expressed; and they never were either meant, or mentioned in any other way by me. If any accuser can prove to the contrary, let him step forth, and stand at my right hand, as every accuser ought to do. I seldom deliver a sermon in London to less than some hundreds, therefore, there are living witnesses enough against one false accuser.

After I had delivered a sermon on the following text, "He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes;" some blind and nameless author wrote me a letter, about his coming to hear me, and of his falling asleep, which he was apt to do, and in his sleep he had a dream; he thought he heard me speaking of our Lord's washing, or sanctifying himself from our sins, &c. And as he said he was very apt to fall asleep, and dream, so I took it for granted that he said the truth; for by his letter he appeared never to have been thoroughly awake. And then he rehearsed a number of texts, quite wide from the subject; declarative chiefly of the Saviour's Deity; such as his being the only one, &c. but nothing of his servitude, of his suretyship, or sacrifice; and at the conclusion of his letter, he peremptorily demanded a public acknowledgment of my fault from the pulpit the next lecture night, or to clear the point up, and not to apologise for any slip of the tongue, &c. and he should be there on purpose to hear it. As I found his letter to be a composition of ignorance, arrogance, and insolence, I gave him a public answer from the pulpit, lest he should be wise in his own conceit. I mentioned some things in his letter, and told him that Christ was twice sanctified, and twice baptized; and bid him go home and learn what that meant; and I fancied that I had answered him according to his folly, because I heard no more of him.

After this, one Michael Whitebread, from Barnet, called at my house, and in discourse mentioned something on the same subject to me. In answer to which, I said that Christ was made sin for us, in the sense above-mentioned; and by his blood shed, or bloody baptism, he washed, cleansed, or sanctified himself from our sins. To which he answered, "The Lord was not defiled." To this I replied, "In him was no sin, yet he bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and by paying the price of his blood the debt was discharged." I further added, "That till death, our sins stuck to him," and if he did not sanctify himself from then. by his death, he must lie down in them. But he finished transgression by the sacrifice of himself; and as a proof of it, our great creditor sent a servant to roll away the stone, and take the surety from the prison; and in him all the elect also, for whom he died. With my dead body shall they arise."

I do not see any unpardonable iniquity in the above expressions. 'The dreadful words which that nameless author stuck at was, my, saying, "In this sense, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes." If I am to be made an offender for a word, my whole offence lies in the word wash; which word I found in my text, and there I left it; and as the scriptures testify of Christ, and are of no private interpretation, I interpreted my text of Christ, and I believe it testifies of him more than any other.

As we are all called debtors, Christ is called a surety, and his death a price; and as we are called captives, his life laid down, is called a ransom; and as he was made sin for us, and bore our sins in his own body on the tree, he sanctified himself from our sins, by his own blood, and the church by the application of it. Sacrifices and offerings under the law, which were all types of Christ, were often washed; nor does washing always imply guilt; Pilate washed his hands in token of innocency, and David does the same when he goes to the altar. What I have said on this head, may be supported by the Saviour's own words: "I sanctify myself," which implies as much. Then says the carnal critic, how can cleansing, or washing, be implied by the word sanctify, when it is applied to God? As for instance, "Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself;" "And I will be sanctified in them." I answer, in the same sense that carnal professors are said to pollute and defile God's holy name, Jer. xxxiv. 16; Ezek. xliii. 8. That the above doctrines have been preached by me as I have here related them, can be witnessed, I believe, by some thousands now in London; and before I had been publicly reproached, a plurality of witnesses ought to have been heard, and I privately cautioned; unless the reverend gentleman supposes that the ears of all my bearers were pinned to the sleeve of a whimsical dreamer.

I was informed that the letter came from one Mr. C??d; and as I have no opinion of his character, or of his ministry, I took the less notice of it; indeed a man that talks in his sleep, generally talks nonsense; and 'tis beneath the wisdom of the wise to take notice of it; because dreams often come through a multitude of business, and a fool is known by a multitude of words, Eccl. v. 3; and so I found it; for in my author's dreams there were divers vanities, which I am not to regard, because I fear God.

The above-mentioned dreamer's fables, and the words of Mr. Whitebread from Barnet, were all that I ever heard relative to the above doctrine; not one of my own congregation ever mentioned a syllable about it, unless it was expressive of satisfaction.

However, if these doctrines are, as the reverend gentleman has styled them, The bubble of the day, they appear to me, to be a bubble of the gospel, a bubble worthy of God, worthy of Christ, and worthy of my reverend accuser's most cordial acceptation.

The doctrine of redemption is secured by the oath, promise, and faithfulness of infinite divinity, and its contents are full, free, and everlasting salvation; which ought not to be compared to an empty bubble, a pretension, or a fraud.

If my accuser had applied the epithet of bubble to his own turning seceder, and yet imitating a bishop with his male and female classes and bands; to his singular and unwarrantable mode of ordaining a number of preachers at a time, without a proper call, or the joint judgment of a plurality to assist; in these cases it would have been aptly and judiciously applied: for bubbles of the day these certainly are; and if a few puffs from the lips of truth should cause them to evaporate, they would explain themselves in the author's own terms.

I shall for the present leave that gentleman in the full possession of his assumed authority, and to the enjoyment of his own bubble or bauble, with which he may amuse himself at his leisure, until some pure blast of gospel breath discover it, or a fuller explanation be drawn from me. In the mean time, I hope God will give my dear brethren eyes to see that pride, prejudice, and bigotry are no more consecrated by learning than by ignorance, and ever keep them from sacrificing the benefits of a private judgment, and the blessings of a private experience, either to his shrine or mine.

I remain, your willing and devoted Servant in the vineyard of the Lord.

W. H.

William Huntington