Epistles of Faith

Letter XXIII

William Huntington (1745-1813)

Winchester Row, Feb. 18, 1786.

My invaluable friend Mr. C?? brought your letter to me, which I was glad to receive; and its contents afforded an humbling cordial to my soul.

I can follow you, sir, through all the courts, laws, and pleas as of corrupt nature; through all the flatteries, insinuations, fair pretences, and false promises of inbred corruption; through all the courts of carnal reason, conscience, equity, and judicature, and describe the various bills and witnesses found in them all against the poor sensible sinner. The intricate windings and labyrinths of mysterious providence, and all the strange operations, changes, cutting discipline, comforts, promises, sweet thoughts, and the blessed sensations of special grace have been the establishment of my faith, and the daily employment of my mind. And, after all these chases, changes, trials, disappointments, arraignments, and condemnations, what has it done? Why it has drove me from the vanities of the world, the pleasures of sin, the religion of nature, the confidence of the flesh, and from all hope of happiness in the things of the world. And the sweet advantage that God has taken of all my trials is, that he has appeared my advocate in every trial; my fullness in disappointment; my portion in poverty; my confidence in adversity; and my refuge in every storm of persecution. His frowns have raised a godly fear in my heart; his absence has set me to self-examination; and taught me to watch his footsteps more narrowly; inquire after him more earnestly, and to prize his presence more highly. Trials, sir, are intended to cripple the old man of sin; the crown of pride is sure to get a blow in every fight of faith; the death of pride is the life of humility, and real honour follows upon it. I am sure that we are gainers by every trouble; more fruit to God's honour is brought forth after the branch is purged; and more peaceable fruits of righteousness are felt in the heart of those who are exercised thereby.

I have often, with a wondering heart and weeping eyes, reflected on the tender care and regard that God has shewn on my behalf; how forcibly he withstands us when we are going wrong; how this little book, or that, this or that promise has been put into my hand, or dropt into my heart, to overset the arguments of erroneous men. When I have put too much confidence in an arm of flesh, my jealous God and Father has caused, for the least offence, such a prop to give way, and leave my unstable soul sinking and staggering, till I was convinced of my folly, and went back again to my immutable friend. When any secret sin has gained ground in my affections, a private rod, or a certain text of Scripture has been forcibly applied, and some humbling thoughts and sharp struggles have produced an abhorrence of it; and afterwards my soul has appeared as a bird let out of a cage.

When I have been indulged with private access to God in prayer, and with much freedom in the pulpit, I have often been lifted up with a vain conceit of my self-sufficiency; but then I have been left to stand in my own strength for a time or two in the pulpit; and the inattention of the hearers, and my own confusion have been quite sufficient to mortify my pride, and bring that Babel building down.

When the approbation and popular applause of a number of God's children have lifted me up, a few scandalous reports and reproaches from another quarter have been sufficient to make me loath such light food. And when I have been in the company of carnal men, about any lawful business, and while I have sat and took notice of their shining parts, and graceless hearts, I have been brought humbly to reflect on what discriminating grace has done for me.

When some sin has been committed, and guilt and shame have risen to stop up the intercourse between God and my soul, the application of a favourable text, or a secret reflection on past mercies, have humbled and melted my soul; and both pardon and peace have been felt, before my knees have been bowed. Thus the sounding of God's bowels has sweetly dissolved my heart. When I have been going to preach with a dark mind, and a barren heart, and kept in suspense till within a few minutes of preaching time; just as expectation began to fail, a text has occurred, and I have begun with a single ray, and preached till my heart was all on a blaze; then light had been sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart; thus the poor servant went up to the passover alone, and about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up and taught. I have murmured at the thoughts of beginning without him, and doubted of his company at the banquet; but the Lord must be waited on, and his time waited for; as it is written, "My time is not yet come, but. your time is always ready." Thus I have shewed, my dear friend, how I go on in the world, and though my path lies between evil report and good report, yet under the management of infinite wisdom, I hope to gain by trading. A watchful eye is a necessary attendant on prayer, and a blessed handmaid to faith. The Lord favour thee with it, is the prayer and desire of one, who in the bonds of love desires to subscribe himself,

Your willing Servant in Christ,

W. H.

William Huntington