Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO F?? W??, AT WALLINGFORD.
Winchester Row, Marylebone,
March 29th, 1786.Dear Friend,
GRACE, and truth be with you; I have read yours, and can sympathize with you; for I know by woful experience, the wretched bondage and confusion of arminianism; but let none of these things move thee; "What if some do not believe, shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid!" If every pretended Calvinist in England was to fall into the errors of arminianism it would never hurt that soul who is soundly fixed on the rock Christ; your faith is not to stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
God often lets Satan loose as he did in Job's days, when he appeared among the sons of God, in order to discover the hearts of men, and bring their secret hypocrisy to light, that poor simple souls may be undeceived.
God has foretold us, That damnable heresies shall be brought in. The discovery of these, is to keep the elect from being ensnared, Job xxxiv. 30; and that the real children of God may be made manifest by their open confession, and warm attachment to the truth, while the others stumble and fall; as it is written, "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
When branches fall off from the living vine, they err in their doctrine, and wither in their joy. And indeed, God does but fulfil his word in thier fall; for every branch in Christ that beareth not fruit, but taketh away; if a man abide not in Christ, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered.
A man may appear to bring forth many external fruits, and yet be a branch cast forth after all. But he never can bring forth the genuine fruits of the Spirit without a vital union with the living vine; the bond of which union is, the electing and everlasting love of God in Christ Jesus. He that is a stranger to this bond, has nothing to hold him, or keep him from falling off; and if you look back on the doctrines that you have heard from him, you will recollect that there was but little, if any account of an heart-felt union with Christ that appeared in his ministry. The Almighty sometimes throws down a column in appearance, and at the same time supports some who appear but bruised reeds, or weeping willows. By these things we are taught to know that God is beholden to no man's parts, or abilities; and that he can carry on his cause and interest in the world, without human dignity, learning, or oratory. Besides, when the gospel, or something like the gospel, is brought into what is called a parish church, if there are any that fear God in it, they are herded together with all in the parish; the precious and the vile have both an equal claim on a parish priest, according to the customs or laws of men, though not according to the laws of God; " For," Paul says, " what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? but them that are without, God judgeth; therefore put away from among yourselves all wicked persons.
There is some just cause that has provoked God to send this strong delusion among you, that those who are sound in the faith may fly from it; those that are clean, will escape from them that live in error, 2 Peter ii. 18.
Those among you that fear God, will now speak often one to another, your hearts will get warm and zealous for the truth; you will read the bible for yourselves, and while he is preaching up arminianism, the Holy Ghost will apply bibleism; you will be enabled to exhort one another; you will all unite in one fold, and God will, sooner or later, send you a pastor after his own heart. If I should come into Dorsetshire this summer, I will, if God permit, call and give you a sermon, if it should be in the high road.
Fighting against the doctrine of election is always the first step that men take when they go from the truth, they having not been able to make their own calling and election sure: election becomes a stumbling-block in their way, and therefore they try to roll it out of their way; and as it seems to be no friend to them, they become sworn enemies to that, and call it the devil's law, because it levels the pride of devilish nature.
As free-will cannot submit to the sovereign will of God in the absolute choice of his people, they are obliged to dethrone the latter, that they may exalt the former.
When this is done, then another difficulty appears fully as bad as the former; for if free-will has got the throne, it must have something to boast of; but imputed righteousness lies as a stumbling-block in the way of boasting; for if justification be by grace, as God declares it is, then we must be brought in debtors to that; but human deification and spiritual insolvency, can never stand together, therefore imputed righteousness must be taken away also, in order to make way for human merit; for that sovereign cuts a poor figure who has nothing to glory in.
For if men were publicly to affirm, that a soul established in the doctrines of free-will and human merit could boast of any security from eternal wrath, it would at once expose their whole scheme, and appear so glaring a falsehood, that a person might give it the lie from almost every verse in the bible. But in order to keep Dagon from losing his deified head and meritorious hands on the threshold before the ark of omnipotent grace, I Sam. v. 4, they tell you, that he is not divinely secured; but that he only holds his sovereignty upon the performance of certain conditions. A few ifs and buts, are all the columns that he has got to support him; for if he falls from his dignity, which he ever has done, he is sure to be damned; but if he performs his conditions, which he never can do, then he is sure to be saved.
But then this doctrine cannot be established, without removing another grand truth of the bible, which is the final perseverance of God's elect. Thus it appears plain, that no merit-monger has any assurance of his life; all his days are spent in slavish fear and jeopardy; nor do any of them deny this; for the Roman Catholics, who affirm they have done works of supererogation, are so afraid of being damned, that they have heaped up to themselves some hundreds of mediators and intercessors, and yet are still in doubt of safety. Even Bellarmine, one of the brightest of them, said on his death-bed, "That he should be contented with purgatory." Thus all that human merit can do, according to their own account, is to procure a burning limbo for their reception. However, if their obedience will not keep them out of hell, penal sufferings in it will never merit their deliverance from it.
I have read the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, which he has laboured at, in order to overthrow the doctrine of the saint's perseverance; and it is plain, that the parable in the twelve last verses, enforces a forgiving spirit; but if he handles these words to overthrow the doctrine of God's everlasting love, he shews a most wretched hatred to the brotherhood, by his attempting to rob them of so invaluable a blessing. Nor does his enmity rest on man only, for if he handles the account of the relentless householder's servant, to break the frame of God's covenant, he shews an implacable enmity against the truth of God, by setting the Saviour's conditional if against the immutable will of God, instead of bringing the conditional promise to the unconditional, which is making the will of God to depend on the will of the creature. And pray, what is this but declaring that the stubborn, unmerciful spirit of the sinner is able to frustrate the designs of God?
Where is there a Christian in the world, who, when under the influence of the evangelical repentance, could not forgive a real spiritual brother? And if the doctrines of electing love, and the reigning grace of God in the heart, will not produce a forgiving disposition, is it likely that the doctrines of nature, and the influence of spiritual pride should do it! when truth has said that, "The spirit in man lusteth to envy."
I will be bold to assert, that this gentleman, notwithstanding all his zeal for brotherly love, which shews his spleen plain enough against those that contend for the faith of the saints, and oppose his errors. For if he preaches against the stability of God's covenant, and plunders the judgments and consciences of the saints, of what he himself has held forth to them in God's name, where is his compassion to the brethren? He is not restoring that which he took not away, Psal. lxix. 4, but he is taking away that which he can never restore.
You have done your duty, as the Lord commands you. Whatsoever he has bid you observe, that you have observed and done; but you are not to do after his works, for he has said and not done, Matt. xxiii. 3.
Real compassion and forgiveness must extend to every spiritual brother that is sound in the faith; but if a man shuts up his bowels of compassion against you, because you faithfully adhere to all your master's will, as he has commanded you, and lets his bowels sound to none, but those that are in his corrupted principles; wherein does his compassion differ from that of fallen angels Milton says,
O shame to men! Devil with devil damn'd,
The learned author's assertion, cannot be contradicted by the word of God, concerning the concord and unity of devils; but their love to one another, meets with no praise from God, whatever it may do from one another; nor will the affection of deceitful preachers, and false professors meet with any, however they may cry it up themselves.
He has lately sent a letter to a minister in London, which one of my friends got sight of, in which 'he pretends to abhor the name of an arminian, though the letter was full of arminianism. To say the doctrine of God's election is a doctrine not fit to be mentioned but only in heaven, reflects a daring contempt on the Son of God, who came from heaven to preach it; and he saw it so fit for this world, that he scarce spoke a parable without it. None out an atheist would attempt to teach God knowledge, or reason with him about the fitness of doctrines. This is not obeying the word of a master, as a good servant ought to do, but in answering again, and purloining, which chews the servant's insolence. The Saviour tells his disciples to rejoice that their names were written in heaven, more than in their victory over devils; and is A not strange that the doctrines of election, which Christ held forth as a matter of their joy, should now be deemed a degree productive of nothing but horror? But this doctrine had the same contrary effects on the angelic family; election is the degree that confirmed the good angels in their present state, and is the matter of their Joy; but to devils it is an horrible decree, because they were not included in it, and therefore they are desperately enraged at it. This I know to be woful experience; and whoever they are that rage and cavil at it, are on the devil's side in the dispute.
A strange speech indeed, that declaring the whole counsel of God should be rocking souls to sleep in a Calvinist's cradle However, we can prove from the word of God, that electing love has brought every soul to heaven that ever went there; for all that are with him are called, chosen and faithful. And we can defy all the world to prove from God's word, that free-will; or creature-merit, ever brought one soul there. God help thee to stand fast in the faith, and in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free, and be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage. You are forewarned of such preachers; how that with feigned words and fair speeches, they shall beguile the unstable, and at the same time appear with such outward sanctity, that Christ says, "If it were possible, they should deceive the very elect." Therefore, if you have any regard for your soul, fly from such, as you would fly from the father of lies. Dear brother, farewell; grace and truth be with thee, and the poor scattered flock among you; and I pray God to send you a pastor that shall feed the people with divine knowledge and understanding. Amen, and amen, says thy affectionate friend and brother,In the kingdom and patience of Christ,
W. H.William Huntington