Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO MRS. J. C.
YOUR letter came to hand, which I perused with comfort. A spiritual growth is visible, which confirms me in your eternal election, and that of God.
As you have unexpectedly sent me two letters; the first of which I answered, and the contents of which satisfy me that the work is of God, I shall now relate, for your comfort, something that passed between the Lord and my spirit concerning you.
The whole day, on the evening of which you first heard the word from my mouth, was a very cloudy and dark day with me. The bible was a sealed book, and no passage presented itself to my mind for a text: I read, meditated, and supplicated; but all, to appearance, in vain. I was three hours in the chapel study before the time of worship came on; but still my mind was bedouded, and nothing offered itself for my subject. The more I read and prayed, the more was my mind bewildered, until within a few minutes of the time of preaching: and no small degree of peevishness, fretfulness, and distress, invaded my mind: till, all on a sudden, these words darted through the cloud, and a glorious light shone on them: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house: so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him," Psal. xlv. 10, 11. When 1 was informed that a female Catholic was smitten by the discourse, I could but admire the suitableness of the text; a text in which your sex, your family, your own people in communion, your father's house, and false worship, were all pointed out. Your attention was called for, your beauty desired, and your worship claimed, by the Lord, the only Christ of God and Saviour of men, and who hath condescended since to manifest himself to be thy Lord in everlasting covenant. I was comfortably persuaded, as soon as I heard that a Catholic was there, by the distress that I felt and by the manner in which my text came, and the method of handling it, that it was sent of God for your salvation. Nevertheless, when Mrs. C. told me that you desired to speak with me, I was afraid to comply with your request, knowing the mystery of iniquity that the papists are in, the doctrines of devils which they hold, and the depths of Satan that they speak, Rev. ii. 24. To which strong delusions God has, in just judgment, given them up, that they might believe a lie, and be damned, Thess. ii. 12; for giving up and ridiculing the scriptures; and suffering their souls, senses, and pockets, to be plundered by such crafty seducers, who lie in wait to deceive; whose portrait is so exactly drawn; whose coming is set forth by the coming of Satan in Paradise; whose doctrines are so clearly foretold; whose deceivableness of unrighteousness is so clearly pointed out; the world wondering after the beast is so fully described; and the cursed end, both of the whore and her family, laid down, as it is written; "I will cast her into a bed, and all that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds; and I will kill her children with death," Rev. ii. 22, 23. And all this in that blessed, though much despised book, that he who runs may read it.
Knowing these things, and that natural conscience, when awakened, natural convictions, when stirred tip, and natural passions, when moved, go a great way in appearance, and much resemble convictions given by the Spirit of God; I was therefore determined to keep you at a distance, that law and conscience, truth and error, grace and corruption, if it was grace, might have a fair combat: and that the matter might be settled between the Saviour and yourself; being fully persuaded that the determination would be either to make you a Christian indeed, or a more desperate Catholic.
When you sent the second time to desire an interview, which I refused, I entreated the Saviour to keep you from me, though I felt for you in your distress, lest I should be deceived by natural convictions, or Satanic frenzy, or the flowings of natural passions; and so heal the wound slightly, crying, Peace! peace! when the Lord had not spoken peace; which is often done by physicians of no value; and which wound will always break out again, unless the efficacious balm of atonement reach the bottom. The last time that I entreated the Saviour for this thing, namely, that he would keep you from me, and heal you, and bring you out of your trouble himself, and make you a convert of his own; and pleaded his prerogative alone to search the heart, and my wants of discernment and penetration to look through a disciple of antichrist; while I was thus pleading, the Lord spoke these words to me, "Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them," Jer. xv. 19. From that hour I was persuaded that I was to look upon you, and receive you, as a child of his; nor have I doubted of your salvation since. But it is the witness of the Spirit in your own conscience, and not my testimony, that must establish your heart: and, blessed be God, I perceive with comfort a growth in you; and grow you will, for God hath given you an obedient ear, and a teachable spirit, which will turn to your own account. The veil of ignorance will gradually open as the sun of righteousness arises and shines, and no small degree of divine comfort will attend the healing beams; which will leave a bright path from the illuminated understanding to the throne of God, who gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of himself in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 6.
The Lord is not confined to places of worship; he will be a little sanctuary in all places where thou shaft seek him; and will be found of them that-seek him with all their heart. Nor will he be wanting in the displays of providence: he will point out many ways of escape; open many doors; raise up many friends in times of need; give thee many love-tokens; and make thee know, believe, and feel, that he careth for thee, which will so powerfully establish thy faith, draw forth thy love, and engage thy attention and admiration, that thou wilt feel his gracious presence on every side, and not be able, at times, to muster up one single doubt of thy part and lot in his everlasting salvation.
When all these signs come to pass, when these blessed jubilee days visit thee, thou wilt be indulged with no small degree of nearness, access, boldness, and holy familiarity, at a throne of grace. Then I counsel thee to minute down the sweet visits, happy deliverances, comfortable manifestations, choice love-tokens, and precious and powerful promises; for these may be wanted in time to come; as saith the wise man, " If a man live many years, and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many, Eccles. xi. 8. 'These minutes which I counsel thee to make may serve as so many land-marks in some future cloudy and dark day; and as reviving cordials in days of adversity yet to come: for, "The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the son of Man, and ye shall not see it," Luke xvii. 22. These blessed seasons will undoubtedly come to pass: and in those days thou shalt surely know the Lord; Yea, saith the Lord, "They shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold it is I!" Isa. iii. 6. When these things come to pass, read this letter, and remember my counsel: and let not thy joys engage thy attention so, as to forget thy minuting them down; for thou wilt afterwards be ready to conclude, under some future heavy temptation, that the whole impression is defaced, and both mind and memory robbed of all.
And farther be admonished, my daughter. Scrape no acquaintance with professors without letting me know who they are. Choose your company, and call upon such as I will sonic day recommend, who will be fellow-helpers of thy faith, and furtherers of thy joy. You know they are not all maidens that wear white aprons; nor are all chaste virgins espoused to Christ who carry lamps. Many an Israelite has been found to be a leper, and many a splendid professor in our days has got the plague in his head. At present, take good heed to thyself, and watch the handy-work of the Saviour, which lies between him and your conscience; and in future, when established, thou wilt be able to judge for thyself.
I should be glad to know how the work has been carried on in thee from the beginning. I long for a narrative of it; which you might begin, and send me, a little at a time, in a letter, as opportunity offers; and you will greatly oblige,Dear Daughter,
Your affectionate Friend and Father,
In the faith of the gospel,Winchester Row, Paddington.