Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO MRS. J. C.
Dear Daughter in the Faith,
I WAS joyful in heart, and grateful to God, at the reception of yours; joyful to find you so comfortable; thankful to God for a blessing to my last, and making me a fellow-helper of your joy. The excellency and power of religion is all of him; therefore 'tour faith stands not in my wisdom, but in the power of God.
What I said touching your election I shall not retract; my conscience bore me witness, and my confidence was founded on the testimony of scripture: "Knowing," says Paul, "brethren beloved, your election of God" Paul knew they were elected, because they were beloved of God; which love in God is the self-moving cause of election, and is an everlasting love. And Paul knew God's love to them by their love and attachment to him; "We love him because he first loved us." God's love to us is from eternity, ours begins in time; and it is his love shed abroad in the heart that draws forth ours to him.
Paul knew their election, because his gospel came not unto them in word only, but also in power: and if so, the kingdom of God was not only come nigh unto them, but was set up in them by the power that was manifested; ,for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power: and grace must reign through righteousness unto eternal life: therefore, where this power is experienced the kingdom of God is erected; and it is God's good pleasure to give us the kingdom; it is one of his gifts that is without repentance, and therefore shall never be taken from us, but must be enjoyed for ever; as it is written, "And in those day shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed and the kingdom shall not be left to other people," Dan. ii. 44, "But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever," Dan. vii. 18. These things Paul perceived in those Thessalonian converts; and that his gospel was accompanied with the Holy Ghost, who enlightened them to see sin, quickened them to feel it, convinced them of the evil of it, and gave them cutting convictions of it, and, having convinced them of sin, of the need of righteousness, and of the certainty of a judgment to come, he then wrought faith in their hearts, applied the promises with power, testified of Christ to them, and assured their hearts of free salvation in him; which was soon discovered to Paul by the work of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope. The first work of faith is to lay hold of Christ, and bring him into the heart, that he may dwell there. The chief labour of love is to keep all beloved sins, and all the objects of inordinate affections, with every rival of Christ, out, that he may have the pre-eminence in us. "He that loveth father, mother, wife, or children, or even his own life, better than me, he is not worthy of me." The patience of hope consists in exercising patience toward the object we hope in; in bearing whatsoever cross or trial may lie in our way to the kingdom; and to persevere in the way of his appointment, in expectation of the promised glory hoped for. These things the apostle took notice of in the Thessalonians; how they became followers of him, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, as you did; and how they turned to God from idols, as you have done from the host, images, angels, saints departed, dead men's bones, and all uncleanness, to serve the living God instead of these vanities; and to wait for his Son from heaven, with the glory that is to be revealed, instead of purgatory, or hell, from which there is no redemption; as it is written, "They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth."
Be not discouraged by temptations, nor dismayed at thy instability. After thou hast suffered a while, the Lord will strengthen, stablish, settle you, 1 Pet. v. 10. Temptations are the common lot of all; the same are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. When the strong man armed keeps the palace, his goods are in peace; but, when a stronger than he dispossess him, he is enraged; and, having lost the throne of the affections, the fort royal of the heart, and the wretched loyalty of the will, he then begins to besiege the soul with his fiery darts, or uses his infernal policy, in spreading nets or traps in our way in order to regain his lost dominions either by storm or by stratagem. And, although he knows that he can never re-enthrone himself in the heart where Christ is formed the hope of glory, nor regain the loyalty of the subdued will, nor get any service from the renewed mind; yet, being desperately enraged, and himself being in a desperate case, which can never be remedied, nor hardly worse, he pursues with unremitted violence, like an engine of mischief bent to its work. He desired to have Peter, that he might sift him as wheat, though he knew he could not destroy him; and, perhaps, it may be an easement to his infernal mind to spend his boiling venom on the objects of mercy, who, he knows, can be no longer faithful to the unrighteous mammon. It may in some measure gratify him to annoy our peace and happiness; render us ungrateful to God, and unfruitful to him; as well as hinder us from being instrumental of further injury to his accursed interest, which is sometimes done by speaking of what God has done for our souls; which sometimes, under God, disturbs his carnally-secure possessions, and disquiets his reign in the hearts of the children of disobedience. And furthermore, though the Saviour will ever have the loyalty of the submissive will, the service of the renewed mind, and the affections of a circumcised heart; yet Satan hath still got a law in the members, which will oppose that of the mind; and the corrupt part will still adhere to the law of sin. This wretched leaven, by the assistance of a lie, he conveyed to the hearts of our first parents; which entitles him to the twofold character given him by the Saviour, namely, the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning. This bane is derived by natural generation to us all; the best of saints have groaned under it, nor is there one individual on earth free from it. Death entered into the world by sin; through grace, sin shall go out by death: and, when the mortal bodies of the saints are quickened, raised, and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ, then shall mortality be swallowed up of life, and death be swallowed up in victory. "O Death! where is thy sting? O Grave! where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but, thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Therefore, be thou steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as your labour hath not hitherto been, and I trust, never will be, in vain in the Lord.
I am glad to find you obedient in all things. An account of God's dealings with thee will be very acceptable. Make no apology for troubling me; it is a pleasure when God makes it useful. Nothing discourages me, or troubles me, but labour in vain. I am bound, in duty to God, to watch over and serve those whom he is pleased to bring in the bond of the covenant; and hope he will make me a pastor after his own heart to feed you with knowledge and understanding, and to present you as a spiritual virgin to tile bridegroom of the church. That you may walk worthy of God unto all well-pleasing, and be blessed with tile light of his countenance, and the testimony of his Spirit, is the desire and prayer of,Dear Daughter,
Your affectionate Father in the faith:
Willing servant in Christ Jesus,
W.H.No. 29, Winchester Row, Paddington,
Feb, 16, 1790.William Huntington