Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO THE REV. MR. HUNTINGTON.
Dear Father in Christ Jesus,
WHEN I was first taught to call upon the Lord, I was in great distress, had been three years out of any settled employment; always spending money, and getting none, or very little; till at last the Lord brought me to know what it was to want the common necessaries of life. There had several places offered, but there was always something prevented. In this distressed situation 1 continued for several months. I used to go to chapel regularly; but, as I did not go to confession or the sacrament, I was not much attended to by the priests; as they never made any inquiry but for those who are rich, and I being poor, this altered the case. But, to speak the truth; my heart was not in their devotion; why, I could not tell. As I was in distress, I went to see if these gentlemen would relieve me, as some of them had known me from a child; but their hearts were as hard as a stone; not one grain of charity or love have they to their fellow creatures; they are all for self. After I had met with a refusal from one of these gentlemen, he told me to call at their quarterly meeting, (but this I never did; for, though I was in great distress, I could not bear to be exposed like a beggar; this, I know, was pride, and I had likewise time to starve before this quarterly meeting came on) at which time they would do something for me, but that I must first come to confession. This I promised to do, but never went; nor did I receive the favour promised.
I called on Mrs. C. who was but a stranger to me: she gave me some employment, and was very kind to me. We were once speaking of devotion, and she mentioned you, sir. I had heard of you several times before, but never seemed to think any thing about hearing you. I told her I should be glad to hear you, as I was very uneasy both with respect to spiritual and temporal matters. Mrs. C. did not at this time know how desperate my situation was: she knew I was not blessed with a good partner in life, and that was all. But, as domestic affairs are not properly any part of my narrative, I shall forbear running into them.
I went, sir, with Mrs. C. to hear you, and was very much pleased with your discourse; and that night I begged of the Lord to instruct me, but I felt no particular sensation. I continued to go to the Catholic chapel in the week days, and to yours on Sundays: but I found I could not join with them in prayer, for you, sir, without knowing me, generally threw out some hints in the sermon I used to hear against popery, so that I could not bow down with reverence to the altar, nor sprinkle myself with holy water; the ceremonies seemed all to be very different to what they used to be, but I still continued to come to 'your chapel, and sat in the free seats.
In this manner, I believe, I continued for two or three months. Mr. C. lent me a bible. This blessed book I had not: for the priests take great care to keep their deluded flock in utter darkness; they will neither go to heaven themselves, nor suffer others to get m; but I find, by that blessed book, they shall have their reward. I used to read this book by stealth, otherwise I should hare been laughed at: and, whenever I opened it, I either found something to comfort or condemn me, there was always something for me.
Dear sir, I will tell you all. I have cried till my heart has been like to burst, and could hardly tell whether it was for my sins or for the distress I was in. Mrs. C. lent me your "Bank of Faith:" this added much to my comfort; for, though I wept over it by the hour, yet I felt myself happier than I had ever been in the popish chapel.
In this manner I went on, till, one evening, I seemed to wish greatly to hear you. I had then purchased a ticket, and sat where I now do. That night it rained very hard, but I was nevertheless' determined to go; and this was the very night to which you, sir, allude in your last. The text was "Hearken, O daughter! and consider; 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," Psalm xlv. 10, 11. You, sir, had no sooner given out the text, than something told me it was all for me. I thought you singled me out. Every word came with power. It was then the Lord told me he would be my Lord, if I forsook all; and that moment I felt I could. My heart was ready to break. I wanted no book to teach me to pray, nor the intercession of any saint: I could ask the Lord for all I wanted; and, during the whole sermon, was enabled to go on with you, and in prayer also. Though the discourse was long, it seemed to be but a moment; and, when I went out of the chapel, I felt as if I had left all my comfort behind me. You see, sir, how soon the devil stripped me!
In my way home, I called on Mrs. C. as she had been prevented from coming. I told her of the comfort I had received, and felt that I was certainly wrong in continuing in the catholic church; for I now plainly saw that the Lord had nothing to do with their ceremonies; and yet I had not courage enough totally to condemn them, having been always brought up in that persuasion, though baptized by a protestant minister. I could not bear the thought of my father, and all my relations, being lost. I did not know what to make of election; for, in the catholic persuasion, they are all taught to believe a purgatory: and this I once believed firmly; for, as I never was taught or enabled to look farther than the law, and as I saw plainly it was not in my power to fulfil that law, it was a comfortable thought that, after we had paid the uttermost farthing, we should be released. But I used to pray that I might have my purgatory here on earth. I was but a bad catholic, for I always excluded every saint in the conclusion of my prayer; and, after having run through the catalogue of them, I always concluded with "To thee only, O Lord, I look, and call, and depend, for assistance; in thee only I trust!"
Before I was sixteen years of age, I wished to be a protestant; and I remember my father was in great trouble about it; but I was not altogether pleased with them neither. I once heard a Mr. De Coetlogon at the Lock Chapel, who pleased me very much; this was ten years ago, but I still continued a Roman catholic, and in going to France was confirmed one; though even there, my relations used to call me a heretic, because I did not adhere so closely as they wished to the ceremonies of the church. But the Lord was pleased to convince me by his word, that elected I must be if I ever got to heaven; and, knowing what a sinner I was, this put me quite at a stand what to do. I thought, if God should be pleased to call me by death, that I was neither catholic nor dissenter, and seemed to have my religion to choose. Mrs. C. comforted me as well as she could, but I could not take comfort. Just in the midst of all this, a governess's place offered, but I found myself incapable of it. I had my religion to choose; my circumstances were very much deranged, and my mind was torn a thousand ways how to procure the common necessaries of life: which was a cross I had not then learned to bear; but I have found since, that the Lord did well in humbling my pride, and taking away my finery; and I now trust he will enable me to learn how to abound, and how to suffer need; and, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content. I would sometimes throw myself on my knees, and beg tile Lord to direct me what to do; for the devil was always buffeting me, and telling me that my father and all my friends were catholics; and that, if I did my duty, that was all that would be required of me. In this manner I continued between doubts and fears; but I never went but once to the catholic chapel after that sermon, which I am now enabled to see the Lord was pleased to call me under by your mouth. I could not join with them in prayer, nor use their holy water, as they call it; for I saw plainly, if I had nothing but holy water to wash away my sins, in sin I must remain to all eternity. But, praised be the Lord! I am now, at times, enabled to trust, in the blood of a Redeemer, and to call the Lord my God. But, dear sir, it is but for a moment, and then all is lost again; but yet I am better and better.
The case of poor Job, in your discourse on Sunday last, afforded me great comfort. I must not forget telling you, sir, with what comfort I was once favoured in reflecting on that tried man; and do not be offended if I tell you my dreams, as I look upon you, sir, to be an interpreter, one among a thousand, Job xxxiii. 23. You will be able to tell me, if I had not ground for hope from them.
One night, when I was very miserable both in body and mind, I dreamed that I was very thirsty, and could not get water from any place. I thought I did not know what to do, for I was ready to famish. I looked up to heaven, and saw, as it were, waterspouts, as clear as crystal, coming down from heaven; not like rain, but like spouts of water. I was much distressed what to put under, in order to catch the water; but I looked to the ground, and there I saw several red pitchers, which I thought I filled, and lifted them up at arm's length in order to fill them. This is all that I remember, for I then awoke with a violent pain in my arm.
I derived great comfort from this dream: I thought I could see that the Lord would have mercy on me, and help me, which I have lately found to be true; for, when I could get help from no quarter, the Lord then appeared, who is a present help in time of trouble, and I was enabled to see it. All this helped me on. Mrs. C. wished me to let you know, sir, the distress that I was in; but I begged her not to do it, lest you might think that, in order to get relief, I would change my religion.
I hope, dear sir, you will excuse my breaking off so abruptly, but I have something that I am obliged to attend to. I will, if the Lord permits, send you more of this narrative this week: but do not, dear sir, be offended, if it should not be in my power, and believe me to he, with sincerity,Your ever obliged,
And grateful servant and Daughter,