Epistles of Faith

Letter XLIV

William Huntington (1745-1813)


Dear Sir,

I RECEIVED your letter, and have considered the contents of it; and I must confess that I do differ in opinion from some divine writers respecting the work of regeneration; but, at the same time, I aver, that neither their opinions nor mine are of any value, unless they are supported by the word of God. God is a free agent, and has an indisputable right to do as he pleases with his own. And it is clear that all sinners are not of an equal size; all debtors are not in equal arrears; some owe ten thousand talents, some five hundred pence, and some fifty; but, by the law, all are insolvents; every mouth must be stopped, and all the world must become guilty before God. As there are different sites of sinners among God's elect, so there are different measures of fatherly chastisements used at the conversion of them. All do not sink so deep in the horrible pit as David, nor do all feel the arrows of wrath like Job the terrors of the law like Paul, or the plague of the heart like Asaph. God works all things after the counsel of his own will: we are not to draw lines for him, nor to limit the Holy One of Israel; yet we are to enforce and abide by the lines that he has drawn: and by these I confess that I do not know what some divines mean by God's drawing sinners with the cords of love; for, although I have experienced a comfortable measure of the love of God, yet they treat of a drawing by love that I do not understand. That God sometimes begins a work on a sinner's heart by a promise, and sometimes by a threatening, or terrible sentence; sometimes by allurements, and sometimes by terrors; sometimes attracts by love, and sometimes deters by anger; sometimes appears at first as a propitious Sovereign, and sometimes as an angry Judge; I readily grant: but, to be drawn by the cords of love so as to feel no sting of guilt, no remorse of conscience, no bitter reflections on past folly, no sense of God's displeasure against sin, no rebellion nor evil motions of corruptions, no opposition from unbelief, no doubts about our state, no fear of a future reckoning, no evil tempers nor evil tempter opposing this work of grace, no repentance nor godly sorrow; this is such a drawing as I do not understand, and it is a drawing that the Bible knows nothing of. To be begotten, but never quickened; born again, without travail or labour; healed before they are wounded; absolved before they are insolved; justified without arraignment; saved before they are lost; banqueted before they hungered; refreshed before they thirsted; sound in faith, but never tried; a new creature,, but no old man; at rest in Christ, but never weary; in the path to heaven, and no tribulation; a soldier, but no war; a labourer, but no toil; a servant, but no work; a wrestler, but no antagonist; a follower of Christ, but no cross; of the true circumcision, but no self-denial; a law in the mind, but none in the members: such an one must needs walk boldly because against him there is no rising up.

That God draws souls with the cords of love as with the bands of a man, is true; but God's love to my soul doth not screen my back from stripes, but it procures them: "He that spareth the rod hateth his son; but he that loveth chasteneth him betimes." "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" I have been intimately acquainted with several persons, who informed me that they were drawn by love, without either rebukes, chastisements, or terrors; and I must confess, that they continued under their drawing for many years, and were drawn a great way, to a great degree of knowledge; and some of them to eminent gifts, and to cut no despicable figure in the ministry; and others to build chapels, and to contribute largely to the support of them. And I have lived to see them all, except two, drawn into the world again, into sin, into the bondage of the law, into desperate hatred to Christ, and to them that love him, and one even into deism and no wonder, when they were unacquainted with the plague of the heart, a contrite spirit, godly sorrow, and repentance unto life.

Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure; the Lord knoweth them that are his; and it appears to me, that God hath begun his good work in you, and doubtless he will carry it on. If the Lord has made thee sensible of thy weakness, and that without him thou canst do nothing, depend upon it, that he will perfect his strength in thy weakness; work in thee, and direct thy work in truth. It is no small part of a work of grace to bring a man off from trust in his own heart, and reliance on his own arm: when thy strength is all gone, and thy righteousness appears to be nothing but dung and dross, he will appear; "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength;" and then thou wilt say, as others have done: "Verily, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength" It is the Lord that pulls down and builds up; he maketh the self-sufficient faint, and bids the weak say, "I am strong."

If thou lovest his children, and his ways, thou must love the Father that begat those children, and him that is the way to him; these earnest desires to be put among his children, to be guided and directed by him; to submit to his will, and to be saved in his own way; to seek with sincerity, and pray day and night; are things that either go before, or else accompany salvation; they neither spring out of the soil of nature, nor do they come by chance; therefore, patiently wait, and quietly hope, for the salvation of God; nor pray either for trials or terrors, but pray for grace, mercy, and peace, through Christ Jesus; and depend upon it, that thou wilt find and feel, sooner or later, as much corruption and bondage; accusation and temptations; doubts and fears; conviction, dejection, and distraction; as thy heart will be able to bear up under, let thy faith be what it may. So I predict, slut so thou wilt confess; or then wilt greatly disappoint

Thy affectionate friend and, servant,

W. H.

William Huntington