Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO THE REV MR. HUNTINGTON.
Reverend Father in Christ Jesus,
I HAVE, first, to beg you will not be offended at my not writing before, as it was not in my power; and, secondly, to thank you kindly for your letter, &c. which gave me great comfort: for which I am both grateful and thankful; and may the Lord reward you a thousand fold in the world to come, for in this world there is nothing worth wishing for. I bless God, I am enabled to look on it, and every thing in it, as dross. This must be from the Lord, for never was there any one that loved it better, nor ever entered with more willingness into all the fooleries, than I have done.
Dear Sir, I am greatly comforted every time I hear you. The Lord is pleased to make you, Sir, a messenger, of many joyful tidings to my soul. You tell us, that we must have a change of heart, and be spiritually circumcised. This the Lord is daily doing for me: for I can tell you, dear sir, with truth and great joy, that I could not now be happy with the same people, nor the same amusements, as usual; nor could I, as I have done often, (to my shame I speak it) be a day without prayer. I never, till now, thought of calling myself to an account for trifles: if I did net commit any capital crime, I thought it was all well. I used to go to confession, get absolution, and come away quite satisfied that I had done my duty: but, blessed be God, I can now say that the Lord has imbittered these things to me; and I trust, this springs from the change of heart you speak of.
You ask me, sir, if it is true that, in my great distress, I contributed to procure my father's release from purgatory? You have been informed true as to the thin, but wrong as to the time. In my distress, it was not in my power to have raised five pence, much less five shillings; which was the sum I gave to the priest, and likewise three shillings for myself; and was fool enough, at that time, to believe I was right. This happened six years ago. I was then at Cork, in Ireland, and had a tolerable income, and therefore could spare the money; but am now very sorry I did not better employ both my time and money.
You ask me, sir, if there is no redemption in the Catholic Church, unless it is purchased? I answer, No; for they believe that, if they do not satisfy God with prayers, fasting, and alms, in this world, or leave money for the priests to do it after their death, or that of their relations, they must remain in purgatory till they have paid the utmost farthing by suffering. And this, sir, was what I once believed; and thought with myself, that when I died, if I had not satisfied God for all my sins, I should be excluded his blessed presence until I had atoned for all my crimes by enduring the torments of that place. And this is what I thought was purgatory, and that I should then be received into heaven. So you see, clear Sir, that this purgatory was a well-spun device of Satan, which never once seemed to want any thing but the works of the flesh to get to heaven: for although, in the Catholic persuasion, for religion it is none, their whole ceremony is nothing but the imitation of the passion, as they call it, or suffering, of our blessed Saviour; and though they have continually a cross before them, which, they say, is to put them in mind that Christ died for them; they never once raise their thoughts to God. I speak for myself, and I think, I may speak for the mall: for, if they did, they would trust in him, and look to him, for salvation; and would soon see as now I do, that they never can get to heaven but through Christ; and would find that there is no need of a crucifix to put them in mind of Christ's death; for they would find such comfort in the faith of it, that it would hardly be ever out of their minds; and they would wait, and think the time very long, till Jesus told them he died for them, as I do, for, dear sir, I find there is one thing wanting to make me completely happy; notwithstanding, at times, I have great comfort, and can see plainly that the Lord careth for me.
I received several answers to prayer after I had read your Bank of Faith, and was frequently enabled to trust in the providence of God; and, if I did not get what I prayed for or wanted, I was led to believe I was happier without it. In this manner I went on. I begged Mrs. C. would let me come to the chapel some sacrament Sunday, which she did, and I sat in one of the free seats; but, during the ordinance, I felt myself very unhappy in being excluded, and secretly wished for the crumbs that fell from the table. The Lord then told me, that this was the way of administering that ordinance, and not with the host. I then begged Mrs. C. to ask if I might be admitted to speak to you. She told me, I had better write; but, not knowing how or what to write, I therefore declined it. I begged the Lord to direct me, as I had now learned to pray without a book; and I soon saw the effects of my prayers, both in providence and in grace, as you well know by my present situation; and, blessed be God! I have been enabled, when passing through the streets, to return him my most humble and hearty thanks for his mercies. And one morning, after having had some very severe trials in domestic affairs, as if a voice had spoken to me in the street, I was saying to myself "What must I do to appear genteel in this new line of life I am going into?" The voice said "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." But, having two doors opened in providence at once, I was puzzled to know which situation to choose. On my knees, I begged the Lord to direct me, and to choose for me, and to let me make choice of that which would turn out most for my soul's good. I now began to be so fond of Providence Chapel, that its very name seemed to point out which place I was to choose; but I left it to the Lord. I could now call upon God in prayer, and find myself greatly relieved. It was the Lord's will that I should get the place I am now in; which led me to see that the Lord appoints all things, and sixes the bounds of our habitation.
These are some of the things which I had seen in my dream; but, I trust, there is more meant by the dream than mere providences. The Lord make me grateful and thankful for all his benefits; and may I never forget the many favours I have received at his hands.
I hope, dear sir, you will excuse my delay in writing, as I am much engaged in the affairs of this life. Blessed be his holy name, who hath made me a willing hearer; andYour ever grateful daughter, In Christ Jesus,
J. C.William Huntington