Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO MR. PARKER, EXMOUTH, NEAR EXETER, DEVON.
IF you have either conscience or fear left, you might justly expect that I should commence hostilities against you, and pursue you with the unremitted rigour of a Syrian. Surely you must have forgotten whose daughter in the faith you married. During the time of your courtship, I was politely invited to your house, and made an acceptable guest; but, no sooner had my presence granted consent to the marriage, and you obtained the full possession of my daughter, than you treated the parent with cold indifference; neither have you paid any respect or reverence even to my cloth. What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughter, as a captive taken with the sword? Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away, if not with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp; yet I might have sent thee away with counsel, caution: petitions, and blessings? Thou hast not suffered me to take my leave of my daughter. Hast thou done wisely in so doing? Knowest thou not, that it is in the power of my hand to do you hurt, either by striking you out of my will, or cutting you off with a shilling? Could not all the charmers in the great metropolis hold your soul a willing captive? How is it that you have broken all our bands asunder, and cast our cords from you? Besides, you never staid to see what portion or inheritance there is for you in your Father's house. If I had beguiled you with Leah; if ye were counted strangers to me; if I had sold you; if I had changed your wages; or, it I had quite devoured your money; you might well have set your face toward Mount Gilead, and I might have been content, but you know this was not the case.
And what can I do this day unto this my daughter, or unto the little one that she has borne? As to gathering stones, and turning them into witnesses, that is a work none can perform but he who raises up children unto Abraham. Nor am I willing to undertake the making of a new covenant, choosing rather to abide by that which is made ready to our hands. "If thou shalt afflict my daughter, or if thou shalt take another wife besides my daughter, no man is with us;" therefore you know who is witness, and what will undoubtedly be the consequence.
Before you took your journey, did you propose to go by the way of Mizpeh? Did you ascend the watch-tower, descry the leadings of Providence, and follow hard after him who has promised- to go before us, and to be our reward also? Did the angels of God meet you, as a guard by the way, and as a sure token that your way was not perverse before him? Hast thou found a Bethel since thou left us? or any manifestation of divine goodness and approbation, which has constrained thee to anoint a pillar, in commemoration of your happy deliverance from Blackfriars and Titchfield-street? Or, have you had one absolute promise applied by the Spirit, to assure your heart that you shall not make a Moabitish voyage of it; go out full, and return empty?
It is safe abiding under the wins of the Almighty. He keeps his court in Zion, and is a protection there; and has promised, that he will abundantly bless bar provision, and satisfy her poor with bread: nor has he ever been a barren wilderness to those who cleave to and put their trust in him. Your very name appears big with meaning. Parker signifies a park-keeper, or deer-keeper; one who is generally prowling about among the herds: but who would have thought that, after being so many years an established citizen of Mount Zion, thou wouldst, in thy declining age, have become a ranger of the forest? If, like Israel of old, we are forced into exile, the Lord promises to be a little sanctuary in all places whither we may come. Or, if God calls for a seven years' famine, and says to the Shunamite, "Arise, thou and thy household, and sojourn where thou canst sojourn;" she goes, in obedience to God: and, when she has served her apprenticeship, and returns, Gehazi shall be at court on the very day that she cries to the King for her house, and for her land; and a certain officer shall be appointed to restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the land, since the day that she left it until now, 2 Kings, viii. 1-6. But if, like the prodigal, we make a peremptory demand of our portion, gather all together, and, without a divine warrant, set off into a far country; we may bring leanness into our souls, but we shall never gain much by trading.
It is an unconditional promise in Christ Jesus that secures the things of this life, and of that which is to come; and it is the blessing of God that multiplies them, and the presence of God that sweetens them, and makes a very little suffice. But, if we provoke God by giving way to a distrust of his providence, and he withdraw the light of his countenance from us, we shall soon find a tincture of Mara in every earthly enjoyment. "In the multitude of counsellors there is safety:" but, when Satan gets at the head of affairs, a man generally goes on after the counsel of his own will; and it is very rare that such an one consults any but the prophets of the grove, whose counsel is sure to stand with his own humour. Ahab had a multitude of these, but no safety. "A fool," says the proverb, "utters all his mind at once, but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards." I belong to the former, for I am weary with holding in. There were three that had a joint hand in thy flight, and they are Satan, Covetousness, and Unbelief, and these three are two; and there are three that bear witness against it, namely, William Huntington, my daughter, and Mr. Parker's own conscience; and we three agree in one. Had either of us been consulted, and followed, the journey had been postponed to all eternity.
I am in a great strait: I long to be present with thee, and to change my voice; but alas! alas! thou art got too far from the first witness; who, then, shall I appoint over this business? My daughter, she is the second witness, but she is the weaker vessel; besides, " Her desire shall be to her husband, and he shall rule over her." I must appeal to Conscience, then; and to Conscience I will go, for I have none like-minded with him, who will naturally care for your state; for every one seeketh his own, not the things that are Christ's.
'Conscience, I charge thee to keep this commandment without spot; and, as thou art commissioned to act under the great king, that thou magnify thine office: yea, I adjure thee, that thou tell my dear friend Parker nothing but what is truth, in the name of the Lord. Tell him, that the root of all evil is a hinderance to the enjoyment of divine love, and that infidelity was the cause of his quitting the service of the sanctuary. Tell him, that unbelief and Covetousness have turned many a fruitful heart into barrenness, pierced hundreds through with many sorrows, and drowned thousands in destruction and perdition. Conscience! Conscience! I say, I will that thou affirm these things constantly to my friend, without preferring him before me. Tell him, that he is indebted to the God of grace and providence for all that he has, whether in hope or in hand; and that he accumulated both under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, for it was but little that he had before he came there; and, as God was able to give it, he is as able to keep him in the possession of it: and that it is ungrateful, unscriptural, and unreasonable, to cleave to God till an independency be procured, and then adhere to the devil for means to secure it. Tell him, Conscience, that this thy complaint of his unbelief, and demand of trust in God, and gratitude to him, is no more than his reasonable service; and who knows but that thou mayest be commissioned and brought into the power for such a time as this; and that thy service, at the long run, may be accepted of my friend?
'Conscience, I know a proof of thee, and have an high opinion of thy fidelity; and I know that thou art a wise magistrate, and knowest what thou oughtest to do; therefore hold him not guiltless. I leave no occasion to pray that thou mayest be delivered out of the hands of them that. do not believe, for thou art a valiant one; thou canst hurt them, but the devil himself can never destroy thee. Therefore do the work of a faithful magistrate, and make full proof of thy commission. Proceed against him with the utmost rigour of the law, and pursue him like an officer that needs not to be ashamed, and not like one who does the work of the Lord deceitfully. Have at him like one in authority: be deaf to every plea but those of the Spirit, of the chief Shepherd, and of atoning blood. Compromise nothing with him; take no bribe, to blind thine eyes therewith: and spare not his soul for his crying; peradventure thou mayest do him good in his latter end. Summon him at the receipt of this; harass him, accuse him, reprove him, rebuke him, weary him, silence him, and smite him; for, if thou dost not wound him, he will wound thee. Ring a perpetual peal in his ears; subpoena every loyal thought of his heart upon the jury; and awake up every fear, conviction, terror, and torment, that you can muster together, to attend the inquisition. Heaven itself hath authorized thee, and empowered thee. Go, therefore, in this thy derived might, and thou shaft deliver Israel. But, if he plead innocent, or if lie attempt to puzzle thee, so as to involve the case, and baffle thy evidence by evasive terms and carnal quibbles, by calling his sin prudence, care, discretion, good decorum, frugality, &c. &c. I charge thee, Conscience, before God, that thou listen to none of these things; but tell him, in the original it signifies Mammon, alias the root of all evil, alias idolatry, alias covetousness; and that God hates it; that such persons cannot serve God and Mammon; and that he must be purged from it, or be damned: "For because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." No man can enjoy peace that lives in it; no man can be saved that dies in it. Insist upon these things, and appeal to God himself for confirmation. "Let no man despise thee." If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained my brother; but, if he neglect to hear thee and the scriptures of truth, wipe the dust off thy feet against him, and tell him, that the kingdom of God has often come nigh unto him. If thou deal thus with him, thy mouth shall not reproach thee so long as thou livest. But I hope better things, though I thus write; and I trust the Lord will give thee favour in the sight of the man, that thou mayest bring his soul out of Egypt. If thou be inquired of, tell them that thou art one of my companions in travel, a fellow-labourer, and very profitable to me for the ministry; yea, a good servant of Jesus Christ, and the glory of the churches. While he reads this, be sure to bear thy inward testimony to it, by virtue of thine office. Divine truth can never be shamed, nor justly blamed; therefore stand fast, and acquit yourself like a man. If he offers to bribe thee, by setting up a prayer-meeting in his house; or by giving, now and then, a trifling alms to the saints, mind what I say; thou art not sent to one of an hard speech, whose words thou canst not understand; thou knowest his voice, and he knows thine, therefore, tell him, that these things may be found where the old leaven of covetousness was never pinged out. A liberal heart is better than a handful of alms. God loveth a cheerful giver, not a bribe.
I have now done my duty; and these things I commit unto thee, friend Conscience, that thou mayest by them war a good warfare, and insist upon every Israelite's holding fast both faith and thee. Thou knowest that I am warranted to appeal to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Having, therefore, made my appeal to thee in behalf of faith in God, I adjure thee to be faithful to thy charge: and, if he puts away concerning faith, he must make shipwreck. Therefore, say not thou, A confederacy, to him, nor bid him God speed, lest thou be a partaker of his evil deeds. Keep thyself pure.
I Furthermore, if he be highly offended, and intimates, that his age and wisdom, his right of private judgment, his well-planned measures, his unbiassed reason, yea, reputation, &c. &c. are infringed, &c. and that candour, moderation, lenity, soft words, smooth speech, and a mantle of love, should be used, &c. &c. pay no regard to these things: the counsel is good, but not at this time. Tell him, thou art much older than his father; and hast reproved even kings, for thy Master's sake, ere now: and as for candour, &c. these things will do to employ the tongue, and nurse pride; but they will neither do to live by, nor die by. Be sure, let him not write to me till thou hast brought him, with humble confession, to his knees. Be strong, and of good courage, and neither fear him nor spare him; for, if we can bring him to himself, and back again to his Father's house, we shall find more favour in his eyes than they who send him away.
'O Conscience! my constant friend, and faithful admonisher; who hast been a succourer of many, yea, and of myself also; whose praise is in all the churches, so that we need not speak any thing, I charge thee to do thy diligence, and get to Exmouth before winter, and there preach the preaching that I bid thee. If be tells thee, that Sanballat and Tobiah set thee on, and that thou art a disturber of the peace, &c. tell him, it is no such thing, for thou art assisted by the voice of one crying in the wilderness, who demands straight paths for our feet; and, so far from being a disturber of the peace, thou art the very seat of peace, and a disquieter of false peace and carnal ease only. His way is now perverse; therefore thwart him, wince, mock him, turn out of the way, kick up, start at every thing, crush his feet against the wall; and, if thou canst not dismount him, be sure to throw his countenance, if thou even fall under him: any how, rather than carry him to the drawn sword. Never mind his smiting, nor his threatenings. Tell him, thou art his ass, upon which his countenance has ridden ever since thou wast his; nor wast thou ever wont to do so unto him while he kept on wisdom's way. And if he gets him back again into the right path, he shall find thee as sure-footed as ever, but not till then.
'O Conscience! my true yoke-fellow, fellow-helper, and fellow-soldier! that the great King may second every motion of thine, accompany thee on this embassy, and crown thy honest Labours with abundant success; is the desire and prayer of'Thy once open and avowed Enemy,
'But now reconciled Friend,
'And willing Co-worker,Winchester Row, Paddington. 'W. H.'