Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MR. JOHN PAVEY.
I RECEIVED yours of the first instant; the reading of which brought the former days of the Son of Man fresh to my mind, which, 1 believe, will never be forgotten by me while I am on this side Jordan. There was divine wisdom among fools, real happiness in misery, true riches in the depths of poverty, dignity in beggary, and the glorious King of kings was held and entertained in a hovel. I have often questioned, whether there ever was, since the days of the apostles, more of the power and presence of God with such a poor, despicable company, whose dwelling and assembling might with propriety be said to be among the tents of Kedar. I often call to mind my former song, even in the dead of the night; and my mind has frequently travelled and surveyed the whole round, even from the brook Besor to the hill Mizar. My soul has been filled with wonder, astonishment, and contrition, to see how short the triumph of those wicked ones was. How soon are they cut down like the mown grass, and withered like the green herb! The righteous shall see their fall, which is verified. We may seek them now, but cannot find them; for, in the term of sixteen or seventeen years, there is not one in twenty to be found in the land of the living. But we that did cleave (Into the Lord our God, yea, the whole of our little company, except Samuel Webb, who died in faith, are alive, every one of us, this clay, Deut. iv. 4. Many a time have they afflicted us, both professor and prophane; but who has preveiled?
I reflect on my former meanness and poverty with more delight than if I had been one of the first rank and highest station in the world. I was obliged to trust in the name of the Lord, and he made all his goodness to pass before me, Exod. xxxiii. 19. The needy are grateful for little, while the affluent are ungrateful for much. "The full soul loatheth the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet" It is straits and difficulties that drive the praying soul to watchfullness; and "He that will observe these things, even lie shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.
I doubt not that you all wished for my share of the enjoyment of God; but as for my hard labour, hard fare, vile raiment, coarse lodging, and family, none of you coveted that part of the inheritance: you were like Boaz's kinsman, who liked Naomi's land, to increase his wealth; but not her daughter-in-law, for fear of charges. When I rehearsed to you my (tally meditations on the word of God, and what I had experienced of his goodness, you eagerly eat it; but, when I invited Matthew, Edward Burridge, and yourself, to sup with me on barley-cake, you all tasted it, and then shit it out again; you could not swallow that: therefore it was best as it was; a double portion of God's presence, and the barley-cake, went together.
What I said of my future prophesying, &c. brought the eyes of several enemies upon me; especially at Ditton, where many eagerly expected that all my predictions would come to nothing, that envy might prove me an impostor. But God served them as he did the unbelieving lord in Samaria: he let them live to see the accomplishment of my prophecy touching the ministry; and then cut them down, that they might receive no benefit from it. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy;" and by it I was informed, soon after I was called, that trials and temptations were to prepare me for a future work; that I was to appear in the public ministry; that I should meet with much opposition in it, especially from professors; and that I should write my testimony, both of the grace and providence of God, which I thought, at times, was impossible; and therefore often imagined it must be a delusion. But I had an inward testimony that bore down all that the devil and carnal reason could raise against it, from the want of learning, &c. And, as I believed it, so I told you of it; and not a word of it has fallen to the ground. I leave seen the fulfilment of every part, except in one thing, and that bids fair for an accomplishment also. And I was confirmed in these things by sitting under the preachers who came to preach at Kingston Meeting, very few of whom knew what they said, or whereof they affirmed. I have sat by the hour, and seen them hover round the surface of the Letter, while the text refused to let one thought of their heart into its spiritual sense and meaning. The preacher and I were like two sawyers; he worked on the top, and I at the bottom. Three things have appeared conspicuous to me at once; the wisdom of God in the text; the ignorance of the preacher; and the sovereignty of the Lord, in hiding these things from him, and revealing them to me.
Sometimes I have been grieved, and have wept, to see the Saviour dishonoured, his gospel mangled, his enemies furnished with reproach and scandal, and his children disappointed and starved, through the daring presumption of a child of pride. At other times, when I have gone to meeting under a temptation to doubt of the reality of the good work in me, one of the above stamp has been permitted to appear, and to set forth every thing but the mystery of faith and a change of heart; and I have returned satisfied with the difference that I could perceive between a lamp of salvation and a dark lanthorn. But, of all preachers that I ever heard at that place, there were none that puzzled me like a certain thundering legalist. I was always affected with his zeal, and charmed with his oratory, though he was sure to smite me, and bring me into bondage; but then I seldom felt either the blow or the chains till I got on the road homeward: then the old vail gathered on; the Sun of Righteousness disappeared; my sweet views of the covenant of grace were all obscured; and I was left to grope for the wall like the blind, fast bound in affliction and iron.
The worst preacher that a new-born soul can possibly get under, is one of eloquence and fluency, tinctured with a fiery zeal, under the perpetual alarms of Sinai, his mouth filled with gospel "truths, and his soul bound with legal bondage. No comfort, freedom, life, joy, peace, or happiness, can live where he comes he is sure to slay all these, heaps upon heaps. This sort of thieves have robbed me many a time, while I have been praising and admiring the thief. Such drive many into despair, into desperate wickedness, and even into suicide. Had I known as much then as I do now, I should have spent the Lord's day more to my advantage; have enjoyed much more happiness than I did; and not have wearied myself in going so often from Jerusalem to Jericho, to fall among thieves. Blessed be God, the good Samaritan always healed me with his oil and wine; and I hope I shall continue to ride on his beast, and abide at his inn, for the future. Farewell. Excuse haste, while I remain,
Thine in the Lord,Winchester Row, Paddington.