Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)THE REV. MR. HUNTINGTON.
Dear Sir, and Dearly Beloved of the Lord; who has given you an understanding heart in the spiritual meaning of his word; by the blessed operation of the Holy Spirit of power in your soul.
WITH all submission, I take the liberty of writing a few lines to you, to acquaint you, that I have reason to be thankful to the Almighty for giving that wisdom to you which you have communicated to the world by your publications. I live in a small country town, where the gospel is but imperfectly preached; though, I believe, in few country churches so well. Be that as it may, I have great cause to be thankful to my dear Redeemer, who has made me to differ, I think, from all the parish beside; for there is not one that I can find who is of the same mind, except two or three who are lately come to reside here. To tell you all the particulars how I came to differ, would be too much to insert at this time: but I am desirous that you should know, for I long for your opinion of the whole, because I think you will not flatter me I have related my experience to some dissenting ministers, each of whom gave me comfort, by not doubting but the work of grace was begun in my heart. With these, nor any other dissenters, have I been acquainted above four years. But the Lord had been gracious to me eleven years before that acquaintance took place; and, until within these three years, there was not a dissenting meeting within eight miles of me: but now there is one within two miles; to which I have often gone, and have heard, at different times, several ministers, whose doctrine was much the same as that wherein the Lord had confirmed me long before; which certainly was a great comfort to me. But one thing I have often lamented to them, namely, that I had not the gift of extempore prayer. They gave me some small comfort, by telling me, that they knew some men under distress of mind about the same thing, of whom they had not the least doubt but that they were very gracious men. But I often think it is owing to the wickedness of my heart; for I am much pestered with wandering thoughts in using the form of prayer in my family, which I have constantly done twice a day ever since I was first convinced what a vile wretch I am by nature, and likewise once in the day by myself, when I have used such forms from books as I thought best suited my case, with some little additions of my own. But, for many years past, I have left off that custom when alone; and have endeavoured to make known my wants, and to give thanks for the many mercies I have received by using extempore prayer: but as my wants were often the same, such as humble cravings for the blessings and fruits of the Spirit, for a lively faith that worketh by the purest love, &c. So that they were almost become a form also: but I do not say always, for sometimes the Lord gives me power to enlarge, and then I have great comfort; but, to my grief, I have to say, with Job "O that it was with me as in time past!"
I come now to inform you that, upon conversing with Mr. Millage, of Woking, in Surrey, whose wife's sister lives near this town, whom he came to visit, we fell into discourse upon religion; and, except about the church-service, we agreed very well. Our ideas of the gospel, and hope in the Saviour, were the same. I had about that time heard something respecting you, sir, and mentioned your name to him, who knew you very well, and told me something concerning you, but what I have forgot; for you must understand my memory is very treacherous, being much impaired by a nervous complaint which I have had many years. But, what was then said made me desirous of seeing some of your works; and I believe it is near a year ago since I read your "Tidings from Wallingford," which I must confess I did not like, thinking you too censorious: but I then inquired more about you, and some said one thing, and some another. Some months after this, I took to reading some more of your works; and, the more I read, the more I liked. But in reading one of them, where you are speaking of a child of God, you intimate, that he will be sure of the spirit of prayer, as I took it; which made me tremble. And, in another place, you tell some person, that he cannot be perfect, because he says he has wicked thoughts: which I knew to be my case, for they are a great trouble to me. And, as I had lately been reading a book, written by one Fletcher, which treated on perfection, the which caused me much trouble and distress, though, through mercy, I had got over that temptation. But this coming so soon after, it caused me greater trouble than ever; insomuch, that I was tempted to believe, for two or three days, that all my former experience was nothing but a delusion: and, as a proof thereof, I had not the power of the Spirit; if I had, I should have more enlargement in my extempore prayers. But in the same night I awaked; and such a ray of light darted into my soul, as caused me to give thanks, and to pray with such fervency and liberty as I never experienced before. And, the day following, on taking up one of your books, for the whole set lay before me, and I cannot tell you which it was, but I know it was the latter part of it, I laid it down, upon experiencing such a flood of godly sorrow, and shedding such a profusion of joyful tears, as I never had felt before. My soul being again set at liberty from these distressing thoughts, caused me to sing, pray, and rejoice, with joy unspeakable, the remainder of the day, without ceasing; and to long for the evening, because I knew there was then to be a social meeting at a private house in the town, at which I intended to be present.
I must conclude, wishing you every temporal blessing you may stand in need of: but, above all, that the Lord may continue to hour down his Holy Spirit upon you, and make you, as au instrument in his hand, the means of bringing thousands of poor souls from the error of their ways, and to stir up the Lord's people to be more diligent in making their calling and election sure. For my own part, I heartily thank you; because you have been the means of quickening me, and making me more diligent in the use of the means than ever I was before. I am, sir, with great respect,
Your humble Servant, though unknown
And, O that I could with assurance say,
Your Brother in the Lord Jesus Christ,
A. B. SEN.