Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MR. J. B.Dear Friend,
You need not have made any apology in yours, as the troubled minds of sensible sinners are my peculiar province. I am authorized and commissioned by the God of heaven to transact business and negotiate affairs between the King of kings and self-condemned rebels; and to recommend the great physician, and hold forth the balm of Gilead to wounded spirits; and it is both my delight and my food to see the king and the rebel, the father and the prodigal, the physician and the patient, meet, close in, and unite together.
Whatever use a birth from Christian parents, or a religious education, may be of, it by no means secures salvation, nor gives us any right or title to it; for that is wholly of God, and is owing to his sovereign, free, electing grace. The miracles and ministry of Moses, manna from heaven, and the visible presence of God in a cloud by day, and a flame by night, for the space of forty year, together, was not sufficient to keep Israel from idolatry, rebellion blasphemy, fornication, and magic. Those that escaped the sword, who did not provoke, who mixed faith with the word, who ate of the spiritual meat, and drank of the spiritual drink, and who entered into rest, were those who found grace in the wilderness, even Israel, when the Lord went to cause him to rest: and those that found grace were loved by him with an everlasting love, Jer. xxxi. 2, 3; which was the sell=moving cause in God of their eternal salvation; and it must be attributed to it, and so be resolved into the good pleasure of his will.
If God gives a man up to the freedom of his own will, his will is soon subjected to the will of Satan, and, while led captive by him, he will be sure to resist every conviction that may arise either from the light of the law, or from the light of nature; and, if he sets about a reformation, Satan has no objection to that, but rather promotes it, if convictions are not given by the Spirit; yea, and lifts him up to be proud of it, if he can but get him to rest carnally secure in it; for he knows that he can return again to his own house whence he came out, unless the Holy Ghost take possession of it, and convert it into a temple for himself. But, if convictions are given by the Spirit of God, the apprehended sinner being effectually taken into custody, the hand of God holds him fast; Justice pursues him with unremitted rigour; while his atrocious crimes, the just charges of heaven, and the tremendous sentence of the law, chase him out of every starting-hole, from under every hiding-place of falsehood, and out of every refuge of lies, and stare him full in the face till wrath possess him within, and terrors beset him without. A sinner, thus convicted, never escapes his pursuers till he has fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that God has set before him. But convictions from the law, or from a natural conscience, often abate as soon as a few dead works are performed, or a few human services attended to.
Your external reformation, and setting yourself up for a life of purity and holiness, is the resting-place and fatal delusion of one half if of the preachers and professors in Great Britain: their own free-will stands instead of sovereign grace, their own performances instead of the merits of Christ, human endeavours instead of the spotless obedience of the Saviour, external conduct instead of the regenerating operations of the Holy Ghost, a form of godliness instead of the power, and the doctrines of men instead of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. As to holiness, my friend, there is no one doctrine under heaven that is more abused, less understood, or that uninspired men are more at a loss about, than they are about that. Some make it consist in the circumspect life and walk of a professor, others, in the performance of family, relative, and church duties, and others, in obedience to the Letter of the law; the latter of which is often confirmed by this text, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord" But all this is no more than moral, ceremonial, negative, or holiness in skew: the new man is created in righteousness and true holiness, which the apostle opposes to all this. There is none holy, in the strictest sense, but one, that is God. It was his appearance to the ancients that made any spot holy ground: his residence in Canaan made it the holy laud; his dwelling in the temple made it the holy place; and choosing the city of Jerusalem made that the holy city. But, when he left the temple, it was a den of thieves with a witness! and, when he left Jerusalem, it was called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified. That which makes men holy is God's saying, and performing his promise, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them," 2 Cor. vi. 16. The Holy One of Israel dwelling in the believer's heart by faith, Eph. iii. 17, is that which makes the saints of God holy, for their bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost.
A man that has the righteousness of God on him, and the Holy Spirit of God in him, may be said to be a new creature, created after the image of him that created him in righteousness and true holiness. All holiness short of this is only the varnish of a hypocrite; it is prostituting the greatest of names to the vilest purposes of deception; and can no more make a man a holy man, than the hypocrisy of the Jewish Pharisees could make the temple a holy place; whose devilish deception and villainy changed its sacred name into that of a den of thieves.
Inherent holiness, and practical holiness, are terms that are commonly made use of by sensual men, whose aim is to deceive the simple, debase the ministers of the Spirit, and bring the grace of God into contempt. There is no internal holiness but in those who are born from above, and whom God chastens for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness, Heb. xii.10. nor is there any real practical holiness, but where the Spirit of God dwells and operates, leading men, and directing their work in truth, and working in them both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Such souls walk in the Spirit, they serve God in the newness of the Spirit, and worship him in Spirit and in truth.
Men of worldly wisdom are, in the general, the farthest of all men from real religion, and the greatest enemies to it: hence we are thus cautioned; "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," Col. ii. 8. However, God, in the multitude of his mercies, hath delivered thee from those fatal delusions; and has favoured thee with many blessings, comforts, and happy seasons; "But these are all fled!" This is dreadful news! If jubilee days and comforts are all gone, thy case must be deplorable indeed; but, deplorable as it is, thy heavenly Father hath served me so times without number, and does to this day. We cannot command the comforts of God, nor have we power to detain them; the Lord gives them, and the Lord takes them away; and a sore affliction it is to be without them, but I am often obliged to bear it, for I know of no remedy but faith, hope, and patience; these must keep their standing till those joyful seasons come round again: God will afflict the seed of David, but not for ever, 1 Kings xi. 39.
I do not think, nor believe, that any person who ever was filled with love to God, and liberty by his Spirit, is capable of thinking much less entertaining, either hard or blasphemous thoughts against God; I believe these cursed thoughts are produced by a conjunction between the devil, who buffets us; and sin, that dwelleth in us. I have been plagued with these things, without intermission, for fourteen months together; and, when my deliverance came, Satan only departed for a season: but so far from entertaining them, I would sooner have entertained every murderer, highwayman, thief, and pickpocket, in Christendom. When the hour of temptation comes on, this sore runs, this plague of the hear! rages; but, when Christ comes, and rebukes the devil, we are whole of this plague, this issue of blood is stanched. "Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me."
A person cannot long doubt of the being of a God who is perpetually buffeted by an evil spirit, who is such a desperate rebel against him. The very being of a devil proves the being of a God; for, if there be no Creator, who made Satan? Not himself; for, if he had, he would have been glad to have unmade himself long ago, seeing his own existence is no less than a hell to him. Satan does not make use of sound logic in tempting thee to open thy mouth against a being that has no existence. However, thou art in good bands: Jesus Christ is a safe ally; he has promised to succour the tempted, and he knows how to deliver the just out of temptation. And of this be assured, that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the bulwarks of Zion.