Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MR. HUNTINGTON.
HAVING met with much opposition in my mind against attempting to commit to writing my experience, I could not, for a time, comply with your request; but having been enabled to see that the opposition came not from God, I am determined, with the Lord's help, to acquaint you with some of the most remarkable occurrences, neglecting the whole train of deliverances I have experienced in a way of providence; which, if written, you would conclude that the Lord had been with me from my mother's womb.
I have often thought, of late with great satisfaction, and I believe it has made your ministry, in the hands of God, savoury to me, how plainly the Lord has revealed it to me, that you are his servant: for I had sat for near ten years, under what was called the gospel; under R. H. and under J. W. and never knew truth from error, law from gospel; nay, I did not know calvinism from arminianism. But I had not. been under your ministry many months, before I discovered, and said to several, if what you said respecting arminianism was true, I should be damned. But it was not what you, nor all the world could have said, naturally speaking, without the Spirit's power, that would have delivered me from it: for though I saw that I could not be saved that way, yet I found afterwards, that a work of the Spirit was as much beyond what I had come through, as the heavens are above the earth; for what 1 had heard served only to convince my judgment, that it requires an application by the Spirit of God to bring it home to the heart. I began, at times, to be satisfied, from what I had experienced, as 1 thought, and from the Lord's hearing my prayers, and delivering me: and not only in this, but in having my prayers remarkably answered at other times; so that I concluded I was certainly in a saved state. And I had, from this last trouble, not only left off going to the playhouse, to which till this time I was much addicted, as often as three or four times in a week, but the very root or desire was cut for this, and from every thing else seemingly excepting godly company and godly conversation; and I could now so talk about the doctrines of the gospel, that many, as well as myself, were deceived, and thought I had a saving knowledge of God; nay, by some, I was looked up to as a very remarkable one. But you will see, in the sequel, that when the Spirit of the Lord began to operate, all my seeming comeliness was turned into corruption, and my soul stood naked and exposed to the wrath of the Almighty; and that you were the instrument, in his hands, of bringing me first into, and afterwards out of, my trouble.
I am now enabled to see how rightly the Lord has timed every thing, how every thing has come suitably to the state I was in, and how all things have worked together for my good: for, just when my mind seemed ripe for the truth, and I began to be dissatisfied, and to think there must be something more in religion than what I knew, I was brought under your ministry. And, though I believe I had heard almost all who are called gospel ministers in London, I never so much as heard of your name till within these three years; but, as soon as I heard you, I understood enough to make me miserable, and I never found any rest after I did hear you till I was delivered. I began to argue in favour of arminianism, and against the truth of the Lord, for I found my false hope was destroyed; and I was filled with a great deal of bitterness in my mind against you, though we then had never spoke to each other. However, the arrow stuck fast.
It happened about this time, that I had several dreams and visions of the night, indicating what was coming upon me; two of which I will relate. I dreamed that I was walking a considerable way, in great perplexity, through many waters, some places shallow, and others very deep. As I had just passed a church, a relation of mine, who had often come with me to hear you preach, overtook me; and, all on a sudden, I saw a great light, like the sun in his meridian splendour; and I heard a voice, saying, "Put off your shoes, for the place whereon you walk is holy ground." I did so immediately, and went on my road joyfully but I then lost sight of my relation, and saw him no more; and, what is remarkable, this very person came but once or twice to hear you after my trouble bean, and has now given it up entirely, and, I believe, through fear of falling into the horrible pit wherein he saw me plunged. The other dream was this: I saw myself arraigned at a bar for a crime which I thought was not my own however, when my trial began, I was convinced that I deserved to suffer; but, after remaining a considerable time at the bar, in great anxiety, Justice itself came, and delivered me; and I understood that another had answered for me, and made atonement; and I came away greatly pleased, and happy in my deliverance. But, in my way home, I perceived a man slain and terribly mangled; which circumstance left a lasting impression on my mind.
On Monday, August 31, 1789, betwixt nine and ten o'clock in the evening, I was sitting reading a book of yours addressed to Caleb Evans; and, while I was reacting ii, an uncommon light darted forth, somewhat in the manner of a flash of lightning, which seemed to strike me across the forehead, and directly it sunk into my inward parts, and I felt it within me as plainly as ever I felt any thing in my life. Surely it was the candle of the Lord searching all the inward parts of the belly: for my soul was like a bird shot, it sunk in a moment, and my countenance immediately fell. This supernatural light fastened a conviction within me, which convinced me that all my past experience was nothing but a delusion; and that I was a hypocrite, and in spirit a Pharisee of the Pharisees, in the sight of God; and had taken up a profession of the gospel only upon reason, and through fear, without experiencing the power of it. But the light which I had now received shined so bright in the reading of the word, and examining my experience, to try to support my spirit, that I wondered how I had read the scriptures before, and how it was possible I could have been so much deceived. I betook myself to my room in the greatest horror imaginable; and this text came to me; "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" I thought this came from the adversary, and was meant to deceive me, as he had done before; therefore it afforded me no comfort: and immediately the following text came to me; "The heaven shall be brass over thy head, and the earth iron under thy feet." I looked out at my window, and to me it so appeared. I dropped immediately on the floor, crying, "Lord, save, or I perish!" and, if ever words were spoken from the heart, these certainly were.
I kept reflecting on my past experience; but the light which was within me convinced me there was a wrong motive at the bottom of all my profession: and such sins were brought to my remembrance which I had not so much as thought of for years; the appearance of which convinced me that my soul was naked before God, anti exposed to all the curses of his law, for the covering which I had clothed myself with was all burnt tip.
I arose from the floor, and hurried to bed, to drown or forget my trouble, but continued saying, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner!" till I fell asleep; and a sinner I did appear black enough, God knows! When I awoke the next morning, my trouble and horror were so great, I could not act in my business, though, before this trouble came on, it had been my greatest pleasure: and during my five months distress, my business, or property, did not appear worth one moment's consideration; nay, it was of so little esteem, that 1 would have given it to my brother, if he would have accepted it. And though, in one of my matters, I was apprehensive it would be put into the hand of the Lord Chancellor, yet nothing had any weight with me but the welfare of my soul. And such was my grief; that though I wished, and tried to hide it from those around me, it was impossible, for I was obliged to confess, anti that to many, that I was a wretch undone, for it appeared to me that I had sinned against light and knowledge, and that there was not such another sinner in the world. To add to my distress, the next night I dreamed I was in a garden with two friends, for one of whom I had a very great regard. In the garden there was a tree whose top I could not discover. There descended a beautiful bird, which both my friends tried to destroy, but I was very much displeased, and earnestly wished to have it. One in company aimed a stroke at it. with a sword, when it mounted immediately; and, the moment it was out of sight, I heard a noise by the side of me; and, turning round, saw the earth cleave asunder with a confused noise, and swallow up one of my friends, together with myself; and I cannot help thinking, that what I then felt, when sinking, bore a resemblance to what condemned spirits feel in hell. After having fallen a great way with the horrid sensation, I found myself in a large grave, where there were many dead bodies; anti one I particularly noticed had a crown on its head, which I understood to be the body of King David. I saw my companions no more, but remained alone among the carcases; and, after I had surveyed them a while, and stumbled over some of them, there appeared a person unexpectedly, and conducted me out. The next day after, the sensation which I felt when I fell kept me in all the horrors imaginable. I believe I was shewn David in the grave because I was to experience some of the horrors which he felt; and under the heaviest troubles I have had a gleam of hope, from having some part of his Psalms brought to my mind, the following passages in particular: "Let not the pit strut her mouth upon me;" "The snares of death compassed me about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me." I knew this was my case; and " thought that, if David went so far, and had deliverance, it might be the same with me. My last dream was verified, for I grew worse and worse, and continued sinking deeper and deeper into despondency; insomuch that my relations, and some of my acquaintance, amongst whom I had been brought up, came to me, and said, if one who had lived as I had done was lost, what must become of tire world? And others said, they knew I had a good heart; but this, instead of affording me comfort, as I believe they meant it, only grieved my spirit, for I knew my heart was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; and though my life had been remarkably moral, the light which shone within me convinced me that my mind and conscience were both defiled, and that in every thought, word, or act, I had committed sin.
On Sunday, Sept. 6, 1789, I came to hear you preach. Your sermon seemed exactly suited to my case; and particularly several texts you quoted, and enlarged upon. One was, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth." Another, that the Lord would rend, and afterwards return, and heal. These, as well as the greatest part of your sermon, were so applicable to my case, that I thought I felt deliverance coming; but as I knew that, if I was set at liberty from all my trouble in the chapel, I should disturb the whole congregation, I therefore prayed that I might be delivered at home. But this very prayer Satan handled as an accusation and aggravation of my trouble through my whole distress; under this idea, that I had thought lightly of that pardon, which was worth more than the whole world, and of which I was then sensible; that I had now let slip the day of grace, and should never find repentance. I seemed to be got almost beyond the reach of mercy, and had neither power nor spirits to keep myself decent; but was so harassed the moment I began to do One thing, that I was driven to another; insomuch that one of my relations said, I must privately have committed murder, otherwise I could not be so unhappy. My distress began to affect my body, and was like a fire burning within me night and day; and, as in Deut. xxxiii. 2, "From his right-hand went a fiery law;" so I felt it raging in my conscience, and calling for righteousness and obedience which I had not.
One morning, my thirst was so great, that three quarts of liquid in an hour did not allay my thirst: and, what added most to my grief was, I could not pray, though there was groaning and seeking after God in the spirit beyond any thing I had ever felt; for, if I attempted to pray, a power superior to my own drove me from it. Through fear and horror, I went from place to place, groaning under the continual apprehensions of eternal destruction; a terror to myself, and to all around me. I was tempted to try to get rid of all thoughts of religion and a future state. I went so far, that I could not bear religious conversation, but used to get away from it, and hide the bible, and other religious books. But this would not do: I got worse and worse, and was compelled to search the scriptures, and that more than ever, for something to ease my troubled mind; and was compelled also to come and hear you, for there was no one else, at this time, from whom I received any ease. I often experienced relief while you were in your prayer; and indeed it seemed as if the Lord put words in your mouth, purposely to suit my case; but, as soon as your prayer was over, you were led in your sermon to draw the line between a professor and a possessor, or a hypocrite and a real child of God; and you discovered my very thoughts, insomuch, that I was clearly convinced I was nothing but a Pharisee, not a child of God.
About this time a professor asked me my mind respecting you, and how I could ever go to hear you, after I had been brought into so much trouble under you. I was enabled then to say, and that in confidence, that if any in London were right, you were; and I had light sufficient to see that he was in as bad a state as myself, only his eyes were holden, that he could not see it. Several persons brought promises from the word of God which were suitable to my case: but I told them I could not believe; could see the safety of those who did believe in Jesus; but, if they would give me the whole world, I could not believe.
The Lord, for some time, had prospered every thing I put my hand to; and my getting something of a name among the people with whom I dealt, lifted me up. But these very people, whose esteem I so much prized, were to see me in my desperate condition: for one day, in all my trouble, I went to 'Change; and what I went for, I know not; but, from my appearance, they concluded I was mad; and from this I became the talk and jest of them all. I was at last obliged to take to my bed, which I kept for eight days together: and it is amazing how manifestly the Lord supported me, for I would not take any thing that was recommended, either as food or physic. Satan often came as a familiar spirit indeed, for I was not without his temptations and arguings the whole five months. That text in Isaiah, "Tophet is ordained of old, &c." lay much on my mind; and it was so impressed on my spirit, that I have had my soul, as it were, carried down amongst the fiends, and thought I could see the very place and manner of their punishment. Satan had such possession of my heart and tongue, that he made me do what I never did before, namely, curse and swear. When he began his temptations one morning, I said, "Here I am, only created to live about twenty-two years, have always been harassed by Satan, have called continually to be delivered from sin in vain, and am now going to hell," for I thought it impossible to live the day out. "What a *** being must God be!" I felt a trembling seize me the next moment; upon which I said, "Now all is over, I have now committed the unpardonable sin!" In my desperate fit, I thought of a sword which I used to keep by my bedside, and said, "That will soon make an alteration, for bell cannot be worse than what I feel." I got out of bed in a moment; and I believe, if the Lord had not moved my sister to displace it, under some apprehensions of this kind, I should have killed myself; for, when I found I was disappointed, I smote my hands against the bedstead, and beat off? part of the flesh, in my rage. But, what is amazing! under all my trouble, whenever there was a little cessation, which was never long, I feared that I was coming out the wrong way, and prayed earnestly to God, if it was so, to plunge me deeper, if necessary, so as not to let me come forth any other way than his own, and with a saving knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ. My spirit, at such times, was seemingly absent from the body, (not in my sleep, but when lying iii my bed awake) roving in the air; and I thought I could sec; the world under me; and the language of my heart was, "O that I knew where I might find him! it might be, that I might find mercy!" But, after this, a gloomy horror seized me: and there seemed, at times; a carelessness of what became of me. The adversary suggested, " Perhaps the doctrine of universal salvation may be true thus far, that, after the reign of the saints one thousand years, the wicked might be delivered." I searched, to find out whether the words, ever and everlasting, might not mean a term. I also inquired what the Hebrew words were, and procured the best of dictionaries. But, the more I searched, the more the light which was within convinced me it was not as I then wished. This, and many other particular errors, the devil tried, at different times, to draw me into, it seems, to make me stop or rest short of Jesus Christ; but, blessed be the Lord, as fast as I caught hold of any thing of the kind, he cut it off, and drove me from my false refuges, sometimes by your preaching, and sometimes by texts of scripture, and plunged me deeper and deeper. It was given out by some, that religion had driven me mad: my relations and friends said the same; and one spoke very desperately against you. It pleased the Lord, however, at this time, to strike one of the family, who is no friend to religion, with actual madness, (such I never was;) which stopped the mouths of some.
After I had uttered the words before hinted at, I came to hear you; and your text was, " Curse not the King; no, not in thy heart: nor the rich in thy chamber, &c." I was then most completely miserable; and said, "O that I was any other person in the chapel, or any other creature upon the earth! then there might be room for hope: but there is none for me: I have sinned the unpardonable sin!" When I came out, I asked a member of the chapel, whether he thought that any one had ever uttered ugh words, and yet was saved? He said, he wag assured that the Lord never permitted his people to go so far. I said no more, but went on; and begged of God, if he would not pardon me, to cut me down before I got home. But, O the goodness, patience, and wonderful mercy, of God! for, though I had thus tempted him, lie permitted me, though I trembled through fear when I drew near, to get safe home: and afterwards, in my sleep I had the following vision. I saw a hand stretched forth, with a book in it; and heard a voice saying, "Your name is written in the Book of Life." I asked to see it. The book opened, and I read my name with John Bunyan's on the same line: and I can now well remember the hand-writing; it was as legible a hand as I ever saw. After I had read it, I asked, if there were none, whose names were written in that book, who would be lost at last? The voice answered, "Look at the end of the line." I did, and perceived the two capital Letters, B. L. I asked their meaning, and was answered, Everlasting Life. Upon which I withdrew.
When I awaked in the morning, I found a calm on my spirit to which I was not accustomed, and which I attributed to the vision: but it was suggested to me, that such whose names were written in the book of life were never acquainted therewith; and immediately that text of St. Paul's came to my mind, wherein lie makes mention of some whose names were in the book of life but I found that visions would not satisfy a soul under strong convictions, any more than the Letter of the word without the application of the Spirit.
Soon after this, in hearing you, (and I came that night not knowing that I ever should get back again,) I saw on a sudden a brilliant star over your head, and felt a sensation of joy; but something within said, "That is not for you; it is only a manifestation for him;" and I found this gleam of comfort gone. But, from this, and the vision before, my soul seemed somewhat supported for a time: and, when I went to bed, I entreated the ford, that, if lie intended to pardon me, he would manifest it to me that night. And the very manifestation which I wished for appeared: for, in my sleep, I was in an open country; the heavens seemed to be opened; and a bright light, beyond that of the sun, shined on me. Whereupon I was filled with joy; longed to leave this world; and threw myself down, in hopes of leaving my body there, and that my spirit would ascend; but something told me, that would not be the case yet. But, when I awaked in the morning, 1 found it fulfilled. And indeed, as I found my dreams and visions of troubles fulfilled, so also have I since found my dreams of comfort fulfilled.
The star which I saw over your head, sir, continued with me for some time, both in reading the word and in prayer: and it appears to me, that the day-dawn and day-star had begun to shine in my heart; for the wrath, desperation, and rebellion, of my heart, were soon gone; and what I felt in my spirit was pure, peaceable, and gentle; and the joy, satisfaction, and love to God, which I received and felt under the word, are beyond all description! for, as I cannot find words to express my trouble, so neither can I find language sufficiently expressive of the joy I experienced at my deliverance!
After my happy deliverance, I tried to bring those sins to remembrance which lay so heavy on me during my trouble: and I believe the devil tried to get me back into my old hole; but the door, was shut, and my sins were gone. The Almighty, who pardons like a God, gave me such views of the covenant of grace, and of my interest in it; and such a feeling sense of the forgiveness of my sins, attended with such a love to God, his people, and his ways; that, were it always to be with me as it then was, my business must be managed by others, for that, as well as every thing else respecting time and sense, appeared not worth notice. However, I have since found my affections catching at these things, and have longed for a return of this sweet frame of spirit. But, blessed be God, his word is fulfilled: though we are not taken out of this world, he keeps us from the evil of it. The Lord has permitted my faith to be tried pretty much since my deliverance; but I found that, by these things, I got more established.
I remember, when I was first delivered, your mentioning, that what we felt in our first love would not last always; but that there would come a day of adversity, to balance the day of prosperity but, had all the world said so then, they could not have made me believe it, my love, joy, and peace, were so great! But though. at the dawn of day, the darkness makes the first light in the east appear beautiful; yet, when the sun arises, and shines in its splendour, there is a more glorious appearance: so it is with a Christian in his first love; there is great joy. But it appears to me, that an established Christian, who is enabled to quench the fiery darts of Satan, and live more by faith than sense, shines like the sun in his splendour, and, if I may so speak, gives more glory to God, and has more satisfaction himself; for afterwards here is that confidence in God which nothing can shake. I speak from my own experience. It appeared now in reality, as Paul says, that old things had passed away, and all things were become new. And the change was so great, that it seemed as if I had got into a new world; and, instead of death appearing awful and dreadful, I have envied those, in that respect, who have, according to the nature of things, seemed to be nearer the end of their race than myself.
Thus, Sir, have I given you a short account of the Lord's dealings with my soul. I find it impossible to give you the whole. But I entreat your prayers, that God would be pleased to keep me always humble. I remain, sir,
Your sincere Friend,
Son in the Gospel,