Epistles of Faith

Letter XXXVI

William Huntington (1745-1813)


Dearly beloved Brother in Christ Jesus,

I AM now according to the usual custom in the hospital among the sick and wounded, and this is among the all things that work for good, for, "The whole need not the physician, but them that are sick." I have long had a most violent cold and cough, and have laboured hard to break through it, but having so often renewed it I am obliged this week to abide by the stuff, not being able to pursue, much less to go over the brook Besor. But David made it a law in Israel, that as his part is that goeth forth unto the battle, so shall his part be that abideth by the stuff; they shall part alike. And it is said that they were wicked men, and men of Belial, who said, We will not give to the faint any thing that we have taken, save to every man his wife and children, that they may lead them away, and depart, 1 Sam. xxx. 22-25. One of the names of our ever blessed Jesus, is David; he is King of Israel, and Captain of our salvation. David's regiment consisted of some in distress, some discontented, and some in debt, and some hypocrites--a small army; and Christ's army consists of poor, maimed, halt, lame, and blind, all capital troops, picked men. Our enemies are four, the old man and Satan his ally, this world and false preachers. Some of the Lord's army are called in a more especial manner to the field of action, others are learning the use of arms; some abide by the stuff, or keep guard over the baggage: the soldiers' wives wash the linen, cook the camp kettle, and help to strip the slain, and gather the spoil when the field is fought, and so it is written: "Kings of armies fled apace;" that is, when Joshua defeated them: "and she that tarried at home divided the spoil;" that is, the women plundered the dead when the men had won the victory. Some of the Lord's host are sent out to preach the word, and to defend it; these, with Paul, must fight the good fight of faith, and be good soldiers of Christ Jesus, they must endure hardness, and not be entangled in the affairs of this life, but that they may please him who hath chosen them to be soldiers. "So run I," says Paul, "but not at uncertainty; so fight I, but not like one that beats the air;" not like a boxer that always misses his mark, and beats himself out of breath by swinging his arms over the head of his antagonist. Paul was sure to hit either the devil or conscience every blow he struck. They that are learning the use of arms are helps, who can speak a word in season to them that are weary, or defend their own faith against the carnal reason of enemies, hypocrites, and fools, and stop their mouths, expose them to contempt, and beat them out of countenance. The third part abide by the stuff or guard the baggage. The baggage consists of tents, the arms of such as are dead or slain in battle, the standards, the banners, ensign staffs, the camp kettles, knapsacks, canteens to carry water, cloaks and clean linen, ammunition shoes; the bread wagon, the Captain's camp equipage and tent furniture, sick, lame, and wounded soldiers, big-bellied women, the soldiers' children, and some concubines that follow the camp, but are not married women. This is the stuff, and this stuff must be guarded, for it is the work of flying troops and scouting parties, if possible, to take the baggage, in order to discourage and distress the army of their enemies; two hundred therefore that could not go over the brook Besor, abode, sword in hand, by the stuff Now for a description of these valuables. First, tents: we must abide by the tents; wherever the Lord's word is preached there we must feed our kids beside the shepherds' tents. Secondly, the arms of such as are dead or slain in battle, the principal of which are the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the helmet of hope, these all the prophets held fast who are dead, and so did all the martyrs that died in battle. Thirdly, the standards: this is the cross which gives so much offence in the world; but here our sins were borne, here satisfaction was made, here our old man was crucified, and here the law was nailed. Fourthly, the banners: "His banner over me was love;" however we are afflicted, however chastened, however tried, still he loves us: this is God's gift to us, and unfolding or preaching this delivers us from Satan, and so it follows: "Thou hast given a banner to them that feared thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth, that thy be. loved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me," Psalm lx. 4. Fourthly, the ensign staff Christ in human nature is the rod out of the stem of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; "To it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest. shall be glorious." Sixthly, the camp kettle to cook in: these are preachers' hearts, into which grace and truth are put, where it must be learned, marked, and inwardly digested, prepared, and brought forth; the good treasure must come from the heart, yea, things new and old; and those that guard the stuff must abide in heart-felt affection with the preacher, and cleave to the heavenly treasure which they have tasted and fed upon. Seventhly, the knapsacks are what the clean linen, the shoes, &c. are put into; these contain little bits of cake, little pocket pistols to hold a little wine and spirits for refreshment in a long march; these and many more the like things are put in the knapsacks. The christian soldier's knapsack is the Bible, where white and clean linen is contained and promised; and the preparation of the gospel of peace affords us shoes for our feet, the bread of life, and a new bottle of new wine; yea, and strong drink for them that are ready to perish are contained therein, and we must abide by this part of the stuff: Eighthly, canteens to fetch water; this is faith, We receive the promise of the Spirit [which is the water of life] through faith," and if we want more out of the well of salvation, faith must fetch it; "Whatsoever ye ask believing ye shall receive." Ninthly, clothes and clean linen; the garments of salvation. the clothing called humility, the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the clean linen of immortal glory above, as God's free gift; we must enforce, insist, and abide fast by these things. Tenthly, the Captain's camp equipage and tent furniture; broken, contrite, and believing hearts are his dwellings, and no other; the furniture of the tent is repentance, godly sorrow, meekness, joy, simplicity, tenderness, and filial fear of him; these make Zion all glorious within, and he hath chosen Zion, "Here will I dwell, for I have desired it," saith the Lord; we must hold fast and abide by these things. Big-bellied women are labouring between hope and fear, and they are apart of the baggage, and without these the family could not be increased. The children are such as suck the breasts of comfort, and are not to be charged with war until the bounty is spent; and the concubines are such whose hearts are seeking after God, and have a regard for the saints, but are not wounded enough to need the physician, nor divorced from the law, and therefore not fit as yet to be espoused to Christ, yet these are to be encouraged. Now to abide in heart by this stuff, however faint or weak, secures part of the spoils, and a share they shall most certainly have, according to the law of David, which law is confirmed by Christ himself. The Jews, who were wicked men and men of Belial, would neither receive the kingdom of Christ themselves nor suffer others to enter if they could help it. Those that bore the burden and heat of the day would have sent the rest off with just nothing, but they that wrought but one hour were paid first and received a penny, and those that boasted of much more labour received the same; and they murmured at the king of Zion; but he said, Is thine eye evil because I am good? take that which is thine and go thy ways, for I will give to this last as unto thee; thus the law continues to this day, they shall share alike. Time and paper fails; I cannot go through, but let me advise thee, dear brother William, however faint, to abide by the stuff; and would you know what the word Besor signifies? it is, incarnation, by which incarnation the river of the water of life flows to us; and you know it is hard work to pass over this brook, so as clearly to see that we have passed from death to life, that we are entered the gate, passed the brook, and are on the other side.

Ever yours in Christ Jesus,

W.H. S. S.

William Huntington