Epistles of Faith

Letter XXXIX

William Huntington (1745-1813)


Reverend and dear Sir,

TEN thousand times ten thousand thanks and praises to God and the Lamb for teaching you to write for the instruction of poor sensible sinners. Somewhere about three years ago, the Lord in his providence cast in my way your "Arminian Skeleton," which proved a seasonable and precious companion for me; and the blessed Spirit often witnessed to my soul that this production was a fruit-of his own teaching. I believe it to be a bitter portion for an Arminian, but it proved in the hands of God a sweet and savoury morsel to my poor, guilty, hungry soul. The reading of this book produced a great longing for more of your writings, and a strong desire of hearing you preach, which the Lord once favoured me with, I having an opportunity of hearing you deliver part of a sermon from Isaiah xlix. 10, on Sunday, Sept. 30, 1804 I believe it was the first Sunday after your return from the country; but however some of it remains with me to this day. After my return to Bath I found my desires still increasing for a sight of some more of your invaluable productions; invaluable I call them, however lightly esteemed they may be by Arminian and hypocritical professors. Some time after the Lord was pleased to grant my desire, by giving me your "Bank of Faith" and "Hieroglyphical Print;" the former comforted and the litter diverted me much. These still inflamed my desire for more, although I often met with some professors who would be calling the author (whose name was precious to my soul,) a bitter spirited man, but this did not stifle my desire for more of this bitter (as they called it) spirited author's works, for I frequently had many a sweet meal of comfort from them. About a month since I accidentally called at a bookseller's shop where I used to purchase a few books, for I have been long in that bookish fit which you describe in your "Bank of Faith," but seeing nothing to please me I was coming away, when the bookseller presented me with a book, saying, he thought that would suit me; I looked at the title page and saw your name, Sir, which was quite sufficient; I eagerly asked him if lie had any more of them, and finding he had, I purchased the whole, I believe seventeen in number; a lot he bought of a butler in London, who was going to travel, and was under the necessity of selling them. I took them home with me, viewing them as so many jewels, which God in his kind providence had bestowed upon me. I read over several of them with much pleasure and great satisfaction, and admired much the strength of your arguments concerning the law a rule of life, and I hope with much spiritual advantage. But, dear Sir, when I came to read your "Forty Stripes for Satan," I was filled with confusion, and was like a dumb man; I had not read long in that book before I was filled with horror and agonies of soul which I cannot express. The devil now began to roar in a hideous and frightful manner; every page I read detected the father of lies, and my soul in all the various false haunts and lurking holes which I had been harbouring in; they were laid open to my view, and all my Sabellian notions dashed in pieces like Dagon before the ark: in reading some parts of it my hair seemed to me as if it stood upright upon my head, and I was in such amazing darkness and confusion, that I could not help thinking that my head was swollen to a prodigious size; and such was my state of mind that I was scarcely able to execute my business; and I cannot help thinking that I experienced something of what Habakkuk describes; "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself." Yes, dear Sir, my heart smote within me, and I could now say with Jeremiah, "Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress; my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me, for I have grievously rebelled;" and now my sighs were many and my heart was faint. And this horror continued about a fortnight, and during that time I could get no access to God nor communion with him; now I was made to feel something of this text "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you that he will not hear." I frequently found many checks of conscience for attempting to deny the glorious and mysterious doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity, and never in conscience could I give it up; and frequently was I necessitated to vindicate it; and I observed I was always favoured with more freedom in argument when contending for it, than when opposing it. But I always had to contend with a man who would never yield to any argument: this man I have been viewing these four years past as the soundest in faith, and the most experimental christian in this barren city; a man who I have always thought was the greatest instrument in the hand of God in establishing me in the truth. He is constantly talking about the love of Christ, and how precious he is to the soul, yet he cannot bear to hear of the three persons in the Trinity; and I have often taken notice when a hymn has been sung where God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost have been mentioned, he would sit silent and not sing at all. This man has now stood forty years in his profession, and has long enjoyed, as he says, a full assurance of faith; but this staggers me not a little; he can talk of it before ungodly men; and very often when he is coming from chapel, he talketh so very loud about religion that all who pass by must hear what he is talking about; at the same time I have been walking just behind, hanging my head, and trembling like a leaf, and as much ashamed as if I had stolen something and was detected. Now, dear Sir, his working at the same place with me affords me an opportunity of looking close after him, and I have observed a few things which have often puzzled me, such as his going to a public house in the evenings for his beer, and sitting there near an hour, and sometimes more, to hear the news read; and he is very fond of disputing on politics; (this thing I detest and abhor;) and whether right or wrong he will never give up his point, and he is just the same in religious disputes. I read a great part of that inestimable work, "Forty Stripes," to him, and after I had finished I asked him what he thought of it, but he gave me no direct answer; but I put the question still more close, whether the book was true or false; but this he endeavoured to evade, by saying he could not understand the three persons, and that Christ was revealed to him when the Lord first wrought upon his soul, and that he knew of no other object of worship but the person of Christ. I disputed much at the time with him, but he remained hardened, and was very stubborn, and still maintained the Sabellian error, and said, the Lord revealed it to him. Now this man, by his continually talking against the Trinitarians, drew me into the Sabellian error, which the Lord was pleased in mercy to deliver me from, by the reading of your "Forty Stripes;" and the doctrine I attempted to oppose appears to me now the most glorious the Bible presents to my view; and my continual cry to God is that I may be rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith. At present my conscience will not admit me to be over friendly with this man, and I hope I shall not, till I see that he is humbled in the dust before the Lord, which I believe is the case with all the children of God that have been suffered to embrace an error, or at least this was my case. I now hasten, dear Sir, to ask pardon for the liberty I have taken in addressing to you this poor, weak, imperfect, blundering epistle, and hope you will pass over the numerous inaccuracies you may find in reading. Sometimes the Lord will shine a little upon me and I feel the drawings of his love, and then the devil is not so noisy when Christ is present with me; but whenever I get a little lift I am fool enough to think I am able to surmount every temptation which the devil and the wickedness of my own heart may devise: but, alas! as soon as the temptation comes, all my supposed strength becomes perfect weakness; O the plague of this deceitful and desperately wicked heart of mine. But let me ask pardon for my boldness in writing to God's faithful servant; and may he bless you, and crown your labours with abundant success, and give testimony to the word of his grace: this is the sincere prayer of one unknown, though

Affectionately yours,

W. B.


William Huntington