Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MRS. CHARLES MARTIN.
MARY'S artless and simple account of the poor man's deliverance came safe to hand, and it is a most humbling and self-abasing consideration to me, being a true copy of a living epistle, and a sweet exhibition of the unparalleled condescension and humiliation of God, in setting the broad seal of heaven to the commission of the most despicable and the most abhorred of all ambassadors; but God, knowing that I am much hated, hath therefore given me another son.
And if a multitude of various looks can speak, and countenances can proclaim, and if I have any skill in reading the risings and fallings, the goings and comings, the approbation and then the fear, the risings in hope and sinking in dread, the shining with oil and the weepings of love: I say, if I can read these inward motions by the countenance, which is a true index of the heart, you will, ere long, acquaint me with the birth of another son, unless he be one that comes from some distant place. It is a poor young man that I allude to, a face that I have often seen in the barn; both his ears were most assuredly unstopped, and he heard the voice of the charmer, and moved in concert with it; his countenance and my mouth kept pace and footed it together, until the damping conclusion of "I add no more;" put a stop to the dance; it was so conspicuous, that I could but observe it, and he was too much lost in amazement to think of concealing. I mentioned the circumstance to you and Mr. M. afterwards, though neither of you could inform me who he is; but we shall not lose him in the crowd, for, when the voice of pardon says to the prisoner, Go forth, then they that sit in darkness must shew themselves, Isaiah xlix. 9. He must appear, for all such shall return and give glory to God, if nineteen hypocrites depart without it.
I was not a little surprised, when we first walked together in the garden, at the poor man you speak of; both his words and his countenance expressed a most hearty welcome, and his hand the most cordial reception; such salutations and embraces are seldom lavished away upon the off scouring of the earth. I expect no less either by word or look, than to be considered and received as an enemy, a deceiver, a troubler of Israel, or as a spy upon the nakedness of the land. But, as every good work proclaims the workman, so a man's gift, especially the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes room for him. If the word is a hammer, it breaks the rock; if a fire. it dissolves the mountains; if a candle, it searches Jerusalem; if a voice of thunder, it alarms the secure; and, if as the piercings of a sword, entrances and inroads into the heart and conscience are made. "A wise man," saith the proverb, "scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof;" for whenever the word enters, the power of the Spirit is clearly manifested, and a full proof of the ministry is made; and convinced souls dare not hate, though they cannot love; and, if they cannot approve, they dare not reproach; for our call, commission, and authority, are all manifested and established, even in their own confidence as well as in their own conscience; for such believe and tremble, feel and are affrighted.
But nothing makes us so welcome to the most distant fraternity of Jesse, as the horn of unction, when we are sent to pray over those who are sick of sin and of self, and to anoint them with fresh oil in the name of the Lord. And it appears, by the man's cordial reception of me at my coming, that the Comforter had shewed him beforehand things to come. though his understanding might be unfruitful upon this head; because he gladly received the spy, when joy and peace soon followed: for there is no beauty in our feet upon the mountains, until the oil of joy anoints the eyes of the spectators; and even this is but a faint discovery of the glory of his image, who is the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The poor man is a true copy of the power of the gospel, and an excellent portrait of its simplicity. Truth goes before in the promises, and faithfulness follows after and makes them good; the gospel is a display of the eternal love of the Holy Trinity to the sinful sons of men, and this divine love shed abroad in the heart is God's image in man. The Holy Spirit is the seal, and love the impression; and he that believes the love of God sets the hand of faith to the impress of love, and confesseth with his mouth that God is true.
It is now nine or ten years since I first went into the island, and the work has been chiefly ploughing, stirring, sowing, and some work at breaking the clods: but reaping, binding, shocking, and in-gathering, are the sweetest branches of the Lord's husbandry, for, "He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." This we see, and this we can say, that although the offence of the cross is not ceased, as under the ministry of the Letter, yet the pleasure of God prospers in the hand of the Mediator; and he sees, and we too, the travail of his soul, which is a satisfaction to him and a pleasure to us. It is true the work among us is not begetting, quickening, labouring, bringing forth, and making perfect, a whole family under one discourse, as it is among some of your neighbours; yet as the first are last, so we hope that the last will be first.
Old Sarah never was so quick in her motions as Hagar, for they that believe shall not make haste; nor is Zion so prolific as Jerusalem that now is; but, when the Lord returns according to the time of life, Zion is sure of a seed. When God visits the miserable soul with his salvation, and the consolations of his love by the Spirit, we are sure of an addition to the family; the grand example of this to all succeeding ages is recorded in Genesis xxi. 1; "And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a son." Hence it appears that Isaac was an heir of promise; God did as he had spoken, and his presence fulfils the promise; and all that come forth without this divine visitation have no more members of the new man, nor any more features of God's image, than a snail.
You may tell the young man that I have it not in my power to forget him, for such are my joy and crown; and both the anointing, and the cap of state, will have a place in the hearts of all who are made kings and priests unto God, and especially in them whom God condescends to use in anointing others.
If Peter be bidden to arise and kill, he is commanded also to eat: when God restores comforts to Ephraim, he restores the same to those that bemoan him. Nor is it likely that God and his angelic neighbours should rejoice together in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and all his friends upon earth be silent on the occasion; no, they are both called upon, and called together, to acquiesce in, and to rejoice at, this happy meeting and eternal union, when God and the penitent meet together in Christ Jesus. None but elder sons, who are in their firstborn state, will be silent, sullen, and angry, on such an occasion, and to such a degree as never to come near to God, to his saints, and to his worship any more; "He was angry and would not go in," Luke xv. 28.
The spouse may be jealous, and angry too, when the daughters of Jerusalem take up the knee and the bosom also, as jealousy often surmises; but then this is only partial and temporary, like the indignation of the ten disciples against James and John, about a seat at the right and left hand of the Lord, Matt. xx. 24. But this fire, though it was vehemently hot, yet it was not lasting; it was not like the anger of Esau, it did not tear perpetually, nor was their wrath kept for ever, Amos i. 11. Mary has no cause to be touched with jealousy on this occasion, nor any other person who fears the Lord, who favours his cause, and who waits upon him and for him; for this they have from his own mouth. "They shall not be ashamed that wait for me." Nor is Mary ignorant of these indulgences; she is no stranger to freedom and familiarity with him; she has often approached with boldness, and left many cares and burdens behind her, and has obtained both faith and hope; and she has so strong a testimony of this, both from the Spirit and her own conscience, that she dares not deny either without belying both. Wedding-days do not last all the year round, nor is the character of a bridegroom the only one that Christ sustains. He is a husband, a father, a master, and ruler; and he appears, and tills all these in turn, and in one of these you are sure to have him. The feast of the passover was not kept all the year through. only once a year; if all is festivity, who is to carry the cross t who to bear the beat and burden of the day? who rare to endure the furnace? and who to keep open the path of tribulation? The last description the angel gives of the company bearing palms in heaven, is, that these are they who came out of great tribulation; and it was this that drove them to wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. I would to God that all who wait at Wisdom's gate were as forward as Mary. You remember my dream of the river, the boat, the company, the cottage, the green lawn, and the golden-headed bird, and the way in which I caught it. Since I have been writing this, the dream came fresh to my mind, but some parts have escaped my memory; be so kind as to send that Letter back to me, if you have not destroyed it; for, although I place no confidence in dreams, yet some parts of that are now apparently verified. Mary cannot forget the various times that she has been so sorely beset by a sleepy devil. the sudden fall of this upon you, and at no other time but when engaged in religious exercises, makes manifest from whence it comes. God says, Awake and watch: then it must be the devil that lulls us to sleep when at prayer; but there is no danger of sleeping when the flames of jealousy are kindled; if any thing under heaven will keep you awake, this will; therefore this also is among the all things that work for good, to them that love God.
I must now address my son. And what shall I say to thee, my son? Why, I will say, as Joseph did to Benjamin, "God be gracious unto thee, my son;" and remember that God hath formed thee for himself, that thou mayest skew forth his praise. Such are to go out with joy, and be led forth with peace, while the Holy Ghost will cast up the highway, and make crooked things straight, and rough places plain, and convince thee, by his love within, that charity is the more excellent way. But a brother is born for adversity. Some will hear thy report, see and admire the work, and take encouragement from it to wait, to watch, and to hope for the same benefit; while others will see and hate the change; these will watch for thy halting, and make thee an offender for a word; and, if God keep thee as upright as the palm-tree, yet a vile antinomian thou must be called; from this no heaven-born soul can be exempt in our days, for such aspersions are in. tended for no other purpose but to blacken those whom God condescends to keep clean.
Thou art come forth at a busy time; it is the beginning of wheat harvest; and thy mind, thoughts, and affections, will be so entertained above, that thou wilt be as awkward and inexpert at the scythe and sickle, as I was at the hoe and the rake; but the harvest must he got in, and thou art at work for them who are in the same secret, and who know the difference between jubilee and common years, and who can make allowances on such occasions. God has shewed thee the way of life, and has set before thee an open door, and none can shut it. Christ Jesus is the new and living way, and faith and love are living feet, these will move on at every transforming view of a dear Redeemer. Be grateful, be thankful; stand fast, and cleave close, and the God of peace shall be with thee.
I thank Mary for these welcome tidings, and bless my God, who does not suffer the antinomian to labour in vain. My kind love to Mr. M. and all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; while I ever remain, in the bond of the everlasting covenant,
Your most affectionate friend and servant,