Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO THE REV. W. HUNTINGTON.
Dearly Beloved, and Rev. Sir,
IN love to you, I write to inform you a little of God's dealings with me. About five or six years ago the dear Lord was pleased to give me a sight of my lost and undone state; I saw and felt that if I died in the state that I was then in, I was as sure to be damned as I was born; I was afraid to go to sleep for fear I Should lift up my eyes in hell, as the rich man did, for I had him always before my eyes, and in the morning I used to cry out, O! what a mercy to be out of hell!
I was brought up to the church of England, but I was obliged to lay by all my forms of prayer, and cry, God be merciful to me a sinner. I was convinced that you and Mr. Jenkins were God's servants, and when I got a little better (for I had been very ill in body) I went to hear Mr. J.; his text was, "Come out from amongst them and be ye separate," &c., and so I did, for my heart was cleaving to a new family, which I believed to be the children of God.
I had twelve miles to walk to hear Mr. J., and, as I was going one Sunday, I called on a man that used also to hear the word at Lewes, and there sat a young man reading one of your books. I heard him till I found I was condemned on every hand; I thought there was no way left for me to escape; all my righteousness was as filthy rags, therefore I was brought to hunger and thirst after something better. I had, however, a little comfort at times from these words, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled;" and, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, and scourge every son that I receive; and they that are without chastisements are bastards and not sons." But carnal reason and unbelief said it could not be love that exercised me so. If I had ten thousand worlds, I could nave left them all for a part or lot in Christ Jesus, for I saw him a complete Saviour, so suitable to my case; but, O! that sin of unbelief, which is the greatest of all my plagues ! Yet my prayer was, for God to search me, and try me, and know my heart and thoughts, and see if there was any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. And so it is to this day, for I am afraid of my own heart, it being deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. But God did not suffer me to shun the light, but to come to it, for I longed to know the worst of myself. I found God to be in Mr. J. of a truth, and I was searched and tried too, and sometimes comforted, until I was brought down to the feet of Christ. Come what may; come life, come death, come heaven, or come hell; here I am, O Lord! do with me what seemeth good in thy sight; not my will, but thine be done. I knew God would be just in sending me to my own place, for sinning against him; but instead of that I felt humbleness, meekness, contrition of heart, godly sorrow, repentance, and self-abasement; and soon after this I went to Bolney to hear you, which I never had done before. I do not remember your text, but this I do remember, that you preached Christ Jesus, and he was to me the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. I was much humbled under a sense of God's goodness, and my own vileness; O! the love that I felt to you, and to your God! I walked very humbly for some time, and delighted myself in the ways of God, particularly in private prayer, for I found nearness of access to God; but I could not bear the thoughts of your leaving Sussex, for when you came to Lewes I heard you again; and when you went away I used to long to go with you to London, and would have been glad to be your servant, or any thing else; for I think, when I have been is these frames, that I could have laid down my life for you.
After this I had a dream; I dreamed that I was in a furnace, and that I went down, as though it was nearly into hell itself, and up I came again; and there was one sitting by whom I conceived to be the Son of God; every time I had a view of him hope sprung up, and a confidence that I should not be lost; and I was not, for he brought me out safe. I awoke, and behold it was a dream; and when I awoke I felt very humble, and willing to go through the fiery trial, for I did believe that dream to be from God, though I have had many dreams from the devil. Soon alter this love began to wax cold again, and my affections were going after idols; and I went so far, that I thought I would have my own way, if I was damned for it. I found my corruptions get lively and strong, and I found unbelief, carnal reason, hardness of heart, rebellion, enmity, and hard thoughts of God, and the lust of the flesh, work like the fire of hell; "O wretched man that I am!" I thought these things would work my destruction, when these words were sent home to me, "If we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation;" and, "There is no peace, saith my God to the wicked." Here I expected to be cut off: but God changeth not, therefore it is that I am not consumed. "The backslider in heart," the scripture saith, "shall be filled with his own ways;" and so was I, for the dear Lord made me sick of idols, and sick of self; and the more I prayed against my corruptions and lust, the worse I was, and the devil told me I had better give up prayer, for it was of no use, seeing I was not a child of God; for, God says, "Ask and you shall have, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you;" but you have been praying long without receiving any answer. And, as I gave way to this, the devil gained ground, and I lost it; I thought, as Job says, that if I prayed and God had answered, yet could I not believe that lie had hearkened unto my voice. O how ashamed have I been to think how I have dishonoured God through this damning sin of unbelief. I find, without God, I can do nothing good, no not so much as think a good thought, if it would save my soul. It is a blessed thing for me that there is no part of my salvation left for me to work out; if there was it would be all over with me. I have no merit, no worth or worthiness in me, for in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. I think I do not know what the plague of the heart is; for, if I got any comfort, I was called by Satan to give an account what promise brought it, for it must be some particular promise, or else it would not do. So I thought I was not a child of promise, because I had not the promises brought to me as some have: but, since I have sat under you, I have not been much concerned about the word, for the kingdom stands not in the word, but I am sure that I have felt the power.
I came to London last November, and I was in a very heavy trial when I came, and so troubled that I could not speak, and so ill in body that I was troubled even to walk. I had not been long in town before you preached from this text, "Save thy people, O Lord, and bless thine inheritance; feed them also, and lift them tip for ever." You said, what you aimed at was to bring forth a few sweet things from your text; and, blessed be God, so you did, and so I found it; it was sweeter than honey or the honey-comb, and I had a feast of fat things. All my doubts were gone, and all my fears removed; all my corruptions and lusts were subdued; and I felt love, joy, peace, humbleness of mind, and meekness, spring up, and I had a meek and quiet spirit given to me, for I had not a doubt of my interest in Christ. The fear of death and judgment, hell and damnation, all died away, while the Spirit bore witness with my spirit that I was a child of God. I found what we used to say at church to be true, that God filleth the hungry with good things, and sendeth the rich empty away. I could thank and bless God with all my soul for what he had done for me, and I was very happy for a few weeks, and did sweetly feed on your discourses; but, alas! my comforts went away again, and troubles came. I felt great doubtings and fearings; my corruptions and lusts got very strong and powerful, and my heart very hard, and I was both peevish and fretful. If I read the Bible, I was as though I should give God the lie; and, in prayer, as though I should blaspheme and die. I conceived myself to be under a delusion, and that it was presumption I had got under you: I fancied the dear Lord had left me, as he did Saul; and it was suggested to me, "Are you sure that your minister is right? does lie really feel what he preaches?" I was in this state for some weeks, and though, that the workings of these evils could not be for my good, or for the glory of God, and was thereby brought very low. Afterwards it pleased God that you should preach front this text, "God is faithful, by whom you were called to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." You gave such a description of the trial I was in, the temptations I was exercised with, and our being called to the fellowship of Christ, that it pleased God to own, bless, and apply the word with power, so that the devil was obliged to be off with his fiery darts, and I went home in sweet peace. Truly, I can say, God is faithful, and will not forsake the work of his own hands, nor suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear. By these trials I find out the two principles, the new man and the old; and I would not commit another sin against God, if it was his blessed will, for the whole world; yet I find a principle, that lives in me, that loves him as well, if not better, than ever it did, and can feast upon nothing else but sin; and the sins that I used to indulge myself the most in, are they which I now find the greatest plagues. Dear Sir, I lost all fear of death when you preached from this text; "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe." The language of my soul was, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. You said there were some that were waiting for the second appearance of Christ Jesus; and, blessed be God, I found myself to be one of that number, though so vile, that I am not worthy of the least of all God's mercies, for I deserve nothing at his hands but everlasting destruction.
I hate and abhor myself: this I now speak and feel, for God has given me a humble heart; it is the goodness of God that has led me to repentance, and it has led me to God, and not from him. Bless his holy name, I love him because he first loved me, and gave himself for me, the chief of all sinners, for my sins have been against light and love. Dear Sir, I fear I shall weary you, but I love to be speaking of these things when I can, for it is all my delight, and ail my happiness; for every thing short of Christ I count vanity, and it is no more to me than the drop of a bucket.
I was much blessed when you spoke from these words, "Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." O how I was comforted and established! I went home rejoicing in God, having no confidence in the flesh. I found myself firm on the rock, which is Christ Jesus; and I believe that you was chosen in him, before the world was, to bring me to Christ. I love to hear you on the life of the soul, for this is my comfort in my affliction; the word of the Lord hath quickened me. That little book of yours hath been a blessed book to me, I mean, "The Destruction of Death by the Fountain of Life." Dear Sir, I am a witness that God speaks to the heart of his people by you; Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, but God must give the increase, for the excellency of power is of God, and not of man. Do excuse, dear sir, the freedom I take with you; for I think there never was a son in the flesh that did love a father as I love you in the spirit, because God is in you. These words have been sweet to me, when you have said, Christ in you the hope of Glory, for glory is what I am hoping for; and, instead of being afraid of death, I often wish for it, for I am a stranger and a pilgrim in this world. I am crucified to the world, and the world to me, and my delight is in the ways of God; he has got my heart, and where my heart is there must my treasure be also. The ever-blessed God is my portion, and in him do I trust; I only want to enjoy more of his love, but bless him for ever for what I have. There is one thing which I cannot submit to, and that is for you to die. May the Almighty and ever-blessed God abundantly bless you, both in soul and body, and give you a door of utterance, and grant you long life, and many days for his and his church's sake! so prays the least of all saints. And if you count me worthy of your notice, pray for me, and please to answer this, to let me know whether it is right or wrong my writing to you, for I have been much exercised about it Sir, I have sent you the plain truth; learning I have none, but what I have felt, that have I written.