Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MR. WILLIAM WOOD.
My dear Son,
YOURS came to hand, and I thank you for it, and I thank my God for the pleasing contents. God has, as far as I can judge, led thee to the rock that is higher than thou; thou art upon the foundation that God hath laid in Zion; a living stone upon the life-giving rock, hewn out of the quarry of nature, squared by afflictions, smoothed by pardon and repentance, and cemented by love, which constrains him to adhere to us and we to him. You are a living witness, that what is called stinking antinomianism is the gospel of the grace of God, and those styled men of a bad spirit are the ambassadors of peace; and I have no doubt but you have found many, who call themselves evangelists, loaded with chains, and in their ministry the sons of death. But God has shewn thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? By doing justly, thou wilt keep a conscience void of offence, and have rejoicing in thyself alone, and not in another. You read in Isaiah that God's everlasting covenant is the sure mercies of David; and this the prophet explains to be God's Spirit upon Christ, and upon his seed. Read and compare Isaiah lv. 3, and lix. 21. These sure mercies, and the Spirit's work, Paul puts together, saying, "Of his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." This is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus to us ward. To love mercy, therefore, is to love, revere, and admire, the Holy Spirit and his fruits, for the fruits of the Spirit are called mercies; and God styles himself the parent of these; he is the father of all mercies, and the God of all comfort, 2 Cor. i. 3. And, if you love mercy, you will loath yourself, and your best performances, and glory alone in this, that you understand and know God, who exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth, for in these things God delights, Jerem. ix. 24. And when his delight is our delight, when what he loves, we love, when his pleasure is our pleasure, then are w e in heart-felt union and friendship with him; and truly this is fellowship both with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus the Lord. If you are favoured with this fellowship you will walk humbly with him; for nothing gives us so true a sight and sense of sinful self, nothing works self-abasement and self-abhorrence so effectually, as the glorious presence of God. At this the wicked perish, Psal. lxviii. 2; at this Job with all his boasted performances, came down to self-abhorrence, and to repentance in dust and ashes, Job xlii. 6. Take diligent heed to the good work begun in you, and move in harmony with the Holy Spirit's influences and operations; and follow after his fruits in their wonderful exercises, and in the enjoyment of them. God now expects love, joy, gratitude, thankfulness, adoration, and praise. At our entrance into Zion we are to call our walls salvation, and our gates praise; and our justifying robe is called a garment of praise also; and, when the soul is moulded into faith, and formed to love, we are created anew in Christ Jesus, that we should shew forth his praise. While prosperity lasts God tells you to be joyful, and when adversity succeeds we are bid to consider; God has set the one over against the other.
Every discovery of sinful self furnishes us with confession; troubles, and a sense of need, will prompt us to prayer; but wedding days, feasting days, and jubilee days, call for thanksgivings and the voice of melody. The Holy Spirit will inspire the heart, and furnish the mouth, for all these spiritual sacrifices; and, if you are led by the Spirit, you will be exercised in all these.
God's umpire is our own conscience; and when this is purred from dead works by the blood of Christ, and furnished with light, life, faith, hope, and peace; and governed and influenced by the Holy Spirit of God; and made to bear a joint witness with the Holy Spirit to our adoption, justification, and acceptance with God in Christ Jesus; we are at a certainty about our state. These things, my dear son, are the blessed effects of our Lord's ascension and mediation; "The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is his treasure," Isaiah xxxiii. 5, 6.
The Holy Spirit dwells in us, as in his own temple; and he erects his tribunal in our conscience, and keeps his court there. All the reproofs and rebukes; that sound in our ears from the word preached, are always seconded by a voice from the court of conscience; without this, reproof is not received, without this, it has no weight.
The Spirit always begins his work with conscience, that being the only ally that God has in fallen man Commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Here the appeals are first made, and to conscience the ambassadors of peace commend themselves in the sight of God. And the breath of eternal life is first breathed into the conscience to alarm, awaken, and animate; and, when conscience is made sensible of the alarm, and is quickened to feel, the sinner bestirs himself, and begins to confess, to call upon God, and to seek with all the heart, or with all the desires of the conscience; and it is to the conscience that the seeking sinner's first promise is made; " Your heart shall live that seek God." It is a promise to the seeking soul, that the living convictions of a soul quickened by the Spirit shall not die away and come to nothing, as the convictions of a natural conscience do; though the poor sinner may often fear that this will be his case: but the Spirit says, No, it shall not be the case, "Their heart shall live that seek God"
Conscience, when awakened and quickened by the Spirit, calls for our most diligent attention; we should attend to its accusations, to its checks and reproaches, to its troubles, to its disquietudes, to its complaints, its wants and desires; and carry all these to God by prayer, and beg of God to grant us those things that conscience craves at our hands; and this is communion with conscience. What is communion, but giving and receiving? receiving the complaints of conscience, and begging supplies for it? and this is what the Psalmist means when be says, "I commune with my own heart; and my spirit made diligent search," Psal. lxxvii. 6. And this he recommends to us; "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still" Conscience, however neglected and slighted, will be found in the great day to be the sinner's gnawing worm; and his accusations and reproaches will never die. Attend to every charge that conscience can bring against you, and bring them to the light of God's word and Spirit in the ministry, and listen to all the cravings of conscience, and let the prayer of faith satisfy all its wants; and this is communion with conscience. When conscience magnifies its office, and does its duty by lashing, smiting, and reproaching us for every evil word and evil deed, it is then made meet to receive the promise of life; hence such are said to receive the word in an honest and good heart, Luke viii. 15. And what can be worse, or more dishonest, than a conscience that will suffer itself to be seared as with a hot iron, till it be past feeling? and suffer the strong man armed to keep possession of the palace, and conscience hold its peace till the sleepy soul feels no bands even in death, and never does its duty but in bell; then it awakes, reproaches, accuses, torments, and begins the work of a never-dying worm, being called upon to do its office by the vindictive wrath of God let into it.
All God's reproofs, when seconded by an awakened and quickened conscience, take us clean off from the sandy foundation, and from all confidence in the flesh; "Rebuke them sharply," says Paul, "that they may be sound in the faith." But, if the word brings no life, reproof wants an edge; yea more, the voice of all the three divine persons, and their witness or testimony, must be received into the conscience; the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel, Heb. xii. 24, because it speaks pardon, peace, reconciliation and friendship with God, must be received into the conscience, if, as Paul says, the heart be sprinkled from an evil conscience.
The Holy Spirit's cry of Abba, Father, and the witness that he bears to our sonship, must be attested with the witness of conscience, or else there would be not only pro and con, as with faith and unbelief, but also different witnesses and clashings, which would not bring peace but confusion. But the God of peace and good order makes both these unite in one testimony: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," Rom. viii. 16.
Yea, God the father's voice of love, when by circumcising our heart to love him, then says, by the fulfilment of his promise, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love," Jer. xxxi. 3; even this has its seat and voice in the conscience: "Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." Hence it is plain that the blood of sprinkling has a voice in the conscience; the Spirit's cry of Abba, Father, and his testimony or witness, are in the conscience too; and so is the voice of God the Father's love; charity
The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most sublime mystery in all the Bible, and their three-fold witness in a believer's conscience is the greatest wonder and the greatest blessing in all the world, and this must be in the conscience also; "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience," 1 Tim. iii. 9. Nothing under the sun will ever make you so sound, or settle you on the rock of salvation so firm, or fix your heart so fast, or make your union with Christ so clear and so satisfactory, as these things which I have written to you.
Indeed there is no walking with God without an experience of these things, for they that walk with him must walk in peace and equity, Mal. ii. 6. A conscience purged, purified, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, is a firm basis for an unshaken confidence; hence the apostle's good counsel to us all, "Holding faith and a good conscience," 1 Tim. i. 19. Nothing will shake, stagger, move, affright, or unsettle thy confidence like allowed sins, and fresh contracted guilt. He that exercises himself diligently to keep his conscience clean and good, is sure to have the joy of his own faith; "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God, 1 John iii. 21. Conscience is the principality in which peace should rule; and Satan, sin, and guilt are the only enemies and disturbers of this sway of the Saviour's sceptre, whose kingdom stands in righteousness, peace, and joy: hence the exhortation, "Let the peace of God rule in your heart, to the which also ye are called," Col. iii. 15.
I have set my son a task that will employ him all the year round, and exercise him to the end of his days; it may grow out of favour and out of practice, but he will never make straight paths for his feet till he takes it up again. And now, my son, 1 charge thee to keep this commandment without spot until the appearing of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt find this exercise to be its own reward. For our rejoicing is this, the. testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God. we have had our conversation in the world," 2 Cor. i. 12. Adieu. Ever yours in Christ Jesus the Lord.