Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MR. WILLIAM MOORE.
IT was a wonderful condescension in the Almighty, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, to take up his residence in the tent of Moses and the temple of Solomon-buildings made with hands. But, having abandoned both these, he has said unto Zion, Thou art my people; she is redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. This beloved, chosen, selected, and compacted body, which is one in Christ, he has desired for his habitation: this is his rest for ever; here he will dwell, having desired it. And, although this is his royal city, where he keeps his court and has his palace, yet the suburbs are neither forgotten nor neglected. He blesses the habitation of the just; but loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Nevertheless, when he shines forth from the perfection of beauty, be visits the waste places of Jerusalem; so that the contrite and broken-hearted proclaim his arrival, although they have not as yet passed through the gates, so as to call their walls Salvation and their gates Praise. But our happiness lies within the walls, because the inhabitants are. no more to say, "I am sick, for the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity." It is upon this holy hill of Zion that the king is set, to give Life to all the seed; and from this head of influence the holy oil descends to all the citizens. Here is the feast of fit things, and the wines well refined. Here the silver trumpet sounds, to invite the perishing guests. "God will abundantly bless her provision, and satisfy her poor with bread." In this mount I lost my fail and my yoke, which were both destroyed by the holy anointing oil. In this mountain the works of creation and the sabbath of rest must both give way to the works of redemption, for in Zion shall the hand of the Lord rest, Isaiah xxv. 10. In the works of creation God displayed his wisdom and his power, and rested well pleased with these. In Israel's redemption and Egypt's destruction he displayed both his judgments and his providence, his goodness and severity; and took up his rest in the Holy Land. But the display of his love is in the gift of Christ, and in the redemption of the world by him; and in that love he rests well pleased and delighted for evermore, Zeph. iii. 17. This display of God's love to men, and the redemption of souls, are, in their blessed effects, in the application and enjoyment of them, both in Zion. Redemption frees us from sin, law, and justice; and love is a restoration of God's image; and in that love God will for ever dwell, well pleased, be it where it may, and no where else. God sanctifies and consecrates his own residence by his own love, which is to be our holiness before God for ever, Eph. i. 4.
Now, seeing these things are so, and such glorious things are spoken of this city of God, and that God's love is God's image in the soul; so every revival of this most holy fire, and every cheering ray that breaks in upon it, is a changing of us into the same image, from glory to glory, till perfect day and endless glory swallow up the soul in bliss. This is the renewing of the inner man. The outward must and will decay; the leprosy is deep in the walls, and has no salt to season it, no armour to guard it from the grave and corruption. All belonging to the outward man is vanity; death is vanity; and this creature is made subject to vanity, though not willingly. But it is subjected in hope. It has been, and still is, the temple of the Holy Ghost. But we may call 'it the cloister, or outward court; the soul being the seat, and charity the throne, of the spirit. Though in it, abstractedly considered, dwells no good thing: even its origin is mean, its natural corruption vile to the last degree, being but a body of death at best; and it is pregnant with the seeds of death, and is dying daily, and, therefore, it must come down. Its doors must be shut, and its windows be darkened; the cords and the pins must be loosened; the silver cord and golden bowl, the wheel and the cistern, shall all be dissolved together, and return to their original dust. This is the outward man's long home. Every one that passeth his first birth is born to trouble; and he that obtains a second is a brother born for adversity, Prov. xvii. 17. Every bodily pain is a warning to quit, every fit of sickness an ejectment; and death seizes both body and goods, and hale, the former to the grave, which was once our Lord's prison: but lie was taken from prison and from judgment, and so shall we. The door of hole and gate of life have been open, and by them we have gone out, and the Lord at the head of us, calling us by name, and leading us out. The way of life and the path of peace are cast up. Christ is the only nay to the Father; and every lively act of faith upon him is a step in the way, while love straightens the crooks, smooths the roughs, raises the vallies, and levels the hills. The footsteps of the flock are faith and love, as is plain by every print of their heels. Out of this way mount Sinai is removed, the clouds of our transgressions are dispersed, the drawn sword is put up, the accuser of the brethren is displaced by the advocate, and his charges answered by the blood of sprinkling, and the great creditor smiles in the face of the surety; and no lion or ravenous beast is to be found in all the road, though we are travelling through the regions of the East. It is true that tribulation always attends upon regeneration, as gospel power and the offence of the cross go hand in hand. The furnace of affliction, too, is in this new way; but faith and love can walk through the fire. Some clashing scriptures, and some little discord between promise and providence, have at times, and will again, raise some obstructions in the way: but there are labourers employed to gather up those: and, though some should remain before us, all is clear behind.
Infirmities of body have long overtaken me: old age is never without a retinue of these; and even common sense tells us that these must increase with our clays. But the inner man, the incorruptible seed, is not subject to these things; if they increase, gather fresh strength, and thrive in light and life, in fortitude and submission, in vigour and heavenly-mindedness; the spirit will sustain the infirmities of the body.
Grace, mercy, and peace he with thee!