Epistles of Faith

Letter LVIII

William Huntington (1745-1813)


Leicester, Oct. 10, 1809.

Rev. and dear Sir,

I SAID in my last that I would give you some of the particulars of my sister's conversation previous to her departure, which I am sure you will be glad to bear; for, although I have been satisfied in my own mind, and some others also, respecting her eternal state, for some time past, yet it appears more confirming when she used such language, and found such support, in the approach of death, through that sweet enjoyment she had of the Lord's love and favour to her. A few days prior to her confinement she told me much of her experience, and how sharply she had been exercised at times; what dreadful thing went through her mind, such as she durst not even speak of. She said, "When I do not enjoy the Lord's presence, I feel many fears and misgivings of heart. But why should I expect to escape this, when Christ himself cried out, I My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" That consideration is often a great comfort and support to my mind" The peace of soul which she enjoyed for the last six days was very great, and her conversation was encouraging and comforting to all that came to see her: she said, "Thou wilt keep that man in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee. And so I find it, for so far as God hath given me faith to stay my mind on him I have peace. I cannot say that I have any fear of death; perfect love hath cast out all fear; nor have I any tossings in my mind, nor do I feel those sharp exercises which I have bad; I have that peace in my conscience which passeth all understanding, which this world knows nothing of. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Mr. B. Cort said to her, "You remember Mr. Huntington's saying from the pulpit, If perfect love has cast out all fear, you would be no more afraid of death than I am of you." "Yes," she said, "I do, and I think that some who are not so strong in faith as Mr. H. can say the same: I feel no fear, death will be swallowed up in victory. Formerly I used to have great terror; and was so exercised with the fear of death, that oftentimes the sweat has dropt from me. One night in particular, amongst many others, I was in great fear and distress; I got up, and earnestly prayed to the Lord to remove my fears, and to reveal himself to me; and, if he had any mercy for me, to shew me mercy. The Lord heard me in this time of trouble, and delivered me, so that my soul was melted under a feeling sense of his goodness, and this scripture came with power, 'The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing, shall flee away.' And immediately after, this verse in Hart's hymns came upon my mind,

I'll lay me down and sweetly sleep,
For I have peace with God;
And when I wake He shall me keep,
Thro' faith in Jesu's blood.'

I did lay me down in peace; and when I awoke the Lord kept me by faith in his blood; he has kept me to this day, and I now have peace. When I was at Matlock my feelings were very different at times; I was taken very ill on Wednesday, and from then till Sunday I felt very dead in my soul, and dark respecting my eternal state; which brought me to cry mightily to God. I may say the Lord for a small moment forsakes, and in a little wrath hideth his face, but with everlasting kindness he hath mercy on me. I read Mr. Huntington's Kingdom of Heaven taken by Prayer, and often wept while reading, it was so suitable to my feelings, and so blessed to my soul while looking in it. On Sunday I found myself so happy, and my soul so melted under the goodness of the Lord, that I knew, whether I lived or died, I was the Lord's. I praised his name, and felt more than I am able to express. O, if I could but make the professing world know what I feel, they would never speak against Mr. Huntington, nor his religion, any more. O, how should I like to see him once more in the flesh!" Being told that her time would be but short here, she said, "I know it will not, but I am the best off of you all. I The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come." I have rejoicing in myself, and it is what I feel that supports me, and the comfort which I enjoy springs from my confidence in God. At times I feel more than I can utter; and then I think to myself, O what shall I enjoy as soon as I am gone! 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered the heart of man to conceive, what God hath prepared for them that love him; but it is revealed unto us by his Spirit:' and I look upon it that it will be the same as I now feel, only I shall have such an abundant increase. 'Now abideth faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity.' The love which I feel will abide for ever, and be increased." B. C. said to her, "We know but impart, and prophesy in part;" and then she spoke on, saying, "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known, and be tilled with all the fullness of God. I find many interruptions here; and when I have such enjoyments, there are many things which I wish to leave behind, and be gone. The end of the perfect man is peace. In Christ the weary and heavy laden find rest for their souls; and I shall soon be gone, and be for ever at rest." I said to her, "Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation, and they which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Afterwards she conversed with all present for some time, and then said, "O the power of unbelief! how has Satan filled my mind oftentimes with doubts and fears! I have looked forward to death many times with terror, fearing I should be left at last. But it is not so; blessed be the Lord for ever, he has far exceeded my expectations; I thank him for his goodness and mercy to me, and hope it may be for the comfort and encouragement of those that are left behind, who may be exercised with the same fears that I have been. I am a witness of his faithfulness and truth, and now prove the reality of religion, and feel his power to support me in this trying hour: when my strength faileth me his presence comforts me. Though it is sharp passing through the valley of the shadow of death, yet I experience the fulfilment of his promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." On the Friday preceding her death, the physician said to her, "I am glad to see you look so comfortable to-day." She said to him, "Yes, I am comfortable, I am very happy; I would rather die than live." He replied, "I never heard such a thing, I cannot believe it" She answered him again, "Why, Sir, if I would not rather die than live, how could I be comfortable?" The greatest calmness and composure were in her countenance, which testified to all who saw her that she was happy in heart. The Lord anointed her head with oil, and his name was as ointment poured forth; the house was filled with the odour thereof, for a sweet savour seemed to rest upon all around her. The day before her departure, I never left her for many minutes together; she several times spake sweetly to me of the goodness of the Lord. I read several of David's Psalms to her; particularly the 107th. She stopt me many times, and made some very pretty remarks, and said, "The language of my heart is with David, "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" She spoke upon the last verse, "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord;" and then mentioned how often she had been comforted in reading the Epistle of James, particularly the last chapter, speaking of the prayer of a righteous man availing much with God. The last thing she asked of me was, to look her the chapter where it is said, "These all died in faith," &c. I read it to her; and while I stood by her talking upon the words, "These all died in faith," she became much worse in body, and afterwards said but little. One morning when B. C. and myself were in conversation with her, our friend Mr. Lockwood came in, and after standing a little while to hear her speak, he said, "I am glad to Bear your conversation, and to find you so comfortable." She replied, "Yes, Mr. Lockwood, I am very happy." He said to her, "If a lively countenance is a true index of the heart, you ate happy indeed." On his departure he said, "Farewell; and, if I never see you again in this world, I hope to follow you to a better." She said, "Yes, I believe you will, and many others who have been to see me during my illness." When B. C. said to her, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth," she answered, "Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." The hymn which she chose to be sung at her funeral is in page 189 of Mr. Hart's.

She is now gone to join the spirits of just men made perfect. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Her spirit is returned to God who gave it. With several other friends, I followed her remains to the ground on Sunday last, where her flesh rests in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to everlasting life. I myself, with many others, hope to see you at Leicester soon, and I shall be very glad to receive a line from you.

God Almighty bless my dear friend, and crown his labour more and more; and that he may be long continued upon the earth for the Church's salve, is the hearty prayer of him who subscribes himself; in the best of all bonds,

Yours very affectionately,