Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO THE REV. W. HUNTINGTON.
Lombard Street, 3d July, 1810.Reverend and dear Sir,
As it pleased God to make you instrumental in calling my departed wife to the saving knowledge of God, and as it was her wish that I should inform you of the state in which she departed, I hope you will excuse my troubling you with this short account of her.
She remained quite ignorant and unconcerned about the state of her soul till she was about twenty-two years of age, which was about thirteen years ago; when, one Sunday afternoon, after she had been spending the fore part of the day with worldly people, having been always subject to ill health, and experiencing many disappointments, she was led to reflect on the vanity of all worldly things, and found immediately her heart going out after God, and wondered at his goodness in sparing her so long. She directly set out to go Surrey Chapel, for she found a different influence to what she ever had before. The minister, Mr. Jay, took these words for his text, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open to me, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." These words struck her very forcibly, and she wondered what it could mean, as she understood not one word of the sermon; but the text still abode with her; and from that day she found a great deadness to the world, and was enabled completely to turn her back upon it, and found a great love to reading her Bible, and being alone. She was very diligent in hearing preaching at Surrey Chapel, and attending at the morning prayer-meetings; but spoke to nobody. She went on thus for several weeks, and was quite happy, longing to die and be with God.
A friend of hers, who formerly lived with her in the same family, and upon whom God had begun his own gracious work, hearing that there was something of a change in her, advised her to come under your ministry, which she accordingly did; and, though that comfortable influence she was at first under began gradually to wear off, yet she found a great attachment to your ministry and closely attended it, without reaping any visible benefit, for seven years. But during this time, as she since informed me, she had much working in her mind at times, as she could plainly see, and heartily believed, that there was a reality in religion which she had never experienced, and often used to be saying, she hoped she should never pretend to any thing farther than what she felt, for she would sooner die in the state she then was than be a hypocrite.
About this time it pleased God to enlighten her mind a little into what you used often to be insisting upon at that time, which was the necessity of life, and that every thing short of that would come to nothing. Upon this one thing she directly set her heart; and used often to say she was convinced, if she had that, every thing else would follow. And now she began to be exceedingly anxious to hear at every opportunity; but used to say when she came home, "Life is not come to me yet, and 1 begin to fear it never will." On Sunday evening, February 3, 1805, she set out for chapel much discouraged, as she was far advanced in pregnancy, and thought it would be nearly the last time she should be able to go, as we lived then nearly four miles off On her way to chapel she began to reflect on the state she was in, how long she had heard the word, and what difficulties she had laboured under, and was as far from what she wanted as ever. She then began to appeal to God, that she had waited on him with a real desire to find life, and had been disappointed; that she knew she could do no more than she had done. She reached chapel with great difficulty, sat down before service began, and found a great despair come over her mind, and concluded, with much reluctance, she would give up coming, for it was all in vain; life was all she wanted, and she found she could not quicken her own soul. However, she thought within herself, as this would perhaps be her last time of hearing, she would pay all possible attention to the sermon.
The text you took was from Acts xvii. 26, 27. "And hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us." She felt nothing at the first part of the sermon, though she paid great attention, till you began to speak upon seeking the Lord, and feeling after him; and then she began to feel a power which she had never felt before. She said that every word, to the very end of the discourse, agreed with her feelings; so that when you had done she scarcely knew where she was, being so lost and swallowed up with the power she felt, particularly when you was speaking upon feeling for God, and his being not far from such. In that part you were led to speak largely upon the text which first struck her mind the day she went to Surrey Chapel, "Behold I stand at the door and knock, &c." "I knew," said she, "I was trying to open to him just a: Mr. Huntington described." She returned home, without speaking to any one, in great agitation, and desired me not to speak t her. "Why not?" said I. "Do not speak a word," said she . I replied, "You have got the prize; I know you have life." Dear Sir, I must here inform you that, when my wife went out that night, I felt much for her after she was gone, knowing how poorly she was, and how low she seemed in her mind. As soon as I could I retired in private, to entreat the Lord to strengthen her, and protect her safely back again; when all at once I was led with such energy to beg that the word might be made effectual to beget life in her soul, and was so persuaded that it would, that I waited with the greatest anxiety for her return, and should have been much disappointed had it not been the case. But blessed, for ever blessed, be the Lord, I had a full answer to my prayers, and much enlargement of soul that night; I shall never forget it.
From that moment till the day of her death, it may truly be said of her, that she gave all diligence to make her calling and election sure. She had immediately the Spirit of grace and supplication poured out upon; her, and I know she found great nearness to God in private prayer. The word of God, which had all the while till now been as a sealed book, began to be opened to her; and I really could but wonder at the progress she made, and so do many others now, who could see God's hand towards her.
I could mention many sermons which God made a great blessing to her, but am fearful I shall be tedious; only I must here observe, that the book entitled, "The Destruction of Death," &c., she prized next to the Bible, it was so blessed to her, as far as she could then go with it. She was naturally of a quiet disposition, and had but little to say in conversation: but was very observant of the blessed Spirit's operations on her own soul; and in about eighteen months time was brought to enjoy so much of the love of God, and could speak with such a savour and certainty about it, as made several good people greatly to admire God's goodness to her.
Her desire to hear the word was always very great; and, though our little family was at times a great hindrance, yet she embraced every opportunity, both winter and summer, and all weathers, which I believe was the means of hastening her death in the end, for she was seldom free from colds, which at last settled upon her lungs, and brought on a gradual decline for the last two years. On Sunday, the 4th of March last, she set out for chapel, very weak, saying she would try her strength once more. With great difficulty she got up; but on her return, coming down Holborn, she stood still to let a coach turn up Hatton Garden, when a drunken man ran with full force against her, and beat her with great violence under the horses; and the wheel is supposed to have passed over her shoulder, which dislocated it, and bruised her head. She was brought home to me in a coach. The doctor set her shoulder, and said be hoped she would soon do well: but, when he came to see her the next day, he told me not to flatter myself, for she would not live long-she might do well with respect to her hurt, but her lungs were quite gone; which was a great blow to me. This providence seemed rather staggering to us both; she was at first exercised with much spiritual desertion; but it pleased God, after a month, to visit her again with much of his presence, and then she talked much of his goodness to her. She now read, "The Destruction of Death" over again, saying, she could now follow Mr. Huntington to the very end of it; and that she had been enabled to exercise every grace therein mentioned, and had certainly found life at different times in them all. She had not the least fear of death, but often longed earnestly for it. In her illness she once dreamed that she was at chapel, and saw a small shock of corn, which grew right under your pulpit; and that it was so ripe and brown, it only wanted to be cut down. In relating it she said, "I know what it means."
She was exercised at times with much spiritual desertion, which taught her how dependent she was on the blessed Spirit for every drop of consolation: but she said, "He still leaves his witness, at the worst of times, to the reality of his owe work, and 1 am not at all afraid of coming short at last." She called me to her a little before she died, and desired me to give her kindest love to you. "Tell him," said she, "I am a witness of the truth of his doctrine, let others say what they may; and it will do for me to die by." She was continually inquiring after Mr. Jenkins's welfare, his Letters having been very useful to her at times.
A little before she died she told me, one evening, that she has had such a visit from her dear Saviour, that he had been with her all that day, and such sweet familiarity she had enjoyed, that she could not describe it, and desired me to read the Song of Solomon all over to her.
She found much of the path of tribulation all through her walk, and was deeply exercised with the plague of the heart, and acknowledged that she found corrupt nature just as bad to the last; that she had not one good work to plead, but found herself to be just such as the Saviour promises to save; that she never was suffered to lay a presumptuous claim on him, nor exceed what God had himself done for her, and now found her claim stand fast in the day of trial. She suffered much in body, and was not expecten to live one hour after another fur the last month. But three days before her death she was delivered of a child, which lived about thirty hours: from that time she could scarcely speak, but retained her senses to the last, and died in sweet peace on Monday the 13th of June, in the 36th year of her age, and was interred on the Saturday following, at her own request, in Bunhill Fields, where a few that loved her met and sang a hymn over her.
She had a short interview with you, about a year ago last February, at the vestry, when you cordially received her. She told you then that we lived at Lambeth, in the same house with Benjamin Thatcher.
Pray, Sir, excuse the liberty I have taken; and may the Lord still continue to comfort and support you,
Prays your much indebted friend,