Epistles of Faith

Letter LXIV

William Huntington (1745-1813)


WELL, brother trade, how goes business on? have you plenty of patients? are you at work day and night? if not I often am; I mix many ingredients at night, and carry them forth by day. Broken bones and broken hearts, the leprosy and the plague often break out amongst us; inward fevers from the fiery law that worketh wrath, and the influenza from the old man of sin, are too common at this season of the year. Many groanings have I to attend, and many pregnant women who look every hour, and whose reckoning, according to their account, has been out these three, some four, some five years; these conclude that they have passed the time, and shall always be big, bring forth wind, or die in labour. Many, many difficulties, singular cases, and strange influences attend our profession; in these I act as you do; in gouty complaints I recommend flannel, the obedience of the Lamb, and patience; to dropsical, lethargic, and drowsy complaints, I prescribe bitter herbs, wormwood, gall, and aloes, together with a little nitre, or fire of spiritual jealousy; the former promotes appetite, and the latter perspiration; for jealousy is the same to a careless saint as the golden fly is to a sluggish bullock, it will move him when a wire of an inch long will have no effect. To bilious complaints, such as gripes in the conscience, straitness in their own bowels, or heaviness in the heart, I administer or recommend a little of the new wine of the kingdom; this is for their stomach's sake, and their often infirmities; but for those afflicted with the stone, I do not mean gall stones in the liver, nor gravel stones in the kidneys, nor chalk stones in the joints, but flint stones and adamant stones in the heart, for this complaint I generally hold forth the oil of joy, and the juice of spiced wine of the pomegranates--the former. is of a dissolving softening nature, the latter is inebriating and enlivening. In costive habits, I recommend hyssop and saline draughts; hyssop purges, and salt keeps matters open; "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another:" but for all inward bruises and green wounds, I have recourse to the balm of Gilead, and always consult the great Physician there; this is a restorative: but to swelling humours, white swellings, boils, and ruptures, or breakings out, figs for a plaister is my choice remedy; such figs as grow upon the good fig-tree., the humbling graces of the Holy Spirit, an effectual remedy for all swellings or breakings out, fur all running sores, such as run in the night and cease not, at which times the patient refuses to be comforted. I generally recommend bandage, and order it to be put tight, and to swaddle the part affected with many folds; the best rollers or swaddling bands are those called the cords or bands of love; and I have been now in practice thirty years, and to my knowledge, I never observed this remedy to fail: but for all ricketty, hobbling, or halting complaints, or relaxation in the nerves or muscles, I prefer the girdle of truth; " Gird up the loins of your mind, watch and be sober." As for crutches, stilts, sticks, and all iron bows and stays, I never recommend. Cold water for thirsty souls; good news from a far country for melancholy complaints; bathing lip to the ankles, knees, and loins in the water of life for; stiffness in the joints, I am very partial to; sincere milk I recommend to young ones, whose teeth are too weak to mump a hard crust, or grind strong meat. Strong drink I generally make use of to those that are ready to perish, and old wine on the lees to those of heavy hearts. Honey I generally give to lying-in women, when their legal labour is over, and love has cast out fear; this so sweetens their spirits as to make them forget their anguish, for joy that the new man is brought forth: but in all dangerous symptoms, perilous cases, or chronic disorders that have any desperate appearances, I generally apply the leaves of the tree of life; that more sovereign in such cases than either the pope's extreme unction, wafer, or holy water; it revives the expiring, and gives life even to the dead. Now though I know that you do not make of my medicines in your line of practice, yet I think you will acknowledge the salutary effects of many of these prescriptions.

Brother trade, Doctor Sark's kind love to the Doctor, and wishes that your trade may decrease, and that mine may increase; so prays the gentleman of the faculty. Love to Dame; excuse the ins and outs, spelling, and inditing; the thoughts a carte, and were as soon down.

W.H. S. S.

William Huntington