Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)TO MR. B., CRANBROOR.
ABOUT ten years ago I saw in the visions of the night, and behold wooden fences, exceeding strong, made in imitation of the best sort of post and rail, but very stout and strong, and so high that they reached above the clouds. On the other side of these lofty fences, in the air, and above the clouds, I saw an innumerable herd of black bulls, running by droves to and fro in the air; their appearance was fierce and furious to the last degree.
After running to and fro for some time, I saw them attempt to leap the fences, and some few I saw went fairly over, and running about in the air as if wild or mad; but what astonished me most was, they were, to my view, many miles high in the air. I awoke and behold it was a dream. But when so great a part of Europe was overrun, I thought of my dream; and I considered the lofty fences to be the laws of nations, of churches, and of states, and the human forces engaged to protect these; but the fat bulls of Bashan went over them all.
Some time after this I dreamed again, and I saw in the visions of the night a most extensive open plain, on the border of which I stood. I lifted up my eyes a second time to see the vast extent of the plain, and to my surprise, I saw two vast armies mustering; I considered myself placed there, not to fight, but make observations, and to bear tidings. I looked on till both the armies were marshalled and drawn up in battle array, and as soon as they began the fight I set off with the tidings. I went from off the plain down into a hollow road, at the end of which road, or lane, was a little village, at which I was to deliver my tidings; but as I ran, a sudden fear seized me, that I was in imminent danger of being shot. I looked on my left hand towards the plain, and it appeared to me about forty feet above my head, and at the verge of the plain, a strong old stone wall, which reached so high, as for the top of it to be on a level with the field of battle. Seeing my safety, I mended my pace, and when I came to a gate which led into the village, I was in so great a hurry that I attempted to throw myself over it, and the violent exertion fetched me out of my sleep; this also was a dream.
Soon after the above, I dreamed that I was in a low valley, somewhat like Romney Marsh, in which valley I saw a great many deep ditches, broad rivers, and little brooks; in this valley a battle had been lately fought, and I was brought there to see the slain, and the dead were so innumerable, that the rivers, the brooks, and ditches were so filled with corpses, that the bridges were choked up with the dead, and the water so stopped in its courses, that it begun to deluge the country; and the fear of being drowned awakened me out of this sleep also.
I one night after this dreamed that I was in the land of promise, and sale at a considerable distance many noble, lofty, and ancient piles of stone buildings, interspersed with avenues of stately and very high trees, through which the windows, pinnacles, towers, &c., shone with wonderful lustre, the sun appearing in his meridian. I looked on my left hand, and saw an extensive valley, and in the valley a great many rows or streets of new houses, in building; some few appeared finished, some just covered in, others going up in their walls, and some just founded, with an innumerable number of workmen, and all very busy; and this work was going on in this large open valley. While I was looking and wondering at these buildings, and at the beauty of this country with its hills and vales, I looked on my right hand, and there stood a little old woman with a black cloak and black bonnet; I asked her what that noble pile of buildings )were which shone so bright through the avenue of trees; she Laid, " That is Jerusalem old town:" then I pointed her to the row of houses building in the valley, and she said, "That is Jerusalem new town." I asked her a few more questions, to which she returned answers, and I awoke. I have thought much Ix times since of the old Jerusalem, that is in bondage with her children, and of a new Jerusalem, of which God speaks; "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former hall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad r rejoice for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy," Isa. lxv. 17, 18.
Some time after this, I had been much engaged in my mind about this long, tedious, and destructive war, and of the revolutions that have taken place lately in Europe; and was wondering whereabouts in God's book the account of these things stand, not doubting but it is in the Bible, because the mystery of God is to be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets, Rev. x. 7; and I thought we might say with David, "We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there amongst us any that knoweth how long," Psalm lxxiv. 9. In the days of old it was not so; "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets, Amos iii. 7; but as for us, we were such a poor, blind, ignorant remnant, and so unworthy, that God would not divulge any of these matters to us, and I wept much: it was at going to bed. It is true we have had several things published upon the signs of these times, but the discoveries they have made are little else than their own blindness and ignorance. I went to bed not a little distressed, and when I awoke in the morning these words sounded loudly in my heart and ears, "This is the hour of temptation;" from that time to this I have not had one doubt but the whole account stands in the eleventh chapter of the book of the Revelations, by John and principally in the thirteenth verse; but the hour there spoken of has no small difficulties attending it. A prophetic day being a year, according to many accounts in that book, the learned fix that hour to be about a fortnight; but we who have lived to see the earthquake there spoken of, and the long continuance of the war since the first revolution, see nothing as yet of that fortnight, to which space of time that hour is fixed by the learned. I have taken much pains to find out what the scriptures mean by an hour, but can come at no certainty. The hour that I allude to in the Revelations is three times mentioned, first, by way of threatening; "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee," Rev. iii. 3. The Philadelphian church receives a promise of being preserved from this hour; "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation," Rev. iii. 10.
But in Rev. xi. 1:3, it appears that it will take place during this war; "And the same hour there was an earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell," &c., but to come to any exact time signified by this hour, is not an easy matter. I considered Luke xxii. 53, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness;" this was the time Christ was in the hands of his murderers, who crucified and insulted him in his sufferings, and when in his tomb triumphed over him, which was but a few days at most, and yet much more than a common hour.
And in Rev. xvii. 12, "And the ten horns which thou sawest, are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; bat receive power as kings one hour with the beast." The head of the Romish church, the pope, and these ten kings, receive power together; these kings receive power one hour with the beast, that is, these ten kings shall come to their kingdom and the pope to his grandeur in one hour. The learned allow that the beginning of the setting up of these kingdoms in the western empire, was in the year 356, and that all the ten kingdoms were not up till 450, and some write not until 486, which make this hour to be more than a hundred years.
The slaughter of the witnesses, and their lying three years and a half unburied, their resurrection, and the present earth. quake, are all said to be "the same hour," Rev. xi. 13; whereas we see the earthquake still remains; the war has been carried on not much less than seventeen or eighteen years, and the witnesses are still alive; all which convince me that it is a very difficult thing to fix any exact time to the Holy Spirit's meaning by "an hour," "one hour," and "the same hour," which perhaps is to check our being over solicitous.
About three years ago I was at Grantham in Lincolnshire, and being in bed alone I dreamed that I was in company with many professing people. We were gathered together in a large open space of ground, and there was another company gathered together against us; they seemed to be very violent and malicious at us, and we were in very high dispute; but I do not remember that any body spoke on our side but myself While I was disputing with this multitude among my friends, I looked on my right hand, and saw a large rock rise up out of the ground, very much resembling what I have seen in drawings and in print of Mount Sinai, in Arabia. I pointed our adversaries to look at that; they did so, and turned pale, and their scorning, sneering, and grinning subsided. I awoke, and behold it was a dream.
I soon fell asleep again, and dreamed the same as before, and the same rock rose up at the same place as in my former dream, to which I pointed our opposers; they looked at it and their countenances fell. I said, "Look there, and let that convince you that God is for us;" and I awoke with these words sounding both in my heart and ears, "Thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee," Isa. xliii. 4.
Since I have been settled in London, I have made it a rule, once in the space of six or eight years, to visit those favourite spots in the country, where it pleased the Lord Jesus Christ at times to visit me. I went first with my dame to Mortlake, in Surrey, where the Lord first spake to me, bidding me to come out of the world, from all mine acquaintance, and to have no more to do with them; this was in a garden belonging to the Honourable Messieurs Clive, brethren to the late Lord Clive. We went to the house, and t rung at the bell, and the footman came. I asked if the Honourable Messieurs Clive lived there; he told me no. I told the servant that I had been acquainted formerly with that family, and had spent many days in that garden, without saying in the capacity of a gardener. The servant informed us that the gentleman of the house was not at home, but that the lady was. I sent my respects, and begged the favour of a walk in the garden. She sent me word I was welcome to walk where I pleased, and as long as I liked. We went in, but the garden was so altered, that I should not have known it to be the same, if I had not been well acquainted with the place. I had more than once been by the house and garden, but never into it before nor since the time I left it. I pointed to one corner of the garden, and told my wife I had made a mount in that corner, when I worked here; we went round and saw the mount: it is still in being. I then went to that quarter of the garden, where I was at work when the voice came; and there is a very lofty old apple-tree, which identified the very spot. My bowels yearned at the sight of the place, and much meekness and contrition flowed in; and the humbling sensation abode with me for many days.
Afterwards the lady came out and walked with us, and then took us into her house, and treated us with great civility: we made the servant a present and withdrew. I thought of the highly-favoured places of the royal Psalmist, when he vows to remember God from the laud of Jordan, and of the Hermonites from the hill Mizar, Psalm x1ii. 6.
Strange as it may appear, yet it is truth, before this voice came to me I had no more knowledge of God than the beasts that perish; but as soon as the voice came I was at once assured that it was the voice of my Creator that spake to me; nor have I ever had one doubt about it, from that hour to this. Christ, by his Spirit, spake to my heart; and faith from his fullness came to me by hearing, and hearing by the word which he spake: "As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me," Psalm xviii. 44. The obedience of faith, Rom. i. 5, attended the words of his mouth. My orders were to come out of this world, and from all mine acquaintance, and to have no more to do with them; and I was made willing in the day of his power, Psalm cx. 3, and came out, and have no desire to go back, although I have had opportunity to have returned.
A few weeks after this, I went in company with a friend to Sunbury, in Middlesex; this was the place where I first heard the sound of the jubilee trump; the effect was, "Loose him and let him go:" it was the place of my enlargement. I did not ask leave at this place for admittance into the garden; another way was opened for me; the next house, a noble structure, is pulled down, and only an out-building left. The garden which adjoins to that in which I wrought, is let to a market gardener, and the out-building is his residence; into this we went, and with leave into the garden. Against the wall, near the spot where the light first shone round about me, there stood a ladder, and upon it I got up to the very place where the sun of righteousness arose with healing in his wings; and I saw also the little tool-house, where the first fervent and effectual prayer was put up, and to which such an answer was returned as will live, burn, and shine to all eternity; for, "Christ dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him."
A few weeks after this, I went to Ewell in Surrey, and went round the house and garden in which I wrought in those parts; this was the nursery where my first weaning time came on; where also I was taught the mystery of providence, and learned to live depending upon it. The overbearing lord, under whom I laboured, and the large and flourishing family, like olive plants round about his table, are left few in number; there are two tombs erected since I lived there, and I believe both are full, and one was opening the very day that I was there for the reception of another branch of the family. I thought of David's words; "For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be," Psalm xxxvii. 10. No more scoffing, mocking, and ridiculing religion The extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressor is consumed out of the land," Isa. xvi. 4: while the slave, the drudge, the servant of servants, is still in possession of double life, and delighting himself in the Almighty.
The slaughter-house at Kingston=upon-Thames, where the commandment came to me with its convicting and condemning power; where my sin revived and came fresh to light; when the awful curse came home, and the yoke of bondage came on; when guilt and wrath formed' a junction; where heart and flesh failed, and all legal hopes gave up the ghost; this place I have never visited since. I have visited all my Bethels, but not the barren wilderness; that dry and thirsty land I wished to see no more. I have often looked at the house, but it is too much like Jonah's bed in the bottom of the sea, which he calls the belly of hell: the poor apostles did not exult because they had found Moses, but because they had found the Messiah. I looked at the nursery in Hampton Wick, where I wrought during a great part of mine affliction; this was something like the house of Dagon, where Samson made sport. The agitations of my mind, and the continual motion of my limbs, to keep the conceptions of sin from passing into words, gave my fellow-labourers no small entertainment.
I conclude that I have now taken my last farewell of all these sacred spots; I get old, and am looking forward in hope of the better country, and that city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God. Of late I have been ill with a bilious disorder, and, to tell you the truth, I have seldom been much indulged in bodily afflictions, as some are; but in this last fit my mind was wholly engaged for several days with the greatest and most sublime subject in all the Bible; my views were capacious, clear, harmonious, and very instructing and confirming; and when I got out again I found my cruse full, the spring became a flowing brook, but it was emptied by three discourses on the following words; " That they also may be one in us," John xvii. 21. I learn that afflictions empty the vessel of self; the dross dissolves in the fire, and the tin is consumed, and a perceptible fullness flows in and springs up, and thirsty souls always fare best when the head is anointed with oil, and the cup runneth over, Psalm xxiii. 5; for all that runneth over is dispersed abroad, and is intended to revive, exhilarate, and make verdant by watering the heavenly crop, hence called "The times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." But this I perceive also, that however the old man may be mortified, put off, and denied; and however the dross and tin may. be purged and subdued, Insomuch that the soul becomes dead to every motion of it, and loathes and abhors the body of this death; yet it revives again, and loses in a great measure its deformity and unsightliness, and soon assumes an air of gaiety: this must be one of the master-pieces of him who can transform himself into an angel of light.
The Canaanites will dwell in this land; and by these old inhabitants I understand very wicked men; and that corrupt nature which constitutes them such, is, in all its malignity and evil nature, in every member of Christ's mystical body, while in a state militant: hence the most enlarged soul is but a prisoner of hope, for the iniquity of his heels still compasses. him about, though he has no just cause to fear, even in the day of evil, Psal. xlix. 5. But against all hope founded in nature and in reason, we must hope, with an expectation founded in grace and truth; "That which is born of the flesh is flesh:" and, "This I say, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God: neither doth corruption inherit incorruption," 1 Cor. xv. 50. But "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit;" and every grace, every fruit of the Spirit is an incorruptible seed, that lives and abides for ever. My old companion; my honest, faithful, and affectionate friend, adieu.
W.H. S. S.