Letters on Ministerial Qualifications
Dear Brother in Christ,
YOURS I received, and am glad the fan has been among you; the floor is now purged, and the hypocrites are gone. Let them go; he that has the most chaff, has got the worst heap. That man who sweeps God's house, and runs away with the uncircumcised and the unclean, gives great room to suspect that he is a minister after the order of Satan; because God uses him as a fan, and his errors as a wind, to purge his floor, and blow away the chaff. If God is with thee, they that are of God will hear thee; but they that are of the world, will hear no doctrines but the commandments of men. If your flock is pure, they will know the shepherd's voice; and the purer the doctrine is, the better they will feed upon it. There is no such thing as keeping a herd of hypocrites together, without dealing deceitfully in God's covenant; they must have smooth things prophesied to them: Prophesy deceits, was the command of their forefathers, and posterity approve their sayings, and love to have it so, Jer. v. 31. Therefore, that preacher who feeds them, must do it at the peril of his soul; for a false witness that speaketh lies, is one of the abominations that God hates, Prov. vi. 19.
I am sorry to find you nettled, because the giddy youth, at the head of a party, triumphs in your affliction; you must commit him, by prayer, to the mercy of that God who has promised, "He that is glad at calamities shall not go unpunished." A man in search after his own glory, or any other branch of self-seeking, who wants to raise a party by a false zeal and bigoted spirit; who will, in behalf of any non-essential point, divide and scatter a flock, and break the bond of peace, and the more perfect bond of gospel love, which binds all the body mystical to the head, and to each other, notwithstanding all his talk about gospel order, is the author of confusion, and appears the opposer of him who is the author of peace. "He that gathereth not with me, scattereth."
I have narrowly watched the hand of God that has visibly gone out against several, who ran away at the head of a party; and soon saw many of those, who first cried out "Hosanna" to their leader, appeared the first also who cried "away with him." But be sure of this, that as he measures to others, so shall it be measured to him; and as he gave the first offence, he shall have the greatest measure of contempt; let him reproach, it shall return upon his own head; pressed down, shaken together, and running over, shall men measure to him: for the Lord God of recompences shall surely requite. I have watched the hand of God in this matter, and seen it in the most minute circumstances; yea in more than a thousand instances. If Jacob will appear to be Esau, Leah shall appear to be Rachel; and if he takes the advantage of his fathers blindness, the sore-eyed wife shall deceive him in the dark. But you will say that Jacob had a right to the blessing; true: but Jacob had no command from God to tell lies to get it. It was a rod from God upon Isaac, to permit him to be deceived by Jacob, because he was partial to Esau. David lay with Uriah's wife in secret; and Absalom shall lie with his wives upon the house top, in the open face of the sun. David cut off the life of Uriah, and Joab shall cut off Absalom, David's favourite; and though the father gives a charge concerning the young man, yet a living gallows shall receive him; and his fine head of hair, too much admired, shall serve instead of a halter to hang him in the oak. Mercy shall be sure to David's soul, and the rod as sure to David's sin. "I will chastise him with the rod of men." Whosoever he be that appears a rod to others, is sure to make one for himself; and if God does not pay him double in this world, he will pay him triple in the next. To pray for such, is the way to get an answer in our own bosom, and to heap coals on their head; therefore pray for him in private, and withstand him in public, for his way is perverse before the Lord. But be sure never to rejoice when evil finds him, nor suffer thy lips to sin, by wishing a curse to his soul, Job, xxxi. 30.
Thou must never expect to stand on the tongue of hypocrites, nor take a false flight on the wings of fame; if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. That matter we get from God, in answer to the humble prayer of faith, put up under a sense of our ignorance, and inability for the important work, we may, if scripture bear us out, venture to deliver: God will never give us a stone for bread, a serpent for a fish, nor a scorpion for an egg. "If any lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not." The matter I obtain this way I am bold to preach, though it differ from the judgment of commentators. Paul owns he knew but in part, an prophesied in part; and those who have undertaken to explain the whole Bible were not infallible; nor did wisdom die with them. Give heed to the more sure word of prophecy, until the daystar arise in your heart, and then follow that; it will lead you to every mystery where the Saviour lies; and when you have found him, hold him forth to poor sinners, without money and without price, as a good steward of the manifold grace of God, which is treasured up in Christ Jesus.
A sermon borrowed from commentators is but a dry breast; it is neither wet with dew, nor warm with love. All that a man learns by rote is too weak to hold his soul in a storm; but one single promise, brought home with power to the soul by the Holy Ghost, fixes the heart for ever. If you know the pardon of your sin, the liberty of God's Spirit, and enjoy union and communion with Christ, you are wise to salvation, though you never read any book but the Bible; and he that is a stranger to heart-work is but a novice, though his head be stored with ten thousand comments. Grace be with thee.
W.H. William Huntington