Life of the Author
I was born in the Weald of Kent, as is related in the sequel of this narrative. My father was a day-labouring man, who worked for seven or eight shillings in the winter, and in the summer for nine shillings per week, which is but a small pittance to keep a family. My mother bore eleven children, of which number I am the tenth; and our eternal High-Priest hath condescended to take me as a tithe of the family, Isaiah 6:13; Luke, 17:17. And my prayer and desire is, that he would condescend to take more of us; for I cannot find out that there have been any conversions discovered in the family, from age to age, except him who is my reputed father.
Of the eleven children, five died young; and there are six yet living, five daughters and myself, who am the only son and heir. My parents being very poor, and receiving no support from the parish, we children fared very hard; and indeed seldom knew what it was to have a belly full of victuals above once in the week, which was on the Sabbath-day, when we were allowed to know what a bit of meat was. But it often happened that rent, or some other debt, was to be discharged, and on such accounts no meat could be procured. These barren sabbaths were mourning days indeed to us young ones; but to our sorrow they frequently came. Suffering with hunger, cold, and almost nakedness, so imbittered my life in my childhood, that I have often wished secretly that I had been a brute, for then I could have filled my belly in the fields.
My friends put me to school to an old man and woman of the name of Boyce, where I learned my alphabet, and to spell a little in a Primer, and so on to spelling in the New Testament; and at last to read a little. And here I remember to have heard my mistress reprove me for something wrong, telling me that God Almighty took notice of children’s sins. This stuck to my conscience a great while; and who this God Almighty could be I could not conjecture; and how he could know my sins without asking my mother I could not conceive. At that time there was a person named Godfrey, an exciseman in the town, a man of a stern and hard favoured countenance, whom I took notice of for having a stick covered with figures, and an ink-bottle hanging at the button-hole of his coat. I imagined that man to be employed by God Almighty to take notice, and keep an account, of children’s sins; and once I got into the market-house, and watched him very narrowly, and found that he was always in a hurry by his walking so fast; and I thought he had need to hurry, as he must have a deal to do to find out all the sins of children. I watched him out of one shop into another all about the town; and from that time eyed him as a most formidable being, and the greatest enemy I had in all the world, and would shun him if possible; but, if he happened to meet me unawares in turning a corner, you might have struck me down with a feather; I hung down my head, bowed and scraped till I could get out of his sight, and then I fled when none but conscience pursued. This man was a terror to me a long time, and has caused me to say many prayers.
Punishment for sin I found was to be inflicted after death, therefore I hated the church-yard more than all the ground in the parish; and it was a rare thing to catch me there in the dark – I would travel any distance round about rather than drag my guilty conscience over that enchanted spot.
My friends not being able to pay for my schooling, I was taken away from school, and sent daily into the woods to fetch bundles of fuel to burn in the winter time, and in the summer I went with my mother and sisters to gleaning; so that I soon forgot what little I had learned before.
However, my mother spoke to a farmer (who was my father) to get me into the free-school, which he accordingly did; and here I learned to spell and read in the New Testament, and to write a little. But I never was put to any regular spelling-book, nor even to cast accounts; I only learnt to write a little, and to read in the New Testament. This school was free for poor children. If they could make friends to get them into it; but persons of property paid for their children. Here I have often been mortified to the highest degree to see how farmers’ sons fared at dinner time, when I used to skulk about half starved.
About this time there came a great number of French prisoners of war to be confined at Sissinghurst castle, in the parish of Cranbrook. Among these prisoners there were several officers who were on the parole of honour, and had lodgings in the town. They had a little boy, who went on their errands, waited on them, and generally walked with them. He was about my age, rather stouter, but not quite so tall. It happened that I had been sent to school one day with a very scanty breakfast, and at noon was obliged to return from home without a dinner; and, as I went across a field, called the Ball-field (on account of its being a field appropriated for cricket, and other sport,) I saw this little French boy coming on the road before me, with a large loaf under his arm. I eyed the loaf; and, being exceedingly hungry, entertained some thoughts of making a seizure of it; and, like Moses when he killed the Egyptian, I looked this way and that way, and, when I found the coast was clear, laid violent hands on the loaf, and broke off as much as I thought proper, letting the boy have the rest. He raged and stormed vehemently, and ran up to me muttering and threatening, in his dialect, which I did not understand; nevertheless I stood my ground, and by my surly looks gave him to understand that my fist should dispute the point if he did not go off quietly, which I believe he understood, and therefore went off muttering and menacing; but, if he could have taken no more hold of my action than I could of his words, it would have been well, for I knew nothing of what he said.
Not long after this robbery was committed, I was so unfortunate as to meet several French officers on the road, and the boy whom I had robbed with them. As soon as the boy saw me he cried out with a loud voice, and began to inform them (as I supposed by his pointing to me) that I was the highwayman who robbed him of his bread; because these words were often repeated, scoff the bread.” I expected to have been pursued, but the officers took no farther notice than by laughing at it; judging, as I supposed, by my appearance, that I was none of the most despicable sort of thieves; but “only one that stole to satisfy the soul when was hungry,” Proverbs 6:30.
This was the only highway robbery that my hunger ever drove me to commit; though I have often plundered apple orchards and turnip fields, but these were generally belonging to the farmer who was my father.
I believe this way of bringing up poor children often drives them to steal, until they become habituated to it. Many begin to steal to support life, and continue till they lose their lives for stealing.
These early sufferings for want of necessaries left a very deep impression on my heart; and gave me such a feeling for the poor when I was first brought to know the Lord, that I could scarcely carry a penny in my pocket: but, since I have been in London, I have seen such wretched advantage taken of my sympathy by hypocrites, that it has led me to guard as much against a mumping professor as against the craft of an Arminian. And it requires much of the wisdom of the serpent to distribute alms properly. I have had people send up petitions into the pulpit to me, expressive of the greatest afflictions and persecutions for Christ’s sake, signed by reputable people in the neighbourhood, as it was expressed; and, after a public collection, they have appeared impostors – ignorant of God and godliness – and the people’s names were put to their petitions without their knowledge. And the very same people have imposed on me since in the same manner; but the plot was discovered, and the money given to proper objects.
There are at this time sacrilegious hands in the world, that have got money out of my pocket, and out of the pockets of others by my instrumentality, to the amount of above two hundred guineas, who I believe never felt the plague of their own hearts nor their need of Christ, but only make an empty profession, and mump in his name; and I believe, out of all the money given by godly souls in our days, that there are not ten pounds in a thousand go to the household of faith. The devil hardens the hearts of his own children, and sends them about to persons, who are strangers to them, with such a stock of infernal fortitude as hardens them against all denial; and they will cry and whine like a crocodile till they get it, and laugh at your folly when they have done. If my reader has a mind to give alms, let him look out for proper objects himself; for there are many who are truly gracious, that will go upon their knees, and cry before God, and suffer much, rather than let their case be made known to men. I have learned a sweet lesson out of the sixth chapter of John on this head. The Saviour entertained the multitude of his followers twice; but, when they followed him over the sea of Tiberius, he gives them a feast of eternal election and vital godliness – “No man can come to me except the Father draw him” – and “except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you” – “Ye seek me because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” And thus he sent the hypocrites off with a hungry belly and a killing reproof. But to return.
I continued at this school till I could read an easy chapter in the New Testament and write joining-hand a little, and then I was taken away to go to work with my father (that should have been); which work was threshing in a barn. Here was hard labour, bad living, cold weather, and wretched apparel: however, I had some rejoicing days at this work; for the farmers in that country allow a dinner to those who thresh their corn every time they winnow it, and these days arrived about once in three weeks: good days these were, but they came too seldom. It once happened, that our winnowing-day being arrived, my father was gone before me, and I went rejoicing after him; but, to my great grief and disappointment, it began to rain; which circumstance I knew would prevent our dressing the corn, because the rain, blowing into the floor, would wet it and render it impossible to get the grain out of the chaff. The grievance was, if it rained, we could not winnow the corn; and, if we did not, there was no dinner. As I was musing over it in my mind, this horrid temptation came to my thoughts; namely, that God did every thing contrary to people’s desire; and that, if I prayed for a fine day, it would surely rain; but, if I swore’ I knew it would rain, then it certainly would not. I obeyed-this wretched temptation, and swore several dreadful oaths that I knew it would rain, and it cleared up, and rained not. So the “father of lies” appeared to speak the truth. We dressed the corn, and I got my dinner. But, when I came to reflect on this temptation, I was much astonished, and asked many questions about God, and desired to know who the devil was; and I got information enough to convince me that I had awfully sinned against God, and that my wretched oaths came from Satan. The thoughts of such a wretched temptation filled me with many cogitations, fears, and terrors; and made me often afraid to be alone, either by day or night: then I generally said the Lord’s prayer over and over again every time I was alone; but, when out of danger, I left off.
Having continued working with my father about a twelve, month, I was determined not to live this starving life any longer, if I could get from it. I therefore made inquiry if any farmer wanted a boy of my age; and was informed of a certain yeoman who wanted a lad to wait at table, look after a horse, &e. I watched the gentleman to market, and from thence to the inn, where I went and spoke to him. He told me that he wanted a boy, but that he would not hire me except I would engage with him for the term of three years. His reason for this was, because his boys had left him as soon as they had learnt to do their business. He said he should give me two coats, two waistcoats, and two hats in the term, and no more wages than twenty shillings per annum. I informed him that I had no more clothes than what he saw, if with propriety they might be called clothes. He replied, my perquisites would be sufficient to find me in linen and other necessaries; and added, that his boys formerly had divided the perquisites with the maid-servants, but it should not be so any more; my perquisites should be my own. The bargain was struck, and soon the happy day arrived; and I went to my servitude as miserably rigged as any poor vessel of wrath could be. When I came to have my belly-full of victuals I was quite ill for some time, but at length recovered. I had lived here about six or seven months, and found my perquisites to be very small indeed: but one day there happened to be an entertainment for the officers of the Kentish militia; my perquisites arising from this entertainment amounted to the net sum of thirteen shillings, in consequence of which the maid-servants murmured for two-thirds of it; the mistress listened to their complaints, and ordered a distribution. This was hard, as I wanted my thirteen shillings to go so many ways. I pleaded my bargain with my mistress, but her terms were positive; a distribution must be made, or I must quit my servitude. I went to my mother for counsel upon this very dubious penit; whose counsel was, that I should keep my money; and I obeyed her voice at the expense of my place. I was immediately ordered to go into the stripping-room, and there pall off my livery, and adorn myself once more in my old rags, and then go home to the old trade of pinching. I now went to hard labour for fourpence per day, and continued at it near a year, and repented taking my mother’s counsel and leaving my place; but I was not to settle until I was brought to the decreed spot where I was to meet with the dear Redeemer, and engage in that work to which I was ordained from all eternity.
From labouring at fourpence per day I went to live with ‘Squire Cook, which place I got in answer to prayer, as is related in my BANK OF FAITH. In this place I dived deeper into the mystery of iniquity than ever I had before; for here was a stable servant who was capable of corrupting a thousand lads. “One sinner destroyeth much good.” Being very fond of the man, I eagerly swallowed down all that my filthy tutor could vomit up. This so hardened my heart, and corrupted my mind, that I cast off all fear and restraint, broke through all my vows to God, and became a Deist. How I left this place is recited in the above-mentioned treatise.
Having been out of place some months, I went to Battle-abbey; and during my stay there continued hardened in sin, excepting now and then when the thoughts of death lay on my mind; but then I endeavoured to stifle them, and to get into company as much as possible.
When I left this place I went to live with a clergyman at Frittenden, in the Weald of Kent, about four or five miles from Cranbrook. I am going now to relate a very disagreeable circumstance, and which I would rather bury than revive; but there are many professors who have been at great pains, and have travelled many miles to rake into this disagreeable circumstance, in order to bring it to light. That I may (in one sense) “possess the iniquities of my youth,” Job xiii. 26, though not the guilt of them, I shall not mention the names of these diligent inquisitors, nor endeavour to put them to shame; for God has promised to do that himself, and I have no doubt but that he’ will be as good as his word.
After I had been some few weeks in the service of the above mentioned gentleman, I contracted an intimacy with a tailor in the place, whom I employed at times to do what I wanted in his way of business. This man had a daughter, an only child, possessed of no small share of beauty, if I may be allowed to be a judge of that vain and fading article, Proverbs 31:30; Isaiah 28:1. However, her beauty did not attract my affections, though I admired it, for I was a stranger to love. I continued intimately acquainted with this family for some months; and, being of a cheerful disposition, and my mind naturally pregnant with much drollery, I made myself very familiar with this little black-eyed girl, but entertained no thoughts of courtship, nor had I the least affection for her any further than as a neighbour. It came to pass one evening that I went to the house to light a lanthorn to carry into the church, as myself and a few more young men were going to make a noise with the church-bells, While lighting my candle, I put forth some jocose sayings to the girl, which I believe gave the father of the damsel a suspicion of courtship between me and his daughter; and he gave me to understand that my room was better than my company. I was rather amazed at it, as there was nothing to give offence in what I said; for, though my mind was stored with jests, quick replies, &c. (and indeed I believe I was born with them, for they grew up with me) yet I detested indecent – vulgarities in the company of women. However, the man gently warned me from his house; and, as I deemed myself a man of considerable consequence, I went home greatly offended at it, and fully determined never to renew the acquaintance. Some few days after this the mother of the maiden sent a boy to me, desiring to speak with me; but I refused to go. Some time after the mother came herself, and gave me to understand that she had no desire to see me herself, but that her daughter had; and, in apparent trouble, she said that she was entirely ignorant of there being any courtship between us. I told her I was entirely ignorant of it also, for I had never courted any one, nor did I ever mention any such thing to her daughter; nor had I any thought of it, nor could I believe the girl had any affection for me; for, though I was both proud and conceited, yet pride itself could never persuade me to think that any such thing as beauty had ever fallen to my share: and, to be honest, my being destitute of this vanishing shadow has been matter of grief to me in the days of my vanity. But to return; I went with the woman to the house, and waited till she had got her daughter up; and when she came down stairs, and I saw the reality of her affection, I was much moved. I took her on my knee, and endeavoured to cherish her all that I could; and while I was performing the part of a tender nurse, the patient performed the part of a conqueror, and insensibly took me prisoner. Having assuaged the grief, and cheered up the drooping spirits of my patient, I went home, but soon found that I was as effectually entangled in the labyrinth of love as my patient could be; for she had shot me through the heart, and killed me to all but herself; and I believe I could have served as many years for Susan Fever as Jacob did for Rachel. I loved her to such a degree, that I could not bear her out of my sight; and I, who had just before used the skill of the faculty, was now obliged to go to my patient for medicine.
From that time the father and mother of the damsel were very very agreeable to my coming as a suitor to their daughter: not that there was any expectation of my ever being able to keep a wife; but they did it chiefly out of regard to her, for she was their darling as well as mine. I believe at that time I was about seventeen years of age, or something more; and the young woman was somewhat younger, consequently there was no time lost. However, I found my heart so involved in love, that my head was swarming with all the pleasing thoughts and cutting disappointments of matrimony. A wife appeared to be the one thing needful, and I thought it was high time for me to think of engaging in the ties of wedlock. I fretted because I was of no trade; and to marry a wife, without any thing to depend upon but hard labour, was involving myself and darling too in all the wretched distresses of poverty. I was continually thinking which way I could contrive to keep her if I married, but I found none; therefore my foolish heart was continually upon the rack. I perceived I was in as much danger on the account of her beauty as Abraham and Isaac were on the account of the beauty of Sarah and Rebecca, when they were in Egypt and Gerar, who called them sisters for fear of being robbed of them. So it was with me; I found there was no likelihood of my ever being able to keep her, and I was as fully persuaded that her beauty would gain her a husband: the thought, too, of missing the prize was a double death, and I often fancied myself in the strong hold of jealousy as a disappointed lover. But all these cutting considerations were fetched in from futurity, for I was by no means an injured lover; as I found her the most chaste, affectionate, constant, prudent, indulgent soul that I ever met with; and would have made an excellent wife, if Providence had cast her into the lap of a person worthy of her. But I am fully convinced that persons are coupled in heaven; for never did two souls love each other more than we did, nor could any bind themselves to each other stronger with mutual promises and vows; but every effort proved abortive; for whom God hath not joined together, a mere trifle will put asunder.
Since I have been more capable of judging, I have often put her in the balance; and, of a moral person, I never saw a more amiable character: and, though Solomon found not one faithful in a thousand, yet I found the first faithful to me; and certainly she had her share of beauty. But I have quite other notions of beauty now than I had then; for I find real beauty to consist in the image of Jesus Christ drawn on the soul by the Holy Ghost, and that image attended with the divine graces of the blessed Spirit of truth and love; and the internal faculties bespangled with apparent purity of mind, chastity of converse, and gospel modesty. This is beauty in the judgment of infinite divinity, and has got the testimony of God himself on its side; and it will ever appear engaging, attracting, and admirable, in the eyes of all good – and no less forbidding, dismaying, and convicting, in the eyes of all bad men. But, as for personal beauty, I believe God has given it to thousands as a curse and a trap. It is a net set by God himself; and Satan has, by permission, caught his thousands in it. And that heaven sets no store by it, is plain; witness the profusion of it on the many thousands in this metropolis, who, like Peninnah, “hire themselves out for bread,” 1 Samuel 2:5; and who, I think, are sharply reproved by the natural instinct in every species of the brute creation. God often spreads a net, and permits the infernal fowler to catch sinners in it; “I will spread my net for him, and he shall be taken in my snare,” Ezekiel 17:20. God has given some statutes to rebellious and self-righteous souls, that minister nothing but evil: and judgments to others, that minister nothing but death: and he has often given the gifts of beauty and progeny, that graceless souls might pollute themselves in the former, and be nurses for devils in the latter; as it is written, “Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; and I polluted them in their own gifts,” Ezekiel 20:25. I have often observed how few celebrated earthly beauties stand enrolled in the divine list of heaven’s favourites. The Bible is very sparing of the number of toasts. The offspring of Cain are said to be fair, Genesis 6:2; and their countenances deceived the carnal, and perhaps some real, professors; but no mention is made of their grace. We read of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel being well-favoured, and yet gracious, but we read of very few besides. And as for the time of the apostles, when divine beauty shone so conspicuous, we hardly hear of natural beauty being mentioned. It is with beauty as it is with many other things; that which is highly esteemed among men is little worth in the eyes of God: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him. For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7. But perhaps I shall give offence in what I have said respecting beauty; however, I can call in a woman that had both grace and beauty on her side, who will perfectly agree with me in sentiment: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands [of faith], and let her own labours [of love] praise her in the gates” of judgment at the general doom, Proverbs 31:30-31. I beg my reader’s pardon for wandering out of the path of this narrative; but I find it is hard to my feet to keep constantly in it, therefore I am glad now and then to take a turn in the green pastures.
I continued about the space of one year at this perplexing, but delightful, courtship, which I call a scene of pleasing misery. I found a most warm and stable affection to her, and a great desire of making her my own; but was often racked with the fear of disappointment, as every thing conspired to forbid the banns. After living about a year and a half in this lingering happiness, a door seemed to open for me to learn a trade. I had left my place, and a brother-in-law of mine promised to teach me his business, which was gun-making. I was glad to accept the offer, and soon went to him. I endeavoured to learn the business as much as possible, and expected in a short time to be both the tradesman and the husband. Now and then I went to Frittenden for an afternoon’s walk, which was almost thirty miles; but that was like Jacob’s apprenticeship, very short. However, matters turned out badly here; my brother drank hard, neglected his business, and his affairs got very bad; and, before I had been with him many months, I saw that he could not go on. I left him, and he ran away, and left my sister to shift for herself. I was now as far from wedlock as ever. Cutting disappointments and empty enjoyments are all the blasted harvest that poor mortals reap who sow to the flesh, and expect a pleasing crop from that corrupted soil.
I was now worse off than ever. My clothes were bad, so that I was not fit for servitude; nor had I learned enough to get my bread at the business; and, as for my endeavouring to save money for clothes at day-labour under farmers in the Weald of Kent, it is like fetching a penny at a time out of Pharoah’s brick-kilns, where a double task must be performed, and no materials allowed. I was for some time out of employ; and my intended father and mother in-law began to look very cold on their hopeless son, and, I believe, secretly wished to disengage the affections of their daughter from me: and I don’t wonder at it, for I met with nothing but disappointments; and I was as whimsical as an Arminian prophet, and as wild as an ass’s colt. After a time I went as pitman to a sawyer; at which I laboured hard, and got myself tolerably decent in clothes: but in process of time this job failed, and my partner in labour had no further call for me. I then heard of a gentleman belonging to the navy, who resided at Rolvenden in Kent, and wanted a servant to drive his carriage; so I engaged in his service; and, when I told my spouse’s fiends of it, they seemed glad, and had some hope that my absence, and the distance of the place, would be the means of breaking off the courtship. Several people had dropped hints to dissuade them from countenancing me in my addresses to their daughter; as she was one that might do far better for herself than giving her company to me, from whom nothing but poverty could be expected. This was related to me by the girl’s parents, attended with some hints that I was not to come there again. I well understood them; but they were very genteel in the matter, for they found the girl’s affections closely fixed. I was afterwards informed the reason of this; that a certain man, who had a house at Maidstone, and travelled the country with cloth, had taken a fancy to my intended: and, as there was no expectation from me, they resolved to encourage him; which, if possible, I was determined to prevent. However, that sin did not go unpunished; for God has sorely afflicted me for it since.
When the day arrived for me to go to my servitude, I called to see my girl, and got her to go two or three miles with me. I thought, while on the road, that she would never be a wife of mine, and questioned whether I should ever see her again; and I could not help telling her this. However, she vowed constancy; but I doubted it, as I saw the countenance of her parents was not towards me as before: and she dropped some hints to confirm it, and declared she would never comply with their request, in giving her company to another. I had at that time courted her three years; and, when I took my leave of her, I left her with a heavy heart, and a heavy heart I carried with me: and it was a final leave that I had taken; for I never saw her again, from that hour to this.
When I came to my place I was much dejected and cast down; but, having three cheerful young women for my fellow-servants, it had a tendency to drive her, at times, out of my thoughts. I sent her a letter, desiring her to come and meet me on an appointed road: but, when I went, I found her not; but was afterwards informed that she came, and her father with her, but they mistook the road. I sent two or three letters more, but I received no answer; and was afterwards informed that her father had broke them open, and withheld them from her. When I found this, I endeavoured to engage the affections of another, in order to eradicate, if possible, the first from my mind: and at times I thought I had done it; then I was like a bird let out of a cage. But, after all my struggles, the present damsel could never capture my affections like the other; the first would be the uppermost: and the more I strove against love, the more it preyed on my spirits; and I laboured under that burden for many years.
After I had been about eleven months in that place, I one night had a dream; and behold I dreamed that three men pursued me, and, though I was the swiftest of foot, yet I stumbled and fell, and they caught me. I awoke, and behold it was a dream! I knew the men I had dreamed about, and that one of them was high constable. However, I could not conjecture what the dream could mean; I therefore Composed myself again, and fell into a deep sleep, and had the same dream as before. I fell, and was caught. I awoke a second time, and behold it was a dream! My mind being much agitated, I arose about four o’clock in the morning, it being then summer-time; and, as soon as I had opened the door, I saw the persons standing at it. They informed me of their business, and greatly surprised me: as I had never heard a word of it before, neither from the girl nor her parents, nor had I any thoughts of it; though I knew in my own conscience what I might justly have expected. However, this was not to be my wire by any means; she was appointed for another, and I have got the woman that was appointed for me. I believe these things are as firmly settled in God’s decrees as the certain salvation of God’s elect. But to return –
I went up stairs, and informed my master of the affair, who wrote a letter to a counsellor in the neighbourhood, and sent it by me; which I delivered, and then went with the men to Cranbrook, where I met with the father of the girl and the parish officers. When I appeared before the bench, the magistrates had a written order drawn up, expressive of the sum I was to pay; but I prevented them by telling them there was no call for that, if I chose to marry her. The father of the girl said I should not have her; the parish officers said the same. Their reason for that was, because I belonged to their parish at that time, and they were afraid of a large family coming on them as a parish charge. The counsellor, to whom my master sent the letter, dissuaded me from it also. So I thought I had no right to pay. However, I was given to understand that, as she was very young, I must pay, though the man refused to give me his daughter. However, there was not a year’s difference between her age and mine; and, as she was old enough for a mother, she was old enough for a wife. But I knew no more of law than law knew of me; therefore what they said I was obliged to stand to I honourably paid down what was demanded at that time, and received an order to pay a stated sum quarterly, which I did punctually, until it pleased God to lay his afflicting hand upon me, which occasioned me to quit my place; and, being ill a considerable time, so reduced me to penury, that I could not pay it. Being again afflicted at my place at Charren (as is related in my BANK OF FAITH) kept me still poor, so that I found it impossible for me to pay the money: therefore, as soon as I recovered my health, I took my leave of Cranbrook. And after my departure I found my love sickness come on me as strong at times as ever, and I was vexed for consenting to pay the money; because my perpetual afflictions would render it impossible for me ever to do it: and, if I could not, I could never return, for fear of a prison; and all hope of that object, as a wife, was cut entirely off. Thus the door behind me was shut; and, go wherever I would, I carried nothing but the pressures of hopeless love. Conscience also begun to make strange work within for what I had done insomuch that at times my sleep departed from me, and I scarcely closed my eyes for whole nights together: and yet, at certain intervals, cruel jealousy gathered a desperate balm from the crime itself; for I should never have been able to endure the thought of her dropping, as a pure maiden, into the hands of another, after all these fatigues of baffled love. To be plain, I was glad that I had not allowed that beloved prize to escape out of my hands, to gratify and satisfy a rival of mine with the honourable “tokens of her virginity,” Deut. 22:15-20. But, notwithstanding jealousy’s cure, a guilty conscience would often lay open, before God, the wounds healed by that desperate remedy.
However, I kept my vows and promises that I made to her until I heard that she was married to another; and, if I remember right, I heard of her death before I married.
Providence frowning perpetually on me, and the many afflictions that followed me, rendered it an impossibility with me to pay the money. But some time after I was called by grace, and I found the Lord began to smile a little in a way of providence, I went down to Marden in Kent, to a capital farmer, whose name is Mainard, with whom I was well acquainted: and as I had been informed that he professed the gospel, I told him of the dealings of God with me, and begged of him to go to Frittenden, and settle this matter with the parish on my behalf, and that I would shortly remit him the money. He wept when he saw the grace that God had given me, and promised to settle the affair; but he failed of the performance of his promise, which I attributed to his forgetfullness, or the indisposition of his mind to it. Howbeit, as soon as Providence had put a little money into my hands, he sent the parish officers to me; and, though I knew that they could not recover any money of me by law, on account of her marrying, and for other reasons, yet I honourably gave the parish thirty pounds, exclusive of what I had paid before. And now, to be brief with my reader, this crime of mine was blotted out of the book of God’s remembrance when the Saviour entered the Holy of Holies, with his own blood: it was blotted out of the book of my conscience almost twelve years ago, by the application of the Saviour’s atonement: and the receipt that I have in my study shews that it is blotted out of the parish books of Frittenden in Kent.
Thus, courteous reader, I have given thee a punctual account how this matter was settled, both in heaven and in earth; and I believe my dear brethren who have been so busy in carrying the tidings, and who have so often varied in the story, will readily agree to settle it also, as soon as I am laid in my grave: though, to be plain, I do not think that all of them are offended at the crime; but I am afraid some are more offended at the rays of superabounding grace. My reasons for these fears are, because they often mention the former with a degree of pleasure, but hear of the latter with apparent grief. But enough of this: it is only a hint by the way.
Notwithstanding every report that is spread, and every crime that I have committed, I verily believe I shall be found, in the great day, among those “that were not defiled with women, who are called virgin souls, Revelation 14:4. The ground of this my confidence is, because “he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body,” 1 Corinthians 6:18; that is, he sins against his own flesh and blood. “But our vile bodies must be changed,” Philippians 3:21; “for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither can corruption inherit incorruption.” Behold, then, I have shewn (my reader) a mystery, 1 Corinthians 15:50-51. But I must return, and shew my reader another crime, which, according to the judgment of some, is “an iniquity to be punished by the judges,” Job, 31:11; and that is with regard to my name.
Various reports have been spread abroad about this weighty matter, without considering that a person, who is a partaker of two natures, has a just right to two names. Names are subject to change, according to Scripture, unless they are unalterably fixed by the Lord’s shall; as, for instance, “Thou shalt no more be called Jacob, but Israel shall thy name be called;” again, “but thou shalt be called Abraham;” and again, “but she shall be called Sarah;” and again, “thou art Simon the son of Jona, thou shalt be called Cephas,” John, 1:42. And, for my part, I cannot find that any man’s name is fixed by a divine mandate, except God’s shall is prefixed to it. I only drop this by the way, just to let my honest accusers know that there is refuge in Scripture, as well as “hope in Israel concerning this thing;” though I do not intend to exculpate my offence by taking shelter here, because I know that my honest railers will reply that “a man ought to regard the laws of his country,” which is true; but, if a man breaks through a precept, which he is ignorant of both in judgment and conscience, you know that God allows an atonement for the sin of ignorance; and I think no law ought to be made to contradict those of the divine Legislator. If there are such laws, they will not be obeyed by my reader, if he be a Christian. There never was a martyr that suffered but what might have saved his life by some law or other: but, by transgressing the laws of their country, they kept their conscience to God.
But enough of this – I must go on in relating this dreadful circumstance, and that without any hope of reward for my honest relation; for envy allows of no praise; no, not even to grace itself. The wise man says, “Who can stand before envy?” and, if there is no standing in her presence no good name can exist in her bosom.
It has been often observed that, as soon as I have delivered a discourse, some poor souls, that have been refreshed, have stepped up to some, who have appeared to be masters in Israel, with, “How did you like the preacher?” The master’s reply was,” I should like him better if he had not changed his name.” The others have often laboured to justify me in this dreadful crime, by asserting that I went by the name of my proper father. Neither of these spoke truth; nor is it in the power of all my friends to wash this poor Ethiopian clean; and the reason is, because God himself has washed him; and I believe, too, keeps him clean in the eyes of some.
As I found that envy made the worst of a good matter, and charity the best of a bad one; in order to silence the former, and inform the latter, I said I would publish it myself; “and that I also would shew my opinion;” which I hope will be sufficient, as I am well known to be both an eye and an ear witness from the beginning: hoping likewise that this publication will take off one great part of my present useless labour; for, when I am called by Providence to go into any strange place to preach, I have no sooner dismounted the rostrum, but a whole tribe of my master’s children, like a flight of doves, come down hovering about my name; informing me of the comfort they have got by reading my experience, and now in hearing me preach. But that the Rev Mr. Somebody robbed them of all their comfort by a long and dreadful account, not about my person, nor about my wicked life, but about my name. Here I have had an hour’s hard labour to unriddle this mystery to them; and, while I have been satisfying these poor souls with respect to my name, the fowls mentioned in the gospel, Matt. 13:14, have stole away all the seed that I had endeavoured to sow in their hearts; – and thus the devil has gained a trifle by this name. But, as the name is of my own raising, I am determined to forestall his market, and make a penny of it myself. As for the devil’s children, they are rich enough and none, I think, can be offended at me for getting a trifle by my own name, for surely I have as just a right to gain by trading as he has.
When I have given an exact account of this puzzling mystery, I shall endeavour to appeal to all sorts of courts for justification: and, if any of my friends in disguise can point out any statute, divine or moral, that brings me in guilty either of death or of bonds, I hope they will point it out to me in answer to this, that I may have an opportunity of casting the lot on him for whose cause this storm is come upon us. So much for the history and introduction; – now for the mystery and explication of this name.
Be it known, therefore, to all those to whom these informations shall come greeting, that, when I left Cranbrook, I went to Tunbridge Wells, where I first got into work; and after that I engaged with a man who kept a hearse and mourning coaches; but when the season was over I fell sick, and left my place; and, as money failed, I was obliged to lie in a stable with the ague and fever, until God was pleased to restore me to health, which happened just as the last half-guinea was called for by the doctor. After my recovery a person gave me a shilling; and with that sum I went to Lewes in Sussex the first day, from thence to Brighthelmstone, from thence to Shoreham, and crossed the Ferry from the sign of the Woolpack to Broadwater at twelve o’clock at night; and then, for the want of money, I lay down under a hedge. In the morning I arose, and walked to Arundel, where I got work, and wrought for a few days, and lodged with my master, who seemed very fond of me, and much pleased with my work; but, as my heart and head found no settlement, there was no settlement for my feet; therefore it came suddenly into my mind one night, vast before bed-time, to set out for Chichester. My master tried to dissuade me from it, but in vain; my head was at work, and my feet must work also; so I reckoned with my master, and I think I had a shilling and some few halfpence to take. With that stock I went to Chichester, and arrived at the city gates between eleven and twelve o’clock; but, as they were shut, I went into a field, in which was a hovel, and in that hovel there was a cart, into which I got, and slept till four o’clock in the morning; and then I arose, with little, and not much more feeling than a corpse. By the time I had recovered the use of my limbs the city gates were open, and into the city I went, walking about it as long as I thought proper, and then I refreshed myself with the shilling that I had saved. And with a few halfpence I set off, with an intent to come to London, which was no more than sixty-two miles: but, when I came to Guildford, I was in a great strait – I was cold, weary, and faint; my money was all gone; and I had nothing that I could part with but a very good handkerchief, which I gave to a woman that kept the sign of the Blue Anchor, just at the foot of the bridge, for one pint of beer, two pennyworth of bread and cheese, and a night’s lodging. And on the strength of that supper I arrived the next day at Epsom, where I got work, and stayed for some months; when another wandering fit took me, and I then set off to Knockwell Beaches, adjacent to River-head in Kent, where I wrought a little while. After my departure from thence, and taking various rounds and turnings, I found myself at Stratford in Essex, a few weeks before Christmas. And here I wandered after employ until my money was all gone again, and I was obliged to lodge under a hay-rick, at Lower Layton, in very cold frosty weather: and during this frost I was obliged to fast three whole days and three nights; and I think, had I fasted a little while longer, it would have put a final stop to my wandering. But God had designed me for other work; and grace was to appear when it was truly needful.
I have not mentioned the above circumstance with a view to move Envy to pity; no, if I can put her to shame, and stop her mouth, it is all that I expect. I have mentioned it chiefly to let my friends know that I had in a measure paid for my folly before they began to pay me off “with the scourge of the tongue.” After that long last, Providence opened a door for me to get bread. I went to work at digging tip potatoes, in the company of threescore Irishmen, and wrought for a farmer whose name was Moles.
The next wandering motion took me to Danbury, where I worked till I fell sick, as is related in my BANK OF FAITH. From thence I went to Malden, and from thence back to Danbury from thence to Chelmsford; from thence to Billericay; from thence to Hornden on the Hill; from thence to Tilbury Fort, and over to Gravesend; and from thence to Greenhithe, where I got work, at making a new kitchen-garden for a gentleman, whose name was Colcraft.
And now I have brought my reader to the very spot where this wretched name first took its rise; and I intend to be as punctual as possible in the recital of it, that every word may be established.
Having got work at Greenhithe, I walked out by myself, and considered matters in the following manner: – I said, ‘I am in danger here – this place is not above twenty-eight miles from the place where that little son and heir of mine lives, that has caused me all this wandering. I am now going to work not far from the main road that leads to the town from whence I came – I shall certainly be seen by somebody, who will gladly report the matter. If I could have paid the quarterly money, I would not have left my native place, which was at that time so dear to me. And, had I but clothes now, fit to be seen in, and money in my pocket, I would most gladly go back to my native place, and discharge the whole affair; but this ague following me perpetually, will render it an impossibility for me ever to appear decently clothed, or able to pay the money. But is there any hope of marrying the woman? No. The father refused – the overseers refused – and the magistrates refused. And, if the father denied me his daughter when I was well dressed, and had a little money, will he consent now, seeing I am all in rags? – No; there is no ground of hope there. And suppose the officers were to come after me – I have no money. True; but, according to the report of some, there is such a thing as lying in jail a whole year. Well, be it so – that confinement would not be much worse than my present liberty. But then consider how you would be dragged about from one Justice of Peace to another, in your present dishabille; and what a figure you would make in all your ragged, tattered condition! True – that indeed would be worse than death itself; there is no ground for hope here; therefore the best step that I can take is, to keep out of the way – “No catch me, no have me.” And, if ever I should get up and prosper in the world, I will carry the money down, and pay it off with honour. But, alas! here is another evil started; and this is, I am informed that people advertise the names of persons on such occasions, and promise a reward to the informer; and, if this should be the case, there are enough that would bear tidings for ten shillings, if not for ten pence. This, said I, is a weighty point, and ought to be well considered. And, if I change my name, I fear there is danger in it. Here I need both counsel and caution which course to steer, so as to escape all these dangers. My parent’s name is HUNT, and the man who is my real father, his name is RUSSEL. But then he has got sons in good circumstances, and they may sue me for assuming his name, though their father never disowned me. If I change my name the law may follow me for that; and, if I let the present name stand, I may by that be traced by means of the newspapers. There is but one way for me to escape, and that is by an addition; an addition is no change, and addition is no robbery. This is the way that iniquity creeps out of so many human laws. When the thoughts of an addition started up, “Well thought on, said I, it is i, n, g, t, o, n, which is to be joined to H, u, n, t; which, when put together, make Huntington.” And thus matters were settled without being guilty of an exchange, or of committing a robbery; for the letters of the alphabet are the portion of every man. And from that hour it was settled; nor did I ever make a single blunder for any body to find it out. The wisdom and assiduity, that I shewed in the contrivance and quick dispatch of this business, are a sharp reproof to the sluggishness of my informers; for there are some hundreds of them that have been labouring for years in pulling this name to pieces, and they have not removed one letter of it yet; when I, though a very indifferent compiler, fixed it in less than an hour.
With this name I was “born again,” and with this name I was “baptized with the Holy Ghost;” and I will appeal to any man of sense, if a person has not a just right to go by the name that he was born and baptized with. I had no name before my first birth; the name was conferred on me afterwards; but I had the name Huntington before I was conceived the second time, and was born again with it; and thus “old things are passed away: and behold all things are become new.” But there are some who want to patch an old name on a new creature, which they have no express command from God for.
I suppose my reader is desirous of knowing whether my first born son be alive or not; to which I answer, ‘Yes, he is;’ and, if God should enable me, I intend, when I can spare a little money, to take a present in my hand, and go down and see my son before I die. He is, I believe, at this time, in the twenty-second year of his age, and lives with a reputable farmer at Tenterden, eight miles from Cranbrook, in the Weald of Kent: and those, who pretend to be skilful in family likenesses, say that he is so exact a copy of his father, both in humour and in person, that it is impossible the image of the parent can be extinct while the son liveth. What name he goes by I know not, nor have I had time to inquire, I have had so much to do about my own.
But perhaps my reader may desire to know the reason why so many good men make so much ado about a name, when I have given them all my name at full length, and more than all; and, if they choose, they may cut the addition off, if that will please them; but, for my part, I shall never do it, for I am no friend to wavering principles.
To speak the truth, as in the presence of God, it is not the name that gives the offence; if it was, the profane would throw it at me; but there never was more than one of that number that mentioned it to me. Nor is it any thing amiss in my life that gives the offence; for, if it was, every godly man, especially those that know most of me, would slight me; whereas, instead of that, they love me. But, to be plain, it is the grace of God, that has been abundantly upon me, (though the chief of sinners) that has given this great offence, and which is lathered on my name, being ashamed to saddle it on the grace of God. But perhaps my reader still replies, “Is it not strange that many whom I believe to be godly men, should speak so much about your name, &c., when they evidently see and hear that God condescends to own your ministry.” No, my son, (or my daughter) it is not; for you must know, when ministers of Christ begin to wax proud, and to shine in their rings, and get a little puffed up with sufficiency, that God, in order to humble his servants, sends some poor, despicable, unpolished instrument among them, with a little of that fire which they have left. The report of this light and heat reaching the ears of these consequential men, provokes them to jealousy. The devil takes an advantage of this, and appears an advocate in behalf of their pride, which is his own client: and then sends Envy into their hearts, as an adviser and dictator.
Then Envy represents the warm preacher as a rival of their honour, and that the rays of his grace eclipse their glory. Such a one finding his dignity in danger, endeavours to establish his reputation on the ruins of his brother’s good name. And, to accomplish this, he traces the pedigree of his supposed rival, without any regard to his conversion to God, or to the grace given him by God, “who gives liberally, and upbraideth not.”
As Envy is the root of this, who can find favour?
None but the flattering hypocrite, that blows it up. Envy never spares her own nurse, much less her rival. The devil wanted to send this bane into the heart of John the Baptist against Christ, by some of John’s own disciples; but he failed in his attempt. And Joshua was sent with the same ingredients to Moses against Nadab and Abihu; but Moses refused it, and wished they were all prophets. The disciples, you know, had a long dispute by the way for superiority; but, when the Saviour asked them what they disputed about, they held their peace, being ashamed to own it. So it is now, or else they would never father so much on an empty name, which can do neither good nor hurt. But, as the disciples began the dispute, we endeavour to carry it on; and it is about superiority that all this noise is made, and that is the real truth. I have learned this in the school of my own heart; and there is a deal of it to be found in the scripture lists of saints’ infirmities. But, when we come to sit down in glory together, the Rev. Mr. Huntington and base Mr. Hunt will be in sweet harmony with the holy Mr. Information, the diligent Mr. Circulation, Dr. Bigot, Parson Narrow, and that good old Catholic the Rev. Mr. Jealous; and they will all gloriously unite, and harmonize together, in celebrating the eternal praises of the triune Jehovah; and that for ever and ever. Despicable Leah will appear without her tender eyes; Paul without his weak speech, or contemptible person; David the adulterer shall appear among them “that were not defiled with women;” and Abraham the idolater an admirer of the true God; when Charity’s mantle shall be a sufficient and eternal covering for all; and Mortality, with all her train of infirmities, shall vanish, and not leave so much as a spot or wrinkle behind her.
But, as we have started this name, we will endeavour to pursue it, if it be through all the thousands of Judah. I shall now inform my reader, first, how this name got out of cover; secondly, who they were that first got the scent of it; and, thirdly, the diligence of those who divulged it to the world. First, then, I was married by this name; and I kept matters so secret, that even my wife was a stranger to it for nine years. I expected, when I told her, that she would have been greatly surprised at it; but she took no notice of it, having more regard for the man than the name; so I escaped “the scourge of the tongue” from that quarter.
After I was called by grace I mentioned the same circumstance to a good man, who was an intimate acquaintance of mine; and, after that, to some other friends; for I became very much distressed about it: not that it appeared by scripture to be a sin nor did my conscience ever condemn me for lengthening the name; nor is there a command that prohibits it; “and where there is no law there is no transgression.”
I was afraid, however, that the cause of God would suffer by it, if the report should get into the mouth of fools. To alter it I could not, because I had lived within twelve miles of Ditton during eight or nine years. The last refuge I fled to was to God by prayer, that he would conceal it from the world, to the honour of his own name. And many scores of petitions and tears have I offered up for this favour; but in this I never could preveil, though I was amazingly distressed about it, for fear the gospel should be despised on my account.
Secondly, to shew how this name was discovered. It came to pass that I was invited to preach at Sunbury, in Middlesex, where I had formerly lived in the capacity of a gardener, and was well known by the name of Huntington. While I preached there, we were very much persecuted; and, as I was legally authorized, we were determined to put the law in force against the rioters. While this affair was in hand, there came a carpenter to hear me preach, whose name was Richard Hughes, and who had been a professor of religion. He never came to make himself known to me, nor did he speak to me; but went away, and informed the rioters that he knew me; that he came from the same town; that he went to school with me; and that my name was Hunt. The rioters would not believe it, as they knew that I had lived at Sunbury some years before, and that I then went by the same name. This professing countryman of mine took the pains to travel down to Cranbrook; and there he went to a poor sister of mine, and reformed her of me; that I was in good circumstances, and that, if she would send a letter by him, he could get a little money of me to supply her wants. Accordingly a letter was procured, containing an account of her necessities, and directed “For Mr. William Hunt.” This letter was brought to Sunbury; and, when the next lecture night arrived, it was delivered to me at the door of the meeting, in the presence of near one hundred rioters, to confirm them in the truth of his report respecting the name. The man made himself known to me. I received the letter, went in, and wept bitterly; but, blessed be Christ, he has fulfilled the promise which he made – “Blessed are they that weep now, for they shall laugh.” And I believe I have laughed as heartily in writing this narrative, as ever I wept at the first report of the name; and I think Envy herself will hardly read it without a smile. But my reader may inquire why I write with so much good humour? I answer – It is to let my friends know that, though “they are offended, yet I burn not;” nor do I see why I should; for, though they have loaded my reputation, yet they have not burdened my conscience. A “causeless curse” has no more weight on my spirit than the flight of Solomon’s swallow has upon the earth, Proverbs 26:2. But to return –
After I had wept out my complaint, I went into the pulpit to preach; and how I felt my spirit, in the midst of so many enemies just furnished with matter for reproach, I shall leave those (not my accusers, for I think they are hardened) to guess, who are tender of the honour of God.
This letter-carrier was to appear in Hicks’s-hall against my friends in behalf of the rioters, to see if the circumstance of my name could contribute any thing in favour of them; however, God, in answer to prayer, gave me this promise – “There were they in great fear, where no fear was; for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them,” Psalm 53:5. Which promise he soon fulfilled; for the ringleader of the rioters was discharged from his place; and the other who brought the tidings about my name, was soon removed also.
Now for an account of the person who first got scent of this name.
A good old man, who had often preached for me – one well known in the Christian world, and one that labours hard, and changes often to keep his reputation with all sorts and parties, I do no not mean the vicar of Bray; but one that sometimes stands clerk at a chapel, the name of which is first cousin to a key: though he is one who has imbibed the vicar’s principles; for his conscience will bear a change to suit the times, his doctrine to suit any congregation, and his converse to suit any company; in short, his religion is not like that which is fixed on an “iron pillar and a brazen wall,” Jeremiah 1:18; but it is like a rib-stocking; it will shrink or yield to any leg. Alas! alas! burgesses and aldermen are both subject to change as well as liverymen. What I says my reader, is it my old daddy B______s who thus bore the tidings? Yes, bless his honest heart, it was him. What! say some of my hearers, when we have heard him tell God in his prayer, standing in your pulpit in Margaret-street chapel, that he “was not fit to unloose your shoe latchet!” Yes, but there are some men who are one thing in a pulpit, and another out. If he felt the hypocrisy of his own heart as bad as I see it, he might be humble enough to say so. When speaking to God, Balaam did as much; but, when the devil and he got together, he changed his voice. So did the vicar; for, though at certain seasons he was not fit to wipe my shoes, yet he thought himself qualified to paint my reputation as black as a devil. And he circulated another worse report: but, when he found my friends were determined to put him in the spiritual court for it, he forged a letter, or else got it forged, to recall what he had said. And is this my old daddy B_____s? Yes, and I will prove all that I have said to his face. Now for the indefatigable labours of the good old vicar.
The vicar went down to Sunbury to preach – vicar I call him, not choosing to make too free with his name, though he has made very free with mine; “but not in truth, nor in righteousness.” The vicar, having received the tidings, carried them to a good old man, a preacher in the city, and one that talks much about the excellency of a catholic spirit: and the spite and malice that he has shewn against the poor coal-heaving protestant, sufficiently prove that he is of a catholic disposition.
I shall not prey upon his name, though he has preyed upon mine these three years. I heard of the trade that this good old man drove with this name of mine from all quarters; and, if I hear much more of it, “I will remember the deeds of Diotrephes which he doth, prating against me with malicious words, and not contented therewith,” 3 John, 10; and I will anatomize him from the press, and make as free with his name as he has done with mine; for I suppose he has considered this text, Matthew 7:12, and has done as he would be done by.
The vicar having spread this report to the good old Diotrephes the catholic, he returned to Richmond; and in his way from Richmond to Kingston, where he was going to preach, he called on Mr. Chapman, my valuable friend, at Petersham, where he put this name of mine, and other things, up at auction: but, as there was neither puffer nor buyer, Mr. Chapman turned auctioneer, and knocked all the lot down to his own conscience, by telling him that the devil had stirred him up, and sent him out, on purpose to render my labours useless to the people. The good old hawking pedlar set off with his fallen countenance, and took care never to appear there any more.
From Petersham he went over to Kingston; and, after he had rended his goods, mounted the rostrum. I wish I could have disguised myself, and have been admitted to the presence of the vicar, I would have asked him to offer his thoughts on this subject – ” Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people” Leviticus 19:16. And, if he had handled his heads of doctrine properly, he would have condemned,
1st. His assiduity – he was going up and down.
2nd. His popularity – he was going among the people.
3rd. His labour and profession – he was bearing tales. And,
Lastly, He must have proved the unlawfullness of his calling –
“Thou shalt not do it; thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.” If the hawking pedlar had dealt thus faithful in the covenant, how could the vicar escape? especially if the Judge of quick and dead should take his threatened advantage of it! “Out of thy own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that teachest a man should not steal, dost thou commit sacrilege?” Dost thou plunder the reputation of pardoned sinners, and mump from house to house on the gains of tale-bearing? Dost thou not know that those, who are brought to trust in the beloved, are “to the glory and praise of God’s grace?” – and wilt thou take away his glory for ever? I believe the vicar has deceived many; and my judgment deceives me if his seared conscience has not actually deceived him.
I was so distressed when this report first went forth that I could scarcely close my eyes to sleep, it was such a sore burden on my spirits. Had I been possessed of money enough, I would have left the nation, I was so troubled in my mind for fear of bringing a reproach on that blessed gospel that has done so much for me.
At times I awfully rebelled against God himself; saying, “Why, Lord, didst thou not keep me from sin when I was in my youth, as thou knewest what thou hadst pre-ordained me to? or, if this did not seem meet, why didst thou not hear my many prayers, and hide it from the world, to the honour of thine own name? or send me wherewithal, in a way of providence, that I might leave the nation; or turn me out of the ministry, and let me spend my days as a private Christian, and not let the cause at large lie under a reproach on account of me?”
But all petitions could not preveil. Abraham’s idolatry, Jacob’s lies, Moses’ murder, David’s adultery, Solomon’s apostacy, Paul’s bloody persecutions, and the Rev. Mr. Huntington’s forged name and first-born son, must all come to light; for all trust in, and boast of, a well-spent life must be cut off – that no “confidence might be placed in the flesh” – and that the world might see that the greatest of grace could condescend to an ingraftiture in, and thrive and flourish on, the basest of men. By this means grace appears in all her lustre, and nature in all her pollution.
And they that have felt the terrors of God for sin, and the mercy of God in pardoning it, need never be at a loss for matter to sing the praises of God; for such may “sing both of mercy and judgment,” Psalm 101:1.
After the Lord had permitted this report to lie as a clog on the head of pride for about two years, he was pleased to take all the grief of it wholly from me. And, when I saw what labour and travail it brought upon the minds and legs of poor hypocrites, who were obliged to weary themselves in circulating it, it became the subject of my laughter. I evidently saw, also, that God worked by it; for several, who are of the same stamp of the good old vicar aforesaid, who had long appeared in the eyes of some of my friends as tender, loving Christians, when they brought these tidings of my name to them, and related it with a degree of pleasure and delight, my friends were astonished that people, whom they had held in such high esteem, should make so hearty a meal upon ashes, when they knew that “dust is to be the serpent’s meat” And, when some of my friends told them that I had related it to them myself long before, they appeared confused; shame covered their faces; and they went off, grieved, that the devil had so befooled them as to make them pull off their own mask. And, as shame sent them off, so conscience kept them off, and by that means they were purged out from among us.
Some preachers, too, who talk much about a mantle of love in the pulpit, have appeared to make a cordial of the relation of my sin, but to turn sick at the hearing of my ministerial success; have appeared in the eyes of simple souls unmasked; and consequently such have unpinned their faith from their sleeves, and looked a little more to Jesus, finding their faith could not stand in the appearance, nor yet “in the wisdom of man; but in the power of God” only.
Thus God has used this name of mine as a fan to purge out hypocrites, and to disjoint the faith of some simple souls from some preachers’ masks: and I doubt not but he will use it as a hot iron to harden some reprobates; and likewise to bring many out of curiosity to hear me, to whom God will make me a blessing. Thus God works by this name of mine; he works by my tongue, and he works by my pen; for I believe he has condescended to work by every book that I have written: and I know he will work by this narrative also; for he will send it into the hands of some poor sinners, who are labouring under the guilt of the same sin; and, when they see that I have obtained mercy, it will shew a ground of hope to them, and then he will make them acquaint me with it, to my comfort; for I am sure it is God’s will that I should publish it; which I gather from my first abhorrence of and reluctance to it; from my late willingness to submit to the publication of it; from the good men that advised me to it, and from the comfort I have found in doing it.
Thus, courteous reader, I have shewed thee the rise of this name; the progress of it; the secrecy of it; how this name first started from its covert; by whose nose the scent was first caught, and by whose intrepidity it was hunted into the world; the many petitions that I put up for its concealment; the heavy and long grief that it was to my soul, and the diversion that it has afforded me since.
And now I shall shew,
First, That grace took a sweet advantage of my folly,
Secondly, I shall endeavour to exculpate myself, as well as I can, by negatives.
Thirdly, Carry on the same vindication by positives.
Fourthly, I shall prove that all my accusers are guilty of this crime they charge me with; namely, lengthening names; and so turn the tables against them.
Fifthly, That others have taken the same liberty in conferring names on me as I did myself.
And so conclude with an awful word of caution.
First, I am to shew that grace took a sweet advantage of my folly. It was the death-warrant of Pharaoh that made Moses forsake Egypt. And in the wilderness Providence sweetly appeared, when Moses and seven women had a battle with the shepherds in the land of Midian about water, to water Jethro’s flock, for which hospitable act he was invited to the house of the priest, Exod. 4:15-21; in whose eyes he soon found favour, and became his son-in-law; and, if I am not much mistaken, Moses was the spiritual father of his father-in-law. I believe Moses was instrumental in begetting Jethro to a lively hope, as well as his daughter with child; and thus Moses was, in a double sense, fruitful in a strange land; which may, I think, be gathered from the eighteenth chapter of Exodus, both from Jethro’s counsel and God’s approbation of it, as well as from Moses’s blessing and Aaron’s sacrifice. In this family Moses was to dwell until the time came for him to meet his God at Horeb, and there receive his mission and commission, and go about that work to which he was pre-ordained, and to which he was born, and for which he was preserved in the river Nile.
And so it fell out with me, I was naturally very fond of my own native place, nor could a trifle have weaned me from it; but a living witness of fornication drove me from it, and extreme poverty prohibited my return thither; which I could not help, for it is God that maketh poor and maketh rich. Being shut out of my own native place, and having had my fill of rambling and of distress, I was led at last, in the appointed moment, to the decreed spot where I was to meet and see the God of Moses, and receive in a vision that glorious mystery that I was to preach, and which I believe has, under the blessing of God, been applied to the salvation of hundreds.
This leads me to the second thing proposed; which is,
To exculpate myself, as well as I can, by negatives.
First, then, it is evident to all men that I did not change, nor add lo, my name to get an estate, as many hundreds have done who are counted blameless. Secondly, Though my vicar, and others who have been so busy with my name, are charged with the sin of covetousness, yet they cannot father that sin upon me; for I paid for the child as long as I could, and went down to get a person to pay the remainder for me, even before I could pay it myself, and at last borrowed some money, when I cleared it off?, though I knew at the same time they could not recover any by law. Thirdly, No man can condemn me for lengthening my name, neither by precept nor precedent from the Word of God. “Saul the persecutor” was changed into “Paul the preacher.” Both the name and occupation were entirely new. Fourthly, HUNT was not my real father’s name, and therefore I had no right to it, nor to be called by it; which leads me to my third head, namely, that of carrying this vindication farther on by positives.
First, God declares that some of his elect shall alter their names, yea, both surnames and Christian; as it is written, “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel,” Isaiah 44:5. Thus my reader sees that I have leave from God to go by the name of Jacob, if I please; and Israel may be my surname, if I like to take it: but, as I have not supplanted any body, I do not like to be called Jacob; but an Israelite, through grace, I believe I am. As I do not wish to adopt the name of Jacob, I choose to stick by my present name, which is expressive both of my state and calling. For instance, WILLIAM signifies defence, and “I am set for a defence of the gospel,” Philippians 1:17. HUNT signifies a chase; and, as a preacher, I am called “a hunter,” Jeremiah 16:16; and my business is to hunt subtle foxes, Ezekiel 13:4, Cant. 2:15, out of “their refuges of lies,” Isaiah 28:15, “and out of the holes of the rocks” of error, Jeremiah 16:16. – ING (the second syllable of my surname) ends many words expressive of bad actions; such as fornicating, lying, swearing; and it shews that, through rich grace, I have been brought to an end of these things: and I wish my dear friends would adopt this syllable also, and leave off the trade of railing. TON (the last syllable of my surname) hath a twofold meaning, and signifies, first, a weight of twenty hundred pounds, and is expressive of the number of poor souls that are loading my name and reputation with reproach, in hopes of “adding affliction to my bonds.” TON, in the second sense, signifies a large cask, and is expressive of my being “a vessel of mercy,” and of my need of much grace to make me so. Thus, my name being so suitable to my present state and calling, and expressive of so many things that suit it – as, first, defence; secondly, chasing hypocrites; thirdly, the end of a wicked course; and, fourthly, of a vessel of mercy – then who but a hypocrite would wish me to alter it? and, if I did, who could furnish me with a better?
Fourthly, I was to prove that all my accusers have been guilty of adding to names more sacred than the name of Hunt (which is but the name of foolish sport at best), and so turn the tables upon them. First, there are several who call themselves ministers, clerks, saints, Christians, believers, &e. Remember, I do not say they are such, for their works leave me in doubt of that; therefore “God forbid that I should justify them till I die,” Job, 27:5: but I say they call themselves so; and yet some of these can reproach, rail, backbite, tattle, carry tales, &c. Now couple these assumed names with their calling, as I have done mine, and see if they do not sound more harsh than Huntington. For instance, a reproaching minister, a tatling clerk, a tale-bearing Christian, a railing saint, and a backbiting believer. Do not these names sound worse than mine? I hope they will either take away the sacred names, or lay by the wretched craft. But, says my reader, they would be ashamed to go by such names. True; but they are not ashamed of that scurrilous drudgery that entitles them to such additional names.
Thus, reader, I have endeavoured to turn the tables against them, and have vindicated myself as well as I can, with truth on my side.
The addition to my name has cost me some money too, though I had no act of parliament for it; for it came to pass that, after I had preached a while at Sunbury, it was proposed to build a little meeting-house on the man’s ground at whose house I then preached. I offered to collect a sum for it, and he offered a present himself towards it, and the ground. We gave in a plan, and the building was estimated at fifty pounds, or thereabouts. This place was to have been vested in the hands of trustees, and only used as a meeting-house. I accordingly gathered forty pounds towards it; but was informed that the building came to a hundred, although Mr. Lloyd, who built my chapel in London, said he could have built it for fifty. But, be that as it may, to make this meeting-house more convenient, I took a little house of the person on whose ground the meeting was built, at five pounds per annum, being the usual rent, with a view of cutting a passage through the house into the meeting. The chapel and house were then to have been settled in writings, which the landlord himself ordered to be drawn up, and for which I paid half-a-guinea. When this passage began to be made, the landlord and I had some words; at which I left them, and went no more there. The passage was, however, made, and I paid near seven pounds for it. This passage and meeting was occupied by Mr. Rhine the Arminian; the same person whom I wrote against in my EPISTLES OF FAITH, in answer to his own letter.
The writings which I paid for were not signed. The keys were kept by the landlord; and Mr. Rhine and the landlord occupied the premises. But at the year’s end the landlord came to me for the rent; which I refused to pay, as I had never received the keys, nor used the premises, nor were the writings signed. However, the landlord told some of my friends that he had laid a deep scheme for me. A copy of a writ was sent me; and my landlord boasted that I should not like to go to trial, because of the addition to my name. He had been an eye-witness of my distress of soul at his house, when the affair of my name was first discovered; therefore his lawyer’s letter, and his other writings, were written to me by the name of Huntington: but, in order to open the old wound, Mr. Hunt was put at the bottom by itself. This affair was referred to a counsellor; and the decision was, that I should pay eighteen guineas to my landlord for rent and altering his house, and my lawyer had twelve guineas for his labour. Thus, reader, thou seest that some good people have taken advantage of this name of mine, and have gained a penny by it.
My builder said that he would have altered the premises for the materials; but it cost me more. While the place was building I mentioned it to a person, who gave ten guineas; but who told me that, as I was very poor, and had a large family, it would be more to the person’s satisfaction that I should make use of it for my own family; nay, desired me to keep it as my own; but I gave it to the building. The law-suit with the rioters cost twelve guineas, which was left for me to pay. A person gave me the money, with a caution not to pay the lawyer with it, but to keep it for my own use; but I paid the lawyer with it. So it cost me forty pounds at the first; twelve guineas for the law-suit, near seven pounds the alteration, half-a-guinea the writings, and thirty guineas since! Notwithstanding which, I am represented as one who has dealt very unjustly by the landlord. But God’s word commands me to preach the gospel faithfully, and to live by it, without building for other people to appropriate it as their own private property. When I went down to open that meeting, four of my friends told me I was deceived in my landlord; but I knew the word of God was not always sent to save those who opened a door to receive it. Simon the Pharisee opened a door to receive Christ; but it was Mary Magdalene that ran away with the salvation, while Simon added sin to sin. King Henry the Eighth let in the gospel, but he was no prophet; and this is the case with many in our days. However, I bless God for this: it has taught me an excellent lesson, and I hope will teach me in future to take care of myself. But to return –
I am now to shew that other people have taken liberties to add various names besides my addition. Some have called me parson Sack; and it became so common, that a stranger could not find me out by any other. In London some professors have called me a mystic, others an Antinomian, others a fool, and some a mad man. Thus I go by various names, which are conferred on me without my leave, though some will not allow me to add to my own.
But, alas! it is not the name that gives the offence; it is the unmerited grace of God that has made the change; if it was not, they would not remember against me former iniquities, but admire the change, as others have done, and so “glorify God in me,” Galatians 1:24. The primitive disciples did not rejoice because Paul had “persecuted them aforetime,” but because he then “preached the faith.”
But, if my reader be a tender soul, he may be rather displeased at my writing so full an account of the base part of my life; and think that I should have acted a more prudent part had I retained publishing it to the world. Thou dost not think wisely concerning this; for you must know that God opens his bountiful hand so as to satisfy every living soul; and I believe that God uses me at this time to feed several different sorts of people.
For instance, there are many who have got a little human wisdom in their heads, but are destitute of the grace of God These have taken their seat in the scorner’s chair, and “make a man an offender for a word.” They lie in wait “for him that reproveth in the gate,” Isaiah 29:21; and laugh at a low expression, “even when the poor and needy speak right,” Isaiah 32:7. These watch to catch something out of my mouth, that they may have something to accuse me of; and, if I have made a breach in grammar, or dropped a low expression, then these dogs have barked at the truth, and run off with the bones, while the just have sucked out the marrow. Thus “he feeds upon ashes: a deceived heart has turned him aside;” that is, he is “turned aside to vain jangling,” 1 Timothy 1:6: so that “he cannot deliver his soul” from criticisms, “nor say, is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:20, while he holds it; “for the kingdom of God is not in word,” however fitly spoken, “but it is in power,” however mean the language. Thus my reader sees how these lean kine are fed in the meadow, and how ill-favoured they look after they have tried to eat up the well-favoured.
There are others, who have sat under sound gospel ministers until they have got a speculative knowledge of the plan of the covenant of grace in their heads; and, as they never felt the plague of their own hearts, nor saw the majesty of God in the vision of faith, they have nothing to humble them: therefore they are lifted up with pride, and vainly imagine that they are fit to mount the pulpit. These endeavour to get a few words of the Greek and Hebrew, and then fall to pulling the translation of the Bible to pieces; which work has made deists of thousands, plundered the consciences of many weaklings in faith, and staggered the hope of hundreds. Some good men, too, who have gone on at this work, are not aware of the mischief they have done by it. I have seen enough to embolden me thus to write.
These young bucks of the first head, having picked out a few words of the original languages, set themselves up as critics, and go from place to place to make their remarks upon preachers.
And this spouting frenzy sets them to dressing their hair, and covering their carcasses with grave apparel; and then their old father the devil persuades them that they are within one step of orders. When these gentry come to hear an heartfelt experience delivered, and find that the godly admire it, they are offended at it, and immediately try to pick something amiss out of the preacher’s former life, and to watch for his future halting. If God, in order to feed these foxes, should let his servants’ feet slip, then they magnify themselves together, and utter it all in Gath, and tell it in the streets of Askalon. These are they that “eat up the sins of God’s people as they would eat bread,” not considering that all those “who watch for iniquity are to be cut off.”
Now this narrative of mine is to feed such as these; and, when they have got it, they will, like Delilah, call the Philistine together, and say, Come, for he has told us all his heart; there is not a secret in his locks but our perseverance in calumny and reproach has extorted from him. He has been forced to explain his own riddle: and we will never change his bespattered garments for all his honest confession.
There are others who have watched long for my halting, and their eyes are almost ready to fail; however, they often say, “Watch him, you will soon see what will become of his dreams.”
Some have predicted my fall, and gather all their food from that; their evil faith is the substance of evil things hoped for: but I hope it will be a deceitful evidence of things that will never be seen.
But, if God thought meet to let my feet slip, to give these hungry ones an unclean morsel, yet they would not be permitted to say, “We have swallowed him up.” Blessed be God I can prophesy as well as they, and say, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, for, if I fall, I shall rise again; and, if I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Thus some live upon future hopes.
There is a man, who I believe would fain be wise, that has conceived a great dislike to me, without my ever giving him any offence; and who went to the madman in Shoreditch workhouse to know of him whether I should be saved or not. And I am credibly informed that he has received some comfort from the necromancer’s prediction; which was, that, “if 1 was saved. there would be a hundred and forty-four thousand and one saved.” As an Arminian prophet, he shewed his ignorance of the heavenly genealogy, as all that deny election ever will; for how can I be included among the elect Israelites, which spring from natural Jacob, being a Gentile by birth? – No, I expect to be found among “that number that no man,” whether he be mad or sober, “can number;” which are said to be “redeemed out of every nation, tongue, and people.” But who could think that a wise man should go to an Arminian to fix my future state; when we all know that they have never yet fixed their doctrines, nor their own hearts? – much less fix a Calvinist in a future state of eternal glory.
However, the devil served the school-master as he did king Ahab; that is, he deceived him; for Satan knew when I was born again as well as I did; this I know by his reluctant departure, after throwing me so “often into the fire and into the water to destroy me.”
There are others who follow me only because they at times hear me explain an obscure passage of scripture – these “rejoice in my light for a season.”
Others follow me only because I have sometimes a droll saying, or a witty reply. They turn the gospel into a ditty, or a fiddle. And I am a songster or a musician to such. “Thou art as one that can sing a very lovely song, or that can play well upon an instrument; for they hear my word, but do it not” Ezekiel 33:32.
And there are others that “do the truth, and come to the light,” that their religion may be made manifest to them by God’s word that they begun their profession in God’s Spirit. Thus the gospel is preached as a witness against some – the “savour of death unto death” to others – and to the eternal salvation of God’s own elect. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
Having given my reader an account of the history and mystery of this wonderful name, and of other things that were done in the dark, I shall mention my reasons for publishing this narrative.
I have often been persuaded by friends, but was loth to do it; however, at last I found my mind inclined to the work, from the consideration of Moses writing the account of his killing the Egyptian; which I take for granted he had an impulse from God to do. I have wondered often why I could not prevail with God to hide this dark part of my life from the world; and I believe Moses laboured hard to keep his crime a secret, as well as myself. But I was brought to great fear and astonishment by the first discovery of it, as well as Moses, when he “feared, and said, surely this thing is known,” Exodus, 2:14. And I think God himself discovered his crime and mine too, agreeable to his promise – “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad,” Luke, 8:17.
And the reprobate, whose sins are often hid in this world, shall surely come abroad in the day of judgment, that their iniquity may be shewed to all the congregation; and they shall lie open to all eternity, and that to their everlasting shame and contempt.
In four things I never could prevail with God in prayer, though I greatly importuned him.
The first was to be made perfect from sin in the flesh.
The second was to be hid from the world, and the vanity of it, when I was first brought to the enjoyment of Christ.
The third was, that God would hide the iniquity of my youth from those hypocrites that hate me.
The fourth was, to be kept free from debt, or at least to die clear of the world, that I might not wrong the children of mammon of their god; as I knew, by happy experience, how dear my God is to me, though quite different from theirs. The first prayer was against the daily cross, the lot of every soul that believes; therefore I asked I knew not what. The second was against the word of God, which says, “Doth man light a candle to put it under a bushel? – Let your light shine before men.” The third was against all the scripture list of saints’ infirmities, on purpose to nurse my pride. And the fourth has caused me great searchings of heart; for the chapel debt lies as a heavy burden on met yet I believe I shall see it cleared, and leave the world as good as I live in it, in every sense of the word.
If my reader be one of the enterprising sort, he will, in all probability, say that I may well indulge my beloved sins a little; for this author has found mercy, notwithstanding all his vanity; and a little canting and fornicating may stand with my profession. All that I can say in answer to thee is, that my sins were committed in profound ignorance and unbelief, and that God’s law allows of an atonement for the sin of ignorance, but none for the sin of presumption. And it is an awful truth that I am going to relate; namely, that, where the law allows of no sacrifice, the gospel never allows a Christ – “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” But for a wilful, presumptuous sinner there is “no more sacrifice for sin.” I bless God that he has given me repentance for sin, and the pardon of it; and I hope his special grace will be still sufficient for me. I have now given my reader an honest account of the black side of my life, and shall shew him next the brighter part thereof; hoping the relation of this will appear a ground of hope, and that of the latter a comfortable encouragement to hoping souls,
Thine to serve,