This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
William Huntingdon, a very eccentric personage, who was originally a coal-heaver, and afterwards became a popular preacher of the Calvinistic persuasion. The following account, formed principally from the preacher's own words, was first presented to the public in the first volume of "The Pulpit," 1809. Excepting the circumstance of enlarging his name from Hunt to Huntingdon, which is stated as one of the inevitable consequences of "the follies of his youth," Mr. Huntingdon has already written, with tolerable truth, the greater portion of the history of himself.
He was born, he says; in the Weald of Kent; and" suffered much from his parents' poverty, when young. He long felt other disadvantages attending his birth. Being born in "none of the most polite parts of the world," he "retained a good deal of his provincial dialect;" so that many of his expressions sounded very harsh and uncouth." Of this he complains, with some cause, as it afterwards occasioned numbers of "unsanctified critic? to laugh and cavil at" him. He was first an errand boy, then a daily labourer, then a cobbler; and, though he it. worked by day," and "cobbled by night," he, at one time, "lived upon barley." His first ministerial preparation is thus told :
"I had now (says Mr. H.) five times a week to preach constantly : on which account I was forced to lay the Bible in a chair by me, and now and then read a little, in order to furnish myself with matter for the pulpit. It sometimes happened that I was under sore temptations and desertions . the Bible, too, appeared a sealed book, insomuch that I could not furnish myself with a text; nor durst I leave my work in order to study or read the Bible ; if I did, my little ones would soon want bread; my business would also run very cross at those times." His earnings did not then amount to more than eight shillings per week. Even when his state grew better, when he got his first "parsonic livery" on his back, he could not study at his ease. "My little cot (he says) was placed in a very vulgar neighbourhood, and the windows were so very low, that 1 could not study at any of them, without being exposed to the view of my enemies; who often threw stones through the glass, or saluted me with a volley of oaths or imprecations."This must have been painful enough to one whose "memory was naturally bad." Providence had long furnished him with very superior accommodations. After many years of itinerant and irregular preaching, William Huntingdon," weary of living at Thames Ditton, secretly longed to leave it, fully persuaded that he "should end his "ministry in London."
"Having unsuccessfully laboured in the vineyard of the country," and as he "did not see that God had any thing more for him to do there he, like one Durant of late, "saw the Lord himself open the door" for his removal. He had resolved to be off; and he contrived to get off. He was now, as he himself says, "to perch upon the thick boughs." Ditton was to be left for London. Yet had poor Ditton not been so unkind to him. "Some few years before I was married," says Mr. H. "all my personal effects used to be carried in my hand, or on my shoulders, in one or two large handkerchiefs ; but after marriage, for some few years, I used to carry all the goods that we had gotten, on my shoulders, in a large sack : but when we removed from Thames Ditton to London, we loaded two large carts with furniture and other necessaries; besides a post-chaise, well filled with children and cats "
Being viewed as ludicrous while in the country, he was fearful of being considered as ridiculous elsewhere. I here transcribe his words: "At this (says Mr. H. - having been advertised in Margaret-street Chapel,) I was sorely offended, being very much averse to preaching in London, for several reasons. First, because I had been told it abounded so much with all sorts of errors, that I was afraid of falling into them, there were so many that lay in wait to deceive. Secondly, because I had no learning, and therefore feared I should not be able to deliver myself with any degree of propriety; and as I knew nothing of Greek or Hebrew, nor even of the English Grammar, that I should be exposed to the scourging tongue of every critic in London."
"During many weeks, (he adds,) I laboured under much distress of mind respecting- my want of abilities to preach in this great metropolis." I think this one of the few rational passages to be found in the "Bank of Faith." Mr. Huntingdon here candidly confesses his own conviction of his then ministerial incompetency, and expresses his apprehension as to the probable nullity of his divine mission. His call seems to fail him now. He feels just as most men would feel in the same state, - fears just as they would fear, - and takes the same chance as to the great end he had in view. "During the space of three years, (says Mr. Huntingdon,) I secretly wished in my soul, that God would favour me with a chapel of my own, being sick of the errors that were perpetually broached by some one or other in Margaret-street Chapel, where I then preached. But though I so much desired this, yet I could not ask God for such a favour, thinking it was not to be brought about by one so very mean, low, and poor as myself. However, God sent a person, unknown to me, to look at a certain spot, who afterwards took me to look at it; but I trembled at the very thought of such an immense undertaking. Then God stirred up a wise man to offer to build a chapel, and to manage the whole work without fee or reward. God drew the pattern on his imagination, while he was hearing me preach a sermon. I then took the ground; this person executed the plan; and the chapel sprung up like a mushroom As soon as it was finished, this precious scripture came sweet to my soul, 'He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him : Psa. cxlv. 19.