“Though you were a thousand times worse”: James Hinton on the assurance of the Father’s love

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James Hinton on the assurance of the Father’s love

One of the inescapable realities of every believer is that of indwelling sin. Though the penalty of our sin has been dealt with in Christ, until glory the lingering reality of sin remains. Old sins pop its head up once again, and new sins emerge. And like our first parents, our temptation is to run away and hide among the fig leaves of our shame.

In this heartwarming letter, James Hinton (1761–1823) encourages his daughter struggling with the assurance of her salvation.[2] Affectionately, pastorally, and fatherly, Hinton points her to the only cure for her guilt. The solution to her shame of indwelling sin is to see a fresh picture of the Father heart of God—the never-ending, overflowing abundance of love. Nothing good she does will cause the Father to love her more, and no failure will cause the Father to love her less. For the benevolence and loving kindness of the Father far outweighs her sin. Hinton exhorts her to look to Christ the Son—the friend of sinners who “is ever present with you, sees every thought of your heart, and listens with infinite delight.” The most honourable thing she can do is to lean her full weight upon Christ: to flee to him for refuge in his perfect righteousness and sufficient work as Mediator, and trust that, in him, she is fully welcomed into the privileges of a child of God and co-heir with Christ.

This letter sheds light on Hinton as a father and reveals his relationship with his own children: affectionate, compassionate, loving, kind, and eager to see Christ formed in them. But it also demonstrates what Hinton believed to be at the heart of Christian growth: it is by meditating and going deeper into the free and pardoning love of God in Christ that “the heart [is] melted, the tempter defeated, and the soul … comforted and sanctified.”

Though this was penned over two hundred years ago, is this not the temptation of every believer in every age? Time and time again, our sin causes us to be suspicious of our assurance before God the Father. But time and time again, God the Father surprises us with his unwavering loving-kindness, with his unconditional and lavishing grace. Though indwelling sin is an inescapable reality for the believer now, our great hope is in the assurance that in Christ, we share in his status, and so we have the privilege, through the Spirit, of crying, “Abba, Father.”

Letter

Why is it, my dear child, that you, who doubt not a moment of your earthly father’s love, should hesitate to believe the precious promises which assure you of that of your heavenly Father? But you say, you “have never offended the former as you have the latter” … I allow there is no comparison in the degree of offence; but neither is there any, as you well know, in the degree of benevolence and love. His love is without degree—it cannot be equalled even by human guilt; and this, if anything could, must have accomplished the task. The sea of mercy “hath neither shore nor bound.”[3] Behold that dear, that exalted, that condescending Friend of sinners, whom you can never please so well as by giving the fullest credit to his assurance that he is your Friend, your Redeemer, your guide through earth, your portion forever. What a mercy that you have lived to know that such a glorious person exists, is ever present with you, sees every thought of your heart, and listens with infinite delight to every sigh which says, “O that he were mine!” What a blessing that you have lived to see and feel your need of such a friend!

Do not offend him by distrusting him. I know what your views of the human heart are. I had the same at your age, and was overwhelmed by them;[4] but believe me, my dear girl, to accept freely the pardoning mercy of God, to listen to the voice: “Daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee”—this is the only way to have the heart melted, the tempter defeated, and the soul at once comforted and sanctified.[5]Approach, dear child, and touch the sceptre.[6] You cannot render to God a service so pleasing, so acceptable, so honourable to his nature and word, as to put away all your objections on account of sinful nature, hardness of heart, proneness to forget God, and all other complaints, and say, “Notwithstanding all these—nay, induced by them all—I flee for refuge to the perfect atonement and righteousness of the Lord Jesus. By him, blessed Mediator I am assured that God will put away all my guilt, that I shall be admitted, with a full welcome, to all the privileges of the children of God, and heirs of glory.”

“What, though I am such a sinful creature?” Yes, my child, though you were a thousand times worse, it would not prevent your acceptance nor your salvation. You do not think that a father would deceive. On this hope I rest my eternal all. Come, share with me the blessing, and you shall be happy. I do not say, you will be always in a happy frame; but resting on divine truth, you will be always safe. Joyful when in the light, patient and humble when in the dark; but always in the way to Zion, and sure to arrive there at last.

 


More resources from Chance Faulkner

[1] This edited letter was originally published as Chance Faulkner, “James Hinton on the assurance of the Father’s love” JAFS 5 (September 2022): 105–107. Used with permission.

[2] Hinton had two daughters: Sarah Hinton (1796–1813) and Ann (Neé Hinton) Bartlett (1795–1866). For Hinton’s letter to Ann on her marriage see, Chance Faulkner, ed., “‘You will scarcely need another intimate friend’: A letter of James Hinton to his daughter, Ann, on her marriage,” JAFS 4 (February 2022): 65–79.

[3] Isaac Watts, stanza 5 of “Sufficiency of Pardon,” Hymns and Spiritual Songs (London, 1707), 158.

[4] See John Howard Hinton, A Biographical Portraiture of the Late Rev. James Hinton, M.A., Pastor of a Congregational Church in the City of Oxford (Oxford: Bartlett and Hinton; London: B.J. Holdsworth, 1824), 9–12.

[5] Matthew 9:22.

[6] See Esther 4:11.

Picture of Chance Faulkner

Chance Faulkner

Chance Faulkner (@chancefaulkner) manages Union Publishing and oversees the content across all the ministries at Union. He holds an undergraduate degree in Theological Studies from Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College and is a Master of Theology candidate at Union School of Theology. He is a Jr. Fellow of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and the co-founder of H&E Publishing.
Picture of Chance Faulkner

Chance Faulkner

Chance Faulkner (@chancefaulkner) manages Union Publishing and oversees the content across all the ministries at Union. He holds an undergraduate degree in Theological Studies from Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College and is a Master of Theology candidate at Union School of Theology. He is a Jr. Fellow of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and the co-founder of H&E Publishing.