William Huntington (1745 – 1813) preached in London to many hundreds, sometimes thousands, in the latter part of his life. After his death a number of preachers followed in his footsteps, such as William Gadsby, John Kershaw, William Tiptaft and, notably, J C Philpot. The movement changed its name in order to separate from what was considered erroneous and in order to define what was seen to be true and the names ‘Strict Baptist’ then ‘Gospel Standard Strict Baptist’ were applied.
Huntington, and those who followed, denied that the Christian was under law (whether ‘moral’ or ‘ceremonial’) and he advanced a variety of texts to support this : I am crucified with Christ, Galatians 2:20 ; Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth, Romans 10:4 ; ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, Romans 7:4.
Aside from these texts (which are not the subject of this question) Huntington also argued with regard to Old Testament believers - who lived before Moses' delivery of the law, and before the enunciating of the ten commandments to Israel at Sinai.
If no law had yet been delivered, he argues, how then did these saints live ? Such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph ? They are specifically said to be justified and accounted righteous in the sight of God, but how did they live, thereafter, without law to guide them ?
In his book Law and Grace Contrasted Huntington says :
By faith Enoch had this testimony that he pleased God, Hebrews 11:5 ; but without faith it is impossible to please him, Hebrews 11:6. Then faith is a rule that God approves of, and is pleased with. If the ten commandments be the believer’s only rule of a righteous life, what then of Abel who obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, Hebrews 11:4, an entire dispensation before the commandments were given ?
Noah, who became heir of the righteousness of faith, Hebrews 11:7, was certainly without the legal rule of works, when he prepared an ark and condemned the world, by faith, without a law to guide him.
Abraham, the friend of God and the father of the faithful and heir of the world must also walk uncertainly [if only law could truly guide him (edit)].
I think it is important to notice that Mr Huntington is not arguing about justification by faith (and how it is achieved), he is arguing regarding a sanctified life, thereafter.
This argument, regarding saints who died before the law was laid down, is that which engages me and I would be interested to know what Protestants have made of it.
I am aware that some Protestants have not accepted what Mr Huntington preached and indeed many have called him, inaccurately, an ‘Antinomian’.
But what do they make of this argument regarding Old Testament saints ?