To Philomela, in the King's Dale.
MAY I not say, Hail! highly favoured, blessed art thou among women, when he that is mighty hath done so great things for thee, in remembrance of his mercy, as he promised to our forefathers in the faith, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever?
It is jubilee with thee; the days of the Son of man are come, days of good things. And would it not be commendable in thee to act the part of the poor lepers in the siege of Samaria; that is, to inform the King's household of it? Dost thou well to feast at the banquet thyself, and to go and hide all the rest? If the Lord forms a person for himself, it is that he may shew forth his praise.
The poor woman with her issue obtained virtue from the Covenant Head privately, and was going to withdraw, in hope of escaping the censure and displeasure of the Jews. With the heart she believed unto righteousness. Thus God prepared her heart; but with the mouth we must make confession unto salvation. This was left undone till God created the fruit of her lips, and then she was called forth to make confession of her faith. By these means the word sounds out, which raises curiosity in some, desires in others, it encourages many, and provokes not a few to jealousy and emulation.
We must render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's. To smuggle foreign goods robs the prince of his revenue; and to hide the heavenly flame under a bushel robs God of his praise. "Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." The nine were self-seekers, moved to pray for a temporal cure only; self-interest drove them to it, and base ingratitude kept them from acknowledging the cure; and, by this art of smuggling the benefit, they escaped the reproach of Christ, which Moses so highly esteemed, and did not lose their reputation among the scribes and pharisees. But, alas! these could have no faith; for "How can you believe," saith the Saviour, "who receive honour one of another, and not the honour that cometh from God only?" We are to weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice. I was in company with his excellency the Welsh ambassador at your groaning, when your bearing pains and birth throes were upon you; and we both took a part of your burden; and I am informed that you felt the spirit of heaviness get lighter upon you from that hour. But where is my part of the caudle? I travailed in birth again and again till Christ was formed in thee. And now this work is done; but what account have I had of it? and, therefore, how can I rejoice? Ephraim is comforted; but there is a promise of comfort to his mourners. And again: "Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters; behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their ways and their doings, and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem; and they shall comfort you when ye see their ways and their doings." Where is my share of this promise? This part of the price is withheld.
The comforts of hope, the testimony of a good conscience, and the pleasing accounts of God's giving testimony to the word of his grace, is the promised reward of the labourers in the Lord's vineyard, and is no small part of the penny a day. If I might intrude upon a little of thy time, I should be glad of some short account of thy calamity when we fell into company at the G____; and how thou earnest into that deplorable state. No small portion of furnace-work has fallen to my share. And, when I saw the anguish of thy soul, I never found myself more sensibly touched with the grief of any person: nor did I ever feel a fuller persuasion in my mind of any person's deliverance, nor more freedom and confidence to predict it, and in the strongest terms; and I plainly saw, at your departure, that neither Satan, infidelity, no, nor your carnal reason, could stand before it; so mightily grows the word of the Lord and prevails. I must confess that, when I heard of thy happy delivery under the ministry of my dearly beloved and most faithful brother in the Lord, I stood astonished at the goodness of God, and at the concurring providences which went before on thy behalf. One friend in our company could not settle his business to return to London with me till Saturday morning. Saturday is a day that I am never from my study, if I can possibly help it. One or two in company pressed me not a little to stay; and those at G____ most kindly invited me to come and visit them, where it pleased God that we were to meet with you, whom I never saw before to my knowledge. And surely God set before us an open door. Our mouths were wonderfully opened to you; and I think your heart was, in some measure, opened to us. And this greatly convinced me that my stay was of God; nor could conscience contradict it; nor was my cruse empty on the Lord's day following on account of it. The favour that I have to crave is, how the troubles came upon thee, and how long thou was left to occupy business in those deep waters; and whether thou wast in a profession previous to those trials or not? Now, as I am engaged in the work of the Lord, and desirous of knowing the wonders that God does in the land, that I may bless him with thee, I hope thou wilt not take this liberty amiss, seeing thou art no more a stranger nor a foreigner, out a fellow-citizen of the saints, and of the household of God; and that thou mayest long enjoy the pleasures, privileges, and communities, of that city, is the earnest prayer of,
Thine affectionate brother in Christ Jesus,