Letter I

To Philomela, on the Spray, Mount Tabor.

THE long, cold, dreary winter of my beloved sister in God is past; the dismal cloud of Mount Sinai, which hath long rained its entangling snares on thy soul, is now over and gone; the hiding place from the impending storms, and the covert from the dreadful tempest, is found at last; being wet with the showers of the mountains, she hath embraced the rock for want of a shelter. He was angry with me, says Philomela; but his anger is turned away, and he comforts me. "In his favour is life. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

"The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." Israel buds and blossoms as the rose; the lilies of the valley appear among the thorns; those that have long lain self-condemned, among the pots and potsherds of the earth, obtain the wings of a dove, and their feathers shine with burnished gold, while the voice of the turtle bemoans his mate. Nor will he deliver the soul of his turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked, nor forget the congregation of his poor for ever, Psalm lxxiv. 19. Two turtle doves were always offered together under the old dispensation; but one was never offered alone. Jesus died not alone; we were crucified with him. How precious is the sacrifice of a crucified Saviour to poor perishing sinners! And how precious is the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart to Christ Jesus! These were both offered up, and they will ever go together; as in type, so in truth. The voice of the heavenly turtle is heard and understood; and his approving and commanding voice to his mate is, "O my dove, that art in the cleft of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs! Let me see thy countenance; let me hear thy voice: for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." Love in the heart ravishes him, and truth on the tongue charms his blessed ears; while a cheerful countenance, reflected from a joyful conscience, carries all before it, and holds him a willing and a joyful captive to the charms of a mortal's affections: "The King is held in the galleries." How humbling, how condescending, is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, to bow the heavens and come down to manifest himself, and pay his divine visits to rebels, to criminals in chains, who are shut up in unbelief, in legal bondage, and in the strong holds of sin and Satan! But he comes; and "his reward is with him, and his work before him." He enters and takes possession of the purchase of his own blood, and rejoices over the trophy of his own victory; separates the objects of his choice from among the rest of the captives, and espouses the foreigner. What a brilliant train of glory, majesty, and power, attend him when the everlasting doors are lifted up, and the King of glory enters in! Then we bow to his sceptre, submit to his easy yoke, embrace the heavenly proclamation, and with joy unspeakable, come over to the divine standard; while the banner, that he has given to them that fear him, is displayed, that his beloved may be delivered from that fear and torment that is more bitter than death. How wonderful are his works to the children of men! The clay lies passive in the hand of the potter, while he forms the broken pitcher into another vessel, as it seemeth good unto the potter to make it. He enlightens the understanding to behold his beauty, suitableness, and worth; he renews the mind, writes the law of faith in it, and entertains it with heavenly things; he binds up the broken heart, and sheds abroad his love in it; he purges the conscience, and endows it with everlasting peace, and, the witness of our adoption; he informs the judgment, and inclines the will to choose, embrace, and hold fast, the better part, that cannot be taken from us. Truth in the love of it, flows in, and the promises flow in with their richest blessings, in all their sweetness, power, love, and joy unspeakable; while the blessed and adorable Comforter opens them up, explains them, and applies them as nails fastened by the Master of assemblies. He also helps our infirmities in prayer, testifies of Jesus, and of our interest in him, and fills both heart and mouth with a thousand thanks, blessings, and praises. "This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise."

O could we continue in this mount without the company of Moses and Elias! This would be heaven on each. But how often is this sweet enjoyment of his company interrupted. So fearful is the soul of offending, lest he should awake and depart; what weeping, praying, cleaving, and struggling to hold fast, when he is about to withdraw; and what tormenting anxiety, when gone, for fear he should return no more! Then comes that wicked counsellor, that enemy of all righteousness, with a "Where is now thy God?" But he returns again and again, according to his appointed times of life, and revives and renews his visits and his work, saying, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee; in a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy redeemer." So speaks the great Jehovah; so sings Philomela; so I must subscribe.

But the arch enemy will lay many traps for thee in thy new and glorious connexion, in thine exalted state, and in the happy enjoyment of that dignity to which thou art so unexpectedly preferred. And, as thou hast been so long habituated to the legal embraces of Moses, thou wilt find a self-righteous spirit within, that will at all times bend thee that way; and there will be a cleaving to him, notwithstanding all the hard treatment thou hast met with from him. His first wife was a Cushite, or Ethiopian; and all are black, but none Comely, to this day. that are wedded to him. Contending, finding lank, cursing, and accusing, are all that can be expected by those who sue not out a divorce from him. His embraces gender nothing but bondage to fear; and all conception by him is followed with endless soul-travail and fruitless labour; and the whole issue is fruit unto death, and nothing else.

No wedding garment, no ring, no beautiful feet with shoes, ornament those who abide by the side of that husband. "A bloody husband art thou unto me," says the Cushite," because of the circumcision." Then she is sent back; and how long she remained in widowhood I know not However, her father brought her to him again in the wildest; for I do not read that he 'ever went after her himself; and what became of her afterwards, none know. I think he starved her to death: for Moses gave them not the true bread from heaven; they ate manna, and are dead, John, vi. 32, 49. And I think that he hath starved all the wives that he hath had since; and, if at any time he gets a little comfort in his own heart, which makes him appear with a bright and cheerful countenance, he is sure to put a veil over his face, that nobody may look to the end of it but himself, 2 Cor. iii. 13. There is no such thing as living with him, nor with, any of his family. What a life had our poor venerable mother Sarah all the time that Hagar was in her tent. She wanted to be the princess, though she was in bonds; and expected that her spurious son would have been heir both of the promises and of the homestall, till, by an order from the higher powers, they were both banished from the pavilion, which was to be inhabited by the legitimate offspring of the free woman. But, notwithstanding all that I have said, thou wilt get into these legal embraces, veiled, blinded, bound, straitened, barren, lifeless, peevish, fretful, rebellious, hardened; yea, and thou wilt even cleave to these things, as soon as ever the best beloved hides his face, withdraws, and provokes thee to jealousy, in order to try thy love, thy faithfulness, and thine attachment to him; not that he may know how thou wilt behave, but that thou mayest know what he hath done for thee; and that, by his going and coming, by his absence and his presence, thou mayest come to a more perfect knowledge of him, and at a more familiar acquaintance with him. At his departure the old man will shew his head; and when the Lord visits thee he will creep into his holes; for he is truly a night-bird. He cannot endure the light, nor shew his head where divine consolations abound. But, as soon as ever the good man takes his bag of money with him, and withdraws from his spouse, then the owls, bats, and evening wolves, creep forth; but, when the sun arises, they lay themselves down in their dens. At such times we must pray, watch, wait, and look, even from the lions dens, and from the mountains of the leopards; for at these seasons the legal spirit works in a very unobserved way. The soul sensibly feels its loss; its love, joy, and comfort, abated. Consequently it doth not perceive the Lord, as usual, working in it both to will and to do. What is it then? Why, if he be not working in us, we must work for him. Then corruptions rise up, and interrupt us in the performance of our task. At this anger rises; then conscience accuses; then unbelief prevails, and hardness of heart and rebellion follow; and the wrath and the bondage of the law come on, and hold fast; and we are discontented, and fret at every thing, even against the Lord himself. The more discontented we are, in our deserted state, the more we strive, being driven with a hasty spirit; and the more we strive, the faster we are bound; till the light of his blessed countenance darts another healing ray, and the voice of peace rebukes and becalms the storm. Then the Lord returns with double love, and we dissolve in double gratitude. Now Moses holds his peace, and is content. The lion sculks off to his thicket, and the old man faints and dies once more, while we look to the cross. The nails pierce him, the spear lays at him, the cancelled debt-book silences him, and God, shining reconciled in the face of Christ, banishes him. Our old man is crucified with him: but crucifixion is a long lingering death, and the old man dies hard. He is of the same lineage, and in the same state, as the devil his father; both are condemned, both cursed, both are destroyed; and yet both are in being, and we know it to our sorrow. God was with Judah, and they drove the Canaanites out of the mountains; but they could not drive them out of the valleys, because they had chariots of iron, Judges, i. 19. To keep them out of the mind and affections is a great thing; but to root them out of the heart is a work not to be done till we engage the last enemy; I mean death; for, though there is no discharge from that war, yet there will be a full discharge when that war is over; and then there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts. This encounter completes the victory, and the crown awaits the conquerors. Sin and death entered the first paradise, but both shall be debarred the second. The first Adam let them in, and the last Adam shall drive them out. O long-looked-for, blessed and happy day, when and where the inhabitants shall no more say, I am sick! Where sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Where we shall see the lustre of a million suns, who shall shine on us, and shine through us, and with all his fullness satisfy us, and that for ever and ever. So prays

Thy ready servitor,

The Desert.

Noctua Aurita.