To Philomela, in the King's Dale
THY savoury, unctuous, and rapturous epistle is safely arrived. Nothing now (since the operations of her late banquet on dying love, and her godly sorrow, and her kind reception) seems to be wanting to complete the glorious work of conversion, regeneration, and espousing to Christ. Her eyes have seen that Just One; and she has wept the tears of heavenly love over him in his dolorous sufferings, which hath been attended with a most joyful and assured sense of pacification; and the blessed effects were self-loathing, and such self-abhorrence as is not to be described. This is a secret which is peculiar to the elect of God, when the eternal union between Christ and the espoused soul takes place; and is what no hypocrite ever attained, and what no minister of the Letter could ever describe. Nothing now seems to be lacking in my dear sister's faith; she comes behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of the Son of God. She comprehends, with all saints that have gone before, both the height and depth of boundless love, which passeth knowledge. The Lord hath given her his sure tokens, and the things that accompany salvation; so that in all things she hath proved herself clear in this great matter. Henceforth there can be no enchantment against Philomela; no divination against this daughter of Abraham. I certainly shall, according to my first prediction, see her in the kingdom of God above. This soul-dissolving union, this fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, and being made conformable unto his death in it, is the most noble, the most soul-enriching and soul-establishing work of the holy Spirit of promise; and the sensations of the soul under it produces the choicest experience that ever raised a soul to hope. It silts things to the bottom, and brings all things, yea, even life and immortality itself, to light in the soul. The poor inner appears in all his worst colours, and Jesus the fairest among ten thousand. Not an angel in heaven was ever favoured with such a view, nor is there an angel in heaven that ever felt such a sensation; for Christ took not on him their nature, nor were they ever espoused to him. O the unparalleled meekness, contrition, submission, and resignation, that is felt in the heart of the poor creature when the ring, the robe, and the fatted calf, are brought forth! How the soul is settled and fixed, so as not to leave room for a doubt, a scruple, an if, or a but; for it is assuring us, and sealing us up to the day of eternal redemption.
The Lord certainly is preparing thee for something, my sister. And wouldst thou know what it is? Why, "Abraham made a great feast the day that Isaac was weaned." After this the breast is put up, and a little bitter aloes is rubbed upon it, insomuch that every sweet drop is followed with bitterness, which I call one of the worst perfumes that scent the Saviour's robes: "All his garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia." Thy last Letter explained the myrrh, which is love, for that always stands first; and aloes is the next to it, which thy next Letter will smell of more or less. Ezekiel's roll and John's little book had these compositions in them. You may call them bitter sweets; for they both agree in their confessions upon this matter: "It was in my mouth sweet as honey, and when I had eaten it my [heart] belly was bitter." When the suckling times are over, the lamb is taken out of the bosom and turned adrift, being ordered to go behind and to follow the shepherd. This treatment is dreadful, and what was never expected. And now, instead of the word affording sincere milk, it is a dry breast. The little one finds no spoon meat, no bearing upon the sides, no kisses from the lips, no smiles from the face, no answers to their request.
"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." And all this is true. But the mother puts the last child down upon its feet among the rest, to make room upon the knee for the new Comer. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it. In simplicity be ye children, but in understanding be men." Ay, says Philomela; but my soul desires the first ripe fruit. What shall I do when there is no cluster to eat? Ay, but there is food: "I will send pastors after my own he, art, that shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Not so; "How can the children of the bride-chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them?" True: "But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days." But is he not to gather the lambs with his arms, and to carry them in his bosom? Yes: but, after they are one year old, they are not called lambs, but sheep.
The rams of Nebaioth must minister unto him. When he puts forth his own sheep he goes before them, and they must hearken to his voice, and follow him. But those that are ewes, great with young, must rely on his power, and hang by his hand; for he leads those. But the lambs, which are under a year old, are, in the general, put in the bosom, under the shepherd's cloak, while the love of the shepherd's heart keeps them warm, and the girdle of faithfulness and truth bears them up. But after this they are put among the rest of the flock, and taken to the fold, upon the heights of Israel, where their fold is to be.
A man newly married, according to the old law, was to cheer up his wife for one year, and not to be charged with war. But after this, war and business must be followed, and other young virgins must enjoy their espousals. But O how shall I endure to see the younger daughters espoused, and enjoying their heavenly nuptials, if I should be left to serve, without a smile, without one propitious look, from that Sweet One, who hath left me like a silly dove without a heart! Love-sickness would bring me to my grave, and jealousy would scorch me in the injured lover's flames. I, who have been as a tabret, and banqueted in the wine-cellar so long, shall I ever come, in my love-sickness, to beg a drop or an apple of the young daughters of Zion? or to say, "Stay me with flagons, for I am sick of love?" It all lies in the following prophecy: "For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee." When this comes to pass, rebellion, jealousy, rage, &c. with every other corruption, will rise up and shear themselves with seven heads and ten horns Ay, says Philomela; but I hope in all this thou wilt be a false prophet. Amen and amen, says
Thine in the Lord Jesus Christ,
In The Desert.