To Philomela, in the King's Dale, or Elsewhere.
THINE epistle came safe to hand, and savours a little of the bitter ingredients mentioned in my last. This article is known to all the family, and to them only; nor doth the stranger intermeddle with its opposite. In my last I shewed thee a little of what would befall thee in thy latter days, lest, when these things come on thee, that thou shouldest think some strange thing had happened unto thee; and, if they should continue long, that thou shouldest grow weary and faint in thy mind. Under the old dispensation, as I hinted before, every one that had built a new house, planted a new vineyard, or that was lately married, was to be free at home, and not to be charged with, nor to be engaged in, any war for one whole year. Thou art now building in the temple of the Lord, and wast lately transplanted into the living vine, and newly married to the soul's best husband, and thy year of jubilee is out about next Christmas; near about which time thou mayest expect, either within or without, the alarms of war. When the captain of our salvation takes the young recruits rote the banqueting house he hangs the banner of love over their heads, while he unfurls it in their hearts; which seems designed to let them know that, when their bounty is spent, they must prepare for the field of action. Therefore let me advise thee now, whilst thou art in the presence-chamber, and the door of hope is shut about thee; while his throne is accessible, and he is shewing thee his love; while all his secret mysteries are brought to light, his secret treasures opened and brought forth, and his heavenly riches communicated: now, while his ear, his heart, and hand, are all open; now while the days of his espousals, and the days of the gladness of his heart, continue; and while the bridegroom is with thee, and he tells thee to open thy mouth wide and he will fill it, saying, "What is thy petition, and what is thy request, and it shall be granted thee, even to the whole of the kingdom?" Now, I say, is the time to covet earnestly the best gifts. Seek every love-token, ask every needful grace, every blessing, and every gift, that accompanies salvation. Follow after charity, wisdom, righteousness, peace, in all thy petitions; and crave all the promises, in the power of them, which his liberal heart can afford, with respect to future help, need, and preservation; for I must tell thee again, as I have told thee in time past, that "The time will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it." If thou pursue this my counsel, thou wilt be furnished with many powerful pleas in time to come; and, if thou minute down his gracious words and love visits, these would, in some future time, fill thy mouth with arguments. But, alas! thou art too busy. This harvest will be past, and thy sun will be declining; the shadows of the evening will be stretching out, and the trial of faith be coming on. Satan will plunder thy memory of all the sweet promises thou hast obtained. He will address thee as an angel of light, and work upon all the natural and corrupt affections that thou art possessed of; and shall so influence thy natural passions, as that thou shalt even be at a loss to know from whence they come. Then will he sift up, overhaul, and call in question, all this good work; and, while universal charity is flowing in, the best beloved will be drawing off; and then, like a young wanton spendthrift, thou wilt set down and condemn thine own folly and indiscretion for not adopting these measures; for, during the furnace work, there will be only now and then a standing behind the wall, and a glimpse through the lattice, which provokes to jealousy, and, in the general, terminates in fainting fits and love-sickness; at which seasons the comeliness of the countenance is much defaced; the ornaments of a meek and quiet spirit sullied; gospel simplicity tarnished; the bowels of mercy straitened; and, instead of well-set hair, baldness. The tabret becomes a bye-word; conversation loses its savour, and the words their salt. Lot me advise thee to provide for thyself a few high heaps of witnesses, and to set up a few private landmarks, which shall serve thee in time to come; for the many that are looking to thee, and emptying thy barrel and cruse, will make thee the keeper of their vineyard; and thou shalt by and by confess that thine own vineyard thou hast not kept. To be open, and to communicate, and to tell others what God hath done for our souls, is right. The woman healed of her issue was called forth before the whole company to confess what she had done, and what had been done in her; and it was approved. When with the heart we believe, with the mouth we must confess; for this is being found to return, and to give glory to God. But to make thine own calling clear, and thine own election sure, is, and ought to be, the principal work, and is laying in a good foundation against the time to come. "When I am old and gray-headed forsake me not, O God of my salvation!" saith the Psalmist. And, if thou dost not lay up for a future famine, future times of drought, or future desertions, thou shalt surely complain, as others have done, "O that it was with me as in months past, when God preserved me, when the Almighty was with me, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle, and when my glory was fresh in me!" Lay this epistle by thee, and read it over seven years hence; and then send me word how many lying predictions are found in this scribble of thine
Affectionate friend and servant,