To Philomela, in the King's Dale
"THUS saith the Lord God, I will take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one and will plant it on an high mountain and eminent. In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell," Ezek. xvii. 22. From the royal house of David was this young twig cropped, and on Mount Zion it is planted, where the fullness of the ever-blessed Godhead, which dwells in Jesse's Branch, displays his omnipresence and omnipotence in the souls of thousands of poor sinners, and unites them, as boughs in the cedar, to himself; in which almighty power, love and goodness, manifested and put forth in the heart of the sinner, the soul rests satisfied and contented, and finds and feels his shadow a sweet screen from Satan's fiery darts, and from the piercing sentences of a fiery law. In the shadowing branches of this goodly cedar shall the birds of Paradise dwell. Sing care away, Philomela; for our beloved giveth songs in the night. Sing of his right hand and stretched-out arm, which got himself the victory over thy heart, and over all thy foes. Sing of mercy and of judgment; of judgment past, and of mercy come. Sing of thy well-beloved touching his vineyard, and of union with the living vine. Sing of his glorious triumph, of his dying love, and of his redeeming blood; and sing glory to the righteous. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody; for as well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there; all my springs are in thee."
He that receives his testimony into his heart, namely, that we must be born again, and that he that believes in him shall be saved, and he that follows him shall have the light of life, is sealed; the testimony is come home to his soul with power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; which assurance is the sealing, confirming, and establishing, the soul in the certainty and enjoyment of the testimony received; and of a part and lot in all the blessings and benefits promised and testified of. He sets his hand to the seal that God is true; he subscribes the evidence, and the book of the purchase. "One shall say, I am the Lord's," for he hath taken me as a prey from the mighty; "and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob," saying, I have got both the birthright and the blessing; "and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel," crying aloud, I have prevailed in prayer; I have looked at my beloved till I have overcome him; and I shall be more than conqueror, over heaven and earth, through him that hath loved me; for as a prince have I power with God and with man, and have prevailed.
These are golden days, Philomela! Make the most of them now, while the evil days come not; now, while Wisdom leads thy soul through all her mystic gates, wards, and doom, and exhibits her glorious and visionary scenes before thee. "She stands on the top of high places," Prov. viii.; on Calvary, on mount Zion, and on every little hill thereof; on the mountain of rocks, and on all the ancient mountains, and on the everlasting hills of electing love, and "by the way in the places of the paths." Here she stands, in all these watering places, breathing places, resting places, halting places, and fainting places, in order to give caution, encouragement, refreshment, seasonable counsel, strength, and comfort; by all which they go from strength to strength, "while passing through the valley of Baca." Heavenly showers fill the pools: "I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will make the wilderness pools of water, and the dry land springs of water."
"She crieth at the gates;" and the voice of her cry is, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation, which keepeth the truth, may enter." "This is the gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter."
"She crieth at the entry of the city," saying, "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." "Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Therefore thou art no more a stranger and a foreigner, but a fellow-citizen of the saints and of the household of God. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."
"She crieth at the coming in of the doom." The first doom she cries at are the doors of death's shadow: "Hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?" Job, xxxviii. 17. These doors are the covering and veil that is spread over all nations, Isa. xxv. 7; and the dismal gloom that the god of this world hath blinded our minds with, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine into us, and we should be saved. But Wisdom cries at these doors, saying, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." The light of the Lord penetrates through and opens these doors, and the understanding receives the light, and goes forth in it, and we begin, the doors being opened, with open face to behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, 2 Cor. iii. 18. But, though the understanding is gone forth, the soul is not wholly enlarged: "Light is given to him that is m misery, and life to the bitter in soul."
Then Wisdom leads us to another door, saying, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope," Hosea, ii. 14, 15. Now hope enters in, and expectation goes forth; and the cry of Wisdom at this door is, "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, which spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh; but his leaf shall be green, he shall not be careful in the year of drought, nor shall he cease from yielding fruit." Thus Wisdom rends the veil, and opens the doors of death's shadow, and lets the understanding look out of obscurity, and out of darkness. Then she banishes black despair, and opens the door of hope, when hope enters the soul, and expectation of better times goes forth.
And next she leads us to another door, saying, "They rehearsed all that God had done by them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles," Acts, xiv. 27. The seat or proper place of faith is the heart: "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness," &c. Obdurate hardness and unbelief are the doors that keep the word and faith out of the heart, till a divine power attends the voice of wisdom. But she cries at this door, and her powerful voice is, "As soon as they hear of me they shall obey me." Now faith goes into the heart by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; then our obdurate hardness gives way, the door of faith opens, and the right hand of the Lord makes the injurious bolt of cursed infidelity fly back. The opening of this door dissolves the soul: "My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him," Song v. 4. But still we are not enlarged; for this is but the hole of the door. The bowels move for him, but he is not come in the promised and glorious manifestation of himself. Faith is come, as it was to the blind man healed; but the object of faith is not yet discovered: "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him."
The next door that Wisdom opens is the door of the stronghold of Satan. And her voice at this door is, I am sent" to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house," Isa. xlii. 7. "Son, daughter, thy sins are forgiven thee." And this is a full discharge. Guilt flies, the yoke of our transgression is broken, Satan vanishes, pardoning love flows in, and fear and torment are cast out; the chains of our sins are knocked off, the prison garments are laid aside, and the wedding garment is put on. He puts off our sackcloth, and girds us with gladness.
The next door is the door of mercy. This opens almost of its own accord, as soon as we escape the prison. By Jesus we have access with confidence into this grace wherein we stand. And the cry of Wisdom at this door is, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture," John, x. 7�9. Now this door that admits us into the presence of God, and into communion and fellowship both with the Father and the Son, is God's lifting up the light of his countenance upon us, and giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of himself in the face of Jesus Christ, and a full enjoyment of God's everlasting love through Christ, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. This is the door; for, if God hides his face, who can behold him? and, without being drawn by his love, who can come to him? And, if he leaves a man in 'his own guilt, and under the wrath of the law, by these things "He shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening," Job, xii. 14. Hence it appears that a man must nave the light of the Lord's countenance, attended with his love, before he can enter into the joy of the Lord.
The next door that Wisdom cries at is the door of the wedding-chamber: "And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut," Matt. xxv. 10. Wisdom's cry at this door will be, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, enter the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world." This door will be opened at the first resurrection, after the living saints are changed, and the dead in Christ raised; in which they will be safe, while the wicked are burnt up, and the world with them. And this will be Wisdom's last cry, "Thy dead men shall live; with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs; and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain," Isa. xxvi. 19�21.
Now will the Master be risen up, and have shut the door, after which all knocking and calling will meet with no regard, for there can be no admittance.
Thus, dearly beloved Philomela, have I endeavoured to shew thee something of the paths of Wisdom, together with her mystical gates and doors, as well as I could, and as far as I have been led through them; and through which all regenerate souls pass who follow the Lamb in the regeneration. This "is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: the lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it," Job, xxviii. 7, 8. The lion of the bottomless pit never walked here, nor were any whelps of his ever found there. And to this agrees the prophet: "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed et the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads," Isa. xxxv. 8�10. Numbers are searching to find this path, who never had so much as their face Zionward, but stumble upon the dark mountains in a way not cast up: "The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; because he knoweth not how to go to the city." This is the way that is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath; it is the way of life; and in the path thereof there is no death. The curse and wrath of God attend every other way but this. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Because they seek not union with the true vine, nor have they any regard to the branches in it, therefore their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards, Job, xxiv. 18. And now, what is this highway and a way? The highway is Christ and faith in him: "I am the way; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." This is the highway. And the way, which is to be called, The way of holiness, is following Christ in the regeneration; for such shall sit down with him on his throne.
Thus, Philomela.. I have led thee in the way which, in a state of nature, I knew not, and in a path which, to all unregenerate men, is not known, nor can be, till God make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. Upon all other paths but this hypocrites as well as saints may walk. But no lion nor lion's whelps, no fierce lion nor ravenous beast, no unclean creature, no apostate, no heretic or hypocrite, have I ever met with or found upon this path: the way of regeneration is untrodden and unfrequented by all these. I could wish thee to make a few high heaps, and to set up a few landmarks, to be of use in future times. But nothing of this sort can be attended to at present; for at Wisdom's gates and doors not only her heavenly voice is heard and felt, but all manner of fruits, new and old, are laid up at these gates for his best beloved, Song vii. 13. Hence the pleasantness of the ways, the ravishing voice, and delicious fruit, take up all the attention; so that all advice upon this head is in vain. Therefore sing on, Philomela; for to add to the melody of thy heart, and to afford some fresh matter for the song, is the cause of my sending these to the chief singer on my stringed instruments, Hab. iii. 19.