To Philomela, in the King's Dale
BELOVED sister in the Lord Jesus, and fellow-traveller in the path of tribulation, grace and peace be multiplied. Your kind epistle came safe to hand; and I thank you for your love in the Lord, and the respect you have shewn to me as a poor servant of his. Am at present better in bodily health than I have been for some time past. Every visit from him, every refreshing from his presence, and every time the old tabernacle totters, I am looking out for the greatest work that was ever done on the soul of a sinner. And would you know what it is? take it then. The promise of this great work runs thus: "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come to us as the rain, as the latter and former rain upon the earth." Hosea, vi. 1�3. Here is Christ, and we in him; "Come, let us return unto the Lord." This is in the Covenant Head; for he it is that engaged his heart to approach unto God, to appear in his presence for us, Jer. xxx. 21.
"He hath torn, and he will heal us." This is the chastisement of Christ, which procured our peace, and by whose stripes we are healed.
"He hath smitten, and he will bind us up," &c. For our transgressions was he smitten; and to bind up the broken-hearted is the blessed cause of this smiting.
"After two days will he revive us." "Christ died, rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living," Rom. xiv. 9.
"In the third day he will raise us up." "With my dead body shall they arise." "Christ died, according to the scriptures, and was buried; and he rose again the third day according to the scriptures," 1 Cor. xv. 4. I know of no scripture which predicts his resurrection on the third day but this, and Jonah's resurrection from the fish's belly.
"And we shall live in his sight." "He hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Eph. ii. 6.
"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
"His going forth is prepared as the morning." He is the bright and morning star which first dawns upon us; the day-spring from on high that visits us; and the sun of righteousness which warms us, and conveys healing to us.
"And he shall come unto us as the rain; as the latter and former rain upon the earth." At conversion he comes down, by his Spirit, as showers upon the mown grass, and as rain that waters the earth. This is saving us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing us by the Holy Ghost. And a wondrous work this is, when all the guilt and filth which we have contracted is done away, and not so much as a spot or stain appears; and a which time such a glorious crop, called the first-fruits of the Spirit (I mean faith, hope, love, joy, peace, praise, life, and righteousness), spring up together, and send forth their sweet fragrance. When the beloved comes into his garden, and eats his pleasant fruits, this work is a most glorious work. But, as sure as the glory of the latter temple exceeded the glory of the former, so sure shall the latter rain produce a more glorious crop than the former; for what wretched roots, that bear hemlock, gall, and wormwood, still remain in the new-born soul! and what access the old fountain of all evil, subtilty, and mischief, hath to his old allies in every believing heart! Who but one could ever say, "When the prince of this world cometh, he hath nothing in me?" Who can say, "I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" Canaanites and hornets are both in God's husbandry, though we are sojourners and dwellers with him. But the righteous have bands in their death; and these are the last fetters that shall ever gall a prisoner of hope; for love is strong as death. And, when charity, which never fails, shall do her last good office in this world, the latter rain comes down, and with its irresistible power beats down and beats out every root and fibre of the old man, and purges out for ever every scarlet and crimson stain of sin, and leaves not so much behind as even the memory of it, then shall faith rise in sight, hope in full enjoyment, and love in her sevenfold heat. And then, but never till then, shall be brought to pass this saying, "And in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts," Zech. xiv. 21. To attain to this, we have apprehended Christ, or rather are apprehended of him. This is that which concerns us, and God will perfect it; for he will not leave us until he hath done the thing that he hath spoken to us of: "To your old age I am he; I will bear, I will carry, and will deliver you." But we must be patient for this coming of the Lord. The husbandman waits till he receives the early and latter rain. Thus far, my dear sister, I have enlarged on this subject according to your request.
The daily cross is intended to counteract the devices of Satan, the workings of the old man, and the pleasing desires of the flesh. But, for my part, this is not all that I expect in the course of my pilgrimage. No; I expect some familiar visits, fresh love-tokens, and confirming renewals, and promised revivals, of the good work, even to the end of my race; for so it is written, he shall confirm you unto the end, 1 Cor. i. 8.
There is a fault, which originates in our ignorance, and common to all young believers; and that is, limiting the Holy One of Israel, or confining or restraining the Holy Spirit of God to one operation, and that is, his influence of love in cherishing and comforting the soul. While these consolations last, the poor believer thinks all is right, and that the Spirit, as the promised comforter, is upon him, and that he is born again, that his interest is clear, and his state is good; but, when these subside, all is suspected and called into question, and the worst conclusions are often drawn; and some, as far as they could, have cast away their confidence, and given all up for lost. And in this way Israel of old, and we as well as they have often dishonoured, yea, rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit, Isa. lxiii. 10. Now let my dear sister observe and consider the following remarks. We are told that "Prophecy came not in old time by the will of mail; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." This speaking as they were moved doth not signify that they spake what they saw, for they spake many things which they never saw: "Many prophets have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them," Matt. xiii. 16, 17. Speaking as they were moved means, that they spake under the impulse and impression which they felt: "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," Gen. i. 2; and "The Spirit of God moved Samson in the camp of Dan," Judges, xiii. 25. And we know that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; that, as there were diversities of motions by the Spirit upon the prophets under the Old Testament, so there are diversities of operations upon the souls of believers under the New; not only diversities of gifts by the Spirit, but of influences. So it follows, "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities operations, but it is the same God which worketh in all," I Cor. xii. 4-6. The prophet Jeremiah was to take the wine cup of God's fury at God's hand, and to cause all nations to drink it. The Spirit moved him with the just indignation of God. His was truly the burden of the word of the Lord; for most of his prophecies contained heavy judgments. Under this motion of the Spirit the imprecations on the. wicked, which so often occur in the Psalms, were penned.
Elijah was moved with the jealousy of God against Idolatry, and with power to oppose it, and with a flaming zeal for God's honour. Hence we read so much of the spirit and power of Elias, and of his zeal for the Lord God of Hosts.
Sometimes the Spirit moved him with the influences of divine wrath. Under this motion the prophet Elisha cursed the forty and two children which were devoured by bears; and under the same influence Gehazi went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
Sometimes they were moved with the pity and compassion of the Lord. Under these motions the kind invitations, encouragements, and those pathetic commiserations, so often to be met with in the Psalms, were written.
Sometimes they were moved with the eternal love of God, a sense of his presence, and comfortable communion and fellowship with him. And under this influence Solomon wrote his love song upon Christ and his church.
Influenced with the bowels of God's mercy, the prophet Isaiah set forth and painted the dolorous sufferings of Christ. Moved with the faithfulness and immutability, the prophets have advanced and enforced the firmness of God's decrees, the stability of his covenant, and the certainty of the eternal salvation of all the elect of God. Thus it appears plain that there were diversities of motions by the Spirit of God upon the prophets; and there are also diversities of operations upon all believers. Every grace is of the Holy Spirit's planting; and he is the life of every grace: and the exercise of every grace depends upon his operation. If this wind blow not, the spices flow not out. Sometimes the Spirit operates wonderfully in strengthening and supporting the believer, by his might in the inward man. "My heart and my flesh fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my Portion for ever." "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul," Psalm exxxviii. 3. To this agrees the prophet: "But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin," Micah, iii. 8. Again: one of his operations produceth sorrow, which arises from a sense of sin, being grieved at it, and hating ourselves for the commission of it, and mourning after God, and after forgiveness and reconciliation with him; which sorrow is drawn forth by discoveries of his goodness, and stirred up by the Holy Spirit, who testifies of Christ to us, and who produceth this godly sorrow, which terminates in repentance. Under this operation Hannah endured her affliction of barrenness and persecution; and under the same she went to Shiloh.
Another of his operations is often felt in prayer: when he quickens us to feel our need; shews us the things that are freely given us of God; furnishes our mouths with arguments, and our souls with energy, till nothing in heaven or earth can stand before us. This is helping our infirmities, and making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
As a spirit of faith, he will at times equip the soul with such confidence, that even things impossible to nature are performed without a doubt, an if, or a but. Under this operation Sarah received strength to conceive; and under the same David met the Goliath of Gath.
And trusts in Christ alone;
Laughs at impossibilities,
And says it shall be done.
Again: when a child of God is called to endure a great fight of affliction, in order that he may endure them, and not be moved by them, he is wonderfully influenced with meekness and patience. Hence we read so much of the meekness of Moses, and of the patience of Job.
In defending and protecting the believer against the cunning craftiness of those heretics which circulate damnable heresies, the Spirit's power is not a little seen in setting truth before their eyes, and in applying it with power to the heart, so as to render it impossible for the most subtle seducer to seduce a chosen vessel. Thus he guides us into all truth, and is called the spirit of a sound mind.
Nor are his influences less upon an awakened sinner, whom, as a spirit of life, he quickens to feel every sin brought to his mind and memory, and the guilt of them; yea, he makes his sensations so keen, that the wrath, the frowns, rebukes, and reproofs of God are all felt and feared; yea, every word of truth that militates against him is felt, and the poor sinner trembles at it; and wonderfully is such a poor creature supported under the weight of guilt and wrath that lies on him, and the sore buffetings and accusations of Satan, though it is imperceptible to him. But sure I am, that no soul, without almighty power and momentary support, can stand upon this ground; black despair, or wild destruction, must ensue. But as our day is so shall our strength be.
The same spirit that convinces us of our sin supports us under our convictions.
Another of his operations is that of a comforter; which comfort is produced by believing views of Christ, and of our interest in him; by shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts; by helping our infirmities in prayer; by applying the blood and righteousness of Christ to us; by witnessing our adoption; and by applying promise upon promise to our souls, while we suck those choice breasts of consolation, milk out and are delighted with the abundance of Zion's glory, and by giving us the first-fruits, powers, earnests, pledges, and foretastes of the world to come; which are streams from the river of divine pleasure flowing from the fountain of life, and are intended to make glad the city of God, the sacred places of the tabernacles of the Most High.
As a spirit of revelation he leads us into the mysteries of the kingdom, and into the secret councils and purposes of God, into his decrees and covenants, and gives us bright views of the ancient settlements of eternity, and of the glorious and rich displays of grace; and leads us to see a blessed harmony in the doctrines of the gospel, and produces harmony in our mind and judgment; and a most sweet peace and tranquillity of soul follow upon these things. An earnest desire to establish thee is the cause of my leading thy mind through the above operations.
As to myself, my heart has long sunk and rose with my country. I view Old England as the seat of the church of the living God, and the valley of vision, Isa. xxii. 1. And, because of the house of the Lord my God, I will seek my country's good. Every time that I hear of any success attending the French I find uncommon energy in prayer against them; and every time they are defeated my soul pours forth her gratitude to my God. In all the circle of my acquaintance, whether in town or country, I do not know one child of God, who really knows his own heart, and the great Physician, but what has an earnest desire, a prayer, and a cry in his heart to God against that base nation. And who furnishes us with these desires and prayers? That God that will fulfil our desires, and grant the request of our lips; for sure I am that the Spirit maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God, but never contrary to it. I believe I have some knowledge of about thirty persons who, in their simplicity, have inadvertently sucked in the venom of Tom Paine; and nothing but barrenness, confusion, guilt, and bondage followed them. But, as soon as God led me to shew his mind and will concerning it, they fell before it; and, by the furnace of affliction and humbling grace, they brought it up, and returned to their rest. But some few that I know have drunk deep into it; and these, like the house of Eli, will not be easily purged, either by sacrifice or offering. They are too wise to be instructed, and too strong to be brought down to submit to the word of truth. No private prayer, nor public warning, hath any effect upon them. And this hath made them manifest to me, and to many more. And I believe in my heart that their wisdom will terminate in their own destruction, because they have not hearkened to my counsel, 2 Chron. xxv. 16. God will destroy the fat and the strong; he will feed them with judgment, Ezek. xxxiv. 16. And I know of no professors so strong, in the worst sense, as those which faithful reproof cannot pull down. But my God will never look to, nor dwell with, any but those who are of a humble and a contrite spirit, and who tremble at his word. An awful proof of this hath lately been discovered. A man who resided not far from the chapel, and who had attended me for some time diligently, and appeared to be a reformed man, and began to call upon God, and kept up prayer in his family, and, as Paul says of the Galatians, seemed to run well, but Satan hindered him, by conveying the sentiments of Tom Paine to his mind; at which time he became a sworn enemy to government, and of course associated with those who could strengthen his hands in rebellion.
Nevertheless, be did not leave the chapel, nor drop prayer in his family. And, though I was often led to bear my testimony against that informal spirit yet be stood his ground; he obeyed not the voice of his teacher, nor was he to be fed with that part of God's wholesome word which tells every soul to be subject to the higher powers. But it was not long before God fed him with judgment; for when I preached the "Watchword and Warning" he was there and God sent it home to his heart and down he went; and when he got home he told his wife that he was a damned man, and that he was in the state that I had described; and from that time he left off praying. Soon after this he got up to Kensington palace; and there he cursed and blasted the king, and told the people that he was king. Some of the military hearing of this, took him into custody; but, perceiving him out of his mind, they dismissed him. Thus he began with that doctrine that holds up the majesty of the people; and, when given up to the devil, he proclaimed himself a king. But, if we are obedient unto death, we shall be more; for, "He hath made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign for ever and ever." Adieu.