To Noctua Aurita, in the Desert.
I HAVE received your epistle, for which I feel more thanks in my heart than I have words to express. I believe I shah ever remain the greatest debtor you have; and I am sure I shall never be able to pay one mite towards it. But I know the Lord will return you fourfold; because he has said," Whatsoever ye have done unto one of these my little ones, ye have done it unto me." You have never yet denied me any one request I have made; the consideration of which emboldens me to come to you again with some difficulty which I have upon my mind. I told you, in my last, that what you mentioned in your former Letter of the latter rain which was to come down on the believer at death, had, in some measure, released my mind from some fears which I have been long harassed with. I thank you for enlarging on the subject. Indeed, the matter lay with much weight on my mind. You mention this passage, viz. that the righteous have bands in their death; and that these shah be the last fetters that shall be broken. I am in the dark what these bands are; but it seems they are to snap at a dying hour. But yet you call the work that is to be done on the soul at that time the greatest work of all. Is it not Strange, then, that my mind should be again brought into bondage under the fear of death? You told me, in a former Letter, that we were travelling in the same path; but, indeed, I think it is otherwise now. But you must judge when I give you an account of my present feelings. And one thing in your Letter confirms me in it, viz. where you say that the daily cross, which is intended to counteract the devices of Satan, the workings of the old man, and the pleasing desires of the flesh, is not all you expect in the course of your pilgrimage; but that you expect some familiar visits, fresh love-tokens, confirming renewals, and promised revivals, of the good work of God, even unto the end. This is the place I seem to turn out of your path; and, indeed, I have at present no such things in expectation. And it seems to me that I am confirmed in this by the word of God. The passage I refer to is recorded in Ezekiel; "But, when the people of the land shall come before the Lord in the solemn feasts, he that entereth in by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south gate; and he that entereth in by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gate; he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it," Ezek. xlvi. 9. The latter part of this verse seems to comprehend my past experience, my present feelings, and my future path, and has involved my mind in much darkness and gloominess; and I am led to believe that I am more interested in the mystical sense of this passage than any one upon earth. And it is this text that has cut off all my expectations of future enlargement while in this world; which is also confirmed to me by what Mr. Hart says in one of his hymns:
And then compell'd to fight,
They find their latter stages worst,
And travel much by night.
The above passage in Ezekiel has been on my mind for twelvemonth past, and I have thought that there has been a great depth in the words; but they never brought any difficulty on my mind till about a month ago, when it forcibly struck me that I was so much concerned in them; and I have also many things to confirm me in it. You have told me, and so have others, that the Lord has dealt with me in a singular manner, both with respect to the degree and duration of those spiritual joys and consolations which I have been favoured with in times past. And what inference can be drawn from it but that which is meant by coming in by the south gate, and that I am no more to return by the way of the gate whereby I came in, but I am to go forth by the way of the north gate? And I believe the north and south gate mean the same operations as the north and south wind. Will you grant me this request also, that is, to give me your thoughts on the passage. I do assure you it is not a matter of curiosity. I do believe you will sympathize with me, and feel for me, and pray for me. This seems to be the sharpest trial I have lately had; though, blessed be the Lord, I feel no shakings nor unsealings respecting my state. But I have at present no light on my path; and, to my dark understanding, that text has made a discord in the word of God, and seems to clash with such passages as this, "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day;" and this also, "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint." But, instead of this, my expectations are of more darkness, sharper trials, being perpetually under the hiding of God's face; and, indeed, I am already in the dark path. God says, in his word, that he will abundantly bless the provisions of his house, and that he will satisfy his poor with bread; that his priests shall be clothed with salvation, and his saints shall shout aloud for joy. But, instead of this, I have lately been very barren under the word. I have seen the provision blessed to others, but nothing under the priest's hands for me. He has been clothed with salvation, and the food has been so blessed to others, that I have seen them shout aloud for joy, while I have hung down my head like a bulrush. God says, that those who are planted in his house shall flourish in his courts; that they shall be fat and flourishing: instead of this, I am crying out "My leanness, my leanness! wo unto me:" though there is no famine of the word, but bread enough and to spare. But I know I have procured all this to myself by my pride, and by that folly that is bound up in my heart; and there it is like to remain, unless the rod of correction drives it out. I think the prophet Isaiah speaks also of this darkness that I feel, where he says "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light?" and then he enjoins the hardest work of all, when he says, "Let him trust in the name O! the Lord, and stay himself upon his God," because he mentions his God. I infer, therefore, that he means the darkness that I am in; because, through all, I have not been led to cast away my confidence; because I think that this trial comes from God himself, for I cannot see that Satan has any hand in it; so it must be God, I think, that laid that passage with such a weight on my mind. But, perhaps, when you read this, you will see for me as you have done oft times before. You tell me you have an earnest desire to establish me; and this last epistle is not less precious to me than the former; and indeed I do feel my love to you in the Lord increasing in whatever frame I am; and I firmly believe you are to be the instrument of confirming the work that God has done upon my soul by the ministry of my dear father in Christ. I have some things on my mind that, were it expedient, I would communicate to you; but there is at present a lion in the way. I have had many pros and cons on my mind since I received your last whether I should write to you or not. But I believe you are to know all my heart. May the Lord give you something for me that shah bring my mind forth from out of these dark regions; for I seem held fast where I am, and that with a strong hand. I know there hath been many things which you have predicted to me that I could not believe till they came to pass. But true it is that not one word you have spoken to me has fell to the ground; nor have I found you a false prophet in any of your predictions. I was glad to hear you was better in bodily health. We shall be glad to see you in our parts again; and believe me to remain, as much as ever,Your affectionate friend, but unworthy sister in the Lord,
The King's Dale.