To Noctua Aurita, in the Desert.
I saw received yours, and do most kindly thank you for the same. I was sorry to hear of your inward weakness; should be glad to know if it hath pleased the Lord to re-establish your health.
Some things in your Letter convinced me that you still remain a prophet of the Lord to me; for you have described my feelings as true as if you had known all the workings of my mind for this fortnight past; though I know you could not have received my last little scrap of a Letter till after yours was written.
Relapsed into legal bondage I am. O! it is a wretched captivity. You tell me to look once more towards God's holy temple. But, alas! I have no faith in exercise on the object of faith, nor yet on the promise. I feel the old man alive in all his members. Never, I think, did I experience such a frame since I descended from the mount. God has put me into his furnace, and has supported me there hitherto; though at times I fear his rod has been spent on me in vain. I am shut up from the public means, where my soul has been often quickened under the word, through indisposition of body, for my tabernacle is kept very weak and low. Satan preaches me many lectures, and tries to raise in my mind hard thoughts of my God; and he too often succeeds. It is poor living on the old stock; indeed, it only keeps hope from giving up the ghost; it is living too near home, as you well observe, O! how does my soul long to have this veil rent. But I know that nothing will do it but a sight of Christ crucified. O! that he would work in my heart that contrition and godly sorrow, that with Mary I might sit at his dear feet and weep it out. My soul craves no greater blessing in this world. But the Lord has, I believe, some harder lessons to teach me; and I am slow of heart to learn, as well as to believe. I want to distinguish the voice of God in his rod, which you so sweetly treat of in your Letter. But I am brought into darkness, and not into light, so that I cannot discern; therefore I need stroke upon stroke. My cry is, with Job, "Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me." I well know where the cause lies; it is that folly that is bound up in my heart; and there is so much of it in me that I fear there can be little else but the rod assigned for me. God grant I may be helped to bow and submit to his will. I know the rod is in the covenant; and I do believe that what I am called to endure is not vindictive wrath, but fatherly chastisement, intended for my good. But it is hard to bear; and the mind and thoughts will find employment; and it is, as you observe, poring over the old man and his workings; and I think sometimes that this gives Satan an advantage against me. But I cannot do the things that I would: "but the evil which I would not, that I do." How very unlike the myrtle you speak of am I, whose sap is, as yon observe, always up, and whose leaf is ever green. But sure I am, and that from bitter experience, that there is not one grace of the Spirit will flourish in my heart when the beloved of my soul withdraws and hides himself from me. I often look over some of your former Letters, which I received when in the midst of my joys, where you warned me of such days of darkness and desertion coming on me, by telling me that the days would come that I should desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, but I should not see it. But I would not believe it. I could not entertain a thought that I should ever fall into legal bondage again. But, alas! it has fallen to my share over and over again. Therefore, as Jesus said to one that came to him, I was to go and learn what that meaneth. And sure I am, as you well observe, that Satan can bring a dismal gloom on the mind. His aim with me lately is to bring my mind into darkness, by perplexing me with some part of the word of God; by endeavouring to make one part clash with another. I have something at present which much puzzles me, and has for these two months past; and I do suspect he has a hand in it. But, as you have kindly invited me to use freedom, I would beg your thoughts on the passage where Abraham was commanded by God to offer up his son; and, after the angel had forbidden it, it is said that he looked and beheld a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and he took and offered it up instead of his son. But the mystery which I want light upon is this, how this ram can baa type of Christ as the sinner's surety. And yet it must be, because God accepted it as Isaac. Now, though Christ was God, yet he never suffered in his divine nature. Yet the blood of a ram, when slain, is expressly said, in Exodus, to be the bled of sprinkling; and in Numbers, it is said to be the atonement. Nor can I understand how the Passover lamb was a type of Christ; because he is, in the New Testament, said to be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. When first it was brought to my mind I saw it a mystery, but did not think my being enlightened into it was any thing essential. But, as it dwelt on my mind, it led me on to the mystery of the Trinity, which I know I am very dark about; and I began to tremble, fearing I should be left to fall into some error respecting that great mystery, and so be left to stumble on the dark mountains; and, from the time my mind was oppressed with it, the dear Redeemer of my soul has been more and more obscured from my sight. I should have mentioned it to you when I was last with you, but I thought it better to make it part of the subject of Letter; then I should, perhaps, have your answer to refer to at any time, which I have often found a second and third benefit from. I hope the Lord will give you something by which my mind may be relieved from its present perplexity. The latter pail of your Letter caused me some faintings of heart. It is a sad sign to a nation when God stops the breath of prayer, in his servants, for adverting the judgments which they foresee coming on. Those must be bad days when God will not suffer his servants to stand in the gap. However, the word is gone out of his mouth that it shall be well with the righteous. I hope we shall not have a famine of the word, and then it shall be well with our souls, however we may be called to suffer in our bodies. I have tried to persuade H T to give you a few lines respecting what you wish to know; but I do not know whether I shall prevail or not. I fear your patience will be tired out in reading this Letter of complaints. Can only add, I remain
Yours in the best of bonds,
In the King's prison.