To Philomela, in the King's Dale
I RECEIVED thine epistle safe, and, by the contents of it, I perceive that thou hast finished thy song in the night. The melody of thy harp is exchanged for mourning, and thine organ to the voice of them that weep. Nevertheless, I shall not change thy name, for thou must and shalt sing again: "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord." This the mouth of the Lord hath spoken. Thou must, my sister, come in the good old way, the four first stages of which have long been pointed out. Noah's ark was to be made with first, second, and third stories; but the dove, when she returned, rested on the top till Noah put forth his hand and took her in to him. This ark appears to me to be more a type of the church than of Christ, for the church is seldom without unclean as well as clean; but no unclean creature, strictly speaking, can be experimentally in him, much less shut in by him, till the storms of wrath be past.
The temple of the Lord hath an outer court, called the court of the Gentiles; the next was the court where the worshipping Israelites assembled; the next was the sanctuary, where the priests performed their service; the next was the most holy place, accessible to none but God and his high-priest; and he must go through the court of the Gentiles, then through the court of the Israelites, then through the sanctuary and into the holy place. So Noah went from the earth to the lower story, then to the second, then to the third, and lastly he removed the covering of the ark, and looked out at the top. We must come, according to Peter, out of this world. This causes many to think it strange that we run not to the same excess of riot. Then come convictions of sin and sore temptations: "Though now, if need be, ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations." Then come better days: "Whom, having not seen, ye love; and though now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But, when these joys are withdrawn, it appears as it some strange thing had happened unto us. This fiery trial is to try our faith, that it may appear more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, and shall be found unto praise, an, l honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ, when the Lord will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant:" and "Come, ye blessed of my Father, enter the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world." When this trial is over, thou wilt find thy feet standing in a more even place. So says Peter, "After that ye have suffered a while, the Lord make you perfect, strengthen, stablish, settle you." Keep these stages in view. There is, and must be, a coming out of the world; and, when this is done, there is a watching at Wisdom's gate, which answers to the court of the Gentiles; and, even when kind invitations come, suitable to our case, we must not ascend; "When thou art bidden to a wedding," says Christ, "sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden." We must imitate the Saviour. He first appeared in the form of a servant; and, when the law comes home to us, our baseness as bond-servants appears; bound under sin, Satan, death, and the law, we are. This sets us sensibly down in the dark regions of the shadow of death, and in the strong holds of sin and Satan. Here Christ shines first upon us: in this our low estate he remembers us, and says unto us, "Friends, go up higher." The next stage brings us to his feet: they shall sit down at his feet; "Every one shall receive of thy words." Now he appears pacified towards us, and we remember our own evil way, which was not good, and loathe ourselves in our own sight for our iniquities. But he dwells with the humble and the contrite, to revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite ones. Now he puts us forth into the joy of the Lord. This encourages us to freedom and sweet familiarity, to communion and fellowship. And here our mountain seems to stand strong, and we are ready to think that we shall never be moved. I know of but one stage higher than this that ever I arrived at. This stage brings Christ nigh, as evidently set forth crucified among us; and we look at, admire, and wonder at him. This is the Lord manifesting himself to us, and dwelling in us. But after this he leads our thoughts higher; for, after we have looked at him, mourned over his sufferings, and been stung with hatred to self and sin on the account of them, he raises us up with another appearance of himself, and that is as risen from the dead, crying out, "All hail!" This raises us up to his glorification, and we rise to a lively hope of his resurrection from the dead. This comforts our souls, that his sufferings are over, and that death hath no more dominion over him. And now our hope is admitted within the veil, we rise to newness of life under the influence of the Spirit of love and joy; and not only are our affections admitted to God's right hand, where he sitteth, but we are made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is the highest stage in the divine life. The highest receptacle in the temple from the ground-floor was the galleries, Ezek. xli. 15, and xlii. 3 Into these, if I mistake not, the Jewish women were admitted. This is dwelling on high, and seeing the King in his beauty; whereas, when he is exhibited to us upon the cross, he looks in his sufferings like a sacrifice, or as one made sin for us, and as numbered with the transgressors, but by no means as a king. It was as glorified, enthroned, and crowned with glory and honour, that he appeared to Ezekiel, Daniel, and John. And in this appearance the holy spouse saw him: "The hair of thy head is like purple: the King is held in the galleries," Song vii. 5. Purple is a royal colour, and in his royalty she saw him; and, though she had often had a glimpse of him as leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills, standing behind the wall, looking in at the window, and showing himself through the lattice, and oftentimes had felt the finger of his power making her bowels to move, and had felt his name as an ointment poured forth, and at times caught hold of him, yet she could not retain him, as she owns, "My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone; my soul failed when he spake," &c. &c. But at last he tells her to turn away her eyes from him, for she had overcome him: then she says, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." And he certainly is held or bound in the galleries; for by heavenly-minded souls, who have enjoyed him, and who never can rest without him, nor find any satisfaction in any thing short of him, he is held, and to such he is bound, in the bond of everlasting love, and that by his own promise, and by his own act and deed: "I will betroth thee unto me in judgment; I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, in loving-kindness, in faithfulness, and for ever; and thou shalt know the Lord." And, as he is thus bound to a wife, he will never seek to be loosed. John, in his Revelation, saw him in Isis priestly garments among the candlesticks, and as king upon his white horse; but as glorified in both. This wonderful appearance so astonished John that he fell to the ground; but it was intended to raise John's conceptions higher than before; for, though he had known Christ after the flesh, yet from that time forward he knew him so no more.
I have been much of late meditating on what Paul calls the new man in us. Jeremiah says," Thy word was found, and I ate it, and it was the joy and rejoicing of my heart." John and Ezekiel ate the roll and the little book, and declared that they were sweet as honey; but what that mouth is, which feeds so sweetly on the promises and on the Passover lamb, is hard to describe. "A feast of fat things, of marrow and fatness, and of wines on the lees well refined," it certainly is. We have an altar to eat at, and certain it is that the new man has got his mouth which feeds upon spiritual provision, digests it, and receives nourishment and satisfaction from it: but this mouth remains a mystery to me. The new man has got his nose, but I cannot tell what it is. All Christ's garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces; and God doth make manifest the savour of the knowledge of Christ among his people. This we know; and, on the other hand, if one come into our company whose scent remains in him, whose scent is not changed, who is settled on his old lees, what a stinking savour do such little foxes send forth! But who can describe that nose that so sensibly distinguishes between the odour of Christ's garments and the stench of the foxes, and the stinking savour of dead flies? Nor is the new man without his ears. What is spoken to the outward ears hath no effect, if it goes no further: "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak friendly to her heart," Hosea, ii. 14. Hence it is said of Christ, that, "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street," Isa. xlii. 2. And yet many will say in the last day," We have eaten in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets." They heard the voice of the man; but it is only the dead, or self-condemned, that hear the voice of the Son of God and live: "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice," John, xviii. 37. And all his sheep hear his voice, and follow and distinguish his voice from all others; and Christ hath dropped his benediction both upon such ears and eyes: "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear." And I know that he hath often spoke to my inmost soul, and I heard the voice, felt it, and understood it; but my outward ears had nothing to do with it But what those ears are that hear so plainly when he speaks friendly to the heart, I cannot describe. The eyes of the new man are as wonderful: "The world sees me no more," says Christ, "but ye see me; and because I live ye shall live also." And again: "I will send the Comforter to you, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." Moses saw him that is invisible; the patriarchs saw the promise at a distance: "A wise man foresees the evil, and hides himself;" and the saint, in his first love, sees "the King in his beauty, and the land which is very far off." And I have seen my dear Master in open vision for many months together. But what these eyes are is a mystery. Paul says these things are spiritually discerned; and he tells us that the eyes of our understanding are opened; but he doth not explain what those eyes are. I know that faith discovers wonders. But the soul hath more eyes than one. What are the eyes of the understanding? The new man hath got his affections also, which are peculiar to him, the objects of which are, first, God, and his word, and his saints. These affections, love, or charity, are the principal parts of the new man; and, when in exercise, they fill the soul with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Nor is the new man without his hands. There is a something that holds the beloved fast, and will not let him go. These hands hold fast the faithful word, and every thing that Christ hath given us, that no man take our crown. These hands appear to be the powerful actings of faith, which, under the Spirit's influence and operations, are very powerful. I have often been thinking of the feet of the new man, by which we go in and out, and find pasture; yea, God says "They shall mount up as upon eagle's wings, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." I know believing is called a coming to God, and we are said to walk by faith and not by sight; but I think love must have her part in these wonderful journeys of the soul; for faith can neither work nor walk but by love.
Thus I have sent my dear sister a few of my secret thoughts upon these things. But, as Milton says,
and yet there is a secret pleasure in soaring and diving, though I can neither reach the top nor fathom the bottom.
Whatever name the Lord's elect are called by, the Saviour is generally set forth or represented by something suitable to it. They are debtor, and he the surety; subjects, and he the king; children, and he the father; lion's whelps, and he the lion; lambs, &c. and he was represented by the ram. A lamb slain from the foundation of the world he is, and that in a two-fold sense: first, in the purpose of God; and, in the next place, he was typically slain by Abel's sacrifice. It is true, he did not suffer in his divine nature; he was" put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit;" he suffered in the flesh, and bore our sins in his own body upon the tree. Yet, you have no call to wonder at his being typified both by the ram and the lamb, when the scriptures often set him forth both in his seniority and in his youth. In the book of Daniel, where he is represented as the judge of quick and dead, the hair of his head is said to be as white as the pure wool; and he is the Ancient of Days; but in the Song of Solomon, where he is described as a wooer, his locks are said to be bushy, and black as a raven.
The best knowledge, and the safest that thou wilt ever attain to respecting the Trinity, in this world, is, a knowledge of God the Father's love shed abroad in the heart. This says, "Yea, I have loved thee, and with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." The next is the voice of the blood of sprinkling, which speaks pardon, peace, and reconciliation, which are better things than the blood of Abel. The third is the Spirit's voice, crying, Abba, Father. These are the witnesses of the Trinity; and these three agree one. The Lord for ever bless thee.