The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
We must learn our weakness
Ockbrook, May 18th, 1849.
My dear A—It had already been in my mind to write to you, and now that you have sent me a note, I will try to answer it, feeling most sensibly that the Lord must be my Teacher, or, indeed, I shall darken "counsel by words without knowledge."
You say, "My mouth is shut"—it seems to have been so with one of old (Psalm 88:8; Psalm 2:15; Psalm 142:7). And Jesus says to His Church that she was "a spring shut up, a fountain sealed," so you see this shutting up is old-fashioned work, even in the living family; therefore you must not conclude it to be a black mark against you, though it be a painful one—but rather cry more earnestly to Him "who shuts and no man opens;" but, blessed be His name, He also "opens and no man shuts." Do not, my dear boy, restrain prayer before God—if you do, I am sure your soul will suffer loss, and Satan will gain the advantage. Perhaps you will say, "My mouth is shut up in prayer--I cannot pray." Then that is just a reason for you to go to the Lord, and to be much in secret before Him, who alone can help you. If a spirit of prayer is a blessing, it is worth seeking for, and remember you will not seek in vain! You know the Lord does not expect us to bring to Him—but to receive from Him. We come empty-handed for a supply, so just bring your prayerless heart (if it should be such) to Him, to put prayer into it. Tell Him, with all simplicity, that you would pray—but cannot; and beg Him to do for you as He promises in Zech. 10:12; if you cannot utter words--stay and groan at His footstool, rather than be driven away. I can say from experience it is good to do so; even if no present answer seem to come, I am sure it is not in vain.
You say the Bible is a sealed book; do not on this account cease to search it, for where else can you go to find so purely the words of eternal life? We are to watch daily at Wisdom's gates, and to wait at the post of her doors. They are pronounced blessed who do so, and the words "watch" and "wait" seem to imply that there is not always an obtaining wisdom's lesson. We must be exercised in patience, as well as in knowledge. Well do I know what it is to be without dew and unction, when I seem to have lost old lessons, and to have learned no new ones. Yet do I always find it best to keep close to that garden of the Word, where I so often have had the showers from heaven; and, however long the season of dryness, they have always come again, and so it will be to you.
Read straight forward, for you know not at which chapter or verse the seal will be broken. Jesus will do for you as in Luke 24:27, 45; and then you will not want my poor encouragement to "search the Scriptures." Prov. 13:4, 1 Tim. 4:15, are God's own words. You say, "I am as though forsaken," just like the Church of old (Isa. 49:14). But God contradicts her: "They may forget, yet will I not forget you." Seeming absence and distance are the times for proving our faith, and it is a mercy if we are helped to trust our God in the dark. "If we believe not, He abides faithful;" and He says, "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you" (Isa. 54:7, 8). I trust, before long, your drooping soul will say, "It is the voice of my Beloved, behold, He comes;" and you will say, "Why should He regard me?" Which question can only be resolved into His own Holy Sovereignty. No sinful child of Adam can see why God should love him; each Spirit-convinced soul feels himself the most unlikely one to have been noticed, and can only say, "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Your sight." The Scriptures also show us that God's choice and love was of His own will--without one desert or deserving of the creature--for His own glory. And, moreover, we see plainly that He has not taken the most excellent things—but rather those which seem most weak and base to the outward eye (1 Cor. 1:27, 29). Here, therefore, you will find no ground of exclusion, yet do not look into your little self for a cause to induce Divine love. But look up at the mighty Jehovah, and admire His majestic movements in not stooping to the creature for a motive to move His love—but coming forth in His own sovereignty to love and save freely. How does this thought exalt Him, and abase us! Oh! it is just beautiful, to lay and keep us low.
Now, having looked over all your statement, I can find nothing contrary to the common exercises of the Lord's people, and quite believe you must prepare to "endure with hardness," if you are a soldier of Jesus Christ; for it is His will that those who reign with Him shall also suffer with Him, and also that they shall have many varied exercises in the discipline of the wilderness. We must learn our weakness, as well as His strength; our emptiness, as well as His fullness; our ignorance, as well as His wisdom. We must experience that our hearts are like the fallow ground, as well as that He is like the dew unto Israel; and we must have times of shutting up, that we may afresh give Him the glory of opening again, and that we may be kept feelingly saying, "All my springs are in You." When some new exercise seems painful, it is a mercy if the Lord gives us a desire to go through, rather than to turn away from it. If we are more anxious to learn instruction, than to be relieved from the unpleasantness of it, this is a healthy state of soul, and so walking, we shall understand that the Lord does nothing in vain. But that all the humbling and emptying frames that we are brought into are for our establishment in Him, and for His glory. In short, that all is for "the lifting of Jesus on high" in our souls. This is the constant work of the Holy Spirit, to bring us to be experimentally nothing, and to make Jesus our "all in all," thereby teaching us to live by faith upon Him. Then does our experience correspond with Jer. 17:7, 8; and Psalm 97:11.
But do not be discouraged, because you are yet learning your nothingness; this is really needful to make way for the rest. Do not seek to exercise yourself on things too high for you, or be comparing yourself with others, for this will only be an occasion of stumbling to you. But ask to be kept in simplicity, begging of the Holy Spirit to show you how the Lord may be glorified, and how you may be edified by your present state. In this way, you will often find that "out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong comes forth sweetness." Ah! and that the Lord can teach by a dry fleece as well as by one soaked with heavenly dew. May He bless you, and give you understanding in all things. You know that I have been very ill, and at the same time very well. Like 2 Cor. 4:16-18. Ah! truly I could tell you much of the love, power, and preciousness of my blessed Jesus. But I thought it might be more for your profit to take you upon your own ground, and to talk over your feelings rather than describe mine. But this I must say: I have proved that there is a reality in vital godliness which will stand amid the decay of all that is fleshly, and I have learned that Jesus loves at all times, and in the depths He is a solid Rock to those who put their trust in Him.
May the weakness of my words throw no confusion over your mind. But may the wind of the Spirit (Job 37:21) pass by and cleanse them. May you, by His power, have the application of the precious blood, and the imputation of the perfect righteousness, and a close walk with God.
So affectionately desires your very sincere friend,
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