The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
Warnings to an unconverted friend
"What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away."
To Mr. J. A., August 1, 1856.
I was truly surprised that you should take the trouble to answer my note, and since you have thus encouraged me, I must again venture a few lines upon the same all-important subject, namely, the salvation of your never-dying soul. It is all-important; and now is the time to consider it; for though you are young, your life is not insured; and you have already had a serious warning in that affliction, which might have opened the gate into an eternal world. Oh! had it been so--where would you now have been? and what would have been your eternal portion? Would you have been "present with the Lord," beholding the beauties of Jesus, and singing in the ever-new song the praises of the Lamb which was slain? Or would you have been banished from His presence, cast into outer darkness, to receive the wages of sin--that eternal death which never, never dies?
These questions may be unpleasing; but it certainly is worth while to ask them, and to answer them, because one of these two fixed states must before long be yours as well as mine. There is no medium state; with every soul of man it must be joy inconceivable--or woe unutterable. And whichever of these be our portion, it will be forever, and ever, and ever. There will be no fear of the happiness ending. There will be no hope of the suffering terminating or even abating; for in that darksome prison, never, never will be heard those precious words, "It is finished!" Sin will never be made an end of, and therefore the consequences of sin can never cease; but while eternal ages roll--it will be "wrath to come!" "Wrath to come!"
Perhaps you will think me more gloomy than everóbut this I cannot help. I have eternity in near prospect, and solemnly feel it will profit a man nothing if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul. My heart says with Moses, "Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end." The fact is, it will come whether it is considered or not. For the Scriptures say, "It is appointed unto men once to die: but after this the judgment!" And Jesus has declared of those that die in their sins, "Where I go you cannot come." "Cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"
But perhaps you will say this is too severe, and only belongs to great sinners, such as have been profane and immoral in their conduct. Nay, beloved, markóthis last Scripture does not speak of any openly wicked sinnersóbut only of an unprofitable servant. Now, have not you been to God an "unprofitable servant," even though you may have been outwardly moral and correct? Again, it is written, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all those who forget God." (Psalm 9:17) You see how the sentence runs; not only to the wickedóbut to all who forget God. This reaches the very thoughts of the heart, and shows that God's holy law passes judgment on the thoughts of the heart, as well as on words and actions. Yes, indeed, its first great commandment searches the heart, for it is this, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)
Now, under this law we were all born, and by it must be judged. Nor can we say it is unreasonable that we should be required to love the holy God who is our Creator and Preserver. But have we loved Him supremely? Have we remembered Him in His ways? No, not one of us has done it by nature; but, as He says, "My people have forgotten me days without number!" "God is not in all his thoughts!" "Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually!" "Shall not God search this out; for he knows the secrets of the heart." Surely your kind and very candid note confesses the truth of these things when you say, "It is my thoughts that lead me astray." So, then, we need go no further than the thoughts of the heart to prove that we have all gone astray from God; that we are guilty under His law; and its condemning sentence is against us, for it says, "The soul that sins it shall die;" (Ezek. 18:4) and "the thought of foolishness is sin." (Prov. 24:9) These are God's own words, not mine; you can turn to the Bible and read them.
But if it is true that we are by nature in such a fearful state, how is it that we can be so indifferent about it? And how is it that while under the sentence of death, and with the wrath of God already on us, we can be merry and sportive, and have no concern for any of these things? It is because we are not only "shaped in iniquity and conceived in sin," but "we are dead in trespasses and sins!" That is--spiritually dead, so that we cannot know God, or love Him, or feel our real state before Him, any more than those who are literally dead can see, or hear, or feel the things that are going on around them. And because of this state of spiritual death we may tell people over and over again about their lost and dangerous conditionóbut they do not feel it.
And they never will until they experience what the Lord spoke of to Nicodemus in John 3, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again." This new birth is entirely of God; it is the being quickened by the Holy Spirit, and made to feel that we are sinners and enemies to God by wicked works. When this new birth takes place we feel many things to be evil, which before we thought nothing of. The Spirit convinces us of sin, makes us know what sin is, and that we are full of it; as it is written, "When the Spirit has come, he will convince the world of sin." When this takes place we no longer try to excuse ourselves--that we are not so bad as othersóhave wronged no oneóand have done the best we can. We cannot rest hereóbut feel that we have sinned enough to banish us forever from the presence of God; and the great concern now is how we may get salvation.
I fear I shall weary youóbut yet I should very much like to tell you the account of a little heathen girl which has much interested me, and will show you what I mean by being born again of the Spirit, and how He can quicken without outward means.
A little Hindu girl was stolen from her parents, taken to Calcutta, and sold for a slave. She was a sweet girl, and the lady who bought her, having no children, took a fancy to her, and thought she would not make her a slaveóbut bring her up to be a companion, and she grew very fond of her. The lady was a Mohammedan, and taught the little girl to be the same. This went on until she was about sixteen years old, when all at once it came into her mind, she knew not how or why, that she was a sinner, and needed salvation. She was in great distress of mind, and went to the lady for comfort; but she could not give her any, she could not tell her of a Savioróbut tried to amuse her, and make her forget her trouble. So she hired rope-dancers and jugglers, and tried all the sports they are fond of in India, to give her pleasure. But all were of no use; she remained as miserable as ever. The lady then sent for a Mohammedan priest; but he could not understand her distress. However, he took her under his care, and taught her many prayers in Arabic, which she did not understand; told her to repeat them five times a day, and always turn towards Mecca when she said them. She tried in vain to get comfort from these things. She felt there was no forgiveness, no salvation there. After three long years, the thought struck her, that perhaps all her sorrow of mind was a punishment for having left the faith of her fathers. So she searched out a Hindu priest, and entreated him to receive her back to his churchóbut he cursed her in the name of his god. She told him all her distressóbut he would not listen until she offered him money, and then he undertook her case. He directed her to take an offering of fruit and flowers to a certain goddess, and once a-week to offer a young goat for a bloody sacrifice. For a long time she did all he told heróbut got no relief; she found that the blood of goats could not take away sin, and often cried in deep distress, "Oh I shall die! and what shall I do if I die without obtaining salvation?" At last she became ill through distress, and the lady watched her with deep sorrow, fearing she would sink into an early grave.
One day as she sat alone in a room, thinking and longing and weeping, a beggar came to the door; her heart was so full that she talked of what she needed to all she met, and in speaking to the beggar used a word which means salvation. He said, "I think I have heard that word before;" she eagerly asked, "Where? tell me where I can find that which I want, and for which I am dying. I shall soon die, and oh, what shall I do if I die without obtaining salvation?" The man told her of a place where the poor natives had rice given them, and "there," he said, "I have heard it; and they tell of one Jesus Christ, who can give salvation." "Oh, where is He? take me to Him," she said. The beggar thought she was mad, and was going awayóbut she would not let him go without telling her more. She dreaded missing the prize which now seemed almost within her reach. "Well," he said, "I can tell you of a man who will lead you to Jesus," and directed her to a part of the town where Marraput Christian lived, who was once a rich Brahminóbut had given up all for the sake of Jesus. She set out that very evening in search of him, and went from house to house inquiring of those she met where lived Marraput Christian, the man who would lead her to Jesusóbut none could tell her. It grew late, and her heart was nearly broken, for she thought she must return as she came, and die without obtaining salvation. She was just turning to go home when she saw a man walking along the road and thought she would try once more, so she asked him where Marraput Christian lived, the man who would lead her to Jesus. To her great joy he showed her the house, and she met Marraput coming out of the door.
She asked, with tears and anguish, "Are you the man who can lead me to Jesus? Oh, take me to Him. I shall die, and what shall I do without obtaining salvation?" He took her in, and said, "My dear young friend, sit down and tell me all." She told her history, and then rose and said, "Now, sir, take me to Jesus; you know where He is, oh, take me to Him!" For she thought Jesus was on earth, and that she might go to Him at once. Marraput knew that though He was not here, He was just as able to pity and welcome her at the mercy-seat; so he only said, "Let us pray." As he prayed, the poor Hindu felt that she found that which she so long wantedósalvation, pardon, and peace.
This simple narrative touched my heart. It does so show the work of the Spirit in one who had never seen a Bible, nor heard of the gospel, or of Jesus the sinner's friend. There she was in the midst of heathen--mourning for sin and seeking for salvation. The good Shepherd was seeking this lamb before she sought Him, and He appointed the means to bring her to His fold and His feet. Oh, that it might be thus with you! May you by the Spirit be wounded under a sense of sin, then will you, with like earnestness, seek to be led to Jesus, the Savior; for you must die, and, oh, what will you do if you die without finding salvation?
I must cease. Excuse the length of this; my heart is in it. I long for your salvation, and still mention you to the King to whom power belongs.
Believe me, with much affectionate interest, your sincere friend,
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