The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
Strength equal to the hour of weakness
"Look unto Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other." Isaiah 45:22
"Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces." Psalm 34:5
To Miss M., May 8, 1852.
My much-endeared friend,
Grace and peace be with you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and may the God of patience and consolation make all grace abound towards you amidst your varied trials, and the cruel efforts of your unwearied foe, who, finding that the Shepherd of Israel is taking you out of his mouth, a poor maimed thing, like Amos 3:12, does rage against you, and roar upon you, to frighten you from Christ the stronghold, your only place of help. He points to your filthy garments, and resists the outgoings of your faith upon Him who alone can cleanse you; he tries to strengthen unbelief and carnal reason, that your eye may be turned inward instead of upward; he tries to magnify unduly creature comforts in your esteem, that they may steal your heart from Christ, and rob your soul of peace. But "the Lord rebuke you, O Satan; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" May the Holy Spirit, my beloved, strengthen your faith and hope in God.
"If all created streams were dried,
His love remains the same;
May we with this be satisfied,
And glory in His name.
"There naught is in the creature found,
But may be found in Thee;
I must have all things, and abound,
While Christ is all to me."
I myself have found in Jesus and His precious love more than I ever lost in the creature. May we through grace be enabled to enjoy thankfully what He lends, and resign it lovingly and submissively, though not unfeelingly, when He recalls. You have been, and are, tried on the most tender points. Your nearest and dearest on earth seem to droop and wither; but the dearer than all will never fade away from your embrace. It has been well said, "He lends all lesser things—but He gives Himself." May your sorrowful heart be comforted in this "unspeakable gift," and while you are trembling at the future, may the Lord graciously encourage you, as He did me. I had long been dreading the death of my precious mother, when our minister one day read Romans 8, and spoke upon the 38th verse, especially upon those words, "Nor things to come." Oh, what a cordial this was to my soul, that the "things to come," which I so much feared, should not separate from the love of God, which would support me through all! Those things have taken place, the thing which I feared has come upon me; but has the Lord proved unfaithful, or have His arm or His promise failed? Ah no! I live His humble, unworthy witness of the truth of Isaiah 43:2. "You are my witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God." (Isaiah 43:12)
I was thankful to find, in your last letter, an earnest desire to be resigned to all the will of God. You know those sweet lines—
"Subdue my will from day to day,
Blend it with Yours, and take away
All that now makes it hard to say—
Your will be done."
The Lord fulfill these in your experience; it is in this sense "hard for you to kick against the goads;" piercing and smarting must be the result. You have painfully felt it: you have known the fretfulness of a weaning child, may you be brought to the quietness of a "weaned one." Whatever your heavenly Father calls you to, He will support you under; but He will not give the manna for tomorrow, or strengthen you for the next trial, while you have it only in anticipation. "Give us this day our daily bread." "As your days, so shall your strength be." "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." And herein I read my own foolishness; often wearing out present strength with fears and forebodings of future trials; thus far disregarding present mercies, and rebelling against the Lord's will, because unlawfully anticipating it. A minister once said, "The Lord gives each of His children a bundle of rods to carry, one for every day, with strength apportioned; but they will strive to lift all at once, and thus are overburdened, because they have only strength given for the present one." Being naturally of an anxious mind, I must say that thus foolish and ignorant have I often been, and surprised when brought to discover how much I was dragging into the present hour, what did not belong to it. Have you ever been caught in this snare?
I am truly rejoiced that you discover your proneness to look within for encouragement, instead of encouraging yourself in the Lord your God. This is one great bane of your peace, and springs much from unbelief and carnal reason, which rise no higher than feelings; making all their calculations from thence. True faith, on the contrary, looks only at Christ, expecting all the soul needs in Him, and for His sake. If worthiness is the question, "Worthy is the Lamb;" and to make His worthiness our plea, is well-pleasing to the Father who gave Him, to the Spirit who testifies of Him, and to Him who gave Himself an all-sufficient ransom. The Holy Three are honored when faith holds up Christ, His merits, and His blood; but dishonored, greatly dishonored, when the soul seeks or wishes for anything besides, when we look within for any improved feelings or experience to ground our hope upon, or to increase our confidence before Him. We want to be something—but our Father has determined to make and keep us nothing—so that Christ may be experimentally our all. And every plea, every expectation, every hope center in Him—His glorious person, His law-magnifying obedience, His justice-satisfying atonement. This is the God-glorifying way of faith.
Ah, my dear friend, how welcome, under a sense of guilt and condemnation to find—"His blood a full atonement made, and cries aloud, Forgive!" How safe to—Venture on Him, venture wholly, let no other trust intrude!"
But say you sin is so active and unsubdued that this seems like presumption? True; but if sin were conquered and subdued, then there would not be a venturing on Him. Jesus is honored by such presuming of misery upon mercy, of a real sinner upon a real Savior. But, say you again, faith is not in the power of the creature? Certainly not. But this is no discouragement, because it is the free gift of Him who, while He says, "Look unto me, and be saved," causes the blind to see; and while he says, "Believe, and you shall be saved," causes faith to come by hearing, and so enables the soul to venture itself and its sins upon Him. "Stretch forth your hand," He said, not because there was innate power in the withered hand, for it was dead—but power was with His word: the hand was stretched out in the obedience of faith, and made whole as the other. So, dearest friend, though your soul be impotent as that withered hand, your poor friend must set before you the way of faith, and the object of faith, even Jesus, the sin-bearing, sin-removing, sin-pardoning Savior, whose name was so called, because He will save His people from their sins. (1 Pet. 2:24; Zech. 3:9; Matt. 9:6) And she does this, not because there is power in her, or power in you—but because there is power in Him, and because "there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
To Him I affectionately commend you, that by the power of the Holy Spirit it may be unto you as John 11:25—"I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live."
Accept warm love and best wishes from one who longs much after you in the affections of Jesus Christ, and remains most affectionately yours,
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