The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
To Miss M., August 24, 1852.
My beloved friend,
I most sincerely wish you a blessed evidence of your own election of God. To others this evidence is already open, in many marks and tokens of the work of grace, although to you it is at present sealed. (Jer. 32:11) Nor can you get at this comfortable assurance until the Divine Witness (Rom. 8:16) of the evidence opens and reads it to the joy of your heart. May He be pleased soon to come forth in your soul as the Comforter, the Spirit of adoption, and the Testifier of Jesus. His witnessing all your unbelief shall not be able to gainsay or resist; for it is with demonstration and power; and though feeling vile, and utterly black in yourself, that will not invalidate His testimony at all, nor in the least way alter that adoption, which does not originate in the merit of the creature—but in the sovereign will of the Creator. "Of His own will He begat us," (Jas. 1:18) irrespective of anything in ourselves. Though all our blackness is fully known to Him, yet it has no influence upon His determination to put us among the children. Yes, He will cause even this our vileness to turn to His own glory. We may feel the very worst of all, and say, "I am not worthy to be called your child;" but the relationship remains unaltered, and our Father will not make us as one of His hired servants. The Prodigal must be brought in, and prove the affections of a Father's tenderness, (Jer. 31:20) though there be a time in experience when the child differs nothing from a servant, "but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father." During this time he is instructed and chastened (Psalm 94:12) out of the law, which "is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." Its deep spirituality discovers, by the light of the Spirit, our nature's deformity; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. It judges also our thoughts, words, and actions, and pronounces condemnation upon them all. Meanwhile, the conscience is enlightened to see things as they really are; it fully joins with what the law says, and in the discovery of so much evil the poor soul judges itself unworthy of eternal life. Instead of finding proof that it belongs to the royal family of heaven, it feels much more like the servant of sin, like one who is led captive by Satan at his will; and yet all this time it is a child of God, though not as yet realizing this by faith in Christ Jesus. But when faith takes hold of Christ by the Spirit's power, there will be the witness within (1 John 5:10) of adoption, of sonship, and then it will be, "Knowing, beloved, your election of God;" and then you will stand astonished, both in time and eternity, at the riches of that grace which put you in the number of the Savior's family.
On recurring to your letter, I am reminded of North Wales, which you mention. I must not say much about it, lest I revive in you a pining for what you have not; but I may just say, I did exceedingly enjoy that lovely locality so new to me, combining mountain and marine scenery, both which were constantly before our windows—but not always visible, for the majestic mountains were obscured days together, being enveloped in a dense fog, something like that darkening unbelief which hides from the soul those hills whence alone our help comes. But as with renewed delight we hailed a returning view of the Welsh mountains, so does the poor soul welcome a glimpse of those "lasting hills," which contain the "precious things" just suited to its case. But we not only enjoyed nature's loveliness and grandeur; we also found some gems of grace, such as the Lord will own when He makes up His jewels: dear Welsh sisters, with whom we could take sweet counsel; sweetly proving that whatever be the country, or natural language--the new heart beats the same in all. Though I do almost extravagantly enjoy the wonders of creation, yet the wonders of Redemption are to me the cream of all; and to find one dear saint, though poor and mean, and despised of men, is treasure to this heart. Such was our privilege in North Wales, and amidst its many fascinations, this is the endearment of the remembrance.
Forgive me, dearest friend, for hinting above about your pining for what you have not; you will retrace from your own note whence the thought originated, in your extreme disquiet for want of country air. I do indeed think this is one point where your foe is gaining advantage, and adding much to your torture, in setting your eyes and heart upon something pleasing and in prospect, that you may fret for it; or upon something displeasing and present, that you may fret against it; and thus between the two you are kept too much kicking against the goads, and severe smarting is the consequence. I know your case is deeply trying, and I do affectionately feel for you, and long that it may be with you as Psalm 131:2, believing such a state of passive resignation would much reduce the bitterness of your suffering. I speak only in love, and hope you will not be pained. Tell me if you are. I like to know how you feel, and would not therefrom sharpen words to wound you; but I am thoroughly convinced it is as you say in another part of your letter, that "we often magnify our trials by fretting, and striving to resist them;" and anxiously do I desire that you may be brought to bow your shoulder to bear, and yield your flesh a servant to that tribute which the Lord sees fit to lay upon it.
I have lately been thinking that there is a great difference in experience between being compelled to bear the daily cross, as Simon was the literal one, (Matt. 27:32) and taking it up as our Lord exhorts. (Luke 9:23) Oh, let us importunately seek grace from Him, that we may come to this daily self-denial. He only exhorts us to hard things in order to bring us to Himself for strength to do them, for "He gives more grace," and, when brought to entire resignation, the thing which did most distress us becomes much more endurable. Naturally, I have a very strong will, and therefore, as you may suppose, it has been much crossed. Too well I know the misery of fretting, and a little the mercy of being brought down, and saying feelingly, with the thorn at my bosom, "Your will be done." "Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him." Now do not say this is out of your reach: it is not, because "power belongs unto God," and all who are brought to sweet submission under trials are brought to it by Him. Seek it at His hands, that you may glorify Him in the fires.
The thing I am now seeking in my daily walk is a subdued will. Will you not join me? I do painfully feel that I have a stubborn will; but the acknowledgment of it will not do. I want it conquered, and for this, look to Him who has all power in heaven and earth. You speak of thinking yourself so much worse than I am. Oh, my dear friend, there is not under the canopy of heaven—there is not in the pit of despair—a viler sinner than I. This is a true confession. I may have been kept under more restraints than yourself; but if not open to such temptations, what merit in not falling into them? Besides, there needs not the outward act to constitute me guilty of any sin. When tried by heart-evil, I am indeed unclean, unclean, and this not only as knowing the seeds of all evil to be there—but as having felt the abominations—having sunk in the pit of corruption, and become "a burden to myself." You cannot go lower than I in guiltiness; but I have lately felt that if I had a thousand such guilty souls I could trust them all with my precious Savior, so great is the efficacy of His blood, so rich the merit of His justifying righteousness; and He loves to get glory by such desperate cases. Indeed, I believe He allows His redeemed to know so much of their nature's evil to magnify the riches of His exceeding grace in their esteem. I deeply loathe my evil—but do not regret that I have so deeply felt it; and I often thank the Lord for it, because those who have felt the heaviest load, "do prize forgiveness most." "I looked for hell"—I knew I deserved it, and felt almost there—but "He gave me heaven." Oh! should I not praise Him? And should not you be encouraged to hope? And now, farewell. The God of peace give you peace by the blood of the Cross. Excuse my defects.
With affectionate love, your much attached,
"May the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion." Psalm 134:3
"The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love." Psalm 147:11
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