The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
The power of temptation and the arm of deliverance
"Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the refiner." Proverbs 25:4
"I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: They are My people, and they will say: The Lord is our God." Zechariah 13:9
"Behold I have refined you—but not with silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10
To Miss M., May 23, 1853.
My very dear friend,
How much I regret that my silence should have given you uneasiness, and that the enemy should have prevailed to afflict you thereby. As usual, his suggestions are entirely false. It has not been my heart—but merely my hand, that has been closed towards you, and the Lord has not shut me up from praying for you; therefore take encouragement to resist Satan, unbelief, and carnal reason, and do not so easily yield to their disquieting suggestions. You are often in great fear where no cause of fear is, and I believe God has despised those enemies which have encamped against you, and they shall be put to shame. (Psalm 53:5) You are ready to say, I cannot resist, I am so weak, I have no power or might against this great company that comes against me, and often know not what to do. Well, my beloved, you cannot do better than tell the Lord all that, and instead of holding parley with the foe, cry to Him to fight for you. Read in the wars of the Lord, 2 Chron. 19:12, 24, &c.; 18:31; 14:11-13; 1 Chron. 5:20-22, with many other places, and see what He has done for those who were too weak for their enemies, all which literal things are typical of the spiritual; and the Lord has, over and over again, done the same in the soul's experience at the cry of faith, yes, even of "little faith." It matters not at all how weak you are—the weaker the better; that shall in no way hinder your possessing the "good land," for "they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them."
And so it is still; but the difficulty is, you, like the rest of us, are so proud, you cannot submit to be "nothing at all," but will be making calculations and drawing conclusions from what you are, what you do, what you leave undone, and what you deserve. Why, my dear friend, there is nothing of the gospel in all this; it is all muddy water from your own corrupt fountain, and your heavenly Father never intends you to get refreshment there—but only from the living water which flows from the throne of God, through the pierced heart of your crucified Surety. Oh! may that precious Surety say to you with power, "Come unto Me and drink;" thus will self be blessedly put out of the question, and you will experimentally prove that this strength, His doing, His dying, His deserving, are sufficient without any puny productions of yours.
I have been interested in observing that when I walk with my face toward the sun, my own black shadow is cast behind me; but when my back is toward the sun, this black resemblance of myself marches on before me--in full view. This "I considered, and received instruction." So that I was made to cry, "Turn me again, O Lord God Almighty; cause your face to shine, and I shall be saved." Ah! we do indeed need turning by Divine power towards the Sun of righteousness, that self may be out of view. For no precious fruits of humility, love, joy, peace, meekness, long-suffering, faith, will flow by looking at our own black self—but the hardness will grow harder, and the darkness more horrible, and pride will fret and grumble, because self can get nothing to glory in. All must be found in Jesus: "In Him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
How many years was I unwittingly going about to establish my own righteousness. (Rom. 10) I was truly loathing myself, and ever seeing "greater abominations," but mourning and fretting daily because I could get no better. I wanted to be spiritual, and holy, and humble, to be melted into contrition and repentance—but was looking to the wrong place for it, and never thought that the cursed leaven of pride was working in it all, and that I was dishonoring my precious Savior by not being willing to come to Him, empty, needy, naked, and filthy too! But how plainly I see it now, and therefore do I write freely in love to you, thinking you are tainted with the same malady. The Lord hasten the day of power in your soul, when you shall look unto Him and be lightened, and your face no longer be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)
"In that day you will say--I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." (Isa. 12:1-3)
I did quite understand your feeling of distress when Mr. D— spoke so confidently of your state, well remembering how a friend frequently grieved me in the same way, because I feared I had deceived her, though I tried much to make her know what a vile, black creature I was. However, I have lived to know that she judged rightly, and that I am indeed a vessel of mercy, though then I thought it so unlikely. "Grace, grace, unto Him."
I was thankful to hear from your last that you are a little better. The Lord perfect that which concerns you. The spirit of prayer granted you after the severe buffeting of the enemy rejoiced my heart, and is surely a pledge of greater things to come. What a word is that, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him." And then, again, "Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." The Word is full of encouragement to tempted souls, and God is faithful. I believe He will arise for your help, and set you in safety from him that puffs at you. "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13)
I myself have had some sharp spiritual exercise, and have been often on the battlefield, and had to cry for help to One who is mighty; for my enemies were too strong for me—but the Lord was my stay, or indeed they had swallowed me up. "He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me. (Psalm 18:17-18) "He has not given me for a prey to their teeth—but has at times sweetly brought me into the banqueting-house to strengthen me for further conflict. I have indeed afresh proved what I am in my fallen nature. "Tekel" (that is--you have been weighed in the balance and found deficient. Dan. 5:27) is written upon it all; but "in the Lord have I righteousness and strength;" and it is a rich mercy to be driven from confidence in the flesh, though by roughest measures.
And now, may the Lord be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry: when He hears may He answer it.
Accept love and best wishes from your unworthy but affectionate friend,
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