The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
The deceivableness of the form,
without the power of godliness
June 11, 1851.
This is a day of much lip-profession without real heart work, and the "kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." "The kingdom of God is within you." This is what Satan seems in this day to be most fighting against. He does not oppose a general profession of religion, which is now deemed respectable. Nor does he mind great strictness in outward religious forms--as that is often a means of lulling the conscience into false peace. He will not even disturb a sound creed, and much zeal in contending for the truth of the Bible--so long as the truths rest only in the natural mind, whereby they induce vain confidence and terrible self-deceiving. The great enemy of souls will endeavor to keep all in peace who have 'a name to live, but are dead.' And if one of his subjects passes over either from gross sins or from the more refined pleasures of this perishing world to an outward profession, he will not be alarmed. For he cares not whether souls perish under the title of 'worldling' or of 'Christian'--so long as he gets them into his own fearful damnation. Nay, I believe if he sees one become restless under some sense of sin, and that he cannot urge that poor soul on further in the old sinful way--he will transform himself into an angel of light, and recommend reformation and external religious duties, such as reading and hearing the Word--taking care to substitute 'form' for 'power'.
Oh! the dreadful danger of such souls, soothed into carnal security! They are only blinded to their danger--not delivered from it. Better were it to endure years of anguish in weeping, and seeking for mercy by Jesus Christ--than to be turned to such "a refuge of lies," and to walk in such "sparks of their own kindling." Better to walk in sorrow all one's life--than to lie down in sorrow at death to end in eternal woe! May the Lord deliver souls thus deceived from this snare of the great fowler, so that they may thankfully say, "The snare is broken, and we are escaped" by Divine power into that kingdom of God which is not outward things, such food and drink--but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Ah! my beloved friend, it is this stronghold which Satan fights against--and fallen flesh is in league with him! He may tolerate outward forms and external religious exercises--but inward power is represented as contemptible, unreasonable, and is called fanaticism and enthusiasm! Yet the eternal world of glory is full of this, swelling broader and deeper the anthem of praise to the holy Lord God and the Lamb. Without this divine life within, no soul of man can be saved, as the great day shall declare. It is, indeed, fearful to think what that dreadful day will reveal; and of all characters, I think those are in the most fearful condition--who have had Christ on the lip--but not in the heart, as in Matt. 7:21-23. My heart often says: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23, 24.)
True it is, that our vigilant foe does not mind a new creed--but he hates a new heart! He does not object to outward reformation--but hates inward regeneration, and also those who are regenerated. He does not fear good words of prayer on the lip--but he well knows he shall suffer loss when it is said of a soul, "Behold, he prays!" for—
"Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees."
O you trembling souls, let not the subtle serpent drive you from this stronghold! Your God will hear and help you. He has taught you to pray; He will answer your prayers. If He long delays--He is worth waiting for. If He shuts His door against you--it is only to make you knock the louder. It is better to wait on God for His salvation in sackcloth and ashes--than to wait on the world and the flesh clothed in scarlet; "for the end of these things is death!"
It matters not who may deride or scoff, or how your own evil heart may shrink from the contempt of the cross. "How long will you halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." You cannot serve them both! Oh, be wise.
If the world and Satan and the flesh seem too strong for you, as they surely are--go into your closet, and pour out your heart before the Lord; He will be a refuge for you. "He gives power to the faint; and to those who have no might He increases strength."
The sighs and groans of a broken heart are heard in the high court above, and the tears of a contrite spirit are audible there! For before the throne is Jesus, the Brother of the broken-hearted, the atoning sacrifice for sin--the Advocate for sinners who loathe themselves for their iniquity. (1 Kings 8:38, 39.) That blessed Savior understands all the broken utterances; He knows what each of His children would say if he could, and "He ever lives to make intercession for them." (Heb. 7:25.) It may be the law condemns you, O trembling one--conscience condemns you--thoughts, words, actions, all condemn you. Be it so--may it be your mercy, and the beginning of your salvation, for this is like the power with which the Holy Spirit begins in the soul, thereby translating it out of the kingdom of darkness "into the kingdom of God's dear Son." (Col. 1:13.)
The religion of Jesus is a religion of power; (1 Cor. 1:18, 23, 24.) and if, through the power of the Holy Spirit, there is a discovery of sin and condemnation--may Jesus say, "Your sins," (oh, the sweetness!) "your sins, which are many, are all forgiven you;" then the burden is lawfully lost, and the soul has solid peace. Thus shall it be with everyone quickened by the Spirit. Satan may strive to drown and stifle the conviction, but it will return with double misery, and the burden grow heavier and heavier, until the poor soul finds there is no way of escape but through the blood of the cross. May the Spirit enable you to come just as you are! I know you are seeking for Jesus, may He soon be found by you.
From your affectionate but unworthy,
Ruth—a sinner saved.
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