The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
Counsels to a young man entering the ministry
To one who is as a "sparrow alone upon the housetop." (Psalm 102:7)
"Fear not, for I am with you."
To Mr. Macdonald, July 22, 1855.
My dear friend,
I will tell you what I have just been thinking. You know our gracious Lord said to His disciples, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you." It seems to me, that friend after friend, comfort after comfort, might also say to our foolish, clinging, sensitive hearts, "It is expedient for you that we go away; for if we do not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you!" In other words, "If we remain, you will build on us part of your comfort, and then you will be a loser, not learning the height, depth, length, and breadth of the love, sweetness, and fullness which are in Christ Jesus. A pang may be felt as one by one is taken away; yet how blessed to be in the position of the poor sinner who was left alone with Jesus, when His gracious lips did drop as the honeycomb into her heart, saying, "Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more." Oh, it is worth being stripped of all that is our own to hear this secret of divine love, and to enjoy Jesus as our "all in all."
Now, I know you will assent to this in your judgment; but I want you to have the full benefit and blessing in being brought nearer to Jesus; for I well know what creatures we are, for self-hewn cisterns; and how when one is broken we seek for another, instead of turning to the Fountain. Look at your own heart, and see whether it is not so; whether you are not often wanting a friend, a letter, or anything to break the desolate feeling. Am I speaking too closely? It is because I am so much of your own temperament that I thus judge you, and long to draw you to the full bliss of forsaking all for Christ. Then shall you most abundantly find all in Him, and praise Him for every stripping and emptying which prevented your resting in a lower source of enjoyment, or enjoying even Himself through the medium of others. Oh! it is most precious to commune directly with Himself, and receive lessons of wisdom from His own blessed mouth—
"With You conversing, I forget
All time and toil and care;
Labor is rest, seclusion sweet,
When You my God are there."
This is the application of the subject. You are now in the very position to be learning the sweetness of being alone with Jesus; and if you feel a lack in outward ordinances, and a lack of Christian communion--it is to bring you in quiet retirement to open your heart more fully to the Prince of Peace, that you may not have to go abroad for your choice things—but find Him at home in the inner temple of the new heart; and thus shall your present wilderness blossom abundantly, and you shall rejoice even with joy and singing.
Our dear Lord always gives us just what is needful for our present circumstances. Inasmuch as we are repining against them, we are "the rebellious, and shall dwell in a dry land;'' but when we accept them at His hands, seeking therein for Jesus, we shall find that there is a blessing in them, however painful they may be to the flesh. Your present trials are covenant discipline in covenant love, to teach you to live above self and creatures, to be less dependent upon 'streams', and to be drawing from the Fountain. You see how freely I write, just like an elder sister who has trodden the path before you. I myself have been deprived of blessings dear as the right hand and the right eye--that I might come to "Peniel," which I need not tell you means the "face of God." Just see how Jacob sent all over the brook, in Gen. 32:22, 23, 30. Even the nearest and dearest must go away, and he must be left alone to see the "face of God;" then it is recorded "He blessed him there." Oh, that this might be written of you.
I think much of the high calling which you are contemplating, and also of what is said to the tribe of Levi in the Old Testament, "You shall have no inheritance in their land." Moses, in blessing that tribe, said, "Neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children," all betokening a peculiar separation to the Lord, and showing that they should esteem everything secondary to His glory, and that He being their inheritance, their confidence and chief delight should be in Him. Blessed state of high privilege! May it be fully yours in the spiritual sense, and may all the changes and tossings to which you are subjected, be a means used by the Lord to bring you to it. Press after it, for "the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it."
May the guiding cloud ever go before you to mark where you should encamp in the wilderness. Remember it will be a wilderness everywhere, and you in some sort or other must feel it to be so; but many a stream will gush out of the Rock, and many a refreshment be prepared when you are faint and weary; not to tempt you to sit down in peace—but to strengthen you to go onward.
I am glad you are at times happy in "The Hiding-place," although you do come back to the painful consciousness of self. Even while you are learning what you are, you are safe in what He is, and you shall at last be more than conqueror; yes, even experimentally so now while "looking unto Jesus." "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." Constantly come to the light of the Spirit, that your fleshly thoughts, words, and deeds may be reproved; and as He discloses to you the evil, beg Him also to subdue it. It is not enough to learn our sin and cry out against it; the blessing is promised "to him who overcomes." It is not merely in self-loathing—but in self-forsaking, that our victory comes. "Be," in this sense, "faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life."
It is very probable that we shall meet no more on earth; but I trust that when the earthly house of our tabernacle shall be dissolved, we may have "a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." When we have arrived there, it will be of no importance how roughly or how smoothly we have fared by the way. And now farewell; seek close walking with God, yield yourself fully and continually to the Lord. "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him," rejoicing that "you are not your own."
The Lord bless you and keep you from evil, that it may not grieve you, and continually set before you an open door in providence, saying, "This is the way, walk in it." He is our Rock, following us all through the wilderness, where our bread is given us and our water is sure.
In our adorable Emmanuel, ever yours affectionately,
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