The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
Counsels to a young man entering the ministry
"Is it well with you?" 2 Kings 4:26
To Mr. Macdonald, September 1855.
My dear friend,
What will you have thought of me for being so long in answering your most welcome letter? Perhaps you will consider it a fresh proof of human fickleness, and imagine that I am forgetting you. Well, I am sure, it is peculiarly needful for you ever to remember the Divine injunction, "Cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of?" I am sure a heart so sensitive as yours has often smarted, often bled, from wounds given by those you love; but it is all permitted in order to bring you to rest on His dear bosom, on which the favored disciple leaned--for Him you can never love too much. I know, too, that my poor friendship would not be worth one regret; but I am far from forgetting you, and desire ever to plead for you before our Father who is in heaven. He knows your temperament, you situation, your conflicts, and all about you. His eye is upon you; His heart is toward you in all your wanderings; and because you are not walking closely enough with Him, He will sometimes send disappointing and trying providences to bring you nearer to Him.
I long after you in the Lord, that you may know experimentally the full privilege and blessedness of union to Jesus, that you may dwell in divine love and drink deeply of the waters of salvation, for so you will be best qualified to commend them to others. For this you have need to be much in the closet, pleading much with the Lord to fill you with the Spirit, who shall teach you all things, and lead you into all truth.
Some people hold up one part of truth; but all the truth of God is precious. May you reject noneóbut prize all, and be led by the Spirit to receive it and search into it, and never be warped by any part of it or by creature opinion, that your faith may "not stand in the wisdom of menóbut in the power of God." "Sanctify the Lord Almighty Himself, and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Oh, may He make you a clear witness for His truth, and may that truth make you free from every error and false way. May the blessed Spirit correct all error in each of us, and grant that in His light we may see light.
I gather plainly from the Scriptures that all the wicked are to be warned, the thirsty to be invited to the waters, the hungry to the feast, those who have no money to the wine and milk, and, then, the large, broad, sweet word in Revelation is "Whoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Beyond this I think you could not go, because all would not be willing. "It is God who works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure." You cannot enlarge your invitations too much to those who are willing, and you cannot err on the other side by keeping within the limit of Scripture warrant. Do not press this or any other point slightly; many, by so doing, have "daubed the wall with untempered mortar." Do not go for counsel to human authority, even the highestóbut seek on your knees, to have these things made plain to you. It is a solemn thing to stand as a watchman between the living and the dead. As you have written freely, I do so too. We have no thought of contentionóbut write affectionately in search of the truth; I, in prospect of eternity, you (if spared,) with the prospect of telling to dying fellow-sinners the way of salvation. Surely each of us has peculiar need to be sober and watch unto prayer; and, perhaps, you sometimes feel "who is sufficient for these things?" But your sufficiency is of God, by whom alone the stripling David delivered the lamb out of the paw of the lion and the bear. May that same God send you to proclaim deliverance to many a lamb of the Savior's flock whom the roaring lion is seeking to devour.
Ah, my brother, the Canaanite will to the end be still in the land, and we shall often groan, being burdened; but we must seek that these Canaanites may be more and more put under tribute (Joshua 17:13) by the power of the cross, and the blood of Jesus received by faith. You know the original inhabitants of Canaan are taken for a type of the evils of our nature, and the great sin of Israel was being too friendly with them. Does not this tell home upon our experience? Is there not at times a parleying with besetting sins and inward evils, which have often cast us down wounded? The indwelling of sin will remain while we are in the body; but if our souls are lively and healthy, we shall be seeking for its power to be more and more subdued; not by our own effortsóbut by faith in Jesus.
If we feed this serpent, it will bite us in return; if we give liberty to these Canaanites, they shall be pricks and thorns to us. Numb. 33:55, Josh. 23:12, 13, with some other like passages, have been in this sense very instructive to me. Oh! I am an evil creature, I have been overcome by inward evil again and again, and have often been too friendly with the natives of my old heart. This makes me now fear anything that ministers to them; this makes me shun even "the doubtful territory," because I am sure that there they may get encouragement to lift up their head. In fact, my dear brother, I am so weak, so sinful, that I am never safe away from the cross of Christ. There we not only learn the crucifixion of the worldóbut the crucifixion of self! And as the evil that is in us stirs and strives, we can only have victory by His cross and by His blood, which CLEANSES from all sin. I think none can have been more tried with inward evil than I have; but, even after a defeat, the Captain of the Lord's host has shown me that all my victory is in Him and by Him; so that, while abased in my own eyes, and loathing myself in the dust; I have understood, to His praise, that in the highest sense "her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned, for she has received of the Lord's hands double for all her sins." Cheer up, therefore, press on towards the prize, tarry not in all the plain; your Lord has promised that "sin shall not have dominion over you," but He has also said, "he who sows to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption," and "the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways." Of both these I know the bitterness, and their best remedy is living by faith on Jesus, who has put away all our sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The Lord strengthen you in the conflict. The beloved apostle says, "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." And Paul says, "Young men exhort to be sober-minded." . . .
This is a land of clouds and of stormsóbut they send us afresh to the hiding-place.
"Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
'Til the storms of life are past;
Safe into the haven guide,
Oh receive my soul at last."
Sweet to the weary one will be that message, "The Master has come, and calls for you." And, now, farewell; "the conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks." May we do so too; there is a spring in the rock which flows sweetly for all the inhabitants. May you drink thereof and afresh lift up your head with joy. The Lord enrich you with covenant favor, and grant you such revelations of a precious Jesus as shall eclipse all beside.
Believe me yours,
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