Gleanings from the Inner Life of Ruth Bryan
I am going to aim at keeping a kind of DIARY, to write down my feelings, thoughts, and the occurrences of the days as they pass away, in hopes of finding it beneficial. May the Lord grant His blessing!
Sunday, September 1st, 1822.—Attended the seven o'clock prayer-meeting this morning for the first time. The affectionate prayers which were offered up for my dearest father affected me. May they be answered! Seem to have some feeling about Divine things; but, alas! this afternoon am as stupid as usual. Nothing, nothing will break this hard heart. The services of another Sabbath are over; how have my privileges been abused! I feel this evening I cannot tell how; I know not which way to turn. Oh, that I may be directed by the Spirit of truth to the right way of happiness!
Monday, 2nd.—Have spent this afternoon at a friend's. Alas! alas! I have still to mourn my insensibility to serious things; indeed, I seem not to have any desire.
[Reader, this may appear a strange expression from a quickened, living soul; but have you known nothing of having been brought so low, under the power of unbelief, and the entanglements of worldliness, carnality, and sin, as to be brought to halt—to hesitate—to doubt, and, in your inner heart to sigh for even a desire after spiritual manifestations, and such tokens of mercy as you had once hoped were yours? Was not the prophet here when he said, "My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord!"]
I fear that I am not affected as I ought, and have only a faint desire to become a Christian; and that merely to escape hell. Lord, have mercy upon me! Lead aright; break this hard, hard heart! You, Lord, know what I would have, even the forgiveness of my sins. During service was as cold as a stone. Oh, when will this vile heart be melted and subdued by divine grace?
Tuesday, 3rd.—Have been more light and trifling than usual today. I not only indulged a worldly spirit, but encouraged and courted it. How have I to lament every day my sinfulness. I am afraid I have been in some measure trusting to what I hoped to do; but the more I strive to do something acceptable, the shorter I come. I know the right way, but find it hard to depend only on Christ, and to exercise faith. I have no faith, no humility, no sense of sin, no confidence in the promises, no fear of the threatened punishments; nor anything that I ought to have. Oh, what a picture!
This evening heard a sermon from John 2:11; but, alas! felt next to nothing. O Lord, break this heart into ten thousand pieces! Oh! I would sooner suffer all horrors and terrors imaginable, and be saved at last, than be in my present dreadful and stupid state. Break—break, oh, break my heart, and make me give it entirely to You, O blessed Savior!
Wednesday, 4th.—This evening have been to a friend's. No profitable conversation, nor did I wish for any; but joined in the nonsense, and seemed almost to forget I had a soul. What shall we say to these things? Every night I have to look back upon a day spent in folly and sin. Alas! I fear, and with too much reason, that I never felt the plague of my own heart. Oh, for all the sorrows imaginable, sooner than indulge in such wickedness! Lord, forgive, and rouse me from this worse than death. Oh, what a hypocrite I am!
Friday, 6th.—Went with Miss B— this morning for a walk. Enjoyed it very much. She seems to think there is good hope even for me. Surely I have not deceived her. I think I told her all I felt; but hope and encouragement seem almost impossible. I have been informed by one of my companions that Miss B— has with pain observed in me a spirit of censoriousness and sneering. I sneer! the last person in the world who ought to do it, feeling so guilty myself. I am afraid I did not receive the reproof in a proper spirit; but felt hurt, as it came from those younger than myself. Lord, subdue the abominable spirit of pride which I feel, and enable me to overcome the censorious looks which are observed in me!
Sunday, 8th, Evening.—I have enjoyed or understood a little of what has been delivered today; but now it seems to have gone from me, and I am the same stupid creature again. Oh, how long shall I groan under this worse than Egyptian bondage? Oh, that I may be enabled to look to Christ for deliverance, and to wait patiently His good time!
Tuesday, 10th.—The day has passed as usual; we have little variation, and my feelings vary almost as little. I am generally as cold and dead as the stones in the street. This evening heard a sermon from Psalm 50:13. Felt a little encouragement to hope that I should some time be delivered from my burden of sin; but then, when I thought of feeling what was said, and looking upon myself as a sinner, it came into my mind, "Oh, you hypocrite! you whited sepulcher!" From whence it proceeded I know not.
Saturday, 21st.—I have this day been rather more still than I am sometimes; but must take shame and confusion of face to myself for all the events thereof. O Lord, make me humble, and allow me not to depend upon anything it is in my power to perform. Oh, keep me humble! keep me from self-deception! begin the good work, if it is not yet begun. Oh, may I not be a castaway! Break, break this stony heart! How long, Lord, how long? Make me feel. Oh, leave me not to this insensibility! What argument can I use? Oh, leave, leave me not! Allow me not to perish! Mercy, mercy is all my plea; for Christ's sake, have mercy on me! Oh, precious, precious Christ Jesus! be my Savior, Husband, Friend—my Jesus, and my all. Jesus! Jesus! Oh, that You were precious to my soul!
[To a mere novice in Divine things, or speculators in religion, these heart-exercises would appear strange and anomalous; but by such as have been brought into the school of Christ, and are set by the Divine Teacher to the study of the human heart, the struggles—the contention—the warfare between flesh and spirit—that which is from beneath, and that which is from above—will be perfectly and practically understood.]
October 25th—My dear father has been severely exercised with pain; for five hours he endured such agony as he never felt before. My distress during that period was such as I cannot express. The fear that I should soon lose such a dear parent, and the misery of hearing his groans without being able to afford relief, exceeds all I ever felt; but, thanks be to the Lord! my father is fast recovering. Here is cause for a fresh Ebenezer. Oh, I can never be sufficiently thankful! O Lord, grant that both my dear parents may be spared many years, unworthy as I am of them.
October 31st.—Have just returned from a prayer-meeting. My dear father gave us a sweet address from the words, "I know it shall be well with those who fear the Lord;" but, alas! it was not for me—I cannot say that I fear the Lord in the manner described. Everything I hear seems to add to my distress; to hear of the high privileges of true believers, to long to enjoy, and yet to be left almost without hope, is trouble. What shall I do? The door of mercy seems eternally closed against my petitions. I am ready to give up all for lost; but, Lord, make me pray! never let me neglect the means. Oh, sometimes I feel as though I never should give up crying for mercy. I think, if I am cast into hell, I will still cry to Jesus for mercy. Oh, that the Lord would appear for my relief! How long will You hide Your face from me?
November 1st.—Alas! this has been another day of sin. I have given up writing in this book for some time, until this week, for fear it should be pride; but my father says it is a temptation; but I write sin, sin, all sin, nothing but sin. Lord, have mercy! A week ago, my ever dear father suffered unutterable anguish; I cannot be thankful enough to the Lord for restoring him. I have to engage in prayer tonight;* may the Lord help me! but, alas! I tremble.
* Her Friday-evening meetings (of which she often speaks in the course of her Diary) were commenced with one or two Christian friends, at or about this time; and were continued until within a few days of her death.
December 22nd, Sunday.—For the last month, or more, my feelings have been tried indeed. My dear father has been, and still continues under severe affliction. This is the fourth Sabbath he has been confined from his usual labors, but he has enjoyed sweet peace under his sufferings—no fear of death—but he has been enabled to bow to the will of his heavenly Father. He said to me one day, "I care not what pain I suffer, or what affliction, if I could but preach;" the tears came into his eyes, and he was much affected. He longs again to be among his little flock, and to preach to them Christ crucified. May the Lord, if it be His blessed will, soon restore him! But, alas! how stupid and dead have I been under this affliction; my natural feelings have been keen, but, as to spiritual things, I remain unimpressed and cold. Lord, rouse my stupid affections!—leave me not to myself! but take some means to rescue me from that destruction to which I am rushing with impetuosity!
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