Gleanings from the Inner Life of Ruth Bryan
January 4th.—The first Sunday in the year 1829 finds me having made but little progress in the ways of God; still, still, I am halting between two opinions, and seem as if I could not give myself up to the Lord. May grace be given to enable me to do so, and the close of this year find me united to Him in an everlasting covenant!
April 5th.—Oh! that the Lord would be pleased to imprint gratitude on my heart for the mercies with which He does favour me; and make up every deficiency by bestowing on me a new heart, and enabling me to devote myself to His service. I long to come out from the world, and avow myself a disciple of the Redeemer. But, alas! I am persuaded that I never felt the regenerating influence of Divine grace; sin has still the dominion over me, and I can truly say,
"The more I strive against its power,
I sin and stumble but the more."
I do wish to resist it, but have such an evil heart, that, at times, it seems my element. Gracious Lord! deliver me by Your Almighty power, for nothing short of Omnipotence can rescue me. I have been much exercised lately about the Trinity, and have no experienced friend to open my mind to, in whose judgment I could confide, and who would meet my difficulties. Perhaps the Lord Himself will be my Teacher. I wish to examine the subject in humble dependence upon Him.
May 24th.—This has been a Sabbath of much darkness, and deservedly so! for, during the last two days, I have sinfully indulged in building castles of worldly happiness. I have been hewing out to myself "cisterns, broken cisterns, which could hold no water," though at the same time my conscience told me I was wrong. How then can I expect comfort in religion when I am seeking it in the world? I am now plunged in gloomy doubts and dejection; my sin weighs heavily upon my soul; I am bereft of hope, and afraid to pray, because I have sinned presumptuously, and contrary to much light and knowledge. Oh! when shall I be enabled to give my whole heart to the Savior, to resist the devil, and fight the good fight of faith? Descend, O Divine Spirit! renew my heart, and give me strength to mortify and subdue the lusts of the flesh, to which I am now in subjection. How miserable is my state at this moment! my inward corruptions, and the enemy of souls, are strongly urging to sin and indifference; while conscience and past experience, amply testify that sorrow and distress will be the sure consequence. Lord, deliver me from this bondage!
July 5th, Sunday.—I trust I can say that it is my anxious and chief desire to be found walking steadily towards the Heavenly Canaan. But, alas! I am so distressed by the powerful corruptions of my wicked heart, that I often fear I am going the downward road. I can truly say, "That when I would do good, evil is present with me." I am at this time in a state of much anxiety about my immortal interests. I have begun to read "Romaine's Life of Faith." I feel much interested in it, and see more of the nature of faith than before. But find myself lamentably deficient, and think that my lack of this precious faith in the dear Redeemer is the cause of my overwhelming distress. Oh! that I could view Him as my "Law-fulfiller." Holy Spirit! be pleased to open my eyes, to see clearly the finished work He has wrought out; be pleased to grant me a sweet view of Jesus as a Savior, who is able and willing to save all who come to Him; and enable me to come, to be ever coming in the midst of all my darkness. Oh! grant me faith—strong faith. May I every day live nearer to You, and be more weaned from the world. I hunger and thirst after righteousness, and such You have said, shall be filled. "Lord, may I be constantly looking for and expecting the fulfillment of Your promise. Amen."
July 6th, my Birthday.—Twenty-four years have I sojourned in this wilderness, and find additional proof, every succeeding one, that this is not my rest! The last year seems to have passed more quickly than any other in my life. Oh, that I may be enabled to devote myself from this time to the Lord! Dear Jesus, and Eternal Spirit, graciously enable me to do so, and seal, oh! seal my wandering heart to things divine. May I come out from the world and be separate, and be able to say, "All is well," whether You have ordained life or death for me during the next year.
[The reader is especially requested to observe the ardent soul-breathings of the beloved Ruth of faith. Constantly she cries through these pages, "Lord, increase my faith!" and to every unprejudiced mind it will be obvious how graciously and condescendingly the Lord answered this her prayer. During the latter years of her life, faith, in its simplicity and its power, shone so conspicuously in her whole character and conversation.]
July 7th.—I have been reading the memorandum I wrote on my birthday last year, and desire to raise an "Ebenezer" of gratitude to my gracious Redeemer for bringing me out of the anxiety and distress by which I was then surrounded. Bitter indeed was the cup I was drinking, but it was a deserved one. On this day last year, I was all but in despair. I thought the Lord had forsaken me, that He would never more be gracious, and all things were working against me. But now, blessed be His name, I can say He has been better to me than all my fears. I have experienced a wonderful temporal deliverance. Oh! that it may be only a prelude to a spiritual one. I do hope the Lord has, in much mercy, turned my face toward the heavenly Jerusalem, for it is now my chief desire to deny the lusts of the flesh, to live to His glory, and enjoy communion with Him. Yes, O ever blessed Jesus, I long for a sweet view of Your reconciled countenance. I long to live by faith upon You, to pass my time here as a stranger and pilgrim, and have my affections set entirely on things above. Oh, grant the desire of my heart! Send me not empty away, but enrich me with the graces of Your Holy Spirit, and enable me from this time to be Your disciple.
July 19th, Sabbath.—During the past week, I have, I trust, been led to see a little more of the nature of the Christian warfare, and daily taking up the cross, than ever before. It appears to me now, to consist not merely in abstaining from those outward transgressions which are obvious to the view of others—but stedfastly resisting, in the strength of the Lord, those inward corruptions which are daily and hourly striving for mastery; and, also, in endeavoring to deny and subdue those sins, which, from habit and constitution, are as dear as a right hand, or a right eye. This is, indeed, a cross which we ought to be carrying; the moment we lay it down, and ALLOW ourselves in any carnal indulgences, or sinful pleasure—that moment we bring guilt upon our souls, and lose that sweet peace, and serenity of mind, which is only found in reconciliation to, and communion with God.
July 26th, Sabbath.—Since writing the above, I have proved it true, indeed, by bitter experience. Within the last few days I have been more indifferent to spiritual things; those sins of my heart, to which I am so prone, have again, in some measure, gained the ascendancy, and I am now miserable indeed! My heart is cold, my conscience alarmed, and I have lost those sweet desires and longings after the bread of heaven, which I before felt. The privilege of prayer, which was becoming one of my sweetest enjoyments, is now a task. I have but little inclination; and, when I attempt to pray, guilt flies in my face, and I fear to approach the Majesty of heaven. Oh, how hard it is to keep a "conscience void of offence."
True religion appears to me one of the most difficult things in the world, and I very much fear I shall never attain the true enjoyment of it. There must be something essentially wrong, or I would not be so easily and frequently overcome of evil. Oh, Holy and Divine Spirit, Comforter, Enlightener, Sanctifier of your people—be pleased to descend in all your mighty influences, and begin a work of grace upon my soul! I am ignorant—instruct me. I am dark—enlighten me. I am sinful—apply the precious blood of Jesus to my guilty soul. I am altogether an outward-court worshiper. Oh, renew me in the spirit of my mind, and grant that henceforth "the life that I live in the flesh, I may live by faith in the Son of God." Oh, that I may be enabled to overcome the temptations of the devil, to subdue the lusts of the flesh, and live daily in nearer communion with the Lord! Oh, blessed Savior, be pleased to rouse my sluggish heart! CUT DEEP and CLOSE, rather than allow me to deceive myself, or to go on in a lukewarm, indifferent state. Make me lively in Your cause, spiritual in Your service; and may my heart and affections be constantly in heaven, while my body is on earth.
August 23rd, Sabbath.—Some five or six weeks ago, I had some hopes that the Lord was turning my feet Zionward, and that I would be enabled to cleave to Him with purpose of heart. But now, alas! I have reason to believe I was deceiving myself, for my iniquities have again taken hold of, and conquered me. I have lost those earnest desires after the enjoyment of piety, which I before experienced. I am at a loss to account for my strange variety of conduct and feeling, and fear I am entirely given up to work the desires of my wicked heart. At times I feel an entire hatred to sin, delight in the privilege of prayer, reading, and meditation, and seem to desire nothing so much as to grow in grace, and press forward in the Divine life. But soon my besetting sins gain the advantage, Satan represents these in the most captivating light, my heart is ensnared, and I sink into carnal ease and indulgence. Then prayer becomes a burden; spiritual exercises lose their charm; and I am brought into dreadful bondage by the terrors of an accusing law, and a guilty conscience. Oh, that I knew the secret of real religion! but I fear I never shall. I have so often indulged the hope that I was in the way to its enjoyment, and been disappointed, that I now know not which way to turn, and shall, I believe, sink in deep despair, or give myself up to work iniquity with those who know not God. May Divine mercy be extended; and I, forcibly, snatched as a brand from the burning! But, ah! I dare not hope, for my heart seems still to love and cleave to its iniquities; and the Scripture declares, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord WILL NOT hear." Misery and despair are my sad portion.
October 10th.—Most feelingly can I say with the poet—"Strange and mysterious is my life—what opposites I feel within!" For at times my whole mind and soul seem absorbed in desires after spirituality, and the enjoyment of the Divine presence; the world sinks into insignificance, and its enjoyments and pleasures lose their power to charm. But soon, perhaps before one short day has passed away, some temptation is presented suited to my corrupt inclinations; and, catching the bait, I grovel again in the dust, and give up my soul to the pursuit of trifles! Whence arises this inconsistency?
Can I dare to hope that I know anything savingly while I am the subject of it? It is certainly very discouraging, and at times I quite conclude my hopes have been all a delusion. But there is a something whispers, Would the Lord have shown me these things if He had meant to destroy me? I think not, and must still hope, even against hope. I do think the cause of my giving way to temptation, and bringing so much guilt and distress upon my soul, is my not looking sufficiently out of myself; for when I am in some measure restored from my distress, and favored with a more comfortable and spiritual frame of mind, I immediately hope all is right, and think I shall never fall again. But, alas! I soon, very soon prove that my own strength is entire weakness. Blessed and Divine Spirit, be pleased to enlighten my dark understanding! What I know not--teach me! I am weak and ignorant, be my Teacher and Supporter! Grant me copious outpourings of your sacred influences! Take of the things of Jesus, and show them to me, and enable me to be constantly going out of self--and looking to Him who is the Author and Finisher of faith!
[Reader, here appears to be the first dawning of that great and glorious light in which she afterwards so sweetly rejoiced.]
November 22nd.—Within the last day or two our dear kind pastor has called upon us, purposely to converse with me on becoming a communicant at the Lord's table, which he very much wishes me to do. It is a subject upon which I have not allowed myself to think, always concluding, without hesitation, that I was not a proper character. I have stated my objections to Mr. S.—but he does not think them sufficient reasons, and still urges me to come forward; he thinks it a very refreshing, strengthening ordinance, and that it is our duty to avow publicly our attachment to the cause of Christ, and devote ourselves openly to Him. I feel no hesitation on this part of the subject—but think I could declare myself on the Lord's side before an assembled world--were I sure I had experienced a change of heart, and was under the influence of the Holy Spirit. May my fears be dissipated, and my doubts banished by the Lord himself! And, oh, that I may be enabled to devote myself to Him wholly and unreservedly, and be determined through His grace to forsake all false refuges, and cleave to Him alone. Amen.
November 30th.—Yesterday attended sacrament, as a spectator. Felt my mind in some degree impressed with Divine things—but did not enjoy that clear view of the loveliness and all-sufficiency of Jesus which I long for. I see clearly the guilt and depravity of my nature and practice, and at times am almost overwhelmed with the sense of my grievous heart-backslidings—but am not at present favored with a faith's view of the precious Savior. I cannot say "My beloved is mine and I am His;" and, though I acknowledge Him to be the "chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One," my heart is not so attracted and won by His charms as I wish. Ah, no! the world occupies too much of my affections, and often, alas! excludes the Redeemer from my thoughts. When shall the day dawn and the shadows flee away? When will the Sun of Righteousness arise and dissipate, by His refulgent beams, the thick mists of unbelief and carnality which envelop my groveling soul? Hasten, dearest Lord, the happy time! I do long to give myself entirely to You. Enable me to do so, and accept the worthless offering.
December 6th.—I am still undecided as to whether I should immediately make a public profession of my faith in Christ. I feel more desirous of doing so, than at any former part of my life. But am very fearful of rushing unbidden to the feast of the Lord. I consulted a friend last week, whose opinion I much value; she quite advised me to do it, and thought I should consider Mr. S.'s invitation as a voice from God. Could I once be quite sure that this was the case, I would not hesitate a moment—but cheerfully obey the Divine mandate. May I be more importunate and constant in prayer, and at length be enabled plainly to discover the mind of the Lord! I have to complain of much languor and unprofitableness in heavenly things. Oh, that the gracious Spirit of truth would descend and kindle in my cold heart a flame of love divine! Would that temporal things might no more so absorb my thoughts. But all my affections and desires be swallowed up in contemplating my glorious Redeemer.
"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it—
Seal it for your courts above!"
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