Gleanings from the Inner Life of Ruth Bryan
January 18th.—My health is very much declining again. I endeavor to say as little about it as I can, not wishing to grieve my dearest mother. But I begin to think there must be something seriously wrong. Temporal circumstances are dark and trying, and my soul much distressed. The spiritual conflicts of the last week have been very severe; storm, tempest, and horrible darkness have been my experience. And why? Because for some time I have been walking at a distance from my Lord, grown remiss in private duty, and at length indulged in one of my besetting heart-sins, thereby giving Satan an advantage! And when I would have roused myself, he let me know that I had opened the door of my heart to him, and it was out of my power to close it against him; for, when I strived to humble myself before the Lord, confessing my sins, and longing to forsake them, he presents temptations to my soul with such power that I am thrown into confusion, and sometimes know not whether I have yielded or not, being only able to say, "Jesus, save! Jesus, save!" over and over again, as quickly as I can repeat the words in my mind, the temptation passing through it at the same time with equal rapidity. And I afterwards feel all the guilt and distress of having taken part with the tempter, though I am sure I do not intend to do so. I am indeed in a woeful state, and the Lord hides Himself from me.
But it is most just, and I do not suffer a thousandth part of what I deserve. Whenever I am inclined to yield to my sinful inclinations, may I read this, and remember the bitterness of the draught, and take warning! And oh, may the Lord in mercy condescend to look upon my sore distress; sprinkle my conscience with cleansing blood; seal home a sense of forgiving love upon my soul; and enable me to walk humbly before Him the remainder of my days--fearing nothing so much as His frown.
February 23rd, Sabbath.—I have for sometime been walking in darkness—but last Sabbath eve was much relieved. We received a letter from Birmingham, containing a disappointment with regard to money matters; instead, however, of depressing me, comfort seemed to flow into my soul. The Lord's ways towards me are wonderful indeed; the past week my mind has been somewhat calm—but not rejoicing.
May 10th.—I have suffered more from extreme weakness the last week than at any former period of my life; and Satan, my cruel enemy, has taken the advantage of it during the night. When unable to sleep, I have been almost in the "belly of hell;" and my mind at times so confused by temptation, that I have not been able for a season even to cry for relief. The Lord has, however, in mercy partly restored my health, and delivered me from the violent assaults of the enemy. I have been much blessed in reading an old book ("The Life of Elizabeth Cairns," written 1752), at which I have often before looked—but never thought it interesting—the set time for me to enjoy it was not come.
August 4th.—Temporal things appear dark and distressing. During the past week my mind has been much exercised about my present employment, not knowing whether I am in the path of duty, or whether I ought not to seek a more lucrative one. May the Lord direct me! For myself, I do not desire great things, and shrink exceedingly from the idea of entering more into the world. Quiet and retirement I much prize—but I wish to follow the leadings of Providence. May the present darkness be removed from my mind, and my way made clear. I have at this time nothing at all to do. But the Lord has done wonders for me, and I would not distrust. Spiritual things are at a low ebb with me. I am reading John Owen, on "The Glory of Christ;" he is an author I much value; his writings are very searching. I find I have been too anxious about worldly things for some time past, to the neglect of spiritual duties, and in consequence have to cry, "My leanness! My leanness!" May the Lord restore me; it is He alone who can bring me with weeping and supplication to His footstool. Alas! alas! how little reason have I to hope that I am a Christian indeed. Oh, for a closer walk with God!
August 12th.—Again favored with employment, for which I desire to be thankful, and take it as a token that I am in the right path of duty. But, if not, may the Lord convince me of my mistake, and lead me in the way He would have me go. My heart is hard and unfeeling. Lord, revive me! I long to walk cheerfully in Your ways, enjoy daily communion with You, and bring forth fruit to Your glory. But begin to think I never shall, until I am more dead to the world. I believe the indulgence of a carnal spirit is the bane of my happiness. "I would not always live, at this poor dying rate."
Divine and Almighty Spirit, condescend to deal with my poor dead soul! Enable me to crucify the flesh, deny self, forsake the world, and be spiritually-minded.
August 14th.—My feelings are most tried; last evening my dearest mother was so poorly, that she was obliged to come out of chapel. Oh, how is my heart agonized at the very thought of losing her, and the slightest indisposition which attacks her occasions me the severest distress; thanks to the Lord, she is much better this morning. "Bless the Lord, O my soul." I know not what is in the womb of Providence, whether my dearest parent or myself will first be called away. But, from my present feelings, I should think I could not endure the anguish of losing her. I know "with God all things are possible." May He bestow upon me a submissive spirit; and, if it be His will, long spare my dearest mother.
September 1st.—Feel much darkness and ignorance in my mind respecting the life of faith. I fear mine is a life of sense. May the Holy Spirit condescend to instruct me on this important subject, and may the life I henceforth live in the flesh be by faith in the Son of God. I am longing for a revival—but feel much deadness--and not that spirit of prayer I wish.
I have again this week written to my friend, and pressed eternal things upon her notice. May the Lord bless the message! My soul yearns over her, and often do I mourn over her condition, for she is evidently given up to fashion and worldly pursuits and pleasure. "Oh, that she might live before You!"
September 8th, Evening.—Dark and distressed indeed. Surely, I am one of those who are ever learning—but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. In reading John Owen, on the "Glory of Christ," I am led to fear that my profession is hypocritical. I do not find that beholding of Christ by faith which he describes, nor that longing to depart, that I may fully behold it. Oh, that the Lord may show me my real state, and not allow me to deceive myself or others. I am at this time truly wretched. My heart is cold and carnal; my thoughts trifling; and I cannot pour out my prayer before a throne of grace. I chatter like a senseless bird. I am at home in the body, and absent from the Lord. Oh, that I may have some word this evening suited to my case, for I am in a miserable condition, and deserve, richly deserve, the lowest hell for my abominable ingratitude and sin!
October 15th.—No tidings from Birmingham; perhaps we shall be disappointed in both the legacies which have been left us, and obtain neither of them. May we have grace to say and feel, "May Your will be done." My mind is deeply exercised and much distressed. I find it very difficult to rise above temporal things; nay, it is impossible in my own strength. Lord, vouchsafe me Your grace, and enable me to view things in the light of eternity, and to feel myself a stranger here in this fleeting world. I am sure I have been making myself too much at home in the body; and, whatever disappointment may await me, it will be all in justice; and, if it is sanctified, I shall have reason to rejoice.
We are mistaken in thinking that our happiness in any measure depends on outward circumstances. I know from experience, that, when favored with the light of the Lord's countenance, and enjoying His smile--I can be happy in the midst of trials and afflictions. Why, then, so much anxiety about temporal things, and so little concern about spiritual prosperity? Pardon me, dear Lord, and enable me to put a blank into your hands regarding outward things, for You to fill up as You please. I did profess and desire to do it some years ago, and petitioned that I might have decision and prosperity in spiritual things. I would now "renew my blank," and so do, Lord, as seems You good. But, ah! I find another principle crying--Give, give temporal ease and comfort. Oh! of what conflicts am I the subject, so that I cannot do or think the things I would. Lord, strengthen the new man in me, and subdue the old; and, in Your own time, shine in upon my soul. Until then, give patience and a praying spirit.
October 18th.—My dearest mother is doing very poorly; my mind is much distressed on her account. May the Lord in mercy restore her. He has been very gracious in sparing her so long. I think it has been in answer to prayer. I wish to feel grateful.
October 19th.—Family prayer re-established last night.
October 22nd.—My dearest mother is still poorly. May the Lord restore her, and in mercy sanctify the present dispensations of His providence, which appear very dark. Oh, how has my poor mind been tempest-tossed and agonized lately. I feel a little more calm, and am more anxious to have trials sanctified than removed. This is a desert land—but I have been expecting to find it a place of ease and rest, forgetting "In the world you shall have tribulation."
November 29th.—I have found much profit this evening in perusing my memoranda, written July 19 and 26, 1829, relative to the cross. Indeed, what I have written has proved so particularly useful afterwards on different occasions, that I am encouraged to proceed, though often disposed to give it up, and burn what is penned, fearing I have been actuated by wrong motives. I have hard fighting just now; the corruptions of my nature are very headstrong. May I be kept from laying down my weapons, to which I feel sinfully inclined; yes, even to make a truce with my deadliest foe, and that which formerly robbed me of my peace. The Lord have mercy on me, for I feel that, of myself, I can do nothing but sin.
December 30th.—Uncle W— is much worse, apparently dying—quite insensible. I hope it will be a glorious change when he leaves the body. My dear mother had an accident on Thursday—but I hope, though her foot is much bruised, it will not be very serious. May the Lord support us, and sanctify all dispensations.
Afternoon.—I have shut myself up, that I may not hear my poor uncle, who is struggling and gasping for breath. May the Lord in mercy ease him, though, as he is insensible, I suppose he may not be conscious of suffering. But, ah! we know not what dying is. My mind is much solemnized. I do not doubt his eternal safety, and think him enviable. He is just on the threshold of Heaven. There may we meet. A quarter to Four My dear uncle has just departed.
"In vain my fancy strives to paint
The moment after death!"
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