Gleanings from the Inner Life of Ruth Bryan
January 1st, Sabbath.—Text this morning, Jabez' prayer, particularly applied to the cause of Zion. This new-year's day finds me sad at heart, and much inclined to pass it in silence, only I find that on each returning period I have a desire to converse with, and look back upon, my former self; and I am gratified to learn how I felt this time last year, with what feelings I looked at the future, and how my fears or hopes have been realized, etc. As this black book is to meet no human eye but my own, I do with freedom put down those strange cogitations of my sinful heart to which I imagine others are strangers, and also those reliefs and deliverances which they would think insignificant or fanatical—but the retracing of which has often encouraged my sinking heart. Pen then, O daughter of the dust, your present sinful condition with self-loathing; and may this new-year's day be the last which shall find you so overpowered by the corruptions of your deceitful heart.
On reading the past, I am distressed to find, that instead of close walking with God, for which I prayed, I seem to have been more than ever harassed by temptation and my own evil propensities during the last year. Much have I desired that on the last day of 1836, or first of 1837, I might review my backslidings and miscarryings with heartfelt sorrow, confess them without reserve, and receive a token of forgiveness and promise of future support; instead of which (awful to say), on the very last night in the year, my old enemies made a sudden effort, found me off my guard, and I was carried a prey (and a willing one too, at the time) by those heart-sins which have their seat in my fallen nature, and have been so often the bane of my peace.
Here, then, I am on new-year's day, miserable enough, and waiting to hear what the Lord will say to me. Surely, if I were His child I would have some victory over sin. May He have mercy on me. I begin this year a poor, broken, shattered vessel, not knowing of what spirit I am, nor to whom I belong. I would walk closely with God—but fear I never shall. I would be conformed to the image of Christ—but can only trace marks of the black tyrant. Lord Jesus, condescend to save even me. Precious Spirit, whisper forgiveness through the blood of the Lamb; pour upon my dry soul a spirit of confession, supplication, and thanksgiving, also for the many mercies with which You surround me, to my frequent amazement. A leper! unclean! unclean! Jesus, have mercy! Say, "I will, be clean." I tremble passing through another year so cold, carnal, and unbelieving.
February 18th.—I must mark down, and that with extreme thankfulness, one new mercy which thus far in the new year I have been privileged to enjoy, namely, that of perusing the precious Word of God with calmness and pleasure, not being so hunted by temptation, disrelish, and lack of interest, when I attempt to read it, as was the case, generally, last year, and, indeed, for some time previous. Oh, it is a mercy most valuable to be able to read calmly, and have some little gleams of light on the sacred page, which is now dearer to me than ever. Methinks, those who have never been shut up in this respect cannot enter into my feelings; however, the Lord knows them, and I bless Him for the change, and pray it may continue. Surely, this is ground to erect a "stone of help" upon. Ebenezer!
March 19th.—Oh, for a manifestation of precious Jesus to my soul, a revelation of Him by the Holy Spirit as my own Beloved! Methinks I trace some "stately steps" towards me in Providence which are encouraging—but this will not satisfy. I want close communion with a covenant God through an adorable Jesus, by the influence and drawing of the dear, sacred Remembrancer, the best and infallible Teacher. I have a gleam of hope that deliverance from the heavy burden of the last eight months is at hand. Trust evermore.
April 2nd.—In reading, this morning, of the Israelites passing over Jordan, I was struck with the circumstance of the priests' feet touching the brim of the waters before they divided, and thought it is sometimes so in afflictions—the waters overflow their banks. Cross we must, our feet touch the wave, and, to the apprehension of sense, we are just about to sink in the swelling flood, when, lo! the stream suddenly divides! we find firm standing-ground, and pass through the dispensation with overwhelming astonishment and gratitude. Such displays of the power of a covenant God are majestic indeed—but not unfrequent; and blessed are those who are led to observe them, for "they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
April 25th.—My timid heart is much moved this evening, by hearing there are some beginnings of riot in our town. The Lord protect us! He is my only refuge; and I feel some little calmness in the hope that He is my God. Oh, that the suffering poor may be relieved.
April 26th.—All quiet again for the present. The Lord be praised!
June 14th, Evening.—Heard an excellent sermon from Mr. I— (1 Samuel, 6:13, last clause), by which I have been cut up, and almost cut out—but in which was described the very state I am longing for, stretching out after, and, of late especially, desiring--namely, the liberty of the Gospel.
June 18th, Evening.—I seem to tremble lest the privilege of hearing Mr. I— should pass away without any real profit. I long for the great truths he advanced to be wrought into my soul by the Holy Spirit. I believe there is a state of establishment and stability, which he described, and most ardently I desire to be brought into it. Lord, condescend to manifest your power on my behalf!
June 25th.—Awoke this morning with "The soul of the diligent shall be made fat." Oh, may true spiritual diligence be wrought in me by the power of the Holy Spirit! I am convinced of the sinful sloth which has prevailed over me.
July 7th, Evening.—
"God, on my thirsty, barren soul,
Some mercy-drops has sent."
Oh, that it may be the harbinger of a plentiful shower! I am thankful for the longing desire I feel.
September 5th.—I have been exercised for some time past with successive perplexities, which, though apparently trifling, work painfully upon my susceptible and too-easily excited nerves. I am now distressed about a valuable book, which was lent to me by a friend; another friend saw it, and wished to borrow it; she was in a distressed state of mind, and it seemed very suitable, therefore I ventured to lend it. She has now had it for some time, and, cannot now locate it. I cannot describe the painful anxiety I have suffered about it the last few days, because it is one of a set of volumes which, by its loss, would be spoiled; nor is it possible to replace it in the same form. It is also on other accounts valuable to the family; what to do I know not: I have laid it all before the Lord—but at present He does not appear to interpose, which again adds to my grief, because I have found much comfort in believing that nothing is too trivial to bring before Him, and I expect His direction and deliverance; and, if obliged to give this up, shall lose my chief support and comfort in the trials of life.
I know I am prone to be impatient, and dictate when the Lord should appear, which is very wrong. May He give me a waiting spirit, and, in His own time, show that he has heard my cry, by delivering me in this trial. 2 Kings 6:5, is my encouragement to bring this matter to Jesus, who is the prophet in Gospel days.
September 8th.—Not yet relieved—but favored with much of a wrestling spirit, and think it has been in this respect a blessing, as my soul has been constantly kept supplicating for some time. Still, however, I much desire the Lord would condescend to bring to light the lost book, as unbelief and Atheism threaten to gain much ground within me, by proving from this, that it is not right to spread such trifling circumstances before the Divine Majesty, and that He will not regard them. Oh, what sharp struggles have I had, and, how does my heart tremble, lest it should lose the sweet solace of telling out all the minutiae of its woes at a Throne of Grace. But I must yet hope that He who has delivered, will yet deliver.
September 10th.—Oh, for another Ebenezer stone, another pillar of gratitude for Divine interposition! What jealousies and misgivings does my poor heart experience, because the Lord delays to appear. I have been privileged with a spirit of wrestling and importunity at the Divine footstool almost constantly during the past week, in which my only temporal request is the restoration of the lost book. All other outward things I have been led to give into the Lord's hands, to be by Him ordered as seems Him best, so that His Divine glory may be manifested through me, and my soul made healthy and fruitful.
It seems that to these last-mentioned things I must hold fast, being thoroughly tired of my lukewarm state. In the midst of this exercise something has been occasionally prompting me very powerfully to believe that it is all delusion, excitement, and imagination which has agonized my soul. But then, again, I have thought, if this is not the work of the Spirit, I can only go afresh to Him to discover to me what is; to lead me into it, and preserve me from the delusions of Satan, and the workings of my own flesh; so that this has proved, at some seasons, fresh matter for prayer and supplication. The Lord condescend to look at my case, carry on His own work with power, exercise me Himself, deliver me from temptation and the power of the tempter, and thus bring glory to His own name, by making such a vile, ignorant creature a vessel fit for His use, and which shall sound forth His praise.
September 12th.—"When the desire comes, it is a tree of life;"—verily God has heard me; adorable Jesus has condescended to the low estate of His handmaid! The lost book is restored; and, oh what jealousies and misgivings are removed from my heart, for unbelief was ever and anon taunting me with this affair, suggesting that Jehovah did not, as I conceived, listen to such trifling requests. But, ah! with what fresh confidence can I approach the sacred footstool, and spread out all my cares! My soul is lifted up within me with rejoicing, because of this manifest answer to my petition. May I be humbled under a sense of my sinfulness and distrust, and be kept from sinking into a careless frame.
The lost book was restored to the bookshelf of the lady to whom we had lent it, quite unknown to her, by whom she knows not. But one of the family came down-stairs, exclaiming, she had found the book upon the very shelf which she had searched over and over again. The Lord has all hearts in His hand, and no thief can hold when he says, 'restore'.
[Reader, we cannot allow this incident to pass, without asking you to admire and acknowledge the good hand of God toward His servant. While, on the one hand, by this simple record, we see the simplicity, the teachableness, the earnestness of her faith; do we not, on the other hand, see how graciously the Lord honors that faith which honors Him! It is as true today as it was of old, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6 ]
October 8th.—The former part of last week I was favored with a supplicating spirit, and some outgoings of soul more than formerly; on Thursday, carnal security attacked me, on the heels of which came vanity, about an article of dress I was altering; I had not recourse to the shield of faith, the "sword of the Spirit," or the powerful weapon of "all prayer," but deluded myself in thinking I would finish as quickly as I could the alteration of my bonnet, and then pray, hoping to feel more at liberty. Ah! foolish creature, my iniquity prevailed, prayer was neglected, and a guilty conscience the result; since which I have not had that nearness of access to God, as before. Lord, give me a broken heart--and then come and heal it. Keep me from sinking into unbelief and sins. Speak pardon!
October 15th.—A spirit of careless security in what I have received, was again the inlet of sin, and now what shall I say? May the Lord melt this stony heart, wash this filthy heart, bring back this wandering heart, and somehow, by Almighty power, make me more watchful against those sins which most easily beset me.
December 21st.—Last night the wind was awfully tempestuous, and howled around our dwelling most fearfully; sleep fled from my eyes, and the fear of being suddenly called into eternity agonized my spirit, for I could obtain no sense of salvation, and knew that unquenchable fire was my just desert. The horrors at the fear of dying out of Christ are, I think, felt by few. But few are so guilty and unbelieving as I.
December 31st.—The last day of the year has come again! How rapidly are the wheels of time revolving and bearing me on to a boundless eternity! Another year closing, and of what do its "gone-by" periods testify? Why! of aggravated transgression and ingratitude on my part, and most astonishing mercy and longsuffering from a covenant God. The past year has, I think, been one of more manifest spiritual favor than any former one in my life. My undeservings have been as great as ever—but the Lord has condescended to speak to me with more power than formerly, having permitted me to come into straits--and then poured upon me a spirit of importunate and unceasing wrestling at His footstool, which has been, in itself, a blessing, as well as the harbinger of either support or deliverance.
Added to this, He has enabled me to love the precious Bible, and read it with calmness; also, at times, to feed therein, of which privilege I was before deprived by reason of sore buffeting from the enemy. The preached Word has also, at times, come with power and sweetness into my soul. The dear precious Jesus has I hope, in some little measure, been endeared to me, and revealed in me; and, though I have not had the full revelation of Him for which I long, yet I take this as a pledge, and look for more. There has, also, been granted more laying hold of Christ, and, when sensible of sin, more running to Him for pardon and cleansing, and, as it were, hanging upon Him in my desperate case, and, if I perish, to do so at His feet.
All this, with much more, I take to be very, very great mercy, and much alleviation of my case. But, oh! the dark tale of my own sin which has also marked this year—it is too black to be told. Ingratitude, murmuring, carnality, worldliness, unbelief, backsliding, and a thousand other evils--make up a list which ought to sink me into shame and self-abasement! Almighty Spirit, condescend to melt me into real contrition, that having received much, I may love much; and having sinned much, I may have much forgiven.
I am so astonished at the near access I have at times enjoyed; the answers to prayer which have been given, and the spirit of communion occasionally vouchsafed--that it is impossible to express my feelings. It seems worth much more suffering than I have gone through--and is all of mercy, free mercy, sovereign mercy, surprising mercy. The Lord make me thankful, and then accept the gratitude Himself gives. I cannot help hoping for more. The Lord seems to draw out my expectations that He will bless me; and, though it still be through the outward cross and flesh mortification--it shall be well! I am sure the flesh is no friend of mine, and as I have not resolution to cut off its right-hand, and to pluck out its right-eye sins, it is most merciful of the Lord to do it for me; and, though I often cry out from pain, my spirit says--Go on, Lord, deal with me as You will, only support and bring me to walk closely with You. Ebenezer!
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