The BIOGRAPHY of Ruth
"Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty." Isaiah 33:17
Reader, This little book is sent forth with much prayer,
that the anointing of the Holy Spirit may distill upon your soul in reading
it; and that the faithful testimony it bears to the eternal love of God the
Father, the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus, and the sanctifying power of
the Holy Spirit—may be the means of encouragement to many tried and tempted
souls. It breathes throughout of a full, free, and unconditional salvation
to "the poor and needy."
JESUS, as the Alpha and Omega, was the one theme of the
writer. He was as the dew to her soul; she had so beheld His glory, that she
could truly say, "You are fairer than the children of men. Grace is poured
into Your lips." "All Your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia."
"His mouth is most sweet. Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved,
and this is my Friend."
May the savor and fragrance of His precious name be "as
ointment poured forth to you.
"Do not grudge to
Pick out treasures from an earthen pot."
"They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and talk
of your power."—Psalm 145:11.
"Who has despised the day of small things?" was a
question put to the prophet in days of old. And again, to the same prophet,
it was declared, "Not by might, nor by power; but by my Spirit, says the
Lord of hosts." In blessed keeping with this testimony, the apostle in after
days says, "God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
things that are mighty; and things which are despised has God chosen, yes,
and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh
should glory in His presence." We have abundant proofs still that the Lord,
in the exercise of His Divine sovereignty, for the display of His own
wisdom, does choose and make use of instruments, apparently the most unfit
and unseemly, to carry out His own eternal purposes, that glory may redound
to His great name.
None who were acquainted with the disposition of RUTH
BRYAN, naturally so diffident and retiring, could have supposed there was
within her so deep and privileged an insight into God's Word, qualifying her
in an eminent degree to impart to her fellow-pilgrims the sweetest and most
glowing views of the "truth as it is in Jesus." Taught as she had herself
been by the Holy Spirit, in a clear and most experimental way, she was
thereby fitted to minister from her own heart to the hearts and consciences
of others. Moreover, the scenes of trial and deep soul-exercise through
which she was called to pass, from her earliest years, prepared her all the
more to "weep with those that weep," and "to rejoice with them that do
The subject of this brief sketch was born in London, July
6th, 1805. Her father was at that time engaged in trade, but was soon after
providentially called to Nottingham, to preach the everlasting Gospel.
Almost from infancy Ruth became the subject of pious
impressions. Her mind opened as it were unconsciously. So gentle was the
work of the Spirit in His early operations, that in speaking of it she would
say it was like Mark 4:26. The seed had sprung and grown up, she knew not
how. Hence the after work and the whole course of her future life was the
more conspicuously of God. Without doubt, the very tender way in which the
Lord first began to deal with her, tended to produce the like spirit which
so specially characterized her daily life. As in her own case, there had
been, "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear;" so she
in turn was ready to watch and wait patiently for the buddings and
blossomings of grace in others: feeling peculiarly jealous of cutting off
any in whom she perceived the faintest breath of spiritual life.
Although her education was adapted to the position she
occupied, Ruth had a mind far above the measure of instruction she had
received. She possessed a quickness of mental perception, combined with
striking originality of thought, which plainly proved her to be a person of
no ordinary capacity.
This high order of mind is evinced by her letters and
meditations, which are remarkable throughout for clear arrangement of ideas
and power of expression. No doubt the lack of intellectual culture, of which
she was conscious, led her to depend more entirely upon the teaching of the
Spirit of truth, who by His grace developed and matured these His natural
gifts. Had it not been so, she might have been more easily drawn aside from
the simplicity which is in Christ, by one or other of the many specious
devices and ensnarements with which Satan in these last days seeks to entrap
unwary souls (2 Tim. 3:1-7).
From early youth, when as yet she "knew not the Lord,"
Ruth showed great tenderness of conscience, which was observable even in her
fellowship with her school-fellows. Among other things, she would shrink
from the trifling use of scriptural expressions, while at the same time she
tried to influence her companions to do likewise; thereby manifesting the
benefit of careful and godly training.
It has been said that hers was emphatically "the life,
walk, and triumph of faith." But be it remembered, that this was not the
lesson of a day; before such a blessed life could be attained, self must be
brought low. The process was a painful one. Many years of darkness were
appointed her, during which time she had to wade through deep waters of
heart-exercise, while groaning under the bondage of the law. She had
occasional gleams of hope, but her usual frame of mind was one of doubt and
uncertainty, to which many experienced Christians can bear witness who then
knew her. She had not yet learned to follow that wise counsel—
"Pore not on yourself too long,
Lest it sink you lower."
The heavy cloud at length passed away; Ruth's jubilee day
dawned. After sixteen years of soul anguish, Jesus Himself proclaimed
liberty to His captive one. The word of the Lord came expressly to her soul,
and she was free indeed (John 8:36). From that happy day of her great
deliverance, she may be said never to have become "entangled again with the
yoke of bondage."
Let it not be thought, however, that her conflicts were
over. It was far otherwise. She groaned daily under felt corruptions, and
was ofttimes sorely harassed by the enemy; yet was she enabled by precious
faith to hold fast the beginning of her "confidence steadfast unto the end."
Neither did she rest satisfied with the mere knowledge of her acceptance "in
the Beloved." She was ever seeking fresh revelations of His glorious person,
and pressing after closer communion with the adorable Trinity; and that with
wrestlings and watchings, yes, even with fastings.
We must not pass over the Lord's providential dealings
with His child. She had naturally a sensitive and clinging heart, which made
home associations very dear; and seemed to unfit her to bear the brunt of
the storms which gathered round her path. But He saw it good to sever these
earth-born ties, by calling away the beloved parents to whom she was
accustomed to look for help and sympathy. Thus was Ruth left "a sparrow
alone," to trust in her best Beloved.
From the following pages of her Diary, it will be seen
how she was brought sometimes into great straits as regards temporal
provision; doubtless, for the trial of her faith. At her mother's death she
was left with a small income, which from different causes gradually
diminished, so as scarcely to supply her necessary wants. Under these
circumstances she did not eat the "bread of idleness," but sought to
increase her little store by doing needlework. Yet, in spite of her
endeavors, she was often in painful extremities, at which times she indeed
proved that "it is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in
man." Her expectation was from Him, therefore to Him alone did she confide
her pressing needs, carefully keeping them secret, even from those friends
who were on terms of the closest fellowship with herself, and who would have
esteemed it a privilege to minister to her needs.
On one occasion, when called, like Israel of old, to pass
through "a place of straits", such was her importunity, that she spent five
hours on her knees, wrestling with the Lord. Like Daniel, she set her "face
unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications with fasting" (Dan.
9:3). Nor did she wait for Him in vain. He speedily sent the needed help,
granting her the very sum for which she had been led to plead. By such
deliverances was her faith strengthened, and she was emboldened to flee with
every difficulty to the mercy-seat.
But Ruth had other cares than these to occupy her mind,
she was far from being engrossed with her own sorrows; for grace had given
"A heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize."
And it was truly her delight to fulfill the apostolic
exhortation, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
She was often mourning her unprofitableness, but gladly embraced every
opportunity of witnessing for the Lord, or of helping His tried and
afflicted people. For many years she had a weekly meeting, for prayer and
spiritual communion, in her house. This was frequently felt to be a
peculiarly sacred season. And there are some who cannot forget the sweetness
and savor of her soul-breathings on those occasions. Her prayers were the
pleadings of a child, the solicitations of a friend, the entreaties of a
spouse; in a word, it was RUTH over again, coming often "softly," when it
was in feeling "midnight" with the soul, laying herself at the feet of the
heavenly Boaz; and, in answer to His "Who are you?" exclaiming, "I am Ruth,
your handmaid; spread, therefore, your skirt over your handmaid, for you are
a near kinsman."
It was, perhaps, more especially to individual cases she
was most helpful, both by word and letter. The weak plants in the Lord's
vineyard were her special care. She loved to lift up "the bruised reed,"
nor would she willingly quench "the smoking flax," while she ever sought to
direct the eyes of such little ones to the great Burden-Bearer, and to "the
word of His testimony." It might be here adduced, as a striking proof of her
intimate acquaintance with the deceitful workings of the human heart, that
her prayer had often been, that, if blessed to the conversion of any, she
might not know it, lest she "should be exalted above measure." It was so.
She was not permitted to wear this "crown of rejoicing" here; on which very
account, she would sometimes grieve, failing to recognize herein another
"The happy Gleaner," a name by which she often called
herself, was peculiarly exempt from all party spirit. She felt union with
all who loved the Lord Jesus in sincerity, but her heart was most closely
knit to any in whom she saw His image brightly reflected. She was diligent
in attending the means of grace where her lot was cast, having been
nourished in "a field which the Lord had blessed;" she scrupled not,
however, to glean from other fields any parched ears of corn, which were
reached her by the Lord's reapers.
It will be apparent to the readers of these pages, that,
as Ruth neared the promised land, her Lord seemed to be ripening her for
glory; but it was in "the furnace of affliction" that He continued to try
this precious daughter of Zion, "comparable to fine gold." She had for some
time discovered symptoms of the painful and lingering disease of cancer,
which ultimately caused her death. From feelings of delicacy she forbid to
make it known, until the marked progress of her disease made it necessary to
have recourse to medical aid. When the tidings of her approaching
dissolution were first disclosed, her heart was saddened and depressed. She
shrank from the prospect of the sufferings appointed her, and avoided any
reference to the subject. But soon she was brought into blessed submission
to her Father's will, and enabled to glory in her infirmities, while she lay
passive in His hands. At such times she would say she needed no sympathy, it
was but the beckoning hand of her Beloved, saying, "Come up hither." From
the trying nature of her disease, irritability might have been expected; but
no, the power of the indwelling Comforter kept these earthly tempers in
abeyance, and the lessons she had so long been learning at the feet of Jesus
were now evidenced by the patience and forbearance which characterized this
latter stage of her pilgrimage. She could never be persuaded to resort to
opiates, even in the most distressing moments, lest she should lose her
powers of mind, and consequently her spiritual joys. In this she seemed to
have her Lord's example in view, when He refused the vinegar, and rather
desired thereby to have personal fellowship with Him, "filling up that which
was behind of the afflictions of Christ" in her flesh for His body's sake,
And now nothing remains, but to tell of the transplanting
of this "lily among thorns" from earth's barren waste into the "paradise of
God." As in life, so also in death's dark valley, she sought to be alone
with Jesus. Hers was not a triumphant death-bed. No excessive joy was
manifested there, but a quiet waiting for the Lord's best time to call away
her ransomed spirit from the body of its humiliation, to see Him "face to
face," whom not having seen she loved. His sweet peace was keeping
(garrisoning) her heart; and to the very last she enjoyed blessed communings
with her Lord.
On the night before her decease she refused the presence
of any friend to watch by her, lest it should disturb this holy converse
with the King of saints; but she was overheard pleading with Him, just prior
to the shining into her soul of the beams of the eternal day.
Early on the morning of July 27th, 1860, she was found
unconscious, and, in less than an hour after, she sweetly fell asleep in
Jesus, to wake up after His likeness.
Thus have we endeavored to trace the outline of the quiet
life of Ruth Bryan, with some of her heart aspirations. It will be perceived
she was one of the Lord's favored children, often privileged to walk in His
sunshine, and to dwell under His shadow. But be it remembered that the
beauty of her character was all of GRACE. Without its wonder-working power,
she would have been but a cumberer of the ground, a stone in nature's
quarry; but the Lord, in His Divine sovereignty and matchless love, took her
from thence, to cleanse, and clothe, and consecrate her for Himself: and,
under the hand of the Great Refiner, she was prepared and adorned to take
her place among the living stones in His heavenly temple.
This little work is now committed to the care of the
heavenly Farmer; who alone can sow the precious seed, and, when sown, is
able to give the increase.