The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860

Spiritual Growth

My dear A—I feel quite sorry to have been so long without writing to you—but many things in mind and body have seemed a hindrance, so you must excuse it, and not think yours was uninteresting—it is far otherwise. To hear the faintest sigh after heart-acquaintance with Jesus is always deeply interesting to me, and surely it is such "smoking flax" He will not quench, and such "bruised reeds" He will not break. He is a tender Shepherd; He knows the lambs cannot travel very fast, so He will sometimes gather them in His arms, and carry them in His bosom; while, at others, He will allow even those little ones to feel the roughness of the road and their own weakness, that they may be emptied of self-confidence, and walk humbly, confiding in the Lord alone. All Divine leadings are in Divine sovereignty, and we cannot mark out any specific line, either for ourselves or others. But this we know, that all who are born of God shall be led and taught by the Spirit, and all such do feel sin hateful and holiness desirable. They hunger and thirst after righteousness—Christ and His manifested pardon is the object, either of their desire or of their enjoyment. To understand the Holy Scripture, and to find a blessing in ordinances, they also seek after, longing at the same time to realize, communion with God and with His saints; such desires are proofs of spiritual life, and where there is life there shall be growth, although, as I before said, the way and manner thereof is sovereign. Some learn war in their youth, and have all their enemies coming out against them, when as yet they scarcely know under whose banner they are fighting. This was my own case; and, though it seemed very hard, I now bless God for it, fully proving that "it is good to bear the yoke in one's youth." We must learn to fight, if we are of the living family, and those who sing and make merry in early days are often very uneasy when the trumpet calls them from the banquet to the battle; and when, after the green pastures, they have to follow their Lord "in a land not sown." However, all His ways are right ways, and in the end each will say, "He has done all things well" (Psalm. 107:7). They shall all prove that "the end of a thing is better than the beginning." Balaam might well say, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his;" but, alas! he had never been led forth in the right way—by the footsteps of the flock; he did not hunger and thirst after righteousness—but "loved the wages of unrighteousness," and received them (Rom. 6:23); by the sword of Israel was Balaam the soothsayer sent to his reward.

And now dear A—, there may be nothing in all this that will meet your case. I am sure there will not, unless His hand be in it, whose power steered the bow which was drawn at a venture, causing the arrow to enter just between the joints of the harness. He knows whether you need a wound or a balsam—remember, He wounds in order to heal, and kills that He may make alive. I covet His workings in your soul (as shall seem best to His godly wisdom), to keep you from false peace and false refuges, and to bring you the true light when you seem to sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to give you also knowledge of salvation by the felt remission of your sins, and to guide you into the way of peace. These things are the work of God (John 6:63). But as He condescends to use instrumentality, and that often of the weakest kind, we are encouraged to write and speak to one another, not knowing when or by what word a blessing may be given or received. On this ground, therefore, I would affectionately encourage you, dear A—, to seek for more openness on this dearest of all subjects. You are restrained in speaking and in writing, partly, perhaps, from natural reserve, and partly from the working of the enemy, who well knows how many blessings the saints got, when in simplicity they speak, "often one to another," of their fears and feelings, and of the things which belong to their everlasting peace. He remembers, also, how many of his snares have been broken and his temptations blunted, when fellow-pilgrims have taken sweet counsel together, and spread each other's hard cases before the Lord. Therefore, while he cares not how much lip-talk there is between professors, he will try hard to hinder heart-talk, especially between young Christians; he will hold them back with the fear of speaking more than they feel, and professing to be what they are not; and then he will strive to keep them from the helpful encouragements and counsels of those who have tried the road before them, and whose affections yearn over them in the Lord. Think of these things, and the Lord grant that with the heart you may believe, and with the mouth make confession unto salvation, to the glory of His name.

Do not wonder if you are assailed with unbelieving or atheistical thoughts, when reading the Scriptures, or at other times. These are all weapons formed from beneath by the master of black arts, and the iron of them has entered into many a redeemed soul, making it to cry out in great bitterness, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Satan knows he cannot destroy them, although he is permitted at times to envelope them in thick mists, making it to appear as if there were no covenant-keeping God, and no Divine authority in the Scriptures, or reality in the religion of Jesus. But he only hurls these fiery darts in order to get the Bible closed, and the footstool of mercy neglected, that the soul may sit down in hopeless gloom, with the eye turned away from the only place of refuge. Though he thus distress, he shall not destroy; and soon the poor heart shall say, as in Micah 7:8, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy," etc. These painful things are more or less the lot of Zion's pilgrims. But in all these we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us, and He will bruise Satan under the feet of everyone, weak or strong, who put their trust in Him, and who have been caused to fix their hopes upon Jesus, who is entered within the veil. For all such He will arise and rebuke the cruel foe, saying, "Is not this a brand plucked out of the burning?"

You asked about the badgers' skins which covered the tabernacle. I am not wise enough to explain that mystic sanctuary, all of which was full of meaning. But, as both the tabernacle and the temple did prefigure Christ and His Church, and as the tabernacle was covered with rams' skins, dyed red, and with badgers' skins, those beasts must necessarily have been slain before these skins could have been so used. Methinks herein beams upon us, as through a lattice, the death of our gracious Savior, who condescended to be slain as a sacrifice for His Church, whom also His righteousness covers. Do we not here see, in these rams' skins, dyed red, the precious blood of our glorious Surety flowing out from His scourged and pierced body with crimson hue, and also a rich covering of spotless and perfect righteousness to justify? Oh, to be under this red covering, "accepted in the Beloved," "complete in Him;" oh, to know the value—feel the efficacy of blood Divine. (Heb. 9:22.) All things in the Heavenly Tabernacle—every living vessel in the upper sanctuary has blood applied by the Holy Spirit. No knowledge, or gifts, or feelings, will do in the place of this—no living vessel is too small to experience it, and none so great as not to need it; you may not yet have felt its powerful application, though you may be in the true sanctuary, under the red covering, which betokens that full atonement has been made. But as the rams' skins were hidden by the badgers' skins (Exod. 24:14), we may learn that there must be personal revelation and application of the atonement, before we can feelingly enjoy the benefit; and for this may you be stirred up to pray. And now I commend you to "Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." And, with best wishes,

Believe me, yours very sincerely,

R. B.