The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860

The world seen in the light of eternity

To E. M.

How frail are we! How often reminded that these tabernacles have their foundation in the dust! "Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return;" and thus end all the pride and pomp of vain mortals. A few short days they flutter in the sunbeams of pleasure and earthly prosperity--and then lie down in their lowly bed of dust, until aroused by the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. But in what likeness shall they come forth? Ah! there will be no mistake in that great harvest-day. The seed of the serpent, and the seed of Christ--will doubtless each have their own likeness. According to the sowing will be the reaping, (Matt. 13:37-39) which the Day will declare.

O my dear friend, I do more and more like to see things in the light of eternity, the light of the Spirit, which shows things as they really are, and as the Word declares them. I desire this not for the sake of judging others, but that I may judge myself daily and hourly, (1 Cor. 11:31) and not be beguiled by this deceitful and desperately wicked heart, which always pleads on the side of the old Adam, urging in time of temptation, "This is not very wrong, and that can be of no great consequence." But ah! away with it all! "There is death in the pot!"

What says the Scripture? "To be carnally minded is death." "If you live after the flesh you shall die." (Rom. 8:6,13) "He who sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal. 6:8) I think that these verses do not refer only to the utter death of the unrenewed state, but also to such a deadness in the believer's experience as "sowing to the flesh" must bring. The truth of this I have sorrowfully proved since quickened into spiritual life, yes, since I have felt Jesus to be precious. And I have had to take to myself the words of Jer. 2:17—"Have you not procured this unto yourself, in that you have forsaken the Lord your God, when he led you by the way?"—and know the experience described in a great part of that chapter and the following one. Oh! what a picture they give of this wandering heart! But the return spoken of in chapter 3, verses 12-14, 22, is wonderful! "Who is a God like unto You," pardoning "iniquity, transgression, and sin?" for He not only calls us to, but insures our return. (Hosea 14:7) They "shall return," and they "shall revive." This is one of the new-covenant blessings, and a pledge that iniquity shall never be our ruin.

Can this lead to presumption or light thoughts of sin? Nay, verily: "How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?" "Sin shall not have dominion over you;" and though the believer falls, "he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His right hand." He "knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." He "will not alow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape." These are sweet promises to a trembling soul that feels it cannot stand a moment alone, and yet longs to walk in the Lord's way without stumbling; yes, to "run the way of His commandments" with an enlarged heart.

Such may be overtaken in a fault, but they will not trifle with sin. They feel it an evil and bitter thing; and if sure that they are delivered from its final consequences, they want deliverance also from its present power. This is the breathing and panting of a regenerated heart; the new creature, or new man, is "created in righteousness and true holiness," though it dwells in a leprous house. Still its aspirations are after its own element, that of holiness and love; and never will it be satisfied until it awakens with His likeness. No dead soul has these desires: they are signs of life; He has been there who says, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Precious words to a soul that wants life "more abundantly!"

How thankful I am that you are more spoiled for the world, and that the Holy Spirit is making your conscience tender. I wish every act of conformity to the world may sting like an adder, and bite like a serpent! How cruel of me to think thus! but it is what I wish for myself. I would be as separate from the world in appearance and life, as in heart; and as separate in heart as I shall wish to be altogether when "He shall set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left." Oh, we would not then have one goat's hair upon us--and yet we often tolerate them now.

Truly, we owe hearty thanks to the convincing Spirit for all His sharp rebukes. He is that faithful friend who will not allow us to sin without a reproof. Smiting is welcome from this righteous One; for it is better to sit in sackcloth and ashes under His discipline, than be a careless one "at ease in Zion." It is true, as you say, we have contending nations within, great and mighty; but the Shulamite is a company of two armies, and the spiritual Joshua says, "As captain of the Lord's army am I now come." With the Lord on our side, we shall put the foot of faith upon the necks of our enemies, and He will subdue them. Fear not! the battle is the Lord's! And though you may often feel foiled, it is to teach you where your strength and victory lie; not in any conquests of your own, but in the achievements of your Captain upon Mount Calvary. There see Him bruise the head of Satan, the captain of the Canaanites; there see your sin pierce Him; there see His Father bruise Him, and put Him to grief for your iniquities, and in your stead. Would you know what sin is, what justice is, what pardon is, what love is, what victory is? You must learn all at Calvary and in Gethsemane. I know the Holy Spirit keeps the key of those sacred places; but it is well to wait prayerfully at the gate until it shall be said, in experience, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."

As to the time you have been waiting, it is nothing in comparison with the value of what you are waiting for. The first sight of your name upon the heart of the crucified One, the first beam from His precious eye, will overpay you for an age of painful waiting. To see others stepping in before you, may sometimes cast you down; and the enemy may suggest: "Jesus has no favor for you." Answer him not a word; cry to his Conqueror, "Let my sentence come forth from YOUR presence." Do not be ready to believe hard things of that Friend of sinners, whose heart is made of tenderness. His heart melts with love. When did He cast out a coming sinner? When did He leave a helpless lamb to the wolf? When did He refuse to deliver a distressed soul, crying, "Lord, help me!"

My hope of you is steadfast, that as He has begun, so He will finish in you the good work, that together we may witness for the dear Redeemer, that He still "receives sinners, and eats with them." You long to love Him more, and well indeed you may, for He is worthy. But do not forget—"We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) When you can by faith know and believe the love God has to you, your love will flow back again to Him. But now you are doubting and questioning it, which shows your feelings are more under the influence of fear than love. Those whom you see so warm in their love to Him have known and believed His love to them. In fact, the one is the effect of the other. "The love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit," and then it rises up again to its source. You long to look away from self; but you are like the poor woman who was bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. But Jesus will come and break your bands, and make you go upright and look upward. Oh, cry for faith; and may the Lord open to you. I commend you, my precious one, to the infallible Teacher, whose word is with power.

In Him I may take a warm adieu,