The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860

Spiritual Declension
(part 1)

To E. M., February, 1856.

Much-beloved in Jesus,
In His ever-fragrant name I desire again to commune with you in Him and of Him; that in so doing He may be exalted, and our hearts caused anew to burn with His love, which is the source of oursóHis love being the cause, our love the effect. It is self-evident that the more we have to do with the cause, the more freely effects will flow. Hence our dear Lord says, "Continue you in my love;" (John 15:9) not thereby implying that His love can be turned away from its objectsóbut exhorting us to a continued realization or apprehending of His love by the lively acting of a Spirit-wrought faith. Thus will our little spark be increasing into a flame by constant communication with the fire from whence it springs.

Of this communication faith seems to be the medium; and if this precious grace is not kept in healthy exercise upon the person and work, the sufferings and death, the blood and righteousness of our dear Redeemer--the soul will be sure to become languid and drooping in its spiritual condition. Prayer, praise, love, joy, peace, and all other graces--will be at a low water-mark. And whatever external appearances or profession there may be, the heart will be conscious of distance and shyness with its Lord.

You know I am speaking of one who has been quickened by the Spirit, and is a living soul, for we may be alive but not lively. We may be active in our Lord's causeóbut not spiritual in our own souls. We may be earnest for the salvation of othersóbut not be living in the joys of salvation ourselves. We may be instrumentally distributing the bread and water of lifeóbut not be enjoying daily refreshment in our own experience. I do sorrowfully think that this is too much the case in the present day; according to that Scripture, "They made me the keeper of the vineyardsóbut my own vineyard have I not kept." May we not say, as our Lord did upon another subject, "These things you should have done without neglecting the others."

The reason why I thus judge, is from finding people so lively in conversing upon what they are doing for the Lord, yet so slow to speak of what He is doing for them. They seem delighted to tell of the great things which are going on all aroundóbut immediately shrink back if any heart-subject is brought home to them. In fact, if one speaks of personal enjoyment of the love, blood, and salvation of Jesus, there is no response from someóbut they put it down to the score of egotism. While others refer to years past, when they did feel Him to be preciousóbut they confess that they know little of it now. They are so occupied in what they call working for Him, that they hear little from Him, say little to Him, enjoy little of Him, and may truly say, "While I was busy here and there, He had left."

It is most lamentable for any living soul to be in constant religious engagements for the good of others, while following Jesus "afar off." Very many such I fear there are, as well as hundreds who only know Him in the judgment, and yet are continually reading, teaching, and conversing on His blessed name. This is a day of great professionóbut yet real vital godliness is at a low ebb, and close walking with God in sweet communion is too little sought after. Solemn, indeed, are these facts; we may well say, with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me: and lead me in the way everlasting."

You will not much wonder that I have been led into this train of thought, because we have, more than once, touched upon the subject in conversation; and indeed, dearest friend, I feel more and more the deep importance of being kept in a freshness of experience by the anointings of the Spirit; so that whatever engagements we may have for the good of others, and however abundantly we may be laboring for their salvation, there should still be a constant communication kept up with our dear Lord, and our souls should never rest satisfied without freedom at Court. To be constantly employed in errands for the King, and never to see His face, hear His voice, or receive a token from Him; oh! how chilling to one who has enjoyed His love, has sat under His shadow with great delight, and has found His fruit sweet to the taste. How unsatisfying to one truly longing to taste that the Lord is gracious. The former may well say, "Restore unto me the joy of your salvation," and the latter, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that you bear unto your people! Oh visit me with your salvation!" When we are enjoying personal fellowship with the King, and by faith walking in Him and living on Him, then will His messages be most warmly delivered, being fresh from Himself. Then will there be evidently a sweet savor of Him, as well as a good word for Him.

I cannot tell you how sad it is to my heart when I find this savor lacking in some who have been long in the Lord's ways, and active in serving Him too. They are cumbered with many things, and too little alone with Jesus, without which we shall become like salt which has lost its savor. It makes me mourn for them, and tremble for myself, thinking of some passages which have often brought me to great searchings of heart, and wrestlings with the Lord; Matt. 5:13; Hosea 10:2, "Their heart is divided, now shall they be found faulty;" and much of Jer. 2, and also Rev. 2:4, "I have something against you, because you have left your first love." It matters not what great works there be if the spice of love be lacking.

Oh may our gracious Lord bring us closer and closer to Himself, and cause us to dwell in love, and "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge." May He fill us with the Spirit, that by His power we may so testify of what we taste and hear and see, that other hearts may be kindled with desire to enjoy the same blessed fellowship, even as the beloved apostle said, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." He desired that they might have joy in the Lord; and the kingdom of God is not in word but in power; it is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. These are things with which the stranger to God intermeddles not, for such have only to do with the outworksóbut "the kingdom of God is within you." "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, forour God is a consuming fire."

Oh what an unspeakable mercy, that by the spirit of adoption we can say, "our God," and "our Father;" and though He be a consuming fire to those on whom sin is found, yet has He made for us a "way of escape" by the blood of our Elder Brother; having laid upon Him all our iniquities. These briars and thorns were set against Him in battle, and on His sacred person did the fire of divine justice burn them up altogether. Oh let us turn aside from creature things and see this great sight, for it is heart-warming and Christ-endearing, to see the bush of humanity in that devouring fire, and yet unconsumed; to behold our precious Surety enduring all the bitter anguish until every sin of His chosen was expiated, and He could triumphantly say, "It is finished."

That was indeed "the conqueror's song," and with joy it is re-echoed again and again from the believing heart by the power of the blessed Spirit. "It is finished, and finished for me." The personality of it is the sweetness; here is food for faith, here is a feast for love. In such believing views of a crucified Savior we get raised above the things of a dying world; and, in realizing by faith our union with Him, we can say, "I am crucified with Christ;" then He becomes our life, that we which live should henceforth live only for Him. (2 Cor. 5:14, 15.) This is a heart-warming subjectóbut I must cease. May we have more and more experience of it in the heart, and never be left to rest in the mere "talk of the lips," which "tends only to poverty" of soul. There is a talking of Christ which is impoverishing, that is, when the lips outrun the heart; but when He is dwelling there by faith, and causing His Naphtali to give goodly words of Him, (Gen. 49:21) in such scattering there is increasing; He is honored, and the soul refreshed.

Oh may He pour out His Spirit upon His people to quicken the dead, and arouse the living who may be in a sleepy state of soul, who need their lamps trimming and their loins girding afresh. May there be great searchings of heart, causing the inquiry--Why, being a King's child, should there be leanness from day to day? Is there not a cause? Is there not bread enough in the Father's house? or, rather, has there not been a turning away from His spiritual provision to some beggarly elements of the creature or the world. May the Lord in mercy restore all such to their first love, and also lead them on to those more blessed revelations of Himself which are to be enjoyed even in the house of our pilgrimage. I will yet be inquired of by the house of Israel, says the Lord Almighty, to do it for them. The Lord ever bless you with sweet and close communion with Himself.

A warm adieu, with tender love, from your ever affectionate,