The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860

Spiritual Declension
(part 2)

To E. M., March 1856.

Much-beloved in Jesus,
I must send you another thought or two on our last subject. You know it was Spiritual Declension, and consequent lack of savor and unction in living souls. We were especially considering the cases of those who have been kept accurate in all outward observances, active in works of charity, and even been zealous promoters of the salvation of others. Sad, indeed, is a case like this; but I am forcibly arrested with the possibility of such being convicted of the state—but not converted from it. An acknowledgment of wandering is not return; a consciousness of a dry, barren state is not restoration. Perhaps you can hardly conceive a living soul, convinced of being in the wrong and lingering there, without earnestly and diligently seeking after the right—but I can; for this bad, bad heart has experienced what drowsiness and listlessness sometimes follow sleep, when there is no heart to arise and call upon the Lord for deliverance. Seeing the case to be bad, we just shrink from knowing it fully, and fear rather to be thoroughly aroused to reap painfully what has been sown to the flesh, than desire at any cost to be brought back to close communion with our God.

Look at Jonah: he knew he was a wanderer—but there seemed no anxiety to return; he would rather forget it in sleep. The storm was the Lord's messenger to oblige the man to awaken him, and the fish His servant to swallow him up; so that from his senseless sleep he must go down to "the belly of hell," to make him heartily call upon his God; and from that low place the sweet song was to be put into his mouth, "Salvation is of the Lord." Not only salvation from hell is of the Lord—but also the many experimental salvations which we need on our pilgrim journey. And oh! it is a blessed salvation to be brought near when there has been a following of "Jesus afar off;" and by His precious blood to be purged and cleansed from our own doings, works, and inventions, when they have come to be like a crowd between the soul and Him. It is blessed to have any secret thing taken away which makes the consolations of God small with us. But here is the trying point—whatever is between God and the soul must be taken away to restore nearness; and this is a sacrifice at which most of us tremble, finding it easier to condemn the wrong in others, and even to acknowledge it in ourselves, than to ask the Lord honestly and heartily to take it away.

As I said before, there are many in this busy but cold-hearted day, many of the Lord's people who are most active and energetic in His service—but the cream of their communion is gone, and the fire of love has languished. There are sounds of Jesus and salvation on the lips—but none of His sweet savor flowing from their hearts, nor any of His fresh tokens to tell to those who fear His name. (Psalm 66:16) Some are in a measure aroused to a sense of their state—but are not delivered from it; they know that it is not with them as in years gone past—but they are too busy to give close attention to personal facts, and to be really diligent to know the state of their own flocks and herds. (Prov. 27:23) They desire a change in their experience—but have not time to seek it, and in this sense are like the slothful who "desires and has nothing." (Prov. 13:4) All their energies go out another way, and they are too closely occupied with their religious engagements to follow their Lord, who withdrew from the multitude into the wilderness and prayed, and who another time "went up into a mountain to pray," and on another occasion "continued all night in prayer to God." O my beloved, did the immaculate Lamb of God so much use retirement and prayer, as we find by many portions of Scripture He did? How much more do we need it who have sin dwelling in us, and often working under the most specious forms! The truth is, we cannot thrive without it.

Where the experience has indeed become as a wilderness, what double need there is to withdraw from the cases of others, and cry mightily unto God to make that "wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose." Where there has been much talking about gospel day—but long, long night within, what cause is there to withdraw from all, and wrestle with Him, who "turns the shadow of death into morning." (Amos 5:8) In so doing the feeling of the wilderness state will probably deepen before the rejoicing returns, and the night will seem to grow darker before the bright shining of the Sun of Righteousness rises again upon the soul. Still, the blessed Spirit can enable us to endure; and though He keeps the soul waiting for the Sun and watching for Him, "more than those who watch for the morning," yet such experience shall not be in vain, for "blessed are those who wait for Him," and "they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength." However weak they have become, the Lord does renew His people's youth like the eagles, and causes them to sing as in the day when He brought them up out of Egypt.

It may seem presumptuous in me thus to speak of the state of useful active Christians; but if some are watching while others are working, they should give the result of their observations for the general good; and especially if they discover danger, should give an alarm. Now this is just what I feel. I am fast nearing eternity, and am proving the deep importance of having matters clear between God and the soul. Moreover, He has been pleased to give me much close retirement with Himself, and a little power of observing what is going on in the Church. Finding, therefore, many active members of the royal family shy at court, and having very little personal fellowship with the King, my heart yearns towards them, and the love of Christ constrains me to say, "My brethren, these things ought not so to be;" "shall not God search this out? for He knows the secrets of the heart," and if the searching out should be on the deathbed, and the wood, hay, and stubble have to be burned up then, how bitter would it be. Oh, I would cry mightily unto God for myself, and the whole living family, that by His Spirit He would search our hearts as with a candle, and discover to us wherein they are in any measure departing from Himself; also that He would not let us shrink from the light when we feel some convictions of an evil—but cause us to desire and seek to know it fully, and to be brought to the light to have our deeds reproved, and our souls delivered as a bird from the snare of the fowler.

I earnestly desire to know the real state of my case, and to have my soul laid open to the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" for whom He loves He wounds, and whom He wounds He will heal. Faithful are the wounds of this Friend, though painful; and I would rather covet them than hear Him say--'Let her alone; she has loved idols, after idols let her go.' Oh no, my precious Jesus; I could not bear that, even for a little while; I want to be continually with You in my own experience, to know much of Your mind, enjoy much of Your love, and daily to walk with You in endearing communion. I want this also for the whole living family, and would especially plead for those zealous workers who are promoting every means to bring others to You, yet themselves rarely see Your face or hear Your voice, and yet are not in mourning about it. Oh, grant them a revival, a re-quickening, a return, and a daily partaking of those fruits they are commending to others. Put in Your pierced hand by the hole of the door of their heart, and cause their affections to be moved for You, (Song 5:4) that with earnest longings they may say, "I will rise now," and go forth and "seek Him whom my soul loves." (Song 3:2)

O precious Savior, we would seek You for them, and seek You with them, for our soul can never be satisfied with dwelling at Jerusalem without seeing the King's face. Shine on us, shine in us, shine through us; and in such light there will be living warmth. Bring us to sit at Your dear feet, and lean upon Your bosom, and through much communion with You to be fragrant with Your perfumes, and thus to be refreshing to each other. Thus shall the Three-one Jehovah have glory, to whom Your poor handmaid gives heartfelt, though feeble praise: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, and amen."

One word more, dearest friend. The thought arose in my mind, What is the best means to be used for one conscious of decay, and longing to be restored to freshness of experience? Of course a fresh view of Jesus by faith—"Look unto me, and be saved." "They looked unto Him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed;" and the place to get this view is the Throne of grace—"Pour out your heart before Him." When the Lord was promising a gracious return to Israel He said—"With weeping and with supplication will I lead them." While thinking thus, I opened the blessed Book, and was forcibly arrested with these words about the transfiguration of our blessed Lord, "And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered." Oh, it did tell upon my heart, which went forth in earnest longings that such souls as have descended, in whom the fine gold has become dim, might, in an experimental sense, have it fulfilled in them; being by the Spirit brought into fervent prayer, and as they pray, the fashion of their spiritual countenance might be altered from dimness to brightness, by the glory of their Lord arising afresh upon them, as in Isaiah 60:1, and 2 Cor. 3:18.

May we also constantly experience the same, for I feel how much we need these Divine renewings. I do like to have some personal applications of what I write or say, without which we are apt to fall into a mere intellectual way of speaking or writing, which is not wholesome for the soul, and helps to bring about the dearth we have been lamenting. And now may He, to whom all power belongs, bless what is His, pardon what is mine, and give you that profit in reading which, to His praise I confess, He has granted me in writing—He knows how to speak a word in season. Oh, what joy will it be to get home and see our Savior face to face!

In Him I remain, with much warm love, your ever affectionate,
Ruth—less than the least.