The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860

The wounds of sin and the healing
power of the good Samaritan

"This man receives sinners and eats with them."

To Miss M., February 27, 1850.
Dear Miss M.,
Do not be alarmed at again seeing the handwriting of an unworthy stranger, thinking you will be constantly subject to these intrusions. Indeed, I do not intend it; and you need not have one anxious feeling in the thought that you must reply. I shall not think it the least breach of politeness, or the least lack of Christian courtesy, for you to be entirely silent. I well know what weakness and nervousness is, and it would much grieve me to add to that burden; therefore please to read these lines in perfect ease and freedom from all such feelings.

On reading your note my spirit was strongly impelled to commune with you again, and the contents of it touched my heart to tears, for in your dark picture I find the very counterpart of myself. Yes, indeed! though now enjoying the sweets of union, (Song 6:3) and the love of my beloved. (Song 2:3, 4) Yet for years I walked where you now walk, and felt as you now feel. Though preserved in outward morality and propriety, yet I was often horrified at my own inward vileness, and loathed my corrupt self more than words can express. I also sinned against light, and knowledge, and privilege. Thoroughly do I know what you mean by secret sin, and depths of iniquity--such as, if known to your dearest friends, would make them abhor you forever. I have felt it, and under the awful power of hateful temptation, have been sure that if the workings of my vile heart could be seen, the dear saints who then noticed me would spurn me, and cast me out of their society. Yet I did not wish to deceive them; I could tell no one what I felt—but always declared myself the vilest of the vile; and when they tried to encourage me by saying that my spots were the spots of God's children, I just thought it was only because I could not make them know how really black and bad I was.

You describe me to the life, when you speak of short periods of reviving, then relapsing into apathy, and only being aroused by some fierce temptation. I had gleams of light and tastes of sweetness, and then I could hope. But these soon passed away, and general carelessness and indifference gradually followed, with conscience-reprovings and heart-smitings. I had no power, or even hearty will against this state, until some new form of abomination startled me, or some old easily besetting sin made headway. This roused me to bitter groans and cries for mercy, with deepest shame and remorse, and I thought surely the Lord would be at length provoked to cast me off for such seeming mockery, in thus crying out against sin, and yet being so much the subject of its awful activity. Ah, indeed! I felt there never was such a wretch, such a living mass of putrefying sores and corruption. Others might be worse outside—but I felt the sin was not less my own, or less polluting, because it worked chiefly within; and I thought if the Lord ever saved me, I would be the greatest wonder in heaven, and that there never could be such another trophy of redeeming love. I think so still, and am in nowise disposed to yield that point even to you, bad as you think yourself, for my guilt has many aggravations which I cannot enumerate. I used to say that nothing less than sovereign power and irresistible grace would ever be sufficient for such a hell-deserving one as myself. That has been granted—power which broke down my will, and grace which melted my heart; and I, even unworthiest I, can sing of "Sovereign grace over sin abounding."

I would again draw near to you, beloved, in that wilderness of fear and sin where you are traveling heavily, and which I trod with sorrowful steps before you. I would encourage your heart in God, "who regards the cry of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer." You are not expecting too much in desiring to lose the spirit of bondage, and to have the spirit of adoption, crying, Abba, Father; to go on from the convincing of the Spirit to the comforting of the Spirit—from His leading through the chambers of imagery and increasing abominations, to His testimony of the altogether lovely Jesus as your Savior.

I used to say, I want individuality put into all that Jesus did and suffered--to have it just made my own; and I believe no Spirit-touched soul can be satisfied without it. The Spirit-convicted must be Spirit-comforted; the Spirit-wounded must be Spirit-healed--and that will always be with precious blood. "I wound, and I heal; I kill, and I make alive." "Not by might, nor by power—but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." Like you, I sighed for this sure testimony, and all the voices of all the saints, I knew, could not persuade me that I was a child of God, until the Spirit revealed relationship, and then, though some thought me presumptuous, they could not stop the cry, "Abba, Father, my Lord and my God, my Beloved and my Friend."

Thus it was with me. It seemed too good to be true, that I, who deserved the lowest hell, and had felt so long as though I were hanging over it--should be delivered forever from it. "Deliver her from going down to the pit--I have found a ransom!"

May the Lord cheer you, dear Miss M—, or I am sure my poor words will not; but as the first features of our case are so truly similar, I doubt not that before long we shall come to a fuller recognition of family likeness. I doubt not that you also having sown in tears shall reap in joy, though you do not now to your own apprehension seem to be bearing precious seed. Well, I do firmly believe that the same good Samaritan who found me after I had fallen among thieves—sin, Satan, the world, and cursed unbelief—found me stripped, wounded, and half dead—I believe this same compassionate One will before long purposely pass by where you are, and do as He did for me—bind up your wounds, pour into them oil and wine to cleanse and heal.

Perhaps you say, "Lord, I would believe, help mine unbelief." So be it. I know from woeful experience what a subtle, mischief-working foe unbelief is; and that we are prone to listen to it, and parley with it too. None can have been more unbelieving than I. But He whose love was stronger than death would not be turned aside. May your heart be encouraged, and your eye turned from yourself to Him, then, like the serpent-bitten Israelites, you would be healed and live. May the Spirit of the Lord give the look of faith, the touch of faith, that your sighs may be turned to songs.

I long after your soul in the affections of Jesus Christ. To Him I commend you. Having myself obtained mercy, I can assure you, for your encouragement, that your case cannot be too hard or too bad, and I have no doubt He has already undertaken it. "If any man sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." And He pleads according to law, for He Himself is the propitiation for our sins. Adieu, dear Miss M—. May the Lord, whom you seek, come speedily to His temple, even your heart.

Accept affectionate regards for Jesus' sake, from yours very sincerely,
Ruth Bryan

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Romans 5:20