“Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty.” Isaiah 33:17
Reader, This little book is sent forth with much prayer, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit may distill upon your soul in reading it; and that the faithful testimony it bears to the eternal love of God the Father, the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit—may be the means of encouragement to many tried and tempted souls. It breathes throughout of a full, free, and unconditional salvation to “the poor and needy.”
JESUS, as the Alpha and Omega, was the one theme of the writer. He was as the dew to her soul; she had so beheld His glory, that she could truly say, “You are fairer than the children of men. Grace is poured into Your lips.” “All Your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” “His mouth is most sweet. Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend.”
May the savor and fragrance of His precious name be “as ointment poured forth to you.
“Do not grudge to
Pick out treasures from an earthen pot.”
“They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and talk of your power.”—Psalm 145:11.
“Who has despised the day of small things?” was a question put to the prophet in days of old. And again, to the same prophet, it was declared, “Not by might, nor by power; but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” In blessed keeping with this testimony, the apostle in after days says, “God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and things which are despised has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” We have abundant proofs still that the Lord, in the exercise of His Divine sovereignty, for the display of His own wisdom, does choose and make use of instruments, apparently the most unfit and unseemly, to carry out His own eternal purposes, that glory may redound to His great name.
None who were acquainted with the disposition of RUTH BRYAN, naturally so diffident and retiring, could have supposed there was within her so deep and privileged an insight into God’s Word, qualifying her in an eminent degree to impart to her fellow-pilgrims the sweetest and most glowing views of the “truth as it is in Jesus.” Taught as she had herself been by the Holy Spirit, in a clear and most experimental way, she was thereby fitted to minister from her own heart to the hearts and consciences of others. Moreover, the scenes of trial and deep soul-exercise through which she was called to pass, from her earliest years, prepared her all the more to “weep with those that weep,” and “to rejoice with them that do rejoice.”
The subject of this brief sketch was born in London, July 6th, 1805. Her father was at that time engaged in trade, but was soon after providentially called to Nottingham, to preach the everlasting Gospel.
Almost from infancy Ruth became the subject of pious impressions. Her mind opened as it were unconsciously. So gentle was the work of the Spirit in His early operations, that in speaking of it she would say it was like Mark 4:26. The seed had sprung and grown up, she knew not how. Hence the after work and the whole course of her future life was the more conspicuously of God. Without doubt, the very tender way in which the Lord first began to deal with her, tended to produce the like spirit which so specially characterized her daily life. As in her own case, there had been, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear;” so she in turn was ready to watch and wait patiently for the buddings and blossomings of grace in others: feeling peculiarly jealous of cutting off any in whom she perceived the faintest breath of spiritual life.
Although her education was adapted to the position she occupied, Ruth had a mind far above the measure of instruction she had received. She possessed a quickness of mental perception, combined with striking originality of thought, which plainly proved her to be a person of no ordinary capacity.
This high order of mind is evinced by her letters and meditations, which are remarkable throughout for clear arrangement of ideas and power of expression. No doubt the lack of intellectual culture, of which she was conscious, led her to depend more entirely upon the teaching of the Spirit of truth, who by His grace developed and matured these His natural gifts. Had it not been so, she might have been more easily drawn aside from the simplicity which is in Christ, by one or other of the many specious devices and ensnarements with which Satan in these last days seeks to entrap unwary souls (2 Tim. 3:1-7).
From early youth, when as yet she “knew not the Lord,” Ruth showed great tenderness of conscience, which was observable even in her fellowship with her school-fellows. Among other things, she would shrink from the trifling use of scriptural expressions, while at the same time she tried to influence her companions to do likewise; thereby manifesting the benefit of careful and godly training.
It has been said that hers was emphatically “the life, walk, and triumph of faith.” But be it remembered, that this was not the lesson of a day; before such a blessed life could be attained, self must be brought low. The process was a painful one. Many years of darkness were appointed her, during which time she had to wade through deep waters of heart-exercise, while groaning under the bondage of the law. She had occasional gleams of hope, but her usual frame of mind was one of doubt and uncertainty, to which many experienced Christians can bear witness who then knew her. She had not yet learned to follow that wise counsel—
“Pore not on yourself too long,
Lest it sink you lower.”
The heavy cloud at length passed away; Ruth’s jubilee day dawned. After sixteen years of soul anguish, Jesus Himself proclaimed liberty to His captive one. The word of the Lord came expressly to her soul, and she was free indeed (John 8:36). From that happy day of her great deliverance, she may be said never to have become “entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Let it not be thought, however, that her conflicts were over. It was far otherwise. She groaned daily under felt corruptions, and was ofttimes sorely harassed by the enemy; yet was she enabled by precious faith to hold fast the beginning of her “confidence steadfast unto the end.” Neither did she rest satisfied with the mere knowledge of her acceptance “in the Beloved.” She was ever seeking fresh revelations of His glorious person, and pressing after closer communion with the adorable Trinity; and that with wrestlings and watchings, yes, even with fastings.
We must not pass over the Lord’s providential dealings with His child. She had naturally a sensitive and clinging heart, which made home associations very dear; and seemed to unfit her to bear the brunt of the storms which gathered round her path. But He saw it good to sever these earth-born ties, by calling away the beloved parents to whom she was accustomed to look for help and sympathy. Thus was Ruth left “a sparrow alone,” to trust in her best Beloved.
From the following pages of her Diary, it will be seen how she was brought sometimes into great straits as regards temporal provision; doubtless, for the trial of her faith. At her mother’s death she was left with a small income, which from different causes gradually diminished, so as scarcely to supply her necessary wants. Under these circumstances she did not eat the “bread of idleness,” but sought to increase her little store by doing needlework. Yet, in spite of her endeavors, she was often in painful extremities, at which times she indeed proved that “it is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in man.” Her expectation was from Him, therefore to Him alone did she confide her pressing needs, carefully keeping them secret, even from those friends who were on terms of the closest fellowship with herself, and who would have esteemed it a privilege to minister to her needs.
On one occasion, when called, like Israel of old, to pass through “a place of straits”, such was her importunity, that she spent five hours on her knees, wrestling with the Lord. Like Daniel, she set her “face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications with fasting” (Dan. 9:3). Nor did she wait for Him in vain. He speedily sent the needed help, granting her the very sum for which she had been led to plead. By such deliverances was her faith strengthened, and she was emboldened to flee with every difficulty to the mercy-seat.
But Ruth had other cares than these to occupy her mind, she was far from being engrossed with her own sorrows; for grace had given her—
“A heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.”
And it was truly her delight to fulfill the apostolic exhortation, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” She was often mourning her unprofitableness, but gladly embraced every opportunity of witnessing for the Lord, or of helping His tried and afflicted people. For many years she had a weekly meeting, for prayer and spiritual communion, in her house. This was frequently felt to be a peculiarly sacred season. And there are some who cannot forget the sweetness and savor of her soul-breathings on those occasions. Her prayers were the pleadings of a child, the solicitations of a friend, the entreaties of a spouse; in a word, it was RUTH over again, coming often “softly,” when it was in feeling “midnight” with the soul, laying herself at the feet of the heavenly Boaz; and, in answer to His “Who are you?” exclaiming, “I am Ruth, your handmaid; spread, therefore, your skirt over your handmaid, for you are a near kinsman.”
It was, perhaps, more especially to individual cases she was most helpful, both by word and letter. The weak plants in the Lord’s vineyard were her special care. She loved to lift up “the bruised reed,” nor would she willingly quench “the smoking flax,” while she ever sought to direct the eyes of such little ones to the great Burden-Bearer, and to “the word of His testimony.” It might be here adduced, as a striking proof of her intimate acquaintance with the deceitful workings of the human heart, that her prayer had often been, that, if blessed to the conversion of any, she might not know it, lest she “should be exalted above measure.” It was so. She was not permitted to wear this “crown of rejoicing” here; on which very account, she would sometimes grieve, failing to recognize herein another request granted.
“The happy Gleaner,” a name by which she often called herself, was peculiarly exempt from all party spirit. She felt union with all who loved the Lord Jesus in sincerity, but her heart was most closely knit to any in whom she saw His image brightly reflected. She was diligent in attending the means of grace where her lot was cast, having been nourished in “a field which the Lord had blessed;” she scrupled not, however, to glean from other fields any parched ears of corn, which were reached her by the Lord’s reapers.
It will be apparent to the readers of these pages, that, as Ruth neared the promised land, her Lord seemed to be ripening her for glory; but it was in “the furnace of affliction” that He continued to try this precious daughter of Zion, “comparable to fine gold.” She had for some time discovered symptoms of the painful and lingering disease of cancer, which ultimately caused her death. From feelings of delicacy she forbid to make it known, until the marked progress of her disease made it necessary to have recourse to medical aid. When the tidings of her approaching dissolution were first disclosed, her heart was saddened and depressed. She shrank from the prospect of the sufferings appointed her, and avoided any reference to the subject. But soon she was brought into blessed submission to her Father’s will, and enabled to glory in her infirmities, while she lay passive in His hands. At such times she would say she needed no sympathy, it was but the beckoning hand of her Beloved, saying, “Come up hither.” From the trying nature of her disease, irritability might have been expected; but no, the power of the indwelling Comforter kept these earthly tempers in abeyance, and the lessons she had so long been learning at the feet of Jesus were now evidenced by the patience and forbearance which characterized this latter stage of her pilgrimage. She could never be persuaded to resort to opiates, even in the most distressing moments, lest she should lose her powers of mind, and consequently her spiritual joys. In this she seemed to have her Lord’s example in view, when He refused the vinegar, and rather desired thereby to have personal fellowship with Him, “filling up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ” in her flesh for His body’s sake, the Church.
And now nothing remains, but to tell of the transplanting of this “lily among thorns” from earth’s barren waste into the “paradise of God.” As in life, so also in death’s dark valley, she sought to be alone with Jesus. Hers was not a triumphant death-bed. No excessive joy was manifested there, but a quiet waiting for the Lord’s best time to call away her ransomed spirit from the body of its humiliation, to see Him “face to face,” whom not having seen she loved. His sweet peace was keeping (garrisoning) her heart; and to the very last she enjoyed blessed communings with her Lord.
On the night before her decease she refused the presence of any friend to watch by her, lest it should disturb this holy converse with the King of saints; but she was overheard pleading with Him, just prior to the shining into her soul of the beams of the eternal day.
Early on the morning of July 27th, 1860, she was found unconscious, and, in less than an hour after, she sweetly fell asleep in Jesus, to wake up after His likeness.
Thus have we endeavored to trace the outline of the quiet life of Ruth Bryan, with some of her heart aspirations. It will be perceived she was one of the Lord’s favored children, often privileged to walk in His sunshine, and to dwell under His shadow. But be it remembered that the beauty of her character was all of GRACE. Without its wonder-working power, she would have been but a cumberer of the ground, a stone in nature’s quarry; but the Lord, in His Divine sovereignty and matchless love, took her from thence, to cleanse, and clothe, and consecrate her for Himself: and, under the hand of the Great Refiner, she was prepared and adorned to take her place among the living stones in His heavenly temple.
This little work is now committed to the care of the heavenly Farmer; who alone can sow the precious seed, and, when sown, is able to give the increase.