Frances Barrett Ryland Diary: 1796

Lords day Decbr 27 1795

Thus far the Lord hath helped! Since the past month put to bed of a dear little boy, but have every reason to suppose the labour was premature, and this circumstance has in a degree prepared my mind for the painful event. The dear child continued as well as we could expect for four or five days, when a difficulty of breathing attended with pain in the bowel threatened a speedy dissolution. Every means were used to give relief but all proved in vain – O how did its pitious tender cries enter my very heart – On the Sabbath evening his dear father took charge of him and layed him in his bosom to sleep, but about 5 oclock the next morning the dear little creature departed & entered into perfect rest!

Thus the blessed God has seen meet to disappoint my pleasing expectations again.[1] Yet he has only done that which he knows to be best for me. I hope my soul can stand to the surrender still. The Lord is good, and wise, and just, I desire to acquiess in his will. He knows my heart better than I can know it, and has a perfect knowledge of all its wanderings and defects – its proneness to cleave to creature comforts – its coldness and indifference to divine things, and its aptness to backslide & sink into supineness. If I am his, he cannot, he will not let any other object have the ascendency in my affections, he must be loved with a supreme love. For these reasons the affliction may be in mercy to excite in me greater fervency in the ways of God, and in making me cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart.

The dear remains of our little boy (who had he lived was to have taken the name of Jonathan Edwards) was sent to Northampton, were it was safely deposited in the Tomb! Jan 3.rd 1796. My dear J. R. composed a few verses on the occasion

Lord if it be thy holy will

This little Infant spare

Preserve him safe from ev’ry Ill

And make his life Thy care.

Composed by Thee his curious frame

Creative power displays

O may he live to know Thy Name

And serve Thee all his days.

Yet dare we not prescribe to Thee

To whom are all things known

Ourselves and this our child to be

Thy property we own.

If ere he tastes of earthly woe

Or actually can sin

Thou shouldst eternal Life bestow

And bid his heaven begin.

O Lord we wd not dare repine

Or thee our Judge arraign

Our Child thy gift we would resign

To thee our God again.

Lords day Jan 3.rd 1796

I trust my soul has earnestly breathed after God, desiring that I may be entirely his, and in all he calls me to do, or to suffer to aim at glorifying his name. Afflictions in themselves are not joyous, but if sanctified by the divine Spirit may be esteemed some of our choicest blessings. I have found much support from the sacred scriptures under my late trial particularly the 12 of Hebrews. I would esteem it a mercy that prayer has been enjoyed, but O I want to find a more steady reliance upon God as my chief and supreme delight!

Lords day Jany 10 [1796]

O the insensibility of my mind! Is there nothing in religion worthy to excite my earnest desires after spiritual objects? Alas! when I have attempted to pray it has only been like the chattering of a crane or a swallow. Was not Jehovah very merciful and gracious he would ere this have given me up to the sinfulness of my own depraved heart. I trust however this morning the Lord favored me with his presence, I felt Jesus precious, and desired to glorify him in whatsoever way he is pleased to try me.

The removal of my dear Infants have been a trial to my faith, and patience, yet the Lord hath done it, and it leaves me to be still. I would not disregard his chastising rod, or sink into depression when rebuked by him.

Time is on the wing, in a few years at most I shall have done with every thing here, and in heaven my felicity will chiefly arise in proportion as I have desired to honor my dear Redeemer by submission, resignation and devotedness to his fear and praise.

Lords day Jany 24 [1796]

O this lifelessness of soul, this dullness of affections to objects unseen and spiritual. O that I could live more by faith on Jesus, live as seeing him who is invisible. Faith is not an inactive principle the soul wherein it exists becomes transformed into the likeness of him who freely bestowed it, and thus when the heart is renewed, love regulates every action, and all the passions are sweetly subdued into obedience, my defectiveness in these graces is a source of much sorrow. I want to feel more tenderness of conscience, and to have my affections set on things above. I have seen enough of the world to convince me of its emptyness, and that the dearest created good is nothing more than what the Lord is pleased to make it to us. O what folly, what weakness to suffer present things, things of a day that perish with the using to gain an undue ascendency over our minds!

Lords day Jan. 31 [1796]

Thus far the Lord hath led me! He is faithful who hath promised never to forsake the work of his own hands or I should soon be a poor miserable creature. I find it a great matter to perform any duty aright, to come unto God under the influence and teaching of the holy Spirit, and to seek all my sufficiency from him alone. I trust it is my desire to glorify God through the whole of life and to rest upon his promise “As my days are, so shall my strength be.” I feel that I am not my own, it is in God that I live, and move, and have my being. – O the importance of preparation for Eternity. Vast eternity! Could I realise more clearly the insufficiency of the creature, the passing trifling cares of each day, together with the uncertainty of life surely it would excite in me greater watchfulness and circumspection! O that he who is the guide and strength of his people, may at this time especially guide & direct my every step!

Lords day Feb. 21 [1796]

To-day I have been with my dear J. R. to Kingswood he preached twice. I hope my heart desired the prosperity of Zion. It did me good to see the poor people so attentive, may the word delivered be blessed to their edification. O that the Lord would revive his work upon my heart, I want more spirituality of soul, I want to have my polluted nature purified from sin, and my whole soul made conformable to the divine Image. The happiness of the soul consists in its likeness to God, but O! at what a distance do I feel myself from the glorious perfection of his nature! I find many tender strugglings of heart in the loss of my dear Infants, but if by these events the Lord is pleased to bring and keep me nearer to himself I bless him for their removal. The Redeemer sits as a Refiner and Purifier, and if I am truly one of his children, my heart must be purified by his Spirit, and be prepared as a Temple for God to dwell in.

Lords day Feb. 28 [1796]

I hope I have had some little revival in prayer, felt more resignation, and indeed when I am enabled to reflect on the infinite Wisdom, and Goodness of God I find it has a secret and powerful tendency to quiet every anxious thought. Mr Hey[2] preached this morning text Rom. 7. & a subject peculiarly interesting to such who have reason to hope they are true believers. My experience coincided with his sentiments respecting the Apostles meaning on the subject. Surely Sin is the great burden, and conformity and love to God the great delight of all those who are renewed by the divine Spirit.

We have had pleasing intelligence from Northampton. Several young persons are awakened, may they all be savingly converted and live henceforth in newness of life. I long for poor sinners to be made alive unto God by faith in a precious Redeemer. Alas! if they are not, how will they endure everlasting burnings? how bitter and keen their feelings if they persist in rejecting Christ and his Salvation – The favor of God is life, but O what must it be to endure the vengeance and displeasure of God against sin!

Lords day Mar. 13 [1796]

I have many mercies both of a spiritual and a temporal nature for which I would bless God. O that my heart was but more deeply penetrated with a sense of his distinguishing mercy. I trust my desire is to love the blessed God supremely and glorify him upon the earth, yet such is my weakness that I need strength from above to fit me for every good word and work, may the spirit of divine grace enliven my affections to a precious Redeemer, time has been when I could say, Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee, and is not Jesus still as lovely? and were not my obligations to love him greater than ever? I would be thankful that prayer is at any time sweet and pleasant to me, yet at seasons there is such a coldness and indifference in my heart to closet duties, that makes me ashamed, and I can only wonder and adore the divine patience that forbears cutting me off.

Lords day Mar. 16 [1796]

I have been considerably indisposed with a cold so that I was confined to my room several days in the past week. Through mercy I am nearly recovered.

It is indeed matter of grief to me, the coldness and indifference of my heart to the things of God. David could say Thy Word is very pure therefore I love it, but alas, when I read that sacred book my heart feels little affected with its blessed contents. Time has been, and my soul hath it still in remembrance, when the Invitations and Promises of Gods Word were more to me than my necessary food. Yea every part discovered more or less of the love, mercy, and rectitude of the divine Character. Not so lately Lord quicken me! To-day my heart I trust has been engaged in the duty of prayer, but it is far from what I want it to be. To be spiritually minded is life and peace, to be carnally minded is death. O that I felt more abased under a sense of my unworthyness before God. O how much remains that wants purifying. I am sanctified but in part – Ah such is my proneness to a revolting ungrateful spirit that I often tremble lest the Lord should say “Why will ye be stricken any more. – Ye will revolt yet more and more!”

Lords day April 27 [1796]

Our dear John has been indisposed with a cold and fever these last three weeks, in mercy the Lord has again restored him to his usual health. May I be concerned for his salvation, and endeavour more frequently to speak to him about divine things.

O that it were with me as in months that are past! I am often afraid the Lord is displeased with me, that he thus continues to hide his face from me. Trials I have had, and trials still await me, and sure enough there is a needs be for them. The Lord knows I need purifying, and nothing will do but the furnace to take away my dross.

Lords day May 1st [1796]

This morning an affecting providence was permitted to take place in the family of our much esteemed friend Mr Ransford.[3] Our truly amiable friend Mrs Churchill (formerly Miss Ransford) came to her Fathers on the preceding Friday evening in a very weak state of health, hoping that her native air might be conducive to her better recovery. She had been put to bed about 3 months of a sweet little girl, when alas! while we were engaged in the service of God, in a very sudden and unexpected manner she was removed to the world of spirits – My heart truly sympathises with the afflicted family. O that God may be the support of her bereaved and affectionate Husband and the strength of her dear Father, and may her removal be indeed sanctified to her Brothers and Sisters – The day previous to her marriage she called to take her leave of me. I was then ill in bed but she came up stairs and sat down by me, both of us were much affected and wept. I had often wished for an opportunity of speaking to her on the importance of personal religion, and as we were now about to part perhaps never to see each other again (as the event proved) I endeavoured to recommend a dear Redeemer and told her, that nothing short of knowing and loving him supremely could make her truly happy, that the pleasures and enjoyments of the present state (even the most lawful) were fleeting and unsubstantial: True felicity consisted in loving God and having our whole heart made conformable to his will. Her heart seemed full, and the tears flowed down her cheeks while I was speaking. O I would hope the Saviour was precious to her! – But ah how little did I imagine that ere 12 or 13 months had elapsed I should be called to the painful task of hearing her funeral discourse, and that her body would be consigned to the silent tomb! Great God how wonderful are thy ways! may this affecting providence increase my concern to live nearer to thee!

Lords day May 8 1796

I very much regretted being detained at home to-day as it was the Ordinance Sabbath but having been unwell with a bad cold and the day proving very wet I thought it most prudent not to venture out. The state of my mind as to divine things is at a very low ebb indeed. My affections O how languid! and this heart of mine how little it feels impressed with objects of the greatest importance. O that my soul was bowed down at the divine footstool! I find as I advance in life a multiplicity of cares and anxieties attend me. The necessary duties to be discharged in so large a family occupy much of my time and attention beside which the unpleasant conduct and temper of servants if not great trials, are often very teasing and perplexing to the mind. Now it is under such circumstances, and a variety of other things, that I want in every department, to shew the excellency of true religion, by acting as a christian ought to act. O to set the Lord always before me – to aim at glorifying him by a suitable propriety of behaviour over all whom I have any influence – to act with uprightness and integrity in every affair with my fellow creatures – Blessed God! I want to feel myself thy property – to trust in thee at all times, and to leave every concern to thy wise disposal! Through mercy the Lord preserves my dear Relatives in health. O that they did but feel their need of Jesus! May none of them go to the grave with their bones full of the sins of their youth!

Lords day June 6 [1796]

It is painful when the Sabbath returns not to enjoy the privileges of Gods house. Though frequently indisposed, my complaints are seldom violent for which I would be thankfull – To-day I have been a prisoner, unable to join in company with those who go up to the house of the Lord – My dear J. R. returned home in safety, and while absent the Lord preserved us and caused his goodness and mercy to supply all our returning necessities – That my heart is no more devoted to God is a burden I feel and lament. O the amazing debt of love and gratitude I owe to the blessed Jesus! Lord I would be thine, wholly thine. O take possession of my heart and put in tune for heaven while here below. I want to feel a growing delight in purity, to love holiness for its own sake; and because it is the glory of every attribute in the Deity!

Lords day June 26 [1796]

I have often prayed that I might be wholly the Lords – that I might glorify him upon the earth under every dispensation of his providence. My present circumstances are a trial of my faith and submission. Yet I trust I can stand to the surrender still, and can say “Lord I am willing to be tried if thou seest it needful, only afford me thy succour and presence.” The distant idea of affliction will sometimes sadly depress my spirits but Jesus can strengthen me, and the more I am brought to live upon the fulness of Christ, & made conformable to him, the better I shall be inabled to endure as seeing him who is invisible – my health is much recovered, may the blessing be sanctified.

Lords day Sepbr 26 [1796]

The Lord has been pleased mercifully to preserve us from all evil in our late Journey to Northampton. We have had much pleasure in seeing and visiting our friends. My dear J. R. baptised 10 persons, a great concourse of people assembled on the occasion. Mr J Hall was one of the candidates, may the Lord make him a great blessing to the Church and to the World! I seldom find absence from home favorable to the duties of the closet, its true I have always numberless motives to gratitude and to bless God, and could I keep my heart with all diligence I should not find these things so hurtful to my best interest but herein is the great difficulty, and on which account I feel a pleasure in return home.

I cannot but hope I have been brought to a knowledge of the dear Redeemer, and yet how is it that I feel my heart no more consecrated to him? Why not more captivated with his love and grace? Did heaven itself come down and bleed to win a mortals love, and shall I love no more? O that my soul should be no more swallowed up in love to God! but ah! here on my heart the burden lies. It is out of the heart that evil thoughts proceed and every abomination that is committed in this our world. But what a sweet privilege to be permitted to go to the Lord and tell him all my grief and pain. A throne of grace is never more delightful than when as a poor helpless sinner I cast myself on the free mercy of God through a precious Saviour! I have lately had considerable pleasure in reading Pearce on “Gods unchangeableness” what a mercy that he changeth not – none ever trusted in him and were put to confusion. He is faithful, therefore I am not concerned. O for great nearness to God, and to delight in him as the chief good.

Lords day Oct. 7 [1796]

O how manifold is the goodness of God. What reason is there for thankfulness, that a throne of grace is at all times accessible – that Jesus is a mediator that can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and that under every trouble in life he can afford suitable succour and help. I lament that my foolish heart should so often betray me into evil, yet sure I fear and dread the indulgence of sinful propensities, or to be under the influence of a wrong temper. May the blessed God in part all that patience, wisdom and prudence of which I stand in so much need. My dear J. R. and our dear child continue in health, through mercy I am as well as my present circumstances will permit. The Lord meeten me for the whole of his will.

Lords day Oct. 27 [1796]

Last Monday my dear J. R. left home for Northampton in order to open the new Baptistry. There were seven candidates. May this addition to the Church be attended with a special blessing. The methods and operations of divine providence and grace are often equally mysterious but the Redeemers Kingdom must go forward, his empire must be extended untill all nations become subject to his Dominion. – I am grieved to think my heart is so little devoted to God, every grace is languid, how truly is it that I am sanctified but in part, yet I trust prayer is sweet. O I love to have my soul melted like wax before the fire in deep humiliation before a throne of grace.

Lords day Oct. 30 1796

I trust my concern has been ardent for the more abundant spread of the gospel, and that those who are gone forth to carry the glad tidings of salvation to the poor Heathens may recommend their holy religion by the purity of their lives and conversation. O that the Lord may ever keep the feet of these his Servants and crown their efforts with his special blessing! – As to myself I have always more or less cause to bless a gracious God, but O my inconstancy. Ah why do I live at such a distance from him, when he delights to communicate himself to the soul that seeks him, and surely none are so truly happy as those who are most devoted to his fear.

O that the Lord may enable me to honour him through the whole of life, and particularly at the hour of death, leaving every concern with him who does all things well. Whether he gives or withholds any desirable blessing I am satisfied, his conduct at the last will appear infinitely wise, good, and just!

My dear J. R. returned in safety on Tuesday. I rejoice to find the word of the Lord is blessed & his work going forward among our dear friends!

Lords day Nov. 6 [1796]

Divine goodness has attended our family thus far through another year. Many are our comforts in life, few comparitively are our trials, yet we are not without our cross. For my own part whatever has a tendency to bring and keep me near to the blessed God I esteem a peculiar mercy. Trials when sanctified make the promises sweet – enliven the soul in prayer – promote humility and excite a grateful disposition for new mercies. I trust something of this spirit I have experienced lately. True felicity cannot be enjoyed, but in proportion as conformity to God increases. But alas with me how slow is this! yet I sometime look forward with hope in prospect of that day when I shall be compleatly conformed to him whom my soul loveth. O for more of the sanctifying influences of that blessed and holy spirit who condescends to visit such an unworthy creature with his divine operations!

Lords day Nov 20 [1796]

I trust I have enjoyed liberty and delight at a throne of grace. My soul has earnestly longed for the salvation of poor sinners all over the world. Mankind never will, nor never can be truly happy untill they are brought to love the blessed Jesus, and when they know and love him, they will be abased and ashamed at having lived so long ignorant of his glorious excellencies. Sure I am that a growing likeness to the Saviour constitutes earthly felicity, and to be compleatly like him will make our bliss above. May the Lord make me more earnest in prayer for the salvation of the poor Heathens and mankind in general. Nothing but the possession of true religion will put a stop to all that oppression, tyranny, and injustice with which the world abounds!

One of our servants has been very ill through mercy she is better, & the rest of the family are in tolerable health.

Lords day Nov 27 [1796]

Though I have not been equally favored with the divine presence as in some weeks past, yet I esteem the duty and privilege of prayer one of the greatest blessings in the present state, and would continue to wait upon the Lord. I have often felt the force of those beautiful lines of Dr Watts’s

He is my sun,

Though he refuse to shine

Though for a moment he depart

I dwell for ever on his heart

For ever he on mine.

Under my present circumstances I feel it a consolation that my times are in the Lords hands should he indulge us with the desired blessing of a living and perfect child may the dear Infant be devoted to him from the birth – The present state of public affairs is truly calamitous—A dark cloud of the divine displeasure seems to hang over Europe, and it is very affecting. The people of God do not appear to lay it properly to heart!

Lords day Dec. 11 [1796]

The goodness of the Lord O how great! I wish my heart was more under the influence of gratitude, and more devoted to his fear. O that I did but love the precious Redeemer with an increasing supreme affection. He is the only object worthy the highest elevation of soul: but O how wretchedly languid my attachment to this best of Beings! Surely this is enough to convince me that my heart is very sinful – that darkness pervades my understanding – that stupidity & perversion are in all my ways. Ah I mention it with shame, but how ready to make excuses in my own mind to the duty of prayer and how lifeless in the performance of it. O I stand in constant need of the influences of the divine Spirit – I want to leave myself and all that concerneth me with the Lord, but alas I seem to do it only by halves or very partially.

Lords day Dec. 25 1796

This last week or two hope I have felt some little revival in the divine life. If not mistaken I have found some earnest breathings of soul after God, imploring that he would favor me with clearer views of the glory of his nature and perfections as shining forth in the work and person of Christ – how true that a close walk with God and real felicity are inseparably connected – Oh that I may be constantly upheld by the Lord in order to perseverance in every path of duty. – Difficulties and temptations at seasons present themselves to my mind, but prayer and watchfulness over my own heart I find to be the best means to keep me from the commission of every evil. O that I may continue to wrestle with God that the love of a precious Saviour may be diffused throughout my whole soul, this I am sure will be a constant, and powerful incentive to obedience to his whole will.


[i] This is the third child Frances Ryland has lost, either by death as an infant or by miscarriage.

[2] John Hey, Independent minister at Castle Green, Bristol, 1789-1806. He would leave Bristol to become pastor of the Congregational church in South Fourth Street, Philadelphia.

[3] Most likely this is Edward Ransford (1738-1813), who served as a deacon in the church at Broadmead for the last 23 years of his life and left a legacy to the church. This entry concerns his daughter, who had married a Mr Churchill. Ransford’s son, Thomas, was a hat manufacturer in Wine Street, Bristol, and lived at 8 Orchard Street. Like his father, he too was a leader in the Broadmead church. The younger Ransford married Ann Gay, a member of Broadmead, but she died in 1793. There was also an Edward Ransford, Jr., who joined Broadmead on 9 October 1788. See Matthew’s Bristol Directory for 1794, p. 68; Broadmead Church Book, Bristol Record Office, 1779-1817, Bd/M1/3, ff. 57, 60.

[xi]Most likely this is Samuel Pearce (1766-99), Baptist minister at Birmingham and close friend of John Ryland through their mutual labors on behalf of the BMS. Pearce was best known for his radical publication The Oppressive, Unjust, and Prophane Nature, and Tendency of the Corporation and Test Acts (1790). No publication by Pearce exists under the title suggested in the above entry; it may be that Frances Ryland is reading one of the circular letters written by Pearce for the Midland Association of Particular Baptist Churches.