I am sure that the way of fruitful usefulness is going out individually to meet the Lord. It is the trimming of the lamps which tests reality, and exposes hollow profession. Our position is very much like that of the faithful ones in Babylon in a former day; they were in complete separation from all around, but with communications from above; they were wiser than all their enemies, but did not eat of their dainties.
There is great elevation in this course—refusing the king’s meat—the best things here, abnegation on the human side in the severest way, but receiving from the Father the highest and best; and still further, suffering unto death, in order to maintain His honor and glory. The first is the preparation for the second; we have to suffer first in denying ourselves; we are in ourselves to suffer in the flesh, as Peter did, before we are able or prepared to suffer for Christ. Then it is, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14).
I remark, though I do not entirely commend it, that those who begin by taking the veil as it were, that is, by ascetic separation from the world, eventually become, when in full liberty, the happiest and most devoted saints. I am sure Paul’s way, utter blindness to all things here by the power of the glory, is the better way; the heart so captivated, like the queen of Sheba, that there is no more spirit in her (1 Ki 10:4, 5—NC); but this, as far as I know, is a very uncommon way today. I believe the general way, is a painful dissatisfaction with everything apart from Christ and a retiring form everything in order to get more of Him.
There is often, I admit, too much expectation from the surrender, but as the heart reaches Him (and He knows, blessed be His name, the desire working there), the surrender loses its consequence and importance, and though it is insisted on, it is not prominently before the mind, because the Lord Himself is more than a compensation. I believe the Lord tests our love. “Lovest thou Me?” is the experience of the soul at some time or another; and again, like David, He provokes our love, by longing for the water of the well of Bethlehem.
There must be first the personal love which denies oneself; in other words, suffering from oneself, before there is the active love, which can endure suffering from others. Ruth surrenders everything for Naomi personally before she gleans in the field to minister to her. My love for the Lord makes its mark first on myself, and my heart likes to have it so, and then everything I have to do with must bear the mark of what has so truly marked me. I influence and reduce everything into the line into which I am directed myself.
I am a tree of a particular quality; that quality is personal love to my Lord, and now I make all the elements—air, light, earth and water—cooperate with me in expressing and developing this quality. What a beautiful tree! May you allow nothing to hinder the growth of this tree of life, for sure I am, that nothing short of it will meet the desire of your heart. Sometimes a tree seems to be hindered from the situation in which it is placed; but its vitality is proved as well as tested by rough winds and cold shade to which it is exposed.
- J B Stoney