or, A Word on Faithfulness.
H. A. C.
Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 50.
Wise and seasonable is the counsel of Jotham, son of Jerubbaal, that fruitfulness is better than honour, and to be well-pleasing to the Lord than to be highly esteemed amongst men.
Jotham might as fairly as Abimelech have claimed to rule the people after the death of his father, but he had learned that to abide humbly with God, in the place He may have given, is far more blessed than to aspire to a path of dignity in the sight of men. God does give honour, but not to those who seek it. He does make one and another to be highly esteemed; but it is because they have not made it their object, but counted it their greatest privilege to bear fruit in which the Lord was glorified, and His people cheered and helped. Abimelech may have his dignity. Jotham values a better portion, and besides this he was alive to the low and unsatisfactory state of the people, and the miserable end which would surely follow; and he stands apart, and is able to look on all from the "top of the mountain," and view it in the light of God. Let us read his parable. The trees put the tempting honour before the olive, "Reign thou over us." Men feel their need of rule, though nothing is so rebellious against it when established as the human heart. This honour has no temptation for the olive; beautifully it replies, "Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?" There is no selfish consideration here; it is enough that God and man are honoured, and the one by whom the fruit is borne is willingly left in his obscurity. This may well remind one of Philippians 2, a chapter of utter self-forgetfulness, from the blessed Master Himself down to His lowly saint Epaphroditus. Oh that "this mind" were more found in each one of us!
The fig tree next is tried, with "Come thou, and reign over us;" but replies, "Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?" It is sufficient that others have been gladdened and strengthened by its fruit, the tree that bare it may be forgotten. Next the vine is sought, "Come thou, and reign over us." No; "Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?" The bramble has nothing to leave, and is easily tempted with honour; and we know the sad end, the invariable end, of such beginnings - both people and ruler destroy each other.
We all must surely feel how much better a thing it is to be fruitful and happy than to be exalted before others, but what is the secret of fruitfulness? John 15 answers - Christ. "I am the true vine." "From me is thy fruit found." (Hosea 14:8.) We are the branches, true, and it is on the branch the fruit is seen - immense privilege for us - but it is only as the life and sap of the tree itself flows unchecked through the branches that fruit is borne; and here the question is not simply whether we are vitally linked with Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, though this must of course precede all, but whether we keep so near to the Lord in our hearts, and walk so dependently on Him as having all our springs in Himself, that His grace practically works in our souls, His strength becomes perfected in our weakness, and His life practically manifested in our mortal bodies, and this is fruit.
No doubt certain Christian knowledge must precede this, for I shall not intelligently abide in Christ until I have experimentally known the worthlessness of all that I am in myself. "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing;" so that all life and energy must entirely come from another source. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." This is a very real and profoundly blessed thing, familiar as the words may be to us. Fruit then is the reproduction of Christ in our ways. It refers not to gift by which one may preach or labour; there may or may not be this, but all may bear fruit. Acts of service after all are but incidents in our life. Life itself is made up of countless thoughts and feelings, words, looks, ways, and in all these Christ, and not the flesh, is to be the motive power, and this can only be as we keep near to and dependent upon Him. Oh, beloved, what a privilege! How precious was the fruit He bore when down here? Fatness, sweetness, and cheer marked all His lovely ways. The hearts of God and man were gladdened by it, and it is our loving Father's purpose that some of this divine beauty should re-appear in the lives of His children. Let us too remember, that just where God has placed us is the very spot where the fruit is to be manifested. However lowly and unnoticed may be the sphere in which we are called to move, let us not think w e could be more fruitful elsewhere. No, the Lord has Himself allotted us our paths, and if we do but let His fatness drop in them, the lowliest path will be illumined, and the humblest thing ennobled; for the manifestation of Christ makes everything great that may have no greatness in itself, and all life will have a charm, however dull and monotonous otherwise it may seem, if we but learn to look at everything as a means by which Christ may be expressed, and our Father therein glorified. The gracious Lord awaken in us all a true desire for this. H. A. C.