Exclusiveness: It's Ground and History - by JB Stoney
The point of departure must be the point of recovery, and that invariably is the point most difficult to reach. One will admit and confess anything but the motive. The motive exposes the nature. Self-respect prevents me from allowing any eye to penetrate to my motive, simply because I know it will not bear the light, and if it were known, not my conduct or my ways (which might be considered, and often are, mere accident) but my nature would be exposed and condemned. No one is really humble unless he has lost self-respect. An honest man cares very little about the respect of others if he cannot accept it as his due. Hence there is really no humility until I am so entirely disappointed with myself before God that I can say with Job, " I abhor myself "—I am a burden to myself.
Now it is remarkable the various ways by which God in His faithfulness brings every one whom He leads into this experience. One in this experience never likes to refer to himself, and not only this, but he thinks everybody's nature is better than his own. Hence there is no rest or sense of escape from self-condemnation but in Christ, where there is no condemnation, and where this is the known region of the soul, everyone begins to be looked at from Christ's side and as they relate to Him. He—the rest and life of the heart, necessarily becomes the spring and standard of everything.
If He be exclusively my life and joy, and if I have nothing outside of Him but a nature that I abhor and condemn, how must all my desires and tastes run in concert and keeping with His, and everything else which is contrary to Him is not only avoided because contrary to Him, but also because it claims kindred with me and addresses my nature, making me feel still more excruciatingly that I not only have a nature that I am ashamed of, but that everything which opposes Christ, who is now everything to my heart, finds an auxiliary in it.
The more thoroughly we see ourselves as God sees us, the more we turn from ourselves and rejoice in being in Christ, because there is a sense of clear distance from our nature; and the more through the Spirit we are conscious of this holy exclusion, the more susceptible we shall be of the little things which cause us to drop outside of this circle of life and peace. Reading a common-place book, listening to common conversation, will at times have the effect of connecting us sensibly with self, and in a way breaking open the closed doors of the chamber of horrors, calling up remembrances of selfishness and vanity, as traced in a landscape which has been hid from our view when in the sanctuary with Christ.
But this experience does not end with oneself. It demands not only the exclusion of oneself because one sees that the cross is the only answer of righteousness, but it requires that everything which has grieved the Spirit of Christ should be excluded from the assembly where He would be in the midst. I mean, that if I have learnt how precious the holiness of Christ is to myself, and how happy an answer it is to me that everything which would offend should be excluded, I cannot suffer in the assembly anything which would offend. I go from the inner circle to the outer circle. In the inner circle I deal with inner things; the exaction is sweeping and complete. In the outer I deal with what is apparent.
Now if I can tolerate the apparent and what is openly reprehensible, it is evident enough there can be no deeper separation within. This is to me the secret cause of the misapprehension of exclusiveness ; more than this, it indicates the true principle for exclusiveness. No point of doctrine on mere independency, is of itself the principle for exclusiveness. The principle for it is that it offends against Christ, that it intrudes on that holy ground where the soul knows deliverance from condemnation and enjoys Him—the Deliverer, in His own life and surroundings. I maintain this in the inner circle in my own soul for light and peace. Nothing is spared that is not of the Spirit. All my rest depends on exclusiveness, and God here insists on it as due to Christ. His will is essential to my own enjoyment of Him. Then I allow not a particle of root; I must, for everything, be absolute about it. Well, then, if I am such an one, how can I go into the assembly gathered to Christ's name and for His presence, and tolerate there, not roots, for I do not see them, but branches, which indicate that there are roots of the flesh which I could not suffer for a moment in the inner circle, growing and developing themselves in the outer one without check or condemnation. Now to me it is plain that if the visible—the branches, could be tolerated, there has not been a real conscious exclusion of the roots in the presence of God. The soul has not known as yet the sweetness and gain of holiness that allows no intrusion from the noxious roots of the flesh; for if it had known this great gain there would have been no toleration of the open tangible development of it. If, I repeat, I can tolerate in the outer sanctuary what is but a variety of unrepressed flesh, how can I have known the claims of Christ in the inner- sanctuary where none of it is admitted ?
I write this because I think there is an attempt in many to reach the ground of exclusiveness by other ways than from the inner to the outer, and the consequence is that there is no hearty acceptance of it, though there be of the truth in keeping with it. The ground we are on is valued on account of the orthodox teaching rather than on account of the principle of exclusiveness which has cleared away everything to reach this ground.
And hence even when the ground is avowedly occupied, there is really no moral power in the soul to discover and trace the moral path by which it was reached. And there is none of the restful feeling that one enjoys when, having emerged from the thicket, one has the assurance of being at the place desired. The desired place is not enough; doubtless it confers benefits and advantages of its own, but there is not the exercise of the sense of grace conferred in buffetting all antagonisms until it was reached. And not only this, but there is a lack of the assurance of having passed from the valley of Achor, of having in true contrition of heart abnegated unto death everything, and oneself, in the point which first led one into practical indifference. That is, that I not only know the grace which has empowered me to escape from it, but I know also the humiliation in myself which such a process entails.
I believe the history of exclusiveness must be accepted and traversed as well as the ground of it occupied. If there be the latter without the former, you will be neither happily nor firmly there. When I know how to reach the favoured spot, I know how to find out whether I have lost sight of it. If I only know the spot, I may indeed adhere to it, even if there is departure from the principles which morally constitute it, but I cannot be there in power if I do not know how I have reached it.
I say all this because I fear that the ground of exclusiveness is more readily accepted than the history of it, which is the only true way to it. And when this is the case, there is not sufficient sense of Christ's sanctuary as His sanctuary, and hence there is no true sensibility as to His being Centre in the assembly.
It is not the furniture, the teaching, which makes it the sanctuary to me; it is that there is that which suits the presence of Christ, and nothing else is admitted; I get the true principle of this myself, and no ground could be assured to me as divine but one based on this principle.