Many years ago, not long after I was first awakened and floundering under a ministry of ‘do and live’, I met an elderly man by the name of Tom Snowball. He is gone now but recently I found a letter he wrote me which seemed to sum up the things he would minister to me. I used to visit him in his home and there found a man who had been ‘banned’ from preaching in the churches and chapels around the many places he’d lived because he’d preach the necessity of a vital knowledge of Christ and him crucified in the daily experience of the child of God. So there he was left, devoid of spiritual fellowship, except with his wife with whom he would sit and meditating upon the things of God.
At first, when I visited him, I did not really follow a lot of what he said: it sounded ‘deep’ to me, and yet there was a glory both in what I perceived he was trying to convey to me and in his face as he spoke. Gradually I began to appreciate the things he said and often drove home in something of a glorious daze. And what was it that he would minister to me? It was Christ. For the first time, under Mr. Snowball’s ministry, I began to see something of the glory and beauty of the Saviour; and the result was that I desired after Him. There seemed to be something so simple in the truths the old man spoke, and yet they were so profound and wonderful. There follows the letter which he wrote to me.
‘Dear Andrew, In the School of Christ, the Holy Spirit is engaged on one thing only, and that is to lead us more and more into the light: (the light of) ‘the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ It shall be true in our case that, ‘The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day (mid-day)’, Proverbs 4:18. Many people have thought, and are thinking so, but have been disappointed, because they think the way is going to get easier and easier, brighter and brighter, and more cheerful as we go on. But it does not work out that way. I do not see it to be true in the circumstances and outward condition of the saints anywhere at any time. For them the path does not become brighter and brighter outwardly.
‘But if we are really moving under the Spirit’s government, we can say with the strongest affirmation, that in an inward way the light is growing. The path is growing brighter and brighter. We are seeing and seeing and seeing. That is God’s purpose until the time comes when there is no darkness at all, and no shadow at all, and no mist at all, but all is light, perfect light. We see through a glass NOT darkly, but face to face; we know even as we are known. That is God’s purpose, put in a certain way. I know that you will see. Tom.’
I miss my old friend Mr. Snowball. When I seem to lose something of the glory of what it means to be in Christ I often remember what he used to say to me, ‘Andrew, if you’re occupied with self, you’re going to be miserable.’ It was Christ, he would say, and knowing him in the fulness of his death and resurrection life and power which was the only way to an overcoming life, and it is the Spirit’s work to lead his people into that path. One of his most commonly quoted texts was Revelation 12:11, that, amidst all the tribulations that God’s people face, often at the hand of an accusing and contrary devil, yet, ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.’ It was the cross and the way of the cross which he preached to me. The Lord Jesus walked in the way of the cross – the way of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and absolute obedience to the will of his Father – which led inevitably, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, to the cross of Calvary itself. Thus he would quote the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me… And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple’, Luke 9:23, 14:27: the words ‘daily’ and ‘cannot’ would be emphasised.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses’, 1 Timothy 6:12. And it is a fight, a battle; but, says Paul, it is a good fight, the fight of faith; and as the Spirit leads and guides, and reveals more and more of the glory of the Saviour, and as the light shines within, then we are more enabled to take up our cross – to say no to self, daily, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, see Revelation 14:1-5. There simply is no other way which leadeth unto life.