Under the figure of the vine and its branches is illustrated the relation of Christ to His followers and the relation of His followers to one another. The branches are all related to one another, yet each has an individuality which is not merged in that of another. All have a common relation to the vine and depend upon it for their life, their growth, and their fruitfulness. They cannot sustain one another. Each for itself must be centred in the vine. And while the branches have a common likeness, they also present diversity. Their oneness consists in their common union with the vine, and through each, though not in just the same way, is manifested the life of the vine.
This figure has a lesson, not only for individual Christians, but for the institutions that are engaged in God's service. In their relation to one another each is to maintain its individuality. Union with one another comes through union with Christ. In Him each institution is united to every other, while at the same time its identity is not merged in that of another.
At times it has been urged that the interests of the cause would be furthered by a consolidation of our publishing houses, bringing them virtually under one management. But this, the Lord has shown, should not be. It is not His plan to centralise power in the hands of a few persons or to bring one institution under the control of another.
Our work has been presented to me as, in its beginning, a small, very small, rivulet. To the prophet Ezekiel was given the representation of waters issuing "from under the threshold of the house eastward," at the south
side of the altar." Read Ezekiel 47. Especially mark verse 8: "Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed." So our work was presented to me as extending to the east and to the west, to the islands of the sea, and to all parts of the world. As the work extends, there will be great interests to be managed. The work is not to be centred in any one place. Human wisdom argues that it is more convenient to build up the interests where the work has already obtained character and influence, but mistakes have been made in this line. It is burden bearing that gives strength and development. And for the workers in different localities to be largely freed from responsibility means to place them where their characters will remain undeveloped and their powers will be repressed and weakened. The work is the Lord's, and it is not His will that the strength and efficiency shall be concentrated in any one place. Let each institution remain independent, working out God's plan under His direction.