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that he will stumble fatally, at some unguarded moment. But as long as he is in the path of duty, and as long as he looks to God for strength, he is endued with grace exactly
fitted, both in kind and degree, to the duty which God calls him to discharge, the sorrows which God calls him to meet, the temptations which God calls him to endure. His strength is as his day. His feet do not stumble even on the dark precipices amidst which he may have to climb the narrow path ; and his confession is ever the thankful acknowledgment of the Psalmist, “ He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
How different is it with those who are so far from keeping the path of duty, that they rush into manifold snares and dangers in which it is impossible to stand upright; or, if they abstain from such miserable selfwill, yet seek not the only strength and power which could keep them from falling ®! Such persons are ever going blindly forward on slippery places, or sleeping on the edge of precipices; and though by God's mercy they are withheld for a time from the destruction which they might fall into at any moment, yet at length they stumble to their utter ruin both of body and soul. It is of these that we read, “ Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image?.”
Lord! I know not what may be the difficulties or the temptations which I may be called to meet; but do Thou ever send out Thy light and truth o that they may lead me.
Endue me with those graces of Thy Spirit which may prepare and qualify me for my various trials. Do Thou uphold my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not'.
7 Ps. lxxiii. 18-20.
6 Jude 24.
XVI.-GOLD IN THE FURNACE.
“ Who may abide the day of his coming ? and who shall stand when
he appeareth ? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' sope: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Mal. iii. 2, 3.—See also
1 Cor. jii. 13–15. As the precious metals are seldom found in a pure and simple state, it is necessary to separate them from the dross with which they are mixed, by melting the ore in a furnace. By this means the dross is consumed, and whatever gold or silver is contained in the ore, is purged or purified from the baser substance with which it was before blended, and preserved for any purposes to which those precious metals are applied. The refiner casts the ore into the furnace, not to destroy the gold or the silver that is contained in it, but to prove its quality and fineness, and to extract it from the ore in a state of perfect purity. And he watches the furnace all the time that the process is going on, that its heat may not exceed the due degree, nor the metals be left in it too long. Whatever comes forth from the trial is precious gold, fit for the royal crown, or to be wrought into the noblest vessels.
Our blessed Lord “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works ?." And He is, therefore, said to sit 66 as a refiner and purifier of silver,” because it is ever His gracious and merciful purpose to sanctify us wholly in body, soul, and spirit, from all that defileth. He would have us holy, not only in outward appearance, but in the hidden man of the heart, even as we read of the king's daughter, that not only her garments are of wrought gold, but she is “all glorious within ?.” And because the precious gold is mixed with so much of earthly
1 Titus ii. 14.
2 Ps. xlv. 13.
dross, and it is absolutely necessary that what is precious should be separated from what is vile, the trials by which He purges us from our old corruptions and iniquities, are likened to the furnace into which the refiner casts the ore, that the dross may be consumed. They who are altogether “dross,” will be proved to be worthless and vile by this trial of holy discipline; but those who are “transformed by the renewing of their mind 3” from their old and evil conversation, are only purged and purified by their afflictions; and when they come forth from their trial, they are regarded as “ the jewels *” of the Great King, and are
66 vessels unto honour” in His house 5. It is said of them, that they shall be a crown of glory in the band of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of their God. Thus St. Peter, speaking of the joy of Christians, adds, “ though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ ?."
Our duty then, in seasons of affliction, is still to remember the merciful purpose for which it is sent; and that our gracious Lord does not cast us into the furnace in order to consume and bring us to nothing, but in order to consume and burn up in us what is evil, and to bring us forth (after we have been proved to be true and genuine gold) as vessels unto honour. We should remember that He is ever watching the furnace, that the heat may not be too fierce for our feeble strength; and that as He Himself was present with those faithful servants of God who were literally cast into “ the burning fiery furnace ®," so He will not fail to strengthen us, if we look to Him for
3 Rom. xii. 2.
4 Mal. iii. 17. 6 Isa. Ixii. 3. See Similitude i. Second Series.
8 Dan. iii. 23.
5 2 Tim. ii. 20. 7 1 Pet. i. 6,7.
grace, under whatever trial may be laid upon us. It should be, therefore, our earnest purpose to “ glorify the Lord in the fires °,” by patience, and calm trust; and we should even desire that whatever is necessary for our true purification, may not be withheld. We cannot expect that the work of sanctification can be wrought in us by an easier discipline than is required in the case of so many of our fellow Christians. In the season of sorrow, then, let us not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try us, as though some strange thing happened to us, but rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that, when His glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy. When we see any fail under their trial, and proved to be only counterfeit gold or worthless dross, may we be moved to more earnest prayer and more faithful endeavours, so to improve the gift of God that is in us that we may come forth from the furnace as pure and genuine gold, not one grain of which shall be lost in the fire !
XVII.-WINE ON THE LEES.
“ Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees,
and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent
is not changed.” Jer. xlviii. 11.-See also Zeph. i. 12. If wine is left to refine and feed upon its lees, it becomes much stronger than if it be often emptied from vessel to vessel. Its taste remains in it, and its scent is not changed. In many cases it is necessary to pour the wine from vessel to vessel, in order to produce the proper flavour and the degree of strength which makes it most fit for use.
When the prophet Jeremiah was describing the vices and sensuality of Moab, he compared that people to wine which had been suffered to lie and settle on its lees. They had enjoyed a long-continued 9 Isa. xxiv. 15.
1 1 Pet. iv. 12, 13.
prosperity, and had not known the trial of captivity in an enemy's land. And the effect of their worldly prosperity had been, that they became more proud, more sensual, and more presumptuous. They were more thoroughly imbued with the vices of their old nature, and trusted with carnal confidence and security to the riches and sensual pleasures which they had enjoyed with so little interruption.
Thus we are warned of the danger of worldly prosperity, and of the benefit of the Divine chastisements. Far better is it to be "emptied,” so to say, "from vessel to vessel ;" to be disturbed in a life of ease and sensual indulgence; than to be left to settle ourselves upon our lees; or, in other words, to live like the rich fool? who said to his soul, “ Take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry;" without concern about the change which awaits us all, and the solemn account which we have all to give.
Awaken me, O Lord, from a state of carnal ease and security! Let me still remember that pride and idleness too often go together with fulness of bread 3 : and that it will be enough to exclude us from the bright inheritance, to have lived a life of sensual indulgence in forgetfulness of God and of the poor. May no chastisement be unwelcome, which may serve to rouse me from so fatal a state! Let me count as a blessing any discipline that may change me from my old condition, and may tend to quicken me to a life of faith and earnestness.
XVIII.-THE EARLY DEW.
“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do
unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” Hosea vi. 4.–See also 2 Kings xii. 2. Luke viii. 13.
How bright is the face of nature, when every blade is glistening with the early dew; and the light clouds
2 Luke xii. 19.
3 Ezek. xvi. 49.