1 Peter 1:6-9
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:…
The apostle here expresses his very cordial sympathy with his Christian brethren under the circumstances of trial to which they were exposed. "Ye greatly rejoice in that last time," or, as the passage might be rendered, "Wherein ye shall greatly rejoice." "Now for a season ye are in heaviness, but in the last time — the time of Christ's appearing — the time of your entering upon the inheritance that is incorruptible, ye shall greatly rejoice." But still the prospect of the great rejoicing in the last time gives some measure of rejoicing in the present. It is impossible for us to hope with anything like assurance for something that will make us very joyful without feeling in a measure joyful now. We can in a some. what cheerful spirit bear the most dismal wintry weather, as we have the assurance of the spring and summer that are to follow. But this joy is mingled with sorrow. "Now for a season ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." And this brings us to the subject of our text — namely, the trial of our faith. Now your faith is your confidence in God. Your faith is your confidence in God's being, and doing all that in His Word He is represented to be and to have done; your confidence in God as infinitely wise, and mighty, and righteous, and merciful; your confidence in Him as having provided a full and free redemption for mankind through the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ; your confidence in Him as certain to fulfil all the great promises that He has given to His people. That is your faith, your confidence in God. And concerning the trial of this the apostle here speaks. But, first, of this faith he says that it is more precious than gold. I think I can appeal to every Christian here, and say, "Now, you would be sorry to lose your property, no doubt?" Quite natural. But still, do not you as Christians feel that we would rather be beggared today than lose this precious faith of which the Apostle Peter speaks? Well, this faith, he tells us, is to be tried. That is to say, our faith is subjected to proof — put to the test. If we profess to be Christians, it is very important that the world and the Church and ourselves should have some proof of our Christianity that this profession of ours is a right, honest thing, and neither a piece of hypocrisy nor a piece of self-delusion. And so for our own sakes first of all, but also for the sake of the Church, which we have no right to deceive, and for the sake of the world, which also has a claim to know the genuineness of our religious profession — it is necessary that our faith should be proved. Now, unfortunately, we have in our religious phraseology nearly lost sight of this very common sense meaning of the word "trial." When you talk about the trial of a steamship or the trial of a hundred-ton gun, well, we understand that it is putting these things to a proof. But in our religious phraseology, a trial, forsooth, is simply a calamity — some terrible thing. And that is almost the only light in which we regard it, with scarcely any recognition of God's design, and of His design being the proof of character. But that is His design. Now here is an alleviation at once, and a very great alleviation of the trials that you and I may have to pass through. Here is a man who comes forward and professes to be a seaman. Well, it is a very reasonable thing that he should be required to prove his seamanship by having, sometimes at any rate, to navigate his vessel amid the perils of a storm. And here is another who professes to be a soldier. Well, no injustice is done, but very much the contrary, if this man be required to prove his courage and skill by being sent, occasionally at any rate, upon some exceedingly hazardous military duty. And here is one who professes to be a servant of God, and do not let him be surprised if God, like any other master, shall subject him to proof, and ascertain, by practical experiment, what he is worth and what he can do, and whether he really be what by his profession he ought to be. So our faith is tried. A reasonable and perfectly right thing that tried it ought to be, as I said just now, for our own sake, if for the sake of nobody else. And, as the apostle reminds us here, the trial of our faith is conducted through manifold temptations. Let us take the word "trials," not "temptations," for God does not tempt any man in this evil sense of the word "temptation." We are tried through manifold trials. That is to say, our faith is subjected to more proofs than one; and so it ought to be. I suppose that when they try a ship they make her go through many manoeuvres; and when they try a horse there is more than one sort of test to which the creature is put. And when a student goes in for examination, success in which is to be crowned with some distinguished honour, he is subjected to a considerable number of trials in order that the height and breadth and length and depth of the man's mind, if there be any height and length and depth and breadth in it, may be ascertained. And he is subjected to various manifold trials, because the very brilliant capacity in one direction may, unfortunately, be accompanied by miserable incapacity in another direction, and so the man is subjected to manifold trials. And faith, likewise, is subjected to more trials than one. We find that poverty tries our honesty. A sad reverse of circumstances, such as is very frequently witnessed, does certainly try the integrity of a man's principles as a man of business. And then I need not say that unkindness, injustice, is a great trial of our charity; and persecution would be a severe trial of our courage. Insolence is a trial of our meekness. And there are trials of a peculiar character, not very peculiar either, for they are not uncommon. I mean the trials of our faith that are often experienced by men who really find it difficult to retain their confidence in the revelation of God's will in His Word. And you must not at all suppose that because a man never knew what bad health is, and never knew anything of poverty, and never had the slightest reason to be anxious about a single secular concern, that that man's faith is going untried. It may be being tried a great deal more than yours in the midst of sickness and of poverty. There may be a terrible war going on within that man's mind and heart as he is endeavouring, with all earnestness, but often finds himself failing, endeavouring to retain his confidence in the great principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus our faith is tried, and severe is the trial sometimes, as the apostle indicates when he says, "Though it be tried with fire." It has been in the most terribly literal sense tried with fire, for, as you know, for a long time burning to death was the method commonly resorted to in the persecution of those who stood faithful to the truth as it is in Christ. And so the faith of men like John Huss, and , and Bishop Latimer, and thousands upon thousands more in the noble army of martyrs, was in the most literal and severe sense tried with fire. But, of course, we can understand this expression "tried with fire," in a metaphorical sense, as indicative of any peculiarly severe trial to which faith may be exposed, such as a long and wearisome and painful illness. And now to notice some of the alleviations that we have graciously granted to us in these trials of our faith. Do not let us give way to a hopeless sorrow over the matter, for God has mingled very much comfort with all this distress. In the first place, as the apostle reminds us, it is only for a season, or, as we might render his words, "Now for a little while ye are in heaviness through manifold temptation" — for a little while. It will not be long. It cannot be long. And then, again, there is a necessity for it. "If need be," but not if need not be. Only "if need be," and only in proportion as the need really is. And we really must allow God to be the judge and the only judge of this need. We leave it, of course, to the goldsmith to determine how he is to deal with the gold that he is to make up into an article of use or adornment; and we leave it to the lapidary to decide how to cut and to polish the jewels which he intends to set in this fashion or in that. It would be an impertinent thing for persons not skilled in such work even to venture an opinion, and an impertinent thing to venture opinions about the manner in which God Almighty should deal with and make up the gold and the gems whereof He is preparing a glorious crown for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. No, "if need be," and only if need be. The sculptor, you know, would not on any account chip off a block of marble one atom more than in his judgment is necessary to the realisation of his idea in the statue. And no surgeon or physician of ordinary humanity will give his patient any more pain than is unavoidable in order to the healing of the wound or the curing of the disease. And we, as the children of God, are in very wise hands, in very tender hands, in very safe hands. And then there is a great object secured by these trials, that this faith thus tried is found to be unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Unto whose praise and honour and glory? Not unto ours — at least, not unto ours in the first place, but unto our Lord's, an Archbishop Leighton says, "God delights to bring out His strongest champions, that they might fight great battles for Him." And although, certainly, it is sad to think of a good man being cast into prison, and sadder still to think of his being committed to the flame, yet I can imagine that God, not although He loves His people, but just because He loves them, rejoices over such a scene as that. I can imagine God rejoicing to see how His grace strengthens a poor, feeble, mortal man, and makes him firm and enduring unto the end. And at the last it will be found that this trial of their faith was ever unto the praise and honour and glory of their Lord, and to their own praise and honour and glory likewise. But, again, there is this alleviation in the trial of faith suggested in the words, "Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing" — the love that we bear to our Lord Jesus Christ will greatly help us in the trial of our faith. You know that for a person whom you love you will do and suffer things that you would never think of doing or suffering for a person towards whom you felt no particular regard. How much a man will do, and how much he will suffer for his wife and for his children! And so, in proportion to the love we bear to Jesus Christ will be the lightness of the infliction involved in any trials to which our faith is subjected. Once more, there is this alleviation, that "believing in Christ we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls." But some will say, "Have not we already received the salvation of our souls?" Now salvation is a great compound blessing, if I may so speak, and some of it we have received already, and some of it is in reserve. In fact, salvation is a blessing, of which a Christian is receiving something every day. I had so much salvation yesterday; I have got more today, and I shall have more tomorrow, if I am living the Christian life, that is to say. Now, in so far as salvation is the forgiveness of sins, salvation is ours now.
(H. S. Brown.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: