Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Peter 1
Of the persons to whom this epistle was directed, and their spiritual state, 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2. He describes their privileges, and thanks God for the grace by which they were preserved faithful in trials and difficulties, 1 Peter 1:3-5. The spiritual benefit they were to receive out of their afflictions, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7. Their love to Christ, 1 Peter 1:8. And the salvation they received through believing, 1 Peter 1:9. This salvation was predicted by the prophets, who only saw it afar off and had only a foretaste of it, 1 Peter 1:10-12. They should take encouragement, and be obedient and holy, 1 Peter 1:13-16. Thy should pray, and deeply consider the price at which they were purchased, that their faith and hope might be in God, 1 Peter 1:17-21. As their souls had been purified by obeying the truth through the Spirit, they should love each other with a pure and fervent love, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 1:23. The frailty of man, and the unchangeableness of God, 1 Peter 1:24, 1 Peter 1:25.
Peter, an apostle - Simon Peter, called also Kephas: he was a fisherman, son of Jonah, brother of Andrew, and born at Bethsaida; and one of the first disciples of our Lord. See the preface.
The strangers scattered throughout - Jews first, who had believed the Gospel in the different countries here specified; and converted Gentiles also. Though the word strangers may refer to all truly religious people, see Genesis 47:9; Psalm 39:12, in the Septuagint, and Hebrews 11:13, yet the inscription may have a special reference to those who were driven by persecution to seek refuge in those heathen provinces to which the influence of their persecuting brethren did not extend.
Pontus - An ancient kingdom of Asia Minor, originally a part of Cappadocia; bounded on the east by Colchis, on the west by the river Halys, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the south by Armenia Minor. This country probably derived its name from the Pontus Euxinus, on which it was partly situated. In the time of the Roman emperors it was divided into three parts:
Six kings of the name of Mithridates reigned in this kingdom, some of whom are famous in history. The last king of this country was David Comnenus, who was taken prisoner, with all his family, by Mohammed II. in the year 1462, and carried to Constantinople; since which time this country (then called the empire of Trebizond, from Trapezas, a city founded by the Grecians, on the uttermost confines of Pontus) has continued under the degrading power of the Turks.
Galatia - The ancient name of a province of Asia Minor, now called Amasia. It was called also Gallograecia, and Gallia Parva. It was bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the south by Pamphylia, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the west by Bithynia. See the preface to the Epistle to the Galatians.
Cappadocia - An ancient kingdom of Asia, comprehending all the country lying between Mount Taurus and the Euxine Sea.
Asia - This word is taken in different senses: It signifies,
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God - If the apostle had directed his letter to persons elected to eternal life, no one, as Drs. Lardner and Macknight properly argue, could have received such a letter, because no one could have been sure of his election in this way till he had arrived in heaven. But the persons to whom the apostle wrote were all, with propriety, said to be elect according to the foreknowledge of God; because, agreeably to the original purpose of God, discovered in the prophetical writings, Jews and Gentiles, indiscriminately, were called to be the visible Church, and entitled to all the privileges of the people of God, on their believing the Gospel. In this sense the word elected is used in other places of Scripture; see 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and the note there.
The Rev. J. Wesley has an excellent note on this passage, which I shall transcribe for the benefit of those of my readers who may not have his works at hand.
"Strictly speaking, there is no foreknowledge, no more than afterknowledge, with God; but all things are known to him as present, from eternity to eternity. Election, in the scriptural sense, is God's doing any thing that our merit or power has no part in. The true predestination or foreappointment of God is,
Through sanctification of the Spirit - through the renewing and purifying influences of his Spirit on their souls, unto obedience - to engage and enable them to yield themselves up to all holy obedience, the foundation of all which is the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ - the atoning blood of Jesus Christ which was typified by the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifices under the law, in allusion to which it is called the blood of sprinkling.
Blessed be the God and Father - Ευλογητος ὁ Θεος και Πατηρ· Blessed be God even the Father, or blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The και, and, is omitted by the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, and the Ethiopic. But if we translate και, even, a meaning which it frequently has in the New Testament, then we have a very good sense: Let that God have praise who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who deserves the praise of every human being for his infinite mercy to the world, in its redemption by Christ Jesus.
Begotten us again unto a lively hope - I think the apostle has a reference here to his own case, and that of his fellow apostles, at the time that Christ was taken by the Jews and put to death. Previously to this time they had strong confidence that he was the Messiah, and that it was he who should redeem Israel; but when they found that he actually expired upon the cross, and was buried, they appear to have lost all hope of the great things which before they had in prospect. This is feelingly expressed by the two disciples whom our Lord, after his resurrection, overtook on the road going to Emmaus, see Luke 24:13-24. And the hope, that with them, died with their Master, and seemed to be buried in his grave, was restored by the certainty of his resurrection. From Christ's preaching, miracles, etc., they had a hope of eternal life, and all other blessings promised by him; by his death and burial this hope became nearly, if not altogether, extinct; but by his resurrection the hope was revived. This is very properly expressed here by being begotten again to a living hope, εις ελπιδα ζωσαν·, as some MSS. and versions have it, εις ελπιδα ζωης, to the hope of life; which one copy of the Itala, with Augustine, Gildas, Vigilius of Tapsum, and Cassiodorus, have considered as meaning eternal life, agreeably to the context; and therefore they read vitae aeternae.
The expressions, however, may include more particulars than what are above specified; as none can inherit eternal life except those who are children in the heavenly family, and none are children but those who are born again: then St. Peter may be considered as laying here the foundation of the hope of eternal life in the regeneration of the soul; for none can legally inherit but the children, and none are children of God till they are spiritually begotten and born again.
It is the Gospel alone that gives the well grounded hope of eternal life; and the ground on which this hope rests is the resurrection of Christ himself. The certainty of our Lord's resurrection is the great seal of the Gospel. Without this what is vision, what is prophecy, what is promise, what are even miracles, to that unbelief which is natural to man on such a subject as this? But the resurrection of the human nature of Christ, the incontestable proofs of this resurrection, and the ascension of our nature to heaven in his person, are such evidences of the possibility and certainty of the thing, as for ever to preclude all doubt from the hearts of those who believe in him.
To an inheritance - Called an inheritance because it belongs to the children of God. Eternal life cannot be a gift to any but these; for, even in heaven, the lot is dealt out according to law: if children, then heirs; if not children, then not heirs.
Incorruptible - Αφθαρτον· It has no principles of dissolution or decay in it; and, therefore, must be totally different from this earth.
Undefiled - Αμιαντον· Nothing impure can enter it; it not only has no principles or seeds of dissolution in itself, but it can never admit any; therefore its deterioration is impossible.
Fadeth not away - Αμαρνατον· It cannot wither, it is always in bloom; a metaphor taken from those flowers that never lose their hue nor their fragrance. From the Greek αμαραντος we have our flowers called amaranths, because they preserve their hue and odour for a long time.
Reserved in heaven - Such a place as that described above is not to be expected on earth; it is that which was typified by the earthly Canaan, and in reference to which the patriarchs endured all trials and difficulties in this life, as seeing Him who is invisible.
Who are kept - Φρουρουμενους· Who are defended as in a fortress or castle. There is a remarkable correspondence between the two verbs used in this sentence: the verb τηρεω, signifies to keep, watch, guard; and τηρησις, is a place of custody or prison. And φρουρεω, from φρουρος, a sentinel, signifies to keep as under a military guard. See on Galatians 3:22, Galatians 3:23. The true disciples of Christ are under the continual watchful care of God, and the inheritance is guarded for them. In some countries military posts are constantly kept on the confines, in order to prevent irruptions from a neighboring people; and, in many cases, heirs, while in their minority, are kept in fortified places under military guards.
By the power of God - Εν δυναμει Θεου· By the mighty and miracle-working power of God; for nothing less is necessary to keep and preserve, in this state of continual trial, a soul from the contagion that is in the world. But this power of God is interested in the behalf of the soul by faith; to believe is our work, the exertion of the almighty power is of God. No persevering without the power, and no power without faith.
Ready to be revealed - Or rather, Prepared to be revealed. The inheritance is prepared for you; but its glories will not be revealed till the last time - till ye have done with life, and passed through your probation, having held fast faith and a good conscience. Some by salvation understand the deliverance of the Christians from the sackage of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish polity being called the last time; others suppose it to refer to the day of judgment, and the glorification of the body and soul in heaven.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice - Some refer wherein, εν ᾡ, to the salvation mentioned above; others, to the last time, καιρῳ εσχατῳ, in 1 Peter 1:5; others think that it applies to the being kept by the power of God through faith; and others, that it refers to all the preceding advantages and privileges. It was in the present salvation of God that they rejoiced or gloried, though not without having an eye to the great recompense of reward.
Though now for a season - Ολιγον αρτι· A little while yet - during your pilgrimage here below, which is but a point when compared with eternity.
If need be - Ει δεον εστι· If it be necessary - if your situation and circumstances be such that you are exposed to trials and persecutions which you cannot avoid, unless God were to work a miracle for your deliverance, which would not be for your ultimate good, as he purposes to turn all your trials and difficulties to your advantage.
Sometimes there is a kind of necessity that the followers of God should be afflicted; when they have no trials they are apt to get careless, and when they have secular prosperity they are likely to become worldly-minded. "God," said a good man, "can neither trust me with health nor money; therefore I am both poor and afflicted." But the disciples of Christ may be very happy in their souls, though grievously afflicted in their bodies and in their estates. Those to whom St. Peter wrote rejoiced greatly, danced for joy, αγαλλιασθε, while they were grieved, λυπηθεντες, with various trials. The verb λυπεω signifies to grieve, to make sorrowful: perhaps heaviness is not the best rendering of the original word, as this can scarcely ever consist with rejoicing; but to be sorrowful on account of something external to ourselves, and yet exulting in God from a sense of his goodness to us, is quite compatible: so that we may say with St. Paul, always sorrowing, yet still rejoicing.
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold - As by the action of fire gold is separated from all alloy and heterogeneous mixtures, and is proved to be gold by its enduring the action of the fire without losing any thing of its nature, weight, color, or any other property, so genuine faith is proved by adversities, especially such as the primitive Christians were obliged to pass through. For the word was then, "Renounce Jesus and live," "Cleave to him and die;" for every Christian was in continual danger of losing his life. He then who preferred Christianity to his life gave full proof, not only of his own sincerity, but also of the excellency of the principle by which he was influenced; as his religion put him in possession of greater blessings, and more solid comforts, than any thing the earth could afford.
Though it be tried with fire - That is: Though gold will bear the action of the fire for any given time, even millions of years, were they possible, without losing the smallest particle of weight or value, yet even gold, in process of time, will wear away by continual use; and the earth, and all its works, will be burnt up by that supernatural fire whose action nothing can resist. But on that day the faith of Christ's followers will be found brighter, and more glorious. The earth, and universal nature, shall be dissolved; but he who doeth the will of God shall abide for ever, and his faith shall then be found to the praise of God's grace, the honor of Christ, and the glory or glorification of his own soul throughout eternity. God himself will praise such faith, angels and men will hold it in honor, and Christ will crown it with glory. For some remarks on the nature and properties of gold see at the end of the chapter.
Whom having not seen, ye love - Those to whom the apostle wrote had never seen Christ in the flesh; and yet, such is the realizing nature of faith, they loved him as strongly as any of his disciples could, to whom he was personally known. For faith in the Lord Jesus brings him into the heart; and by his indwelling all his virtues are proved, and an excellence discovered beyond even that which his disciples beheld, when conversant with him upon earth. In short, there is an equality between believers in the present time, and those who lived in the time of the incarnation; for Christ, to a believing soul, is the same to-day that he was yesterday and will be for ever.
Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable - Ye have unutterable happiness through believing; and ye have the fullest, clearest, strongest evidence of eternal glory. Though they did not see him on earth, and men could not see him in glory, yet by that faith which is the evidence of things not seen, and the subsistence of things hoped for, they had the very highest persuasion of their acceptance with God, their relation to him as their Father, and their sonship with Christ Jesus.
Receiving the end of your faith - Ye are put in possession of the salvation of your souls, which was the thing presented to your faith, when ye were called by the Gospel of Christ. Your faith has had a proper issue, and has been crowned with a proper recompense. The word τελος, end, is often used so as to imply the issue or reward of any labor or action.
Salvation of your souls - The object of the Jewish expectations in their Messiah was the salvation or deliverance of their bodies from a foreign yoke; but the true Messiah came to save the soul from the yoke of the devil and sin. This glorious salvation these believers had already received.
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired - The incarnation and suffering of Jesus Christ, and the redemption procured by him for mankind, were made known, in a general way, by the prophets; but they themselves did not know the time when these things were to take place, nor the people among and by whom he was to suffer, etc.; they therefore inquired accurately or earnestly, εξεζητησαν, and searched diligently, εξηρευνησαν, inquiring of others who were then under the same inspiration, and carefully searching the writings of those who had, before their time, spoken of these things. The prophets plainly saw that the grace which was to come under the Messiah's kingdom was vastly superior to any thing that had ever been exhibited under the law; and in consequence they made all possible inquiry, and searched as after grains of gold, hidden among sand or compacted with ore, (for such is the meaning of the original word), in order to ascertain the time, and the signs of that time, in which this wondrous display of God's love and mercy to man was to take place; but all that God thought fit to instruct them in was what is mentioned 1 Peter 1:12.
The glory that should follow - Not only the glory of his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and the effusion of his Spirit; but that grand manifestation of God's infinite love to the world in causing the Gospel of his Son to be everywhere preached, and the glorious moral changes which should take place in the world under that preaching, and the final glorification of all them who had here received the report, and continued faithful unto death. And we may add to this the ineffable glorification of the human nature of Jesus Christ, which, throughout eternity, will be the glorious Head of his glorified body, the Church.
Unto whom it was revealed - We may presume that, in a great variety of cases, the prophets did not understand the meaning of their own predictions. They had a general view of God's designs; but of particular circumstances, connected with those great events, they seem to have known nothing, God reserving the explanation of all particulars to the time of the issue of such prophecies. When they wished to find out the times, the seasons, and the circumstances, God gave them to understand that it was not for themselves, but for us, that they did minister the things which are now reported unto us by the preaching of the Gospel. This was all the satisfaction they received in consequence of their earnest searching; and this was sufficient to repress all needless curiosity, and to induce them to rest satisfied that the Judge of all the earth would do right. If all succeeding interpreters of the prophecies had been contented with the same information relative to the predictions still unaccomplished, we should have had fewer books, and more wisdom.
Angels desire to took into - Παρακυψαι· To stoop down to; the posture of those who are earnestly intent on finding out a thing, especially a writing difficult to be read; they bring it to the light, place it so that the rays may fall on it as collectively as possible, and then stoop down in order to examine all the parts, that they may be able to make out the whole. There is evidently an allusion here to the attitude of the cherubim who stood at the ends of the ark of the covenant, in the inner tabernacle, with their eyes turned towards the mercy-seat or propitiatory in a bending posture, as if looking attentively, or, as we term it, poring upon it. Even the holy angels are struck with astonishment at the plan of human redemption, and justly wonder at the incarnation of that infinite object of their adoration. If then these things be objects of deep consideration to the angels of God, how much more so should they be to us; in them angels can have no such interest as human beings have.
We learn from the above that it was the Spirit of Christ in the Jewish prophets that prophesied of Christ; it was that Spirit which revealed him; and it is the same Spirit which takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. Christ was never known by prophecy, but through his own Spirit; and he never was known, nor can be known, to the salvation of any soul, but by a revelation of the same Spirit. It is he alone that bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.
Gird up the loins of your mind - Take courage from this display of God's love now made known to you; and though you must expect trials, yet fortify your minds with the consideration that he who has given you his Son Jesus will withhold from you no manner of thing that is good. The allusion here is to the long robes of the Asiatics, which, when they were about to perform any active service, they tucked in their girdles: this they did also when they waited on their superiors at meals.
Hope to the end for the grace - Continue to expect all that God has promised, and particularly that utmost salvation, that glorification of body and soul, which ye shall obtain at the revelation of Christ, when he shall come to judge the world.
But if the apostle alludes here to the approaching revelation of Christ to inflict judgment on the Jews for their final rebellion and obstinacy, then the grace, χαριν, benefit, may intend their preservation from the evils that were coming upon that people, and their wonderful escape from Jerusalem at the time that the Roman armies came against it.
Not fashioning yourselves - As the offices of certain persons are known by the garb or livery they wear, so are transgressors: where we see the world's livery we see the world's servants; they fashion or habit themselves according to their lusts, and we may guess that they have a worldly mind by their conformity to worldly fashions.
But as he which hath called you - Heathenism scarcely produced a god whose example was not the most abominable; their greatest gods, especially, were paragons of impurity; none of their philosophers could propose the objects of their adoration as objects of imitation. Here Christianity has an infinite advantage over heathenism. God is holy, and he calls upon all who believe in him to imitate his holiness; and the reason why they should be holy is, that God who has called them is holy, 1 Peter 1:15.
And if ye call on the Father - Seeing ye invoke the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and your Father through Christ, and profess to be obedient children, and sojourners here below for a short time only, see that ye maintain a godly reverence for this Father, walking in all his testimonies blameless.
Who without respect of persons - God is said to be no respecter of persons for this reason among many others, that, being infinitely righteous, he must be infinitely impartial. He cannot prefer one to another, because he has nothing to hope or fear from any of his creatures. All partialities among men spring from one or other of these two principles, hope or fear; God can feel neither of them, and therefore God can be no respecter of persons. He approves or disapproves of men according to their moral character. He pities all, and provides salvation for all, but he loves those who resemble him in his holiness; and he loves them in proportion to that resemblance, i.e. the more of his image he sees in any, the more he loves him; and e contra. And every man's work will be the evidence of his conformity or nonconformity to God, and according to this evidence will God judge him. Here, then, is no respect of persons; God's judgment will be according to a man's work, and a man's work or conduct will be according to the moral state of his mind. No favouritism can prevail in the day of judgment; nothing will pass there but holiness of heart and life. A righteousness imputed, and not possessed and practiced, will not avail where God judgeth according to every man's work. It would be well if those sinners and spurious believers who fancy themselves safe and complete in the righteousness of Christ, while impure and unholy in themselves, would think of this testimony of the apostle.
Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things - To redeem, λυτροω, signifies to procure life for a captive or liberty for a slave by paying a price, and the precious blood of Christ is here stated to be the price at which the souls of both Jews and Gentiles were redeemed; is was a price paid down, and a price which God's righteousness required.
Corruptible things mean here any thing that man usually gives in exchange for another; but the term necessarily includes all created things, as all these are corruptible and perishing. The meaning of the apostle is, evidently, that created things could not purchase the souls of men, else the sacrifice of Christ had not been offered; could any thing less have done, God would not have given up his only-begotten Son. Even silver and gold, the most valuable medium of commerce among men, bear no proportion in their value to the souls of a lost world, for there should be a congruity between the worth of the thing purchased and the valuable consideration which is given for it; and the laws and customs of nations require this: on this ground, perishable things, or things the value of which must be infinitely less than the worth of the souls of men, cannot purchase those souls. Nothing, therefore, but such a ransom price as God provided could be a sufficient ransom, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the world.
Vain conversation - Empty, foolish, and unprofitable conduct, full of vain hopes, vain fears, and vain wishes.
Received by tradition from your fathers - The Jews had innumerable burdens of empty ceremonies and useless ordinances, which they received by tradition from their fathers, rabbins, or doctors. The Gentiles were not less encumbered with such than the Jews; all were wedded to their vanities, because they received them from their forefathers, as they had done from theirs. And this antiquity and tradition have been the ground work of many a vain ceremony and idle pilgrimage, and of numerous doctrines which have nothing to plead in their behalf but this mere antiquity. But such persons seem not to consider that error and sin are nearly coeval with the world itself.
The precious blood of Christ - Τιμιῳ αἱματι· The valuable blood; how valuable neither is nor could be stated.
As of a lamb - Such as was required for a sin-offering to God; and The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Without blemish - In himself, and without spot from the world; being perfectly pure in his soul, and righteous in his life.
Who verily was foreordained - Προεγνωσμενου· Foreknown; appointed in the Divine purpose to be sent into the world, because infinitely approved by the Divine justice.
Before the foundation of the world - Before the law was given, or any sacrifice prescribed by it. Its whole sacrificial system was appointed in reference to this foreappointed Lamb, and consequently from him derived all its significance and virtue. The phrase καταβολη κοσμου, foundation of the world, occurs often in the New Testament, and is supposed by some learned men and good critics to signify the commencement of the Jewish state. Perhaps it may have this meaning in Matthew 13:35; Luke 11:50; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26. But if we take it here in its common signification, the creation of universal nature, then it shows that God, foreseeing the fall and ruin of man, appointed the remedy that was to cure the disease. It may here have a reference to the opinion of the Jewish doctors, who maintain that seven things existed before the creation of the world, one of which was the Messiah.
Last times - The Gospel dispensation, called the last times, as we have often seen, because never to be succeeded by any other.
Who by him do believe in God - This is supposed to refer to the Gentiles, who never knew the true God till they heard the preaching of the Gospel: the Jews had known him long before, but the Gentiles had every thing to learn when the first preachers of the Gospel arrived amongst them.
Gave him glory - Raised him to his right hand, where, as a Prince and a Savior, he gives repentance and remission of sins.
That your faith - In the fulfillment of all his promises, and your hope of eternal glory, might be in God, who is unchangeable in his counsels, and infinite in his mercies.
Seeing ye have purified your souls - Having purified your souls, in obeying the truth - by believing in Christ Jesus, through the influence and teaching of the Spirit; and giving full proof of it by unfeigned love to the brethren; ye love one another, or ye will love each other, with a pure heart fervently. These persons,
First, heard the truth, that is, the Gospel; thus called in a great variety of places in the New Testament, because it contains The truth without mixture of error, and is the truth and substance of all the preceding dispensations by which it was typified.
Secondly, they obeyed that truth, by believing on Him who came into the world to save sinners.
Thirdly, through this believing on the Son of God, their hearts were purified by the word of truth applied to them by the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly, the love of God being shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, they loved the brethren with pure hearts fervently, εκτενως, intensely or continually; the full proof that their brotherly love was unfeigned, φιλαδελφιαν ανυποκριτον, a fraternal affection without hypocrisy.
Being born again - For being born of Abraham's seed will not avail to the entering of the kingdom of heaven.
Not of corruptible seed - By no human generation, or earthly means; but of incorruptible - a Divine and heavenly principle which is not liable to decay, nor to be affected by the changes and chances to which all sublunary things are exposed.
By the word of God - Δια λογου ζωντος Θεου· By the doctrine of the living God, which remaineth for ever; which doctrine shall never change, any more than the source shall whence it proceeds.
For all flesh is as grass - Earthly seeds, earthly productions, and earthly generations, shall fail and perish like as the grass and flowers of the field; for the grass withereth, and the flower falleth off, though, in the ensuing spring and summer, they may put forth new verdure and bloom.
But the word of the Lord - The doctrine delivered by God concerning Christ endureth for ever, having, at all times and in all seasons, the same excellence and the same efficacy.
And this is the word - Το ῥημα, What is spoken, by the Gospel preached unto you. "This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8, where the preaching of the Gospel is foretold; and recommended from the consideration that every thing which is merely human, and, among the rest, the noblest races of mankind, with all their glory and grandeur, their honor, riches, beauty, strength, and eloquence, as also the arts which men have invented, and the works they have executed, shall decay as the flowers of the field. But the Gospel, called by the prophet the word of the Lord, shall be preached while the world standeth." - Macknight. All human schemes of salvation, and plans for the melioration of the moral state of man, shall come to naught; and the doctrine of Christ crucified, though a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles, shall be alone the power of God for salvation to every soul that believeth.
As the apostle, on 1 Peter 1:7, mentions gold, and gold chemically examined and tried; and as this figure frequently occurs in the sacred writings; I think it necessary to say something here of the nature and properties of that metal.
Gold is defined by chemists to be the most perfect, the most ductile, the most tenacious, and the most unchangeable of all metals. Its specific gravity is about 19.3. A cubic foot of pure gold, cast and not hammered, weighs 1348lbs. In its native state, without mixture, it is yellow, and has no perceptible smell nor taste. When exposed to the action of the fire it becomes red hot before it melts, but in melting suffers no alteration; but if a strong heat be applied while in fusion, it becomes of a beautiful green color. The continual action of any furnace, howsoever long applied, has no effect on any of its properties. It has been kept in a state of fusion for several months, in the furnace of a glass house, without suffering the smallest change. The electric and galvanic fluids inflame and convert it into a purple oxide, which is volatilized in the form of smoke. In the focus of a very powerful burning glass it becomes volatilized, and partially vitrified; so that we may say with the apostle, that, though gold is tried by the fire - abides the action of all culinary fires, howsoever applied, yet it perisheth by the celestial fire and the solar influence; the rays of the sun collected in the focus of a powerful burning glass, and the application of the electric fluid, destroy its color, and alter and impair all its properties. This is but a late discovery; and previously to it a philosopher would have ridiculed St. Peter for saying, gold that perisheth.
Gold is so very tenacious that a piece of it drawn into wire, one-tenth of an inch in diameter, will sustain a weight of 500lbs. without breaking.
One grain of gold may be so extended, by its great malleability, as to be easily divided into two millions of parts; and a cubic inch of gold into nine thousand, five hundred and twenty-three millions, eight hundred and nine thousand, five hundred and twenty-three parts; each of which may be distinctly seen by the naked eye!
A grain and a half of gold may be beaten into leaves of one inch square, which, if intersected by parallel lines, drawn at right angles to each other, and distant only the 100th part of an inch; will produce twenty-five millions of little squares, each of which may be distinctly seen without the help of glasses!
The surface of any given quantity of gold, according to Mr. Magellan, may be extended by the hammer 159,092 times!
Eighty books, or two thousand leaves, of what is called leaf gold, each leaf measuring 3.3 inches square, viz. each leaf containing 10.89 square inches, weigh less than 384 grains; each book, therefore, or twenty-five leaves, is equal to 272.25 inches, and weighs about 4.8 grains; so that each grain of gold will produce 56.718, or nearly fifty-seven square inches!
The thickness of the metal thus extended appears to be no more than the one 282.020th of an inch! One pound, or sixteen ounces of gold, would be sufficient to gild a silver wire, sufficient in length to encompass the whole terraqueous globe, or to extend 25,000 miles!
Notwithstanding this extreme degree of tenuity, or thinness, which some carry much higher, no pore can be discerned in it by the strongest magnifying powers; nor is it pervious to the particles of light, nor can the most subtile fluids pass through it. Its ductility has never yet been carried to the uttermost pitch, and to human art and ingenuity is probably unlimited.
Sulphur, in the state of a sulphuret, dissolves it; tin and lead greatly impair its tenacity; and zinc hardens and renders it very brittle. Copper heightens its color, and renders it harder, without greatly impairing its ductility. It readily unites with iron, which it hardens in a remarkable manner.
The oxigenated muriatic acid, and the nitro-muriatic acid, dissolve gold. In this state it is capable of being applied with great success to the gilding of steel. The process is very simple, and is instantaneously performed, viz.: -
To a solution of gold in the nitro-muriatic acid add about twice the quantity of sulphuric ether. In order to gild either iron or steel, let the metal be well polished, the higher the better: the ether which has taken up the gold may be applied by a camel hair pencil, or small brush; the ether then evaporates, and the gold becomes strongly attached to the surface of the metal. I have seen lancets, penknives, etc., gilded in a moment, by being dipped in this solution. In this manner all kinds of figures, letters, mottoes, etc., may be delineated on steel, by employing a pen or fine brush.
The nitro-muriatic acid, formerly called aqua regia, is formed by adding muriatic acid, vulgarly spirit of salt, to the nitric acid, formerly aqua fortis. Two parts of the muriatic acid to one of the nitric constitute this solvent of gold and platina, which is called the nitro-muriatic acid.
Gold was considered the heaviest of all metals till the year 1748, when the knowledge of platina was brought to Europe by Don Antonio Ulloa: this, if it be a real metal, is the hardest and weightiest of all others. The specific gravity of gold is, as we have seen, 19.3; that of platina is from 20.6 to 23: but gold will ever be the most valuable of all metals, not merely from its scarcity, but from its beautiful color and great ductility, by which it is applicable to so many uses, and its power of preserving its hue and polish without suffering the least tarnish or oxidation from the action of the air.
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