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The Trial of Faith
1 Peter 1:6-7
What is faith? Faith is the heart setting to its seal that God is true. Faith is an appropriating grace. Faith is an apprehending grace. True faith has a quick ear, a clear eye, a ready hand, and a Divine capacity for the word of God. One is tempted to ask, Why does our heavenly Father permit the faith of His poor children to be tried? The answer is in our text, because the trial of your faith is much more 'precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire'. I need not tell you that the trial of faith arises from the difficulties which present themselves to our experience in connection with the things which faith has to deal with.
I. When one thinks of what one is, and of what one has done and what one is capable of doing, self is certainly the great difficulty the greatest difficulty of the believer. Self one might lecture for an hour upon the variety of the phases of self which try the faith of the children of God; all are comprised in self; alas! it is Satan's masterpiece, one could almost say, a pity it was ever heard out of hell self.
II. The providence of God often presents a great trial to faith; some have so many trials, so many difficulties, so many sorrows, that it would almost seem as if God had nothing else to do but to catch the tears that fall day by day from His poor children's eyes and put them into His bottle.
III. Again, the difficulties of our way in the wilderness are a great trial of faith: 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places'.
IV. Another great trial of the faith of the children of God, and one they very often experience, is the hiding of the Father's face.
V. Another great difficulty to faith is unanswered prayer.
VI. Another great trial of faith is, when we seem to wait upon the Lord in prayer, and the answer comes at last, but it is not the answer that we want, and the very last thing under the heavens that we expect perhaps; indeed the answer wellnigh breaks the heart.
VII. The last thing I would mention as a trial of faith is, when God's dealings with us seem to run counter to His promises. If you judge God's dealings by His promises, faith will always come off triumphant; but if you judge of the promises by the dealings you will walk by sight, not by faith, and always be in difficulty. Remember these things, remember the least faith is true faith, and cannot fail. Remember that the most useful, the most successful, the most triumphant of God's servants, have always been those whose faith has been most tested.
Marcus Rainsford, The Fulness of God, p. 142.
References. I. 6, 7. R. W. Dale, The Epistle of James, p. 192. I. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2055. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 66. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 27. I. 7-12. C. Brown, Trial and Triumph, p. 17.
1 Peter 1:8
The inconceivable loveliness of Christ! It seems that about Him there is a sphere where the enthusiasm of love is the calm habit of the soul, that without words, without the necessity of demonstrations of affection, heart beats to heart, soul answers soul, we respond to the Infinite Love, and we feel his answer in us, and there is no need of words.
Harriet Beecher Stowe.
This verse is the text of Jonathan Edwards' treatise on The Religious Affections.
References. I. 8. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 24. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 1. H. Smith, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 369. C. S. Macfarland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 266. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 34. I. 8, 9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 698. I. 9. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 31. I. 9-12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1524. I. 10. W. M. Sinclair, Words from St. Paul's, p. 17. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 15. I. 10-12. Ibid. vol. vi. p. 54. H. Smith, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 84. R. W. Dale, Fellowship with Christ, p. 57. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 41. I. 11. A. Tucker, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 178. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 28; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 446; ibid. vol. ix. p. 74; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 234. 1. 12. Ibid. vol. iv. p. 195; ibid. vol. vi. p. 316. Bishop Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, p. 341. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons (2nd Series), p. 132. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2697.
The Hope of Youth
1 Peter 1:13
These words contain in a small compass the great characteristics of St. Peter; they sum up the main points in his character, and explain why he was chosen to be the chief of the Apostles. Hope marked St. Peter to the end of his own career. At the beginning he was impetuous, courageous, restless; he showed the weakness as well as the strength of his temperament. He was rash in act and speech alike; but he was simple, sincere, and eminently human, attracting us even when he was weakest.
I. Now these are the characteristics which we recognise as the distinguishing marks of youth. He was strong where youth is strong, weak where youth is weak; and for this reason, because he had the temper of youth, he was chosen as the rock on which Christ's Church was to be built. He carried to the end the great characteristics of the boyish mind, which were developed but not abandoned.
II. Learn from Peter how youth can change to manhood without losing any of its grace, its vigour or its simplicity. Nay, rather it is on keeping these qualities unchanged to the end that the power and influence of later life depends. You need to keep always some measure of the impetuosity of youth, its high aspirations, its enthusiasms, its lofty ambitions, its absence of self-seeking, its disinterestedness, hopefulness, and belief in itself. Live in hopefulness, in the sense of a mission, of preparation for your Master's call, of submission to Christ.
Bishop Creighton, University and other Sermons, p. 153.
References. I. 13. A. Maclaren, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 332. R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 127. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1909, and vol. xlv. No. 2649. J. B. Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 344. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 346. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 61. I. 13-18. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v. p. 183. I. 13-21. C. Brown, Trial and Triumph, p. 31. 1. 14. J. S. Maver, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 286. I. 15, 16. H. Drummond, The Ideal Life, p. 279. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 137. I. 16. J. A. Beet, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 395.
Redemption and Judgment
1 Peter 1:17-19
There is no room for doubt that in the Christian religion the two ideas of redemption and of judgment are altogether inseparable. This passage of St. Peter, for example, joins closely together the revelation of mercy, the offer of redemption, and the power of the Precious Blood to cleanse, with the high calling to holiness, the demand for obedience, and the promise of judgment. And over and over again in the New Testament there is the same connection in the Apostolic preaching. They preached, not that now at last, after a time of law and righteousness, there had dawned a day of toleration and of ease for God's creatures; they preached in broad contrast to this, that whereas in ages past God had been longsuffering, now the day of His righteous judgment approached swiftly. 'The times of ignorance,' says St. Paul, 'God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because he hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised Him from the dead'. We who live under the Gospel, under mercy, live in the approaching light of the Day of Judgment In the beauty and tenderness of our Lord's birth, 'God made Himself an awful rose of dawn,' the dawn that leads to the full blaze of the Sun of Righteousness.
This is the Christian religion, or rather an integral part of it In this faith men of old time found moral strength, partly because the expectation of judgment threw light upon the problems of conduct; and partly because, believing in Jesus, not as they fancied Him, but as He revealed Himself, they found the power of His Holy Spirit enabling them to do those things which He required.
We in our time, preferring to dream about a gentle Saviour not revealed, are obliged to go without those high powers of the world to come which He came to give us, Who is not only our Saviour, but our Judge.
I. Now in these last years, the saving doctrine of approaching judgment has found a new antagonist It was always resisted by the moral sloth which belongs to our nature; it was always hard for us to look forward to that great day of account easier and pleasanter to believe that it would never come. But nowadays we have what seems like a support for our sloth in a certain characteristic of modern thought There is a notion that it is unreasonable to expect that God will some day act decisively.
The Gospel that tells us that one day the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, will come down complete from heaven, teaches us that now the kingdom of heaven is amongst us and within; the same revelation that teaches us that Christ our Lord and Judge will one day suddenly present His Bride perfect before the Father in His marriage feast, teaches us also that He labours day by day, moment by moment, in myriads of hearts, to rid her, wrinkle by wrinkle, of all her blemishes, that she may, at last, stand perfect in that Presence.
II. There is no lack of recognition in sacred thought of the truth of uniformity, of continuous growth; but there is a gross lack of recognition in secular thought of the reality of catastrophe and change. And so we have persuaded ourselves that whatsoever judgment of God there be, it is a judgment which is working itself out smoothly now; that we already know the worst; that the slight prick of conscience, that the passing ache of an offended taste for goodness, is the judgment of God, and that we may slide on, registering our own condemnation, and so find when the last great books are opened nothing fresh for us to hear.
This is wholly contrary to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ; and it is wholly contrary to our common experience; for what is the teaching the first surface teaching of all our common life? Surely it is the teaching of tremendous changes. We go forward through life from crisis to crisis, and we all of us move towards a day the day of death when we shall discover something which, whatever it is, will be a vast and momentous change. We have been misled, by a finespun reflection upon the ultimate meanings of things, to neglect their plain and manifest character. Natural history teaches us that animals and plants are all the same at last, and it teaches us so truly, according to a certain method of study. It teaches us that we cannot well mark or define the difference between animal and plant life considered in their first elements. But in practice there is a vast distinction between meeting a tree, for example, and meeting a tiger. We have given up, for the sake of the finespun results of a difficult reflection, our common-sense and practical knowledge of the momentous differences which meet us in experience.
III. You talk of uniformity of experience, but the man who is hungry and who has no prospect of food or work will not believe you if you tell him that he is on the way to become healthy and strong; the man who is just in the depths of bereavement with a broken heart will not believe you if you tell him that he is only on the way to inevitable joy and happiness. If you build squalor round our people you will in vain persuade yourself to believe that dirt and crowding and darkness are sure to lead people, if they go on long enough, to health and freedom and nobility and the greatness of the guarded family life. No, in fact, we understand that negligence is not the way to preparedness, that cowardice is not the way to safety, that moral slackness does not lead us to moral contentment or to moral achievement; that sin is not virtue in the making. Sin leads not to virtue, but to more sin and to everlasting death.
And so we must look forward to the great day and pray that now we may be preserved in the smallest of our crises, that at last we may stand without blame before Him when He cometh and shows to us His glory. Our prayer should be: Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day, this hour, without sin. Judge yourselves now, and you shall not be judged. Pray Him now for grace and you shall meet Him then at last with joy, for you shall see Him as He is, being conformed to His likeness, not in the swiftness of a last conversion, but in the solidity of a life of obedience.
IV. There are other doctrines profounder than this, but we hold them in vain if we do not grasp this moral issue. There are other Christian thoughts finer and more interesting than this, but we sing in vain the songs of Zion if we are not meanwhile marching step by step towards heaven. There are modes of teaching which give greater recognition to the mystery of our life. Our life is indeed surrounded with mystery. Temperament has unknown capacities; heredity has huge and awful powers; circumstance becomes more and more wonderful as the veil is lifted, so that we see something of the good and the evil powers outside sense which lie around our path. But it is in vain that we dream of the mystery, if we do not mark and walk along the lighted track. There is between the gulfs of darkness one lighted track, the track of duty. It is the narrow path.
Father Waggett, Church Times, 4th December, 1908.
References. I. 17-21. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 2. I. 18, 19. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. v. p. 185. I. 19. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 203. J. T. Stannard, The Divine Humanity, p. 97. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 621.
1 Peter 1:22
Dr. Marcus Dods wrote at the age of sixteen to his sister Marcia: 'Sometimes it strikes me with a kind of sudden rapture how these words "with a pure heart fervently" shall be fulfilled in our love to one another hereafter. How good must He be, Who knowing our enmity, has given us such power of affection, natures so capable of intense delight. Could one only always believe this goodwill of God, how easy it would be to love, serve, and enjoy Him. What are the minds that can see, and not see this love, the hearts that can feel, and not feel this?' Early Letters, p. 176.
References. I. 22. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 206. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 31. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 76. I. 22 to II. 3. C. Brown, Trial and Triumph, p. 47. I. 23-25. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 398, and vol. xvii. No. 999. J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 298. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii. p. 324. I. 24. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. p. 66. I. 24, 25. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 135. II. 1, 2. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 299. II. 1-3. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 459. II. 2. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 177. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 300. II. 2, 3. T. Arnold, Christian Life: Its Hopes, p. 122. II. 3. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2168. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 376. II. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1334. II. 4, 5. I. E. Page, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 515. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1376. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 86. II. 4-10. C. Brown, Trial and Triumph, p. 61.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany