William Nicholson, 1862
"When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold!" Job 23:10
"The precious sons of Zion, as valuable as fine gold" Lamentations 4:2
Happy are they who can say, "The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the sons of God"! They are the favorites of Jehovah, and the objects of his constant love. The world may despise them and treat them with scorn and cruelty — yet God calls them his elect, his chosen, a holy nation, his peculiar people, his special treasure, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.
There are SIMILARITIES between gold and the saints.
1. Gold is generally found buried in the earth, mixed with sand, or other material, and therefore requires to be dug out and separated from those materials.
So the saints have been taken out from the beggarly elements of this world; they have been hewn from nature's quarry, by the hammer of God's word, and made separate from sinners. They are now God's people, and distinct from the children of the world, the heirs of wrath. They are new creatures in Christ Jesus.
2. Gold, though regarded as a pure metal, has yet some dross in it. At the same time, naturalists observe, there is not any metal more free from dross and rust than gold.
The saints, though holy and precious to God, are not without sin; there is some dross of corruption in the best of them. "There is not a just man upon the earth that does good and sins not." Ecclesiastes 7:20. 1 John 1:8.
3. Gold is refined in the fire, by which it is rendered still more pure, solid, and strong.
The saints are also put into the fire, or furnace of affliction, to purge and to refine them from their dross of corruption. "This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold." Zechariah 13:9
"These trials have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1:7
Bodily afflictions, bereavements, reverses of circumstances, through which saints pass, are the refining process appointed by their heavenly Father to free them from any injurious alloy. "Your silver is become dross; I will purge away all your dross, and take away all your tin." Isaiah 1:22, 25. The dross or tin may represent their earthly-mindedness, unholy tempers, etc. etc.
4. Gold is a precious metal. It is esteemed the most valuable on earth. Hence things of very great value are in the Scriptures represented by gold.
The saints are a choice and precious people, the excellent ones in all the earth. Psalm 16:3; Proverbs 12:26. God esteems them as his portion, Deuteronomy 32:9. They are called precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold. They are called honorable, Isaiah 43:4. They are called Jewels, Malachi 3:17.
5. Gold is very pliant — you may bend and work it as you please, and the fire makes it more pliable and yielding, etc.
So the saints are of a soft and pliable nature. God having infused his precious grace into their hearts, they are of a yielding temper; they have hearts of flesh; and God, by putting them into the fire, makes them more pliant and flexible; they soon yield to the will of God, when others will not. They are resigned and teachable, while others rebel and repine.
6. Gold will endure the fire. Though it is frequently put into the Furnace — yet it loses nothing but the drossy part. The fire purifies it, and cannot destroy its precious nature. However fierce and raging the flames, gold retains its excellency. "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction!" Isaiah 48:10
So the people of God endure the fiery trial; they are not burned up, or consumed in the Furnace of affliction though heated seven-fold. God stands by the Furnace, and gives them strength according to their trial. Though their trials pain them, reduce their physical strength and energy — yet God is with them, and his people, the gold, are not hurt. They come out, like gold seven times purified. Sincere Christians are compared to gold. Hypocrites are compared to wood, hay, and stubble, which the fire will burn up. 1 Corinthians 3:12, 13; Malachi 4:1.
7. Gold is often formed into vessels ingeniously wrought, for the pleasure, honor, and use of princes and great men.
So God forms some of his people for most excellent service. He makes them vessels of honor to hold the glorious treasure of the Gospel, to communicate it to others, 2 Corinthians 4:7. They have the ministry of reconciliation committed to them and are stewards of the mysteries of the Gospel. See 2 Timothy 2:20, 21. They may be accounted as clay pots — yet they are as fine gold. Lam. 4:2.
8. Gold is carefully preserved. Men highly value it, and sometimes hide it, lest men should steal it.
So God highly values his people, and keeps and preserves them day and night. They are called his Hidden Ones. They shelter under his wings — they hide in his Pavilion and are safe. Their life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3, 4.
9. Men endure much labor, sustain great losses, sacrifices, etc., to obtain gold, and make it sure to themselves.
So Jesus Christ endured great pain and loss for his people; he laid down his life for them. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19
10. Gold is useful. It is that by which we purchase what is essential for life, etc., etc.
So Christians are useful. In their families, neighborhood, to the world at large. They seek the salvation of sinners, and the glory of God. The purposes of God in reference to the diffusion of his glory in the world, will not be effected without them.
Such are the similarities — now observe its CONTRASTS.
1. Gold is earthly and perishable, and by constant use it wears away.
But the saints, though their bodies are earthly and die — yet they shall be raised to endless life. Their souls are immortal. The more service they do, the more glorious they shall be. Saints are not the worse for wearing. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand!" John 10:28
2. Gold receives its beauty and glory from man's work. Were it not molded, fashioned, and burnished by the ingenuity of man, it would not be so highly esteemed.
But the saints have all their glory from grace; it is not the work of men's hands, but the work of God's hands. This gives them their beauty, and splendor, and happiness.
3. Gold is gold naturally; though made purer by the subsequent refining process.
But the saints, prior to their regeneration, were earthly, sensual, etc., and not gold naturally. It is grace that makes them excellent as gold — it is grace that makes them differ from others.
1. See the power of Divine grace in making men like gold.
2. Be thankful for that grace, and pray for more, that you may shine more and more. How marvelous to be regarded as God's gold!
3. How awful to be regarded as God's dross!