As heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people (John 14:2; Isa. 43:21; Col. 1:12), so, according to Peter's testimony, it is a reserved inheritance for preserved heirs. The firm decree of God, which fixed the inheritance itself, secured the possession of it to those whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life. But these "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" have to pass through such a wilderness before they reach their heavenly inheritance that, to use an expression of Bunyan's, "had they a thousand souls, they had in reason been cast away" but for the mighty power of God, whereby they are kept through faith unto salvation.
Here, then, we resume our exposition—"Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations." (1 Peter 1:6.)
"Wherein you greatly rejoice." According to the strict literal and grammatical interpretation of the words, the expression "wherein" or "in which" refers to the antecedent word "time," mentioned in the preceding verse. The salvation unto which they were kept by the power of God was "to be revealed in the last time," that is, at the second coming of Christ, when he will come in the glory of his father, with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38.) In the anticipation of this time they greatly rejoiced, for then salvation in all its blessedness and glory will be revealed, not merely as now inwardly and partially to the soul, but outwardly and fully, in the appearing of all the saints with Christ in the glory of their resurrection bodies, all fashioned like unto his glorious body. (Zech. 14:5; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:10; Phil. 3:20, 21.)
But we need not limit the expression, "wherein" to "the last time," thus spoken of, but may extend its meaning to include the salvation itself, for it is not so much the time that is to be greatly rejoiced in, as what will be revealed at that time. This is salvation—the salvation unto which the elect strangers are kept by the power of God!
Now, in this salvation there is matter to fill the hearts of the saints with joy. Its freeness, fullness, completeness, and suitability to all their wants and woes, the way in which it comes down to them in their low estate, comforts their hearts, supports their minds, and soothes their sorrows, affords matter to fill their souls with joy unspeakable and full of glory; and the Apostle no doubt assumed that those to whom he wrote were greatly rejoicing in this salvation from a knowledge and an enjoyment of their personal interest in it.
In those early days, when the Holy Spirit was poured out in so large a measure upon churches and individuals, we may well believe that there was a stronger assurance and a fuller enjoyment of the blessings of salvation than is often or usually given now. The salvation is the same; as full, as free, as complete, as suitable to our lost state and case, as glorifying to God, as reaching down to every individual's case and state as then; but not being revealed to the soul in the same powerful way, the faith which embraces it is weaker, and therefore has less assurance and less joy.
And yet with all this, there are times and seasons when the weakest believer who has ever had a view of this salvation or a taste of its sweetness and power greatly rejoices in it. It so lifts him up out of sin and self, out of bondage, guilt, fear, condemnation, and apprehension of the wrath to come; it so shines in his eyes as bringing the highest glory to God, and the greatest of all blessings to man; it is so sweet in the sips and tastes which are given of it, in the glimpses and glances of Jesus whom it reveals, in the breakings-in of light, life, liberty, and love which attend it; it is so sanctifying in the spirituality of mind and heavenly affections which it produces, as tasted, felt, and handled, that even the weakest believer can rejoice in it as opened to his enlightened understanding, commended to his conscience, sealed upon his heart, and made life and spirit to his soul.
But we see also that the partakers of this salvation, though they greatly rejoice in it, are very heavily weighted. "Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations." If these early believers had their abundant joys, they had their surpassing sorrows. God usually sets one over against the other. A path of joy without tribulation the Scripture knows nothing of; nor can a saint be found in the word of God or out of it who ever had very great joys without either very great sorrows, or very great trials, or very great temptations, or very great persecutions.
Now, the effect of these sorrows and afflictions is to weigh down the soul with heaviness. It is literally in the original "being grieved, or pained, or made sorrowful;" and we know what a weight upon the spirits is produced by sorrow and trouble from whatever quarter it may come. That lightness of mind, cheerfulness of disposition, buoyant sense of pleasure and happiness in the enjoyment of health, strength, and good spirits; that loving life for life's sake, and what it gives or what it promises; that seeking for amusement or delight in things—apart from God; that eager pursuing of the natural bent of our mind; that running with eagerness in the path which promises most success or most advantage—all this which in its highest or lowest state, in its most refined or most sordid character, is, after all, but the very breath of the carnal mind, the very spirit of the world, and the very spawn of the worldly heart—has in the child of God to be subdued, crucified, and mortified.
And for this simple reason, that the spirit of the world which is born with us, grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength, is utterly opposed to the life of God in the soul; and as the Spirit of God will never sanction or countenance any joy or happiness which is not of himself, he has to crucify this eager bent of the carnal mind, for where it reigns and rules there is neither a knowledge of salvation nor a rejoicing in it.
But the Apostle opens also the reason why those who greatly rejoice in God's salvation are often in heaviness. "It is through manifold temptations." By the word "temptations," we may understand not merely temptations in the usual sense of the word, such as those which proceed from Satan, or an infidel, unbelieving heart, but what is meant also by the word "trials." So, in a similar way, the word "manifold" means not only that these trials and temptations are very numerous, consisting, as it were, of many folds, like a folded-up garment, of which fold after fold becomes successively drawn out—but varied in nature and degree—as well as many in number and quantity. Thus we may render the words, through "many and various trials and temptations."
By thus extending the meaning of both terms in full harmony with the original, we find them to comprehend all those numerous, varied, and diversified trials and temptations which are allotted to the family of God in this time state. We may add, also, that, in our judgment, there is a special blessedness in the wide comprehensiveness of this expression, as it takes up and takes in every trial and every temptation—from whatever source it may come, or of whatever nature it may be.
Each child of God has his own peculiar trials allotted to him by a wise, unerring hand, precisely adapted to his spiritual state and case, and just what God designs to make of special profit to his soul. It is impossible, therefore, to lay down a certain path in which each and all of the family of God must walk. It is true of all the heirs of salvation that "through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom of God;" but each has his own peculiar trial, his own daily cross, his own special temptation, his own much tribulation through which he enters the kingdom.
Thus one child of God cannot say to another, "You are not tried, because you have not my trial;" or, "You are not tempted, because you have not my temptation." Could heart discern heart as in water face answers to face, each would see that his trial was the right trial for him, his temptation the right temptation for him; and that as infinite Wisdom had appointed to each his peculiar trial and his special temptation, we should rather look at the effects produced by it than at the nature of the trial or of the temptation itself.
But these trials and temptations are almost as various and as diversified as the people who are called upon to pass through them! Thus to some are allotted most painful family afflictions, either by bereavement of beloved objects—or by what is almost worse than death—grievous and disgraceful misconduct of those who have been brought up with the greatest care and tenderness. Job, Jacob, and David drank deeply of this cup. How deep the grief of the heart-broken father when he said, "Would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
To others is appointed that almost greatest of temporal afflictions, shattered health, entailing with it inability to follow any profitable employment, and thus often adding poverty of circumstances, to bodily affliction.
Others, again, nearly all their days have to grapple with trials in their circumstances. Whatever they do seems to fail; however they strive with honest industry to earn an honest livelihood, loss upon loss, disappointment after disappointment, scatter their "little all", so that they seem only held on, day by day and week by week, from sinking into debt and disgrace.
Others, again, who are, perhaps, exempt from severe temporal trials, are more deeply exercised with those of a spiritual nature. Their spiritual life seems as if ever to hang in doubt and fear; guilt, bondage, darkness, gloom, and desponding sensations continually rack their mind; and though they are continually crying to the Lord under their burdens and sorrows, yet, for the most part, they get but little relief; or if now and then a gleam of light shines upon their path, or a ray of love and mercy break in upon their soul, yet it is soon gone, and they sink again into the old spot of calling everything into question.
But we observed that the word included, as, indeed, it is rendered, "temptations," as well as trials. Now, it would seem as if some of the Lord's family were comparatively exempt from temptations, in the usual sense of the word; at least, they are not so continually or so painfully exercised by them as others who are called to fight more strongly, and as if more desperately, the good fight of faith. Thus many who are deeply tried as to their own state and standing are not tempted to infidelity, to question the whole truth of God, nor are they exposed to such suggestions as we shall not name, lest we kindle a secret fire, and thus help Satan to harass and distress those whom he cannot destroy. But there are those among the living family of God who know what is meant by "the fiery darts of the wicked one;" who painfully feel what it is to have every corruption of their carnal mind stirred up as if to its lowest depth, and set on fire of hell. There are those who on their knees, or in reading the word, or under the preached gospel, or even at the ordinance, are so tempted with everything that is vile and villainous, foul and black beyond description, that they scarcely know what to do with themselves, as these fiery darts are shot fast and thick into their soul.
But we shall not further enlarge upon those points, and if we have thus far touched upon them, it is to show that they are such temptations as, to use the Apostle's expression, "are common to man." (1 Cor. 10:13.)
We shall, therefore, observe that, as the Apostle tells us, there is a needs-be for those trials and temptations—"Though now for a season, if need be." And, indeed, as everything by nature in us is contrary to the life of God, there is a needs-be for these manifold trials and temptations to bring us out of those things which are opposed to the grace of God, and to conform us to the image of his dear Son. Thus we need trial after trial, and temptation upon temptation, to cure us of that worldly spirit, that carnality and carelessness, that light, trifling, and empty profession, that outside form of godliness, that spirit of pride and self-righteousness, that resting short of divine teachings, heavenly blessings, and spiritual manifestations, that settling on our lees and being at ease in Zion, that being mixed up with all sorts of professors, that ignorance of the secret of the Lord which is with those who fear him—all which marks of death we see so visibly stamped upon the profession of the day. There is a needs-be to be brought out of all this false, deceptive, hypocritical, and presumptuous profession, whether high or low, sound in doctrine or unsound, so as to be made simple and sincere, honest and upright, tender and teachable, and to know something experimentally of that broken heart and contrite spirit in which the Lord himself condescends to dwell. And as the Lord works this spirit of humility and love for the most part through trials and temptations, there is a needs-be for every one, of whatever nature it may be, or from whatever quarter it may come.
Look at the light and trifling professors whom you may occasionally meet with, and let them be a looking-glass for you. What a poor, empty religion is theirs! What death and bondage, what darkness and misery, their company and conversation, if you are for any time with them, bring into your soul! How glad you are to get away from them, and be alone by yourself, that you may breathe out your very soul before the Lord, and get from him, if he will but speak it, a word on which you may hope! Do not you see that they are not "in heaviness through manifold temptations," as you often are, and that this is the reason why their profession sits upon them so lightly and easily?
Asaph well describes them, for they plagued him, as, probably, they have often plagued you—"There are no bands in their death;" living and dying, they are just the same, full of presumption and vain confidence, which even a deathbed cannot destroy; "but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men (that is, good men—the Lord's men), neither are they plagued like other men. Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart could wish." (Psalm 73:4-7.) Now, compare with such as these the afflicted family of God, who are "in heaviness through manifold temptations," and we may add, if you are one of them, compare also your feelings, and what is brought into your soul, by their company and conversation. What savor and power attend their word, and how you feel your soul blessed and profited by what drops from their lips, and by what comes out of their broken and exercised heart!
But we will say no more on this point. You that know the things of God in their life and power, judge for yourselves whether these things be so.
But observe also it is but "for a season." With some, indeed, this season may be a very long season; it may last a life, and that, perhaps, a long one. With others the season may be shorter, and the trials and temptations may, as it were, come and go. There are remissions, times of relief, a cessation for a while from the trial, or, at least, the severe pressure of it. But even if those trials and temptations be spread over the whole life, they are still but "for a season." They will cease when life ceases; and death; which is to the ungodly only the entrance into endless misery, will be to the righteous an entrance into endless joy.
But the Apostle himself explains very clearly the reason of these manifold temptations—"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7.) They are meant for "the trial of faith," and are, therefore, compared to a furnace used for the purifying of gold from the dross which is mixed with it in its native ore. We thus see that faith is compared to gold, and this chiefly for two reasons—1. On account of its value; 2. For its indestructibility.
It is the testimony of the Scripture and the experience of all the saints of God, that wherever the Lord gives faith, he sends trials and temptations, to manifest it as his own gift and work. We see it in Abraham, in Jacob, in David—that every promise which was given them and on which their faith was built, was tried as by fire; and we also see that the stronger the faith the sharper was the trial, and the hotter was the furnace. It is in this way that the faith of God's elect, the faith which is of the operation of God, the faith of which the Lord Jesus is the Author and Finisher, as well as Object, Subject, and End, is proved to be wrought in the heart by a divine power.
The furnace consumes and burns up all imitations of gold. Like much modern jewelry, a false faith may appear more bright and shining, more glittering, more polished, more bulky, more artistically worked, more attractive to the eye, more calculated to adorn and set off its possessor—than that true and genuine faith, which is often small and scanty in size, dull in appearance, worn and wasted, or deficient in attractive beauty. But put the two articles, the two faiths, side by side into the same crucible; let the burning furnace try which is the genuine metal; let the hot flame play around them both and penetrate into their inmost substance, their very pores—then the false faith will melt away into a shapeless mass of base adulterate metal—and the true faith will come forth untouched and uninjured by the flame, and having lost nothing but what it may well spare—the alloy with which it may have been mixed.
But it will be observed that the Apostle, in comparing faith with gold, puts upon it a higher stamp. It is "much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be tried with fire." The last words, according to the construction of the original, refer not to faith, or to the trial of faith—but to the gold with which it is compared. It is as if he meant to convey this idea; faith, like gold, must be tried in the fire to prove whether it is genuine; but gold, though tried with the fire, and though it comes safely out of this ordeal, is yet but of a perishing nature. It may be tried by fire and come uninjured out of the fire, but it may be worn out; it may be broken to pieces; it may be lost; at any rate, being but of earth, coming out of the of the earth, and only fitted for earthly pursuits, it perishes. It dies to us when we die; no man can take it with him into a future life; nor will it be of the least avail on a dying bed or on the great day. How "much more precious," then, than all the gold which men so dearly love is that faith which leaves us not on a dying bed, but "the end of which is the salvation of the soul!" How much more precious is that faith which, instead of, like gold, leaving its possessor under the frowns of an angry God, will "be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ!"
But the point to which we would call special attention is that it is not so much the faith itself as "the trial of faith," which is more precious than of gold which perishes. Nor is the reason why, so far to seek. Trials and temptations are the means which God employs to manifest to the soul the reality and strength of the faith which he bestows upon it; for there is in every trial and temptation opposition made to the faith that is in the heart; and every trial and temptation, so to speak, threatens the life of faith. And they threaten it in this way. Under the trial God for the most part hides himself. He puts forth, indeed, a secret power whereby the soul is held up, or otherwise it would sink into utter despair and be overcome and swallowed up by the power of unbelief. Hence comes the conflict between the trial that fights against the faith and the faith which fights against or rather under the trial.
Now, when in this trial, in this sharp conflict, in this hot furnace, faith does not give way, is not burned up, is not destroyed, but keeps its firm hold upon the promise and the faithfulness of him who has given it, this trial of faith becomes very precious. It is precious to the soul when God again smiles upon it, and becomes thus manifested as genuine. It is precious in the sight of God's people who see it and derive strength and comfort from what they witness in the experience of a saint thus tried and blessed; and it is precious also in the sight of God himself, who crowns it with his own manifest approbation, and puts upon it the attesting seal of his own approving smile. But above all things, it will be found precious at the appearing of Jesus Christ, and that not only in his various appearings in grace, but in his final appearance in glory, for of that the Apostle mainly speaks when he says that "it may be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ."