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30 November, 2013


by Octavius Winslow, 1859


"The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes." 1 Pet. 1:7

It is the preciousness of trial in general, including the preciousness of the trial of faith in particular, to which the apostle thus refers. We propose, therefore, to amplify the truth, and to illustrate in the present chapter the preciousness of all those trials of which, more or less, the saints of God are partakers. This view may present the subject of trial in a point of light more soothing and sanctifying than the reader has been used to contemplate it. You have thought of trial, have anticipated trial, have met trial, have shrunk from trial as the patient recoils from the surgeon's lance, forgetting that that very trial was the needed process by which God was about to work out some great good in your personal experience; and that so far from being dreaded, it should be welcomed as among the most precious things of God, the richest blessings of the everlasting covenant. The points we propose to illustrate are trial—the preciousness of trial—and the blessings that spring from trial.

The term is expressive. It refers to a process by which the character or strength of a thing is tested. The engineer tries the base of his arch, the architect tries the foundation of his building, the refiner tries the nature of his ore. The word trial thus acquires a significant import in relation to that disciplinary process by which God proves His people. Trial, then, becomes a necessary element in the schooling and training of the children of God for duty and service upon earth, and for enjoyment and glory in heaven. Exempt the Church of God from trial, and she is excluded from a process the results of which are incalculable in her experience.

It will tend to open this subject more forcibly, if we consider who the Lord tries in the sense in which the term is now employed. There is one passage in God's book which contains—as many brief sentences of inspired truth do—a volume in a word, and it will supply the answer to the question, Who does the Lord try"The Lord tries the righteous." The furnace in which God places His people—in other words, the process of trial by which He proves them—is not the same by which the ungodly world is tried. "The fire in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem," are only for His own elect. 

He has the crucible for gold, and the crucible for earth—the fire of love, and the fire of wrath; and in nothing will He more distinguish His own people from the ungodly,—the gold from the "reprobate silver,"—than in the mode by which both are thus dealt with. He tries the righteous because they are righteous; He chastens His sons, because they are sons; He reproves, rebukes, afflicts them, because He loves them, having "chosen them in the furnace of affliction." What touching words of Christ are these—who can read them without emotion?"As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." Again, "Whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives." Thus, it is His own people, His righteous, His holy ones, on whom His afflictive hand is often the most severely and heavily laid. "The Lord tries the RIGHTEOUS."

But what does the Lord try? It is not our fallen nature that He tries, the existence of whose depravity is clear and unmistakable. There needs no proof that we are sinful and corrupt, and that "in our flesh there dwells no good thing." But the Lord tries His own wondrous work of grace in the soul. He tries everything that is divine, and good, and holy in the regenerate. He tries their principles, He tries their motives, He tries their graces, He tries their knowledge, He tries their experience, He tries His own work. Take, for example, a few of the spiritual graces which He more especially brings to the test of trial. He tries the believer's love."Loves you me more than this?" is often the probing question of Jesus to His disciples. He will test the reality, the sincerity, the strength of our love to Him—whether it can confide in Him when He smites, cling to Him when He retires, obey Him when He commands—whether it will entwine around Him the closer that the storms seek to tear it from its hold. "Can you resign this blessing?

will you undertake this service? are you able to drink this cup, or bear this cross for me?" is the significant language of many a trial with which the Lord tries the righteous. Happy if your love sustains the test of its sincerity, and your heart replies, "Yes, Lord; Your love inspiring my love, Your grace helping my infirmity, Your strength perfected in my weakness, I can—I will—I DO."

The Lord tries also the patience of His people. There is, perhaps, no grace of the Spirit, or adornment of the Christian character more overlooked than this, and yet there is not one more precious, God-honoring, and beautifying. To find this divine and rare pearl, we must often pass from the surface of society, and seek it—where, indeed, the piety and taste of few lead them—amid scenes of suffering, of grief, of adversity. In some secluded apartment, on some couch of languor, or bed of sickness, shaded by poverty and loneliness, this divine grace may exist—no eye beholding its sparkling amid the surrounding gloom, but His whose"eyes are over the righteous, and whose ear is open to their cry." There may be seen the patient, quiet spirit of a humble believer in Jesus, enduring without a murmuring word, bearing without a rebellious feeling; suffering without a hard thought of Him who has smitten—with a calm, submissive, dignified surrender to the Divine disposal—the will of God. 

And yet, who, in whatever path he walks, finds not, in some circumstances of his daily history, the "need of patience?" The trying circumstances of life—the chafings of the hourly cross—the constant contact with dissimilar tastes, uncongenial minds, unsympathizing hearts—the delays in answer to prayer—the ceaseless pain—the restless head—the nervous temperament, to which the buzzing of a fly is agony—above all, the hidings of God, the tarrying of Jesus, the suspension of the Spirit's consolation—all, all demand the exercise of that patience with which the believer possesses his soul. This is the grace the Lord tries! Ah! how little know we of the impatience of our spirit—the petulance and unsubmissiveness which will brook no delay, which frets against the Lord, and rebels against His dealings—until the Lord tries us. But He tries our patience only to increase it. 

Humbled under the conviction how rebellious and repining is our spirit, we are led to cry mightily to God to give to us this grace, meekly to endure, silently to suffer, and cheerfully to do His will. "The Lord direct your hearts into the patience of Christ." "You have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise." We are exhorted to "let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." "Here is the patience of the saints."

I have spoken of the trial of faith. Without recalling the train of thought already pursued, it may be well briefly to remark, that faith being the queen-grace of the graces—all others constituting her regal attendants—the Lord especially tries this grace of the believer, and by so doing He indirectly tries and so strengthens all the cognate graces of the soul. Thus, we read, "The trial of your faith works patience." And what are the ends to be accomplished in the trial of faith? The Lord tries our faith to test its genuineness, to promote its purity, to invigorate its power—thus to bring us into a more intimate acquaintance with Himself. Never should we try God as we do did He not try us as He does.

 We should, alas! be content to travel many a stage without Him. No childlike sense of dependence—no holy communes—no seeking His will—no trying of His love, faithfulness, and wisdom. How seldom would the Lord see our uplifted face, or our outstretched hands, or hear the plaint accents of our voice, did He permit this grace to lie sluggish and stagnant in the soul. But it is "living water" which Christ has deposited within the regenerate, and trial is needed to keep it pure, sparkling, and ascending. Be you sure of this, then, beloved, that the Lord thus exercises your faith only to make you a richer possessor of this most enriching of the graces. It is a kind process of Jesus by which He seeks your greatest good. 

The more your faith is tried, the more it deals with God, and travels to Christ; and it is impossible for you to spend one minute with God, or to catch one glimpse of Christ, and not be sensibly and immeasurably the gainer. The more your faith leads you to the throne of grace, the more precious will prayer become. The more your faith deals with the atonement of Christ, the more will the glory of His work unfold to your mind. The more your faith takes hold of the Divine promises, the more will it be confirmed in the truth of God's word. Thus faith—so supernatural and wondrous a grace is it—transmutes everything it touches into most precious gold, and so confers upon its tried but happy possessor "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt."

But who can travel the circle of all the trials to which the saints of God are subject? How great their variety! how peculiar often their character! Each child of God seems to move in a groove peculiar to himself, to revolve round the great center in an orbit of his own. The Lord deals with us as individuals that we may have individual dealings with Him. Therefore, among the catalogue of the Christian's trials, those of an individual nature may take the precedence of all others. It is a great mercy when we can retire from the crowd and deal with God individually—when we can take the precious promises to ourselves individually—when we can repair to Jesus with individual sins, infirmities, and sorrows, feeling that His eye bends its glance upon us, His ear bows down to us, His hand is outstretched to us, His whole heart absorbed in us, as though not another claimant, suitor, or sufferer unveiled a sorrow or preferred a request—as if, in a word, we were the solitary object of His love. 

Oh, deal with Christ personally, even as He deals personally with you. His invitation is, "Come unto ME,"—and He would have you come,—and you cannot honor Him more—recognizing His personality, and His personal relation to yourself, and disclosing your personal circumstances, making confession of personal sin, presenting personal wants, and unveiling personal infirmities, backslidings, and sorrows.