1Pe_1:6-7. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
THE enlightening and converting of souls are the first objects of a minister’s attention: nevertheless, the comforting of God’s people is also an essential part of his duty. This was the special direction which God gave to the prophet of old [Note: Isa_42:1.]: it is a conformity to the Divine Exemplar [Note: 2Co_7:6.]: it is the fruit of the comforts they themselves receive [Note: 2Th_1:3-4.].” St. Peter is a striking pattern of a sympathizing and affectionate pastor. He writes to the Christians who were scattered through divers countries; and begins with setting before them the richest topics of consolation [Note: ver. 3–5.]. He shews them the blessed end for which their present troubles are suffered to come upon them—
The state and condition of God’s people—
Believers have at all times within themselves a ground of joy: yet they are also frequently oppressed with deep and pungent sorrow. They experience a peculiar and united exercise of these opposite affections.
They “greatly rejoice” in the mercy which has been vouchsafed unto them—
[They have been begotten of God to a lively hope of a glorious inheritance: they see that inheritance reserved for them, and themselves kept for it. This cannot but be matter of exceeding joy to them at all times.]
But they are at the same time encompassed with manifold temptations—
[They are hated, reviled, and persecuted by the world: they are assailed with “the fiery darts of the devil:” they are harassed with innumerable corruptions in their own hearts.]
Through these temptations they are sometimes “in great heaviness”—
[Grace does not destroy, but only moderates our natural feelings. Christians therefore may be deeply oppressed with grief: not that God will suffer them to continue always in heaviness. Nevertheless he permits them to be in this state occasionally, and “for a season.”]
There is “a necessity” that they should undergo trials of this kind—
[God could save them without leaving them to endure any trial; but he “perfected his own Son by sufferings:” he has ordained that the members shall in this respect be conformed to their Head [Note: Zec_13:9.].]
Their temptations, however afflictive at the time, are permitted for their good.
The end for which they are suffered to be in that state—
Temptations, of whatever kind they be, are justly called “trials of our faith”—
[No man can exercise the grace of patience, or of contentment, unless he be in a situation that may give rise to impatience or discontent: nor can faith be known to exist in the heart, unless there be some circumstances that give scope for the manifestation of it; but temptations, especially such as produce much grief, can be surmounted only by strong faith. Hence God himself speaks as though he discovered Abraham’s grace by means of the difficulties into which he was brought [Note: Gen_22:12.].]
In this view they are “much more precious than the trial of gold”—
[Gold, though it stand the trial of the fire, will perish at last; but faith, in its effects at least, will endure for ever. The value and the brightness given to gold by the furnace are not so estimable, as the purity and brightness which our faith derives from affliction.]
Their real worth will not be discerned till the day of judgment—
[They will have a different aspect in “the day of Christ’s appearing” from what they have now. The benefit resulting from them will be then fully discovered.]
They will then “be found to the praise and honour of those who endured them”—
[Every thing we have done or suffered for Christ will be brought to light: a reward proportioned to our faithfulness will then be given us. Great sufferings will issue in “an eternal weight of glory”.]
They will be declared also to the praise and honour of Christ himself—
[Christ is “the author and finisher of our faith:” he will have the glory of carrying his people through their trials. Thus they will issue in the good of the sufferers, and the glory of Christ.]
This is the end for which God permits his people to endure them—
How little cause have any persons to question their interest in God’s favour on account of their trials, or their grief under them!
[Satan takes advantage of the afflictions of the saints to impress their minds with desponding thoughts: their natural turn of mind, too, sometimes favours such impressions. Even bodily disorder also may concur to deject their souls. But the being in heaviness through temptations is no just ground of doubting our acceptance with God. The persons of whom the Apostle speaks in the text, were most undoubtedly in a converted state [Note: They were “begotten again,” had “a lively hope,” “believed in Christ,” “loved him,” “rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable,” and had “received the salvation of their souls.” ver. 3, 8, 9.]. Let not any tempted soul then be desponding or dejected [Note: Isa_40:27-31.].]
What abundant reason have we to be reconciled to afflictions!
[Afflictions are trying to our frail nature, but they are salutary to our souls [Note: Heb_12:11.]. We shall ere long see the necessity and benefit of each of our sorrows. The praise and honour in which they will issue will make amends for all. Let us then even now account them “precious [Note: Jam_1:2-3.]:” let us consider how light they are, when compared with the glory of heaven [Note: Rom_8:18.]: let us only be concerned to possess our souls in patience [Note: Jam_1:4.].]