Sermon 1575. The Sitting of the Refiner
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." Malachi 3:3.
THIS is spoken of as one of the results of the coming of the Lord-He would test and try all things, destroy the false andthe evil and make those pure whom He permitted to remain. Behold, the Promised One has come! He whom Israel sought suddenlyappeared in His Temple as the Messenger of the Covenant. Glad were the eyes of Simeon, Anna and all those who waited for Him-andglad, this day, are our voices as we proclaim that the Messiah has appeared! The glorious Son of God, the Anointed of theMost High has been among men and faithful witnesses have testified concerning Him, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of theOnly-Begotten of the Father, full of Grace and truth."
That coming, heralded by songs of angels and prophetic of countless blessings, should have been a day of unmingled light tomen, but because of hypocrisy, pride and self, it was not so. On the contrary, it was to many a day of darkness and not oflight. We have abundant historical evidence that our Lord's first Advent was a day of great trial to the Jewish people andwhen we remember the siege of Jerusalem and kindred events, we do not marvel that the Prophet asked, "But who may abide theday of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap."
His ministry tried the religion, the orthodoxy and the saintship of the period-and because it revealed the hollow-ness ofthe whole of the profession of the day-it awakened all the enmity of the religious classes. Those who were the leaders ofthe so-called religious thought of the age were awakened to hate the Lord Jesus and to take a delight in nailing Him to theCross, for His teaching was so true and good that their word-chopping and ceremony-making could not endure it! Our Lord, whenHe came, sat as a refiner and assayed the age then present-and ever since then His Gospel in the world, His Spirit, His teaching,yes, the very fact of His life-these all together have been a test, a trial, a sort of standard of weights and measures amongmen.
All things are on trial. You are constantly hearing of this time and that time as being "crises" and the saying is true. Thereis always a crisis of something or other during these days of the Lord's sitting as a refiner. All things are being thrustinto the furnace and the fire is kept burning at a white heat-and nothing evil can abide the flame. Everything that is goodshall be conserved, purified, made brilliant-but all that is evil, be it what it may, the whole world over- since Christ hascome, shall be tried and dissolved as by fire. When our Lord comes the second time, the trial will be still more intense."Who shall abide the day of His coming" when He shall still further be revealed and when His purpose shall be that of judgmentrather than of mercy?
It is well for us to know that whenever Jesus Christ draws near to a soul He comes in utmost mercy to make it clean. BecauseHe is, in Himself, the Incarnation of ineffable Love, His coming always means that He is about to purify the soul, for thehighest mercy is to rid us of sin. The grandest thing that God, Himself, can do in the purpose of His love is to purify usinto His own glorious holiness! Christ loved His Church and this is how He showed it-"He gave Himself for it, that He mightpresent it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."
The Well-Beloved seeks to purify His chosen by the washing of water through the Word of God. It is the way His love takes,for true love does always choose the way of holiness. That love which would lead its beloved into sin is lust- it deservesnot the name of love! But true love will always seek the highest health and wholeness (which is holiness) of its object. Pureaffection will grieve to see a fault, mourn over a folly and seek to remove a blot.
Perfect love seeks the perfection of the thing it loves. Such is the perfect love of Christ-whenever He comes to a soul inlove He comes as a refiner. He comes with this objective-to take away the dross from the silver and to make the fine goldstill purer. In His sharpest dispensations He means no ill to us, but the most good, seeking not to grieve, but to lead
us to the eternal blessedness of which the root and flower are both found in absolute perfection. If any of you, my Hearers,are seeking the Lord at this time, I want you to understand what it means-you are seeking a fire which will test you and consumemuch which has been dear to you.
We are not to expect Christ to come and save us in our sins! He will come and save us from our sins and, therefore, if youare enabled by faith to take Christ as a Savior, remember that you take Him as the Purger and the Purifier, for it is fromsin that He saves us. "They shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." This is the particularsalvation which He aims at. Though He does deliver men from Hell, it is by delivering them from the sin which is the fuelof Tophet's flame. Though He does give us Heaven, yet His way of bringing us to Heaven is by giving us a heavenly mind-a heartobedient to the holy and loving Father.
The refinement of our nature and character is the way in which His infinite love most wisely displays itself. We are goingto talk of this purifying process. "He shall sit as a refiner." How is the refining carried on? It is carried on in part bythe Word of God. "Is not My Word like a fire?" Wherever the Gospel is preached thoroughly, out and out, it is a wonderfulconsumer of dross! I have known certain congregations that have been dead in worldliness-the haunts of wealthy professorswhose love to Christ was a mere pretense. Close to them I have seen another Church which has been lively in spirit and fullof zeal for the Lord. What was the difference? The reason has usually been this-that in the one case there was man's ministryand in the other there was the Word of the Lord!
Ministries of the Spirit worldly people cannot bear. They are displeased with a plain testimony. It rasps their conscience.There is no need to turn them out of the Church-they drop away of themselves. It is not the place for them; it is too hotfor them, I mean too holy, too spiritual, too devout. By-and-by they are offended and murmuring, they prepare to emigrate.There are so many things that they do not approve of-they see so much that is dreadfully orthodox, narrow-minded and bigoted-thatthey trot off among their own cattle. Yes, and so they should. That is God's way of keeping His flock to itself. Those thatare rooted up by the Word of God are best rooted up. We may always be practicing this kind of separating the tares from thewheat, for it leaves the testing with God and a man's own conscience and, therefore, no injustice will be done.
It would be ill by excommunications to seek to root up the tares from among the wheat, lest we root up the wheat with them,but by the Word of God, if it is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, the process will be always going on. God's furnacestands in Zion. If any of you are ever displeased by the Word, I pray you are displeased-we shall certainly never alter theWord for you! If the Truth of God comes too closely home to your consciences and angers you, be angry, not only with him thatspeaks it, but with Him from whom it comes-and then you will see the folly of such anger and humble yourselves before God,accept His Truth-which will live and your sin shall die. God grant it may be so!
Another purging operation is by causing His chosen to have more fellowship with His own blessed and glorious Self. Of allthe means of purging the heart, none surpasses this, for when the Lord, in great mercy, draws His child near to Him and makesHim feel His love and know it beyond a doubt, then the favored heart longs to be holy in all things. When the Lord fills Hisservant full of His love and makes him to be overjoyed with the sweet consciousness that he is the Beloved's and that theBeloved is his, then a holy jealousy burns within the soul and the heart cries, "Is there anything that can grieve the Beloved?Let it be slain! Is there anything that I think, or wish, or say, or do, that might break the sacred spell of communion andcause Him to be gone? Let it be driven out at once!"
The heart institutes a diligent search that, if possible, it may put away the accursed thing so that Christ may not be grieved.Of all fires that ever burned, this is one of the fiercest. Jealousy is cruel as the grave and a holy jealousy does sternwork in our hearts with sin! It hangs up the darling sin before the face of the sun and calls upon the fowls of Heaven tocome and feast upon the slain! Oh, that we knew Christ better and lived more in the Light of His Countenance, for then wewould be purged as with the spirit of burning! After all, the Holy Spirit is the great fire that burns in Zion to purge Believersfrom the love of sin. It is He that makes use of the Word, makes use of fellowship and makes use of everything else to seversin from the saint and take away the dross from the silver. He is the immediate Agent of our sanctifica-tion-all else we mustregard as only the means in His skillful hands. To Him be our love and our praise evermore!
As a subsidiary means the Lord uses Providence. I have no doubt that He very frequently uses gracious Providences, as we callthem-that is, Providences which please us by gratifying our natural wishes. Some people have been sanctified by prosperity,but I do not think very many have. Few good medicines are pleasant to the palate. If we were as we ought
to be, every joy that comes to us would tend to make us grateful and so it would make us love God-and what is that but tobe more like God and more holy? But, alas, in that we are weak through the flesh, the gentler modes of Love more often failthan her rougher processes. It remains then, that if we cannot be preserved in honey, we must be salted with fire lest corruptionshould take hold upon us.
Such is the stubbornness of our flesh, that the Lord uses for fuel in His furnace sharp and heavy trials of different kinds.Adversity assumes many forms and in each and all of its shapes the Lord knows how to use it for His people's benefit. Christsits as a Refiner when He takes away prosperity and brings the wealthy down to poverty. He often refines men by the losseswhich they sustain of beloved friends. Bereavement burns like a furnace blast and, oh, how much of carnal love has been consumedby it! We have known persons greatly purified by the Holy Spirit by passing through depression of spirit, inward grief andsoul sorrow. Spiritual pain has been blessed to some and physical pain to more.
In itself, pain will sanctify no man-it may even tend to wrap him up within himself and make him morose, peevish, selfish.But when God blesses it, then it will have a most salutary effect-a softening influence. Sorrow is made to act as a kind offlux upon the hard metal to make the dross separate from the precious ore. Yes, affliction is what most Believers think ofwhen they read such a passage as this, but I warn them not to think too much of it, for that is not the Refiner's only fire,nor is it even His best fire. Affliction is but one part of the machinery of the Royal Refinery-one of the fluxes by whichthe great Lord separates the precious from the vile.
I desire to call your attention to the text by leading you to mark three things. First, I want you to watch the attitude ofthe Refiner. "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Secondly, the object of His refining-"He shall purifythe sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver." And, thirdly, the result of the refinement, "That they may offer untothe Lord an offering in righteousness."
I. Notice carefully THE ATTITUDE OF THE REFINER-"He shall sit." The posture would not have been mentioned had it not beeninstructive. Sitting looks like the attitude of indifference. There is the metal vexed with a white heat-here is the Refinersitting down! There is the child of God upon the bed of pain and he cries, "My Lord, come and help me!" And there the Refinersits-He looks on, but does not stir a hand. The child of God is sinking in trouble. He fears, like Peter, that the next stepmay drown him and there is his Lord, calm and unmoved! When the Apostolic ship was out at sea and tossed in the tempest, Christwas asleep in the back part of the vessel! Unbelief dares challenge His love because of this apparent apathy-how can He sitstill and see us suffer?
She mutters-"He is indifferent! He does not care." "Don't You care that we perish?" is the cry of Unbelief and before theheart actually utters it, it begins to think, "Where is the tenderness of Christ? Where is the gentleness of God? Am I thusto be tortured? Am I thus to be tried? Am I thus to be tossed from billow to billow without a Helper?" Yet after all our cryingand tears the Refiner still sits! Yes, He, to all appearances, disregards our prayers and entreaties and fulfils the descriptionof the text-"He sits." It is amazing how often God seems utterly indifferent to His people and how Christ, filled with compassionbecause He has been tried in all points like as we are, yet seems to look down upon our sorrows with undisturbed serenity.
I once heard a Welshman preach in his own native tongue. It was a sermon in which he got into the spirit of his subject andspoke as one Inspired. He used a very simple illustration when he said, "The mother has her dear babe upon her knee. It istime for washing. She washes its face. The little one cries. It loves not the soap; it loves not the water and therefore itcries. Here is a great sorrow! Listen to its lamentations! It is ready to break its heart! What does the mother do? Is shesorrowful? Does she weep? No! She is singing all the while because she understands how good it is that the child should suffera little temporary inconvenience in order that its face, all smeared and foul, should become bright and beautiful again! Thusdoes the great Father rest in His love and rejoice over us with singing while we are sighing and crying."
Ours is but a child's sorrow, sharp and shallow, of which the greatest source is our own ignorance of the great designs ofthe Perfecter of men! The Lord pities our childish sorrow, but He does not regard it so as to stop His hands from His cleansingwork. "Let not your soul spare for his crying," said Solomon-and our wise Father, when He is chastening us, does not spareus for our crying. What if the metal that is put into the furnace should be sensitive when the crucible is hot and shouldcry out, "Oh, take me out! The fire is too hot! I cannot bear it. I am dissolving! I am melting! Take me out"? Would the assayerregard the entreaties of the metal? Ah, no! And so, when we are in the furnace, the Refiner
sits still. Why should He be flurried? He knows what He is doing and He knows that His Divine methods are wise and
He is not hurting the silver, but doing it lasting service. He is not even putting it through a needless process. He is takingthe shortest way of working when He seems to be longest in His assays. There is a haste that is not good speed and God usesnot such haste as that-He moves at the pace of perfection and that may seem slow to us. He shall sit as a Refiner till youshall ask, "Does He care at all for me?" Carnal reason may judge as it pleases as to the indifference of Him who seems tosit at ease while His people are melted in the flames, but faith is full-well assured that in the attitude of the Divine Refinerthere is real attention. Why does the Refiner sit, but because He is resolved to steadily watch the crucible? He will notgo away and leave it, even for a moment, lest the heat should grow too great or a certain point should be passed over whenHis Presence would be essential to the success of the process.
I have often heard that a refiner sits and looks at the silver till he can see his own reflection in it. Though I have heardthat venerable story many times and can see the evident moral of it, I have my suspicions as to its being a matter of fact.I certainly should not like to be the refiner who had such a task to do, for when a crucible is in the white heat of the furnace,it is almost enough too burn out your eyes to look at it even for an instant! I do not believe that any human being couldwatch a mass of molten silver glowing in the furnace till he saw his own image there. Christ's eyes can bear the blaze andHe can watch us in the fires, but I do not use the illustration because I have my doubts about the truth of it.
Our Lord sits as the Refiner at the furnace mouth because He is all attention. He has, as it were, given up all other caresjust to sit there and watch His treasure. He is determined that His servants shall be purified-that the sons of Levi shallbe purged-and so there He is, everything else laid aside, giving His whole heart and soul to those whom He is refining. "Oh"you say "but you exaggerate if you talk about the Lord's giving all His heart and soul to one of His people." No, I do not.The Lord Jesus watches each one of His people as intensely as if He had no other. Finite minds must have a center, somewhere,and as that center changes, so our circumference of thought and action shifts. But God's center is everywhere and His circumferenceis nowhere!
Each one of us may be in the center of the Divine mind and yet none of the redeemed may be any the less near because of it.Jesus watches each one-you, me, 50,000 others-all of them His chosen ones that are undergoing the purifying process. He watcheseach one as if there were never another for His blessed eyes to rest upon. He is all attention, watching not as children gazeon soldiers in the fire, but as practical refiners watch their precious metal! Poor, bowed Heart, Jesus is all attention!His sitting down is not because He forgets, but because He remembers!-
"God's furnace does in Zion stand, But Zion's God sits by, As the refiner views His gold, With an observant eye." Always observing,always watching. Jesus shall sit-"He shall sit as a refiner."
But we may notice more than this. I think I see in the sitting down of the Refiner a settled patience, as if He seemed tosay, "This is stern work and I will sit down to it, for it will need care, time and constant watchfulness. This metal mayneed to be purified in a furnace of earth seven times, but I am set upon the perfecting of the work and, therefore, here Iplace Myself. I shall bear with this man till I have delivered him from his faults. I shall bear with this woman till I havemade something of her-till I have taken away that which weakens and injures her character. I mean to bear with this poor,petulant, unbelieving, complaining, selfish, groaning mortal-My Spirit has given him some love for Me and some life in Me-and,therefore, I will bear with him till his life and love shall have conquered all earthly grossness and he shall be a lump ofpure metal fit for My Father's treasury."
The Lord has had boundless patience with some of us already, for we required a world of purifying and we have been very slowto receive it. How many sermons have we heard and yet how little have we been purified by the Word of God? How often has theSpirit striven with us and yet every thought is not yet brought into captivity? How often have we had near and true fellowshipwith Christ and yet have again forsaken Him? How frequently have we had to endure the furnace of affliction and yet our drossand tin are not removed? The Refiner still perseveres with settled resolve of ceaseless love. He will not give up His gracioustask. He did not come hastily to the furnace door and shut us in and then leave us while He minded other matters. He has beensitting near His work ever since He began it-even as the refiner sits close to his
work-and He means to stay as long as the work remains unfinished. He will not be gone till all is over. Here, then, Faithsees Divine attention and settled patience where Unbelief dared to suspect unfeeling indifference!
I find, in looking at the original, that the word for, "sit," is one which is used many times in Scripture for the postureof a king upon a throne-it is a sort of regal sitting down. So that we have here the posture of power. "He shall sit as arefiner," signifies, then, I take it, that He who seems indifferent, but who is constantly observant and patient, is seatedon His Throne possessing infinite power over all things so that the process which He is watching can be checked or quickenedaccording to His own will and wish. He reigns as a Refiner. He has power over every coal, over every single jet of gassy flame!He has power over every breath of air that fans the fire and over the furnace to its inmost center and its utmost vehemence.He has power over the metal, itself, and its dross and all that is excellent about it as well as all that is vile.
Oh, this is a grand consolation! He that has undertaken to purify us can do it, for He sits on the Throne of boundless might!Nothing short of an Omnipotent Savior could have saved me! It were ill news for me if men could show that Christ were notDivine, for short of a Divine Redeemer I know I shall never be perfected! No strength but that which made me can make me new!Only He that says, "I kill and I make alive," can ever kill my sin and make me alive unto God. Oh, Christian, this ought tobe a delight to you, that He who sits as a refiner sits on the Throne while He is refining you and exercises Sovereign Graceand infinite power while dealing with your soul! Jesus reigns in the work of sanctification, having all things at His disposal,and He can and will perform that which He has begun-
"Grace will complete what Grace begins, To save from sorrows or from sins. The work that wisdom undertakes Eternal mercy ne'erforsakes." Eternal power performs what everlasting love designs.
So I conceive that the text may also teach us the perfect perseverance of Christ in the work of the purifying of His people."He shall sit as a refiner." Might not your backsliding, after you had once reached a great height of sanctity, have disappointedChrist and made Him leave you? Yes, if it were not true of Him, "I am God: I change not," He would have left you to be consumed!But you are not consumed because, from His blessed purpose He will not swerve. Oh, how many times you and I have seemed tomake advances towards purity but have gone back, again, to folly, thus manifesting the abundance of our alloy! It did seemas if, at last, the blessed flame of Grace had begun to make us bright and yet we have dulled again back to the old state.
And where is the Refiner? Has He gone? By no means. There He is! He has been sitting as a refiner and He is still sitting!That is a blessed text-"He shall not fail nor be discouraged." There is much to discourage Him, but He is not discouraged!There is much to make Him relinquish the work, but He determines not to fail in it. His mind is made up and well it may be,for He has paid in bloody sweat and in His heart's blood, the ransom price to purchase us and He will never leave half-effectedwhat He has spent His life to achieve! What He has redeemed, He will refine! Gethsemane and Calvary have bound the Refinerto His task.
He undertook a stupendous labor and He went through with it till He shouted from the Cross, "It is finished!" And, therefore,we may rest assured that He will go on with the further portions of His great enterprise till, from His Throne above He willsay, "It is finished," as He surveys every one of us, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing"-pure lumps of gold andsilver brought Home by Himself without a speck of dross about us. Oh, blessed hope! Where should we dare to indulge it butin the Presence of an almighty Savior whose Immutable oath has bound Him to carry out the work of our perfection?
II. Now, dear Brothers and Sisters, suffer a few words upon THE GREAT OBJECTIVE OF OUR LORD'S REFINING WORK. This point hascome up all along. May the Spirit of God instruct us concerning it. The great objective of His refining is that He may deliverus from all evil and make us perfect. Remember, the subjects of purifying are His own chosen ones-"He shall purify the sonsof Levi." Levi was the tribe taken out of the rest for God's service. The Lord has a people whom He has set apart unto Himselfand these He will purify! Do others think that He does them an injustice by this act of choice?
Would they like to be purified? Then, depend upon it, He will not refuse them! No, the quarrel lies in words and has no truthin it. Men pretend to be angry with electing love, though they have no desire for it, themselves! God's election is
an election to holiness and this is a thing which men, in their heart of hearts, do not desire. Sirs, if you do not wish forpurification and holiness, why should you quarrel with God because He doesn't give it to you? Yet unholy men rave at electionto holiness and call it partiality and I know not what, besides! You dogs in the manger, will you always howl at God becauseHe gives to His own sheep that which you will not care to have? If you wish for it, you may have it! Free is the Gospel toevery soul under Heaven that desires it!
The Lord proclaims, "Whoever will, let him come and take the Water of Life freely," but if men turn their backs on Heaven'sever-flowing Fountain, shall they, afterwards, quarrel with the election of God because He causes some to come whom He makeswilling in the day of His power? They may quarrel if they will, but high overhead rolls the dread thunder of that awful Wordof God, "He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion." Godis Sovereign in His gifts of Grace and does after His own mind. He refuses Grace to none, but yet He will have a people ofHis own on whom His sanctifying work shall be wrought. "He shall purify the sons of Levi."
The Refiner begins His work by convicting His people of their need of purity. "What? Purify the sons of Levi? Do they needit? Surely, Reuben, Manasseh, Gad-these might need purifying-but Levi opens and shuts the door of the House of God! It isa Levite that sacrifices, that enters within the veil. Does he require purifying?" Yes, that he does. "He shall purify thesons of Levi"-the best, the very best, the holiest-those that come near to God-the true silver and the real gold! He shallpurify these! Brother, Sister, have you a notion that you do not need purifying? Discard it, for if we walk in the light asGod is in the light and have close fellowship with God, yet we still need the cleansing blood. "The blood of Jesus Christ,His Son," still cleans us from all sin." Still we need the purging Spirit or else there remains enough of evil about the manthat is nearest Heaven's gates to make a Judas Iscariot of him if Grace does not prevent. "He shall purify the sons of Levi"-thepure shall be purified and the clean shall be yet further cleansed.
Did you ever notice that the branch which feels most of the knife and gets most of the pruning is not the dead branch? Notthat withered, crooked branch does the gardener wound with the knife! No, the best branch that bears most fruit is most worthyof the gardener's visits and shall be most favored with them. That ore which has the most gold in it, in proportion to thequartz, is the likeliest to get into the fire. He that has most of refinement is he on whom Christ will carry out his refiningwork. "He shall purify the sons of Levi."
Further, observe that He not only convinces them of their need of this purity, but He remedies their impurity. He shall actuallypurify them as gold and silver! The point is the thoroughness of it. This piece of wood which makes my pulpit, if it is defiled,it is dusted and it is at once sufficiently cleansed. Your platters are washed-that is all. Your furniture may need beating,dusting and many processes, but there is nothing thorough in them compared with the metaphor of the text-"He shall purifythem as gold and silver." They must go into the fire. The purging that God gives His people is not the washing of the outsideof the cup and platter! It is the cleansing of the soul, the heart-the purging of the man- a fiery purging! Fire does notmerely go about-it penetrates and passes right into it. The metal is hot! It is melted! It flows-the fire has dissolved themass.
We say in the hymn, "Refining fire, go through my heart," and that is the nearest approximation of language. But fire doessomething more than go through the metal. It seems to get into the very essence and nature and character of the metal andfuses it all, making it all feel its supreme force. The Lord's purification of His people, in order to make them fit to bewith Him in Heaven, is a fire process-it is mysterious, inward, penetrating, consuming, transforming. His Spirit burns likefire! His Word, like fire, goes through and through the soul! His holy fellowship causes us to say, "My heart melted whilemy Beloved spoke." And His fiery trials, too, when blest by the Spirit, seem to melt the very being of the man.
This process is intended to be thorough, that it may be abiding. If you get a piece of gold or silver, though it has beenthrough the fire, it may grow dull but it cannot, again, become impure and alloyed. Silver will soon oxidize upon the surface,but for all that, the bulk of the silver vessel is not injured at all-it remains pure silver after it has been through thefire. The work is done and done thoroughly. The purifications of God will last throughout eternity. Have you ever reflectedupon the fact that when Christ's refining work is done upon us there will never be any need for it again? Blessed be God,there is no purgatorial fire! We need not dread that we have yet to pass through purging flames in another world, for Jesushas well-refined the sons of Levi and they are clean every whit!
Believers are taken up to Heaven at once-as soon as they quit this world. If we were not thoroughly purified before we enteredthere, we should be under a strong temptation to pride. Only think of yourself with a palm branch, my Brothers and Sisters!You fought very badly, too. You with a harp in your hand! Is there not a temptation to strike just one gentle string in praiseof what you did or suffered? Say not that you could not be thus tempted-why, an angel fell from Heaven! The Son of the Morning-agreater being than you-could not stand amidst the glories of Paradise! Pride dragged Lucifer from Heaven and hurled him downto the darkest deeps!
Oh, joy, joy, joy! The same shall never happen to you! You will never be proud in Paradise-you will never be discontentedin Heaven. Do you say, "I should think not"? I do not know. If you could go to Heaven as you are, you would be. You wouldbe sorry to think that there is no temple there and no more sea. And a great many things might make you dissatisfied, butyou will not be discontented, for you will be purified! You will not speak sharply to your neighbor in Heaven! You will notthink he sings too loudly or is too demonstrative in his worship! You will not quarrel with anybody in Heaven, for you willhave nothing in you which can lead to sin!
See how splendidly the Refiner will do His work, then, so that throughout eternity, when this poor world shall all dissolvein smoke and the sun shall have burnt out like an expiring coal-when the moon shall be black as a sackcloth of hair and allearth-born things shall have grown hoary and given way to corruption's finger-you shall still be young and fresh and pureand perfect as the God that loved you and that made you so! Oh, well may we be content to let the fire burn and let the coalsglow as much as they will since it can be only for a very little while and then come the ages, the eternities, the God, theChrist, the Heaven which He has prepared for us when we are prepared for them!
This, then, is the objective of His refining.
III. Thirdly, and to conclude, WHAT WILL BE THE IMMEDIATE RESULT OF THIS REFINING AS CHRIST
CARRIES IT ON? It will be this-"That they may offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness." First, these Levites shallattend to their business. They ought to have been working at the Temple, but they had forgotten their high calling. The sonsof Levi had taken up their portion in the world, though their God had never given them any, for He gave no portion to Leviwhen the land was divided among the tribes. "The Lord's portion is His people" and the Lord is the portion of their inheritance.The Levites had gotten away from their spiritual calling and had given themselves up to mind this and that-but it is pleasantto observe that when God purifies them, they begin to do their own business-"That they may offer to the Lord."
Oh, Beloved, if you have been refined by the Word of God; if you have been refined by the Spirit; if you have been refinedby heavenly joys; if you have been refined by sanctified sorrows, you wish to serve God much more than ever you did before.You now pray that if you have lived to self in any degree, you may be forgiven, for you wish to live to Christ and to Himalone! Now, as a Levite, you say, "What can I do for God? There is nothing here worth living for, but to love and serve Him.Here, Lord, tell me what You would have me to do. I desire to do it at once." Brothers and Sisters thank God for every trialyou have suffered if it leads you to offer your sacrifice! I will bless God for all I have endured, myself, if I am enabledto fulfill my priesthood, for are we not a nation of priests, a peculiar people, set apart to offer sacrifice to God? Andthis is to be the result of refinement-that we do good work and service unto God.
Some of you need a little pushing on in this direction, for I know a great many Christians who live as if the main point inreligion was to enjoy yourself. "I enjoyed that sermon. I enjoyed that Prayer Meeting." Yes, that is quite right. But haveyou done anything? Have you served the Master? Have you offered anything to Jesus? Have you brought forth fruit to His Glory?Oh, it is a good thing to be watered! It is a blessed thing to stand in the warm sunlight and grow! But after the wateringand the sunshine must come the fruit-bearing or we shall be barren fig trees, after all! And so it is in the text, you see-"Thatthey may offer unto the Lord an offering."
And then, next, they are not only to do their work, but they are to do it well. "They must offer unto the Lord an offeringin righteousness," for, oh, we may do much for God that looks very pretty, but when we get into trial and look back upon ourservice by the furnace light we do not think much of it! Have you ever taken a little time to look back upon your serviceto God and have you not wondered at yourself that you have done it so badly? Have you not said, "Please, God, may I addressthat class again? By Your Grace I will be more passionately in earnest." Have you not said, "Please, God, may I get out tothat village to preach again? This time, by Your Grace, I will speak with all my soul and nothing else but Christ shall bemy theme."
Have we not often wished we could do our lifework over again that we might do it better? I do not think that there is anyuse in that wish. Let us improve what is to be done in the future rather than wish to undo the past! Let us buckle on ourharness and ask God to give us more spiritual intensity that what is done may be a sacrifice offered in righteousness untothe Lord. And then another result of this purification is that they were accepted, for the next verse says, "Then shall theoffering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old." When God accepts our persons, He acceptsour offerings-but if we are not ourselves accepted-then that which we do is rejected. When the Lord Jesus Christ enables usto live by faith in Him and to see that we are "accepted in the Beloved," and when that faith helps us to work in a rightspirit and serve God from a pure motive, then we, ourselves, and our work are pleasant unto God as in former days.
God grant that the blessed processes of His Providence and of His Grace which are being carried on in His people may be carriedon in you and me that we may serve God with perfect hearts all our days! I think I heard somebody say, "I do not want puttingthrough that process. I do not wish for such purifying." Have you seen the great masses of slag that they throw out from thefurnace? They lie in great heaps at the pit's mouth. Will these be a picture of you and your eternal condition? Reprobatesilver shall men call them because God has rejected them! Will you be the slag cast away? The dross left forever? Oh, Eternity!Eternity! What must it be to be shipwrecked on your shoreless sea and drifted forever as a waif and stray from God and hope!Eternity! Eternity! What must it be to be rejected and cast away from the Presence of God and from the Glory of His power-thrownout upon the waste heap of the universe, forever given up!
God save any man from that! Oh, it were worth wading through a thousand Hells to obtain that which makes existence worth having-namely,rightness with God! But, oh, if there were nothing else to lose but God's love; nothing else to earn by neglect of Divinethings but to be rejected of God, I would plead with you with my whole soul that you would seek the Lord now! Cry mightilyto the Divine Savior that He may now purge you with His precious blood from all the guilt of sin! Cry to Him that He may thengo on with the second process by which He shall purge you from the power and habit and defilement of sin-and make you, likeHimself-immaculate before the Omniscient! God grant it, for Jesus' sake. Amen.