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…
The sons of Levi were the authorised instructors of the Hebrew people. By fidelity to their special work they fostered, by unfaithfulness they repressed the higher life of the Hebrews. They became, therefore, the sure gauge of spiritual vigour among their countrymen, or of their spiritual decay. Malachi speaks of the purification of silver and gold, the two most precious metals of the earth, one or other supplying a standard of value among all nations. Nor are these metals inapt symbols of the Church of Christ. She has been the gold and silver of the earth. The world is largely indebted to the Church. Whence does the Church derive her value? From her relation to Christ. The first Church was gathered in loving fealty to Christ. The disciples were His representatives. The bodily presence of their Master and Lord was visible through them. The world can never be converted by the world: Christ has given that great work to His Church. All the fitness of His disciples for their grave and responsible duties is derived from Him. Whatever defectiveness may appear, either in primitive or later Churches, the past nineteen centuries reveal the immense indebtedness of the world to the Church. How frequently has it proved the ark of the nations, saving in its sacred barque the seeds of future learning and civilisation. The material, social, intellectual and moral indebtedness of the world to the Church is too large to be seen by any eye but that of Omniscience. But as the eye glances over many periods of the Church's history, how painfully abundant the evidence that the gold has become dim, and the most fine gold changed. The early Christian Church soon showed a proneness to adulterate the pure truth of the Gospel. See the influence of Mosaism and Gnosticism. How vast and varied the corruptions which later ages reveal! There were the Allegorists, the Sacerdotalists, the Schoolmen, the Ascetics and Mystics. There have been many strange perversions of truth later than these. Popery has faced the light of modern civilisation, not to be extinguished, as our fathers thought, but to snatch a new lease of life. Nor are the followers of Romanism without powerful auxiliaries in our own country. Confine our attention to the more obvious evidences of the need of purification, chiefly in individual men. Among these may be placed narrow and defective views of Divine truth. The Bible is more praised than read. Doctrines and rites, alien to the Spirit of Christ's Gospel, have sprung up within the visible Church. Men have denied Christ in the name of Christ. Their words are the words of the Master, but their spirit has been the spirit of unbelief. There is proof of the need of purification in the superstitious clinging to that which is old, merely because it is old; the vain reverence for a dead past. A painful evidence of corruption is seen in imperfect obedience to the truth. Is it not a fact, beyond all dispute, that deficiency of truth, and deficiency in fidelity to it, have both proved serious hindrances to the spread of Christ's kingdom on the earth? How, then, shall men be purified from these? and by whom? The process of refining originates and is directed by Christ Himself. By His permission times of sore trial came upon the Church universal, or upon some branch of it; and the record of such times is full of instruction and warning to men of other and less eventful days. Beneath the eye of Christ each separate soul is cleansed. All power is His. He can wisely adopt the means that, in His judgment, may be individually demanded in separating the gold from the dross. The process of purifying the precious metals demands undivided attention and protracted patience. Christ "sits as the refiner and purifier of silver." He never relinquishes His fixed and steady gaze upon the soul from which He seeks to remove the earthly dross. The refiner of gold has certain tests by which he discovers the progress of his work. At the beginning of real change, a deep orange colour spreads itself over the molten mass in the cupel. At the next instant, a flickering wave passes rapidly over the surface; and with increasing heat, the fiery mass becomes still, and the colour pale and faint. Now, attention is deepened. Expectation is on tiptoe. In another second the supreme moment may come. As the refiner's eye is steadily fixed upon the burning metal, its surface suddenly becomes as a burnished mirror, and flashes back his pictured face. Thus, also, does Christ watch unweariedly. The process of change is very tardy, very reluctant. The purpose for which this purification is sought demands a closing word. Before the precious metals were put into the cupel, they were full of earthly impurities; were unmalleable, inductile, comparatively useless. Being now purged from all dross, they become the standard and representatives of a nation's wealth. They are fashioned into coins bearing the king's image. They are wrought into vessels fitted for the king's use. Thus it is also with individual members of the Church of Christ. Before our purification, we were but ill-adapted to serve our Divine Lord. The attempt to render this service was marred by our lack of holiness. After our purification, we are made "vessels unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." There is no duty, however humble, which we are not the better fitted to discharge. There is no service, however noble, which we shall not the more acceptably perform. What love is shown by Christ to His people in all this patient watching and working for the removal of the dross of sin. Be patient, therefore, in your particular trial, of whatever sort it is.
(J. Jackson Goadby.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.