God's People in the Furnace
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/03/2003
God's People in the Furnace
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 12, 1855, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."Isaiah 48:10.
WHEN travelling through the country, you have often noticed that in different spots the old rocks peep
out from under the soil, as if they would let us know what earth's bones are made of, and what are the
solid foundations of this globe. So in searching through the Scriptures you will find here instruction,
here admonition, here rebuke, and here comfort, but very frequently you will discover the old
doctrines like old rocks rising amid other matters; and when you little expect it you will find election, redemption,
justification, effectual calling, final perseverance or covenant security introduced, just to let us see what the solid
foundations of the gospel are, and what are those deep and mysterious truths on which the entire gospel system
must rest. So in this text, for instance, when there seemed in the chapter but little need of the mention of the
doctrine of God's choosing his people, on a sudden the Holy Spirit moves the prophet's lips and bids him utter this
sentiment, "I have chosen thee;" I have chosen thee by my eternal, sovereign, distinguishing grace; I have chosen
thee in covenant purposes; I have chosen thee according to my electing love; "I have chosen thee in the furnace of
affliction." Well, it is a good thing that they are mentioned sometimes when we little expect it; for these are things
which we are apt to forget. The tendency of the many in the present age is to slight all doctrinal knowledge, and to
say, "We care not whether a thing be true or not." This age is a superficial one. Few ministers plough deeper than
the top soil; there are very few who come into the inward matter of the gospel, and deal with the stable things on
which our faith must rest; and therefore we bless and adore the Holy Spirit that he so frequently pens these
glorious truths to make us recollect that there is such a thing as election, after all. "I have chosen thee in the
furnace of affliction." How ever, I am not going to dwell upon that, but after making one or two preliminary
observations, I shall proceed to discuss the subject of the furnace of affliction being the place where God's chosen
ones are continually found.
And the first observation I shall make will be this: all persons in the furnace of affliction are not chosen. The
text says, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction," and it implies that there may be, and there doubtless
are, some in the furnace who are not chosen. How many persons there are who suppose that because they are
tried, afflicted, and tempted, therefore they are the children of God, whereas they are no such thing. It is a great
truth that every child of God is afflicted; but it is a lie that every afflicted man is a child of God. Every child of
God will have some trial or other; but every man who has a trial is not necessarily an heir of heaven. The child of
God may be in povertyhe frequently is; but we must not infer that therefore, necessarily every man who is poor
is a child of God, for many such are depraved and ruined, blaspheming against God and going far into iniquity.
Many a child of God loses his property; but we are not therefore to conclude that every bankrupt, or every
insolvent is a vessel of mercy; indeed there is often some suspicion that he is not. A child of God may have his
crops blasted, and mildew seize his fields, but that does not prove his election, for multitudes who never were
chosen of God have had the mildew and the blast as well as he. He may be calumniated. and his character may be
slandered, but that may be the case with the wickedest worldling also; for there have been men far from religious
who yet have been slanderedin politics, or in literature. No tribulation ever proves us to be children of God,
except it be sanctified by grace, but affliction is the common lot of all menman is born to it, even as the sparks
fly upward; and you must not infer, because you happen to be troubled, because you are poor, or sick, or tried in
your minds, that therefore you are a child of God. If you do imagine so, you are building on a false foundation;
you have taken a wrong thought, and you are not right in the matter at all. I would, this morning, if possible,
disturb some of you who may have been laying a healing plaster to your souls when you have no right to do so. I
would show you if I could, very plainly, that after all your suffering, you may yet, through much tribulation, enter
the kingdom of hell. There is such a thing as through trial going to the pit of perdition, for the road of the wicked is
not always easy, nor are the paths of sin ever pleasant. There are trials in the pathway of the ungodly, there are
troubles they have to suffer which are quite as acute as those of the children of God. Oh! trust not in your
troubles; fix your thoughts on Jesus; make him the only object of your trust, and let the only test be this, "Am I
one with Christ? Am I leaning upon him ?" If so, whether I am tried or not, I am a child of God. but let me be
ever so much tried, 'though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."' Many an
afflicted man has not been a child of God. Many of you no doubt can recollect persons in your lifetime whose
afflictions made them worse instead of better; and of a great many men it may be said, as Aaron said, "Behold, I
put gold into the furnace, and out of it came this calf." Many a calf comes out of the furnace. Many a man is put
into the furnace and comes out worse than he was beforehe comes out a calf. Men passed through the fire in
the days of the kings of Israelwhen they passed through the fire to Moloch; but Moloch's fire did not purify or
benefit them; on the contrary, it made them worse; it made them dedicated to a false god. We are told also in the
Word of God, how a certain class of people are put into the furnace and get no good by it, and are not the children
of God. But, lest any should doubt what I have said, let them turn to the passage in the 22nd chapter of Ezekiel,
17th and 18th verses, "And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, son of man, the house of Israel, is to me
become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of
silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you
into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the
furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you
there, and melt you." So you see there are some who feel the furnace who are none of the Lord's, some to whom
there is no promise of deliverance, some who have no hope that thereby they are becoming more and more pure
and more fit for heaven; but on the contrary, God leaves them there as dross is left, to be utterly consumed; they
have on earth the foretaste of hell, and the brand of the demon is set upon them in their afflictions even here. Let
that thought be taken to heart by any who are building their salvation on false grounds. Afflictions are no proof of
sonship, though sonship always ensures affliction.
But the second preliminary remark I would make is on the immutability of God's love to his people. "I have
chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." I chose thee before thou wast here; yea, I chose thee before thou hadst a
being, and when all creatures lay before me in the pure mass of creatureship, and I could create or not create as I
pleased, I chose and created thee a vessel of mercy appointed unto eternal life: and when thou in common with the
whole race, hadst fallen, though I might have crushed thee with them, and sent thee down to hell, I chose thee in
thy fallen condition, and I provided for thy redemption: in the fulness of time I sent my Son, who fulfilled my law
and made it honourable. I chose thee at thy birth, when a helpless infant thou didst sleep upon thy mother's breast.
I chose thee when thou didst grow up in childhood with all thy follies and thy sins. Determined to save thee, I
watched o'er thy path when, Satan's blind slave, thou didst sport with death. I chose thee when, in manhood, thou
didst sin against me with a high hand; when thy unbridled lusts dashed thee on madly towards hell. I chose thee,
then, when thou wast a blasphemer and a swearer, and very far from me. I chose thee, then, even when thou wast
dead in trespasses and sins: I loved thee, and still thy name was kept in my book. The hour appointed came; I
redeemed thee from thy sin; I made thee love; I spake to thee, and made thee leave thy sins and become my child;
and I chose thee then over again. Since that hour how often hast thou forgotten me! but I have never forgotten
thee. Thou hast wandered from me; thou hast rebelled against me; yea, thy words have been exceeding hot against
me, and thou hast robbed me of mine honour; but I chose thee even then; and now that I put thee in the furnace
thinkest thou that my love is changed? Am I a summer friend fleeing from thee in the winter? Am I one who loves
thee in prosperity and doth cast thee off in adversity? Nay; hearken to these my words. thou furnace-tried one, "I
have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Think not, then, when you are in trouble that God has cast you off.
Think he has cast you off if you never have any trials and troubles, but when in the furnace, say, "Did he not tell
me this beforehand?"
"Temptation or pain?he told me no less:
The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,
Through much tribulation must follow their Lord."
O blessed reflection! let it comfort us: his love does not change; it cannot be made to alter; the furnace cannot
scorch us, not a single hair of our head can perish; we are as safe in the fire as we are out of it; he loves us as
much in the depths of tribulation as he does in the heights of our joy and exultation. Oh! thou who art beloved of
friends, "when thy father and mother forsake thee the Lord will take thee up." Thou who canst say, "He that ate
bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me," "though all men forsake thee," saith Jehovah, "yet will not I." O
Zion, say not thou art forgotten of God; hear him when he speaks"Can a woman forget her sucking child that
she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee." "I
have graven thee upon my hands; thy walls are continually before me." Rejoice then, O Christian, in the second
thought, that God's love does not fail in the furnace, but is as hot as the furnace, and hotter still.
And now to the subject, which is thisGod's people in the furnace. And in discussing it we shall first of all
endeavour to prove the fact that if you want God's people you will find them in the furnace; secondly, we will try
to show the reasons why there is a furnace; thirdly, the benefits of the furnace; fourthly, comforts in the furnace.
And may God help us in so doing!
I. First, then, I state the fact that IF YOU WANT GOD'S PEOPLE YOU MUST GENERALLY LOOK FOR
THEM IN THE FURNACE. Look at the world in its primeval age, when Adam and Eve are expelled the garden.
Behold, they have begotten two sons, Cain and Abel: which of them is the child of God? Yonder one who lies
there smitten by the club, a lifeless corpse; he who has just now been in the furnace of his brother's enmity and
persecutionthat is the heir of heaven. A few hundred years roll on, and where is the child of God? There is one
man whose ears are continually vexed with the conversation of the wicked and who walks with God, even Enoch,
and he is the child of God. Descend further still, till you come to the days of Noah. You will find the man who is
laughed at, hissed at, hooted as a fool, a simple ton, an idiot, building a ship upon dry land, standing in the furnace
of slander and laughter: that is Noah, the elect of God. Go on still through history; let the names of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, pass before you, and you may write upon all of them: "these were God's tried people." Then go
down to the time when Israel went into Egypt. Do you ask me to find out God's people? I take you not to the
palaces of Pharaoh, I do not ask you to walk through the stately halls of Memphis, or go to hundred-gated
Thebes; I take you to none of the places decked with the splendour, the glories, and dignity of monarchs; but I
take you to the brick kilns of Egypt. See yonder slaves smarting beneath the lash, whose cry of oppression goes up
to heaven. The tale of their bricks is doubled, and they have no straw wherewith to fashion them. These are the
people of God. They are in the furnace. As we follow on in the paths of history, where were God's family next?
They were in the furnace of the wilderness suffering privation and pain. The fiery serpent hissed upon them; the
sun scorched them, their feet were weary, they lacked water, and bread failed them, and was only supplied by
miracle. They were in no desirable position; but amidst themfor all are not Israel that are of Israelwere the
chosen ones, those who were most in the furnace, Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh,
against whom the people took up stones to stone them; these were the sons of God these were distinguished above
their fellows as being elect out of the chosen nation. Still turn over the blessed pages; pass through Judges and
come to the time of Saul, and where was God's servant then? Where is the man whom the king delighteth to
honour? Where is the man after God's own heart? He is in the in the caves of Engedi, climbing the goat tracks,
hunted like the partridge by a remorseless foe. And after his days where were the saints? Not in the halls of
Jezebel, nor sitting at the table of Ahab. Behold, they are hidden by fifties in the cave, and fed by bread and water.
Behold yon man upon the mountain top wrapping his shaggy garment round him; at one time his dwelling is by the
rippling brook, where ravens bring him bread and flesh; at another time a widow is his host, whose only
possessions are a little oil and a handful of mealin the furnace Elijah stands, the remnant of God's chosen
people. Take history through; there is no need for me to follow it up, otherwise I might tell you of the days of
Maccabees, when God's children were put to death without number, by all manner of tortures till then unheard of.
I might tell you of the days of Christ, and point to the despised fishermen, to be laughed at, and persecuted
apostles. I might go on through the days of popery, and point to those who died upon the mountains or suffered in
the plains. The march of the army of God may be tracked by their ashes left behind them. The course of the ship
of glory may be traced by the white sheen of sufferings left on the sea of time. Like as a comet when it flashes in
its glory, leaveth a blaze behind it for a moment, so hath the church left behind it blazing fires of persecution and
trouble. The path of the just is scarred on earth's breast the monuments of the Church are the sepulchres of her
martyrs. Earth has been ploughed with deep furrows wherever they have lived. You will not find the saints of God
where you do not find the furnace burning round about them. I sup pose it will be so until the latest age. Until that
time shall come when we shall sit under our own vine and our own fig-tree, none making us afraid or daring to
attempt it, we must still expect to suffer. Were we not slandered, were we not the butt of' ridicule, we would not
think ourselves the children of God. We glory that we stand prominent in the day of battle; we thank our enemies
for all their shafts, for each one bears upon it proofs of our Father's love. We thank our foemen for every stab, for
it only cuts our armour and rattles on our mail, never reaching the heart. We thank them for every slander they
have forged, and for every lie they have manufactured, for we know in whom we have believed, and know that
these things cannot separate us from his love; yea, we take this as a mark of our being called, that we, as the sons
of God, can suffer persecution for righteousness' sake.
It is a fact, I say, that you will find religion in the furnace. If I were asked to find religion in London, I protest
the last place I should think of going to look for it would be in yon huge structure that excceds a palace in glory,
where you see men decked out in all the toys which the old harlot of Babylon herself once did love. But I should
go to a humbler place than that. I should not go to a place where they had the government to assist them, and the
great and the noble of the land to back them up; but I should generally go among the poor, among the despised,
where the furnace blazed the hottest; there I should expect to find saintsbut not among the respectable and
fashionable churches of our land. This is a fact then that God's people are often in the furnace.
II. And now, secondly, THE REASON FOR THIS. Why is it that God's children get there? Why does God
see fit to put them in the furnace?
1. The first reason I have is thisthat it is the stamp of the convenant. You know there are certain
documents which, in order to be legal, must have a government stamp put upon them. If they have not this stamp,
they may be written, but they will not be at all legal and cannot be pleaded in a court of law. Now we are told
what the stamp of the covenant is. There are two stamps, and for your information allow me to refer you to the
book of Genesis 15:17 and there you will see what they are. When Abraham was lying down at night, a horror of
darkness came upon him, and God made a covenant with him, and it is said, "And it came to pass, that when the
sun went down and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp that passed between the pieces."
These two things were the stamps that made the covenant secure: "a burning lamp"the light for God's people,
light for their darkness, light to guide them all the way to heaven; and beside the lamp "a smoking furnace." Shall I
then wish you to rend the smoking furnace off? Do I wish to get rid of it? No; for that would invalidate the whole.
Therefore will I cheerfully bear it, since it is absolutely necessary to render that covenant valid.
2. Another reason is thisthat all precious things have to be tried. You never saw a precious thing yet which
did not have a trial. The diamond must be cut; and hard cutting that poor jewel has; were it capable of feeling
pain, nothing would be more fretted and worried about, than that diamond. Gold, too, must be tried; it cannot be
used as it is dug up from the mine, or in grains as it is found in the rivers; it must pass through the crucible and
have the dross taken away. Silver must be tried. In fact all things that are of any value must endure the fire. It is
the law of nature. Solomon tells us so in the 17th chapter of Proverbs, the 3rd verse. He says, "The fining pot is
for silver, and the furnace for gold." If you were nothing but tin, there would be no need of the "fining-pot" for
you; but it is simply because you are valuable that you must be tried. It was one of the laws of God, written in the
book of Numbers, 31st chapter, 23rd verse" Everything that may abide the fire, ye shall make go through the
fire, and it shall be clean." It is a law of nature, it is a law of grace, that everything that can abide the
fireeverything that is preciousmust be tried. Be sure of this,that which will not stand trial is not worth
having. Would I choose to preach in this house if I thought it would not stand the trial of a large congregation, but
might one of these days totter and break down? Would any one forming a railway, construct a bridge that would
not stand a trial of the weight that might run across it? No; we have things that would stand the trial, otherwise we
should think them of no value. That which I can trust one hour, but find it break the next, when I want it most, is
of little use to me. But because ye are of value, saints, because ye are gold, therefore ye must be tried. From the
very fact that ye are valuable, ye must be made to pass through the furnace.
3. Another thought is this; the Christian is said to be a sacrifice to God. Now every sacrifice must be burned
with fire. Even when they offered the green ears before the harvest, it is said the green ears must be dried with
fire. They killed the bullock and laid it on the altar, but it was no sacrifice till they burned it. They slew the lamb,
they laid the wood; but there was no sacrifice in the killing of the lamb till it was burned. Know ye not, brethren,
we are offerings to God, and that we are a living sacrifice unto Jesus Christ. But how could we be a sacrifice if we
were not burned? If we never had the fire of trouble put about us, if we never were kindled, we should lie there
without smoke, without flame, unacceptable to God. But be cause ye are his sacrifice, therefore ye must be
burned; fire must penetrate you and you must be offered a whole burnt offering, holy and acceptable unto God.
4. Another reason why we must be put in the furnace is, because else we should not be at all like Jesus
Christ. If you read that beautiful description of Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation, you will find it says, that
"his feet were like fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." The feet of Jesus Christ represent his humanity, the
head the divinity. The head of his Deity suffered not: as God he could not suffer' but "his feet were like fine brass,
as if they burned in a furnace." How can we be like Christ, unless our feet, too, are burned in the furnace? If he
walked through the flames, must not we do the same?that "in all things he might be like unto his brethren." We
are we know, to be like Christ in that august appearance when he shall come to be admired of all his saints; we are
to be like him when we shall see him as lie is; and shall we fear to be like him here? Will we not tread where our
Saviour trod? there is his footstep; shall not our foot fill the same place? There is his track; will we not willingly
"His track I see, and I'll pursue
The narrow way, till him I view?"
Yes! Onward, Christian! the captain of your salvation hath gone through the dark valle
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