No. 1. Occasionally I go by a site whereon a house has stood, now destroyed by fire. Pausing for a moment to look over the place, I then pass on with reflective thoughts of a time when not houses but lives of Christians shall be “tried with fire.”
I notice a brick chimney is left upright, standing securely on its solid stone foundation, the central figure in a picture of desolation. Strewn around are to be seen the pieces of indestructible materials “proved “by fire; not much of what once stood on the place. Some one will stand at last like this lone chimney (secure on Christ the Rock) in the midst of the ruins of a life which once surrounded him. Shall you? Shall I? “Would that I had lived differently! “some one will say. Shall you? Shall I? Does the reader shrink back from the thought of such a possibility? The fiery ordeal will leave some scarce aught of their works to be commended: much “wood, hay and stubble “burned; and little “gold, silver, precious stones “left. Some will come through the test as a man is dragged from his burning residence. “What a mercy he is saved! “we exclaim. Yes, “saved, yet so as by (through) fire! “(1 Cor. 3:11-15).
No. 2. Let me illustrate how every saved one’s life shall be looked at by-and-by. Let us say you have known the Lord for eighteen years. That day of your new birth you thought “the saints above could be hardly more favoured or blessed.” For a season the once cold heart is now so filled with “redeeming love “that the thought of shame to speak for Jesus does not occur to mind. We will think of the eighteen years as a broad line drawn out eighteen feet across a wall. We will say the “fear of man” comes in by the year is out, followed by eight years you now think of with bowed head in shame, a time that appears barren and unfruitful. We will say the line is clearly marked for a foot; then a gap of eight feet—a void, lost. But here restoration takes place, and you go on well for a while and you bear fruit, with much personal blessing. In course of time efforts are again relaxed, and another empty space is seen in our line. We will say that to the end of the line there occurs here and there a blank, though with less frequency.
When the Lord rewards for the life lived, He takes out the blanks. What is there remaining? Perhaps a line eight feet in length, whereas it could have been eighteen. So I stand by and see the twelve-years-saved Christian who steadily went on the whole while for God, receiving a greater reward than I. Then I learn how some who are first can become last, and the last become first. Some lives may shrink up very small when Christ manifests them; while there will be surprise on the other hand at what was contained, to God’s glory, in some shorter lives without blanks.