In "Miscellaneous Writings" by Mrs. Eddy, there is a striking paragraph abounding with figurative meaning. It reads: "God is a consuming fire. He separates the dross from the gold, purifies the human character, through the furnace of affliction" (p. 151). It would be difficult indeed to find a more apt material symbol of a spiritual fact than this, for it indicates clearly the order of Truth's activity in the refinement of human character. In assaying metal with the view of ascertaining if its purity is up to the standard required for hall-marking, a certain amount of it is wrapped in a piece of sheet lead, then placed in a small porous crucible called a cupel, and exposed to a bright red heat. The metals melt; but while the pure silver and gold combine, the lead and other inferior metals become oxidized and the oxides are absorbed by the cupel, leaving a small button of pure gold and silver.

Until purified by the furnace, the dross masquerades as part of the pure metal, the evil and the good are apparently mingled and form a whole; but the assayer knows that the only thing which possesses any real worth is the gold, and his fire unerringly and completely separates it from the dross, which shrinks and hides itself, and finally disappears into and forms part of its kindred element, worthless and useless matter. Worthless and useless indeed; for it is a significant fact in physical science that it could not, even were it desired, be recovered from the vessel of bone ash into which it has disappeared. The tenacity of error finds its parallel in the result of the refiner's fire, for the cupel is coated with a layer of shining metal, a pretense of silver, reminding us of the wise man's saying, that "burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross."

The spiritual lesson is obvious. We see that error usually simulates the good and the real, and as in the case of the pure gold and the baser metal, its pretense is that it gives bulk and therefore greater apparent value, but its worthlessness is proved by the refiner's fire. The assayer of gold purges by his process the dross from the ore and sets the golden metal free, in the same manner as Christian Science teaches how Truth gradually yet surely refines our materialistic thought and belief until only the pure and the good remain. Our Leader has aptly taken the illustration of the assayer's furnace to point out the refining and purifying effect of Spirit upon human consciousness; and it is a notable circumstance that the pure gold cannot, when tried in the furnace, continue to mingle with the dross. In reality, they never did mingle: the gold was always there and forever pure, and could never be less than pure. The process of eliminating the worthless and the impure brings to light the beauty and purity of the true gold, and, freed from the dross foreign to its nature, all that is good and pure is at length seen to be the whole.

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March 1, 1913

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