Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Can't you see for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you--unless you actually fail the test?
i.e. not tested as to the display of his power. Welcome such unapproval! It would be in exact conformity to the spirit and end of his apostolic administration, which was in accordance with the truth of the gospel and designed to show forth that truth. What is the test of a great and wise ruler? The test is the uselessness of a punishing power (except in extreme cases and as an ultimate resort), because his subjects govern themselves. Such was the apostle's argument. Nothing against the truth, all for the truth, Christ the Truth; this was the beautiful summation in which he rested. If this should apparently exhibit his weakness, what a glorious weakness it would be! Apostolic judgment made needless by self-government; what could be a grander testimony to the truth and excellence of his work among them? Then, verily, they would be strong. "Perfection" in the order and unity of the Church, "perfection" of individual character, was the object of his prayer, and hence this Epistle. Whoever teaches Christianity as God's truth cannot fail to teach much else besides. These verses are maxims of infinite wisdom. What man in authority, what statesman in the affairs of a nation, what father at the head of a family, what office holder in the Church, if he would bear his faculties so meekly and be thus "clear in his great office," would not be a providence of instruction and helpfulness in the world] Decay of reverence for law begins in decay of reverence for men who administer the law. Unhappily enough, this decline in reverence for law is one of the growing perils of the age. It is peculiar to no form of government. It is spreading everywhere as an atmospheric evil, and threatening like an epidemic to travel roared the globe. Power to build up, not to destroy; this is St. Paul's idea of power divinely bestowed. And accordingly we see what a blessed discipline it was to him personally and officially; and having accomplished this result in his own soul, it is not remarkable that it achieved its ends in this distracted and corrupted Church at Corinth. - L.
Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith.... Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
I. Regarding THE DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION, we observe —
1. That it is a commanded duty. It is not imposed by human authority. Now, the duty of self-examination is plainly implied in several commands in Scripture. It may be inferred from the injunction to confess Christ before men; for how could one rightly confess Christ before he had ascertained that he belonged to Him? It is implied in the command to rejoice evermore; for how could one rejoice before he knew that there was reason for his joy?
2. A knowledge of our state is attainable. It will hardly be doubted that an impenitent sinner may discover his state of condemnation and wrath. This is what is meant by conviction of sin and misery. And it may be proved, from several instances in Scripture, that an assured confidence of our being in a state of grace may likewise be gained. Jacob could say with the utmost confidence that the Lord God had appeared to him at Luz and blessed him. David could say, "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength."
3. The persuasion that one is a real Christian would assist greatly in the performance of duty. Why is it that professing Christians are so dull in the performance of duty? It arises to a great extent from the uncertainty which hangs over their state. The persuasion of the love of God would make their souls, like the chariot of Aminadab, to run swiftly and smoothly in the way of new obedience.
4. Self examination is necessary, from the danger of self-deception. If there was no hazard of mistaking the way to heaven, there would be no need to inquire whether we were walking therein.
5. It is necessary for the believer's real comfort. In no case is a state of doubt a happy condition. Though the matter should be comparatively trivial, yet if the mind is doubtful regarding it, there will be little inward peace.
6. We must sooner or later undergo a trial. It is evident, from what we have already said, that self-examination is an indispensable duty. We were —
II. To consider SOME EVIDENCES OF BEING IN THE FAITH — THAT IS, OF BEING REAL CHRISTIANS.
1. Those who are in the faith run not to the same excess of riot with others. If persons are habitually indulging in known sin, they give evidence that they belong not to Christ. It matters not what zeal such persons may possess. Jehu could say, "Come here, and see my zeal for the Lord." Nor does it alter the case that they have performed deeds of benevolence and of outward religion. Achish protected a persecuted David. Another class consists of those who persevere in known sin more secretly. They restrain themselves before men; but in their retirements they transgress with avidity.
2. Those who are in the faith are a people zealous of good works.
3. We remark again, that those in the faith have peculiar views of sin.
4. Those who are in the faith have peculiar views of the Redeemer. Others see no beauty in Him.
5. Those who are in the faith, differ from others in the views which they take of themselves.A little consideration will satisfy us that the generality of men are high-minded. It belongs to you to make conscience of the work of looking into your hearts.
1. And you ought to engage in the duty often. It is not enough that you examine yourselves before such solemn occasions as the Lord's Supper. It ought, like secret prayer, to be performed daily.
2. Further, let not your examinations be superficial. Keep searching your hearts until you arrive at a conclusion regarding your state. Endeavour to probe your heart to the very bottom.
3. Beware of being discouraged from the duty. Let not the fear of exposing yourselves before your own eyes, deter you from it.
4. Above all, put the case into God's own hand. "Search and try us, O God, and see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting.
(A. Ross, M. A.)I. THE DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION based upon self-ownership and self-competence.
1. Self-ownership. "Your own selves." Christ paid profound deference to the individual man. "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? "His own soul, which he can never abdicate, nor alienate. No power, no process, can cut off the entail of your own personality; but what an awful moment is that when a man like the prodigal comes to himself, and sees for the first time the being that must be his own for evermore. This is the crisis which we call conversion.
2. Out of this arises self-trusteeship. No executor, ecclesiastical or other, can take that off your own hands. It is said of a duke when he went over to the Roman Church, the Roman Catholics undertook that if his soul was lost they would bear his damnation for him, and he could never find any other sect that would undertake that. "Thou fool! thy soul shall be required of thee. We cannot relieve you of the responsibility.
3. Self-competence. Know ye not your own selves?" Every man's interior nature is a terra incognita to everybody else. "No man knows the spirit of a man," etc. But it does not rest there only. Paul is speaking to people who have heard the gospel, and so Christ says to those who had the Old Testament, "Judge ye not that which is right." Self-searching and Scripture-searching must be carried on contemporaneously. Then you have the Holy Spirit to enlighten you. "They shall be all taught of God." It is this which constitutes your self-competence, running parallel with your self-ownership. God's ministry is not intended to rescue God's people from the labour and exercise of thought upon the subject of their religion. We are to think to set you a-thinking.
II. THE PROCESS OF SELF-EXAMINATION. Examine yourselves; then prove yourselves. The word "prove" in Scripture means both to prove and to approve. "If we would judge ourselves we should not be condemned in the world."
1. This process of self-examination is based upon the selfsame principles on which all examinations arc held. First examine and then prove, as the man of science does, and then draws his generalisation; as the judge, who collects the evidence and then gives his charge to the jury; as the medical man, who finds out the symptoms and examines until he obtains a diagnosis of his case, and then gives the prescription of the treatment; as the examiner, who puts his questions and then decides upon the classification of the examined. We must get all the facts together as clearly as we can, and then determine our classification in the sight of God.
2. A man examines himself when he studies his own past history, when he lays bare the habits of his life, when he asks himself what difficulties and temptations lie across his path, and considers with what aids and weapons he can best meet them, and when he calls up before him the last strong fainting agony, and asks with what strength he is provided for that terrible moment; when he sends out his thought to that interminable duration that goes beyond the grave, and asks how he is provided to meet the exigencies of the eternal world; then, and then only, does he examine himself.
III. TO WHAT THIS SELF-EXAMINATION IS DIRECTED: "Whether ye be in the faith." Faith is the moral element, the spiritual atmosphere in and by which we have our being. When we say a man is in a rage, or in love, or in drink, we mean that rage, love, or drink has got possession of him. And so with a man "in the faith." It means that his views are coloured by, and that all his affections and habits are under the mastery of, faith. Now, a man may entertain strong affection or resentment, and yet not be in a rage or in love; and so a man may have the faith in himself and yet not be in the faith; may have no doubt as to the historical verity which constitutes the faith, and yet not be in it. How sad it is that with all this preaching, and singing, and school-teaching, the faith has so little influence over us. That is what we must examine ourselves about.
2. There are two classes in the present day.(1) One says the question is whether you be in the right; "For creeds and forms let graceless zealots fight," etc. This is neither the beginning nor the end of the matter at all, unless the beginning be to be right at first. Everybody knows that the moral quality of an action depends upon the motive of that action. More than that; a man's motives grow out of his heart. A good heart cannot produce bad motives. A bad heart cannot produce good motives. Now the moral and spiritual quality of the heart depends upon and is derived from the object upon which a man's heart is set. If a man's highest object in life is self, then selfishness is the ruling motive of his actions. And if a man's heart is set on Christ, he lives a Christly life, and will be thus judged at last. Are you then in the faith?(2) Nor will it do to say if a man is in the Church he must be all right. No doubt if you are in the faith you will do what Paul did, "essay to join yourselves to the disciples." You will do it by a necessity of your own nature.
IV. WHAT IS THE TEST OF BEING IN THE FAITH?
1. Is Christ in you? That will determine that matter. Is He now —(1) In your thoughts? Does Christ dominate the whole field of your life as some grand cathedral rises above the spires of a city, or as some mighty mountain range visible from every part of a continent?(2) In you, the chief of your affections? Have you thrown open the state apartments of your heart to Him, and does He reign there? When Christ enters the heart He does not come incognito. When the doors are lifted up that the King of Glory may come in, the soul knows it.
2. But what is the terrible alternative? "Except ye be reprobate" — rejected and cast away. The idea of judgment is kept up all the way through. This is the subject of examination. Examination arises respecting the last decisive test. If when you come before the bar of God, and the secrets of your hearts are judged according to the gospel, Christ is not in you, you must be a wandering wreck for ever — cast into outer darkness, where is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
(B. Gregory, D. D.)
I. THE NECESSITY OF SELF-EXAMINATION. Every one actually stands placed against a standard unseen, but real — that by which God judges — the eternal law — the rule of Christian character. Think of all our assembly thus placed! If the fact could be an object of sight, whatever inquisitiveness each might feel respecting the rest, surely his own marked state would be the chief object of his eager attention. Well, but should it be less so when he considers and knows it is so discriminated in the sight of God? Is there anything in the world so important for him to know?
II. THE OBJECTS OF SELF-EXAMINATION. We might ask a man, "What are you most concerned to know of yourself? Something in which you hope for a gratification of your pride? Your merits as contrasted with those of other men? Instead of this, we would advise — examine in that as to which you most feel you need to know when you approach the throne of God. Examination should be directed towards the points made by the apostle.
1. "Whether ye be in the faith." Whether you are decidedly more than a cold assenting believer in the Christian doctrines. That a man may be, and yet at the same time be in a spirit opposite to all these heavenly truths. But — in the faith so as to be powerfully withdrawn from the spirit and dominion of the world? So as to have a habitual prevailing order of views, feelings, etc., animated by it? So as to be in a zealous league with its faithful adherents?
2. "That Jesus Christ is in you." Is He in the thoughts as a commanding object of contemplation? Is He in the affections — the object of love, and of awful reverence? Is He in the conscience, as an authority? Is He in the soul, in the sense that somewhat of His likeness is impressed upon it; an indwelling presence, without which it were lifeless and hopeless? In all such important points, let men beware of assuming, without the process of "proving."
III. THE CORRECT AND SALUTARY PERFORMANCE OF THIS DUTY.
1. Two things are necessary.(1) A distinct, strong, steady apprehension of the pure standard fixed by the Divine authority.(2) A habit of reflection. There can be no effective self-examination without a resolute and often repeated effort to retire inward, and stay awhile, and pointedly inspect what is there.
2. Self-examination —(1) Should not expend its chief exercise on the mere external conduct; for if that alone were to be taken account of, a well-regulated formalist or Pharisee, nay possibly a hypocrite, might go off with considerable self-complacency.(2) Should be exercised on a principle of independence of the estimates of others. It is true, that good use may be made of these, but they may have a wrong effect.(a) If they are partial and favourable, to a highly flattering degree, will not the man be mightily inclined to take this for just?(b) Suppose the contrary case, then an excitement of all the defensive feelings! "All these censures are from ignorance, perverseness, or perhaps even from jealousy." There is, therefore, a necessity for cool, deliberate independence of judgment. And this will be promoted by a solemn sense of standing before the judgment of God — the grand requisite in all selfexamination.(3) Should avail itself of the circumstances and seasons which may aid self-revelation.(4) Slight symptoms should not be disregarded. In medical science, what seem slight symptoms are sometimes regarded as of great significance; the skilful judge is struck by their recurrence as indications of something serious, and as deciding what it is.(5) Should take a comprehensive account. For, if a man contents himself with selecting only some particular points, his self-partiality will almost be certain to choose those which seem the most favourable; and he may be betrayed to make these the interpreters or substitutes of all the rest.(6) Must beware of making some mere doctrinal point the great test and assurance, in self-defence under the absence of immediate experimental and practical evidence.(7) Should be strongly enforced, by doubt and uncertainty.
(J. Foster.)I. Self-examination being so important an exercise, permit me to direct your attention towards it IN REGARD TO THE GENERAL MANNER IN WHICH IT ought to be conducted.
1. Seriousness is the first requisite of self-examination.
2. For similar reasons self-inspection must be frequent. An account with conscience, like worldly accounts, unless often looked into, is apt to run into confusion. Besides this daily reminiscence, the more solemn return of the Sabbath, in which all classes of men may find some leisure for their spiritual concerns, may well be employed, in part, in the useful business of self-inspection.
3. Self-examination, thus solemn and frequent, ought moreover to be conducted with candour. The introverted eye must search the remotest recesses, and penetrate with keen glance the darkest foldings of the soul. Men are but too apt to satisfy themselves on false grounds with respect to the security of their condition. Deal with thyself plainly, impartially, strictly. Scrutinise the foundation of thy confidence towards God.
4. But all this seriousness, frequency, and candour will be of little avail if unaccompanied by earnest prayer unto Him who is the presiding judge, and the all-seeing witness, in the secret court of self-inspection. Unless there be a deep sense of His presence, His purity, His infallibility.
II. Seek a more particular qualification for the work of self-inspection, BY FURNISHING OURSELVES WITH THOSE INQUIRIES OF WHICH ITS SUBSTANCE OUGHT TO CONSIST. Self-examination respects the past, the present, and the future.
1. As it respects the past, it is requisite that Christians carry back their investigation to the earliest period of their lives; and mark in what instances they have failed of their duty to God, their neighbour, and themselves. Take note of all your minuter but habitual and ingrained faults. Do we own, on the whole retrospect, that we are inexcusable before God, and have only to throw ourselves upon His mercy, through Christ, for spiritual health and for salvation?
2. From these reflections the Christian will be led forward to inquire into the tenor of his present conduct. How stand now his affections towards God? Do they centre all in God, as the supreme object of love? Does he think of Christ as his only stay — of the Holy Spirit as his essential guide? His other motives — are they those of the gospel? How have these principles, if genuine, operated in detail? Has their efficacy been manifested by any substantial improvement in holiness? Is anything perverse in his disposition corrected?
3. Anticipation of the future is now the last link in the chain of self-examination, and is as intimately connected with attention to the present as that is with reflection on the past. A mighty conqueror of old sat down and wept because he found no more of territory to subdue; but this can never happen in the Christian warfare. The Canaanites are still in the fastnesses of the land; and even in the repose of conquest there remaineth much country to be gained. How have they made up their minds to encounter temptations yet to come? Are they not inclined to anticipate apologies for future remissness?
4. In conclusion, may we not observe, that the happiest effects can be prognosticated from self-.examination thus wisely conducted?
(J. Grant, M. A.)
I. EXPOUND MY TEXT.
1. "Examine," that is —(1) A scholastic idea. A boy has been to school a certain time, and his master questions him, to see whether he has made any progress. Christian, catechise your heart to see whether it has been growing in grace.(2) A military idea. Just as the captain on review-day is not content with surveying the men from a distance, but looks at all their accoutrements, so do you examine yourselves with the most scrupulous care.(3) A legal idea. You have seen the witness in the box, when the lawyer has been cross-examining him. Question your heart backward and forward, this way and that.(4) A traveller's idea. In the original it is "Go right through yourselves." Stand not only on the mountains of your public character, but go into the deep valleys of your private life. Be not content to sail on the broad river of your outward actions, but go follow back the narrow rill till you discover your secret motive.
2. "Prove your own selves." That means more than self-examination. A man is about to buy a horse; he thinks that possibly he may find out some flaw, and therefore he examines it; but after he has examined it, he says, "Let me have it for a week, that I may prove the animal before I invest in him." A ship, both before and when launched, is carefully looked at; and yet before she is allowed to go to sea, she takes a trial trip; and then when proved she goes out on her long voyages. Now, many a man's religion will stand examination that will not stand proof. It is like some cotton prints that are warranted fast colours, and so they seem when you look at them, but they are not washable when you get them home. It is good enough to look at, and it has got the "warranted" stamped upon it; but when it comes out into actual daily life, the colours soon begin to run, and the man discovers that the thing was not what he took it to be.
3. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." Oh! says one, "You may examine me; I am an orthodox Christian." But the question now is not whether you believe the truth — but whether you are in the truth! Take an illustration. There is the ark; and a number of men around it. "Ah!" says one, "I believe that ark will swim." "Yes," says another, "it is strong from stem to stern." Ay, but when the flood came, it was not believing the ark as a matter of fact — it was being in the ark that saved men.
4. "Know ye not your own selves?" If you do not you have neglected your proper study. What avails all else that you do know if you know not yourself? You have been roaming abroad, while the richest treasure was lying at home. And especially know ye not this fact, that Jesus Christ must be in your heart, formed and living there, or else ye are reprobates? Now, what is it to have Jesus Christ in you? The true Christian carries the cross in his heart. Christ in the heart means Christ believed in, beloved, trusted, espoused, Christ as our daily food, and ourselves as the temple and palace wherein He daily walks.
II. ENFORCE THE TEXT. "Examine yourselves," because —
1. It is a matter of the very highest importance. Tradesmen may take coppers over the counter without much examination; but when it comes to gold, they will ring it well; and if it comes to a fivepound note, there is still more careful scrutiny. Ah! but if ye be deceived in the matter of your own souls, ye are deceived indeed. Look well to the title-deeds of your estate, to your life policies, to all your business; but, remember, all the gold and silver you have are but as the rack and scum of the furnace, compared with the matter now in hand. It is your soul. Will you risk that?
2. If ye make a mistake ye can never rectify it, except in this world. A bankrupt may have lost a fortune once, and yet may make another; but make spiritual bankruptcy in this life, and you will never have an opportunity to trade again for heaven. A great general may lose one battle, and yet win the campaign; but get defeated in the battle of this life, and you are defeated for ever.
3. Many have been mistaken, may not you be? Methinks I see the rocks of presumption on which many souls have been lost, and the siren song of self-confidence entices you on to those rocks. Stay, mariner, stay! Let yon bleached bones keep thee back. Do not tell me that you are an old Church member; for a man may be a professor of religion forty years, and yet there may come a trial-day when his religion shall snap after all.
4. God will examine you.
5. If you are in doubt now, the speediest way to get rid of your doubts and fears is by self-examination. Look at that captain. He says to the sailors, "You must sail very carefully, and be upon your watch, for I do not exactly know my latitude and longitude, and there may be rocks very close ahead." He goes down into the cabin, he searches the chart, he takes an inspection of the heavens, and then says, "Hoist every sail, and go along as merrily as you please; I have discovered where we are; the water is deep, and there is a wide sea room." And how happy will it be with you if, after having searched yourself, you can say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him." And what if it should have a bad result? Better that you should find it out now than find it out too late.
III. TRY AND HELP YOU TO CARRY THE TEXT INTO PRACTICE.
1. Begin with your public life. Are you dishonest? Can you swear? Are you given to drunkenness? etc. Make short work with yourself; there will be no need to go into any further tests. "He that doeth these things hath no inheritance in the kingdom of God." And yet, Christian, despite thy many sins, canst thou say, "By the grace of God I am what I am; but I seek to live a righteous, godly, and sober life, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation." Remember, by thy works thou shalt be judged at last. Thy works cannot save thee, but they can prove that thou art saved; or if they be evil works, they can prove that thou art not saved at all.
2. How about your private life? Do you live without prayer, without searching the Scriptures? If so, I make short work of the matter; you are "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity." But if thou art right at heart, thou wilt be able to say, "I could not live without prayer; I do love God's Word; I love His people; I love His house." A good sign, Christian, a good sign for thee; if thou canst go through this test, thou mayest hope that all is well.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. WHAT IT IS ABOUT OURSELVES WHICH WE HAVE TO EXAMINE.
1. Our principles. Let us ascertain whether they are according to the word of truth, or whether they arc the mere inventions of men, if they be not indeed the conjectures of our own unthinking minds.
2. Our feelings. Is the love of God and Christ indeed in us? This affection is the root of all others.
3. Our practice (Galatians 6:4).
II. BY WHAT RULES WE ARE TO CONDUCT THIS VERY IMPORTANT INVESTIGATION. There is no other standard than the Word of God; and this work of self-examination has perhaps been more marred by the overlooking of this circumstance than by anything else. The Word of God gives us the fruits of the Spirit, it gives us the works of the flesh. Take each list and see which contains the lineaments of your character. It presents to us various precepts which we are called upon to obey. Examine if they are the outlines of your everyday doings. But how is the examination to he conducted upon this high standard?
2. Frequently, for we are constantly changing.
3. With a view to improvement. The man who examines himself merely to know that he is safe is a selfish man. When he goes further, and endeavours to know what as a saved being he is to do, he is pursuing a course which, while it will discover to him his defects, will at the same time point out the means of his further progress.
4. In reference to the world at large. How far are we setting before the world, by our example, the Christianity by which we think we are ourselves saved?
5. In reference to all the situations in which the providence of God may place us.
6. In reference to all the principles that we discuss. There is no principle deserving discussion if you do not think it worth your while afterwards to inquire how far you have made it useful.
1. "Examine yourselves": not your neighbours. The Corinthians had been busy in their criticisms on the apostle; he asks them for a while to turn the keen investigation upon themselves. One of the Puritans says: "The windows of the soul should be like the windows of Solomon's temple,'broad inward.'" We are to watch ourselves, to judge ourselves, to condemn ourselves, far more severely than we do the Church or the world.
2. "Examine yourselves": do not confuse yourself with others. "Prove your own selves." The other day I saw two lads weighing themselves on a weighing-machine; they put the penny in the slot, and together got upon the scale. They thought to defraud the proprietor of the machine by their cleverness, two occupying the scale intended for one. But the result must have been very unsatisfactory to the astute youths. They knew their aggregate weight, but neither of them knew his personal weight. As I watched the lads, it struck me that in making our moral estimates we sometimes fall into a similar fallacy. We do not detach ourselves and seek to ascertain our personal merit; we ingeniously confuse ourselves with others. We are sons and daughters of parents who have passed into the skies. We do not isolate ourselves and prove our own selves. We shall at last be weighed in the balances one by one, and we had better weigh ourselves that way now.
3. "Examine yourselves": know your real selves, not your seeming selves. We sometimes fancy that we know ourselves, when, in fact, we know only our seeming self. The Chinese are said to be fondest of the dress which most effectually conceals their true figure; and by a variety of sophistries we hide our real selves from ourselves. If we strictly examine our virtues, they may turn out no virtues at all. Zeal keenly tested proves to be temper; charity reveals itself as vaingloriousness; economy is disguised covetousness; courage is presumption; honesty is expediency with a fine name; conscientiousness is only the subtle working of self-will; contentment is really sloth; and amiability an easy-going disposition that lets things slide. We must not be content to note the surface.
4. "Examine yourselves": your present selves, not your old selves. It is rather a common thing to judge ourselves by what we knew and felt and did in past years. A disastrous change has taken place, and taken place so gradually that we have failed to note it. Are we converted men and women now? Is the Divine fire burning still? Are our prayers availing to-day? Are our last works more than the first? These are the questions.
5. The grand test in self-examination is this: "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? "One of the great perversions of the duty of self-examination is that we make it more a quest for the evil that is in us than a quest for the good. The miner does not look for the dust and dirt of the mine; he watches for the streak of gold. And we must not search our heart for the beast and the devil, but for the manifestations of the indwelling Christ.
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. Self-examination is A NECESSARY DUTY belonging to every one in the Church, and requires much diligence in the performing of it.
1. It is a necessary duty, in regard of our comfort. What comfort in Christ, in His meritorious passion, in His triumphant resurrection and ascension, in His prevalent intercession, unless we know that by faith we are united to Him? It is necessary(1) Because there are common graces. There is an acceptation of the law for an outward practice, without an affection to the lawgiver, or an esteem of the spirituality of the law itself.(2) Because there are counterfeit graces. There is much false coin in the world. Good things may be imitated, when they are not rooted. The apostle speaks of a dead faith (James 2:26). There is a repentance unto life (Acts 11:18) which supposeth a dead repentance.(3) Because every man is in a state of grace or nature. There is a state of grace (Romans 5:1); a state of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). It is necessary, therefore, to inquire whose we are.
2. It is a duty that requires diligence and care. That which is of infinite consequence in the state of your souls ought not to be built upon sandy and slight foundations. It is called communing with a man's own heart (Psalm 4:4). Not a slight glance and away: sweeping and looking with a candle (Luke 15:8), wherewith every cranny and chink is pried into.(1) Diligence is requisite, because the work is difficult. It is no easy matter to be acquainted with ourselves. The judgment of man is corrupted, and misrepresents things. Where grace is small, and corruptions many, it must be hard to discern it, as it is for an eye to discern a small needle, especially if in the dust and rubbish. The roots of sin also lie deep, not easily to be found without good directions.(2) Diligence is requisite, because man is naturally unwilling to this duty. Men are more willing to have their minds rove through all the parts of nature, than to busy themselves in self-reflection; would read any book or relation rather than the history of their own heart. We are nearest to ourselves physically, and furthest from our own selves morally. Men whose titles are cracked and unsure, are loth to have them tried before the Judge and come under the siftings of conscience. Ever since the fall we run counter to God. Satan is no mean instrument in this; he is said to blind the world that they might not know their state. This unwillingness ariseth —(a) From carnal self-love. It is natural to man to think well of himself, and suffer his affections to bridle his judgment. Every man is his own flatterer, and so conceals himself from himself. Very few that are uncomely in body, or deformed in mind, but think themselves as handsome and honest as others. Every blackamore fancies himself to have a comely colour. And this self-love keeps men off from this work, for fear they should behold their own guilt, and their souls be stung with anguish.(b) From presumption and security.(3) Diligence is requisite, because man is hardly induced to continue in this work. That self-love which makes them unwilling to enter upon it, renders them unfit to make any progress in it. When we do begin it, how quickly do we faint in it! How soon are our first glances upon ourselves turned to a fixedness upon some slighter object!(4) Diligence is requisite, because we are naturally apt to be deceived, and to delude ourselves. How many extend their hopes as far as their wishes, and these as far as a fond fancy and imagination!(5) Diligence is necessary, because, to be deceived in this is the most stinging consideration. To drop into hell, when a man takes it for granted that he is in heaven, to dream of a crown on the head, when the fetters are upon the feet, will double the anguish.(6) Diligence is necessary, because many have miscarried for want of it.
II. THE USE.
1. If this be our duty to examine ourselves, then the knowledge of our state is possible. If we are to examine ourselves, we may then know ourselves. Reflection and knowledge of self is a prerogative of a rational nature. We know that we have souls by the operations of them. We may know that we have grace by the effects of it. Grace chiefly lies in the will, and it discovers itself in actions. There can be no sufficient reason given why the understanding should not as well know the acts of the soul and will, as the acts of the sense, and the motions of the body. We know our particular passions and the exercises of them. There is no man that fears a danger or loves an amiable object but he knows his own acts about them, as well as the object of those acts. If a man have faith and love, why should he not be as able to know the acts of faith and love as to know the acts of his particular affections?
2. How foolish is the neglect of this duty!
III. USE OF EXHORTATION. It is our highest advantage to know what should become of our souls in eternity. I shall, lastly, give you some directions about this duty of self-examination.
1. Acquaint yourselves with those marks that are proper only to a true Christian. Overlook all those that are common with the hypocrite, such as outward profession, constant attendances, some affections in duties. Let us not judge ourselves by outward acts: a player is not a prince because he acts the part of a prince. But we must judge ourselves by what we are in our retirements, in our hearts. He only is a good man, and doth good, that doth it from a principle of goodness within, and not from fear of laws, or to gain a good opinion in the world. Grace is of that nature that it cannot possibly have any by-end. As it is the immediate birth of God, so it doth immediately respect God in its actings. Let us examine first the truth of grace, and afterwards the height of grace. A little of the coarsest gold is more valuable than much of the finest brass. See how the habitual frame and inclination of the heart stands. One sound and undeniable mark is better than a thousand disputable ones.
2. Let us make the Word of God only our rule in trials. This is the only impartial friend we can stick to, and therefore it ought to be made our main counsellor. It is safe for us to take that rule which God Himself will take.
3. Take not the first dictates of conscience. He that trusts his own heart is a fool (Proverbs 28:26), i.e., without a diligent inquisition it is not wisdom to do so; but he that walks wisely shall be delivered: he that makes a strict inquiry into it shall be delivered from its snares and his own fears. It is a searching, examining, proving our hearts that is required, not taking them at the first word. There may be gold at the top and dross at the bottom.
4. In all implore the assistance of the Spirit of God. Natural conscience is not enough in this case, there must be the influence of the Spirit. It is God's Interpreter that can only show unto a man his righteousness (Job 33:23). The sun must give light before the glass can reflect the beams.
5. Let us take heed that while we examine our graces and find them, our hearts be not carried out to a resting upon them. We may draw some comfort from them, but must check the least inclination of founding our justification upon them. Graces are signs, not causes of justification.
6. In case we find ourselves not in such a condition as we desire, let us exercise direct acts of faith.
I. WHAT IS PREMISED IN THE TEXT. We are exhorted to examine ourselves. We may err in supposing —
1. Educational influence as synonymous with the faith.
2. In confounding a regard for, and an attendance on, religious services with being in the faith.
3. In mistaking inward emotions with being in the faith.
II. TO WHAT THE TEXT DISTINCTLY REFERS. "Being in the faith," evidently, having the true faith of a disciple of Christ. Now if we are in the faith, then manifestly —
1. The faith of the gospel will be in us.
2. The experience of faith will be in us.
3. The signs of faith will be upon us.
III. THE COURSE THE TEXT ENJOINS. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." And —
1. Do this with earnestness of spirit.
2. Do this with the Word of God as your rule.
3. Do it in the spirit of prayer.
4. Do it from time to time.
IV. SOME MOTIVES BY WHICH THIS COURSE MAY BE ENJOINED. We should regard it —
1. As a duty. We should regard it in reference —
2. To our comfort. It is for the comfort of the traveller to know he is in the right way; for the mariner to know his course of sailing is correct; for the heir to be sure that his title is unquestionably valid.
3. It is connected with our safety.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
1. That we make an open confession of Christ, as the founder of the Christian religion, by union with His professed followers (Matthew 10:32, 33).
2. A sincere and hearty belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Corinthians, before they embraced Christianity, were idolaters. Paul wished them to examine and see if they had really renounced all dependence upon their idols, and were putting their trust in the living and true God alone, and in Jesus Christ whom He had sent. It is possible, too, to embrace Christianity from interested motives. Any new system will attract some admirers. The apostle, therefore, was afraid lest their faith should be insincere or superficial, and hence wished them to examine carefully into their motives and character.
3. The phrase "in the faith" means an actual participation in the blessings of Christianity.(1) If "Christ is in you," you are conscious of communion with Him.(2) As your Lord and Master you admit Him, for instance, as the Lord of your faith, your Teacher, leaning not to your own understanding, but meekly sitting at His feet and saying, "Lord, what I know not, teach Thou me."(3) If you are in the faith, Christ is in you as your Sanctifier.(4) As a Comforter.
Know ye not your own selves
1. Astonishment, in view of their real self-ignorance.
2. Irony, in view of their pretended self-knowledge. We do not know our own selves.
I. PHYSICALLY. If men thoroughly understood the body and perfectly obeyed the laws of physical life, probably most would attain to the full threescore years and ten. How strange, nay, how sinful, is this ignorance! True, we excuse it by our reliance on medical science. And the excuse would be good if we employed physicians to keep us in health, rather than to aid us in sickness.
II. INTELLECTUALLY. Many men practically ignore their intellectual faculties. Their only self-culture consists in taking care of the body. Some men never think at all. And even among those who recognise their intellectual nature, how strangely is it treated! Every man has his special intellectual gift, which often he does not discover till too late to develop and employ to profit.
1. Self-knowledge here promotes comfort. Of the passions and emotions which belong to our moral nature, some are painful and some pleasurable, and our happiness depends upon quickening the play of the latter and diminishing the power of the former. The soul of man is a dwelling of many apartments. In it love may be supposed to have a fair banqueting hall — anger a dark cell; faith and hope to have glorified chambers looking heavenward, and the lower passions dungeons of gloom. And possessed of such a house, how foolish to practically ignore those loftier and lovelier pavilions of gladness — deliberately choosing to abide in the dungeons of envy, anger, impurity, rather than to sit at love's great banquet, or to recline in the pavilion where benevolence makes sweet music, or to ascend to the bright chamber of faith and hope, and look forth upon heaven from their open casements.
2. Our character depends upon it. It is marvellous how little most men know morally of themselves! And this, not because they cannot, but because they will not. They do not look carefully after those favourite or easily-besetting sins which colour, yea, constitute character. Reading himself wrongly, a man manages himself wrongly. Every man, possessed of a moral nature, whose development must be into immense growths either of good or evil, should understand it thoroughly, that the flowers and fruits of its culture may be good and glorious.
1. There are persons who think themselves Christian, but are not. Such self-deception is altogether unnecessary. Surely if there be anything made plain in the Bible, it is the evidence of true Christian character. A true Christian —(1) Loves God. Believes in Christ — not merely with a speculative faith but with a loving trust as his Saviour.(3) Sincerely repents of sin.(4) Loves the duties of religion.(5) Loves his brethren. And he knows that he hath passed from death unto life because he does so. Now these are the obvious evidences of regeneration. How strange, then, is it that men should be self-deceived!
2. There are some not thinking themselves Christians, who are yet real children of God. Sometimes this self-distrust arises from —(1) A temperament constitutionally gloomy. The man who looks habitually on the dark side of everything, of course looks on the dark side of his religious character.(2) Bodily infirmity. What the man wants to make him a hopeful and joyous Christian is bodily regimen and exercise, and not theological casuistry.(3) An over-estimate of the particular manner or circumstances of conversion. They can indeed perceive a radical change in their own feelings and conduct; but the manner and manifestation of the change does not satisfy their conscience. As if it mattered how a blind man's eyes were opened! or with what instrumentality the drowning man was saved!(4) Assuming false tests and standards of Christian character. They entertain extravagant notions of the effects even of regeneration. They have read the biographies of distinguished Christians, wherein it seems as if life were uninterrupted in its wrapt communion with God, but wherein there is no mention of faults and failings. And thus the humble man, finding his own experience so different, turns away in despair. Conclusion: The text appeals —
1. To the self-deceived. To be in the Church without piety is of all conditions the most dreadful. Not because false professors are more sinful than other men — though even this may be true, but because there is less hope of their conviction and conversion. Let us, then, be willing to know the very worst of our character and condition!
2. To the self-distrustful. Your trust for salvation is not in what you are, but what Christ is. If, with a penitent, and believing, and loving heart, you cast yourselves upon the Redeemer, then you know you are Christians! For He says you shall "in no wise be cast out," and "shall never perish! " And thus, "knowing your own selves," your place should be in Christ's visible Church.
3. To the openly impenitent. In one sense, indeed, these men do "know their own selves." They know that they are unconverted. They stand boldly in the ranks of rebellion against Jehovah. But "Know ye not your own selves?" that you are not beasts that perish, but immortal creatures! Two eternal worlds watch you and strive for you. Come to Christ Jesus for life.
4. To the Church. The text intimates that between the professing people of God and the world there is so little visible difference, that it is difficult to distinguish them. Surely, then, it is time for us to rise into higher frames and spheres of religious life!
(C. Wadsworth, D. D.)
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