Each one should test his own work. Then he will have reason to boast in himself alone, and not in someone else.
I. THERE ARE STRONG INDUCEMENTS FOR FORMING AN UNDULY FAVOURABLE OPINION OF ONE'S SELF. Self-knowledge is a difficult acquisition. We cannot get the right perspective. The effort of turning the mind in upon itself is arduous. Then we are inclined to take imagination and desire for direct perception, i.e. to think we possess qualities which we only picture in thought; or to measure our faculties by our inclinations, to suppose that the wish to do certain things carries with it the power. E.g. an enthusiast for the violin is likely to suppose he can handle the instrument musically before other people are of that opinion. The very habit of thinking about ourselves causes a growing sense of self-importance. Moreover, by an unconscious selection we are led to dwell on the favourable features of our own characters, and leave out of account the unfavourable.
II. A HIGH OPINION OF ONE'S SELF IS COMMONLY FOUND TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH A LOW CONDITION OF REAL WORTH. Not invariably, for we sometimes find men of high endowments painfully self-assertive, either because they know that their merits have not been duly recognized, or because their vanity has been excited by the applause of their friends. Such cases reveal a weakness, and strike us as peculiarly unfortunate, for the men of worth would be wiser to wait for the acknowledgment which their merits by themselves will ultimately command had they but patience enough, or at the worst should be above caring overmuch for any such acknowledgment. Still, the merit may be real. In most cases, however, it is those who are least who boast the loudest. The man of little knowledge thinks he knows everything; wide knowledge reveals the awful vastness of the unknown, and impresses profound humility. So the holiest man is most conscious of his own sinfulness. At best, too, what right have we to think much of ourselves when all we have comes from God-our natural abilities as gifts of Providence, our spiritual attainments as graces of the Spirit?
III. AN UNDUE OPINION OF ONE'S SELF IS NOTHING BUT SELF-DECEPTION. It cannot long impose upon others. The world is not inclined to attach much weight to a man's own evidence in favour of himself. (Hypocrisy, or the deliberate effort to deceive others, is out of the question here, as that implies a knowledge of the falseness of our pretensions, while we are now considering the honest belief in them.) Such self-deception is unfortunate,
(1) because it will put us in a false position, incline us to make wrong claims, and to attempt the unattainable, and so result in disastrous failure;
(2) because it precludes the endeavour to improve ourselves;
(3) because it destroys the Christ-like grace of humility;
(4) because it provokes the ridicule, scorn, or even enmity of others. - W.F.A.
But let every man prove his own work.
(H. G. Salter.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE FALSE STANDARD OF CHARACTER. There is a very common mode of judging of ourselves and our friends which is in itself utterly false and unsatisfactory; I mean that mode of estimating character and works, not by what these are in themselves, but by what they are in comparison with the life of others. "I may not be what I ought to be," a man says; "but, side by side with my neighbour, I have no cause to be ashamed." The picture seems fairer if it has a dark background; and we fall into the habit of measuring our own goodness by other men's want of goodness. Instead of making conscience the standard of duty, they practically make other men's want of conscience the standard. They have no sorrow or compunction for anything they have done or left undone, so long as they can point to others who are more to blame than themselves — as if health were to be measured, not by the pulse and vigour of the patient, but by the feverishness and insensibility of another patient lying at his side!
II. THE TRUE STANDARD OF CHARACTER. Let every man prove his own work; let him test it on its own merits and for its own sake; and let it be judged, not by the indolence and failures of others, but by its own character and worth. This method of judgment, whereby every man must; prove his own work, is in accordance with facts of the spiritual world; for "every man must bear his own burden." The character is the outcome of a man's life and labours. What the man is, is really the fruit of what he does, and of what he thinks and speaks day by day. The character of every man is the measure of his works. The character will continue to tell what a man's life has been, and what in its inmost nature it continues to be. And in this matter each man bears his own burden — a burden in which others may sympathize, but which no human sympathy can relieve him of. God has made visible in man His eternal law, that every man's own work is proved, so as to give him rejoicing or sorrow, as the case may be, in himself, and not in another. And there is all the more need to test and prove our own work, that the time for doing our work is fast passing away. Our influence is gradually, and in modes unnoticed and unseen, pervading all around us; and that influence for good and evil is what we are responsible for.
(A. Watson, D. D.)
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.Mind is the principal distinguishing attribute of man. This undying principle enables us to reflect on our condition as accountable creatures, and on the connection between our present state and final destiny. It is to man, thus constituted, that Divine revelation is addressed. It regards him as capable of reasoning as well as feeling. Every man is required to prove his own work. Those who most need this counsel will probably least feel their need of it, which is the strongest argument for attempting to enforce it. The text prescribes an important measure, and enforces it by weighty considerations. Let us advert —
I. TO THE MEASURE WHICH IT PRESCRIBES. "Let every man prove his own work." This seems to imply that every man should be seriously concerned to ascertain his own real character and condition before God; and that in order to this he should carefully examine both his principles and practice, his heart and life, and thus prove his own work. Probably there is in these words an allusion to the process of proving the genuineness of metals, by putting them to the test.
1. The text supposes the existence of an authorized test. In the absence of a test the process of proof is impracticable. Every man must have some rule by which to try his work, or he cannot prove his own work. The Word of God, and nothing but the Word of God, is the authorized test of Christian character.
2. It requires the application of this test by every man to himself. The application of this test includes two things, namely, the examination of the Scriptures, and the examination of ourselves by the Scriptures. If either of these is neglected, the examination is but partial.
II. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH THIS MEASURE IS ENFORCED. Beyond the obvious importance and necessity of this self-scrutiny, the apostle adduces two considerations to prompt every man to the adoption of the measure.
1. He adduces the advantage that may arise from it at present. "Then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." The apostle supposes a favourable result of the investigation, and in this case he affirms it would yield peculiar satisfaction and joy. He whose own work is thus proved to be genuine has just ground for rejoicing.(1) As it respects the question decided. Many questions about which we often perplex our minds and waste our time are after all but trifling, comparatively very trifling! But in the case before us the question is of the highest importance, of infinite moment. The extremes of bliss and woe, immortal bliss and endless woe, are involved in this question.(2) As it respects the manner of deciding it. "Then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." His rejoicing arises from the testimony of his own conscience, and not from the opinion of others respecting him. He has not rested in the vain conceit of his own imagination.
2. He adduces the nature of the proceedings of the last great day. "For every man shall bear his own burden."Having endeavoured to explain the measure which the text prescribes, and the motives by which it enforces this measure, I shall close by —
1. Urging its immediate adoption.
2. By attempting to obviate sonic difficulties attending it.In undertaking and prosecuting an examination of ourselves, we shall probably discover many and great defects. If the trial be impartial, this will certainly be the case.
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)I. A DUTY. Our work is good, and approved by God, if it have —
1. A good ground, viz., the will and Word of God, and not will-worship and human invention.
2. A good performance. Sincere, as in the presence of God, and with an honest heart.
3. A good end.
(1) (2) II. A PRIVILEGE. 1. Independence of men. 2. The blessed testimony of a good conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12). Hence learn —(1) That if we would have a light heart we must approve ourselves unto God.(2) That the common estimate of religion as gloomy is false (Proverbs 15:15; 1 Peter 1:18).(3) That there is much spurious joy in the world, which arises, not from within, but without. There are those (a) (b) (c) (d) (R. Cudworth.)
(2) II. A PRIVILEGE. 1. Independence of men. 2. The blessed testimony of a good conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12). Hence learn —(1) That if we would have a light heart we must approve ourselves unto God.(2) That the common estimate of religion as gloomy is false (Proverbs 15:15; 1 Peter 1:18).(3) That there is much spurious joy in the world, which arises, not from within, but without. There are those (a) (b) (c) (d) (R. Cudworth.)
II. A PRIVILEGE.
1. Independence of men.
2. The blessed testimony of a good conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12). Hence learn —(1) That if we would have a light heart we must approve ourselves unto God.(2) That the common estimate of religion as gloomy is false (Proverbs 15:15; 1 Peter 1:18).(3) That there is much spurious joy in the world, which arises, not from within, but without. There are those
(a) (b) (c) (d) (R. Cudworth.)