“Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates.”
2 Corinthians 13:5
I HAD intended to address you this morning from the third title given to our blessed Redeemer, in the verse we have considered twice before–“Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God.” But owing to excruciating pain and continual sickness, I have been unable to gather my thoughts together and therefore I feel constrained to address you on a subject which has often been upon my heart and not infrequently upon my lips and concerning which, I dare say, I have admonished a very large proportion of this audience before. You will find the text in the thirteenth chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians, at the fifth verse–“Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?”–a solemn text that we cannot preach too impressively, or too frequently meditate upon.
The Corinthians were the critics of the Apostles' age. They took to themselves great credit for skill in learning and in language and as most men do who are wise in their own esteem, they made a wrong use of their wisdom and learning–they began to criticize the Apostle Paul. They criticized his style. “His letters,” they said, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible.” No, not content with that, they went so far as to deny his Apostleship and for once in his life, the Apostle Paul found himself compelled to “become a fool in glorying. For,” says he, “you have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chief Apostles, though I am nothing.” The Apostle wrote two letters to them–in both he is compelled to upbraid them while he defends himself and when he had fully disarmed his opponents and wrested the sword of their criticism out of their hands he pointed it at their own breasts, saying, “Examine yourselves.” You have disputed my doctrine. Examine whether you are in the faith. You have made me prove my Apostleship. Prove your own selves. Use the powers which you have been so wrongfully exercising upon me for a little season upon your own characters.
And now, my dear Friends, the fault of the Corinthians is the fault of the present age. Let not anyone of you, as he goes out of the House of God say unto his neighbor, “How did you like the preacher? What did you think of the sermon this morning?” Is that the question you should ask as you retire from God’s House? Do you come here to judge God’s servants? I know it is but a small thing unto us to be judged of man’s judgment–our judgment is of the Lord our God–to our own Master we shall stand or fall. But O men, you should ask a question more profitable unto yourselves than this! You should say, “Did not such-and-such a speech strike me? Did not that exactly consort with my condition? Was that not a rebuke that I deserve, a word of reproof or of exhortation? Let me take unto myself that which I have heard and let me not judge the preacher, for He is God’s messenger to my soul–I came up here to be judged of God’s Word and not to judge God’s Word myself.” But since there is in all our hearts a great backwardness to selfexamination, I shall lay out myself for a few minutes this morning earnestly to exhort myself and all of you, to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith.
First, I shall expound my text. Secondly, I shall enforce it. And thirdly, I shall try and help you to carry it into practice here and on the spot.
- First, I shall EXPOUND MY TEXT. Though in truth it needs no exposition, for it is very simple, yet by studying it and pondering it, our hearts may become more deeply affected with its touching appeal. “Examine yourselves.” Who does not understand that word? And yet, by a few suggestions you may know its meaning more perfectly.
“Examine.” That is a scholastic idea. A boy has been to school a certain time and his master puts him through his paces–questions him, to see whether he has made any progress–whether he knows anything. Christian, catechize your heart. Question it, to see whether it has been growing in grace–question it, to see if it knows anything of vital godliness or not. Examine it–pass your heart through a stern examination as to what it knows and what it does not know by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
Again–it is a military idea. “Examine yourselves,” or renew yourselves. Go through the rank and file of your actions and examine all your motives. Just as the captain on review day is not content with merely surveying the men from a distance, but must look at all their accoutrements, so do you look well to yourselves. Examine yourselves with the most scrupulous care.
And once again, this is a legal idea. “Examine yourselves.” You have seen the witness in the box, when the lawyer has been examining him, or as we have it, cross-examining him. Now, mark–never was there a rogue less trustworthy or more deceitful than your own heart. And as when you are cross-examining a dishonest person–one that has ulterior motives to serve–you set traps for him to try and find him out in a lie–so do with your own heart. Question it backward and forward, this way and that way. For if there is a loophole for escape, if there is any pretense for self-deception, rest assured your treacherous heart will be ready enough to avail itself of it.
And yet once more–this is a traveler’s idea. I find in the original, it has this meaning–“Go right through yourselves.” As a traveler who has to write a book upon a country is not content to go round its borders merely, but goes, as it were, from Dan to Beersheba, right through the country. He climbs the hilltop, where he bathes his forehead in the sunshine. He goes down into the deep valleys, where he can only see the blue sky like a strip between the lofty summits of the mountains. He is not content to gaze upon the broad river unless he traces it to the spring from where it rises. He will not be satisfied with viewing the products of the surface of the earth, but he must discover the minerals that lie within its deep.
Now, do the same with your heart. “Examine yourselves.” Go right through yourselves from the beginning to the end. 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. Look not only at your performance, which is but the product of the soil, but dig into your heart and examine the vital principle. “Examine yourselves.” This is a very big word–a word that needs thinking over. And I am afraid there are very few, if any of us, who ever come up to the full weight of this solemn exhortation–“Examine yourselves.”
There is another word you will see a little further on, if you will kindly look at the text. “Prove your own selves.” That means more than self-examination–let me try to show the difference between the two. A man is about to buy a horse. He examines it. He looks at it. He thinks that possibly he may find out some flaw and therefore he carefully examines it. But after he has examined it, if he is a prudent man, he says to the person of whom he is about to buy it–“I must prove this horse–will you let me have it for a week, for a month, or for some given time, that I may prove the animal before I actually invest in him?
You see, there is more in proof than in examination. It is a deeper word and goes to the very root and quick of the matter. I saw but yesterday an illustration of this. A ship, before she is launched, is examined–when launched she is carefully looked at. And yet before she is allowed to go far out to sea, she takes a trial trip. She is proved and tried and when she has roughed it a little and it has been discovered that she will obey the helm, that the engines will work correctly and that all is in right order, she goes out on her long voyages.
Now, “prove yourselves.” Do not merely sit in your closet and look at yourselves alone, but go out into this busy world and see what kind of piety you have. Remember, many a man’s religion will stand examination that will not stand proof. We may sit at home and look at our religion and say, “Well, I think this will do!” It is like cotton prints that you can buy in sundry shops–they are warranted fast colors and so they seem when you look at them, but they are not washable when you get them home. There is many a man’s religion like that. 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 colors soon begin to run and the man discovers that the thing was not what he took it to be.
You know in Scripture we have an account of certain very foolish men that would not go to a great supper but, foolish as they were, there was one of them who said, “I have bought a yoke of oxen and I go to prove them.” Thus he had at least worldly wisdom enough to prove his oxen. So do you prove yourselves. Try to plow in the furrows of duty–see whether you can be accustomed to the yoke of Gospel servitude. Be not ashamed to put yourselves through your paces. Try yourself in the furnace of daily life, lest haply the mere examination of the chamber should detect you to be a cheat and you should after all prove to be a castaway. “Examine yourselves; prove your own selves.”
There is a sentence which I omitted, namely, this one–“Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith.” “Oh,” says one, “You may examine me whether I am in the faith. I am an orthodox Christian, fully up to the standard, good genuine weight. There is no fear whatever of my coming up to the mark and going a little beyond it, too.” Ah, but my Friend, that is not the question! I would have you orthodox, for a man who is heterodox in his opinions will most liked be heterodox in his actions. But the question now is not whether you believe the Truth of God–but whether you are in the Truth of God! Just to give you an illustration of what I mean–there is the ark. And a number of men around it. “Ah,” says one, “I believe that ark will swim.” “Oh,” says another, “I believe that ark is made of gopher-wood and is strong from stem to stern. I am quite sure that ark will float, come what may. I am a firm believer in that ark.”
Yes, but when the rain descended and the flood came, it was not believing the ark as a matter of fact–it was being in the ark that saved men and only those that were in it escaped in that dread day of deluge. So there may be some of you that say of the Gospel of Christ, “I believe it to be of a particular character,” and you may be quite correct in your judgment. You may say, “I think it to be that which honors God and casts down the pride of man.” Herein, too, you may think quite right. But mark, it is not having an orthodox faith, but it is being in the faith, being in Christ, taking refuge in Him as in the ark, for he that only has the faith as a thing ab extra and without being in the faith, shall perish in the day of God’s anger.
But he that lives by faith, he who feels that faith operates upon him and is to him a living principle. He who realizes that faith is his dwelling place, that there he can abide, that it is the very atmosphere he breathes and the very girdle of his loins to strengthen him–such a man is in the faith. But, we repeat again, all the orthodoxy in the world, apart from its effect upon the heart as a vital principle, will not save a man. “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves.”
“Know you 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. You have been busying yourself with irrelevant affairs, while the main business has been neglected and ruined. “Know you not your own selves?” And especially know you not this fact, that Jesus Christ must be in your heart, formed and living there, or else you are reprobates? That is, you are worthless persons, vain pretenders, spurious professors. Your religion is but a vanity and a show. “Reprobate silver shall men call you, because the Lord has rejected you.”
Now, what is it to have Jesus Christ in you? The Roman Catholic hangs a crucifix on his bosom. True Christians carry the cross in their hearts. And a cross inside the heart, my Friends, is one of the sweetest cures for a crosses on the back. If you have a cross in your heart–Christ crucified in you, the hope of glory–all the cross of this world’s troubles will seem to you light enough and you will easily be able to sustain them. Christ in the heart means Christ believed in, Christ beloved, Christ trusted, Christ espoused, Christ communed with, Christ as our daily food and ourselves as the temple and palace wherein Jesus Christ daily walks. Ah, there are many here that are total strangers to the meaning of this phrase. They do not know what it is to have Jesus Christ in them. Though you know a little about Christ on Calvary, you know nothing about Christ in the heart. Now, remember, that Christ on Calvary will save no man unless Christ is in the heart. The Son of Mary, born in the manger, will not save a soul unless He is also born in your hearts and lives there–your joy, your strength and your consolation. “Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?”
II. The second point was to ENFORCE THE TEXT. I have proved it. Now I am to enforce it. And here is the tug of war. May the Spirit of the living God drive the sword in up to its very hilt this morning, that now the power of God may be felt in every heart, searching and trying the reins. “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith.”
“Examine yourselves,” first, because it is a matter of the very highest importance. Small tradesmen may take coppers over the counter without much examination. But when it comes to gold, they will ring it well for they could not afford to lose a sovereign out of their little gains. And if it comes to a five pound note there is an anxious holding it up to the window to see if the watermark is there and whether all is correct, for it might be ruin to the man if he lost a sum so large. Ah, but, merchants and tradesmen, if you are deceived in the matter of your own souls, you are deceived, indeed. Look well to the title deeds of your estate. Look well to your life insurance policies and to all the business that you do. 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, your own soul, your never dying SOUL! Will you risk that?
In times of panic, men will scarcely trust their fellows. I would to God there was a panic this day, so that no man would trust himself. You may trust your fellows far more safely than you may trust yourselves. Will you think, Brothers and Sisters, what your soul is? “The life is more than meat and the body than raiment.” But the soul is as much more to be accounted of than the body, as the body is more important than the raiment. Here are my clothes–let me be robbed of my garments. If my body is secure, what does it matter? And as for my body, what is it, after all, but the rag that enshrines and covers my soul? Let that be sick, let that become like a worn-out vesture, I can afford to lose my body. But, O God, I cannot afford to have my soul cast into Hell! What a frightful hazard is that which you and I are running, if we do not examine ourselves! It is an everlasting hazard. It is a hazard of Heaven or of Hell, of God’s eternal favor, or of His everlasting curse. Well might the Apostle say, “Examine yourselves.”
Again–“Examine yourselves,” because if you make a mistake you can never rectify it, except in this world. A bankrupt may have lost a fortune once and yet may make another. But make bankruptcy–spiritual bankruptcy–in this life and you will never have an opportunity to trade again for Heaven. A great general may lose one battle but with skill and courage he may retrieve his honor by winning another. But get defeated in the battle of this life and you can no more gird on your armor, you are defeated forever–the day is lost and there is no hope of your being able to gain it again, or so much as to make the attempt. Now or never, Man! Remember that. Your soul’s eternal state hangs on the turn of today. Loiter your time away, waste your abilities, take your religion at second hand–of your priest, of your minister, or of your friend–and in the next world you shall everlastingly rue the error, but you shall have no hope of amending it–
“Fixed is their everlasting state,
Could man repent, ‘tis then too late.
There are no acts of pardon passed
In the cold grave, to which we haste;
But darkness, death and long despair,
Reign in eternal silence there.”
“Examine yourselves,” again, because many have been mistaken. That is a matter which I will undertake to affirm upon my own authority, certain that each one of you can confirm it by your own observation. How many in this world think themselves to be godly when they are not? You have in the circle of your own friends persons making a profession of whom you often stand in astonishment and wonder how they dare to do it. Friend, if others have been mistaken, may not you be, too? If some here and there fall into an error, may not you also do the same? Are you better than they? No, in no way. You may be mistaken also. Methinks I see the rocks on which many souls have been lost–the rocks of presumption and the siren song of self-confidence entices you on to those rocks this morning. Stay, mariner, stay, I beseech you! Let yonder bleached bones keep you back. Many have been lost, many are lost now and are wailing at this present hour their everlasting ruin and their loss is to be traced to nothing more than this–that they never examined themselves whether they were in the faith.
And here let me appeal to each person now present. Do not tell me that you are an old Church member. I am glad to hear it. But still, I beseech you, examine yourself, for a man may be a professor of religion thirty or forty years and yet there may come a trial when his religion shall snap after all and prove to be a rotten branch of the forest. Tell me not you are a deacon–that you may be and yet you may be damnably deceived. Yes, and whisper not to me that you are a minister. My Brethren in the ministry–we may lay aside our cassocks to wear belts of flames in Hell. We may go from our pulpit having preached to others what we never knew ourselves and have to join the everlasting wailings of souls we have helped to delude. May God save us from such a doom as that! But let no man fold his arms and say, “I need not examine yourself.” For there is not a man here, or anywhere, who has not good cause to test and try himself today.
Furthermore–examine yourselves, because God will examine you. In the hand of God there is the scale and the balance. You shall not be taken into Heaven for what you profess to be. But you shall be weighed–everyone of you put into the scale. What a moment will that be with me and with you when we are in God’s great scale! Surely were it not for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for a certainty that we shall be clothed in His righteousness at last, we might all tremble at the thought of ever being there–lest we should have to come out of the scale with this verdict, “Tekel,”–(“Mene, ver by appearance, but every vessel must be purified in the fire. We must each one of us pass through a most searching test and scrutiny. Beloved, if our hearts condemn us, how much more shall God condemn us? If we are afraid to examine ourselves, how can we not tremble at the thought of the dread searching of God? Some of you feel that you are condemned this very day by a poor creature like myself–how much more, then, shall you be condemned when God, robed in thunder, shall summon you and all your fellows to the last infallible judgment? Oh, may God help us now to examine ourselves!
And I have yet one more reason to give. Examine yourselves, my dear Friends, because if you are in doubt now, the speediest way to get rid of your doubts and fears is by self-examination. I believe that many persons are always doubting their eternal condition because they do not examine themselves. Self-examination is the safest cure for one half the doubts and fears that vex God’s people. Look at the captain over yonder. He is in his ship and he says to the sailors, “You must sail very warily and carefully and be upon your watch, for to tell you the truth, I do not know where I am. I do not exactly know my latitude and longitude and there may be rocks very close ahead and we may soon have the ship broken up.” He goes down into the cabin, he searches the charts, he takes an inspection of the heavens, he comes up again and he 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. There is no need for you to be in any trouble, searching has satisfied me.”
And how happy will it be with you, if, after having searched yourself you can say, “I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.” Why, then you will go along merrily and joyfully because the search has had a good result. And what if it should have a bad result? Better that you should find it out now than find it out too late. One of the prayers I often pray and desire to pray as long as I live, is this–“Lord, let me know the worst of my case. If I have been living in a false comfort, Lord, rend it away. Let me know just what I am and where I am and rather let me think too harshly of my condition before You, than think too securely and so be ruined by presumption.” May that be a prayer of each heart and be heard in Heaven!
III. And now, how ARE YOU TO SEARCH YOURSELVES? I am to try and help you, though it must be very briefly.
First, if you would examine yourselves, begin with your public life. Are you dishonest? Can you thieve? Can you swear? Are you given to drunkenness, uncleanness, blasphemy, taking God’s name in vain and violation of His Holy Day? Make short work with yourself. There will be no need to go into any further tests. “He that does these things has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.” You are reprobate. The wrath of God abides on you. Your state is fearful. You are accursed now and unless you repent you must be accursed forever.
And yet, Christian, in spite of your many sins, can you 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 Professor, by your works you shall be judged at last. Your works cannot save you, but they can prove that you are saved–or if they are evil works, they can prove that you are not saved at all. And here I must say everyone of us has good cause to tremble, for our outward acts are not what we would have them to be. Let us go to our houses and fall upon our face and cry again, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And let us seek for more grace that henceforth our lives may be more consistent and more in accordance with the spirit of Christ.
Again–another set of tests–private tests. How about your private life? Do you live without prayer, without searching the Scriptures? Do you live without thoughts of God? Can you live as an habitual stranger to the Most High, having no love to Him and no fear of Him? If so, I make short work of the matter–you are “in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.” But if you are right at heart, you will be able to say, “I could not live without prayer. I have to weep over my prayers, but still I should weep ten times more if I did not pray. I do love God’s Word, it is my meditation all the day. I love His people. I love His House. And I can say that my hands are often lifted upward towards Him. And when my heart is busy with this world’s affairs, it is often going up to His Throne.” A good sign, Christian, a good sign for you. If you can go through this test, you may hope that all is well.
But go a little deeper. Have you ever wept over your lost condition? Have you ever bemoaned your lost estate before God? Have you ever tried to save yourself and found it a failure? And have you been driven to rely simply, wholly and entirely on Christ? If so, then you have passed the test well enough.
And have you now faith in Christ–a faith that makes you love Him? A faith that enables you to trust Him in the dark hour? Can you say of a truth that you have a secret affection towards the Most High–that you love His Son, that your desire is after His ways, that you feel the influence of the Divine Spirit and seek every day to experience the fellowship of the Holy Spirit more and more?
And lastly, can you say that Jesus Christ is in you? If not, you are reprobate. Sharp though that word is, you are a reprobate. But if Jesus Christ is in your heart, though your heart sometimes is so dark that you can scarcely tell He is there, you are accepted in the Beloved and you may “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
I intended to have enlarged. But it is impossible for me to go further. I must therefore dismiss you with a sacred blessing. Adapted from The C. H. Spurgeon Collection, Version 1.0, Ages Software, 1.800.297.4307