SELF-EXAMINATION is a duty enjoined upon us both by reason and Scripture. Observe with what vehemence the apostle enforces it, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Cor. 13:5. This, recollect, was addressed to professing Christians, and is an exercise in which all true believers have ever practiced themselves. No one can be really in earnest about the salvation of his soul, who never looks with solicitude into his spiritual state.
There are two ends for which this duty is to be performed-first, to ascertain the sincerity and reality of our religion; and, secondly, its condition. In other words, to inquire whether we be in the faith, and also in what degree we are bringing forth, or neglecting to bring forth, its fruits. Somewhat analogous to what takes place in the conduct of the careful tradesman, who inspects his affairs to find out, in the first place, whether he is solvent; and in the next, what is the amount of his profits, and how, by avoiding past errors, or making up discovered deficiencies, he can increase his prosperity.
So a diligent, watchful, careful professor, is anxious to know not only that he is a Christian, but how his religion can be improved and increased. It is true, some are happily partakers of so large a measure of the well-founded assurance of faith and hope, as to have few doubts about their state; and, indeed, little cause for doubts. They have so much of the spirit of adoption, as constantly to enjoy the witness of the Spirit of God, that they are his children. It is not so, however, with all Christians; and even those with whom it is, may occasionally examine with profit, the state of their souls, if it be only to increase their confidence in the reasons of the hope that is in them.
How momentous is the question, “Am I really a child of God!” What consequences hang upon the decision of such a matter! The very possibility of self-deception here, is truly horrifying. To wake up from the sleep of death in hell instead of heaven, and find that we have made a mistake which requires an eternity fully to understand, and an eternity adequately to deplore! Such a mistake is made, it is to be feared, by multitudes in every age. And when we consider the deceitfulness of our hearts, our proneness to self-love, and the easiness of making a profession in this tranquil age of the church, there is such imminent peril of a fatal error in our own case, as should send us all to our closets, our hearts, our Bible, and our God-to examine whether we “are in the faith.” It is a matter which none should take for granted. John Angell James. The True Christian.
More on this tomorrow.