William Nicholson, 1862
"Let a man examine himself." 1 Corinthians 11:28
"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 Corinthians 13:5
Self-examination is a duty of great importance, and which requires to be discharged with the utmost care and fidelity. It is a duty sadly neglected. If it were more regarded . . .
there would be more individual holiness and happiness,
there would be less formality and apathy in the Church,
religion would be rendered more attractive to the world.
If a man regularly investigates his secular affairs, he knows his state, and acts accordingly. If he neglects the investigation, the results may be painful.
I. The Duty Enjoined."Let a man examine himself."
To "examine" means to inspect, to make trial, to enter upon a strict inquiry — and, for this purpose, to commence with our own hearts. We are also exhorted to "prove ourselves," to try ourselves as metals are tried: if found pure, they are approved; if not, they are rejected, and esteemed as reprobate. Jeremiah 6:30.
This duty is personal. It begins at home, where the duty is required. Some are apt to examine other people uncharitably and with censoriousness. It is possible for us to see the mote in our brother's eye — when there is a beam in our own!
Let us examine ourselves,
1. As to our acceptance with God.
Have we ever been convinced of our lost estate?
Have we ever felt ourselves to be spiritually helpless?
Has Christ ever been revealed to us as our Savior?
Have we been reconciled to God by faith in him?
Have we ever rejoiced in pardoning love, justifying grace, and the privileges of adoption?
2. As to our faith.
Do we heartily believe the doctrines of the Gospel?
Do we live upon them?
Can we say, like Paul, "I am crucified"? Galatians 2:20.
Are we free from a self-righteous spirit?
Has our faith any fruits or works — to prove its vitality? James 2.
This is a point of such importance as to involve our salvation. If we are in the faith, all the other graces will follow in their train.
If not in the faith, it matters not what else we are, our hopes and our work are all in vain. John 3:36.
3. As to our hope. If faith is right, then hope will be right. Hebrews 11:1. There can be no hope without faith.
Does hope lift up our head in trouble?
Does it deaden us to the world?
4. As to our connection with the Church.
Is the church any better for us?
Are we an honor to it, or an impediment to it?
Do we desire, seek, pray for, and contribute to, its prosperity?
5. As to our behavior in the world.
Are we separate or conformed?
Do we shine in it?
Do we seek its salvation?
6. As to the trials of life.
Do we murmur and repine?
Are we patient?
Do we come out of them as gold refined?
II. The Manner Self-examination.
1. With solemnity. Self-examination is a weighty affair — the business of the soul. It has an aspect on eternity!
2. By comparison. Compare our disposition, spirit, and conduct — with the preceptive part of God's word — with the examples of Christian conduct recorded there.
3. Impartially. Not attaching too much importance to our infirmities — not apologizing on account of our circumstances. Judge impartially, as in the presence of the heart-searching God.
4. Frequently. When we read and hear the Gospel — apply it.
At the close of each day — on that bed, where, before morning, we may die.
On the Lord's day.
Before attending to the ordinance of the Lord's supper. See 1 Corinthians 11:28.
5. Prayerfully. Invoke God to do it for you, and to suggest to you your duty. Pray for forgiveness — for quickening — for strength — for faith, and vigorous life. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139:23-24
III. The Important Advantages Resulting from the Discharge of the Duty of Self-examination.
It is essential to our growth in grace, our interest, and felicity. We need it. We are so liable to err — to become unwatchful — to neglect our duty.
Self-examination will lead . . .
to healthy Christian growth.
Self-examination will warn us of danger, and lead to our deliverance and safety.
The mariner keeps a lookout, throws out his line, makes his observations, and repairs the smallest injuries.
Just so, in the voyage of life, a Christian who would not make shipwreck of his faith, must be watchful and diligent, and make it his express business to look into his state, and ascertain his progress.
Self-examination will lead to greater spiritual enjoyment. It will induce preparation for death, and give confidence and hope in the prospect of eternity