“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
This important admonition is to the saints generally, as well as to the church at Corinth, unto which it was originally addressed. All the saints feel more or less inclined to examine themselves in regard to their hope, their experience, and the reality of their interest in the cleansing blood and justifying righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ; and in this selfexamination they are generally led to review their first religious exercises, what they experienced in their translation from darkness into the light, liberty and joy of the gospel; and this is right, and has often served to renew their strength and confidence in the assurance that what they have experienced was certainly the work of God. But it is also important that we should have the witness that we are in the faith, as well as in hope of the gospel. For now abideth faith, hope and charity, &c. So far as faith is considered a vital principle, or fruit of the Spirit, we cannot entertain a genuine gospel hope in its absence, for both faith and hope are the fruits of that same Spirit which is born of God. But we presume the apostle in this admonition has reference to the doctrine or principles of the faith which was once delivered to the saints, and for which they are commanded to contend earnestly. As these disciples possessed Christ in them, they could not possible be destitute of the grace of faith; but from the many severe reproofs which he dealt out to them in both epistles, it appears evident that they were faulty in regard to the doctrine of faith and the practice corresponding thereto. It is equally certain that God’s dear children in the present day are liable to fall into the same faults, or faults equally incompatible with the high vocation wherewith they are called of the Lord. The term faith is often used by Paul to signify the gospel, in distinction from the law, or legal dispensation. For the law is not of faith; but the gospel is a dispensation of promises and provisions of grace and salvation, which, in order for us to enjoy, we must have faith to lay hold of them. Thus, “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” It is altogether opposed to the doctrine of salvation by works, for the apostle says it is of faith that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. - Rom. iv. 16. Paul had told the Corinthians of some who concerning the faith had made shipwreck, and others whose heresy in denying the resurrection of the dead had overturned the faith of some. The grace of faith cannot be wrecked nor overturned, for it is the faith of Jesus Christ, and it overcomes the world; but in regard to the doctrine of the gospel, as a system purely of grace, the saints are liable to depart, at least to some extent from it, and thereby suffer loss. How important then, that they should examine themselves in regard to what they hold or countenance as the doctrine of Christ. In this self-examination they require a more reliable standard to judge by than the decisions of learned doctors of divinity, creeds or commentaries written by uninspired men. Each of the members of Christ being personally interested for himself in the matter, instead of submitting to the judgment of another, must himself make the examination in the fear of God. We, as Old School Baptists, hold that the last will and testament of our Lord Jesus Christ is the divinely authorized standard of our faith. Whatever we believe religiously, or in regard to the gospel, must be tested by what is written in the New Testament. However popular or palatable a sentiment may be, if it is not sustained by that standard, it is to be rejected. Whatever that standard sustains, however unpopular and unpalatable to the flesh, must be regarded as the faith of God’s elect - the faith which was once delivered to the saints, and the faith for which the saints are required to contend earnestly.
The Spirit also which God has implanted in his saints, searches all things, even the deep things of God, and is also a witness in point to establish the fact of our being in the faith; but we must try the spirits, because many false prophets have gone out in the world. If the spirit we possess be of God, it will perfectly accord with the testimony of the Scriptures, and thus afford us two witnesses, by which every word shall be established; and by these two witnesses, the word and the Spirit, we shall be able to prove our own selves, whether we be in the faith. Having this proof we have nothing to fear on the subject of our orthodoxy, or soundness in the faith.
Frames and feelings are a very unsafe guide, and carnal reason is still more treacherous and unreliable in the matter of self-examination. Our feelings are always varying, and carnal reason is blind, neither should be trusted to decide our faith or hope in God, but the word and Spirit of our God is immutable. The natural man may read the letter of the Scripture, but he cannot perceive its spirituality, because it is spiritually discerned. The spirit which Christ has given to his saints is the ‘‘Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye [the disciples of Christ] know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” - John xiv. 17.
“Know ye not your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” A reprobate is one that is rejected. And this faith in which the christian church stands, rejects all in whom Jesus Christ is not; for “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Manifestly none are known to the faith or fellowship of the saints until they can give evidence that they are born of the Spirit, for all such, and none but such, have Christ in them the hope of glory, all others are rejected, or reprobates. But what an astonishing revelation is this that the saints know, that Jesus Christ is in them. He whom the boundless heavens adore, the Son of God, the Lord from heaven, the Resurrection and the Life, the only and blessed Potentate, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, dwells in all his children, and gives them the evidence that he has taken his abode in them. This above all things is worth knowing. And hence the necessity of the self-examination enjoined by the apostle. Ascertaining by divinely approved testimony, that we are in the faith, and that our faith and hope are in God, we have the assurance, yea the knowledge, that Jesus Christ is in us, and that we are in him, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. To secure us from error, from heresy and from imposition, we should pursue the examination in the light of the unerring standard, and having the assurance that our faith is sustained by the standard of divine revelation, we not only enjoy the consolation of the assurance our own selves, but are thereby qualified to minister consolation to those who with us are of the household of faith, as well as by our walk and conversation as by speaking to them of the glory of our Redeemer’s kingdom, and talking of his power.
Middletown, N. Y.
June 1, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 458 - 461