Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.
Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?
—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
~ II Corinthians 13:5
Strive...for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
~ Hebrews 12:14
Are you holy?
Take this test!
TRIAL and EXAMINATION1. First, It is possible for you to know whether you have this real holiness or not. It is possible for you by the light of the Spirit, by the light of the Word, and by the light of your own consciences, to see whether holiness, which is the image of God—is stamped upon your souls or not. Though it be impossible for you to climb up to heaven to search the records of glory, to see whether your name is written in the book of life—yet it is possible for you to go down into the chambers of your own soul, to enter into the withdrawing-rooms of your own heart—and there to read what impressions of holiness are upon you. Though this work be hard and difficult—yet it is noble and possible; though the heart be deceitful and full of shifts—yet it is possible for a man to make such a particular, such a narrow, such a diligent, such a faithful, and such an impartial search into his own soul—as that he may certainly know whether he has that real holiness which is the pledge of immortal happiness or not; it is possible for him who has this jewel, this holiness, to know it, to find it, and in the beautiful face of holiness to read his own everlasting happiness.
It is possible for you to know whether this babe of grace, holiness, be formed in your souls or not; and therefore search and inquire after it.
2. Secondly, Consider this, that it is a point of very great concern to you to know whether you have this real holiness or not. Your souls depend upon it, eternity depends upon it, your all depends upon it! An error here may make a man miserable forever. It is good for you to know the state of your body, the state of your family—but it is of infinite more consequence for you to know the state of your own soul. No man lives so miserable, nor no man dies so sadly—as he who lives and dies a stranger to his own soul. It is good for you to have all accounts good between yourself and others—but it is far better to have all accounts good between God and your own soul. Ah, how many are there who are better known to others—than they are to themselves! and who are able to give a better account of their treasures and trifles—than they are of the state of their souls! [Luke 12:16-21, and 16:19, 26.]
Ah, how many are there who are very inquisitive to know things to come, to know what will be hereafter, to know whether they shall be great and rich in the world, Eccles. 7:10, to know whether they shall be prosperous and successful ...and yet are not at all inquisitive after the state of their souls, nor whether they have this real holiness, without which there is no happiness! [Job 21:23-24; Isaiah 41:22-23, and 43:9-10.
Yet they never inquire what will become of them hereafter! They never inquire what state they shall enter upon after death, whether upon a state of eternal woe or a state of everlasting bliss! Of all acquaintances in this world, there is none compared to that of a man's being acquainted with the state of his own soul. A mistake about my outward condition may trouble me—but a mistake about my spiritual condition may damn me! There are many ways to make up my mistakes about temporals—but there is no way to make up my mistakes about eternals! If at last I shall be found to be mistaken in the great concernments of my soul—I am undone forever!
You are in a state of nature—or in a state of grace; you are in a state of darkness—or in a state of light; you are in a state of life—or in a state of death; you are in a state of God's love—or in a state of God's wrath; you are either sheep—or goats; you are either sons of God—or slaves of Satan; you are either in the broad way to destruction—or in the narrow way of salvation. Therefore what can be of greater concern in this world to you than to know in which of these two spiritual estates you are in? How can you order aright your prayers, or your praises, or any religious services, until you come to know in which of these two spiritual estates you stand? —whether you are in a state of nature or in a state of grace, in a state of sin or in a state of holiness. ...It very dearly concerns you to search and try whether you have this bird of paradise, holiness, in your bosoms or not. And for a close, let me say, that a mistake about your spiritual estate will at last be found not only unallowable and inexcusable—but very terrible and damnable.
3. Thirdly, Consider that a cordial willingness to enter heartily upon this work of trial, is a hopeful evidence of your real integrity and sanctity. Unsanctified souls hate the light; they had rather go to hell in the dark, than come to be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, John 3:20. As pure gold fears neither fire nor furnace, neither test nor touchstone, neither one balance nor another—so a pure heart, a sanctified soul, dares venture itself upon trial, yes, upon the very trial of God. For he knows that God never brings a pair of scales to weigh his graces—but only a touchstone to try the truth of his graces; he knows if his gold be true, though it be ever so little, it will pass for current with God. [Job 31:5-6; Psalm 26:2; 139:23-24; Mat. 12:20.] Unsanctified souls care not to come to the trial, to the test, because they know that all is bad, yes, worse than bad with them. They have no mind to cast up their spiritual estates, because at the foot of the account they must be forced to read their neck-verse, "Undone, undone, forever undone!"
As old deformed women cannot endure to look into the looking-glass, lest their wrinkles and deformity should be discovered; so unsanctified souls cannot endure to look into the mirror of the gospel, lest their deformities, impieties, and wickednesses should be discovered and detected...so unholy people are very unwilling to look into their own hearts, or into the clear streams of Scripture, lest their souls' deformity and ugliness should appear, to their own terror and amazement.
It is a hopeful evidence that a Christian has real holiness—when he is ready and willing to bring his holiness to the test, to try whether it be true or not—when he is willing to cast up his books, that he may see what he is worth for the eternal world, Gal. 6:4-5.
4. Fourthly, Consider that there are very many who deceive themselves about their spiritual estates. It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to deceive himself, Job 15:34, and Proverbs 30:12. There are those who do but think that they stand, (1 Cor. 10:12,) and these at last come to fall from their seeming standing into a real hell—yes, from their highest standing into the lowest hell. There are many who think themselves to be something—when they are nothing, Gal. 6:3. There are many who have a form of godliness—but none of the power, 2 Tim. 3:8. There are many who are very confident of their integrity—and yet are full of horrible hypocrisy. There are many who carry the lamps of profession—who have no oil of grace in their hearts. There are many who take—a good nature for grace, civility for sanctity, and a garb of godliness for real holiness—yes, there are those who dare say that they excel others in holiness, when, in truth, they exceed most men in wickedness [Isaiah 9:17, 29:13; Jer. 7:4, 8-11; Rev. 3:16-18; Isaiah 65:2-5; Mat. 25.]
Yes, there are many now in hell who have had a great confidence of going to heaven...and hell stands gaping to devour them. The heart of man is full of self-love, full of self-flattery, and full of hypocrisy, and therefore many a man who is only a Jew outwardly, thinks himself to be a Jew inwardly, Romans 2:28-29. Many a man thinks himself to be as good a Christian as the best, and to be as happy as the best, and to be as fair for heaven as the best, until he comes to hear that tormenting word, "Depart, I know you not!"
As many are kept off from Christ by a conceit that they have Him already. And therefore it does very much concern you to make a diligent inquiry whether you have that holiness without which there is no happiness, or not. As you would not put a cheat upon your own souls, it highly concerns you to try whether you have real holiness or not. Look!... Many a man, out of a strong conceit that he has holiness when he has none, catches many a fall in an eternal fall at last. The best way to prevent an everlasting miscarriage, is to make a privy search after holiness in your own heart.
5. Fifthly, Consider that there is a great deal of counterfeit grace and holiness in the world. ...Look! as many counterfeit gems, do so shine and sparkle like true jewels, that if a man is not very careful he may be easily cheated; so counterfeit grace, counterfeit holiness, does so shine and sparkle, they do so nearly resemble real holiness, and the sanctifying and saving graces of the Spirit—that a man may be easily mistaken, if he do not make a careful search. Does the gracious soul abstain from gross sins? so does the formalist also. Do saints fast and pray? so do Pharisees also. Does Peter shed tears? so does Esau also. Does Peter repent? so does Judas also. Does Cornelius give alms? so do the Pharisees also. Does Zaccheus believe? so does Simon Magus also. Does David confess his sin? so does Saul also. Does David delight in approaching to God? so do Isaiah's hypocrites also. Does Hezekiah humble himself? so do Ahab and the king of Nineveh also. Does a gracious soul hear the word with joy? so did Herod also. Does a gracious soul receive the word with joy? so did the stony ground hearer also. Does a gracious soul delight in his teacher? so did Ezekiel's worldlings also. Is a gracious soul in closet duties? so is the Pharisee also, etc. [Mat. 25:1-4; Ezra 8; Esther 4; Daniel 9; Mat. 6:16; Luke 18:11; Mat. 27; Heb. 12; Mat. 6; Acts 10:1-4; Luke 19:11; Acts 21:8; 1 Sam. 15:24; Isaiah; 2 Chron. 32:26; 1 Kings 22:15; Jonah 3; Mark 6; Ezek. 33:30-33; Luke 18:11.]
There is a great deal of counterfeit holiness abroad, and therefore you had need bring yours to the trial. As all is not gold that glitters—just so, all is not holiness that men take for holiness, that men count for holiness.
Counterfeit faith does so nearly resemble true faith, and counterfeit love true love, and counterfeit repentance true repentance, and counterfeit obedience true obedience, and counterfeit knowledge true knowledge, and counterfeit holiness true holiness—that it is not an easy matter to discover the one from the other. O sirs, true grace and counterfeit grace, true holiness and counterfeit holiness—look so like one another, that, without a divine light to guide you, you may be easily cheated and deceived forever.
In these days of profession there is abundance of false ware put off. Satan is a subtle merchant; ... he labors to furnish his customers with the shows and resemblances of grace and holiness—so that he may hold them the faster in golden fetters, and put them off from looking after that real holiness, without which no man can be blessed here, or happy hereafter. And therefore it nearly concerns every man to search and try whether he has real holiness or not.
6. Sixthly, Consider, if upon trial you shall find in yourself this real holiness which paves the way to happiness, it will turn exceedingly to your accounts. Your eternal happiness depends upon the real being of holiness in you—but your present comfort depends upon your seeing of holiness. Genuine holiness will yield you a heaven hereafter; but genuine assurance will yield you a heaven here. He who has holiness and knows it, shall have two heavens—a heaven of joy, comfort, peace, contentment, and assurance here—and a heaven of happiness and blessedness hereafter. But he who has holiness ...shall have a heaven at last—but he must pass to it by the flaming sword, 1 Cor. 3:11, 16.
When a person is heir to a great estate, and knows it; when a person is son to a king, and knows it; when a person is highly in favor, and knows it; when a person is out of all hazard and danger, and knows it; when a person's pardon is sealed, and he knows it—then the spring of joy and comfort rises in him. Just so—when a man is holy, and knows it, then the spring of divine joy and comfort rises in his soul, as the waters rise in Ezekiel's sanctuary, Ezek. 47:2-5.
Genuine assurance will be a spring of joy and comfort in you. It will make heavy afflictions light, long afflictions short, and bitter afflictions sweet, 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:58. It will make you frequent, fervent, constant, and abundant in the work of the Lord. It will strengthen your faith, raise your hope, inflame your love, increase your patience, and brighten your zeal. It will make every mercy sweet, every duty sweet, every ordinance sweet, and every providence sweet. It will rid you of all your sinful fears and cares. It will give you ease under every burden, and it will make death more desirable than life, Phil. 1:22, 23; 2 Cor. 5:1, 10. It will make you more strong to resist temptation, more victorious over opposition, and more silent in every difficult condition.
Genuine assurance will turn every winter night into a summer's day, every cross into a crown, and every wilderness into a paradise. Genuine assurance will be a sword to defend you, a staff to support you, a cordial to strengthen you, a medicine to heal you, and a star to lead you.
And oh, who then will not take some pains with his own heart to know the goodness and holiness of his own estate? Well, remember this, next to a man's being holy, it is the greatest mercy in this world to know that he is holy. But... the way to be found, is to see yourselves lost: the way to infinite mercy is to see your own misery; the way to Canaan is through the wilderness; the way to heaven is by the gates of hell. Upon the knowledge of the badness and sadness of your estate, you will be awakened out of your security, and you will be alarmed to loathe yourself, to judge yourself, to condemn yourself, to be sick of sin, to break with Satan, and to close with Christ.
Now the daily language of your soul will be, "... What shall I do to be saved? "Acts 2:37, 42, and 16:22, 35. "Oh, what shall I do to get my sinful nature changed, my hard heart softened, my blind mind enlightened, my polluted conscience purged, and my poor naked soul adorned with grace and holiness?" Now the daily language of your soul will be that of the martyr, "Oh, none but Christ! None but Christ!" "Oh, none but Christ to pardon me! None but Christ to justify me! None but Christ to command me! None but Christ to save me! None but Christ to reign over me!"
Now the language of your soul will be this, "Oh, though I have formerly thought myself to be wise—yet now I see myself to be a fool! Oh that Christ would be wisdom to me! 1 Cor. 1:30-31. Oh, now I see myself to be red with guilt, and black with filth! Oh that Christ would be righteousness to me! Oh, now I see myself to be unclean, unclean! Oh that Christ would be sanctification to me! Oh, now I see myself to be in a damnable condition! Oh that Christ would be redemption to me! Rev. 3:16-18. Oh, now I see myself naked! Oh that Christ would clothe me! Now I see myself poor and miserable! Oh that Christ would enrich me! Now I feel myself to be hungry! Oh that Christ would be bread of life to feed me! Now I perceive myself to be lost! Oh that Christ would seek me! Now I fear that I am perishing! Oh that Christ would save me!"
Now the language of your souls will be that of the lepers, "If we stay here—we die!" 2 Kings 7:3-6. "If we stay in our unsanctified and unrenewed estate—we die! If we stay in our sins—we die! If we stay on our duties—we die! If we stay on a conceited or counterfeit holiness—we die! If we stay on a form of godliness—we die! If we stay on a name to live—we die! If we stay where the world stays—we die! If we stay in anything a-this side Christ and real holiness—we die, we eternally die! Therefore, let us arise and make a venture of our souls upon Christ, and pursue after that holiness, without which there is no eternal happiness!" But,
7. Seventhly and lastly, Consider that there are many who are truly holy, who have real holiness in them—and yet for lack of a narrow search, diligent inquiry into their spiritual estates, they come to be sorely and sadly afflicted with fears and doubts about their lack of holiness. As the treasures of this world often lie obscure and hidden in the midst of the earth—just so, the treasures of holiness often lie obscure and hid in many a gracious soul, for lack of a privy search. As it is one mercy for me to believe, and another mercy for me to know that I do believe, 1 John 5:13; as it is one mercy for me to be beloved, and another mercy for me to know that I am beloved, Psalm 4:6, and 51:1-3; as it is one mercy for me to be pardoned in the court of glory, and another mercy for me to know that I am pardoned in the court of conscience; as it is one mercy for me to have my name written in the book of life, and another mercy for me to be told that my name is written in that book, Luke 10:20—just so, it is one mercy for me to have real holiness in me, and another mercy for me to see it and to know it.
As we many times complain of the lack of those things which we have in our hands—just so, many dear Christians complain of the lack of that holiness which they have in their hearts. The spring of holiness is near to many a Christian, yes, it is in many a Christian—and yet he sees it not, he knows it not. As Jacob once said, "The Lord was in this place—and I knew it not," Gen. 28:16; so many a precious soul may say, I had real holiness in my heart—and I knew it not. As the face of Moses did shine—but he saw it not, he knew it not, though others did see it and take notice of it, Exod. 34:29-35—just so, holiness shines in many a Christian's heart and life—yet corruptions raise such a dust in his soul that he sees it not, he knows it not, though others can see it, take notice of it, and bless and admire the Lord for it.
As there are some who think they are rich, when they are not; and that say they are rich, when they are not, Rev. 3:16-17; Proverbs 13:7—just so, there are others who are rich—and yet they will not say it, nor believe it; so there are some who think they have holiness, when they have not, yes, who say they have holiness when they have not, Isaiah 65:3-6; Mark 8:18. Just so—there are others who have real holiness—and yet they dare not think so, they dare not say so; yes, they are apt, in times of temptation, desertion, sore afflictions, and when they are under the sensible stirrings of strong corruptions—to conclude that they have no holiness, no grace—when indeed they have. Witness Job, chapter 13:24, and 19:9; witness David, Psalm 22:1-2; witness Asaph, Psalm 73:2, 11; witness Heman, Psalm 88:1, 17; witness Jeremiah, Lam. 3:18; witness the whole church, Isaiah 49:15-16; Ezek. 37:11-12; and witness the disciples, John 14:4, 5, 7-9, 20, compared.
To know ourselves to be holy, is very desirable; but woe is it to many precious Christians—that they are holy and yet not know it—that they have holiness in their hearts, when it is hidden from their eyes. Look! as sparks and coals of fire are often hidden under the ashes, and we see them not; and as in winter the sap and life is hidden in the root of the tree, and we perceive it not; and as precious flowers are hidden in their seeds, and we discern them not; just so—when it is winter with a Christian, his holiness may be so hidden and covered under fears, doubts, sins, etc., that he may not be able to see it, to discern it, or conclude that he has it.
As the air is sometimes clear and sometimes cloudy, and the sea sometimes ebbing and sometimes flowing—so the holiness of the saints is sometimes so clouded, and at so low an ebb, that a Christian can hardly discern it, he can hardly say, "Lo, here is my holiness!" The being of holiness in the soul is one thing, the seeing of holiness in the soul is another thing; the being of holiness is one thing, the feeling of holiness is another thing. A Christian may as safely conclude that there are no stars in the sky in a dark night, because he cannot see them; and that there is no treasure in the mine, because he cannot discern it, nor come to the feeling of it—as he may conclude that he has no holiness in his heart, because he cannot see it, he cannot feel it. As the treasures of this world—so the treasures of holiness oftentimes lie low—a man must dig deep before he can come at them, Proverbs 2:3-6. As the babe lives in the womb—but does not know it; and as the sun often shines into the house, and a man does not see it—so the babe of grace may be formed in the soul—and yet a Christian not know it; and the sun of holiness may shine in his soul—and yet he not see it. Oh, therefore, how greatly does it concern Christians to make a diligent, a narrow, and a serious search into their own hearts, whether they have this jewel of glory—holiness—in their souls or not!
The Necessity, Excellency, Rarity, and Beauty of Holiness
Thomas Brooks, 1662
Use 2. TRIAL and EXAMINATION
Every truth leads towards holiness; every error of doctrine, directly or indirectly, leads to sin.