Jonathan Edwards Sermon – Persons Ought Not to Rest Ignorant and Unresolved About Their Own State

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2 Corinthians 13:5; Jeremiah 6:30

Know ye not your own selves? Persons ought not to rest ignorant  and unresolved about their own state, whether they are real Christians or not.

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There were in the Church of Corinth some that were adversaries to Paul and his doctrine, certain false teachers that labored to seduce the Christian Corinthians, and to that end, industriously cast reproach and calumnies on the apostle Paul. They seem to have charged his with lateness and not coming to them according to his promise, with contemptibleness, in his person, that however his letters seemed weighty and powerful, yet his bodily presence was mean in his speech and contemptible. By these, and other such means, they endeavored to draw away the Corinthians from the doctrine that the apostle had taught them. And the Corinthians, so much gave ear to them, some of them at least, that things necessitated for the apostle to not only vindicate his own name and reputation, but to declare what God had done for him and by him, but also to threaten them with using that power that Christ had given him, against offenders, as in the forgoing verses of this chapter.

And because there were such evils amongst them, this occasioned the apostle, in the verse of the text, to be putting them upon examining themselves and trying their own state, whether they are real Christians or not. In the verse, may be observed:

  1. What is the thing to be judged of, namely, whether they were in the faith, or whether Christ was in them. Though all made a profession of Christ and of the faith, the words imply that a man may make a profession of the Christian faith and not be in the faith. And that a man may profess to be a follower of Christ and, yet, not have Christ dwelling in him.
  2. The means to be used in order to judge, namely, examining and proving themselves.
  3. The arguments or motives the apostle makes use of to stir them to it, which are two: Number 1 – The absurdity of being ignorant of themselves: „Know ye not your own selves?” If they did not know whether they were in the faith or not, whether Christ was in them, or not, it was their own salvation that they were ignorant of. For a man not to be acquainted with others that he seldom sees and has but little opportunity to converse with was no wonder. And if he did not know some of his neighbors and relatives, that was not so much to be wondered at. But for a man to be a stranger to his own self, there’s a great absurdity  in it. And no man ought to rest in such ignorance.  Number 2 – The second motive the apostle uses is the great importance of knowing, because if Christ was not in them, they were reprobates.By reprobates, here, is not intended the same sense in which it is commonly used by … for those that are in cause eternal decree, reprobated  to eternal damnation. We can’t suppose that the apostle means that any man that  has not Christ now dwelling in them is decreed to eternal punishment. Christ is not in him now, yet, He may be in him afterwards. He may be converted before he dies. But, by reprobates is intended here the same as false professors. The word in the original signifies disapproved or rejected by the all seeing God. He sees and approves all professors of Christianity and some He approves as sincere and real Christians, and others He rejects and disapproves of as not being of the right sort. Every professor either stands approved or disapproved in the sight of God. They that are disapproved, the apostle calls reprobates. God deals with professors as a husbandman deals with his wheat and chaff, or wheat and tares. Both grow together, but one is separated. One is approved and the other rejected. Or, as a goldsmith does for the silver and the dross. The dross may glisten and look like silver, but the goldsmith tries it and finds it not true silver, and so rejects it. And this is called reprobate silver in Jeremiah 6:30 „Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.

Doctrine: Persons ought not to rest ignorant  and unresolved about their own state, whether they are real Christians or not.

Reason #1 – It is not a thing impossible for a person to come to the knowledge of his own state.

Not only  conversion, as a thing attainable, but also the knowledge of it. The knowledge of one’s conversion, in some cases, may be obtained with difficulty. Many persons that are truly converted may be ignorant of their conversion. They may be in doubt about their condition and not be able for the present to resolve the case. No, not through the strictest examination that they’re capable of, by the rule of God’s word and by those signs  that are there given. But this is not because the knowledge of one’s conversion is in itself a thing unattainable, but because of weakness of grace or the prevalence of corruption, or the particular infirmity, or temptations, or error, or ignorance that attend that person. But the knowledge of our own state is a thing attainable. Wicked men may know that they have no grace and Godly men may come to know that they have grace. This is evident because we are directed in God’s word to use means to know as in the text. We’re directed to examine ourselves, whether  we be in the faith and approve ourselves. To this end, so that we may know our own selves.

But if the knowing of ourselves in this respect  were impossible, why does the apostle give us directions in order to it? And so, the apostle Peter directs people to endeavor for this: 2 Peter 1:10 – „Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” If a man could not know that Christ is in him, well then, the man is not to be blamed that he doesn’t know. And, why then does the apostle Paul blame the Corinthians for it, as he evidently does in these words of the text: „Know ye not your own selves?” Where is the absurdity of not knowing oneself, or what wonder is it if we don’t know our own selves, if this be a thing impossible?

And again, it is evident that this thing may be known because Scripture tells us how we may know in

  • 1 John 2:3 – „And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
  • 1 John 2:5 – „But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
  • 1 John 3;19 – „And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
  • 1 John 3:24 – „And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
  • 1 John 4:13 – „Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

Why does the apostle tell us so much, whereby we may know we are of the truth, if there be no such thing as knowing? Seems therefore, the knowledge of a person’s state is attainable. A person should not rest ignorant and unresolved  about their own state, whether they are real Christians or not.

Reason # 2 – Persons, as long as they remain unresolved about their condition, in many instances, can’t know what is proper for them to do or what work they have before them. (From the first 8 1/2 minutes of a 46 min sermon) 

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