“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”
The word “prove” here signifies, as to the thing proved, the test put upon metals by the assayer; and it is well known that such a test is the most thorough that can be employed. It goes even so far as to the testing by fire to such an extent that the fire itself shall be through and through the metal; so that the very metal itself shall be so fairly on fire that everything that is not of the metal itself, is utterly consumed.
As relates to the person who does the proving, the word signifies “to scrutinize,” “to keep an eye upon,” “to watch narrowly,” “to play the spy upon,” “to examine intently.”
This is what every Christian is particularly called upon to do respecting his own work—respecting the things he does, and which, from mere impulse, he finds himself apt to do.
The same thought is expressed in 2 Cor. 13:5, and is applied to the whole person himself, and not only to “his own work:” “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”
Let each one test his own work, and himself, in all things, in the light of the word of God, illuminated by the Spirit of God, thus holding himself and all his work up to the judgment of God. And to all who do so the blessed promise will be found sure: “Then shall he have rejoicing.” For of this same thing it is written in another place: “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” 1 Cor. 11:31.
All this is to say that in Christianity, in the faith of Christ, God gives to every man in this world the opportunity safely to pass the judgment. And everyone who will thus enter into God’s judgment, who will put himself through the severest tests that the law of God can ever demand, and will thus judge himself in the light of God’s countenance, he thus passes the judgment, and has nothing to fear “when God riseth up.”
And all such have God’s promise that they shall “have rejoicing,” and that they have nothing to fear in the great Day of Judgment itself. This because they live constantly in the presence of the judgment of God. Their constant prayer is, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Ps. 139:23, 24. And they find it all so; and, so, shall surely be led only in the way everlasting.
He shall have “rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” The parallel thought is in Prov. 14:14: “A good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The sentiment is that he will find in himself a source of pure joy. He will not be dependent on the applause of others for happiness. In an approving conscience; in the evidence of the favor of God; in an honest effort to lead a pure and holy life, he will have happiness. The source of his joys will be within; and he will not be dependent, as the man of ambition, and the man who thinks of himself more highly than he ought, will, on the favors of a capricious multitude, and on the breath of popular applause.
Here is the true secret of happiness. It consists (1) in not forming an improper estimate of ourselves; in knowing just what we are, and what is due to us; in not thinking ourselves to be something, when we are nothing: (2) in leading such a life that it may be examined to the core, that we may know exactly what we are without being distressed or pained; that is, in having a good conscience, and in honest and faithful discharge of our duty to God and man: (3) in not being dependent on fickle applause of the world for our comfort.
"The man who has not internal resources, and who has no approving conscience; who is happy only when others smile, and miserable when they frown is a man who has no security for enjoyment. The man who has a good conscience, and who enjoys the favor of God and the hope of heaven, carries with him a source of perpetual joy. He cannot be deprived of it. His purse may be taken, and his house robbed, but the highwayman cannot rob him of his comforts. He bears about with him an unfailing source of happiness when abroad, and the same source of happiness abides with him at home; he carries it into society, and it remains with him in solitude; it is his companion when in health, and when surrounded by his friends, and it is no less his companion when his friends leave him, and when he lies upon a bed of death."
“For every man shall bear his own burden.”
This is the plain conclusion from all the thought of the preceding verse; and the whole thought on both sides is expressed in Prov. 14:14, complete: “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” And, again, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins [the conscience], even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10).
Every man is free to choose. To every man the Lord has said, “Choose you this day who you will serve.” God has made most abundant provision, even to all the fullness of God, for everyone grandly to succeed who chooses the service of God; and the burden of him who so chooses is only a burden of rejoicing and gladness, for evermore. But he who chooses not the way of the Lord, but his own way, against all the call of the Lord, —he, too, must bear his burden; it is the burden which he has freely chosen to bear, but it is a burden which cannot be borne, and only works his undoing.
“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”
This word “communicate” means much more than simply to talk or write to a person: it means, “to have things in common,” “to be partakers or equal partakers in things.” It is the same word and the same meaning as that given in 1 Cor. 10:16, 17: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” So those who are taught in the word count him that teacheth, equal partners with themselves, count all other things common with him, and communicate unto him “in all good things.”
And so it is written in another place: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. 9:11. And also in yet another place: “Now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.” Rom. 15: 25-27.
And, upon all this, the exhortation in the four verses which follow is sufficient, and sufficiently forcible, without any further enlargement or explanation: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | November 6, 1900]