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as it becometh Christians.
We should examine whether we e Christians, because, as we have seen, the ordinance is intended for such only. And we should examine whether we are living consistently, because even true Christians may communicate unworthily and involve themselves in judgment. The Corinthians, whom the Apostle charged with profaning the ordinance, had been addressed by him as true Christians. And the observance of the Lord's Supper is like any other Christian duty it may be done faithfully or unfaithfully. The Christian, through neglect, may read the Scriptures, or pray, or give claims unworthily, and so may he eat the Lord's Supper. In every view, therefore, the duty of self-examination is most urgent and important.
The method of conducting an exercise of self-examination, requires to be well understood by those who would engage in it. It is often found also to be a duty of considerable practical difficulty; and we shall, therefore, devote some attention to a consideration of various methods in which such an exercise may be conducted.
1. The first epistle of John furnishes an excellent rule of self-examination. The very design of the book is to aid the Christian in that exercise. Were a title to be given to it, it might justly be the evidences of a believer's sonship. We shall select a few examples out of many: Chap. ii. verse 3; here the change that passes on a Chris. tian is described by we know him"-it is affirmed to be the privilege of a Christian to know that such a change has taken place, 65 we know" and the evidence of the change is, "we keep his commandments." Again, iii. 14, the change is described, "passed from death unto life" and the evidence is, "we love the brethren." In chap. iv. verse 2—15, connected with v. 1., we have the believer's confession of faith, or the views he entertains of Christ, in his incarnation, deity, and offices. And in v. 10, we have an appeal to the believer's own experience, as a proof of the power and reality of the truth. Now, in conducting an exercise of self-examination by such a rule as this, we have only to ask, upon each passage, has this change passed upon me?and have I this evidence of it ?-and am I walking consistently with it? The duty specially required at such a time, is faithfulness in applying the rule; but it should be done under the impression of what is written, "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
2. Another method of conducting this exercise, is to take the addresses to the churches, in the commencement of the several epistles, and try ourselves by them. In these we have the characteristics of true Christians, and, as such, are always the same; they will be our characteristics, if we are what we ought to be. These will be found in Rom. i. 7.; 1 Cor. i. 2; Eph. i. 1; 1 Thess. i. 1 ; and are the following: "Beloved of God-called to be saintsthe Church of God-sanctified in Christ Jesus-that call on the name of Jesus Christ-faithful-in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ." In using these marks as a rule of self-examination, we should be at pains distinctly to understand the meaning of each, and then faithfully apply it to ourselves, enquiring, am I what this passage declares a Christian to be?
3. The method of pursuing an exercise of self-examina. tion, recommended in the Shorter Catechism, is very suitable. "It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord's Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body of their faith to feed upon him-of their repentance, love, and new obedience." Here it is taken for granted, that these five things are possessed by every Christian; and my duty is to inquire, at conscience, do I possess them? Have I been taught by the Spirit of God? Have I, by faith, laid hold of Jesus Christ? Have I godly sorrow for sin? Do I love God, and Christ, and believers, and all men? Do I obey God, from a new principle of righ. teousness, implanted by the Spirit of God in my regene ration? Let conscience be faithful in these enquiries, and the real state of the soul may be determined.
4. The ten commandments furnish another rule of selfexamination. Each of these should be taken apart; and the five following questions asked, at conscience, upon it, and faithfully answered :-Do I see myself to be a violator of this law? Do I feel myself justly and necessarily condemned by it? Do I despair of ever obtaining acceptance in the sight of God, on the ground of my obedience to it? Have I fled to Christ, that his blood may wash away my guilt, contracted by breaking it, and that his righteousness, imputed to me, may meet all its demands upon me? While I have renounced the law as a ground of hope, does my conscience bear me witness that I have embraced it as a rule of life, and that I am seeking, by
divine grace, to have my conduct conformed to it in all things? It will at once be felt, that any one who sincerely desires to know himself, may, after this manner, be much helped, in coming to a just estimate of his state and cha
Similar exercises may be conducted on such passages as Mat. v. 3-11; and Gal. v. 19-26, and many others that will readily present themselves. Only let them be well understood, and honestly and faithfully applied, as in the anticipation of God's judgment.
Upon such an exercise being engaged in, as that which we have now recommended, it is obvious there are two conclusions, to either of which we may be brought. We may see reason to conclude we are the children of God. Nor is there any presumption in so doing. Paul did so; all are exhorted to seek the same attainment, and marks are given us to aid in the exercise. Its direct tendency is to humble; and it is the legitimate fruit of faith. We do not teach that assurance is essential to the Christian, but we do teach that it is essential to him to desire it, and seek it, and not to be satisfied without it; and we believe moreover, that it is generally attained, though not universally, by all real Christians. But we may be brought to the conclusion that we are not the children of God. If so, let us not rest in that state. Many satisfy themselves by merely abstaining from the Lord's Supper. But that is an awful self-deception. By their own acknowledgment they are in a state of sin! How mad to remain there. Let all, convinced that such is their state, fly to the hope set before them in the Gospel, and never be at rest until they have evidence of having believed to the saving of their souls. Should there be any who remain in doubt, unable to determine their real condition before God, let them engage afresh in the work of selfexamination, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and determined to be faithful with themselves, and God will reveal to them what they are. Much of the complaining that is heard upon this subject arises out of unfaithfulness, for if we really desired, and honestly endeavoured to know ourselves, he who is the Light would not leave us in darkness. Let us pray with David, and we shall be heard as he was; "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 éverlasting."
V. The duties of intending communicants. There are some duties which, though binding at all times, are specially
required under some circumstances, and on particular occasions. Meditation, for example, is a duty which the Christian should habitually practice; yet is it specially called for on the return of the Sabbath, or under a visitation of sickness, or in the time of any unusual calamity. It is upon this principle we say there are certain duties which, though required of the Christian habitually, are specially called for in the prospect of observing the Lord's Supper. These may be comprehended under self-examination, the study of the Scriptures, and prayer.
1. Self-examination. In one sense this is necessarily connected with the ordinance, and in another it is not. It is not so connected with it that a person, who had no opportunity of engaging in the duty before he was invited to partake, may not eat and be profited. But it is so connected with it, by the command of God, that he who neglects the duty when he had an opportunity of practising it, cannot expect a blessing. As often as the ordinance recurs the communicant should examine anew the evidences of his gracious state, for it is not enough that this was once done, however satisfactorily. It is a subject on which we may be deceived, and on which we cannot be too scrupulous; and therefore, as often as the Lord's Supper returns, we should consider it as a call to examine anew the evidences of our state. Our character and conduct also should undergo a strict revision. Are we growing in the graces of the Spirit? Are we dying unto sin, and living unto righteousness? Is there in our life that which demands deep humiliation, or aught to call for hearty thanksgiving? It will readily be seen how profitable such an excercise as this will prove. The neglect of it is the cause of much deadness, and formality, and barrenness in the church. We should examine our thoughts, words, and actions, as lsrael was taken tribe by tribe, family by family, and man by man, until Achan was detected, and put away the accursed thing, whatever it may be, that hinders the prosperity of the soul.
2. The study of the Scriptures. This should be a daily exercise; but on the recurrence of the ordinance they should be read specially with a reference to it. Those passages that contain an account of it should be studied afresh, and their meaning may, perhaps, be still more clearly apprehended; those that relate the circumstances of our Lord's death, to which it especially refers, should be solemnly considered, and their power is likely to be still more felt; and devotional and experimental passages, such as the last seven chapters of the Gospel by John, or the book of Psalms, are then apt to be entered
The circumstances in
into much more deeply and feelingly. which we are placed exert a great influence over our study of the Scriptures, and we should take advantage of the solemnity of the Lord's Supper to quicken and help us in this most important duty.
3. Prayer. This is the very breath of a Christian. He should pray without ceasing; nor, indeed, can he live without it. But on the recurrence of the supper, there are certain subjects of prayer, brought prominently before him, to which he should specially direct his attention. After praying for himself, and bringing his whole case fully before God, he should remember his fellow-communicants, whereby the bonds of brotherly love would be strengthened; the Church of God every where, whereby his zeal would be quickened; the ministers of the Gospel, on whom the edification of the church is so much dependant; and the whole world, lying in iniquity, for whose conversion he would thus be brought more tenderly to feel. It is at once apparent how such a practice would cherish and confirm the habit of prayer.
Nothing, indeed, is more indicative of the divine wisdom, than the association of these duties with the Lord's Supper. It is thus one principal means of keeping alive the spirit of religion in the soul. Christians are thus most tenderly and impressively constrained to attend to those duties which they are most backward to observe. The very duties most conducive to godliness, and therefore, most irksome to the human heart, are the very duties most closely connected with the Lord's Supper, and most imperatively demanded as often as it is observed.
VI. The duty of the communicant at the table. It is to hold fellowship with Christ and his people. This is attained unto by means of the truth. That is made the subject of meditation: and, while it is so, the Holy Spirit uses it as the means of drawing out the soul into the most endeared communion with Christ, and with all who love him-1 John i. 3. At such a time, therefore, the prayer of Solomon is what suits the worshipper, “Awake, O! north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits."-Song iv. 16.
To engage in this duty with understanding and profit, it is recommended that, before going to the table, some