Any Good Quotes on Self-Examination?

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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm compiling something for an article. What are some of the clearest statements from Puritans and the Reformed on the need for warning and self-examination when coming to the Lord's Table? I'd be really interested in quotes that speak to self-abstention of the impenitent believer from the Table.

Here's one I found that I really like:

Are all to come promiscuously to this holy ordinance? We must examine ourselves before we come, because it is not only a duty imposed, but opposed. There is nothing to which the heart is naturally more averse than self-examination. We may know that duty to be good which the heart opposes. But why does the heart so oppose it? Because it crosses the tide of corrupt nature, and is contrary to flesh and blood. The heart is guilty; and does a guilty person love to be examined? The heart opposes it; therefore the rather set upon it; for that duty is good which the heart opposes. (Body of Divinity, Contained in Sermons on the Assembly's Catechism, by the Rev. Thomas Watson)
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I have never agreed with those who use the phrase "morbid introspection," as if looking inside ourselves always has to be morbid. We look inside ourselves to see evidence of God's grace inside of us, as well as being honest about the remaining sin. That being said, I do think that Robert Murray M'Cheyne's statement to the effect of looking ten times at Christ for every single time we look inside us is worthy of remembrance. Too much focus on the sin inside of us will lead to despair, and it is good to remind ourselves that healthy extraspection is just as important, if not more so, than introspection, especially when the Lord's Supper is concerned, since we only come worthily to the Supper in Him anyway.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have never agreed with those who use the phrase "morbid introspection," as if looking inside ourselves always has to be morbid.

I'm fairly certain that "morbid introspection" and "navel gazing" are both slogans that originated in Sonship teaching. Has anyone else observed that connection? They are used to ridicule the practice of self-examination as being unspiritual. That's why slogans are dangerous, because people begin to believe them rather than the plain teaching of Scripture.

But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 2 Tim. 2:16
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
James Durham's communion sermons may have something. Rutherford's communion sermons also maybe? Henderson also has table addresses and sermons.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Think that the biblical phrase is to examine ourselves, to make sure that we are walking in the Lord, and not living in unconfessed/unrepentant sin!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Reformed Church liturgical form for the Lord's Supper:

That we may now celebrate the Supper of the Lord to our comfort, it is above all things necessary,
First. Rightly to examine ourselves.

Secondly. To direct it to that end for which Christ hath ordained and instituted the same, namely, to his remembrance.

The true examination of ourselves consists of these three parts:
First. That every one consider by himself, his sins and the curse due to him for them, to the end that he may abhor and humble himself before God: considering that the wrath of God against sin is so great, that (rather than it should go unpunished) he hath punished the same in his beloved Son Jesus Christ, with the bitter and shameful death of the cross.

Secondly. That every one examine his own heart, whether he doth believe this faithful promise of God, that all his sins are forgiven him only for the sake of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and that the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed and freely given him as his own, yea, so perfectly, as if he had satisfied in his own person for all his sins, and fulfilled all righteousness.

Thirdly. That everyone examine his own conscience, whether he purposeth henceforth to show true thankfulness to God in his whole life, and to walk uprightly before him; as also, whether he hath laid aside unfeignedly all enmity, hatred, and envy, and doth firmly resolve henceforward to walk in true love and peace with his neighbor.

All those, then, who are thus disposed, God will certainly receive in mercy, and count them worthy partakers of the table of his Son Jesus Christ. On the contrary, those who do not feel this testimony in their hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.​

The original is 16th century in origin (Danthenus, 1566). These are taken from the PRC website. http://www.prca.org/about/official-standards/liturgical-forms/administration-of-the-lord-s-supper

Three separate forms are contained in the old CRC Psalter Hymnal, all which have comparable (two shorter/abbreviated) expressions of the same Guilt-Grace-Gratitude reflective responsibilities of would be communicants.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Outstanding! Thanks, Josh and others. Here's another one I discovered:

Illustration of the Exercise of Warning and Invitation, or Fencing the Tables, by Thomas Houston
The ordinance of the supper is distinguishing and sealing... All pains should be taken to discriminate character, and to deter the ignorant and ungodly from coming in a thoughtless and presumptuous manner to partake in a sacred feast, from which they can derive no real benefit, but will only aggravate their sin and increase their danger. Even when this has been done, formal and lukewarm professors are so prone to deceive themselves, and are so ready to assume "the form of religion," while they "deny the power thereof," that it is requisite to speak words of conviction to the conscience when persons are on the point of coming forward to the ordinance of the Supper; and, at the same time, weak, timid, and discouraged Christians require to have the invitations and promises of the Word so presented, that they may be able to discover their warrant and welcome to partake of the feast of communion... The ignorant, the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the disobedient, are plainly inadmissible to the Lord's Table... uch as being impenitent, not only willfully break God's commandments, but are living habitually in the allowed omission of any commanded duty, are unprepared for communion in the ordinance, and are justly warned against the sin in this state of partaking in it.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Another good one I found in à Brakel:

When believers make themselves unworthy of the Lord's Supper by giving offense, living in strife and hatred, or cleaving to a given sin to such an extend that prior to the event they do not wish to make a full resolution to part therewith, they sin in a double measure and out to humble themselves deeply before the Lord. Let such remain in the sanctuary during the administration of the Lord's Supper, stand afar off, and observe the partaking of the Lord's Supper by believers. Let them thus mourn by themselves and think, "I may not be among them."
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have never agreed with those who use the phrase "morbid introspection," as if looking inside ourselves always has to be morbid.

I'm fairly certain that "morbid introspection" and "navel gazing" are both slogans that originated in Sonship teaching. Has anyone else observed that connection? They are used to ridicule the practice of self-examination as being unspiritual. That's why slogans are dangerous, because people begin to believe them rather than the plain teaching of Scripture.

But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 2 Tim. 2:16

Concern about morbid introspection long predates Sonship. See, for example this quote from Dr Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression p.17 (HT: Justin Taylor):

We all agree that we should examine ourselves, but we also agree that introspection and morbidity are bad. But what is the difference between examining ourselves and becoming introspective? I suggest that we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life. We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection. And if we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that frown upon our face and saying: I am in great difficulty–it probably means that we are all the time centred upon ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turns leads to the condition known as morbidity.

Lloyd Jones is here rightly encouraging appropriate self-examination while aware of the very real danger in some people of that taking a dark turn. To abstain from the Lord's Supper on a rare occasion is one thing, but I would suggest a remedy for inappropriate introspection is to encourage people with such issues of conscience to speak to their elders and receive wise counsel. They don't have the right to self-excommunicate: if they are genuinely repentant but have weak consciences, they should be encouraged to come to the means of grace (as John "Rabbi" Duncan would say "It's for sinners!"); if they persist in not repenting, they should be disciplined by the church. In either case, they should be encouraged to seek pastoral care and counsel, whereby they can be reminded afresh of the gospel, personally applied to their needs.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Thomas Watson's heaven taken by Storm has a chapter on examination. He has a good quote in every sentence it seems. It's public domain online.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Concern about morbid introspection long predates Sonship.

Yes. I think Sonship has revived the concern and made the error of associating all self-examination with morbidity.

To abstain from the Lord's Supper on a rare occasion is one thing... They don't have the right to self-excommunicate

What I think you're saying is that the elders should foster both gravity and warmth in coming to the Table. If someone self-abstains one time, it should signal the elders to proceed with pastoral care, and lead to returning to the Table as soon as possible. No one should abstain for long periods on their own, because that implies either gross morbidity or else unrepentant sin that is allowed unchecked. Both of these are more serious pastoral concerns than a one-time abstention.
 

Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
See Thomas Ridgley in his "Body of Divinity" (Commentary on the Larger Catechism) on question and answer 172. (Too long to quote here.)
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
So that is the formula recited during the comunion being taken at every Reformed church then?

Know that when we tale the communion, read from the scriptures where Paul mentioned the Lord Jesus saying taking his blood/body, and to confess/repent of anyknown sin before partaking, and we do advise the unsaved among us, or those not following Jesus as they should to let it pass them by?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So that is the formula recited during the comunion being taken at every Reformed church then?

Know that when we tale the communion, read from the scriptures where Paul mentioned the Lord Jesus saying taking his blood/body, and to confess/repent of anyknown sin before partaking, and we do advise the unsaved among us, or those not following Jesus as they should to let it pass them by?

Are these questions or statements?

My Presbyterian congregation is composed of many former Reformed church members, and I read the words I quoted (excerpted from the longer form) on the week before communion as a reminder to the flock to prepare themselves for Communion. We have our own directory for worship guidance in the OPC.

Whether the guide provided is a "form" to be followed or a "directory" offering guidance, it is helpful to have words for the congregation that 1) cover all the bases that should be covered; 2) can be a familiar cadence by which we are paced through the occasion, and which end up comforting us our whole lives.

Your church's manner follows whatever habits your leaders have adopted.
 

TheologiaCrucis

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm compiling something for an article. What are some of the clearest statements from Puritans and the Reformed on the need for warning and self-examination when coming to the Lord's Table? I'd be really interested in quotes that speak to self-abstention of the impenitent believer from the Table.

While not Puritan or Reformed in the traditional sense of the word, you might find Martin Luther's comments on self-examination in his Large Catechism interesting... start around paragraph 69, or a bit before. http://bookofconcord.org/lc-7-sacrament.php
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Was a question as to if it is standard procedure to have those readingsmade to the congregation before the communion is passed around.
Think that it would be a neat way to have people focus in on whatthe ceremony really should mean to us, as the Lord Jesus dieing in our stead to save us from our sins...

That is one thing really appreciate among reformed churches and people, the reverance for the Lord and spiritual things...
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
I know that they do not see the communion elements changing into physical flesh/blood of Jesus as Catholics do, but what is it changing into when they partake, as it is more to them than just symbolic or spiritual?
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The elements do not change at all, ever. They are what they are: bread and wine.

The question is not what the elements are; but what they do, what they are used for, and who uses them.


For the RCC (and similar), in order for the elements to do anything, they must be something other than they are to begin with. And they supposedly accomplish their work simply by being what they become. And their priest is engaged in order to conjure the presence-by-transubstantiation. The sign is confused with the thing signified.


For pure symbolists, the elements are inert; they are acted upon by the minds of the participants. The function of the elements is a kind of stimulant to memory, or a screen on which memory is played. The sign points either back to the participant (i.e. his profession of faith, his first or another Supper, etc.); or it points to other signs, such as cross or tomb, the disciples meal or a future heavenly meal. But being simply symbolic, this meal denies any true sense of Christ's presence.


For the Reformed, the elements are a meal at which we come to sit for spiritual nourishment. What makes it unique is that it is Christ's table, and he presides over it as the Master. It is a rehearsal of the first Communion, though held in a Resurrection context because the Lord of this feast is risen.

The elements are the Master's choice of service, and by them he communicates himself to us--this is promise. The life he enjoys in his actual body and blood is supplied for our enjoyment, our spiritual nourishment; just as surely as (HC79) our bodies are nourished by ordinary bread and wine. So, his promise being connected to particular signs, by our faithful-participation in them we obtain the blessing.

Grace, as we apprehend it, is not a substance but fellowship. God does not come to us by impanation of his flesh; but we are come to the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb.12:22), brought to him, seated with him in the heavenlies (Eph.2:6), and fellowship with him. God does not fill our depleting "tank" with divine distillation called "grace." He fills us with himself.

What makes the Lord's Supper wonderful is how thin it makes the veil between the now and the not yet. Every worship service is a foretaste of heaven; but a proper Supper-event draws us into the closest experience of a full-body translation we can have, while we yet remain tied to this passing age. More important than you or I using the plain elements of the Supper is the Lord God using them to minister to us while we await the consummation.
 

rickclayfan

Puritan Board Freshman
“No man can say what he is; whether his graces be true or false, till they be tried and examined by those things which are to them as fire is to gold.” (Works of Flavel, new BOT edition, vol. 5, 535)
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Thanks for the explanation!

So if I understand this corrctly...

Reformed would see thespiritual presense of Christ being with us in the Communion service, he is really there, if 2 or more gather in mine name...

Symbolic meaning would see it pointing towards the death of Jesus as atonement for our sins now forgiven...

Catholic/Lutheryns would see it actually being something else other than the wafer/wine?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
WLC Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death

HC Question 75. How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord's Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
Answer: Thus: That Christ has commanded me and all believers, to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, in remembrance of him, adding these promises: first, that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes, the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.​

The WCF 29.3 explains that it is in the hands of his ministry that he declares and gives forth. Our eyes of faith, however, should be open and should not doubt his presence always at his worship, and especially in the sacramental meal.
[This is especially evident on account of Lk.24 (which includes an incident wherein He was known in his breaking of the bread). When the disciples began that first Resurrection Day, they had no thought of being called together for worship. By day's end they had all been summoned by Christ for the first Lord's Day worship assembly. Whereupon he joined them--or they him--but suddenly he was in the midst of them. When he had made special appearances with them First Day after First Day, then joined them again on Pentecost (another First Day) after his Ascension by his Spirit, they clearly understood his intent. This is God meeting with his people, Persons to person.]

So, he is present and presiding. But there is more, in that this feeding on him is an enhancement or an increase in the ordinary celebration of feasting--where we delight in a unity expressed by everyone eating the same thing. Jesus wants to demonstrate that our eternal life is actually in him, and is in no wise independent of him. Therefore he has us tangibly partake of the one loaf and one cup; and in a mysterious and ineffable way affords us the intimacy of communion with his living, glorified flesh--body and blood--albeit in a purely spiritual mode.

Think about it this way: your friendships here on earth, the nearest and dearest, involve communion with their embodied selves. You get close with them, close enough to breathe upon one another, brush against them, hold hands with them, speak with them, eat with them. These are body-interactions.

There are limits to those typical communion-acts. Marriage affords perhaps no more intimate expression of union and communion; but even there, Paul says the mystery of our union and communion with Christ is more profound (human marriage being but the ideal type). There's a oneness in Christ, the Head with his body, that makes all illustrations weak and beggarly.

But, weak doesn't make them useless; and our Supper communion is a wonder of communion and instruction in the intricacies and beauties of our union. Eating and drinking Christ's body and blood--though to some it is strange and offensive (Jn.6:52)--is powerfully expressive of our union and communion, our one-flesh connection with the Savior of the body. We 're not cannibals; that's a gross misrepresentation of the teaching of Jesus. But when he wanted to teach how indispensable was his people's need to have him inside of them, illustratively he went with the mouth-gate.


We don't neglect the fact that in this meal, "we remember the Lord's death until he comes." The broken bread represents his broken body, the cup his shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We don't have to choose between the presence of the Lord of life, and the signs that point to him and his atoning sacrifice. But some deny any form of presence as in the first proposition, hold only to the symbols, thinking this is the correct way to reject Rome.


The RCC (which many Lutheran Protestants would not appreciate being lumped with) understand: after the conjuring of the priest, the breadness of the bread is gone, replaced by the carnal essence of Christ. What looks, smells, tastes like bread is "accidental" (as opposed to real or essential) to the substance. They are defending an entire system of access to grace (their definition), for which they need the physical-carnal presence (the only "reality" they conceive) to supply.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
"See, then, all the saints are on horseback, galloping and posting to heaven after Christ; overcoming all temptations, triumphing over the world, sin, and death. Then, ye that are but Christ’s foot-runners, take heed to this; you that have your souls licking the dust of the earth, and have aye a smell of clay, who mind earthly things. By the smell of their breath ye will ken what country they are of; they are upon their feet with it, wading to their knees, and on their elbows, among the filthy clay-ground of covetousness. Ride up, and ride down, and ride else where ye will, ye will not get Christ overtaken. Ay, ye will get some like the young man in the Gospel, who would have galloped after Christ, but when Christ bade him go sell all he had, that threw him off the saddle, and laid him on the breadth of his back; and so he fell behind, and never overtook Christ again, so far as we hear of. The devil and the world make some men say, that yon Captain, Christ, rides so hard and fast, that they cannot keep up with Him, and so lose Him. Demas followed awhile along with Paul after Christ and the Gospel, yet at last his horse stumbled, and he fell off, and lost his horse, and company, and altogether. Judas, lie posted awhile, but the devil shot a musket ball at him, even thirty pieces of silver, and so he gave it over, and there he lay. . Men ken not that the devil and the world are lying betwixt them and heaven, stealing a shot at Christ’s horsemen. I assure you the devil seeks no better, than that ye will light and take a bait, a drink of his strong wine, worldly lusts, and fleshly pleasures, that so your Master on the white horse may be far before you. A little of lawful pleasure is best! Then light not, for the devil will have you lose sight of your Captain; and if ye lose your Master, Christ and fall behind Him, it will stand hard with you. Therefore when ye lose Him, seek and be diligent to find Him out again. Seek the right way, follow the horse’s foot-steps, the print of Christ’s foot-steps, in holiness, faith, patience, and hope, which may be seen all the way betwixt this and heaven. Ask Him out as the church does; “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” (Song iii. 3). When the church said, Draw me, she was three or four miles behind. When David said, “O Lord, how long?” (Psalm vi. 3), he had almost lost sight of his Captain. Nay, when Christ is a mile or two before, so that there is a little hill betwixt Him and us, with watery eyes and panting heart, look a long look over the mountain, and cry, Lord Jesus, ride at leisure, tarry and take a poor wearied traveller with Thee! Lord, tarry, or else Thou wilt lose a footman. Job said, “Lord, Thou takest me for an enemy.” He brake a girth there. Christ has many a sore tired horse to take out of the mire."
(Rutherford, Communion Sermon from Rev. 19, This Sermon was preached at Kirkcudbright in Galloway, upon a day of thanksgiving. Edited, Updated and Revised by C. Matthew McMahon, A Puritan’s Mind, Inc. Copyright April 2004)
 
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