For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD: That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:31, Psalm 26:2-7
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
~ Lamentations 3:40
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
~ Haggai 1:5
Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain? Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment. My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
~ Zechariah 7:5-7, Ecclesiastes 8:5, James 3:1, 1 Corinthians 11:32-34
Before the Lord’s Supper, by Jonathan Edwards. This is from his work, “Self-Examination and the Lord’s Supper”.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:28-29
Persons ought to examine themselves of their fitness before they presume to partake of the Lord’s Supper, lest by their unworthy partaking, they eat and drink damnation to themselves…There are some qualifications that make a man so unfit that there is no encouragement in the Word of God of any benefit to such an attendant. It is utterly against the mind and will of God that such should come bringing these unfitnesses with them. Therefore,
Before he comes to this ordinance a man ought to examine himself with respect to these following things:
First, whether or no he lives in any known sin. Those persons that live immoral lives, whatever immorality it is that is their practice, that live in the customary indulgence of any lust whatsoever, they are utterly unfit to come to the holy ordinance of the Lord. If the sin that he lives in is of commission or omission, and if it be allowed and known, then he comes unworthily (to the Supper,) if he comes. It makes him unfit.
Whether the sin that he lives in be lesser or greater, yet if against the habitual light of his conscience he comes to the Lord’s Table before he forsakes it, he is an unfit and unworthy partaker. Such persons had a thousand times better stay away than come. For such persons to come to the Lord’s Supper is an abominable profanation of the ordinance; it is a defiling of the temple of God and the sacred things of it…As of old, those that were legally unclean were not allowed to come to the Passover or to eat of the sacrifices, so neither are men that live in wicked practices of any kind allowed to come near to the holy ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. God doubtless has as much care that this sacrament of the New Testament should not be defiled as He had that the temple and altar and sacrifices and feasts of old should be kept pure. Unclean persons were very strictly forbidden of old to come near; so those that are thus unclean by allowed wickedness are no less strictly (forbidden) to approach to the ordained sacred signs of the body and blood of Christ.
Second, a man ought to examine whether or not it be his serious resolution to avoid all sin and live in obedience to all known commands as long as he lives. Whether he now be in the practice of any known ways of sinning or no, yet if he has a design of sinning hereafter, or, if he doesn’t explicitly design it, yet if he stands ready to commit sin as occasions offer, not having any resolutions against (it), having never come to any determination of mind of truly endeavouring to do everything that he ought to do and of avoiding whatever he ought not to do, he is not fit to come to the sacrament, as will evidently appear presently.
Therefore, persons before they presume to come to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ought to examine themselves strictly as to this matter, whether that be their determination, to avoid as long as they live all known sins and to set themselves to walk in a way of obedience. But,
Third, a man should particularly examine himself before he comes to the Lord’s Supper to see whether he entertains a spirit of hatred, envy, or revenge towards his neighbour. If a man has such a spirit towards any of his brethren and does not disallow it, but from time to time acts upon it, maintains such a spirit and disposition towards him, and gives vent to it, it renders him unfit to attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. And if he does not first draw up a resolution to lay it by and no more to allow it, he eats and drinks unworthily.
Such a spirit in a man renders a man unfit and makes the ordinance void to him in the same manner as having leaven in a house rendered the Passover void. Leaven typified any wickedness, but especially malice and hatred. It fitly represented this by reason of its sourness. The apostle calls malice leaven and directs us to keep the Christian feast without this leaven, as they formerly kept the Passover without leaven: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1Co 5:8). Here both wickedness in general or any wicked practice and malice in particular are mentioned as being in the Christian feast as malice was of old in the Jewish feast of the Passover.
Persons, therefore, should particularly examine themselves whether or not they have forgiven their enemies—those that have done them any hurt—so as to allow of no wishing of any hurt to them, and especially so as never to design to do anything to gratify a revengeful disposition towards them.
If men have quarrels one with another, they should see to it to put an end to them before they come to the Lord’s Supper. If they come together to the table of the Lord maintaining their quarrels one with another and indulging a contentious spirit, a spirit of hatred, they eat and drink unworthily. Persons should particularly examine themselves whether they have any sincere disposition and desire to these things that are the main designs, ends, and benefits of their profession.
Fourth, persons ought to examine their aim in coming to the Lord’s Supper—whether any of those ends for which the ordinance was appointed be what they aim at in coming, or whether it be only and altogether something else that Christ had no respect to in appointing of it. The ordinance was appointed for (the) spiritual good of the partakers. Therefore, if those that come do not seek that in it, and it is not (from) any desire of their spiritual good or from any conscientious regard to God’s command that they come, but only for some end, some temporal advantage or credit…they eat and drink unworthily.
Thus did the Corinthians, of whom the apostle speaks in the text. What moved them to come to the sacrament was not that they might commemorate Christ’s death according to His institution, or that they might obtain spiritual good, but to nourish their bodies and gratify their sensitive appetite, not discerning the Lord’s body.
Persons should examine themselves with respect to those things, that they may not eat and drink damnation to themselves. They that come with this unfitness or in this unworthy manner, all the while living in known sins or having never truly resolved against living in such sins and harbouring a spirit of hatred, ill will to their brethren, or aiming at nothing else but only some end perfectly (alien) from the design of the ordinance, eat and drink judgment to themselves. That is to say, their eating and drinking does but much the more expose them to eternal damnation and seals that damnation.
Those that worthily partake eat and drink eternal life; that is, their eating and drinking will be profitable to their souls and tend to their salvation, and the promise of eternal life is sealed to them. But those that eat and drink unworthily, eat and drink their own damnation; that is, by their eating and drinking, they do greatly expose themselves to damnation and seal their own damnation.
Reasons: Because coming after such a manner is horrid contempt of the ordinance and the things signified in it. To come and pretend to eat Christ’s body and blood and to dare allowedly in the meantime to continue in their wicked practices and to bring them into the presence of Christ, to the communion of His body and blood, shows a great contempt of it. If a person should be invited to a prince’s table and should wilfully and allowedly come with his garments all over defiled with ordure,87 it would show a great contempt of the prince and what he was invited to.
So, it shows a great contempt of the ordinance and of Jesus Christ and His body and blood to improve it only for some temporal design and aim. Such persons are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; they make themselves mere murderers of Christ. Those that stood by when Christ was crucified and showed that they made a light matter of it and had treated the body of Christ, when dying or dead, contemptuously and with indignity, it might justly be imputed to them as partaking in His murder. So those that contemptuously treat those symbols of the body of Christ slain and His blood shed, why, they make themselves guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, that is, of murdering it.
There are two ways of eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ. One is eating and drinking for spiritual food and nourishment as the worthy partakers do. And another is eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ as a wild beast eats his prey: they do, as it were, drink the blood of Christ out of a murderous bloodthirstiness. They eat His flesh as Job says the men of his tabernacle said of him, that they longed to be revenged on: “O that we had of his flesh!” (Job 31:31). And this is to eat and drink as the murderers of Christ might be metaphorically said to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, that is, a prey to their malice. Unworthy partakers, they are partakers with those murderers. They are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
They eat and drink their own damnation because they therein expressed such a contempt of that which is their only remedy from damnation, that is, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. They that in eating and drinking do receive and embrace Jesus Christ, they eat and drink their salvation because they receive the Saviour. But they which in eating and drinking do but trample on Christ and, as it were, spit in His face, eat and drink their damnation because they cast this indignity upon the only means of their salvation…
The use of this doctrine is to warn all persons carefully to examine themselves before they come to the Lord’s Supper, that they do not seal their own damnation. If you would not, as it were, consign yourself over to Satan, be careful to examine yourself before you come to the Lord’s Supper. And if there be any…(that) have hitherto neglected this duty of self-examination before they come, let them no more neglect it. And if there be any that live in any wickedness that have not taken up a resolution, let them by no means approach until they have. If upon self-examination, you find yourself unfit in these respects, it will not excuse you from coming. One wickedness does not excuse you, though, it is true, if you will continue, you had much better stay away than come. But the end of examination is that you may amend before you come.
If there be any now about to approach that are in any of these mentioned ways of wickedness, I forewarn them in the name of Jesus Christ not to presume to touch until they have taken up a resolution. If you live in any known way of wickedness, do not come here to eat and drink damnation to yourselves.
In vain do they pretend to be possessed of faith, who do not live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. For they to whom God has shown the good—Christ Himself—and have by faith rolled the burden of their salvation upon Him, will do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God.—Thomas Boston