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The Christian directed in the serious Examination of his Spiritual Character and State, as preparatory to his receiving the Holy Communion.
WISE is the choice thou hast made, O my soul, to serve thy God; wise thy resolution to commemorate, in the holy eucharist, the infinite love of thy Saviour, who, by his death, purchased thy redemption, and offers thee, in that holy ordinance, all the inestimable blessings of his passion.
But recollect, O my soul, that if thou dost advance, impenitent, to the supper of thy Lord, he will not accept thee as his guest; thou wilt not be nourished with that spiritual food which diffuses its life-giving power only through the heart of the penitent believer. The Saviour withholds the blessings of his grace from those who, unaffected with the condescensions of his mercy, and insensible to their own weakness and demerit, approach his altar with impenitent and unmortified hearts.
Unless, therefore, I come to the altar cherishing a lively sense of the weakness and sinfulness of my heart, by which I have been led to transgress the holy laws of my God; deeply sensible that the only pledge of my forgiveness is the meitorious atonement of my Saviour; and steadfastly resolving that, by the aids of
his grace, I will renounce all my sins, and faithfully serve him: unless I come to the altar in this character of an humble penitent, I must not hope to partake of the blessings of salvation; or to experience those divine joys, those strengthening succours, which refresh the souls of those who, by a true and lively faith, spiritually feed on the body and blood of their crucified Redeemer.
To prepare then for partaking of this holy ordinance, and to secure the inestimable blessings which are dispensed in it to penitent believers, I must impartially search my heart, and faithfully examine the course of my life, in order to ascertain my spiritual character and state.
Dispose me earnestly and seriously to enter on this examination, Almighty God; impress on me the infinite importance of determining the state of my soul-whether I am at peace with thee, through penitence and faith in the blood of thy Son; or am obnoxious, through unrepented sin, to thy just displeasure. Enable me, with faithfulness, to search my heart, knowing that my eternal destiny depends on the issue. Thy powerful grace only can detect the errors of my life, and strip from my heart the veil of self-love which conceals its vices. Do thou, therefore, O God, try me, and seek the ground of mine heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts, and see if there be way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. As in thy presence, and exposed to thy in
spection, O thou God, who searchest the heart, who canst not be deceived, and who wilt not be mocked, as before thy tribunal, O thou Sovereign Judge of men, who wilt bring to light every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil, do I now seriously enter on the examination of the condition of my soul. Impress on my heart, O God, by thy Holy Spirit, the solemn inquiries which I now make. May I faithfully answer them to my own conscience, as I shall certainly have to answer them at thy tribunal, to thee, my Almighty Judge.
Am I a member of the Church of Christ, which he purchased with his blood, which he sanctifies with his Spirit, and which, according to his sovereign pleasure, is made the channel of his covenanted mercies to a fallen world?
Have I been admitted to the participation of the inestimable privileges of this Church, to a title to the forgiveness of sin, to the favour of God, to the aids of the Holy Spirit, to an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven; by that ordinance, which Jesus Christ, its divine head, instituted, the holy sacrament of Baptism?
Do I keep up my communion with this Church, by devout submission to the ministrations of its priesthood in the orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, deriving their
authority by regular transmission from Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Head of the Church, who has promised to be with the ministers of apostolic succession "always, even to the end of the world ?"
Have I been diligent in imploring, by earnest prayer, the aids of the Holy Spirit, to enable me to fulfil my baptismal vows, "to renounce the devil and all his works, to believe in God, and to serve him?"
Have I ratified, in the holy rite of Confirmation, the vows and promises of Baptism, receiving, by the ministry of Christ's authorized servant, the manifold and strengthening aids of the Holy Ghost?
Have all my violations of these solemn engagements, all my infirmities and sins, been cleansed by repentance, and by renewed faith in the blood of Christ?
Have I frequently contemplated, with deep humiliation, the state of depravity and guilt in which man is sunk, while destitute of an interest in the merits of a Saviour?
Have I reviewed, with lively compunction, the transgressions which have defiled my conscience?
In the bitterness of my spirit, have I acknowledged the justice of God in my condemnation? Have I humbly and fervently adored the fulness of his grace and mercy in providing for me the means of redemption, through Jesus Christ?
Awakened to a lively sense of my sins,
have I fled, with earnest supplication, to the throne of my Almighty Judge, and reverently presented there, as the only plea of my forgiveness, the meritorious blood of my Redeemer ?
Has faith opened to me the fulness and sufficiency of my Saviour's merits, and conveyed to my troubled conscience rest and peace?
Have I experienced the power of divine grace, in awakening my sensibility to the evil and guilt of sin, to the excellence and rewards of holiness, and in exciting the resolution to renounce all the dictates of my corrupt nature, and to devote myself to my God and Saviour, in the services of a holy life?
Am I sincerely desirous, and always ready, to partake of the holy eucharist, thereby to commemorate the dying love of my Redeemer; to testify my communion with his Church and people; to plead before God, for the pardon of my sins, the all-prevailing merits of his cross and passion; and to refresh and strengthen my soul with his most precious body and blood?
Am I diligent and faithful in all the exercises and duties of the Christian life?
Am I uniform and sincere in the duties of private meditation and prayer, in all those pious exercises which have a tendency to strengthen the reign of grace in my heart?