1 Corinthians 11:28
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
Explain the Scottish custom of "fencing the tables" at sacramental seasons, that is, of guarding the tables from the approach of unworthy persons. There has grown up round the expression, "Let a man examine himself," a kind of self searching, as a Christian duty, which could hardly have been in the thought of the apostle. It has come to be considered the right thing that, at stated seasons, the Christian should subject his whole inner life, his thoughts, his views of truth, his frames of mind, and his varied feelings, to examination; testing them by the most familiar and admired models of Christian experience. Many of us know what it is to attempt this painful and difficult work, and perhaps we know also the heavy porosities which follow the attempt; the oppressed moods into which our souls get, the killing outright of all Christian joy, the morbid pleasure found in dwelling on the evil phases of our experience, and, above all, the subtle self trust which it engenders, until we awake to find that we have been led away from simple, childlike reliance on Christ to an attempted confidence in our own frames and feelings and experiences. St. Paul distinctly enjoins the duty of examining one's self, but if we take his counsel in connection with the circumstances and doings of those to whom his counsel was given, we shall see what was the sphere of self examination to which he referred. The evils which the apostle deals with are plainly the relics of the old heathen life gaining strength again, such strength as to imperil this most solemn Christian ordinance. There were class rivalries, one pressing before another; the rich were making ostentatious display; the poor were grasping at the best food; self indulgence, gluttony, were so manifest that few could realize the special religious significance of the closing part of the feast, the common sharing of the bread and wine of memorial. St. Paul, having this in mind, urges that a man must examine into his morals, his habits, his conduct, his relationships, and his duties, and gain a moral fitness for partaking of the bread and of the wine of memorial. We consider -
I. THE MORAL LIFE THAT IS IN HARMONY WITH HOLY COMMUNION. One important element of the Christian spirit is sensitiveness to the tone, the character, the genius, of Christianity. We ought not to have to ask," What is consistent?" We should feel what is becoming, what is worthy of our vocation. The cultured, spiritually minded Christian, who is "transformed by the renewing of his mind," finds himself resisting all wrong, disliking all that is unlovely, shrinking from everything that is untrue, and gathering round him all that is kind and lovely and of good report. His life he seeks to set sounding through all its notes in full harmony with the keynote of the gospel. But we should see that our moral life is to be tested by Christianity when that religion is at its highest point of expression, and that we find in the Eucharistic feast. We must test ourselves by the ideal which we imagine as realized at the Lord's table. Then we say:
1. That there must be a very clearly cut and marked separation from the larger social evils of our time.
2. There must be a firm stand in relation to the questionable things of our time, the things that seem to lie on the borderland between good and evil.
3. There is further required a wise ordering of family relationships, and an efficient restraining of personal habits. Our communion times, when the holy quiet is around us, when the fever and the bustle of life are stilled, and our glorious, pure, white Lord comes so near to us, bring out to view the stains of secret fault.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SECURING THE HARMONY BETWEEN THE MORAL LIFE AND CHRISTIANITY IS THROWN UPON THE CHRISTIAN HIMSELF. The question of supreme importance to us is this, "Will we let the Christ spirit that is in us nobly shape our whole life and relationship? Will we so fill everything with the new life that men shall find the Christ image glowing everywhere from us? Will we be thoroughly in earnest to live the holy life?" The old idea was, win the soul for Christ, and let the body go - the helpless body of sin and death. The truer idea is that we are to win our bodies for Christ, our whole life spheres for Christ. And the burden lies on us. God will win no man's body or life sphere for him. He will win them with him. God will help every man who sets himself manfully to the work. The sanctification of a believer is no accident and no miracle. The law concerning it is most plain: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you to will and do of his good pleasure." The responsibility lies on us of "putting off the old man with his deeds," and the responsibility lies on us of "putting on the new man." The goodness and graces of the Christian life are to be won; they are not mere gifts. Gentleness of speech and manner, lowly mindedness, meekness of self denial, tender consideration for others, glistening purity of thought and heart, strong faith, glowing love, and ardent hope; the inexpressible loveliness of those who have caught the spirit of Christ; the charming bloom - richer far than lies on ripened fruit - that lies on the word and work of the sanctified; - all these are to be won. We must want them, set ourselves in the way of them, wrestle and pray for them, put ourselves into closest relations with Christ so that they may be wrought in us by his Spirit. And communion times bring all these claims so prominently before us. Brotherhood, holiness, forgiveness, charity, mean then so much; and our attainments seem so few, so small, in the light of the ideal Christian life. Let a man examine himself; find his evil and put it away; find what is lacking, and seek to gain it, and so attain the moral fitness for sharing in the Holy Communion. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.