A masterful and balanced statement from William Young on the duty of self-examination before partaking of the Lord’s Supper:
“Self-examination, conducted according to the directions of Scripture, is a profitable exercise in preparation for the Lord’s Supper. The phantom of morbid introspection is the invention of that proud presumption that fails to distinguish between the precious and the vile. Surely on our American scene, the danger of unhealthy preoccupation with the abominations in our deceitful hearts, to the neglect of the remedy provided in the gospel, is very slight in comparison with the externalism and formality with which presumptuous sinners, puffed up with their imaginations of ‘blessed assurance,’ eat and drink damnation to themselves. Evangelical hypocrites are the natural product on the one hand of Arminian evangelism and on the other of Kuyperian Hyper-Covenantism, opposed to one another as these two errors are. A spurious assurance may arise either from confidence in a ‘decision for Christ’ made by the act of one’s ‘free will,’ or from the presumption that mistakes an external relation to the covenant of grace for a living relation to Christ, the only Mediator of the covenant. Such self-deception can be destroyed, and a well-grounded assurance of grace and salvation be established in the soul, only by way of serious and thorough self-examination.
“The critics of this wholesome exercise often misconstrue its purpose. Self-examination does not aim at the production of doubts and fears, leaving the troubled soul in a state of perpetual uncertainty as to its being in a state of grace. A faithful declaration of the demands of the law and of the deceitfulness of the human heart will, no doubt, give occasion for doubts and fears. But the truth is not the cause of the condition of the soul, arising from the suggestions of Satan and the weakness of the flesh. Self-examination as to whether one is in the faith is designed in fact to bring weak believers to the knowledge that Christ is in them and that they are not reprobates. To this end the Scripture has enumerated an abundance of marks of grace, especially those found in the First Epistle of John.
“In preparation for partaking of the Lord’s Supper, self-examination is in order both as to one’s state and as to one’s frame. If in applying the marks of grace, one finds that the great change has not taken place, then one’s first duty is to come to Christ to receive pardon and cleansing by His blood and only after that, to come to the table in obedience to the command, ‘This do in remembrance of me.’ If the happy result of self-examination is a well grounded assurance, then one may with confidence and thanksgiving enjoy a blessed communion with Christ and one’s fellow Christians. And weak believers may have to be reminded that the Savior’s gracious invitation is also a commandment, and that there is guilt in unworthy refusing as well as unworthy partaking. The assured believer is not called on to doubt as to the soundness of his faith, but may find comfort in seeing his title clear to mansions in the sky, only on the ground of the Redeemer’s merits. At the same time inquiry as to his frame leads him to see both the fruit of the Spirit and the sinful imperfection of his graces, and thus serves to foster spiritual growth in repentance, faith, hope, love, humility and every grace.”