Questions of Self-Reflection Too Important NOT to Ask

by Dr. Ashbel Green, President of New Jersey College –Now Princeton University (Dr. Green created these questions for the use of the students at the time of spiritual awakening among them in 1815.)

 Questions.

Section 1

  • black-man-with-engagement-ring2-274x300Have you seen yourself to be, by nature and practice, a lost and helpless sinner?
  • Have you not only seen the sinfulness of particular acts of transgression, but also that your heart is the seat and fountain of sin; that in you naturally, there is no good thing?
  • Has a view of this led you to despair of help from yourself; to see that you must be altogether indebted to Christ for salvation, and to the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and ability rightly to perform any duty?

Section 2

On what has your hope of acceptance with God been founded?

  • On your own reformation?
  • On your sorrow for your sins?
  • On your prayers?
  • On your tears?
  • On your good works and religious observances?
  • Or has it been on Christ alone, as your all in all?
  • Has Christ ever appeared very precious to you?
  • Do mourn that he does not appear more so?
  • Have you sometimes felt great freedom to commit your soul to him?
  • In doing this (if you have done it) has it been, not only to be delivered from the punishment due to your sins, but also from the power, pollution, dominion, and existence of sin in your soul?

Section 3.

  • As far as you know yourself, do you hate, and desire to be delivered from all sin, without any exception of a favorite lust?MP900178413_thumb[8]
  • Do you pray much to be delivered from sin?
  • Do you watch against it, and against temptation to it?
  • Do you strive against it, and in some good degree get the victory over it?
  • Have you so repented of it as to have your soul really set against it?

Section 4

  • Have you counted the cost of following Christ, or of being truly religious?
  • That it will cut you off from vain amusements, from the indulgence of your lusts, and from a sinful conformity to world?
  • That it may expose you to ridicule and contempt, possibly to more serious persecution?
  • In the view of all these things, are you willing to take up the cross, and to follow Christ, whithersoever he shall lead you?
  • Is it your solemn purpose, in reliance on grace and aid to cleave to him, and his cause and people, to the end of life?

Section 5

  • Do you love holiness?
  • Do you love a Holy God, and because he is holy?
  • Do you earnestly desire to be more and more conformed to God, and to his holy law?
  • To bear more and more the likeness of your Redeemer?
  • Do you seek, and sometimes find communion with your God and Savior?

Section 6

  • Are you resolved in God’s strength, to endeavor conscientiously to perform your whole duty—to God, to your neighbor and to yourself?
  • Do you perform common and relative duties conscientiously, as part of the duty which you owe to God?

Section 7

  • womanPraying5Do you make conscience of secret prayer daily?
  • Do you not sometimes feel awkwardness to this duty?
  • Do you at other times feel a great delight in it?
  • Have you a set time, and place and order of exercises, for performing this duty?

Section 8

  • Do you daily read a portion of scripture in a devout manner?
  • Do you love to read the Bible?
  • Do you ever perceive a sweetness in the truths of Holy Scripture?
  • Do you find them adapted to your necessities, and see, at times, a wonderful beauty, excellence, and glory in God’s word?
  • Do you make it the ‘man of your counsel’ and endeavor to have both your heart and life conformed to its doctrines and requisitions?

Section 9

  • Does the glory of God ever appear to you as the first, greatest, and best of all objects?
  • Do you desire to promote the glory of God, as the chief object of life?

Section 10

  • worship2Do you feel a love to mankind-—such as you did not feel before you became religious?
  • Have you a great desire that the souls of men should be saved, by being brought to a genuine faith and trust in the Redeemer?
  • Do you love God’s people with a peculiar attachment—because they bear the Savior’s image, and because they love and pursue the objects, and delight in the exercises, which are most pleasing and delightful to yourself?
  • Do you from your heart, forgive all your personal enemies, and refuse to cherish or entertain any sentiments of hatred or revenge?
  • If you have injured any person, have you made reparation; or are you ready and willing to make it?

Section 11

  • Do you feel it to be very important to adorn religion, by a holy, exemplary, amiable and blameless walk and conversation?
  • Do you fear to bring a reproach on the cause of Christ?
  • Does this appear to you extremely dreadful?
  • Are you afraid of backsliding, and of being left to return to a state of carelessness and indifference in religion?

Section 12

  • Do you desire and endeavor to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ your Savior, more and more?
  • Are you willing to sit at his feet as a little child, and to submit your reason and understanding, implicitly, to his teaching; imploring his Spirit to guide you into all necessary truth, to save you from all fatal errors, to enable you to receive the truth in the love of it, and to transform you, more and more into a likeness to himself?

Reading-the-Bible-1_3

Counsel.

Remember that these questions are intended to point your attention to subjects of inquiry the most important. Do not, therefore, content yourself with a careless or cursory reading of them. Read and deliberate, and examine yourself, closely, on each question, and let your heart be lifted up to God, while you are considering each particular, in earnest desires that he may show you the very truth. You cannot ordinarily go over all these questions at one time. Divide them therefore, and take one part at one time, and another at another. But try to go over the whole in the course of a week; and do this every week, for some months. When you find yourself doubtful or deficient, in any point, let it not discourage you: but note down that point in writing, and bend the attention of your mind to it, and labor and pray till you shall have made the attainment which will enable you to answer clearly. It is believed that you cannot fail to see how each question ought to be answered.

  1. Remember that secret prayer, reading the word of God, watchfulness and self-examination, are the great means of preserving comfort in religion, and of growing in grace. In proportion as you are exact and faithful in these, such usually, will be your inward peace, and the safety of your state. Unite them all together, and never cease to practice them while you live.—Think often of the character of Enoch, and try to walk with God. Read Mason’s little book on self-knowledge, Owen’s works, Baxter’s Saints’ Rest, Doddridge’s works, Edward’s works, Hopkin’s works, Gill’s works, Bellamy’s works, Newton’s works, Watson’s works, and Scott’s works, Etc. [Some of the works in President Green’s catalogue, I have omitted and added others, which I hope will be found of equal merit by all who can obtain, and carefully examine them].
  2. Do not suppose that any evidence which at present, you may think you possess, of a gracious state, will release you from the necessity of maintaining a constant vigilance in time to come: nor from repeated examinations and trials of yourself even to the end of life. Many marks and evidences of a gracious state are set down by pious writers. But they must all come to this—to ascertain what is your prevalent temper and character –Whether on the whole, you are increasing in sanctification or not? If you are, you may be comforted; if not, you have cause to be alarmed. It is only he that endureth unto the end that shall be saved.
  3. I think it of very great importance to warn you not to imagine that true religion is confined to the closet, or to the church; even though you apprehend that you have great comfort and freedom there. Freedom and comfort there, are, indeed, most desirable; but true religion reaches to everything. It alters and sweetens the temper. It improves tins manners. It goes into every duty, relation, station, and situation of life. If you have true religion, you will have a better spirit, you will be better sons, better scholars [students], better friends, better members of society, and more exemplary in the discharge of every duty; as the sure consequence of this invaluable possession. And if your religion does not produce these effects, although you may talk of inward comforts, and even of raptures, you have great reason to fear that the whole is a delusion, and that the root of the matter is not in you. — Herein, said the Savior, is my Father glorified that ye hear much fruity so shall ye be my disciples.
  4. Be careful to avoid a gloomy, and to cherish a cheerful temper. Be habitually cheerful but avoid levity.  Be very humble. Be not talkative. Before experienced Christians be a hearer rather than a talker. Try, in every way, however, to promote religion among your relatives and friends. Win them to it, by your amiable temper and exemplary deportment.
  5. “Flee youthful lusts.” Shun every excitement of them. Guard against dissipation [debauchery]: it extinguishes piety. Be not disconcerted by ridicule and reproach. Your Savior bore much of these for you. Think of this, and be ashamed of nothing, so much as of being ashamed of Him. Trust in His protection, live to His praise, and you will dwell eternally in His blissful presence.
Ashbel Green [1762-1848] Source: Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 1, no. 4 (June 1902), plate X., facing page 300.