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Self-Examination: A Short Directory

Thomas Wilcox (1621-1687)


Directory for the great, necessary, and advantageous duty of self-examination, whereby a serious Christian may every evening examine himself.


Questions relating to religious exercises


  1. Have I had any sensible communion with God in the exercise?

  2. Have I not neglected my private nor my family duties?

  3. Have I not omitted reading the Word of God?

  4. Have I not omitted holy meditations 1) concerning the Word preached, 2) concerning God, 3) concerning Christ, 4) concerning sin, 5) concerning Scriptures—the Word of God, 6) providences—the works of God, 7) about my duties, 8) about death, 9) about the Last Judgment, 10) about hell, 11) about heaven?

  5. Have I not been careless and formal in prayer, either private in the closet or in family prayer, and performed the same out of custom, and not out of love and affection to the duty?

  6. Have I not been careless and superficial in reading the Word, but serious and zealous to pray for a blessing, for increase of life and light by that duty?

  7. Have I not for haste in worldly business cut my prayers short or lain upon my bed for idleness, when I should have been upon my knees?

  8. Have I after duty gone upon my watch tower to look out and watch for a blessing and the fruits of my duties?


Questions relating to sins and temptations


  1. Have I guarded against and feared temptations, or have I heedlessly rushed among them?

  2. What temptations have I this day striven against and conquered?

  3. Have I this day done nothing against or contrary to my knowledge, or have I not sinned with full purpose and resolution?

  4. Do I not knowingly live in a course of sin, whether of omission or commission?

  5. Have I carefully kept myself from my iniquity, or have I again relapsed into it?

  6. Have I given any man any occasion of offense or been offended unjustly by any this day?

  7. Does not sin lie light upon my heart, so that the gospel and grace and the promises are less sweet and precious to me?

  8. When I fell into any sin, did I seriously without delay rise again by repentance and neither palliated nor extenuated my sin?


Questions relating to the thoughts of the heart


  1. Have I kept my heart in a serious spiritual and holy frame, so to be ready at all times for the exercise of holy duties, and so have gone from one duty to another?

  2. Have I had the Lord always before my eyes, and especially have my thoughts been of Him when I awaked?

  3. Hath eternity made any impressions on my heart, and have I set death and judgment with the consequences thereof before my eyes?

  4. Have I made conscience of vain, idle, and wandering thoughts and guarded against them?

  5. Have I been serious and frequent in holy and heavenly spontaneous prayers all day and so walked with God in all my affairs?

  6. Have I endeavored, when private and solitary, to order and govern my thoughts holily?


Questions relating to silence and the use of the tongue


  1. Have I bridled my tongue from vain, unnecessary, angry, and perverse words?

  2. Have I not spoken evil of any man behind his back? Or did the Lord call me by discovering of the wickedness of another to advance and further my neighbor’s interest?

  3. Have I with reverence used the name and Word of God and spoken thereof to the edification of others and myself at home or abroad at my rising up and lying down?

  4. Have I spoken when I should have been silent?

  5. Have I been silent when the Lord called me to speak for His glory and the edification of others?

  6. Have I always spoken the truth and not something made of lies or half lies?


Questions relating to our behavior among others


  1. Have I behaved myself as a Christian ought to do in reference to superiors and inferiors, juniors and seniors, and my equals?

  2. Have I not neglected some duties to them to whom I have particular relation? Or have I done nothing contrary to my duty to such, but duly and truly discharged them?

  3. Have I (being a father or mother) taken care first for the souls, and then for the bodies, of my children and wrought for them?

  4. Have I (being a child) honored my father and mother? Have I loved them, been obedient [to them,] and thankful for them?

  5. Have I (being a husband) been careful for the soul and body of my wife and loved her?

  6. Have I (being a wife) loved, honored, and obeyed my husband and heartily cared for his and the family’s good?

  7. Have I (being a ruler in either church or state) been conscientious to do the duties of my place?

  8. Have I (being a subject in the state and a member in the church) carried myself as becomes a Christian towards the magistrate and the minister, highly respecting them, being subject and obedient to them?


Questions relating to the exercise of the principal gifts and graces


  1. Have I lived by faith, depending constantly upon the promises and on Christ for help, strength, success, and acceptance with God?

  2. Have I with all diligence endeavored to express my love to God, to men, and to my enemies themselves this day?

  3. Have I denied myself this day and curbed my passions and affections in all occurrences and so behaved myself as one that denies himself?

  4. Have I been humble and in all things eschewed and striven against pride and high-mindedness?

  5. Have I walked the whole day in the fear of the Lord, whether in company or alone, in divine worship and service, or in worldly affairs, always guarding against sin?

  6. Have I eschewed or shunned sinful anger and carried myself meekly before God and men?

  7. Have I been content with my state and condition, in which the Lord by His providence hath set me?

  8. Have I been patient, not murmuring or [complaining] (when I met with difficulties and oppressions) against God and men?

  9. Have I in all things expressed and declared my uprightness and honesty and shunned and striven against all deceit and hypocrisy?

  10. Have I been heavenly-minded and delighted myself in God and striven against earthly-mindedness.


Questions relating to our time and opportunities


  1. Have I this day redeemed time for the good of my soul, as esteeming it precious?

  2. Have I not slept too long and more than was necessary, to that my exercises in private or in the family must be shortened or some necessary or profitable work omitted?

  3. Have I not misspent my time with idle, unnecessary, and fruitless discourse, or with unnecessary and unreasonable reflections?

  4. Have I not fed many idle and vain imaginations and thoughts, which time might have been improved to the advantage of my soul?

  5. Have I redeemed time from all those long and unnecessary visits or from long and tedious meals?

  6. Have I not lost time with too much and long discourse about worldly things or by doing more about them than was necessary?

  7. Have I diligently improved my time this day for God and for my eternal salvation, striving to take heaven by violence?

  8. Have I constantly observed every opportunity to the good of my soul, either to my instruction or reproof or to excite to more diligence?

From A Short Directory for the Great, Necessary, and Advantageous Duty of Self-examination; in the public domain.


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