Westminster Assembly (1643-1652).

The Westminster assembly's shorter catechism explained, by way of question and answer .. online

. (page 1 of 46)
Online LibraryWestminster Assembly (1643-1652)The Westminster assembly's shorter catechism explained, by way of question and answer .. → online text (page 1 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project
to make the world's books discoverable online.

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover.

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the
publisher to a library and finally to you.

Usage guidelines

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for
personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About Google Book Search

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web

at http : //books . google . com/|


w (hwUW^UH^-'



": '''™Tsr»j,jf ;»i^' ffv<.p^i^,


d by Google


d by Google



d by Google






PART K':]\


" Hold Tost the fonp of sound woTde."— 2 Tim. i. 13.




d by Google

IVm. S. Young, Printer.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC J




The Shorter Catcchismy composed by the Assemhly of divinaf
ax Westminster ^ with assistance of Commissioners from the church
of Scotland f being approved by the General Assembly of the sai^
church 1C48, and ratified by the Estates of Parliament in the year
Z^ following, is above any recommendation of ours; having its praises

already in all the churches of Christ, abroad and at home, among
whom it has been justly admired as a master-piece of its kind, both
for the fulness of its matter, and the compendious and perspicu-
ous manner in which it js expressed.

Although it is only a human composure, yet beiflg a form of
sound words J agreeable unto, and founded on the word of God,
it ought to be hfeld fast, and earnestly contended for, by all the
lovers of truth, in opposition to the contrary errors that are re-
vived and raging in our day; and, in order hereto, it ought fo be
considered, that a divine faith is due to the words of the Holt
Ghost supporting it, as the evident j^roo/j? thereof.

riothing tends more to the advantage and well-being of the
church, than sound standards of doctrine, worship, and govern -
menty established by ecclesiafftie and civil authority as ours are;
because, as they are a strong bulwark against contrary errors
end opinions, so they tend to preserve truth in its purity, and the
professors of it in unity and harmony among themselves. On
the other hand, there is nothing more galling to the adversaries
of truth, than such public standards, because they are a very se-
vere check and curb upon their unbounded and licentious liber-
ty, being directly levelled against their erroneous schemes, and
plainly discovering the harmonious chain of scripture-truth, in
* opposition to them.

The divine loarrant for such composures, is abundantly clear
from 2 Tim. i. 13, where we read of the form of sound words
wherein Paul instructed Timothy; and Heb. v. 12, of the first
principles of the oracles of God; and chap. vi. ] , of the principles

d by Google


of the doctrine of Christ. — Besides, there are several summaries f
or compendious systems of divine trutli, recorded in scripture;
euoh as Exod. xx. »— 18; Mat. vL 9—14; 1 Tim. iii. 16; and tit.
U. II — 15, Yrith many others, which are the examples, or pat-
terns, upon which the Christian churches, hoth in ancient and
latter times,- have deduced, from the pure fouiitsan df the= word,
the principal articles of their holy religion, as a test and standard
of orthodoxy amongst them.

The Shorter Catechism sets forth the principles of Christianity
in the most excellent method and order. It would be tedious to
give B particular analysis or division of the several heads of
divinity, according to the order of Uie Catechism, But, in gene-
ral, the method of it may be taken up under these four com-
prehensive articles, namely, The chief end, tlie only rule, the
glorious ohject, and the great svJbject of the Christian religion.

I. The c/iic/* CTid of tlie Christian religion, which is the glori-
fying of God, and the enjoying him for ever. (^uest. 1.

II. We have the only rule of the Christian religion; described,

1. In its matter; which is the wmd of God, contained in the
scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Quest. 2.

2. In its principal parts; whi<ih are, first, what man is to bdievc
concerning God; and then the duty which God requires of man.
Quest. 3.

III. The glorious object of the Christian religion; which is
God; considered,

1 . Essentially, in his spiritual nature, infinite perfections, and
in his most perfect unity and simplicity. Quest. 4, 5.

2. Relatively or personally, in the three distinct persons of the
Godhead; and in tlie consubstantiality, and absolute equality of
these persons. Quest. 6.

3. Efficiently, in his acts and operations, which are either im-
manent and essential, such as his decrees; or transient and ex-
tenial, such as his works of creation and providence, wherein
he executes his decrees. Quest. 7—12.

IV. The great subject of the Christian religion, which is man;

1st, In his state of innoccncQ, where the covenant of works is
opened. Quest. 12.

2dly, In his state of nature, together with the sinfulness and
misery of that state. Quest 13 — ^20.

2dly, Ir his state of grace, or begun recovery; where the Ca-
techism treats,

1. Of the nature of the covenant of grace. Quest. 20,

d by Google


S. Of iho Mediator of the covenant; who is described, in his
person, offices, humiliation, e:ra1tation, and in the application of
his purchased redemption by the Holy Spirit. Quest 21 — 32.

3. Of the benefits of the covenant; in this life, at death, at the
resurrection, and through all eternity. Quest. 32 — 39.

4. Of the duties by which we evidence our cavenant relation
and gratitude to God, in the Ten Commandments ^ as connected
with their Preface, Quest 39—82.

5. Of man's utter inability to obey the law in this life. Quest. 82.

6. Of the aggravation and desert of sin. Quf«t. 83, 84.

7. Of the means by which our salvation is carried on and
perfected at death: the internal means, faith and repentance; the
external means, the word, sacraments, and prayer. Quest 85, to
the end.

The first part of this catechetical treatise ends with Quest
38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrec-
tion? containing the doctrines we are to believe concerning God.
The second part respects the duty which God requires of man.

The materials of the following Catechism are collected by se-
veral ministers, and it was recommended to three of their num-
ber, to revise what should be done by so many hands, that there
might be a uniformity of style and method, and that repetitions
might be prevented as much as possible. It has pleased the
Lord to take home to himself on^* of these three, who assisted
in the composing and revising of this^r^^ partj but,-ihough he be
dead, he yet speaketh, and will be. spoken of for his excellent
works (which have already, or may hereafter see the light,) by
all those who shall have any relish or taste for sound doctrine
and experimental godliness. — Whatever loss the second part o£
this Catechism may sustain, by the removal of such an able and
skilful hand, the other two make not the least doubt, but the Lord
would carry on this work with as great, or greater advantage,
though they were laid in the grave likewise.

Mean time, that what is here presented to public view may be
blessed of God, for the edification of souls, is, in the name of
our brethren, the earnest prayer of,

February, 1753. EBEN. ERSKINE.


* The Rev. Mr. Ralph Erskine, of Dunfermline.

d by Google


The words of the Shorter Catechism , being advised with the
greatest jadgment, and with a peculiar view, both for establish-
ing Bcripture-truth, and likewise for refuting contrary errors,
they are therefore, in this edition, particularly taken notice of:
and to distinguish them, they are enclosed within brackets, that
the reader may the more easily discern how they are explained
in this treatise.

As the Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism, are granted
to be the best interpreters of the Shorter, the latter is carefully
explained by the former; and several of the following questions
and answers, framed from these standards, as will easily appear
by the quotations taken from them, and the references made unto
them on the margin.

In this edition, almost every answer is confirmed by the scrip-
tures; many arc added, where they wereformeily wanting, and
seveml exchanged, for those that are'thought more apposite. — In
the former impressions, the scripture-proofs were, mostly, sub-
joined to the end of the answer; but now, each scripture is im-
mediately annexed to that part of the answer it is designed to
confirm, that it may be consulted with greater certainty, and less
trouble, by those who incline to bring every position, here ad-
vanced, to the unerring rule and standard of the word. — Some of
the longer answers are divided into two or more, for sake of the
memory; and some additional questions are interspersed, through
the whole, for illustration. A shoit Index is likewise annexed,
pf the most material things in both parts. ,

1 have employed my spare time for several months, in study-
ing to make this edition as correct and usefut to the public as i
eould^ and now I leave it in the hands of the God qf truths that
he may use it for the purposes of his own glory, in edifying the
body of Christ, till they all come, in the unity of the faith, and of
' the knowledge of the Son of God, urvto a perfect man, unto the
pleasure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

CLAgGow, Jan. 14, 17G5,

d by Google



QuKST. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Ans. Man's ehief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy
him for ever.

Q. I. What is meant by man^s [chief endS\

A. That which ooght to be man's chief aim and design; and
that which he should seek after as his chief happiness.

Q. 2. What ought to be man*s chief aim and design?

A. The glory of God. 1 Chron. xvi. 23, 29: « Give unto the
Lord, ye kindreds of the people,-^gi7e unto the Lord the glory
due unto his name."

Q. 3. What should he seek after as his chief happiness?

A. The enjoyment of God. Isa. xzvi. 8: <* The desire of our
soul is to thy name, and the remembrance of thee."

Q. 4. What connexion is there between the glorifying God, and
the enjojrment of him?

A. They are connected by rich and sovereign grace, persuading
and enabling the sinner to embrace Jesus Christ as the only
way to God and glory. Eph. ii. 8: "By grace are ye saved,
through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
John xvi. 6: — " I," says Christ, " am the way; no man cometh
unto the Father, but by me."

Q. 5. Does tlie chief end exclude subordinate ends?

A. No: for, in sdming principally at the glory of God, men
may use the supports of natural life for refreshing their bodies,
1 Cor. X. 31; and be diligent in their particular callings, that
they may provide for themselves and their families, 1 Thess. iv.
11,12; ITim. v. 8.

Q,. 6. Why ought the glory of God to be the chief end and
design of man?

A. Because it is God's chief end in man's creation, preserva-
tion, redemption, and regeneration. Prov. xvi. 4: *'*The Lord
hath made all things for himself;'' and therefore it ought to be
man's chief end likewise. 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20: " Ye are not your

d by Google

8 OF man's chief £ND«

own; for ye are bpaght with a price: therefore glorify G6d in
your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

Q. 7. How manifold is the glory of God?

A. Twofold; his essential and declarative glory.

Q. 8. What is God's essential glory?

A. It is what he is absolutely in himself. Exod. iii.l4 — I ah


Q. 9. What is his declarative glory?

A. His showing, or making known his glory, to, in, and by
his creatures, Isa. zliv. 23; 2 Thess i. 10.

Q, 10. Can any creature whatsoever add any thing to God's
essentia] glory?

A. No: for his essential glory is infinite, eternal, and unchange-
able. Job xxzv. 7.

Q. 11. Do not the heavens and the earth, and all inferior crea-
tures, glorify God?

A. Tes: in a passive way, all his works praise him; Fsal. x^x.
1, and cxlv. 10.

Q. 12. How ought man to \ glorify] God?

A. Man beiug endued with a reasonable soul, ought to glorify
God in an aetioe way, Psal. Ixiii. 4, by declaring his praise, Psal.
ciii. 1, 2; and essaying to give him the glory due to his name.
Psalm xcvi. 7.

Q 13. How was man to glorify God in a state of innocencef

A. By a perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience to his law,
Gen. i. 27; and by giving him the glory of all his works,
chap. ii. 19.

Q. 14. Has man answered his chief end?

A. No: for, " all have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God," Rom. iii. 23.

Q. 15. Has God then lost his end in making man?

A. No: for God will glorify his justice and power upon some,
and his grace and mercy upon others of Adam's family, Rom.
ix. 22, 23.

Q. 16. Was ever God glorified by a perfect obedience since
Adam's fall?

A. Never, until Christ, the second Adam, appeared as a new
covenant head, Lsa. xlii. 21, and xlix. 3.

Q. 17. How did Christ, the second Adam, glorify God, as our
surety and representative on earth?

A. By finishing the work the Father gave him to do, John xvii. 4.

Q. 18. What was the work the Father gave him to do?

A. It was to assume a holy human nature, Luke i. 35; to yield

d by Google '^


a perfect sinless obedience to the whole law. Mat. iii. 15; and U>
give a complete satisfaction to justice, for man's sin, by his meri-
torioas sufierin^ and death, Luke 2xiv. 26.
(^ 19, How does Christ glorify God in heaven?
A. By appearing in the presence of God for us, Heb. ix. 24,
and applying, by the power of his Spirit, that redemption whichP
he purchased by the price of his blood on earth. Tit. iii. 5, 6,

Q. 20. When is it that a sinner begins uprightly to aim at the
glory of God?

A. When, through a faith of God's operation, he believes in
Christ: Acts viii. tJ7, 39. — " The eunuch answered and said, I
believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. — And he went on
his way rejoicing." ,

iQ. 21 . Can no man glorify God acceptably, unless he first be-
lieve in Christ?

A. No: for, "Without faith it is impossible to please him." \
Heb. xi. 6; and, " Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," Rom. xiv. 23. ;
Q. 22. How is it that faith in Christ glorifies God?
A. As it sets its seal to the record of God, John iii. 33; and
unites us to Christ, from whom only our fruit is found. Hos.
xiv. 8.
Q. 23. %B not God glorified by the good works of believers?
A. Yes: " Herein,^' says Christ, "is my Father glorified, Uiat
ye bear much fruit, Johp xv. 8.

Q. 24. What are these fruits brought forth by believers, by
which God i» glorified?

A. They may be summed up in filth working by love, Gal. v:
G; or, their aiming, in the strength of Christ, at universal obe-
dience to the law, as the rule of duty. Phil. iv. 13: " I can do
all things through Christ which strengthencth me."

Q. 25'. How should we glorify God in eating and drinking?
A. By taking a right to the supports of natural life, through
the second Adam, the heir of all things, who haa purchased a
covenant right to temporal, as well as spiritual mercies, for his
people, 1 Cor. iii. 24—23; and Ihankfully acknowledging God
for the same, I.Tim, iv. 4, 5.

Q. 26t Pow must we gloriQ^ God in our religious worship,
and other acts of obedience?

A. By doing all that we do in the name of the Lord%sus,

Col. iii. 17; worshipping God in the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ

Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh, Phil. iii. 3.

Q. 27. What is it, next to tlie glory of God, we should aim at'

A. Next to God's glory, wc ^should aim at the cnjotjmcnt of

- himJts. Ixxiii. 25, 20.

d by Google

10 OF man's chief end,^"

Q. 28. Why should wc aim at the enjoyment of €rod?

A. Because be is the chief good of the rational creature, Fsf^
cxvi. 7; and nothing else besides him, i» either suitable to the
nature, or satisfying to the desires of the immortal soul, Ps^
cxliv. 15.
* Q. 29. How may a finite creature [enjoy] an infinite God?

A. By taking and rejoicing in him, as its everlasting and up-
making portion, Ps. zvi. 5, 6, and zlviii. 14.

,Q. 30. Did our first parents, in a state of innocence, enjoy God?

A. Yes: there was perfect friendship and fellowship between
God and them; for, " God made man upright," Eccl. vii. 29.

Q. 31. What broke that blessed friendship and fellowship?

A. Sin: our iniquities have separated between us and our God,
and our sins have hid his face from us, Isa. liz. 2.-

Q.' 32. Can a sinner, in a natural state, enjoy God, or have
any fellowship with him?

A. No: for, " What communion hath light with darkness? and
what concord hath Christ with Belial?" 2 Por. vi. 14, 15.

Q. 33. How may a lost sinner recover the enjoyment of God,
and fellowship with him?

A. As we lost it by our fall in the first £dam, so it can only be
recovered by union with a second Adaviy Rom. v. 16, 19; for
there is no coming to God but by him, John xiv. 6..

Q. 34. When is it that a sinner begins to enjoy G<)d?

A. When, having received Christ by faith, he rests upon him,
and upon God in him, for righteousness and strength, Isa. zlv,
24; and out of his fulness leceives, and grace for grace, John
i. 16.

Q. 35. What are the external means by, or in which, we are
to seek after the enjoyn»ent of God?

A. In all the ordinances of liis worship, public, private and se-
cret; such as the word read and heard, the sacraments, prayer,
meditation, fasting, thanksgiving, and thcf like.

Q. 36. Are the saints of God admitted to enjoy him In these?

A. Yes: they are the tristing places where liis name is record-
ed, and to which he has promised to come and bless them. £x.
XX. 24 — ^^ In all places where I record my name, I will come
unto thee, and I will bless thee.**

Q. 37. What scripture -evidence have we, of their enjoying
God in the duties and ordinances of his appointment'
- A. We find them much employed in religious duties. Song iii.
1 — 3; and expressing the utmost regard for the ordinances of
his grace, Ps. Ixxxiv. 1,2.

d by Google


Q. 38. What satisfaction has the soul in the epjoyment of God?

A. Unspeakably more gladness than when corn, wine, and all
earthly comforts, do most abound, Ps. iv. 7.

Q. 39. Is there any difference between the enjoyment of God
in this life, and that wliich the saints shall obtain in the life to come?

A. Not an essential^ but a gradual difference, as to the manner
and measure of it.

Q. 40. What is the difference as to tlie \na7iner of the enjoy-
ment here and hereafter?

A. Here, the enjoyment is mediate, by the intervention of
means; hereafter, it will be immediate, without any use of these
means: " Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to
PACE," 1 Cor. xili. 12.

Q. 41. What is the difference as to the measure of the enjoy-
ment, in this life, and that which is to come?

A In this life the enjoyment is only partial; in that which is
to come, it will he full and complete, 1 John iii. 2 — here, the en-
joyment is only in the seed, or first fruits; there it will be in the
full harvest, Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6.

Q. 42. is the partial enjoyment of God in grace here, a sure
pledge of the full enjoyment of him in glory hereafter? -

A. It is both the pledge and earnest of it, Eph. i. 13, M. '
Ps. Ixxxl^, 11.

Q. 43. Does the gracious soul, in that state, fully receive its
chief end?

A. Yes; in regard that then it shall be brimful of Grod, and
celebrate hia pruses with high and uninterrupted HaUehujaJia
through all eternity, Ps. xvi. 1 1; Isft. xxxv. 10.

Q. 44. Why is the glorifying God made the leading part of
man's chief end, and set before the enjoyment of him?

A. Because, as God's design in glorifying himself was the rea-
son and foundation of his design in making man happy in the
enjoyment of him, Rom« xi. 26; so he has made our aiming at
his glory, as our chierend, to be the very way and means of our
attaining to that enjoyment, Ps 1. 23.

Q. 45* I»oar happiness, in the enjoyment of God, to !)e our
chief end?

A. No: but the glory of God itself, Isa. xlii. 8; in our aiming
at which chiefly, we cannot miss the enjoyment of him, Ps.
cxi. 14, 15.

Q. 46. Is not our delighting in the glory^of God, to be reckoned
our cliief end?

A. No: we mlist set the glory of God above our delight there-
in, otherwise, our delight is not chiefly in God, but in ourselves,

d by Google


Isa. ii. 11. Our subjective delighting in llie glory of God be-
longs to the enjoyment of him, whose glory is above the heaveas,
and infinitely above our delight therein, Ps. cxiii. 4.

Q. 47. Whom does God dignify with the enjoyment of himself,
in time and for ever.^

A. Those whom he helps Actively to glorify and honour him; for
*he has said, " Them that honour me, 1 will honour," 1 Sam. ii. 80.

Q. 48. Does any thing so much secure our happy enjoyment
of God, as the concern that the glory of God has in it?

A. No: for as God cannot but reach the great end of his own
glory, so, when he has promised us eternal life, in Christ, be-
fore the world began. Tit. i. 2, we cannot come short of it; be-
cause it stands upon the honour of his faithfulness to make it
good, Heb. x. 23; " He is faithful that promised."

Q. 49. IIow does it appear, that the enjoyment of God, which
is connected with thq glorifying of him, shall be [for everf}

A. Because he who is the object enjoyed, is the everlasting
Gody Isa. xl. 28; and the enjoyment of him is not transitory, like
the passing enjoyments of time, but the eternal enjoyment of the

Online LibraryWestminster Assembly (1643-1652)The Westminster assembly's shorter catechism explained, by way of question and answer .. → online text (page 1 of 46)