THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 2. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

ANSWER: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us, how we may glorify and enjoy him.


Q. 1. What necessity is there of a rule to direct us how to glorify and enjoy God?

A. It is necessary, because, since God will be glorified by the reasonable creature, nothing can be a perfect rule for that end, but his own revealed will, Rom. 12:2.

Q. 2. Can man, by any wisdom or power of his own, ever attain to the glorifying of God, and the enjoyment of him, which he has come short of, by his fall in the first Adam?

A. No; his wisdom and knowledge in the things of God, are become folly and ignorance, Job 11:12; and his power to do good is turned into utter impotency, John 6:44.

Q. 3. Where has God revealed the way, in which man may recover and attain the end of his creation?

A. In the word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, John 5:39 -- "Search the scriptures..."

Q. 4. How do you know the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God?

A. By the print of God that is evidently to be seen upon them: for, as none works like God, Isa. 43:13; so none speaks like him, John 7:46.

Q. 5. What do you understand by the print or impress of God that is so discernible in the scriptures?

A. That majesty, holiness, light, life, and efficacy, which shine in the word itself, Rom. 1:16; Psalm 19:7.

Q. 6. What may be said of those who do not see that print of God in the word, though they read it?

A. It may be said, "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not," 2 Cor. 4:4.

Q. 7. Since all men are spiritually blind by nature, is it not in vain for them to read the scriptures?

A. No; it is the will of God that they should read and search the scriptures, John 5:39; and the entrance of his word gives light and sight to them that are blind, Psalm 119:130.

Q. 8. What should a man do that the Bible may not remain a sealed book to him?

A. Whenever he looks into the word of God, he should look up to God, the author of it, saying, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law," Psalm 119:18. "O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me," Psalm 43:3.

Q. 9. By what arguments may we persuade men that are infidels, to receive the scriptures as the Word of God?

A. We may deal with them by rational arguments drawn from their antiquity; the heavenliness of the matter; the majesty of the style; the harmony of all the parts, though written in different ages; the exact accomplishment of prophecies; the sublimity of the mysteries and matters contained in the word; the efficacy and power of it, in the conviction and conversion of multitudes; the scope of the whole, to guide men to attain their chief end, the glory of God in their own salvation; and the many miracles wrought for the confirmation of the truth of the doctrines contained in them.[3]

Q. 10. Can these or the like rational arguments, ever produce a divine faith?

A. No; for rational arguments can only produce a mere rational faith, founded on reason; but a divine and saving faith rests wholly upon the divine testimony inherent in the word itself; or upon a "Thus saith the Lord."

Q. 11. How is this inherent testimony discovered?

A. By the same Spirit of God that dictated the word, 2 Pet. 1:21; he being an "Interpreter, one among a thousand," John 16:13.

Q. 12. What is it that will fully persuade and assure a person that the scriptures are indeed the word of God?

A. "The Spirit of God bearing witness by, and with the scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it, that they are the very word of God," John 16:13, 14; 1 John 2:27.[4]

Q. 13. Whether does the authority of the scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, depend upon the testimony of the church, or wholly upon God?

A. "Wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof; and, therefore, it is to be received, because it is the word of God, 1 John 5:9; 1 Thess. 2:13."[5]

Q. 14. Why cannot the authority of the scriptures depend upon the church?

A. Because the true church of Christ depends, in its very being, on the scriptures; and therefore the scriptures cannot depend upon it, as to their authority, Eph. 2:20, 22.

Q. 15. Are not the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, sufficient to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy God?

A. These "do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable, Rom. 2:14, 15, and 1:19, 20; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation, 1 Cor. 2:13, 14."[6]

Q. 16. What makes a further revelation, than nature's light, necessary?

A. The glory of the Divine perfections, particularly his mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness, Psalm 85:8, 10, 11; the gross ignorance and degeneracy of mankind, 1 Cor. 1:20, 21; the sublimeness of the things revealed, which otherwise had never been known by men or angels, John 1:18:it is also necessary for trying the spirits and doctrines of men, and for unmasking the impostures of the devil, 1 John 4:1-3.

Q. 17. How does it appear that the scriptures are not an imposition upon mankind?

A. If the penman of the scriptures had inclined to deceive, they would have accommodated themselves to the dispositions of the people with whom they conversed, and connived at their lusts; but, on the contrary, we find they faithfully exposed the errors and vices of men, and impartially set themselves against every thing that corrupt nature is fond of; and that, though they were laid open to the greatest hardships and sufferings for so doing, Acts 5:29-41.

Q. 18. What is the meaning of the word scriptures?

A. It signifies writings; and the word of God is emphatically so called, because God has therein written to us the great things of his law and covenant, Hos. 8:12.

Q. 19. Why was the word of God committed to writings?

A. "For the better preserving and propagating of the truth; and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church, against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, Luke 1:3, 4; Prov. 22:20, 21."[7]

Q. 20. How was the will of God made known to the church, before it was committed to writing?

A. By immediate revelations, Gen. 2:16, 17, and 3:15; by frequent appearances of the Son of God, delighting, beforehand, to try on the human likeness, Gen. 18:2, compared with v. 3, Judg. 13:11, compared with verses 18, 19; by the ministry of the holy angels, Gen. 19:1, 15; Heb. 2:2, and of the patriarchs, Jude, ver. 14, 15; Heb. 11:7.

Q. 21. Why are the scriptures of the Old and New Testament called the word of God?

A. Because "all scripture is given by inspiration of God," 2 Tim. 3:16, being immediately indited by the Holy Ghost, 2 Pet. 1:21.

Q. 22. Why are they commonly called the Bible?

A. The word B IBLE signifying a book; the holy scriptures are so called by way of eminence, because they are incomparably the best of all books, as containing the invariable grounds of faith in Christ, for life eternal, John 20:31 -- "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through his name."

Q. 23. Why are the holy scriptures called a Testament?

A. Because they are the last will of the glorious Testator, first typically, and then actually confirmed by his death, concerning the vast legacies therein bequeathed to his spiritual seed: Heb. 9:16, "Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the Testator."

Q. 24. Why are the writings of Moses and the prophets called the Old Testament?

A. Because the will of the Testator, Christ, was veiled, legally dispensed, and typically sealed by the blood of sacrificed beasts, upon which account it is called comparatively faulty, Heb. 8:7, 8; and was therefore to vanish away, verse 13.

Q. 25. To whom were the oracles of God, under the Old Testament, committed?

A. To the church of the Jews, Rom. 3:1, 2 -- "What advantage hath the Jew? Much every way: chiefly, because unto them were committed the oracles of God."

Q. 26. Why are the scriptures from Matthew to the end of the Revelation, called the New Testament?

A. Because they contain the most clear and full revelation, and actual ratification of the covenant of promise, by the death of Christ the Testator, who is also the living Executor of his own testament, Rev. 1:18 -- "I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore." John 14:19 -- "Because I live, ye shall live also."

Q. 27. Will this New Testament dispensation of the grace of God ever undergo any other alteration?

A. No; it will remain new and unalterable, till the second coming of the Lord Jesus, Mat. 26:29.

Q. 28. Do the scriptures of the Old Testament continue to be a rule of faith and practice to us who live under the New?

A. Yes; because they are the record of God concerning Christ, as well as the scriptures of the New Testament; for all the prophets prophesied of him; to him they did all bear witness, Acts 10:43; and Christ commands all to search them, because eternal life is to be found in them, and they testify of him, John 5:39.

Q. 29. How could the Old Testament be of force when it was not confirmed by the death of the Testator?

A. The death of Christ, the Testator, was typified in all the expiatory sacrifices of that dispensation; hence is he called, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," Rev. 13:8.

Q. 30. Is not that typical dispensation now quite abolished, under the New Testament?

A. Yes; for it was promised, that the Messiah should "cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease;" and accordingly, "Christ being come, -- neither by the blood of goats nor calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us," Heb. 9:11, 12.

Q. 31. Why was that ceremonial dispensation abolished?

A. Because it was only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things; that is, not the very things themselves, Heb. 10:1.

Q. 32. Wherein does the New Testament excel the Old?

A. Amongst other things, it excels it in respect of evidence, worship, extent, gifts, and duration.

Q. 33. Wherein does the New Testament excel the Old in respect of evidence?

A. The Old Testament speaks of a Messiah to come, but the New presents him as already come, John 1:29, 41; The Old was dark and cloudy, but the New clear and perspicuous, 2 Cor. 3:18.

Q. 34. How does it excel in respect of worship?

A. The worship of the Old Testament was a yoke of bondage; but the worship of the New is free, spiritual, and easy, Gal. 5:1.

Q. 35. How does the New Testament excel in respect of extent?

A. The Old was confined to the Jews, Psalm 147:19, 20, and a few proselytes among the Gentiles, Ex. 12:48; but the New extends to all the world, Mark 16:15; and its converts are vastly more numerous than under the old dispensation, Rev. 7:9.

Q. 36. How does it excel in respect of gifts?

A. The gifts of the Spirit are more plentiful, and more efficacious under the New, than under the Old, Acts 2:17, 18.

Q. 37. How does the New Testament excel in respect of duration?

A. The dispensation of the Old Testament, by types and sacrifices, was only for a time, Heb. 8:13; but the dispensation of the New, is to continue unalterable to the end of the world, Matt. 28:20.

Q. 38. Why are the scriptures said to be the only rule to direct us, how we may glorify and enjoy God?

A. Because none but God, the author of the scriptures, could, by them, show the way, how he himself is to be glorified and enjoyed by fallen sinners of mankind, Mic. 6:6, 9; Matt. 11:25, 28.

Q. 39. Although the light of nature, or natural reason, should not be the only rule, yet may it not be admitted as a sufficient rule, to direct us how to glorify and enjoy God?

A. By no means; because of its utter incapacity to give the smallest discovery of Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant, 1 Cor. 2:14, who is the only way of salvation for lost sinners of Adam's family, John 14:6.

Q. 40. Is it enough to assert, that the word of God is the principal rule to direct us?

A. No; because this would leave room to conceive of another rule, beside the scriptures, which, though it might not be called the principal one, yet might be in itself abundantly good and sufficient for directing sinners to their chief end; which is false, and contrary to scripture, Luke 16:29, 31; Isa. 8:20; Acts 4:12.

Q. 41. Wherein consists the perfection of the scriptures?

A. It consists in this, that, "the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture, 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Gal. 1:8, 9."[8]

Q. 42. Are plain and necessary scripture consequences to be admitted as a part of the rule, as well as express scriptures?

A. Yes; as is evident from the instance of our Lord, in proving the doctrine of the resurrection against the Sadducees, Matt. 22:31, 32 -- "As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

Q. 43. Are the scriptures a clear and perspicuous rule?

A. All things necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly laid down in one place of scripture or another, that every one, in the due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them, Psalm 119:105, 130.[9]

Q. 44. Are human and unwritten traditions, how ancient soever, to be admitted as a part of the rule?

A. No; all human traditions are to be examined by the scriptures; and, "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them," Isa. 8:20.

Q. 45. Can the heathens, by all the helps they have, without revelation, attain to such a knowledge of God, and his will, as is necessary to salvation?

A. By no means: for they are declared to be "without God, and without hope in the world," Eph. 2:12. "And where there is no vision, the people perish," Prov. 29:18; there being "no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved," but that of Jesus, Acts 4:12.

Q. 46. Is the light within men, or the Spirit without the word, which is pretended to by the Quakers, and other enthusiasts, to be used as any rule for our direction?

A. No; because whatever light or spirit is pretended to, without the word, it is but darkness, delusion, and a spirit of error, 1 John 4:1, 6.

Q. 47. In what language were the scriptures originally written?

A. The Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek.

Q. 48. Why ought the scriptures to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation where they come?

A. Because sinners of mankind have a right to, and interest in the scriptures, Prov. 8:4; and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, John 5:39.

Q. 49. Who is the supreme judge, in whose sentence we are to rest in determining all controversies of religion, and examining the decrees and doctrines of men?

A. "No other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the scripture, Matt. 22:29; Acts 28:25."[10]

Q. 50. Why are the books called the Apocrypha to be rejected as no part of the canon of scripture?

A. Because they were not written in the original language of the Old Testament; nor acknowledged for scripture by the Jews, to whom the oracles of God were committed; and have nothing of that impress of majesty, holiness, and efficacy, which shines so conspicuously in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; and because they were written after Malachi, whose book is called, the end of the Prophets; and contain many false things, contradictory and heretical.

Q. 51. Wherein consists the incomparable excellency and usefulness of the scriptures?

A. They are the well furnished dispensatory of all sovereign remedies, Psalm 107:20; the rich magazine of all true comfort, Rom. 15:4; the complete armoury of all spiritual weapons, Eph. 6:13-18; and the unerring compass to guide to the haven of glory, 2 Pet. 1:19.


[3] See Confession of Faith, chapter i. § 5.

[4] Larger Cat. Q. 4.

[5] Confession of Faith, chapter i. § 4.

[6] Confession of Faith, chapter i. § 1.

[7] Confession of Faith, chapter i. § 1.

[8] Confession of Faith, chapter i. § 6.

[9] Ibid., § 7.

[10] Confession of Faith, chapter i. § 10.


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