THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 3. What do the scriptures principally teach?

ANSWER: The scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.


Q. 1. What is it to believe what the scriptures teach?

A. It is to assent and give credit to the truths thereof, because of the authority of God, whose word the scriptures are, John 3:33 -- "He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true."

Q. 2. Are we to believe nothing in point of faith, and do nothing in point of duty, but what we are taught in the scripture?

A. No; because the scripture is the only book in the world of divine authority; and the revealed will and command of God therein, being so exceeding broad, nothing is incumbent on us to believe and do, but what is either directly, or consequentially prescribed in it, Isa. 8:20.

Q. 3. Why are the scriptures said principally to teach matters of faith and practice?

A. Because though all things revealed in the scripture be equally true, yet every thing in it is not equally necessary to salvation, 1 Cor. 7:12, 13.

Q. 4. What is the order of doctrine laid down in this question?

A. Faith or believing is made the foundation of duty, or obedience; and not our obedience, or duty, the foundation of our faith, Tit. 3:8.

Q. 5. Why are the things to be believed, set before the things to be practised?

A. To distinguish between the order of things in the covenant of grace, from what they were in innocency, in the covenant of works, Gal. 3:12.

Q. 6. What was the order of things in the covenant of works?

A. Doing, or perfect obedience to the law, was the foundation of the promised privilege of life: "The man which doeth these things, shall live by them," Rom. 10:5.

Q. 7. Is this order inverted in the covenant of grace, or gospel revelation?

A. Yes; the promise is to be believed, and the promised privilege, namely, life, must be freely received; and upon this follows our obedience to the law, from gratitude and love, Jer. 31:18, 19.

Q. 8. How does it appear that this is the order of gospel doctrine?

A. Because this is the order that God laid, in delivering the law at Mount Sinai; the foundation of faith is first laid in these words of the preface, "I am the Lord thy God," &c., which is the sum and substance of the covenant of grace; and then follow the Ten Commandments, which are, as it were, grafted upon this grant of sovereign grace and love, Ex. 20:2-17.

Q. 9. Is this the order of doctrine laid down in the standards of the church of Scotland?

A. Yes; as appears from this answer to that question in the Shorter Catechism, "What doth the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us?" The Answer is, "That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer; therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments."[11]

Q. 10. Are we then to keep the commandments, that God may become our God?

A. No; for this were to slide into a covenant of works; but we are to keep them, because "he is our God," according to the tenor of the covenant of grace; Psalm 45:11, in metre, -- "Because he is thy Lord, do thou him worship reverently."

Q. 11. Why do men naturally think, that upon their doing certain acts, God will be their God?

A. Because of the natural bias of the heart of man, to the order in the covenant of works, "Do, and live," Rom. 9:32, and chap. 10:3

Q. 12 Does not this order make void the law, or weaken our obligation to the duties of it?

A. By no means; but rather establishes the law, and settles our obligation to duty upon its proper foundation, Rom. 3:31. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

Q. 13. How is this order of doctrine further evinced?

A. From the method of doctrine observed by the apostle Paul, who tells us, that all true gospel obedience is the obedience of faith, Rom. 16:26. And accordingly in his epistles, he first lays down the doctrine of faith to be believed; and, upon that foundation, proceeds to inculcate the duties that are to be practised.

Q. 14. Does gospel obedience interest us in God, as our God?

A. No; but it is a fruit and evidence of our interest in him, 1 John 2:3, 5.

Q. 15. Is there any danger of inverting this order, and of making duty done by us, the foundation of believing the Lord to be our God?

A. There is exceedingly great danger; for it is the very soul of Popery. By inverting this order, they were led back to a covenant of works, and the doctrine of the merit of good works, which is the foundation of the whole Antichristian superstructure.

Q. 16. Do not we find frequently in scripture, a reward promised to good works, Psalm 19:11 -- "In keeping of thy commandments there is a great reward:" Psalm 58:11 -- "Verily there is a reward to the righteous?"

A. True; but this is a reward of grace, not of debt: the man that is rewarded, must be a believer in Christ, whose person is first accepted, through his union to Christ by faith, and the imputation of his righteousness, before any of his works or duties can be accepted, Eph. 1:6; Gen. 4:4.

Q. 17. What may be said of the works of a man that has no faith?

A. They are dead works, and so cannot please a living God. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, Matt. 7:18:and without Christ, and union with him, we can do nothing, John 15:4, 5.

Q, 18. What is to be thought of those who inculcate moral duties, without discovering the necessity of the new birth and union with Christ by faith, as the spring of all acceptable obedience?

A. They are foolish builders, laying their foundation on the sand, perverting the gospel of Christ; against whom the apostle denounces an awful doom, Gal. 1:9 -- "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."


[11] See also Confession of Faith, chapter 16. ยง 2. Larger Catechism, Q. 101, 104.
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