THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate in which they were created?

ANSWER: Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate in which they were created, by sinning against God.


Q. 1. What mean you by the estate in which man was created?

A. His state of innocence, in which he had his standing under God, as his great Lord and Creator.

Q. 2. What standing had he under God in a state of innocence?

A. Perfect conformity to him; intimate fellowship and communion with him; and an ample dominion over all the work of his hands, in this lower world; the tree of knowledge of good and evil only excepted.

Q. 3. By what charter did man hold this state of his great Creator?

A. By the charter of the covenant of works.

Q. 4. What remarkable and significant circumstances appertained to this charter?

A. The tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life.

Q. 5. What did the tree of knowledge of good and evil signify?

A. It signified, that, as Adam knew much of his Creator's goodness, by what he had done for him, so he was to know much of his displeasure and indignation, if he tasted the fruit of that tree.

Q. 6. What did the tree of life signify to man?

A. That upon his fulfilling the condition of the covenant, by a course of obedience, he was to live forever.

Q. 7. What do you understand by the course of obedience, which Adam had to go through, in order to found his covenant title to eternal life?

A. A continuance in perfect obedience, during the time which God had appointed for his state of probation.

Q. 8. When was a state of probation only applicable to man?

A. It was only applicable to man while in innocence, before the breach of the covenant of works; and by no means applicable to man in any other state since the fall.

Q. 9. Why is it that no man, since the fall, can justly be said to be in a state of probation in this world?

A. Because the covenant of works being broken, all the children of men are either in a natural state, in the first Adam, or in a gracious state in the second; and consequently under a dispensation either of divine Justice or mercy.

Q. 10. Are not men to have rewards given them according to their good or evil works, and consequently may be said to be in a state of probation, as well as Adam was?

A. The consequence will not hold; because these rewards are of another kind than could have taken place under the covenant of works, though it had been fulfilled; for now, they are either rewards of impartial justice, for evil works, the wages of sin being death; or rewards of free mercy to the doing persons; not for their good works, but according to them, 2 Cor. 5:10.

Q. 11. What is it for God to dispense rewards of free mercy to his people, not for their good works, but according to them?

A. It is to bestow these rewards, not on account of any worth or merit that is in their good works, in themselves considered, but as they are evidences of union with Christ, in whom their persons and performances are accepted, and through whom the rewards of grace are freely conferred; for, "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," Rom. 6:23.

Q. 12. Is there any danger in asserting, that men are not now in a state of probation, as Adam was?

A. No; because though they cannot now be in that state, yet God still deals with them as rational creatures, under a moral government, and capable of rewards, whether of justice or mercy, of debt or grace, according to their state and works: hence men are judged at the great day, according to their state, as sheep or goats, separated from one another, and then according to their works, Matt. 25:32-46.

Q. 13. What then is the dangerous consequence of asserting, that fallen man is still in a state of probation in this life?

A. This dangerous consequence would follow, that mankind are hereby supposed to be still under a covenant of works that can justify the doer; or under a law that can give life, besides the law of faith, mentioned Rom. 3:27, which is false: for, if there had been a law given, which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law, Gal. 3:21.

Q. 14. What improvement ought we to make of this doctrine respecting the state of probation?

A. To be restless in the use of all appointed means till we get in to Christ; that, in the way of believing and walking in him, we may share of the sure reward, promised, through grace, "to him that soweth righteousness," Prov. 11:18.

Q. 15. How did our first parents fall from the state in which they were created?

A. By sinning against God, Gen. 3:6, 7.

Q. 16. Were they not sufficiently furnished with every thing necessary, for yielding perfect obedience to the will of God?

A. Yes; for they had perfect knowledge in their understanding, freedom and inclination to good in their will, and spotless holiness in their hearts and affections, Eccl. 7:29 -- "God made man upright."

Q. 17. How then did man's sin and apostasy come about?

A. Though he was a perfect, yet he was but a mutable creature, left to the freedom of his own will, which was subject to change.

Q. 18. In what did the freedom of man's will, in a state of innocence, consist?

A. In a perfect liberty and "power to will and to do that which is good and well pleasing to God; but yet mutable, so as that he might fall from it, Eccl. 7:29; Gen. 2:16, 17, and 3:6."[22]

Q. 19. Why did not God make man immutable?

A. Because immutability, or unchangeableness of nature, is the essential property of God alone, Mal. 3:6. -- "I am the Lord, I change not;" James 1:17.

Q. 20. Are not elect angels and saints made immutably good?

A. The elect angels are confirmed in a state of immutable happiness; and the saints, in virtue of union with Christ, are fixed in an unchangeable state of grace here, and glory hereafter; but the unchangeable state of the one and the other, is not owing to any thing in their own natures, but to the free love and favour of God, Eph. 1:10.

Q. 21. What freedom of will has man, since the fall, to any spiritual good?

A. He "has wholly lost all freedom and ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation," so as that he can neither "convert himself, nor prepare himself thereunto," John 6:44, 65.[23]

Q. 22. What freedom of will have they who are regenerated?

A. They are enabled by grace alone, freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good, Rom. 6:18; yet so as that by reason of remaining corruption, they do not perfectly, and only, that which is good, but likewise frequently that which is evil, Rom. 7:15, 19, 21.[24]

Q. 23. When is the will of man made perfectly and immutably free to that only which is good?

A. In the state of glory only, Eph. 4:13. 1 John 3:2.

Q. 24. What was it for man to be left to the freedom of his own will?

A. It was God's leaving him with a sufficient stock in his hand, without any promise of supernatural aid, or further assistance to improve the stock of grace already received.

Q. 25. How was he left to abuse the freedom of his will?

A. God did not incline him to abuse it, but only withheld that further grace, which he was no way obliged to give, for preventing his will from yielding to the temptation; and was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit this abuse, having purposed to order it to his own glory, Rom. 11:32.

Q. 26. At whose door then must the fall be laid?

A. Only at man's own door, who willingly yielded to the temptation of the devil, James 1:14.

Q. 27. What was the devil's agency in the fall of man?

A. He entered into a serpent, and therein, by seducing words, enticed the woman to take and eat the forbidden fruit; and she gave to her husband, and he did eat likewise, Gen. 3:5, 6.

Q. 28. Why did Satan make use of the serpent, as his instrument to seduce the woman?

A. Because "the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field," Gen. 3:1, and so the most fit tool, of any other, to serve his subtle and murderous designs, John 8:44.

Q. 29. Why was not Eve afraid to entertain converse with a serpent, lest it might be actuated by some evil spirit?

A. It is supposed, that Adam and Eve knew nothing as yet of the fall of the angels; and sin not having then entered into this lower world, they were not afraid of hurt from any of the good creatures of God.

Q. 30. Why was there no confirmatory clause annexed to the covenant of works, to secure man's standing in the state in which he was created?

A. Because it so pleased God; and, no doubt, infinite wisdom had another scene to open, through the occasion of man's fall, by his breaking the first covenant.

Q. 31. What was that scene?

A. A scene of redeeming love and grace, which will be matter of hallelujahs, or praises, to the Lord God and the Lamb for ever and ever, Rev. 5:8.

Q. 32. Was then the covenant of works a scaffold erected for carrying on a more glorious fabric?

A. Yes, it was; for God had said, and purposed from eternity, that mercy should be built up for ever, Psalm 89:2.

Q. 33. What improvement ought we to make of this doctrine of the fall of Adam?

A. To be persuaded that the best of creatures, if left to themselves, cannot be in safety one moment, Psalm 49:12; that since man could not be his own keeper, much less can he be his own saviour, 2 Cor. 3:5:to see how dangerous it is to parley with sin and Satan; and how much we need an interest in the second Adam, to get the loss we sustained by the first repaired with advantage; for he has restored that which he took not away, Psalm 69:4.


[22] Confession of Faith, chap ix. § 2.

[23] Ibid. chapter ix. § 3.

[24] Ibid. chapter ix. § 4.


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