THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

ANSWER: The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whom nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.


Q. 1. What do you understand by original sin?

A. The sin we have from our original; that is, when the soul is united to the body, or the human nature completed, Psalm 51:5.

Q. 2. How is original sin usually distinguished?

A. Into original sin imputed, and original sin inherent.

Q. 3. What is original sin imputed?

A. The guilt of Adam's first sin.

Q. 4. What is original sin inherent?

A. The want of original righteousness and the corruption of the whole nature.

Q. 5. What do you understand by the guilt of sin?

A. An obligation to punishment on account of sin, Rom, 6:23.

Q. 6. How are all mankind guilty of Adam's first sin?

A. By imputation, Rom. 5:19 -- "By one man's disobedience, many were made sinners."

Q. 7. Upon what account is Adam's first sin imputed to his posterity?

A. On account of the legal union between him and them, he being their legal head and representative, and the covenant made with him, not for himself only, but for his posterity likewise, 1 Cor. 15:22 -- "In Adam all die."

Q. 8. Why was Adam's first sin imputed, and none of his after sins?

A. Because the covenant being broken by his first sin, his federal headship ceased; for being then legally dead, and his posterity in him and with him, he stood afterwards merely as a single person for himself, and no longer in the capacity of their public representative in that covenant of life, which, by that first sin, brought him and them under the sentence of death, Rom. 5:12, 13.

Q. 9. When Adam ceased to be the federal head, by breaking the covenant of works, did that covenant cease likewise?

A. No; that covenant, though broken, stands binding, so as the obligation to pay the debt of obedience to the precept, and satisfaction now to its penalty, remains upon every one of his posterity, while in a natural state, under the law as a covenant of works, Gal. 3:10.

Q. 10. How does it appear from scripture, that all Adam's posterity had his first sin imputed to them?

A. From their being said to be "made sinners, by one man's disobedience," Rom. 5:19; and to have the judgement, or sentence, by one to condemnation, ver. 16; and surely there can be no condemnation, passed by a righteous judge, where there is no crime, Rom. 4:15.

Q. 11. Is it not said, Ezek. 18:20, "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father?"

A. The prophet is there speaking of particular private parents, not of Adam as a federal head; he is speaking of adult children, who were preserved from some grosser violations of the law, of which their parents were guilty, and who did not imitate them; not of the posterity of Adam in general, as exempting them from his first sin, with which the scriptures quoted in answer to the former question, plainly prove them chargeable.

Q. 12. What is meant by the want of original righteousness?

A. The want of that rectitude and purity of nature, which Adam had at his creation; consisting in a perfect conformity of all the powers and faculties of his soul to the holy nature of God, and to the law which was written on his heart, Eccl. 7:29.

Q. 13. How does it appear that all mankind are now destitute of this original righteousness?

A. From the express testimony of God, that among all Adam's race, there is none righteous, no, not one; and that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, Rom. 3:10-12, 20.

Q. 14. What follows upon this want of original righteousness?

A. That all mankind are naked before God; and that their fig-leaf coverings will stand them in no stead before his omniscient eye, nor answer the demands of his holy law, Rev. 3:17; Isa. 64:6.

Q. 15. Does the law of God demand original righteousness from mankind sinners, though they now want it?

A. Yes; their want of it can never derogate from the right of the law to demand it, because God endowed man with this part of his image, at his creation; and his want of it was owing to his own voluntary apostasy from God.

Q. 16. Under what penalty does the law demand this original righteousness? A. Under the penalty of death and the curse, Rom. 6:23; Gal. 3:10.

Q. 17. Is there no help for a sinner in this deplorable state?

A. None in heaven or in earth, but in Christ, the last Adam, the Lord our righteousness, Jer. 23:6, on whom our help is completely laid, Psalm 89:19.

Q. 18. Does original sin consist in a mere privation, or want of righteousness?

A. It consists also in the corruption of the whole nature, Tit. 1:15; Rom. 3:10-19.

Q. 19. What is meant by the corruption of the whole nature?

A. The universal depravation both of soul and body, in all the faculties of the one, and members of the other, Isa. 1:5, 6.

Q. 20. How does this corruption of the whole nature appear?

A. In an utter impotency, and bitter enmity to what is spiritually good, Rom. 8:7, and, in the strongest inclination and bias to what is evil, and to that only and continually, Gen. 6:5.

Q. 21. How may we be certain that our whole nature is corrupted?

A. From the word of God, and from experience and observation.

Q. 22. How does the word of God assure us of the universal corruption of our nature?

A. It tells us, that the image after which man was at first made, and the image after which he is now begotten, are quite opposite the one to the other. Adam was at first made "in the likeness of God," but having fallen, he "begat a son in his own likeness, after his own image," Gen. 5:1, 3. The scripture assures us, that none "can bring a clean thing out of an unclean," Job 14:4; that we are shapen in iniquity, and that in sin did our mothers conceive us, Psalm 51:5; that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," John 3:6; and that we are by "nature children of wrath," Eph. 2:3.

Q. 23. How may we know the corruption of our nature by the experience and observation of things without us?

A. The flood of miseries which overflow the world; the manifold gross out-breakings of sin in it; and the necessity of human laws, fenced with penalties, are clear outward evidences of the corruption of our nature.

Q. 24. What inward evidences may every one of us experience within ourselves, of the corruption of our nature?

A. Each of us may sadly experience a natural disposition to hearken to the instruction that causes us to err, Prov. 19:27; a caring for the concerns of the body more than those of the soul, Matt. 16:26; a discontentment with some one thing or other in our lot in the present world, 2 Kings 6:33; an aversion from being debtors to free grace, and an inclination to rest upon something in ourselves as the ground of our hope, Rom. 10:3; every one of which may be an evidence to ourselves, that our nature is wholly corrupted.

Q. 25. How is the corruption of nature propagated since the fall?

A. By natural generation, Job 15:14 -- "What is man that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?"

Q. 26. How can this corruption be propagated to the soul, seeing it is created immediately by God, and not generated with the body?

A. As the creating and infusing of the soul are precisely at one and the same time, so the very moment the soul is united to the body, we become children of fallen Adam, not only as our natural, but as our federal head, Rom. 5:19.

Q. 27. What is the consequence of becoming the children of fallen Adam, as our federal head?

A. The consequence is, that, the moment we are so, his first sin is imputed to us, and we thus become legally and spiritually dead, under the curse; not only wanting original righteousness, but having our whole nature corrupted and depraved, 1 Cor. 15:22 -- "In Adam all die."

Q. 28. Since, then, the soul of every one is a part of that person, which is cursed in Adam, does God, in the creating it, infuse any sin or impurity into it?

A. By no means; but only, as a righteous judge, in creating the soul, he denies or withholds that original righteousness which it once had in Adam; and this he does as a just punishment of Adam's first sin.

Q. 29. What follows upon God's withholding original righteousness from the soul, in its creation?

A. The soul being united to the body, in the moment of its creation, the universal corruption of the whole man follows as naturally upon that union, as darkness follows upon the setting of the sun.

Q. 30. Can it follow, then, from this doctrine, that God is the author of our sin?

A. So far from it, that, on the contrary, it evidently follows, that our state, both of sin and misery, is the bitter fruit of our own voluntary apostasy in the first Adam, as our covenant head, having sinned in him, and fallen with him in his first transgression.

Q. 31. Does the holiness of the parents prevent the propagation of original corruption to their children?

A. By no means: the saints are holy but in part, and that by grace, not by nature: wherefore, as after the purest grain is sown, we reap corn with the chaff; so the holiest parents beget unholy children, and cannot communicate their grace to them, as they do their nature, Gen. 5:3.

Q. 32. Has this poison of corruption run through the whole man?

A. Yes; "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot to the head, there is no soundness in it," &c. Isa. 1:5, 6.

Q. 33. How is the understanding corrupted?

A. With darkness and blindness, so that we cannot know and receive the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2:14.

Q. 34. How is the will corrupted?

A. With enmity and rebellion against God; with opposition to his law and gospel; with aversion from the chief good; and inclination to all evil, Rom. 8:7.

Q. 35. How are the affections corrupted?

A. By being displaced and disordered, set upon trifling vanities and sinful pleasures, instead of God the supreme good, Psalm 4:2, 6. Isa. 55:2.

Q. 36. How is the conscience corrupted?

A. By not discharging its office faithfully according to the law, in accusing or excusing, but many times calling "evil good, and good evil," &c. Isa. 5:20.

Q. 37. How is the memory corrupted?

A. It is like the riddle, or sieve, that lets through the pure grain and keeps the refuse; it retains what is vain and unprofitable, and forgets what is spiritual and truly advantageous, Psalm 106:13, 21.

Q. 38. How is the body corrupted?

A. All the members of it are become instruments, or weapons of "unrighteousness unto sin," Rom. 6:13.

Q. 39. Is original sin of its own nature damning?

A. Beyond all doubt it is; because it is in a state of sin and spiritual uncleanness we are born, Psalm 51:5. And "there shall in no wise enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, any thing that defileth," Rev. 21:27. The blood of Christ is necessary to cleanse from it, as well as from actual sin; for Christ is "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world," both original and actual, John 1:29.

Q. 40. How may we know the being of original sin, antecedently to the commission of any actual transgression?

A. From the severe troubles and distresses to which infants are liable, and from death passing upon them before they are capable of sinning, after the similitude of Adam's transgression; that is, of committing actual sin, Rom. 5:14.

Q. 41. What do you understand by actual transgression or sin?

A. Every deviation from the law of God in our actions, whether internal or external.

Q. 42. How may actual sin be distinguished from original?

A. As the act is distinguished from the habit; or a fault of the person, from a fault of the nature.

Q. 43. Is omission of what is required an actual sin, as well as the commission of what is forbidden?

A. Yes; because all omissions are either accompanied with some act of the will consenting, directly or indirectly, to it; or they flow from some antecedent act, which is either the cause, occasion, or impediment, of the duty omitted; as excess in eating and drinking is frequently the cause or occasion of omitting the public or private duties of God's worship.

Q. 44. From whence do all actual transgressions flow?

A. They all proceed from original sin, or the corruption of nature, as impure streams from a corrupt fountain, Eph. 2:3; James 3:11.

Q. 45. What may we learn from the doctrine of original sin?

A. That it is no wonder the grave opens its devouring mouth for us, as soon as we come into the world, seeing we are all, in a spiritual sense, dead born, Eph. 2:1; that as every thing acts agreeably to its own nature, so corrupt man acts corruptly, Matt. 7:17, 18; and, consequently, we may learn the necessity of regeneration, and ingraftment in the second Adam, without which it is impossible we can enter into the kingdom of heaven, John 3:3.


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