THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?

ANSWER: All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.


Q. 1. What are the branches of man's misery expressed in this answer, as the effects of the fall?

A. They are these three: the happiness man has lost; the evil he lies presently under; and the future misery and punishment to which he is liable.

Q. 2. Is the loss which man has sustained by the fall, great and grievous?

A. Yes; it is so great, that we have all reason to cry out with the church, "Wo unto us that we have sinned!" Lam. 5:16. "How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!" chap. 4:1.

Q. 3. What is that great loss which man has sustained by the fall?

A. He has lost all that good which was promised him in the covenant of works, upon condition of his perfect obedience.

Q. 4. What was the good promised?

A. Life in its fullest latitude and extent; or all the happiness man was capable of, either in this world, or that which is to come.

Q. 5. What was man's chief happiness in that state in which he was created?

A. His chief happiness lay in his enjoyment of fellowship and communion with God.

Q. 6. In what did that fellowship and communion consist?

A. In the most agreeable intimacy and familiarity that man had with God, in the uninterrupted enjoyment of his gracious presence.

Q. 7. How does it appear that man has lost this by the fall?

A. It appears from his being "without God in the world," Eph. 2:12; and "alienated from the life of God," chap. 4:18.

Q. 8. Did this breach of fellowship between God and man immediately follow upon the first sin?

A. Yes; for we find that our first parents immediately essayed to fly from the presence of God, and to hide themselves from him among the trees of the garden, Gen. 3:8.

Q. 9. Upon what footing had man fellowship with God before the fall?

A. Upon a law footing, namely, his continuing in his integrity of nature, and yielding perfect obedience to the holy law.

Q. 10. Is that door of access to God, and fellowship with him, closed and shut against all mankind?

A. Yes; because "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," Rom. 3:23; the broken law, and its curse, stand as an insuperable bar in our way to God and glory, upon the footing of the first covenant, Gal. 3:10.

Q. 11. What is the second branch of man's misery?

A. His being under the wrath and curse of God.

Q. 12. What is it to be under the wrath of God?

A. It is to be under his anger, in the sad and dismal effects of it, whether in a more visible, or more secret way, Psalm 11:6, and 50.21.

Q. 13. What is it to be under his curse?

A. It is to be under the sentence of his law, denouncing all evil upon the transgressor, Gal. 3:10.

Q. 14. How does it appear that man is now under the wrath and curse of God?

A. From those passages of scripture, where God is said to be "angry with the wicked every day," Psalm 7:11; that his "wrath is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men," Rom. 1:18; that "he who believes not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him," John 3:18, 36.

Q. 15. Is the wrath of an infinite God tolerable by a finite creature?

A. Oh! No; "Who shall dwell with devouring fire! who shall dwell with everlasting burnings!" Isa. 33:14. "Who knows the power of his anger!" Ps. 90:11. It makes the whole creation groan, Rom. 8:22; and when it lighted upon the Son of God for our iniquities, it crushed his human body down to the dust of death, and melted his soul like wax in the midst of his bowels, Psalm 22:14, 15.

Q. 16. Can any man hide himself from the presence of an angry God?

A. No; there is no flying from the presence of that God who is every where, Psalm 139:7-13.

Q. 17. What is the third branch of man's misery by the fall?

A. He is liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.

Q. 18. What are these miseries which man is liable to in this life?

A. They are such as extend both to his soul and body.

Q. 19. What are these soul miseries and maladies that sin has entailed upon us? A. The precious soul is quite defaced, deformed, and debased, from its original beauty and excellency, being stricken with "blindness of mind, Eph. 4:18; hardness of heart, Rom. 2:5; a reprobate sense, Rom. 1:28; strong delusions, 2 Thess. 2:11; horror of conscience, Isa. 33:14; vile affections, Rom. 1:26;"[25] and the thralldom and bondage of Satan, Eph. 2:2.

Q. 20. Is there no medicine against these soul maladies and miseries?

A. Yes; there is "balm in Gilead, and a Physician there," Jer. 8:22; who is "able to save to the uttermost," Heb. 7:25; and who says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth," Isa. 45:22.

Q. 21. What are those external miseries we are liable to in this life?

A. They are either more public, such as sword, famine, pestilence, desolation by fire and water, captivity, persecution, and the like, Ezek. 5:17; or more private and personal, such as diseases of all sorts, reproach and calumny, toil and labour, poverty, and crosses of all kinds, Deut. 28:16, 17, &c.

Q. 22. Do not all these external miseries come alike to all, both godly and wicked?

A. Yes, as to the external conduct of providence, Eccl. 9:2; but to the godly they are only fatherly chastisements, and work together for their good, Rom. 8:28; whereas to the wicked, they come in a way of vindictive anger, and are but the beginnings of sorrows, unless the goodness of God do lead them to repentance, Rom. 2:5.

Q. 23. Has sin any other retinue attending it than what has been already mentioned?

A. Yes; for like the pale horse, Rev. 6:8, it has death, and then hell following after.

Q. 24. What death is here intended?

A. A corporeal or bodily death, which lies in the separation of soul and body.

Q. 25. Is sin the cause of death?

A. It is both the cause of death, Rom. 5:12, and the sting of it, 1 Cor. 15:55, 56.

Q. 26. Is the connexion between sin and death inseparable?

A. Yes; they are inseparable by the appointment of the righteous God, who has said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," Ezek. 18:4; and, "It is appointed unto men once to die," Heb. 9:27.

Q. 27. How did this appointment of heaven hold, in the case of Enoch and Elijah?

A. They underwent what was equivalent to death in their translation to heaven; it fared with them as it will with the saints that shall be alive at Christ's second coming, concerning whom it is said, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed," 1 Cor. 15:51.

Q. 28. What is the difference between the death of believers and the death of the wicked?

A. To the wicked it comes as standing under a covenant of works, but to believers as standing under a covenant of grace; to the one, in the hand of Christ, saying, "Death is yours;" to the other in the hand of Satan, as God's executioner, having the power of death: to the one without, but to the other as armed with a fearful sting: to the one as an everlasting and irreparable loss; to the other as eternal and unspeakable gain: to the one as a conqueror, dragging the sinner to the prison of hell; to the other as a vanquished enemy, paving the way to heaven and glory.

Q. 29. What will be the believer's language when he views death approaching in this light?

A. Faith will cry out, "O death! where is thy sting?" 1 Cor. 15:55.

Q. 30. What will be the language of the wicked when they see death approaching as the king of terrors?

A. It will be like that of Ahab to Elijah, 1 Kings 21:20, -- "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy!"

Q. 31. What misery has sin made us liable to after death?

A. To the pains of hell for ever.

Q. 32. What do you understand by hell?

A. A state and place of torment, prepared for the devil and his angels, Matt. 25:41.

Q. 33. If it was prepared for the devil and his angels, what concern have any of mankind with it?

A. Though it was prepared for the devil and his angels, yet the wicked of the world shall be turned into it also, and all the nations that forget God, Psalm 9:17.

Q. 34. Why must the wicked and ungodly world be turned into hell, with the devil and his angels?

A. Because they served and obeyed the devil as their god, and were in a confederacy with him against the living and true God, Isa. 28:15; Eph. 2:2.

Q. 35. How many fold are the punishments of the damned in hell?

A. Twofold; the punishment of loss, and the punishment of sense.

Q. 36. What loss shall the damned in hell sustain?

A. They shall lose God, the chief good, Matt. 25:41; they shall lose the vision and fruition of the glorious Immanuel, Matt. 7:23; they shall lose their own souls, Matt. 16:26, and all the pleasures of sin and sense, in which they placed their happiness in this world, Luke 16:25.

Q. 37. What will be the punishment of sense which the wicked shall suffer in hell?

A. It is represented in scripture by their being shut up in outer darkness, Matt. 8:12; in a lake of fire and brimstone, Rev. 20:10, where the smoke of their torment shall ascend up for ever and ever, Rev. 14:11; which is called the second death, chap. 21:8, the worm that never dies, and the fire that shall never be quenched, Mark 9:44.

Q. 38. How do you prove, from scripture, that the pains of hell shall be for ever, or everlasting?

A. The wicked are said to be "cast into everlasting fire," Matt. 18:8; to "go away into everlasting punishment," Matt. 25:46; to be "punished with everlasting destruction," 2 Thess. 1:9; to have the "mist of darkness" reserved for them for ever, 2 Pet. 2:17; to be "tormented day and night, for ever and ever," Rev. 20:10; and by several other expressions of the like nature.

Q. 39. Is eternity of punishment essential to the threatening, or penal sanction of the law?

A. No; else there never had been a satisfaction for sin.

Q. 40. Whence then arises the eternity of punishment?

A. From the nature of the creature, which being finite, can never be capable of enduring the uttermost of infinite wrath; Psalm 90:11 -- "Who knoweth the power of thine anger?"

Q. 41. How can it consist with the justice of God, to inflict eternal punishment for temporal sinning?

A. Because sin, objectively considered, is an infinite evil, as being committed against an infinitely holy God; and therefore nothing can expiate it, but a satisfaction of infinite worth, which mere creatures can never yield, 1 Pet. 1:18, 19.

Q. 42. What sort of sinners shall undergo the most dreadful degree of punishment in hell?

A. The despisers of Christ and the gospel: it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, for Tyre and Sidon, who never heard of Christ, than for Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, and other cities, nations, and persons, to whom Christ, and his great salvation, have been offered, and yet rejected through unbelief, Matt. 11:21-25; Heb. 2:3.

Q. 43. What should all this teach us?

A. That however sweet sin be in the mouth, it will be bitter in the belly, even lamentation, mourning, and wo, in the latter end, Ezek. 2:10; it should teach us to fly from the wrath to come, to the horns of the New Testament altar, the satisfaction and intercession of Christ; there being no name by which we can be saved from sin and wrath, except the name of Jesus only, Acts 4:12.


[25] Larger Catechism, Question 28.
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