THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 45. Which is the First Commandment?

ANSWER: The First Commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.


QUESTION 46. What is required in the First Commandment?

ANSWER: The First Commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.


Q. 1. Why are most part of the commands of the law delivered in negative terms?

A. Because negative precepts are of the strictest obligation, binding always, and at all times.

Q. 2. Why is the First Commandment, in particular, so expressed?

A. Because of the perpetual propensity of our nature, since the fall, to depart from the living God, "through an evil heart of unbelief," Heb. 3:12.

Q. 3. Why is this commandment set in front of all the rest?

A. To teach us, that the having JEHOVAH to be our God, is the leading and fundamental duty of the law, Ex. 15:2, which sweetly and powerfully influences obedience to all the other commands of it, Psalm 118:28.

Q. 4. What influence has obedience to the first, upon obedience to the other precepts of the law?

A. As obedience to the First Commandment, is to believe that God is our God, upon the gift of himself to us, in these words, I am the Lord thy God; so, without believing this it is impossible we can do any thing else that will please him, Heb. 11:6; for "whatsoever is not of faith is sin," Rom. 14:23.

Q. 5. Why do this, and other commands, run in the second person singular, THOU, and not in the plural, YOU, or YE?

A. To signify, that God would have us to take his commandments, as spoken to each of us in particular, as if we were mentioned by name.

Q. 6. What is the connexion between the preface and the First Commandment?

A. The preface reveals and exhibits the object of faith, and the First Commandment enjoins the duty of believing on that object: the one makes a grant of grace, and the other warrants us to lay hold on it.

Q. 7. Are the preface and First Commandment of equal extent?

A. Yes; every one to whom the promise in the preface is revealed, is obliged, by the command, to believe it, with application, John 3:18.

Q. 8. Can the obligation of the law be in the least weakened by the grace of the gospel, published in the preface?

A. So far from it, that it is impossible for any man to share of the grace of the gospel, published in the preface, but in a way of believing, enjoined in the first command of the law, Rom. 3:31 -- "Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid."

Q. 9. What are the chief duties required in the First Commandment, as thus connected with the preface

A. To know and acknowledge God, to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.

Q. 10. What KNOWLEDGE of God does the First Commandment require?

A. It requires us to know that God is; and that he such a God as he has manifested himself to be in his word, Heb. 11:6.

Q. 11. What has God manifested himself to be in his word?

A. He has manifested himself to be, "The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty;" namely, without a satisfaction, Ex. 34:6, 7; or, he has manifested himself to be in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, 2 Cor. 5:19.

Q. 12. What is it to know God as he is in Christ?

A. It is to know that he is well pleased for Christ's righteousness' sake, because he has magnified the law, and made it honourable, Isa. 42:21.

Q. 13. How is the knowledge of God usually distinguished?

A. Into speculative or common, and practical or saving knowledge.

Q. 14 What is the speculative or common knowledge of God?

A. It is only a floating knowledge of him in the head, without any saving influence or efficacy upon the heart and practice; as is to be found in ungodly persons or hypocrites, who may "profess that they know God, but in works they deny him," Tit. 1:16.

Q. 15. What is it to have a saving and practical knowledge of God?

A. It is to have such a lively apprehension of his relation to us as our God in Christ, as is accompanied with an habitual conformity to his will, in heart and life, 1 John 2:3, 4.

Q. 16. What are the evidences of true saving knowledge?

A. It is an experimental, Col. 1:6, interesting, Psalm 41:11, sanctifying, 2 Pet. 1:8, and humbling knowledge, Job 40:4, 5.

Q. 17. What is it to acknowledge God?

A. It is to own, avouch, and confess him, both in secret, and before the world, Rom. 10:10, -- "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

Q. 18. Why are the knowing and acknowledging of God joined together?

A. Because wherever the saving knowledge of God is implanted in the heart, there will be always some evidences of it, either to ourselves, or others, discovered in the life, Dan. 11:32 -- "The people that do know their God, shall be strong, and do exploits."

Q. 19. What should we know and acknowledge God to be?

A. We should know and acknowledge him to be the only true God, and our God.

Q. 20. What is it to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God?

A. It is to believe and profess, that he alone, and none else, is possessed of all infinite perfection, and that the perfections of the divine nature are most eminently displayed and manifested in the person of Christ, our only Saviour and Redeemer, Hos. 13:4 -- "Thou shalt know no God but me: for there is no Saviour besides me."

Q. 21. What is it to know and acknowledge God to be our God?

A. It is to profess our relation to him, as his people, upon the faith of the grant that he makes of himself to us as ours, in the word; Deut. 26:17, 18; Psalm 48:14.

Q. 22. Can we know and acknowledge God to be our God, (as required in this commandment) unless we believe in Christ?

A. No; for "no man cometh unto the Father but by me," says Christ -- "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," John 14:6, 9.

Q. 23. Is not faith, or believing in Christ, a gospel precept only, and not required in the law?

A. By no means; for, in the gospel, strictly and properly taken, as it is contra-distinct from the law, there can be no precept; because the gospel in this strict sense, is nothing else than a PROMISE, or glad tidings of a Saviour, with grace, mercy, and salvation in him, for lost sinners of Adam's family; according to the following scriptures, Gen. 3:15; Isa. 61:1-3; Luke 2:10, 11.

Q. 24. Since faith and repentance are duties consequently to the entrance of sin, and the revelation of the gospel, must they not therefore be new precepts, not given to Adam in innocence?

A. Though there was no occasion for the exercise of these duties in an innocent state; yet Adam being bound by the law of creation, (particularly the Ten Commandments, given him in the form of a covenant of works,) to believe whatever God should reveal, and obey whatever he should command; no sooner was the gospel revelation made, than the very same law, which bound him, while in innocence, to believe in God as his Creator, obliged him, when fallen, to believe in God as his Redeemer, now revealed and made known to him; and likewise to turn from sin to God, Rom. 3:31.

Q. 25. Whence is it that the obligation of the law is so extensive, as to bind to the belief of whatever God shall reveal?

A. This arises from the absolute perfection of the law, which being a complete rule of all obedience, cannot but fasten the duty, the same moment that the object is revealed, Psalm 119:96 -- "Thy commandment is exceeding broad."

Q. 26. What is the absurdity of making faith and repentance new gospel precepts?

A. The absurdity is, that by this another righteousness is introduced in our own persons, than the righteousness of Christ, as the immediate ground of our pardon and acceptance before God.

Q. 27. How does this absurdity necessarily follow from the aforesaid doctrine?

A. If Christ, as our surety, has fulfilled the precept, and endured the penalty of the moral law, according to Gal. 4:4, 5, then it cannot but follow, that this law of faith and repentance, not being fulfilled by him, must be fulfilled by ourselves, in our own persons, as our righteousness before God: and thus another ground of justification is established, besides the Surety righteousness, contrary to Gal. 2:16, and 3:21.

Q. 28. What is the doctrine of our Larger Catechism on this head?

A. That believing and trusting in God (which is the same with faith,) "being careful in all things to please him," and "sorrowful when in any thing he is offended," (which is the same with repentance,) are among "the duties required in the First Commandment:" and that "unbelief -- distrust -- incorrigibleness -- and hardness of heart, or penitency, (according to Rom. 2:5, there quoted,) are among the sins forbidden in it."[58]

Q. 29. What does God require of us in this commandment, as the evidence of our knowing and acknowledging him to be the only true God, and our God?

A. That we worship and glorify him accordingly, Matt. 4:10 -- "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

Q. 30. What is it to worship God?

A. It is to make him the supreme object of our esteem, Psalm 71:19, desire, Psalm 73:25, and delight, Psalm 142:5, and that not only in our secret devotions, but likewise when joining with others in any religious exercise, Psalm 111:1.

Q. 31. What is it to glorify him?

A. It is to ascribe all possible glory and perfection to him, Ex. 15:11, and, in all our actions, to aim at the advancement of his honour and glory in the world, 1 Cor. 10:31.

Q. 32. What is imported in our being required to worship and glorify him accordingly?

A. It imports, that since God commands us to know and acknowledge him, not only to be the true God, but our own God, in virtue of the covenant grant he makes of himself in the word; it becomes us, in all our actions, religious and civil to behave towards him, as standing in such a near and intimate relation to us, Psalm 45:11; 1 Cor. 6:20.

Q. 33. Can we glorify God aright, unless we acknowledge him to be our God in Christ?

A. No; for, unless we acknowledge a God in Christ, as our God, we make him a liar, in saying, I am the Lord thy God, and rebel against his authority in the First Commandment, which is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Q. 34. Is believing the promise, then, the foundation of all acceptable worship and obedience?

A. Yes; for all true obedience, is "the obedience of faith," Rom. 16:26, and "without faith it is impossible to please God," Heb. 11:6.

Q. 35. In what manner are we required to worship and glorify God?

A. Both inwardly in our hearts, John 4:24, and outwardly in our lives, Matt. 5:16.

Q. 36. How are we to worship God inwardly in our hearts?

A. By trusting, Isa. 26:4; hoping, Psalm 130:5, and delighting in him, Psalm 37:4; by thinking and meditating upon him, Mal. 3:16, Psalm 63; devoting ourselves to him, Isa. 44:5; and by being filled with grief, when he is offended by ourselves or others, Psalm 38:18, and 119:136.

Q. 37. How are we to worship and glorify him outwardly in our lives?

A. By praying to him, and praising him with our lips, Psalm 142:1, and 145:21; by being zealous for his glory, Psalm 69:9; careful to please him, Col. 1:10; and by walking humbly before him, Mic. 6:8.

Q. 38. What improvement ought we to make of the covenant grant in the preface, I am the Lord thy God; and the precept enjoining the belief of this, Thou shalt have no other gods before me?

A. That it is the duty of every one of us, without waiting till we find gracious qualifications wrought in us, instantly to lay claim to a God in Christ, as our God, Psalm 95:7; this being what he requires in the first place, as the foundation of all other acts of obedience, 2 Chron. 20:20.

Q. 39. If it is an external federal relation to the visible church, which God asserts in the preface, when he says, I am the Lord thy God, how can the First Commandment warrant the faith of a special relation?

A. As the command always warrants a particular application of every general promise, so the external federal relation which God bears to the visible church, becomes a special one, the moment that the promise is believed with a particular applicatory faith, Jer. 3:22


[58] See Larger Catechism, Question 104, 105.
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