THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 47. What is forbidden in the First Commandment?

ANSWER: The First Commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God, as God and our God; and the giving that worship and glory to any other which is due to him alone.


Q. 1. To what general heads may the sins forbidden, in the First Commandment, be reduced?

A. To these two: atheism and idolatry.

Q. 2. What is A THEISM?

A. It is the denying, or not having a God.

Q. 3. How is atheism commonly distinguished?

A. Into speculative and practical.

Q. 4. How is speculative atheism again subdivided?

A. Into that which is directly, and that which is interpretatively such.

Q. 5. What is direct speculative atheism?

A. It is a fixed persuasion in the heart, and an open profession with the mouth, that there is no God.

Q. 6. What is speculative atheism, interpretatively, or by necessary consequence?

A. It is the rejection of any of those truths which are necessarily connected with the being of a God; such as the denial of providence, or any of the essential perfections of God: because from thence it would necessarily follow, that there is no God.

Q. 7. Why would it necessarily follow, from the denial of providence, or any of the divine perfections, that there is no God?

A. Because it is impossible to conceive that there is a God, without conceiving, at the same time, that he preserves and governs the world, Isa. 41; and it is impossible to conceive his being or existence, without conceiving him to be possessed of all infinite perfection, 1 John 1:5.

Q. 8. Can there be such a person among men, as a direct speculative atheist?

A. No; there can be none of mankind, who has, at all times, such a fixed and constant persuasion that there is no God, as at no time whatsoever to have the least fear or doubt of the contrary, Dan. 5:6, 9.

Q. 9. How does it appear that there can be no such person as a downright speculative atheist?

A. From universal experience, which attests, that the knowledge and impression of the being of a God, is so natural to man, that he can no more divest himself of it at all times, than he can strip himself of his reason, or shake off his own existence, Rom. 1:19 -- "That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them:" that is, ingrained it in their natures.

Q. 10. Would it not seem, that there may be a downright speculative atheist, from Psalm 14:1 -- "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God?"

A. The words do not import a fixed and permanent persuasion, but rather a secret wish: accordingly, the expression is not, The fool hath believed, or is persuaded in his heart, but hath said: that is, would fain have harboured such a secret desire.

Q. 11. Why do wicked men wish there were no God?

A. To be free of any check or restraint upon their lusts, and that they may "work all uncleanness with greediness," Eph. 4:19.

Q. 12. Who are they that are interpretatively atheists?

A. Not only they who deny the providence of God, or any essential attribute of his nature, but likewise all deists, who reject supernatural revelation; and all openly wicked and profane persons, who live as if there was no God, Psalm 10:4, 11, 13.

Q. 13. Is it speculative or practical atheism, that chiefly levelled against, in this commandment?

A. Both: but especially practical atheism, as being universally prevalent, Rom. 3:11.

Q. 14. What is practical atheism?

A. It is a denial of God, in our practice, Tit. 1:16 -- "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him."

Q. 15. How does practical atheism evidence itself?

A. In omitting the duties required in this commandment; namely, not knowing and acknowledging God to be what he really is, and neglecting to worship and glorify him accordingly.

Q. 16. Who are guilty of not knowing God?

A. Not only heathens, who walk contrary to nature's light, Rom. 1:21; but likewise Christians, who being privileged with the means of knowing God, as in Christ, yet slight and neglect the same; John 15:22 -- "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin."

Q. 17. Who are they that are guilty of not acknowledging God?

A. They who rush upon the actions of life, without asking his counsel about them, Josh. 9:14 -- "The men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord."

Q. 18. Who are guilty of not worshipping God?

A. They who live in the habitual neglect of the public, private, and secret exercises of his worship, Isa. 43:22 -- "Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; thou hast been weary of me, O Israel."

Q. 19. Who are guilty of not glorifying God?

A. They who set up themselves as their own rule, Psalm 12:4, and make themselves their own end and happiness, in opposition to God, Phil. 2:21.

Q. 20. When are men chargeable with this piece of practical atheism; namely, of setting themselves up as their own rule?

A. When they perform any action, religious or civil, more because it is agreeable to self, than as it is pleasing to God, Zech. 7:5, 6; when they envy the gifts and prosperity of others, Psalm 73:3:and when they would model or frame God himself according to their own fancy, imagining him to be "altogether such a one as themselves," Psalm 50:21.

Q. 21. When do men make themselves their own end and happiness in opposition to God?

A. When they ascribe the glory of what they have or do, to themselves, and not to God, Dan. 4:30; when they are more troubled for what disgraces themselves, than for what dishonours God, 1 Sam. 15:30; and when they prefer the pleasures and profits of this world, to the glorifying and enjoying of God, Matt. 19:22.

Q. 22. When may we be said to worship the true God, and yet not as God?

A. When we draw nigh to him with the mouth, and honour him with our lips, but our hearts are far from him, Matt. 15:8.

Q. 23. When are we guilty of not worshipping and glorifying him, as our God?

A. When, in the course or tenor of our behaviour and deportment towards him, we want the habitual exercise of the faith of our federal relation to him, Psalm 81:10, 11.

Q. 24. May not the saints themselves be chargeable with some degree of practical atheism?

A. No doubt they may; when they entertain unbecoming thoughts of God in their mind, or speak unadvisedly to him with their lips. Thus Job is censured by Elihu, for charging God with injustice, chap. 33:10, 11; and Jonah speaks most rashly to God, when he says, "I do well to be angry, even unto death," chap. 4:9.

Q. 25. How may a person know when blasphemous thoughts, and atheistical expressions, are not inconsistent with a state of grace?

A. When a blasphemous thought is so far from being indulged, that it is treated with abhorrence; and when an atheistical expression (uttered through surprise, and the hurry and violence of temptation) is deeply regretted and lamented, Psalm 73:21, 22.

Q. 26. What is the other general and comprehensive sin forbidden in this commandment?

A. I DOLATRY.

Q. 27. What is idolatry?

A. It is the giving that worship and glory to any other, which is due to God alone.

Q. 28. How is idolatry commonly distinguished?

A. Into that which is gross and external, and that which is more refined and internal.

Q. 29. What is the idolatry which is gross and external?

A. It is an ascription of the ordinary signs of worship, or religious homage, to any person or thing, besides the true God, Lev. 26:1.

Q. 30. Who are they that are guilty of this grosser kind of idolatry?

A. H EATHENS and P APISTS.

Q. 31. What was the nature of the idolatry of the Heathens?

A. They made gods of the sun, moon, and stars, and of almost every other creature; yea, of devils themselves, as the apostle witnesses, 1 Cor. 10:20. But that which was most frequent among them, was their making images or idols in the shape of some sort of living creatures, or of a mixture of them, and then worshipping them as if they were gods, Psalm 135:15-19.

Q. 32. How did Heathenish Idolatry take its rise in the world?

A. By men becoming "vain in their imaginations, whereby they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things," Rom. 1:21, 23.

Q. 33. How does it appear that the Papists are guilty of this grosser kind of idolatry?

A. By their bowing to images and altars; giving divine honour to the consecrated bread in the sacrament; adoring the crucifix; praying to angels; invoking the saints, especially the virgin Mary, whom they supplicate much more frequently than they do Christ himself. By all which it appears, that Popish idolatry succeeds in the room of the Heathenish; and is more inexcusable than theirs, because those who practise it have the benefit of divine revelation which the heathens have not.

Q. 34. How do you prove, that the paying religious homage to such things is gross idolatry?

A. From the nature of idolatry itself; the very essence of which consists in giving divine worship and honour to any creature whatsoever, whether in heaven or earth; for it is written, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," Matt. 4:10.

Q. 35. What is the idolatry which is more refined and internal?

A. It is a setting up of idols in the heart, Ezek. 14:4; or giving that room in our esteem and affection to any thing else, which God alone ought to possess, Luke 14:26.

Q. 36. To whom is this kind of idolatry incident?

A. To all mankind naturally; and even believers themselves are cautioned and warned against it, 1 John 5:21 -- "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Q. 37. What are these idols which have a seat in every man's and woman's heart by nature?

A. Among many others, there are these two; which are worshipped and served by the generality, even of the visible church, namely, SELF and the WORLD.

Q. 38. How does it appear that SELF is an idol which naturally reigns in the heart of every one?

A. From the very first lesson in the school of Christianity, which is, to deny self, Matt. 16:24 -- "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself."

Q. 39. What is it for a man to deny himself?

A. It is to give up with his self-wisdom, his self-will, and his self-righteousness.

Q. 40. When do we give up with the idol of self-wisdom?

A. When we are made to see our own depraved reason to be but folly, when compared with the wisdom of God revealed in his word; "for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God," 1 Cor. 3:19.

Q. 41. When is the idol of self-will dethroned?

A. When God's will of precept becomes the sole rule of our heart and life, Psalm 119:105; and his will of providence is cheerfully acquiesced in as the best for us, Rom. 8:28.

Q. 42. When do we part with the idol of self-righteousness?

A. When we submit to the righteousness of God, or found our plea, for eternal life wholly and entirely upon the meritorious obedience and satisfaction of Christ, as our Surety, in our room and stead, Phil. 3:8, 9.

Q. 43. How does it appear that the WORLD is an idol seated in every man's heart by nature?

A. From the habitual turn of our thoughts and affections to things temporal, Matt. 6:31; the eager pursuit of them, and ardent desire after them, in preference to those that are spiritual and eternal, chap. 16:26.

Q. 44. What are the things of this world which we naturally incline to idolise?

A. Some make an idol of their worldly riches; making gold their hope, and saying to the fine gold, "Thou art my confidence," Job 31:24; some, of their worldly pleasures, being "lovers of pleasures, more than lovers of God," 2 Tim. 3:4; some make an idol of their worldly credit and reputation, receiving "honour one of another," and not seeking "the honour that cometh from God only," John 5:44; some, of their worldly relations bestowing more of their love upon them, than upon God, Matt. 10:37; and some make an idol of their worldly helps and confidences, trusting more to these than to God, Isa. 31:1; Jer. 17:5.

Q. 45. What is the verdict of the Spirit of God concerning those who make the world their idol?

A. It is this, that "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," 1 John 2:15.

Q. 46. How may Satan be said to be even idolised by those who profess to bear him an implacable hatred?

A. When his suggestions are regarded more than the dictates of the Spirit of God in his word, Isa. 40:27; 49:14.

Q. 47. How may the suggestions of Satan be distinguished from the dictates of the Spirit of God?

A. The tendency of all Satan's suggestions is to set up in the soul some one thing or other in Christ's room, 2 Cor. 4:4; but the dictates of the Spirit of God are wholly calculated for giving Christ in all things the pre-eminence, John 16:14.

Q. 48. Why is Satan called the God of this world? 2 Cor. 4:4.

A. Because he is "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience," Eph. 2:2, till "the prey be taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered," Isa. 49:24, 25.

Q. 49. Who are they that explicitly acknowledge the devil as their God?

A. They are such as use sorcery, divination, witchcraft, charms, and other diabolical arts and practices, condemned in Deut. 18:10-12.

Q. 50. Was Joseph's cup an instrument of divination, or did he himself use this unlawful art, when he says, Gen. 44:15 -- "Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?"

A. By no means; for the word translated DIVINE is, on the margin, rendered make trial, or inquiry; and so the meaning is, Know ye not that such a man as I, who am so diligent and industrious in other matters, would soon miss the cup in which I usually drink, and make inquiry after the person who had stolen it?

Q. 51. What improvement ought we to make of the First Commandment, as it stands connected with the preface?

A. That as God warrants and commands us to believe in him, as our God and Redeemer, Psalm 45:11; so it is our duty to carry along with us the faith of this relation, in all our approaches to his presence, Heb. 11:6.


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