THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 49. Which is the Second Commandment?

ANSWER: The Second Commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.


QUESTION 50. What is required in the Second Commandment?

ANSWER: The Second Commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.


Q. 1. What is the opinion of the Papists respecting this commandment?

A. They allege that it is not a distinct precept from the first, but only an appendix, or supplement to it, by way of illustration.

Q. 2. What is their practice, in consequence of this opinion?

A. They constantly leave it out in their mass books and other liturgies of their church, lest the people should observe the manifest contrariety of their image worship, to what is here so expressly forbidden.

Q. 3. In what then does the Second Commandment differ from the first?

A. The First Commandment respects the object, and requires that we worship the true God for our God, and no other: the second respects the means of worship, and requires that the true God be worshipped in such a way only, and by such ordinances as he has appointed in his word, in opposition to all human inventions.

Q. 4. What is meant by religious worship?

A. That homage and respect we owe to a gracious God, as a God of infinite perfection; by which we profess subjection to, and confidence in him, as our God in Christ, for the supply of all our wants; and ascribe the praise and glory that is due to him, as our chief good, and only happiness, Psalm 95:6, 7.

Q. 5. What are these religious ordinances, which God has appointed in his word?

A. They are "prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God; and vowing to him."[59]

Q. 6. Is prayer a moral duty founded in the law of nature?

A. It certainly is; the necessary dependence of the rational creature upon its Creator, plainly proves it to be so. Hence we find the very Heathens practising it, when reduced to straits, Jonah 1:14.

Q. 7. How does it appear to be an instituted means of worship?

A. From a variety of scripture texts enjoining the practice of it, in all cases and circumstances, Psalm 50:15; Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17.

Q. 8. What is acceptable prayer?

A. It is an asking in Christ's name, what God has promised to give, John 14:13; with a full persuasion that he hears, and will answer, Mark 11:24; James 1:6.

Q. 9. How manifold is religious thanksgiving?

A. TWOFOLD; stated and occasional.

Q. 10. What is stated thanksgiving?

A. It is not only the thankful acknowledgment of mercies daily received, which is a branch of prayer; but likewise the singing the praises of God with the voice, which is a stated act of worship, distinct from prayer, though ejaculatory prayer ought always to be joined with it, Psalm 57:7.

Q. 11. How do you prove that singing with the voice is a stated act of worship appointed under the New Testament?

A. From the example of Christ and his apostles, who, after the first supper, sang a hymn, (or psalm, as on the margin,) Matt. 26:30; and from the injunction laid upon all Christians to be employed in this exercise, as a stated duty, Eph. 5:18, 19; James 5:13.

Q. 12. What should be the subject matter of our praises to God?[60]

A. The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, which are dictated by the Spirit of God in scripture; and not any human composure whatever, Eph. 5:19.

Q. 13. In what manner should these be sung?

A. "With grace in our hearts to the Lord," Col. 3:16.

Q. 14. What is it to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord?

A. It is to have our hearts going along with our voice, in suitable acts of faith, and elevated affections, Psalm 57:7.

Q. 15. Are not the Psalms of David, as we sing them in our language, of human composure?

A. The translation in metre is human, but the sense and meaning are the same as the original.

Q. 16. What is occasional thanksgiving?

A. It is the setting some time apart for giving thanks to God, on account of some remarkable mercy and deliverance, respecting either churches and nations in general, Neh. 12:27; or ourselves and families in particular, Eph. 5:20.

Q. 17. How ought we to engage in this duty?

A. With an humble sense of our utter unworthiness of the least of all God's favours, 2 Sam. 7:18.

Q. 18. Are reading, hearing, and preaching of the word, acts of worship?

A. Although they are not acts of such immediate worship as prayer and praise, in which God is immediately addressed; yet being the instituted and ordinary means of salvation, they ought to be practised and attended with that reverence and regard which is due to the great God our Saviour, who is present in them, Matt. 28:20; Acts 10:33.

Q. 19. How are the administration and receiving of the sacraments acts of worship?

A. As in them, by the sensible signs of divine appointment, Christ, and his benefits, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers, Gal. 3:26; 1 Cor. 11:26.

Q. 20. In what sense are church government and discipline to be ranked among the ordinances of divine worship?

A. In as far as they are exercised in the name of the Lord Jesus, the alone head of the church, according to the rule of his word, by church judicatories lawfully constituted, Matt. 18:20.

Q. 21. Why are the ministry and the maintenance of it placed among religious ordinances?

A. Because, as a standing ministry in the church, till the end of time, is of express divine institution, Eph. 4:11-13; so the suitable and comfortable maintenance of it, is as expressly appointed, not only in the Old Testament, Num. 18:21, 24; but likewise in the New, 1 Cor. 9:13, 14 -- "Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."

Q. 22. What is religious fasting?

A. "A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out, till the fast be ended,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights."[61] Josh. 7:6; Judges 20:26.

Q. 23. Is bodily fasting, or bare abstinence from food, any part of religious worship?

A. Not properly in itself; but as it is a mean of divine appointment, for fitting and disposing us for more spiritual and solemn exercises.

Q. 24. How does fasting appear to be a mean of divine appointment?

A. From the practice of the saints under the Old Testament, Esth. 4:16; Dan. 10:2, 3; from the testimony of Christ, Matt. 6:17, 18, and 17:21; and the example of his apostles under the New, Acts 13:3; and 14:23.

Q. 25. What are those spiritual and solemn exercises for which fasting is designed to dispose us?

A. Deep humiliation of soul before the Lord on account of sin, Ezra 9:6; free confession of it, Dan. 9:20, and turning from it, Joel 2:12, as the genuine fruits of our taking hold of God's covenant, Jer. 50:4, 5; together with an importunate requesting of our gracious God, for that which is the particular occasion of the fast, Psalm 35:13.

Q. 26. Is religious fasting an occasional or a stated duty?

A. It is merely occasional and extraordinary, to be observed as the call of Providence may require and direct.

Q. 27. What are the occurrences in providence, which are a call to this extraordinary duty?

A. "When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people," Dan. 9:3, 12-14, "or apparently imminent," 2 Chron. 20:2-4; "or, by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved," 1 Sam. 7:3, 6; "as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained,"[62] ver. 5, 8, 10.

Q. 28. Is swearing by the name of God an act of immediate and instituted worship?

A. It is undoubtedly: and that either when we devote ourselves to God in a covenant of duties, Deut. 6:13, or declare the truth upon oath, when called thereto: because, in both cases the name of God is solemnly interposed and invoked, Jer. 4:2.

Q. 29. To whom are vows to be made?

A. To God alone, as the only party and witness in the making and performing of them, Psalm 76:11 -- "Vow and pay unto the LORD your GOD."

Q. 30. What should be the subject matter of our vows to God?

A. Nothing except what may tend either to promote the practice of commanded duty, Psalm 119:57, or prevent the commission of any sin to which we are more ordinarily inclined and addicted, verse 106.

Q. 31. What does this commandment require, with respect to all those ordinances, and parts of worship, which God has appointed in his word?

A. The receiving and observing them; and keeping them pure and entire.

Q. 32. What is it to receive God's ordinances?

A. It is to approve of, and embrace them, as bearing the stamp of his authority upon them, Psalm 84:1, 2.

Q. 33. What is it to observe them?

A. It is to set about the practice of them, or to be actually employed in them, Psalm 55:17, and 119:164; Luke 2:37.

Q. 34. What is it to keep the ordinances of God pure?

A. It is to contribute our utmost endeavour to preserve them from all mixture of human invention, Deut. 12:32.

Q. 35. What is it to keep them entire?

A. It is, in the exercise of faith, to attend upon each of them in its proper season, so as that one duty may not jostle out another, Luke 1:6.

Q. 36. What does God require of us in this command, with reference to all false worship?

A. He requires "the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship, Psalm 16:4; and according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry, Deut. 7:5."[63]


[59] See Larger Catechism, Question 108.

[60] It is scarcely necessary to say that the Presbyterian Church in the United States, under the sanction of the General Assembly, celebrate the praises of God in hymns of human composure, expressing evangelical sentiments, and there are convincing arguments in favour of this practice and against the restricted one recommended in the following answer.

[61] Directory for the public worship of God, in the article, Concerning public solemn Fasting.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Larger Catechism, Question 108.


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