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SHORTER CATECHISM EXPLAINED,
BY WAY OF
QUESTION AND ANSWER.
OF WHAT MAN IS TO BELIEVE CONCERNING GOD.
BY SEVERAL MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL.
"Hold fast the form of sound words."-2 Tim. I. 13.
THIRD PHILADELPHIA EDITION: CAREFULLY COMPARED WITH AN EARLY AND
TOWAR, J. & D. M. HOGAN-PITTSBURGH, HOGAN & CO.
C. SHERMAN & CO. PRINTERS.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THE Shorter Catechism, composed by the Assembly of divines at Westminster, with assistance of Commissioners from the church of Scotland, being approved by the General Assembly of the said church 1648, and ratified by the Estates of Parliament in the year following, is above any recommendation of ours; having its praises already in all the churches of CHRIST, abroad and at home, among whom it has been justly admired as a master-piece of its kind, both for the fulness of its matter, and the compendious and perspicuous manner in which it is expressed.
Although it is only a human composure, yet being a form of sound words, agreeable unto, and founded on the word of God, it ought to be held fast, and earnestly contended for, by all the lovers of truth, in opposition to the contrary errors that are revived and raging in our day; and, in order hereto, it ought to be considered, that a divine faith is due to the words of the HOLY GHOST supporting it, as the evident proofs thereof.
Nothing tends more to the advantage and well-being of the church, than sound standards of doctrine, worship, and government established by ecclesiastic and civil authority as ours are; because, as they are a strong bulwark against contrary errors and opinions, so they tend to preserve truth in its purity, and the professors of it in unity and harmony among themselves. On the other hand, there is nothing more galling to the adversaries of truth, than such public standards, because they are a very severe check and curb upon their unbounded and licentious liberty, being directly levelled against their erroneous schemes, and plainly discovering the harmonious chain of scripture-truth, in opposition unto them.
The divine warrant for such composures, is abundantly clear from 2 Tim. i. 13. where we read of the form of sound words wherein Paul instructed Timothy; and Heb. v. 12. of the first principles of the oracles of God; and chap. vi. 1. of the principles of the doctrine of Christ.—Besides,
there are several summaries, or compendious systems of divine truth, recorded in Scripture; such as Exod. xx. 2-18. Matth. vi. 9-14. 1 Tim. iii. 16. and Tit. ii. 11-15. with many others, which are the examplars, or patterns, upon which the Christian churches, both in ancient and latter times, have deduced, from the pure fountain of the word, the principal articles of their holy religion, as a test and standard of orthodoxy amongst them.
The Shorter Catechism sets forth the principles of Christianity in the most excellent method and order. It would be tedious to give a particular analysis, or division of the several heads of divinity, according to the order of the Catechism. But, in general, the method thereof may be taken up under these four comprehensive articles, namely, The chief end, the only rule, the glorious object, and the great subject of the Christian religion.
I. The chief end of the Christian religion, which is the glorifying of GOD, and the enjoying him for ever.
II. We have the only rule of the Christian religion; described,
1. In its matter; which is the word of God, contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Quest. 2.
2. In its principal parts; which are, first, what man is to believe concerning God; and then the duty which God requires of man. Quest. 3. III. The glorious object of the Christian religion; which is GOD; considered,
1. Essentially, in his spiritual nature, infinite perfections, and in his most perfect unity and simplicity. Quest. 4, 5.
2. Relatively or personally, in the three distinct persons of the Godhead; and in the consubstantiality, and absolute equality of these persons. Quest. 6.
3. Efficiently, in his acts and operations, which are either immanent and essential, such as, his decrees; or transient and external, such as his works of creation and providence, wherein he executes his decrees. Quest. 7-12.
IV. The great subject of the Christian religion, which is man; considered,
1st. In his state of innocence, where the covenant of works is opened. Quest. 12.
2dly. In his state of nature, together with the sinfulness and misery of that state. Quest. 13-20.
3dly. In his state of grace, or begun recovery; where the Catechism treats,
1. Of the nature of the covenant of grace. Quest. 20.
2. Of the Mediator of the covenant; who is described, in his person, offices, humiliation, exaltation, and in the application of his purchased redemption by the HOLY SPIRIT. Quest. 21-32.
3. Of the benefits of the covenant; in this life, at death, at the resurrection, and through all eternity. Quest. 32-39.
4. Of the duties whereby we evidence our covenant relation and gratitude to God, in the Ten Commandments, as connected with their Preface. Quest. 39-82.
5. Of man's utter inability to obey the law in this life. Quest. 82. 6. Of the aggravation and desert of sin. Quest. 83, 84. 7. Of the means whereby our salvation is carried on and perfected at death: the internal means, faith and repentance; the external means, the word, sacraments, and prayer. Quest. 85, to the end.
The first part of this catechetical treatise, ends with Quest. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? containing the doctrines we are to believe concerning GoD. The second part respects the duty which Gon requires of man.
The materials of the following Catechism, are collected by several ministers, and it was recommended to three of their number, to revise what should be done by so many hands, that there might be an uniformity of style and method, and that repetitions might be prevented as much as possible. It has pleased the LORD, to take home to himself one of these three, who assisted in composing and revising of this first part; but though he be dead, he yet speaketh, and will be spoken of for his excellent works (which have already, or may hereafter see the light,) by all those who shall have any relish or taste for sound doctrine and experimental godliness.-Whatever loss the second part of this Catechism may sustain, by the removal of such an able and skilful hand, the other two make not the least doubt, but the LORD would carry on this work, with as great, or greater advantage, though they were laid in the grave likewise.
Mean time, that what is here presented to public view, may be blessed of God, for the edification of souls, is, in the name of our brethren, the earnest prayer of,
* The Rev. Mr. Ralph Erskine of Dunfermline.