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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Of Manís Duty to God.

Q. 39. What is the duty that God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.

Q. 1. Is obedience to Godís will the duty of every man?
A. It is unquestionably the duty of every man to obey the will of God, so far as he hath made it known to him; Micah 6:8. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

Q. 2. On what account is manís obedience due to God?
A. It is due to him, First, as he is our Creator, in whom we live, and move, and have our being; Acts 17:27-28. Secondly, As he is our Benefactor, from whom we receive all our mercies; Deuteronomy 28:47. Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies, which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things. Thirdly, As he is our Lord, and lawgiver; James 4:12. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.

Q. 3. Is obedience due to none but God only?
A. Yes; subjects must obey their lawful magistrates; Romans 13:1. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, for there is no power but of God The powers that be are ordained of God. People their ministers; Hebrews 13:17. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account. Children their parents; Ephesians 6:1. Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. But not as they are to obey God.

Q. 4. What is the difference betwixt our obedience to Godís commands, and menís?
A. We are to obey God, chiefly and supremely, for his own sake, but creatures secondarily, and for God's sake; 1 Peter 2:13. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord's sake. And Ephesians 6:1. Children obey your parents [in the Lord,] for this is right.

Q. 5. What must we do when the commands of God and men fall cross to one another?
A. In that case we must yield our obedience to God, and not to man, whatever we suffer for it; Acts 4:19. Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

Q. 6. Why must we obey God rather than man?
A. Because God is the supreme and sovereign Lord of our consciences; and no creature hath power to command our obedience but in and from him; Isaiah 32:22. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, he will save us.

Q. 7. Have the people liberty to compare the laws of God and men, and judge how they agree or differ?
A. Yes; their judgment of discretion is both commanded; 1 Corinthians 10:15. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. And commended; Acts 17:11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Q. 8. What is the only rule for our obedience to God?
A. The will of God revealed in the scriptures is our only rule of obedience; Isaiah 8:20. To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Q. 9. But if a man have a voice, a vision, or a dream, seeming to hint the secret will of God, may he not obey it?
A. Yes; if it be consonant to the revealed will of God in the word, otherwise not; Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed, belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Q. 10. What is the first instruction from hence?
A. That it is highly sinful and dangerous to disobey the known will of God in any thing; Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Luke 12:47. And that servant which knew his Lordís will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

Q. 11. What is the second instruction?
A. That is a blessed man, who conscientiously labours to obey the will of God, so far as be can discover it; John 13:17. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. Galatians 6:16. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy.

Q. 12. What is the third inference?
A. It is highly sinful and dangerous to command others, or obey commands from others, which are not according to Godís command; Hosea 5:11. Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment. Jeremiah 7:31. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.

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