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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Moral Law.

Q. 40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.

Q. 41. Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.


Q. 1. Is every man under the direction and obligation of law?
A. Yes; man being a reasonable creature, is capable of, and fitted for government by law, which other creatures are not; and being an accountable creature to God, must needs be under a law; Romans 2:15. Which shew the works of the law written in their hearts; their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing one another.

Q. 2. How could man be under a law before the law was given by Moses?
A. Before ever the law was given at Sinai, all the race of Adam had a law written in their hearts, viz, the light of reason, and dictates of natural conscience; Romans 2:14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves. And besides this, the church had the revealed will of God to direct them; 2 Peter 1:19-20. We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

Q. 3. What is the meaning of the moral law?
A. It is not a law to direct and order our manners; but a law that binds universally and perpetually, as the ten commandments do those to whom they are promulged, and the light of nature doth all others; Romans 2:14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves. Luke 16:17. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Q. 4. Why is it said to be summarily comprehended in the ten commandments?
A. Because much more is included in every command than is expressed, as our Saviour shews in his exposition of it; Matthew 22:40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Q. 5. Doth the moral law bind Christians under the gospel ?
A. Yes, it doth, as a rule to order their conversations by; James 2:8-10. If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors; for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.

Q. 6. Is the moral law the same thing with the covenant of works, and imposed for the same end?
A. God never designed the law to be the way of manís justification since the fall; Galatians 3:21-22. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid! for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by the law; but the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But it was promulged to convince man of sin; Romans 7:7. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid! Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. And bring them to Christ; Galatians 3:24. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Q. 7. What is the first inference from hence?
A. Hence we learn the abominable nature of Popery. The Pope being that lawless one, who will not be bound by the laws of God himself; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Then shall that wicked one be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming; but assumes power to dispense with Godís laws to others.

Q. 8. What is the second inference hence?
A. That man dieth not as beasts die; which are under no moral law, and therefore capable of no sin; but must come to judgment after death; Ecclesiastes 3:21. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Hebrews 9:27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, so after this the judgment.

Q. 9. What is the third inference hence?
A. That though the actions of men naturally considered are transient, yet their consequences and effects are permanent; an act is soon done, a word soon spoken, a thought soon thought; but when done, spoken, or thought, they are p laced to account; Galatians 6:7-8. Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.

Q. 10. What is the fourth inference from hence?
A. That God will proceed with men by different rules in the day of judgment, according to the different laws they lived under in this world; Romans 2:12. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.

Q. 11. What is the fifth inference from hence?
A. That those who have sinned against the clearest light, and best helps, will, if they die impenitent, be judged to the greatest misery; Matthew 11:23. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. Hebrews 2:3. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation.

Q. 12. What is the sixth inference from hence?
A. That we are to prize the moral law highly, as a rule of life; Psalm 119:105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path: So are we to bless God for the gospel dispensation, by which only we can attain to justification and salvation; Hebrews 12:22. But ye are come to mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.

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