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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of Christís Ordinances.

Q. 88. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.


Q. 1. What makes any thing become a divine ordinance?
A. The institution or appointment of God, is that alone which makes a divine ordinance; Matthew 28:20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, &c.

Q. 2. Are the institutions of all ordinances alike clear in scripture?
A. No; Some are more explicitly and clearly revealed in scripture than others as the Lordís supper is more clear than baptism: But whatever hath scripture-warrant, in the words or consequence, is of divine appointment.

Q. 3. May not men institute ordinances of divine worship?
A. No; this in scripture is condemned as will-worship; Colossians 2:20, 22-23. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world; why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? &c. Which things indeed have a shew of wisdom in will-worship, &c.

Q. 4. Why cannot man institute a divine ordinance?
A. He cannot do it, because it is the prerogative belonging to Christís kingly office; Matthew 28:20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

Q. 5. For what other reason cannot man do it?
A. Because he cannot bless them, and make them effectual to their ends: but they will be in vain; Matthew 15:9. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Q. 6. Why are the ordinances called means of salvation?
A. Because by and through them the Spirit of the Lord conveys spiritual graces into menís souls; 1 Corinthians 1:21. It pleased God, by the foolishness of p reaching, to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 3:5. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

Q. 7. Whence is the virtue of ordinances?
A. It is not in and from themselves, or the gifts and abilities of him that administers them, but from the blessing and Spirit of the Lord; 1 Corinthians 3:7. Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, hut God that giveth the increase.

Q. 8. Do all Godís ordinances attain their end?
A. Yes; there is none of them in vain, but do attain their end, in the salvation or damnation of all that come under them; Isaiah 55:10-11. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be, that goeth forth out of my mouth: It shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life, &c.

Q. 9. Are instituted ordinances the only means of salvation?
A. They are not the only means; for God can convert men to Christ without them; Acts 9:4-5. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying uuto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest: It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. But they are the ordinary standing means; Romans 10:14-15. How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? &c.

Q. 10. To whom are the ordinances made effectual to salvation?
A. To all Godís elect they are effectual to salvation, and to them only; Acts 13:48. As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed. John 10:26. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, &c.

Q. 11. What is the first instruction from hence?
A. That great preparation is due to all the ordinances, before we engage in them; Job 11:13-14. If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands towards him. If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. 1 Chronicles 29:18. And prepare their heart unto thee.

Q. 12. What is the second inference from hence?
A. That great reverence is due to Godís ordinances, when we are actually engaged in the use of them; Psalm 89:7. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints; and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

Q. 13. What is the third inference from hence?
A. That those people that want ordinances, are in a sad and deplorable condition; Ephesians 2:11-12. Wherefore remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.

Q. 14. What is the last instruction hence?
A. That those that perish in the midst of ordinances, and means of salvation, will perish with aggravated perdition; Matthew 11:23. And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt 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.

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