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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Of the Word Read and Heard.

Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners; and building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

Q. 1. What mean you by the word?
A. By the word is meant the word of God, consigned to writing in the books of the Old and New Testament; which though it be ministered by men, yet is no other than the very word of God, and as such to be received; 1 Thessalonians 2:13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men; but (as it is in truth) the word of God, &c.

Q. 2. Whence is the efficacy of this word?
A. It is wholly from the Spirit of God that it becomes effectual to any manís salvation; 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7. I have planted, and Apollos watered, but God gave thc increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Q. 3. Is the reading of the scripture an ordinance of God for menís salvation ?
A. Yes, it is; Deuteronomy 17:19. And it shall be with him, and he shall feed therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them. And in reading of it, God sometimes comes in by his Spirit to men's conversion; Acts 8:27-29. And he arose and went, and behold a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot, read Isaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot, &c.

Q. 4. Is the hearing of the word a means of salvation?
A. Yes, it is; Isaiah 55:3. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live, &c. 1 Corinthians 1:21. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.

Q. 5. To what end is the word useful to men?
A. The first end and use of the word is to convince men of their sin and misery out of Christ; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all. And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest, &c.

Q. 6. What is it useful for, besides conviction?
A. It is useful for conversion, as well as conviction; Psalm 19:7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, &c. Acts 26:18. To turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, &c.

Q. 7. Doth the word convince and convert all that hear it?
A. No, but those only that are ordained to eternal life; Acts 13:48. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Q. 8. What else is the word useful for?
A. To build up the saints to perfection in Christ; Ephesians 4:11-13. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man; unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Acts 20:32. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.

Q. 9. May the common people read the scriptures?
A. Yes, it is a duty commanded by Christ; John 5:39. Search the scriptures, &c. And commended by the apostle; 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. 10. Is it their duty or liberty also to preach it?
A. No, it is not; for besides abilities for that work, there must be a call; Romans 10:14-15. How shall they hear without a preacher? and how, shall they preach, except they be sent, &c.

Q. 11. What is the first instruction from hence?
A. That the enjoyments of the scriptures, and an able, faithful ministry to expound and apply them, is a special mercy to any people; Psalm 147:19-20. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments unto Israel; he hath not dealt so with any nation; and as or his judgments they have not known them.

Q. 12. What is the second instruction?
A. That men cannot expect special and spiritual blessings from God in the wilful neglect of the ordinances; Proverbs 28:9. He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Q. 13. What is the third inference?
A. That sad is their condition, who sit all their days under the word to no purpose at all; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them.

Q. 14. What is the last inference?
A. That Christís ordinances and ministers should be most welcome to the people to whom God sends them; Isaiah 52:7. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.

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