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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Concerning the Doing of Godís Will.

Q. 103 What do we pray for in the third petition?
A. In the third petition, which is, [Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven], we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, as the an angels do in heaven.


Q. 1. What will of God is here intended?
A. Not the will of his decree; for that is in himself alone; 1 Corinthians 2:11. The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

Q. 2. What will then is here meant?
A. The will of his providence may be here meant; Psalm 125:6. Whatsoever the Lord p leased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, and in the seas, and all deep places. And Psalm 119:89. For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. Ver. 91. They continue this day according to thine ordinances; for all are thy servants.

Q. 3. How are we to understand the doing of this will of providence in heaven?
A. (1.) As it done by the sun, moon, and stars; Psalm 119:89. Thy word is settled in heaven. Ver. 91. They continue this day according to thine ordinances. Psalm 19:6. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. (2.) As it is done by angels; Psalm 104:4. Who maketh the angels spirits, his ministers a flaming fire. Hebrews 1:14. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Q. 4. How do these perform the will of Godís providence?
A. (1.) The heavenly bodies do it evenly, constantly, and unweariedly; Psalm 104:19. He appointeth the moon for seasons, the sun knoweth his going down. (2.) The angels do it speedily, voluntarily, cheerfully, and so knowingly; Psalm 103:21. Ye ministers of his that do his pleasure.

Q. 5. Must we be agents in this providential will?
A. Yes, we must; Acts 13:36. For David, after he had served his generation by the will of God, fell on sleep.

Q. 6. How must we do it?
A. By employing our abilities, faculties, and interests, in the duties of our particular callings, and by moving constantly, prudently, and vigorously in our own sphere, and so imitate those in heaven.

Q. 7. Why do we pray that Godís will of providence may be done by us?
A. Because we are his creatures, and the most noble instrument of the inferior world; and therefore we should be willing to be acted by him, and active for him; and because this will of providence is always just, good, and true, and for his own glory; Psalm 145:17. The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Psalm 119:89. For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. Ver. 91. They continue this day according to thine ordinances; for all are thy servants.

Q. 8. What other will of God is here meant?
A. The will of his precepts, and this is chiefly intended.

Q. 9. And how is this will of God done in heaven?
A. By the angels it is done universally, cheerfully, constantly, humbly, thankfully, readily; Psalm 103:20. Bless the Lord, ye his angels that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. And so it is done by the saints in heaven; Revelation 7:15. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; And chap. 22:3. And his servants shall serve him.

Q. 10. Do we pray then that we may thus do the will of God?
A. Yes; for though we cannot perfectly without sin do it, yet that is our duty; Matthew 5:48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. And in all other particulars we may and we must intimate them herein; Psalm 119:6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. Verse 14. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches. Verse 69. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. Verse 112, &c. I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes always even unto the end.

Q. 11. How must we know Godís will?
A. Not notionally and rationally only; but spiritually also; 1 Corinthians 2:14. They are spiritually discerned.

Q. 12. Why is knowing Godís will placed here before doing it?
A. Because the understanding is the leading faculty, without which it is impossible there should be any obedience; Proverbs 19:2. Also that the soul be without knowledge it is not good. Jeremiah 5:4. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor, they are foolish; for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God.

Q. 13. Why pray we to God for this knowledge? can we not know it of ourselves?
A. No, it is the special gift and grace of God; Galatians 1:15-16. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my motherís womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood. Ephesians 1:17, 19. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. Ephesians 5:8. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.

Q. 14. Why do we pray that we may obey; can we not do it of our own free-will when we know it?
A. No, for our wills are stubborn and rebellious against Godís commands, as well as our minds ignorant of them; Romans 8:7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Ezekiel 36:25-26. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Philippians 2:13. For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Q. 15. What is meant by submitting to Godís will?
A. (1.) Either a voluntary subjection of soul, and a preparedness actually to do his will: Or, (2.) A voluntary and silent submission to his will of providence in affliction: but in this particular we cannot imitate those in heaven, because no cross ever befalls them.

Q. 16. Why is will added in all things?
A. Because partial obedience is. no obedience; he that does not obey God in every thing, obeys him in nothing; James 2:10. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Q. 17. Why do we pray that God by his grace would work this will in us, and by us?
A. Because it is free grace that determines it; 2 Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began. And efficacious grace that works it in us, and enables us to do it; Ephesians 5:8. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Verse 10. Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

Q. 18. What is the first inference from hence?
A. That it is manís glory and felicity to be conformed to the will of God, Proverbs 12:26. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour. Psalm 19:10-11. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Q. 19. What is the second inference?
A. That we must mortify in ourselves every lust that contradicts Godís will, and renounce without ourselves every thing that comes in competition therewith; 1 Corinthians 9:27. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away. Galatians 6:14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Q. 20. What is the third inference?
A. That it is in vain, yea, a provocation to pray, if we be not obedient to Godís will; Proverbs 2:8-9. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

Q. 21. What is the fourth inference?
A. That the law still hath the authority of a rule to believers, because it reveals Godís will, which they must do.

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