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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

Thomas Vincent

II. Ques. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Ans. The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Q. 1. Why is the word contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, called the word of God ?
A. Because it was not from the invention of the men who wrote the Scriptures, but from the immediate inspiration of the Spirit of God, who indited them. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God."— 2 Tim. 2:16. "Prophecy of Scriptures came not by the will of men; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."— 2 Pet. 1:21.

Q. 2. How do you prove the word in the Scriptures to be the word of God?
A. 1. Because of the majesty of the Scriptures. (I.) God is frequently brought in speaking to and by the prophets, and his majesty set forth in such high expressions as are not to be found in any human writings. "Thus saith the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwellin thehigh and holy place."— Isa. 57:15. "Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto."— 1 Tim. 6:15-16. (2.) The style or way of the Scriptures is with such majesty as is not in other writings; duties are therein prescribed, which none but God can require; sins are therein condemned, which none but God can prohibit; threatenings of punishments are therein denounced, which none but God can inflict; promises of rewards are therein made, which none but God can bestow; and all in such a majestic way, as doth evidence God to be the author of this book of the Scriptures.
2. Because of the holiness and purity of the Scriptures. "Which God hath promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures."— Rom. 1:2. "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, and purified seven times."— Ps. 12:6. The Scriptures are holy from the beginning of them unto the end; they do not savour at all of anything that is earthly and impure; especially the laws of the word are holy, commanding everything that is holy, and forbidding everything that is impure and unholy; whence it is evident that the Scriptures are the word of the holy God, and that the holy men which wrote them were acted herein by the Holy Ghost.
3. Because of the consent and harmony of the Scriptures. In the Scriptures there is consent between the Old Testament and the New; a consent between the types and flgiires under the law, and the things typified and prefigured under the gospel— between the prophecies of the Scriptures, and the fulfilling of those prophecies. There is in the Scriptures a harmony or agreement of precepts, and a harmony or agreement of histories, and a harmony or agreement of design. Wherefore, since the Scriptures were written by so many several men, in so many several ages, and different places, and yet agreeing so well in their writings, that no irreconcilable difference is to be found in them, it is evident that they were all acted by the same Spirit of God; and therefore, that the Scriptures are the word of God.
4. Because of the high mysteries which are revealed in the Scriptures. We read, in the Scriptures, of the trinity of persons in the Godhead, the incarnation of the Son of God, the mystical union of Christ and his members. These, and such like mysteries, were beyond the reach of the most wise and learned men to invent, much more beyond the reach of unlearned fishermen, by whom they were revealed; whence it is evident that they spake not their own words, but what they were taught by the immediate inspiration of the Spirit.
5. Because of the antiquity of the Scriptures. They were written, in part, before any other writings of men, and they contain a history of the most ancient things, namely, the creation of the old world, the flood, and the like. Such ancient things are there revealed as none but God knew; and therefore God must needs be the author of them.
6. Because of the power and efficacy of the Scriptures. (1.) The Scriptures are powerful to convince,and awaken, and wound the conscience. "The Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword "— Heb. 4:12. (2.) The Scriptures are powerful to convert and change the heart. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul."— Ps. 19:7. (3.) They are powerful to quicken men out of spiritual death and deadness. "Hear, and your souls shall live."— Isaiah 55:3. "Thy Word hath quickened me."— Ps. 119:50. (4.) They are powerful to rejoice and comfort under the deepest distresses. "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart."— Ps. 19:8. The Scriptures opened and applied are made effectual to produce such powerful effects as do exceed the power of nature, and can be effected only by the power of God; which showeth that God only is the author of the Scriptures, which he would Dot so far own and honour if they were not his own.
7. Because of the design and contrivement of the Scriptures. (1.) The design of the Scriptures is to give God all the glory; the design is not to exalt any, but to debase and empty all men, and exalt God's name and grace in the world. (2.) The marvellous contrivement ofwisdom, in finding out a way for man's recovery and salvation by Jesus Christ,when fallen by sin into such astate of misery, which no mortal brain could have invented; this doth show, not only that this contrivance was from the infinitely wise God, but also that the Scriptures, which have revealed this, are his book.
8. Because the Scriptures were confirmed by miracles. We read of many miracles in the Scriptures, especially those which were wrought by Jesus Christ and his disciples, to confirm their doctrine, that it was from God; such as curing some who were born blind, raising the dead, calming the sea with a word, and many more. Now, these and the like miracles were from the immediate hand of God; and the relation we have faithfully handed down unto us, as appeareth by the writings still amongst us, of several holy men upon them and concerning them, as also by the several copies of them (which could not be forged, and not be found out) agreeing in the same relation. And as surely as God did effect those miracles, so surely is God the author of the Scriptures, which are confirmed by them.
9. Because the Scriptures were confirmed by the blood of martyrs. There were many thousand Christians in the primitive time, who sealed and gave testimony to the truth of the Scriptures with the loss of their lives. The great faith of the primitive Christians in the truth of the Scriptures, who might easily have found out the deceit, had there been any deceit imposed upon men in them; and the great patience and constancy which they showed in their sufferings, as an evidence of their faith, are a weighty argument, in conjunction with others, to prove the divine authority of the Scriptures.
10. Because of the testimony of the Spirit of God in, and with, and by the Scriptures, upon the hearts of believers. " Ye have an unction from the holy One, and ye know all things;" because "the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is true, and is no lie."— 1 John 2:20, 27. Without this testimony, and teaching of the Spirit, all other arguments will be ineffectual to persuade unto a saving faith.

Q. 3. Why was the word of God put into scriptures, or writings?
A. 1. That the history and doctrine of the word might be the better conveyed down to posterity; for if the word revealed to holy men so many ages since, had been in-trusted only unto the memories of men, by tradition to hand it down from one generation to another (supposing the persons with whom the word was intrusted were faithful), yet the memories of men being weak and unfaithful, many truths, in all likelihood, would have been lost by this time; therefore there was not a more sure way of making known the grace of God unto future ages, than by committing the word of God to writing. "This second epistle I write unto you in way of remembrance." — 2 Pet. 3:1. 2. That the gospel made known in the word, might the better be propagated in several nations. Reports of others would not so easily have been believed, as the writings of the prophets and apostles themselves, unto whom the word was revealed. 3. That there might be in the Church a standing rule of faith and life, according to which all doctrines might be examined, and all actions might be ordered; and, by consequence, that corrupt principles and corrupt practices might be prevented, which the minds and hearts of men are prone unto, and would have the more seeming pretence for, were there not express Scripture against both. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."— Isa. 8:20.

Q. 4. Which are the scriptures of the Old Testament, and which are the scriptures of the New Testament?
A. The scriptures of the Old Testament are the scriptures in the former part of the Bible, beginning at Genesis, and ending with Malachi; the scriptures of the New Testament are the scriptures in the ]atter part of the Bible, beginning at Matthew, and ending with the Revelation.

Q. 5. Why are the scriptures in the former part of the Bible called the scriptures of the Old Testament?
A. Because the testament or covenant of grace which God made with man, is therein revealed in the old dispensation of it; in which Christ, the Te stator of the testament, and Mediator of the covenant, is set forth by types and figures; and many burdensome services and carnal ordinances of the ceremonial law were required.

Q. 6. Why are the scriptures in the ]atter part of the Bible called the scriptures of the New Testament?
A. Because the testament of God or covenant of grace is therein revealed, in the new dispensation of it, without types and figures, Christ himself being revealed as come in the flesh, who before was shadowed under them; who, having fulfilled the ceremoziial law, hath abolished it, and freed his people from the yoke of bondage, requiring now more spiritual worship in its room.

Q. 7. Are not the scriptures in the Apocryphal books the word of God?
A. Though there be many true and good things in these books, which may be read profitably, as in other authors, yet they are not to be esteemed as canonical scripture, and part of the Word of God. 1. Because they were not written in tbe Hebrew tongue, nor acknowledged as canonical by the Jews of old, unto whom the keeping of the oracles of God was then committed. 2. Because in these books there are some things false and disagreeable to the Word of God. 3. Because there is not that power and majesty in those books as in canonical scripture. 4. Because the author of Ecclesiastieus (the choicest of all the Apocryphal books) doth crave pardon, if anything be amiss in that book; which he would not have done had he been guided by the infallible Spirit of God therein.

Q. 8. Have not the Scriptures their authority from the Church, as the Papists affirm?
A. No. 1. Because the Church on whose testimony they say the Scriptures do depend, is an apostate and corrupt Church, and the seat of Antichrist. 2. Because the true Church of Christ doth depend in its being on the Scriptures; and therefore the Scriptures cannot depend upon the Church for their authority. "Ye are fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone."— Eph. 2:19-20. 3. Because if the authority of the Scriptures did depend upon the Church, then the Church in itself, without the Scriptures, must be infallible; otherwise our faith in the Scriptures, from their witness, could not be certain; but the Church in itself; without the Scriptures, is not infallible.

Q. 9. Why are the Scriptures called the rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy God?
A. Because all doctrines which we are bound to believe must be measured or judged of; all duties which we are bound to practise as means in order to the attainment of this chief end of man, must be squared or conformed unto this rule. "As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them."— Gal. 6:16.

Q. 10. Why are the Scriptures called the only rule?
A. Because the Scriptures, and nothing else, are sufficient to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy God.

Q. 11. Is not natural reason, without the light of the Scriptures, sufficient to direct us?
A. 1. Indeed natural reason may, from the natural impressions of a Deity upon the mind, and the evidences of a Deity in the works of creation and providence, show that there is a God, and that this God is infinite in his being, and power, and wisdom, and goodness: and that he is to be glorified and worshipped by his creatures. 2. But natural reason cannot fully and savingly show what God is. (1.) It cannot reveal his love and mercy to sinners in his Son. (2.) It cannot reveal how he should be glorified and worshipped. (3.) It cannot direct us how we should enjoy him either here or hereafter.

Q. 12. Are not the unwritten traditions of the Church of Rome to be made use of as a rule for our direction, especially since the apostle exhorteth the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:15) to hold fast the traditions which they had been taught, not only by writing, but also by word of mouth; and many of the traditions of the Church of Rome are pretended to be apostolical?
A. The unwritten traditions of the Church of Rome are not to be made use of as a rule for our direction'—1. Because no unwritten traditions could be conveyed down from the apostles' times unto ours by word of mouth, without danger of mistake and corruption; and therefore we cannot be certain that their traditions, which they call apostolical, are not corrupted, as we must be, if we use them as our rule. 2. Because we have reason to think, the Church of Rome being so much corrupted, that their traditions are corrupted too; especially when historians tell us of the general corruption, ignorance, and vicious-ness of some generations in their Church, namely, in the ninth and tenth centuries and afterwards; through which sink of times we cannot rationally expect to receive pure traditions. 3. Because several of their traditions are contrary to the express Word of God, like those of the elders amongst the Pharisees, which our Saviour doth condemn, together with all human impositions. "Ye have made the commandments of God of none effect by your tradition. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."— Matt. 15:6, 9. 4. Because, however the Thessalonians were bound to hold fast some unwritten traditions for a while, because the history of Christ, and much of the gospel, they had for the present only from the mouths and testimony of the apostles; yet afterwards the whole history of Christ, and whatever was necessary to be known, and believed, and practised, in order to salvation, were committed to writing in the books of the New Testament, both for the sake of the present and future generations of the Church, that so the gospel might not be corrupted by unwritten traditions: therefore, all unwritten traditions are to be rejected.

Q. 13. Is not the light within men, and the Spirit of God without the Scriptures (which Quakers and enthusiasts pretend unto), to be made use of as a rule for our direction?
A. The light which is in men, without the Scripture, is not to be used for our rule. 1. Because whatever light any pretend unto without the Word, is but darkness, in which whosoever walketh, he must needs stumble and fall into the ditch. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."— Isa. 8:20. 2. Whatever spirit any have which leadeth them against, or besides the rule of the Scriptures, it is not the Spirit of God and of truth, but a spirit of error and delusion. The Scripture telleth us plainly, that such as hear not the apostles speaking in the Word, are actuated by an erroneous spirit. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth us not. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."— 1 John 4:1, 6.

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