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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

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

by
Thomas Vincent


IV. Ques. What is God?
Ans. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Q. 1. What kind of substance is God?
A. God is a spirit. "God is a spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth."— John 4:24.

Q. 2. What is a spirit?
A. A spirit is an immaterial substance, without flesh or bones, or bodily parts. "Behold my hands and my feet that it is I myself; handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."— Luke 24:89.

Q. 3 How is God said, then, in Scripture to have eyes, and ears, and mouth, and hands, and other parts? "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry."— Ps. 34:15. "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."— Isa. 1:20. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."— Heb. 10:31.
A. These and the like bodily parts are not in God properly, as they be in men, but figuratively; and after the manner of men, he is pleased to condescend (in expressing himself hereby) to our weak capacities, that we might the more easily conceive of him by such resemblances.

Q. 4. How doth God differ from angels and the souls of men, who also are spiritual and immaterial substances?
A. 1. Angels and the souls of men are created spirits, and depend in their being upon God; but God is an uncreated spirit, and dependeth in his being upon Done. 2. Angels and the souls of men are. finite spirits; but God is an infinite spirit.

Q 5. What is it to be infinite?
A. To be infinite, is to be without measure, bounds, or limits.

Q. 6. In what regard is God infinite?
A. 1. God is infinite, or without bounds, in regard of his being or perfection; and therefore is incomprehensible. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection 1"— Job 11:7. 2. God is infinite, and without measure and bounds, in regard of place; and therefore he is everywhere present. "Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord, Do not I fill heaven and earth?"— Jer. 23:24. "And yet neither the earth, nor tho heavens, nor the heaven of heavens, is able to contain him."— 1 Kings 8:26. 3. God is infinite, or without measure and bounds, in regard of time; and therefore he is eternal. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen."— 1 Tim. 1:17. 4. God is infinite, or without measure and bounds, in regard of all his communicable attributes.

Q. 7. What is it to be eternal?
A. To be eternal, is to have neither beginning nor ending.

Q. 8. How doth it appear that God is eternal?
A. 1. From Scripture. "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth or the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God." — Ps. 110:2. 2. From reason. (1.) God gave a being to the world, and all things therein, at tho beginning of time; therefore he must needs be before the world, and before time, and therefore from everlasting. (2.) God is an absolutely necessary Being, because the first Being, because altogether in dependent, and beyond the reach of any power to put an end to him; therefore he is unchangeable— therefore everlasting he is God.

Q. 9. How doth God differ from his creatures, in regard of his eternity!
A. 1, Some creatures have their beginning with .time, and their ending with time, as the heavens and the foundations of the earth. 2. Some creatures have their beginning in time, and their ending also in time; as those creatures upon the earth, which are generated and corrupted, which are born, and live for a while, and then die. 3. Some creatures have their beginning intime, yet do not end with or in time, but endure for ever; as angels and the souls of men. 4. But God differeth from all, in that he was from everlasting, before time, and will remain unto everlasting, when time shall be no more.

Q. 10. What is it to be unchangeable?
A. To be unchangeable, is to be always the same, without any alteration.

Q. 11. In what regard is God unchangeable?
A. 1. God is unchangeable in regard of his nature and essence. "Of old thou hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; they shall be changed, but thou art the same."— Ps. 102:25-27. 2. God is unchangeable in regard of his counsel and purpose. "My counsel shall stand, and 1 will do all my pleasure."— Isa. 46:10. "Wherein God, willing to show the immutability of his counsel."— Heb. 6:17. 3. God is unchangeable in regard of his love and special favours. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance."— Rom. 11:29. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."— James 1:17.

Q. 12. How is God said to be infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth?
A. In that being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, which are communicable unto, and may be in some degree and measure found in the creatures, they are in God infinitely, eternally, unchangeably, and so altogether in an incommunicable manner. (1.) Creatures have a being, but it is a finite being— a being in time, a changeable being; God's being is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. (2.) Creatures may have wisdom, but it is finite and imperfect wisdom; God's wisdom is infinite and absolutely perfect. (3.) Creatures may have some powe; but it is finite and limited power, such as may be taken away — they may have power to do something dependingly upon God; but God is infinite in power— he is omnipotent, and can do all things independently, without the help of any. (4.) Creatures may have some holiness, and justice, and goodness, and truth; but these are qualities in them— they are finite, and in an inferior degree, and they are subject to change; but these things are essence in God— they are infinite and perfect in him; his holiness is infinite, his justice is infinite, his goodness is infinite, his truth is infinite; and all these are eternally in him, without any variableness or possibility of change.

Q. 13. What is the wisdom of God?
A. The wisdom of God is his essential property, whereby, by one simple and eternal act, he knoweth both himself and all possible things perfectly, and according to which he maketh, directeth, and ordereth all future things for his own glory.

Q. 14. Wherein doth the wisdom of God appear?
A. 1. God's wisdom doth appear in his perfect knowledge of all possible things, all past things, all present things, all future things, in their natures, causes, virtues, and operations; and that not by relation, observation, or induction of reason, as men know some things, but by one simple and eterual act of his understanding. "His understanding is infinite."— Psalm 147:5. "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me; such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."— Ps. 139:1, 6. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."— Heb. 4:13.
2. God's wisdom doth appear in the beautiful variety of creatures which he hath made, above and below. "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all."— Ps. 104:24.
3. God's wisdom doth appear in his admirable contrivance of our redemption through his Son, whereby his justice is fully satisfied, and his people are graciously saved. "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: the wisdom of God in a mystery," &c.— 1 Cor. 2:6-7. This is that wisdom which was made known by the Church unto the angels. "To the intent that nil to the principalities might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God."— Eph. 3:10.
4. God's wisdom doth appear in his excellent government of all his creatures. (1) In his government of unreasonable creatures— directing them unto to their ends, though they have no reason to guide them. (2.) In his government of reasonable creatures that are wicked— overruling all their actions for his own glory, though they be intended by them for his dishon our. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee."— Ps. 76:10. (3.) In his government of his Church and people. The disposal of his special favours to the most unworthy, that he might reap all the glory— his qualifying and making useof instruments in great works beyond their own thoughts and designs— his seasonable provisions for his people— his strange preserva tion of them from the malice of subtle and powerful enemies— his promoting his own interest in the world, by the means which men use to subvert it, and the like, do evideutly declare the infinite wisdom of God.

Q. 15. What is the power of God?
A. The power of God ishis essential property, whelebybe can do all things. "I ari the almighty God."— Gen. 17:1.

Q. 16. Wherein doth the power of God show itself?
A. 1. The power of God doth show itself in what he hath done. He hath created all things. "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."— Rom. 1:20. He hath effected many miracles, which we read of both in the Old and New Testaments,which exceeded the power of natural causes. He hath raised up to himself, aud preserved his Church in all ages, notwithstanding the rage and malice of all the powers of earth and hell, who have endeavoured to extirpate it. "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" — Matt. 16:18.
2. The power of God doth show itself in what he doe tli. He upholdeth all his creatures in their being and operations. "Upholding all things by the word of his power." — Heb. 1:3. He plucks his chosen people out of the snare of the devil, and powerfully draws them, and joins them by faith unto Jesus Christ. "And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe."— Eph. 1:19. He works grace in his people, and maintaineth his work, and enableth them to persevere. "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."— l Pet. 1:5. He restraineth the wicked, and blingeth Satan under the feet of his people. He worketh continually, easily, irresistibly, and indefatigably; all which show his power.
3. The power of God doth show itself in what he will do. He will make the kingdoms of the earth to stoop to his Son, and that both of Jew and Gentile. He will ruin Antichrist, though ever so potent at the present. He will raise up the dead out of their graves, and destroy the visible world at the last day. And he will show the power of his anger, in the everlasting punishment of the wicked in hell.
4. The power of God doth show itself in what he can do. He can do whatever he pleaseth; he cnn do whatever is possible to infinite power, whatever doth not imply a contradiction, or argue imperfection.

Q. 17. What is the holiness of God?
A. The holiness of God is his essential property, whereby he is infinitely pure; loveth and delighteth in his own purity, and in all the resemblances of it which any of his creatures have; and is perfectly free from all impurity, and hateth it wherever he seeth it.

Q. 18. How may God be said to be holy?
A. 1. The name of God is holy. "Holy and reverend is his name."— Ps. 111:9. 2. The nature of God is holy. "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty."— Rev. 4:8. 3. The persons of the Godhead are holy. The Father is holy. "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those which thou hast given me."— John 17:11. The Son is holy. "Against thy holy child Jesus were they gathered."— Acts 4:27. The Spirit is holy. "Joy in the Holy Ghost." — Rom. 14:17. 4. The works of God are holy. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." — Ps. 145:17. 5. The word of God is holy. "Which he hath promised afore by his prophets in the Iloly Scriptures" — Rom. 1:2. His law is holy. "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."— Rom. 7:12. And his gospel is holy. "To remember his holy covenant."— Luke 1:72 6. The worship of God is holy. The matter of it holy. "In every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering of righteousness."— Mal. 1:11. The manner of it holy. "God will be worshipped in spirit and in truth."— John 4:24. The time of it holy. "Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy."— Exod. 20:8. 7. The dwelling-place of God is holy. "Thus saith the high and lofty One, I dwell in the high and holy place."— Isa. 57:15. 8. The angels which attend upon God in heaven are holy. "All the holy angels with him ."— Matt. 25:31. 9. The people of God upon earth are holy. "Thou art a holy people unto the Lord."— Deut. 7:6. 10. God requireth, worketh, loveth, and delighteth in holiness. "Be ye holy."— 1 Pet. 1:15. "This is the will of God, even your sanctification."— 1 Thess. 4:3. 11. God hateth sin and sinners infinitely, and without holiness will not admit any into his kingdom. "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity. "— Ps. 5:5. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."— Heb. 12:14.

Q. 19. What is the Justice of God?
A. The justice of God is his essential property, whereby he is infinitely righteous and equal, both in himself and in all his dealings with his creatures.

Q. 20. Wherein doth the justice of God show itself?
A. 1. In the punishment which he inflicted upon Christ, our Surety, for our sins " He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities."— Isa. 53:5. 2. In the vengeance he will execute upon all unbelievers for their own sins on the day of wrath. "The Lord will be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that obey not the gospel, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction."— 2 Thess. 1:7-9. In the reward he will give to his people, through the merits of Christ. "Great is your reward in heaven."— Matt. 5:12. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."— 2 Tim. 4:8. 4. In those temporal judgements he bringeth upon a people or person for their sins in this world. "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day."— Dan 9:7. "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?"— Lam. 3:39.

Q. 21. What is the goodness of God?
A. The goodness of God is his essential property, whereby he is altogether good in himself, and the author of all good. "Thou art good, and doest good."— Ps. 119:68.

Q. 22. Wherein doth the goodness of God appear?
A. God's goodness doth appear in the works which he hath made. "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."— Gen. 1:31. 2. In his bounty and provisions for all his creatures. "The Lord is good to all "— Ps. 145:9. " The eyes of all wait upon thee."— Ver. 15. 3. In his patience and forbearance toward the wicked, and his enemies. "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering?"— Rom. 2:4. 4. And chiefly, God's goodness doth appear in his special love and mercy towards his own people; in choosing them, in redeeming them, in calling them, in pardoning them, in adopting them, in sanctifying them, in all the privileges he bestoweth upon them, and manifestations of his love unto them here, and in his taking them unto, and giving them possession of, his kingdom hereafter. "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving Iniquity, transgression, and sin," &c.— Exod. 24:6-7.

Q. 23. What is the truth of God?
A. The truth of God is his essential property, whereby he is sincere and faithful, free from all falsehood and simulation. "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began."— Tit. 1:2. "By two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie."— Heb. 6:18.

Q. 24. Wherein doth the truth of God appear?
A. God's truth doth appear— 1. In the soundness of the doctrine which he hath revealed, wherein there is no flaw or corruption. " Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me."— 2 Tim. 1:13. 2. In the certainty of the history which he hath recorded, wherein there is no lie or mistake. "It seemed good to me to write to thee, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed."— Luke 1:3-4. 3. In the accomplishment of the prophecies which he hath foretold, wherein there is no failing or falling short. "We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets did write."— John 1:45. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."— Matt. 24:35. 4. In the fulfilling of the promises which he hath made to his people. " He is faithful that hath promised."— Heb. 10:23. 5. In executing the judgments which he hath threatened against the wicked. "But my words, did they not take hold on your fathers?" — Zech. 1:6. 6. But the great appearance of God's truth will be at the day of Christ's appearance to judgment, when rewards and punishments shall be dispensed according to what he hath foretold us in the book of the Holy Scriptures.

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