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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

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

by
Thomas Vincent


XII. Ques. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man, in the estate wherein he was created?
Ans.
When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon. condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

Q. 1. What is a covenant?
A. A covenant is a mutual agreement and engagement, between two or more parties to give or do something.

Q. 2. What is God's covenant with man?
A. God's covenant with man is his engagement, by promise, of giving something, with a stipulation, or requiring something to be done on man's part.

Q. 3. How many covenants hath God made with man?
A. There are two covenants which God hath made with man— 1. A covenant of works; 2. A covenant of grace.

Q. 4. When did God enter into a covenant of works with man?
A. God did enter into a covenant of works with man immediately after his creation, when he was yet in a state of innocency, and had committed no sin.

Q. 5. What was the promise of the covenant of works which God made with man?
A. The promise of the covenant of works was a promise of life; for God's threatening death upon man's disobedience (Gen. ii. 17), implieth his promise of life upon man's obedience.

Q. 6. What life was it that God promised to man in the covenant of works?
A. The life that God promised to man in the covenant of works was the continuance of natural and spiritual life, and the donation of eternal life.

Q. 7. Wherein doth natural, spiritual, and eternal life consist?
A. 1. Natural life doth consist in the union of the soul and body. 2. Spiritual life doth consist in the union of God and the soul. 3. Eternal life doth consist in the perfect, immutable, and eternal happiness, both of soul and body, through a perfect likeness unto, and an immediate vision and fruition of God, the chief good.

Q. 8. What was tile condition of the first covenant, and that which God required on man's part in the covenant of works?
A. The condition of' and that required by God on man's part, in the covenant of works, was perfect obedience. "The law is not of faith, but, The man that doeth them shall live in them" (Gal. 3:12); compared with the 10th verse: "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."

Q. 9. In what respect was this obedience (required of man in the first covenant) to be perfect?
A. The obedience required of man in the first covenant was to be perfect— l. In respect of the matter of it. All the powers and faculties of the soul, all the parts and members of the body, were to be employed in God's service, and made use of as instruments of righteousness. 2. It was to be perfect in respect of the principle, namely, habitual righteousness, and natural disposition and inclination to do any thing God required, without any indisposition or reluctance, as the angels do obey in heaven. 3. It was to be perfect in respect of the end, which was chiefly to be God's glory, swaying in all actions. 4. It was to be perfect in respect of the manner— it was to be with perfect love and delight, and exactly with all the circumstances required in obedience. 5. It was to be perfect in respect of the time— it was to be consultant and perpetual.

Q. 10. What is the prohibition, or the thing forbidden in the covenant of works?
A. The thing forbidden in the covenant of works, is the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. "And the Lord commanded, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it."— Gen. 2:16-17.

Q. 11. Why was this tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
A. Because man, by eating the fruit of this tree, did know experimentally what good he had fallen from, and had lost, namely, the image and favour of God; and what evil he was fallen into, namely, the evil of sin and misery.

Q. 12. What was the penalty or punishment threatened upon the breach of the covenant of works?
A. The punishment threatened upon the breach of the covenant of works, was death. "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."— Gen. 2:17. "The wages of sin is death "— Rom. 6:23.

Q. 13. What death was it that God threatened as the punishment of sin?
A. The death which God threatened as the punishment of man's sin, was temporal death, spiritual death, and eternal death.

Q. 14. Wherein doth temporal, spiritual, and eternal death consist?
A. 1. Temporal death doth consist in the separation of the soul from the body; this man was liable unto in the day that he did eat of the forbidden fruit, and not before. 2. Spiritual death doth consist in the separation of the soul from God, and the loss of God's image; this death seized upon man in the moment of his first sin. 3. Eternal death doth consist in the exclusion of man from the comfortable and beatifical presence of God in glory for ever, together with the immediate impressions of God's wrath, effectual most horrible anguish in the soul, and in the extreme tortures in every part of the body, eternally in hell?

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