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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

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

by
Thomas Vincent


XX. Ques. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
Ans. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

Q. 1. Do all mankind perish in the estate of sin and misery into which they are fallen?
A. No; for some God doth bring out of this estate of sin and misery into an estate of salvation. "Being in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which to them is an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God."—Phil. 1:28.

Q. 2. Whom doth God bring into an estate of salvation?
A. God doth bring all his elect people into an estate of salvation, unto which he bath chosen them. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation "—2 Thess. 2:3.

Q. 3. Who are the elect people of God?
A. The elect people of God are those whom, from all eternity, out of his mere good pleasure, he hath chosen unto everlasting life. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, according to the good pleasure of his will."—Eph. 1:4, 5. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed."—Acts 13:48.

Q. 4. By whom doth God bring him elect into an estate of salvation?
A. God doth bring his elect into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer. "Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved"—Acts 4:12.

Q. 5. In what way doth God bring his elect into au estate of salvation?
A. God doth bring his elect into an estate of salvation in the way of his covenant.

Q. 6. By virtue of which covenant of God is it that his elect are saved?
A. 1. Not by virtue of the covenant of works. "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."— Gal. 3:10, 21. 2. It is by virtue of the covenant of grace that the elect are saved.

Q. 7. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. As the covenant of works was made with the first Adam, and all his posterity, so the covenant of grace was made with Christ, the second Adam, and in him with all the elect, as his seed, which are the Israel of God. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made," (that is, not the promises of making all nations blessed.) "He saith not, Unto seeds; as of many but as of one, To thy seed, which is Christ."— Gal. 3:16. "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel."— Heb. 8:10.

Q. 8. Was it the same covenant which was made with Christ and the elect?
A. No; for there was a covenant which God made with Christ as Mediator, and the representative of the elect, which was the foundation of all that grace which was afterwards promised in that covenant of grace which he made with ourselves in and through Christ.

Q. 9. What was the covenant which God made with Christ as the head and representative of the elect?
A. God did covenant and promise to Christ, as the representative of the elect, that, upon condition he would submit to the penalty which the sins of the elect did deserve, and undertake in all things the office of a Mediator, he should be successful, so as to justify and save them. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. And by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many."— Isa. 53:10, 11.

Q. 10. Was this a covenant of grace which God made with Christ, when it required perfect obedience?
A. It was a covenant of grace in reference to the elect, whom Christ did represent; since hereby the obedience was accepted at the hands of their representative which the covenant of works required of themselves. "Who hath saved us, according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."— 2 Tim. 1:9.

Q. 11. What are the promises of the covenant of grace which God hath made with the elect through Christ?
A. The promises of the covenant of grace, which God bath made with the elect, through Christ, are either more general or more particular. 1. More generally, God hath promised to the elect, through Christ, "that he will be to them a God, and they shall be to him a people."— Heb. 8:10. These two promises are so general and comprehensive, that they include all the rest. The promise that "he will be to them a God," doth include his special favour and affection, together with all the expressions of it, in taking care of them, and making provision of all temporal and spiritual good things for them here, and giving them eternal life and happiness in the other world. The promise that "they shall be to him a people," doth include the giving them all those gifts and qualifications which are requisite to that estate and relation. 2. More particularly, God, in the covenant of grace, hath promised to the elect through Christ — (1.) Illumination; that he will teach them the knowledge of himself' and that more fully and clearly than they had been, or could be, taught one by another. "They shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." — Heb. 8:11. (2.) Remission; that he will forgive their sins. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." — Verse 12. (3.) Sanctification. "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their heart." — Verse 10. There are also other promises of sanctification which belong to this covenant. "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; 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; and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them " — Ezek. 36:25-27.

Q. 12. What is the condition of the covenant of grace?
A. The condition of the covenant of grace, whereby the elect have an actual interest in the things promised, is faith; by which they have an interest in Christ. "Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." — John 3:16. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." — Acts 16:31.

Q. 13. Why is the covenant with the elect called the covenant of grace?
A. Because not only the things promised to the elect are grace, or the free gifts of God, which they do not in the least deserve; but also because faith (the condition of this covenant, whereby the promises are made theirs) is God's gift and work, wrought in them by his Spirit, which in his covenant he promiseth unto them. "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." — Eph. 2:8. "You are risen through the faith of the operation of God." — Col. 2:12.

Q. 14. Was the covenant which God made with the children of Israel of old a covenant of works, or a covenant of grace?
A. The covenant which God made of old with the children of Israel was not a covenant of works, but the same covenant of grace, as to the substance of it, which is made known in the gospel. For — l. It was impossible that any of the fallen children of Adam should be justified and saved by the covenant of works. "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." — Gal. 2:16. 2. The children of Israel had the same Mediator of the covenant, and Redeemer, which the people of God have now, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was typified by Moses, and by the sacrifices under the law. 3. They had the same promises of remission and salvation. 4. They had the same condition of faith required to enable them to look to and lay hold on Christ, held forth to them in types and figures.

Q. 15. Wherein doth the dispensation of the covenant of grace under the gospel differ from the dispensation of it under the law?
A. The dispensation of the covenant of grace under the gospel doth differ from the dispensation of it under the law — 1. In regard of the easiness of the covenant under the gospel. Under the law it was burdensome; and ceremonial rites and services required are called a "yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1) which yoke is now removed. 2. In regard of the clearness of the dispensation under the gospel. Under the law, Christ was not yet come, but was held forth in types, and figures, and dark shadows — and the promises, especially of eternal life, were more obscure; but now the shadows are fled, Christ the substance being come, and life and immortality are brought more clearly to light by the gospel. — 2 Tim. 1:10. 3. In regard of the power and efficacy. There was a weakness in the legal dispensation, and therefore a disannulling of it. — Heb. 7:18. Under the gospel there is a more powerful influence of the Spirit, which is promised more plentifully. — Acts 2:17. 4. In regard of the extent of it. The legal dispensation was confined to the nation of the Jews; whereas the gospel dispensation doth extend to the Gentiles, and every nation. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature:" — Mark 16:15.

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