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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

A Commentary
on the
Shorter Catechism

Alexander Whyte

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

The student will be rewarded who keeps his eye on the structure of the Catechism. Note that as Question 20 introduced Christ and His redeeming work, so the Question now before us in like manner introduces the Holy Spirit. The logical method of this document is one of its most notable features.

The redemption purchased by Christ — A redemption, from the very etymology of the word, is a purchase. And hence He who purchased in this case is called the Redeemer. See Answer 20. “The Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many.” Now a ransom is a price paid to redeem those who are held in bondage or captivity. And Scripture everywhere teaches that the fallen state of man is a state of guilt and bondage, from which Christ has redeemed His people by laying down His life as a ransom for them. “Ye are bought with a price,” saith Paul; and Peter says, “We are not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” “The redemption purchased” is thus an entirely scriptural expression. (See Calvin’s Institutes, IL xvii. and Morison on Romans 3:24.)

“Two things are principally to be considered in the respect that forgiveness hath to the blood of Christ — (1) The way of its procurement; (2) The way of its administration by Him. The first is deep, mysterious, dreadful. It was by His blood, the blood of His cross, the travail of His soul, His undergoing wrath and curse. This also adds to the mysterious depth of forgiveness, and makes its discovery a great matter. The soul that looks after it in earnest must consider what it cost. . . To see the mystery of the love of the Father, working in the blood of the Mediator, to consider by faith the great transaction of divine wisdom, justice, and mercy therein — how few attain unto it! To come unto God by Christ for forgiveness, and to behold the law issuing all its threats and curses in His blond, and losing its sting, putting an end to its obligation unto punishment, in the cross; to see all sins gathered up in the hands of God’s justice, and made to meet in the Mediator, and eternal love springing forth triumphantly from His blood, flourishing into pardon, grace, mercy, forgiveness — this the heart of a sinner can be enlarged into only by the Spirit of God” (Owen).

“Look what salvation thou dost design, saith Christ, that I will purchase, and notwithstanding my purchase thou shalt give it all freely. Grace shall not be robbed one whit by me, but advanced; the ransom of it shall not be one whit impaired by me; no, the giving of me, and that I die by grace (Hebrews 2), shall magnify grace so much the more, and make it double grace. So that now the grace that was in God hath a Saviour for us fitted to His own heart.” (See the whole dialogue between God and Christ in Goodwin’s twenty-first Sermon on Ephesians 2)

effectual application — “There are three sorts of works whereby our salvation is completed and accomplished. 1. Immanent in God toward us, as His eternal love set and passed upon us, out of which He chose us, and designed this and all blessings to us. 2. Transient, in Christ done for us; in all He did or suffered representing of us, and in our stead. 3. Applicatory, wrought in us and upon us, in the endowing us with all those blessings by His Spirit, as calling, justification, sanctification, glorification” (Goodwin).

by his Holy Spirit. “The Father provides the Saviour, and the purchase is made of Him; the Son is the purchaser and the price, and the Holy Ghost is the great blessing or inheritance purchased, as is intimated, Galatians 3:13, 14. This inheritance was the grand legacy which Christ left His disciples and the Church in His last will and testament, John 14-16. This is the sum of the blessings of eternal life which shall be in heaven.” (See Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections, Part iii. section 1 — a book of extraordinary ability and value.)

. . .“Christ made His will by His death (Hebrews 9), but the Spirit is His administrator. Christ’s blood and purchase gave us, by His redeeming us, jus ad rem; but the Holy Ghost, by applying it, jus in re; He gives us possession, livery, and seisin” (Goodwin).


“We might as well strike from the Bible the name and doctrine of God, as the name and office of the Spirit. In the New Testament shone He is mentioned not far from three hundred times. . . . The work of the Spirit in applying the redemption of Christ is represented to be as essential as the redemption itself. It is therefore indispensable that we should know what the Bible teaches concerning the Holy Ghost, both as to His nature and office” (Hodge).


1.   Describe the new departure that the doctrine of the Catechism takes from this point.

2. What is the word that in the Larger Catechism corresponds to purchased in the Shorter? Derive both words, and point out the passages where the latter word is used in this connection in the New Testament.

3.   Explain the saying: Mercy bated Christ nothing.

4. How doth God forgive sin according to the riches of His grace, when He receiveth a price for it? Doth a man freely forgive when he is paid for it? For full answer, see Goodwin’s Sermon on Ephesians 1:17.

5. Why HIS Holy Spirit? and why His HOLY Spirit?

6. How do you explain John 7:39 and Acts 19:2?

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