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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

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

Thomas Vincent

XVII. Ques. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

XVIII. Ques. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fel1, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Q. I. How many sorts of sin are there which denote the sinfulness of the estate of man by the fall?
A. There are two sorts of sin, namely, original sin and actual sin.

Q. 2. Wherein doth original sin consist?
A. Original sin doth consist in three things. 1. In the guilt of Adam's first sin. 2. In the want of original righteousness. 3. In the corruption of the whole nature.

Q. 3. How are all the children of men guilty of Adam's first sin?
A. All the children of men are guilty of Adam's first sin by imputation: as the righteousness of Christ, the second Adam, is imputed unto all the spiritual seed, namely, to all believers; so the sin of the first Adam is imputed to all the natural seed which came forth of his loins. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."—Rom. 5:19.

Q. 4. What is included in the want of original righteousness?
A. The want of original righteousness doth include—1. Want of true spiritual knowledge in the mind. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."—1 Cor. 2:14. 2. Want of inclination and power to do good; and want of all spiritual affections in the will and heart. "In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; but how to perform that which is good I find not."—Rom. 7:18.

Q. 5. Is the want of original righteousness a sin?
A. Yes; because it is a want of conformity to the law of God, which requireth original and habitual righteousness, as well as actual.

Q. 6. If God withhold this original righteousness, is not he the author of sin?
A. No; because though man be bound to have it, yet God is not bound to restore it when man hath lost it; and it is not a sin, but a punishment of the first sin, as God doth withhold it.

Q. 7. How could the souls of Adam's posterity, not yet created, nor having relation to Adam, be justly deprived of original righteousness?
A. The souls of Adam's posterity never had a being without relation of Adam; they being created in the infusion and conjunction of them to their body, and, through their relation to the common head, partake justly of the common punishment.

Q. 8. Wherein doth consist the corruption of the whole nature of man?
A. The corruption of the nature of man doth consist in the universal depravation which is in every part of man since the fall. 1. In the darkness and defilement of the mind. "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord."—Eph. 5:8. And, "The minds and consciences of the unbelieving are defiled."—Tit. 1:15. 2. In the crookedness and enmity of the heart and will against God and his law. "The carnal mind" (that is, the carnal heart) "is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."—Rom. 8:7. As also in the inclination of the heart unto sin, and the worst of sins, there being the seed of all manner of sins in the heart, as it is corrupted with original sin. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."—Matt. 15:19. 3. In the disorder and distemper of the affections, all of them being naturally set upon wrong objects through this inherent corruption. 4. The members also of the body are infected, being ready weapons and instruments of unrighteousness.—Rom. 6:13.

Q. 9. How is the corruption of nature conveyed, then, to all the children of men?
A. 1. It is not from God, who is the author of all good, but of no evil; for though he withhold original righteousness, yet he doth not infuse original corruption. 2. It is conveyed by natural generation, in the union and conjunction of soul and body; the soul, being destitute or void of original righteousness, is infected with this corruption, as liquor is tainted which is put into a tainted vessel: but the way of its conveyance is one of the most difficult things in divinity to understand.

Q. 10. Have we reason to deny this original corruption, because we have not reason clearly to understand the way of its conveyance?
A. No; because— 1. The Scripture doth assert that our natures, since the fall, are corrupt. "Adam" (though made after the likeness of God) "begat a son after his own likeness" (Gen. 5:3); that is, with a corrupt nature. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh "—John 3:6. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."—Ps. 2:5. " You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins."—Eph. 3:1. 2. Experience doth tell us, that in every one there is a natural antipathy to good, and proneness to evil: therefore, as when a man's house is on fire, it is greater wisdom to endeavour to quench it than to inquire how it was set on fire; so it is greater wisdom to endeavour the removal of this natural corruption, than to inquire how it was conveyed.

Q. 11. Do not sanctified persons beget children without natural corruption?
A. No; because parents that are sanctified are sanctified but in part, their nature remaining in part corrupt; and they beget children according to their nature, and not according to their grace; as the winnowed corn that is sown groweth up with husks upon it, or as the circumcised Jews did beget uncircumcised children in the flesh as well as the heart.

Q. 12. Why is this sin called original sin?
A. Because we have it from our birth or original, and because all our actual transgressions do proceed from it.

Q. 13. What is actual sin?
A. Actual sin is any breach of God's law, either of omission or commission; either in thought, heart, speech, or action. Of which more in the commandments.

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