The Principles of Christian Religion

by James Ussher

QUESTION. What sure ground have we to build our Religion upon?

ANSWER. The Word of God, contained in the Scriptures.

Q. What are those Scriptures?

A. Holy writings, indited by God himself for the perfect instruction of his Church.

Q. What gather you of this, that God is the author of these writings?

A. That therefore they are of most certain credit, and highest authority.

Q. How serve they for the perfect instruction of the Church?

A. In that they are able to instruct us sufficiently, in all points of faith that we are bound to believe, and all good duties that we are bound to practise.

Q. What gather you of this?

A. That it is our duty to acquaint ourselves with these holy writings, and not to receive any doctrine that hath not warrant from thence.

Q. What is the first point of religion, you are to learn out of God's Word?

A. The nature of God.

Q. What is God?

A. God is a Spirit, most perfecth, most wise, almighty and most holy.

Q. What mean you by calling God a Spirit?

A. That God hath no body at all; and therefore must not be thought to be like unto any thing which may be seen by the eyes of man.

Q. Are there any more Gods than one?

A. No: there is only one God: though in that one Godhead there bem three persons.

Q. Which is the first of these persons?

A. The Father who begetteth the Son.

Q. Which is the second?

A. The Son, begotten of the Father.

Q. Which is the third?

A. The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Q. What did God determine concerning his creatures?

A. He did before all time, by his unchangeable counsel, ordain whatsoever afterwards should come to pass.

Q. In what manner had all things their beginning?

A. In the beginning of time, when no creature had any being, God by his Word alone, in the space of six days created all things.

Q. Which are the principal creatures?

A. Angels and men.

Q. What is the nature of angels?

A. They are wholly spiritual, having no body at all.

Q. What is the nature of man?

A. Man consisteth of two divers parts; a body, and a soul.

Q. What is the body?

A. The outward and earthly part of man: made at the beginning of the dust of the earth.

Q. What is the soul?

A. The inward and spiritual part of man; which is immortal, and never can die.

Q. How did God make man at the beginning?

A. According to his own likeness and image.

Q. Wherein was the image of God principally seen?

A. In the perfection of the understanding; and the freedom, and holiness of the will.

Q. How many of mankind were created at the beginning?

A. Two; Adam the man, and Eve the woman: from both whom all mankind did afterwards proceed.

Q. What doth God after the creation?

A. By his providence he preserveth and governeth his creatures, with all things belonging unto them.

Q. What befel unto the angels after their creation?

A. Some continued in that holy estate wherein they were created; some of them fell, and became devils.

Q. May the good angels fall hereafter?

A. No: but they shall always continue in their holiness and happiness.

Q. Shall the wicked angels ever recover their first estate.

A. They shall not: but be tormented in Hell world without end.

Q. How did God deal with man after he made him?

A. He made a covenant with Adam, and in him with all mankind.

Q. What was man bound to do by his covenant?

A. To continue as holy as God at the first made him, to keep all God's commandments, and never to break any of them.

Q. What did God promise unto man, if he did thus keep his commandments?

A. The continuance of his favour and everlasting life.

Q. What did God threaten unto man, if he did sin and break his commandments?

A. His dreadful curse and everlasting death.

Q. Did man continue in that obedience which he did owe unto God?

A. No. For Adam and Eve obeying rather the persuasion of the Devil than the commandments of God, did eat of the forbidden fruit, and so fell away from God.

Q. Was this the sin of Adam and Eve alone; or are we also guilty of the same?

A. All we, that are their children, are guilty of the same sin: for we all sinned in them.

Q. What followed upon this sin?

A. The loss of the perfection of the image of God, and the corruption of nature in man, called Original sin.

Q. Wherein standeth the corruption of man's nature?

A. In six things principally.

Q. What is the first?

A. The blindness of the understanding; which is not able to conceive the things of God.

Q. What is the second?

A. The forgetfulness of the memory; unfit to remember good things.

Q. What is the third?

A. The rebellion of the will; which is wholly bent to sin, and altogether disobedient unto the will of God.

Q. What is the fourth?

A. Disorder of the affections, of joy, heaviness, love, anger, fear, and such like.

Q. What is the fifth?

A. Fear and confusion in the conscience; condemning where it should not, and excusing where it should condemn.

Q. What is the sixth?

A. Every member of the body is become a ready instrument to put sin in execution.

Q. What are the fruits that proceed from this natural corruption?

A. Actual sins: whereby we break the commandments of God in the whole course of our life.

Q. How do we thus break God's commandments?

A. In thought, word and deed: not doing that which we ought to do, and doing that which we ought not to do.

Q. What punishment is mankind subject unto, by reason of original and actual sin?

A. He is subject to all the plagues of God in this life, and endless torments in Hell after this life.

Q. Did God leave man in this woful estate?

A. No: but of his free and undeserved mercy entered into a new covenant with mankind.

Q. What is offered unto man in this new covenant?

A. Grace and life everlasting is freely offered by God unto all that be made partakers of his Son Jesus Christ; who alone is Mediator betwixt God and man.

Q. What are you to consider in Christ the Mediator of this covenant?

A. Two things: his nature, and his office.

Q. How many natures be there in Christ?

A. Two: the Godhead, and the Manhood, joined together in one person; which is no other but the second person of the Trinity.

Q. Why must Christ be God?

A. That his obedience and suffering might be of infinite worth and value, as proceeding from such a person, as was God equal to the Father: that he might be able to overcome the sharpness of death (which himself was to undergo) and to raisec us up from the death of sin, by sending his holy Spirit into our hearts.

Q. Why must Christ be man?

A. Because the Godhead could not suffer: and it was further requisite, that the same nature which had offended should suffer for the offence; and that our nature, which was corrupted in the first Adam, should be restored to his integrity in the second Adam, Christ Jesus our Lord.

Q. What is the office of Christ?

A. To be a mediator betwixt God and man.

Q. What was required of Christ for making peace and reconciliation betwixt God and man?

A. That he should satisfy the first covenant whereunto man was tied.

Q. Wherein was Christ to make satisfaction to the first covenant.

A. In performing that righteousness which the law of God did require of man; and in bearing the punishment which was due unto man for breaking of the same law.

Q. How did Christ perform that righteousness which God's law requireth of man?

A. In that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, without all spot of original corruption; and lived most holy all the days of his life, without all actual sin.

Q. How did he bear the punishment which was due unto man for breaking God's law?

A. In that he willingly for man's sake made himself subject to the curse of the law, both in body and soul: and humbling himself even unto the death, offered up unto his Father a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Q. What is required of man for obtaining the benefits of the Gospel?

A. That he receive Christ Jesus whom God doth freely offer unto him.

Q. By what means are you to receive Christ?

A. By faith, whereby I believe the gracious promises of the Gospel.

Q. How do you receive Christ by faith?

A. By laying hold of him, and applying him with all his benefits to the comfort of mine own soul.

Q. What is the first main benefit which we do get by thus receiving Christ?

A. Justification: whereby, in Christ, we receive the forgiveness of our sins, and are accounted righteous: being by that means freed from the guilt of sin and condemnation, and estated in a new interest unto everlasting life.

Q. Whereby then must we look to be justified in the sight of God?

A. Only by the merits of Christ Jesus, received of us by faith.

Q. What other main benefit do we get by receiving Christ?

A. Sanctification; whereby we are freed from the dominion of sin, and the image of God is renewed in us.

Q. Wherein is this sanctification seen?

A. In repentance and new obedience springing from thence.

Q. What is repentance?

A. Repentance is a gift of God, whereby a godly sorrow is wrought in the heart of the faithful, for offending God their merciful Father, by their former transgressions; together with a resolution for the time to come, to forsake their former courses and to lead a new life.

Q. What call you new obedience?

A. A careful endeavour which the faithful have to give unfeigned obedience unto all God's commandments, according to that measure of strength wherewith God doth enable them.

Q. What rule have we for the direction of our obedience?

A. The moral law of God: the sums whereof is contained in the ten commandments.

Q. What are the chief parts of this law?

A. The duties which we owe unto God, set down in the first table: and that which we owe unto man in the second.

Q. What is the sum of the first table?

A. That we love the Lord our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.

Q. How many commandments belong to this table?

A. Four.

Q. Which is the first commandment?

A. I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Q. What duty is enjoined in this commandment?

A. That in all the inward powers and faculties of our souls, the true eternal God be entertained, and he only.

Q. Which is the second commandment?

A. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, &c.

Q. What duty is enjoined in this commandment?

A. That all outward means of religious and solemn worship be given unto the same God alone: and not so much as the least degree thereof (even the bowing of the body) be communicated to any image or representation either of God, or of any thing else whatsoever.

Q. Which is the third commandment?

A. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.

Q. What is enjoined in this commandment?

A. That in the ordinary course of our lives, we use the name of God, (that is, his titles, words, works, judgments, and whatsoever he would have himself known by) with reverence and all holy respect; that in all things he may have his due glory given unto him.

Q. Which is the fourth commandment?

A. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, &c.

Q. What doth this commandment require?

A. That we keep holy the Sabbath day; by resting from the ordinary businesses of this life, and bestowing that leisure upon the exercises of religion, both public and private.

Q. What is the sum of the second table?

A. That we love our neighbours as ourselves.

Q. What commandments belong to this table?

A. The six last.

Q. Which is the fifth commandment?

A. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. What kind of duties are prescribed in this commandment, which is the first of the second table?

A. Such duties as are to be performed with a special respect of superiors, inferiors, and equals: as namely, reverence to all superiors, obedience to such of them as are in authority; and whatsoever special duties concern the husband and wife, parents and children, masters and servants, magistrate and people: pastors and flock, and such like.

Q. Which is the sixth commandment?

A. Thou shalt not kill.

Q. What doth this commandment enjoin?

A. The preservation of the safety of mens persons, with all means tending to the same.

Q. Which is the seventh commandment?

A. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. What is required in this commandment?

A. The preservation of the chastity of men's persons: for the keeping whereof, wedlock is commanded unto them that stand in need thereof.

Q. Which is the eighth commandment?

A. Thou shalt not steal.

Q. What things are ordered in this commandment?

A. Whatsoever concerneth the goods of this life; in regard either of ourselves, or of our neighbours.

Q. How in regard of ourselves?

A. That we labour diligently in an honest and profitable calling; content ourselves with the goods well gotten, and with liberality employ them to good uses.

Q. How in regard of our neighbours?

A. That we use just dealing unto them in this respect, and use all good means that may tend to the furtherance of their estate.

Q. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Q. What doth this commandment require?

A. The using of truth in our dealing one with another; especially to the preservation of the good name of our neighbours.

Q. Which is the tenth and last commandment?

A. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Q. What doth this commandment contain?

A. It condemneth, all wandering thoughts, that disagree from the love which we owe unto our neighbours; although we never yield consent thereunto.

Q. What means doth God use to offer the benefit of the Gospel unto men, and to work and encrease his graces in them.

A. The outward ministry of the Gospel.

Q. Where is this ministry executed?

A. In the visible churches of Christ.

Q. What do you call a visible church?

A. A company of men that live under the outward means of salvation.

Q. What are the principal parts of this ministry?

A. The administration of the Word and Sacraments.

Q. What is the Word?

A. That part of the outward ministry, which consisteth in the delivery of doctrine.

Q. What is a sacrament?

A. A sacrament is a visible sign, ordained by God to be a seal for confirmation of the promises of the Gospel unto the due receivers thereof.

Q. Which are the sacraments ordained by Christ in the New Testament?

A. Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Q. What is Baptism?

A. The sacrament of our admission into the Church; sealing unto us our new birth, by the communion which we have with Christ Jesus.

Q. What doth the element of water in Baptism represent unto us?

A. The blood and spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Q. What doth the cleansing of the body represent?

A. The cleansing of the soul by the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness.

Q. What doth the being under the water, and the freeing from it again represent?

A. Our dying unto sin, by the force of Christ's death; and living again unto righteousness, through his resurrection.

Q. What is the Lord's Supper?

A. The sacrament of our preservation in the Church; sealing unto us our spiritual nourishment and continual increase in Christ.

Q. What do the elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper represent unto us?

A. The body and blood of Christ.

Q. What doth the breaking of the bread and pouring out of the wine represent?

A. The sufferings whereby our Saviour was broken for our iniquities; the shedding of his precious blood, and pouring out of his soul unto death.

Q. What doth the receiving of the bread and wine represent?

A. The receiving of Christ by faith.

Q. What doth the nourishment which our body receiveth by virtue of this outward meat and drink seal unto us?

A. The perfect nourishment and continual increase of strength, which the inward man enjoyeth by virtue of the communion with Jesus Christ.

Q. After the course of this life is ended; what shall be the state of man in the world to come?

A. Every one is to be judged, and rewarded according to the life which he hath led.

Q. How many kinds be there of this judgment?

A. Two; the one particular, the other general.

Q. What call you the particular judgment?

A. That which is given upon the soul of every man, as soon as it is departed from the body.

Q. What is the state of the soul of man, as soon as he departeth out of this life?

A. The souls of God's children be presently received into heaven, there to enjoy unspeakable comforts: the souls of the wicked are sent into hell, there to endure endless torments.

Q. What call you the general judgment?

A. That which Christ shall in a solemn manner give upon all men at once; when he shall come at the last day with the glory of his Father, and all men that ever have been from the beginning of the world until that day, shall appear together before him, both in body and soul, whether they be quick or dead.

Q. How shall the dead appear before the judgment seat of Christ?

A. The bodies which they had in their life time, shall by the almighty power of God be restored again, and quickened with their souls: and so there shall been a general resurrection from the dead.

Q. How shall the quick appear?

A. Such as then remain alive, shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye: which shall be to them instead of death.

Q. What sentence shall Christ pronounce upon the righteous?

A. Come, ye blessed of my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Q. What sentence shall he pronounce upon the wicked?

A. Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels.

Q. What shall follow this?

A. Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to his Father, and God shall be all in all.


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