by Thomas Vincent
SOME dedicate their books unto lords and ladies, or other great persons; such possibly I might find out, had I a mind to seek; but as my love is most endeared unto you, to whom I stand so nearly related, so my greatest ambition is to be serviceable unto your souls. Your cordial and constant love to me and my labors (in a whiffling age), of which you have given many manifest proofs, deserves a greater expression of my grateful sense than the dedication of this book unto you. God, by bringing you under my ministry, hath given me the charge of your souls; and God, by bringing persons into your families, hath given you a charge of their souls. Our charge is great, and to be guilty of the ruin of souls is dreadful. Happy shall we be, if we be found faithful to our own and others' souls, in the great day of accounts. Too many, even in our nation and city perish and run blindfold into hell, for want of knowledge; and the most are without knowledge, for want of instruction; and as no way of instruction doth convey clearer light of distinct knowledge in the principles of religion than the way of catechising, so the neglect of this in ministers and masters of families is such a sin of unfaithfulness unto the souls of them that are under their charge, that all of us should take heed we have it not to answer for at the appearance of our Lord. It is not sufficient for you to bring your children and servants to receive public instruction; but it is your duty also to instruct them privately, and at home to examine them in their catechisms. I know no catechism more full of light and sound doctrine than the Shorter Catechism of the late Reverend Assembly; yet, because in many answers there are things not easy to be understood by beginners, therefore, in this my Explanation of it, I have taken pains to take abroad every answer, to open it in several under questions and answers, and to confirm the truths thereof by reasons and Scripture proofs; which I have endeavored to do as plainly and familiarly as I could, that everything therein might be the more intelligible and useful unto such as either learn or read it. Some chief controversies in religion I have touched upon, briefly propounding arguments for the backing of the truth, and not left objections wholly unanswered; which I have the rather done, that all of you, especially the more unexperienced young ones under you, might get some armour against everywhere prevailing error. You know that some have committed the whole of the Explanation, so far as we have gone, unto memory (how beneficial they have found this, others besides themselves can speak); yet all have not that strength of memory, neither would I impose this Explanation to be learned without book by all; yet this I advise, that you, who are masters of families, would set apart time, twice, or at least once every week, to examine your children and servants in the Assembly's Catechism, taking Mr Lye's excellent method in the way of asking questions, whom God hath made singularly useful in the diffusing much light amongst young ones. And after they have given you the answers, without book, which are in the Catechism, that then yourselves would read, or cause one of them to read, some part of this Explanation on those answers, so far as you can well go at a time. And if each of them that can read should, both in your families and in our public assembly, have one of these Explanations in their hands, to read along with them that read or publicly answer, they would the better attend and understand what is read or answered: which course, I apprehend, will exceedingly tend to their great profit; and that such as do this with diligence will, through God's blessing, attain in a short time much proficiency in the best knowledge, which is such a jewel, that none, methinks, should be contentedly without, when with less labour than for other jewels of inferior value, it may be obtained. This Explanatory Catechism was chiefly, if not only, intended for you, and the use of such as are of my congregation; which, if it may find acceptation also with, and prove beneficial unto other families, I shall rejoice. The more generally useful my poor endeavors are, as it will tend so much the more to the glory of my great Master, so it will yield to myself the greatest comfort, especially in a dying hour. I shall take my leave of you, though I be not departed from you, with the departing exhortation of the apostle: "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Acts 20:32. Your earnest souls' well-wisher.
Table of Contents
An Epistle to the Reader
The the Masters and Governors of Families Belonging to My Congregation
To the Young Ones of My Congregation
What is the chief end of man?
What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
What do the scriptures principally teach?
What is God?
Are there more Gods than one?
How many persons are there in the Godhead?
What are the decrees of God?
How doth God execute his decrees?
What is the work of creation?
How did God create man?
What are God's works of providence?
What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
What is sin?
What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?
Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
Who is the Redeemer of God's elect?
How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist?
Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation?
How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
What is effectual calling?
What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
What is justification?
What is adoption?
What is sanctification?
What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
What is the duty which God requireth of man?
What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
Where is the moral law summarily comprehended
What is the sum of the ten commandments?
What is the preface to the ten commandments?
What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
Which is the first commandment?
What is required in the first commandment?
What is forbidden in the first commandment?
What are specially taught by these words [before me] in the first commandment?
Which is the second commandment?
What is required in the second commandment?
What is forbidden in the second commandment?
What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
Which is the third commandment?
What is required in the third commandment?
What is forbidden in the third commandment?
What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
Which is the fourth commandment?
What is required in the fourth commandment?
Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
Which is the fifth commandment?
What is required in the fifth commandment?
What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
Which is the sixth commandment?
What is required in the sixth commandment?
What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
Which is the seventh commandment?
What is required in the seventh commandment?
What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
Which is the eighth commandment?
What is required in the eighth commandment?
What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Which is the ninth commandment?
What is required in the ninth commandment?
What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
Which is the tenth commandment?
What is required in the tenth commandment?
What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
What doth every sin deserve?
What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
What is faith in Jesus Christ?
What is repentance unto life?
What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
How is the word made effectual to salvation?
How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
What is a sacrament?
Which are the sacraments of the New Testament
What is baptism?
To whom is baptism to be administered?
What is the Lord's supper?
What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper?
What is prayer?
What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?
What doth the preface of the Lord's prayer teach us?
What do we pray for in the first petition?
What do we pray for in the second petition?
What do we pray for in the third petition?
What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
What doth the conclusion of the Lord's prayer teach us?