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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.


Q. 1. Seeing a chief supposeth an inferior end; what is that inferior end for which man was made?
A. It was prudently, soberly, and mercifully, to govern, use, and dispose of other Creatures in the Earth, Sea, and Air, over which God gave Man the Dominion; Genesis 1:26. And God said, Let us make man in our Image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the Fish of the Sea, and over the Fowl of the Air, and over the Cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the Earth. So Psalm 8:6. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, thou hast put all things under his feet.

Q. 2. What then is to be thought of these men, who being wholly intent upon inferior things, forget and neglect their principal end?
A. They are dead whilst they live, 2 Timothy 5:1. But she that liveth in pleasure, is dead whilst she liveth. They have their Portion in this Life, Psalm 17:14. From men of the World which have their Portion in this Life, and their end is destruction; Philippians 3:19. Whose end is destruction.

Q. 3. How can Man glorify God, seeing he is perfectly glorious in himself?
A. Man cannot glorify God by adding any new degree of glory to him. Job 36:7. If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? but by manifesting his glory with the Lips; Psalm 50:23. Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me; or with the life, Matthew 5:16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

Q. 4. Wherein consists the enjoyment of God?
A. It consists, first, in the facial vision of him in Heaven. Secondly, In full conformity to him, 1 John. 3:2. But we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Thirdly, In that full satisfaction which results from both the former, Psalm 27:15. I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.

Q. 5. Can none enjoy him in Heaven, who do not glorify him on Earth?
A. No adult person can scripturally expect happiness in Heaven, without holiness on Earth. Hebrews 12:14. And holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Romans 8:30. Whom he justified them he also glorified.

Q. 6. How comes the glory and enjoyment of God our chief end?
A. He is our Master, and rightful owner, and Benefactor; we receive our Being and Preservation from him; Of him, and through him, and therefore to him be all things; Romans. 11:36.

Q. 7. Do all men make God their chief end?
A. No, they do not; some make their sensual pleasure their chief End, Philippians 3:19. Whose God is their Belly; and some the World, Colossians 3:5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the Earth, and Covetousness, which is Idolatry.

Q. 8. What are the signs of a man's making himself his chief End?
A. Those make themselves their chief End, who ascribe the glory of what they have, or do, to themselves, and not to God, Daniel 4:30. The King spake and said, is not this great Babylon which I have built? Isaiah 10;18. For he saith by the strength of my hand have I done it; and by my Wisdom, for I am prudent; therefore they sacrifice to their own net, and burn Incense unto the Drag, Habakkuk 1:16.

Q. 9. Why are the glorifying and enjoying of God put together, as making up our chief End?
A. Because no man can glorify God, that takes him not for his God; and one takes him for his God, that takes him not for his supreme Good; and both these being essentially included in this Notion of the chief End, are therefore justly put together.

Q. 10. What is the first Truth inferred hence?
A. That God hath dignified Man above all other Creatures on Earth, in giving him a capacity of glorifying God here, and of enjoying him hereafter.

Q. 11. What is the second truth inferred hence?
A. That the Soul of man is not annihilated by Death, but advanced by it, Philippians 1:21, To die is gain, v. 23. Having a desire to depart, to be with Christ, which is far better.

Q. 12. What is the third truth inferred hence?
A. That it is the duty and wisdom of every Christian to renounce, deny, and forsake all inferior Interests and Enjoyments, when they come in competition with the glory of God, and our enjoyment of him, Luke 14:33: So likewise whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all he hath, cannot be my Disciple.

Q. 13. What is the fourth Inference hence?
A. That we are to abhor and renounce all those Doctrines and Practices that debase the glory of God, and exalt and magnify the Creature.

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