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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Of the First Commandment.

Q. 45. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Q. 1. What is the first duty enjoined in the first commandment?
A. It is to know and acknowledge the existence or being of God, and consequently condemns all atheism, both in judgment and practice; Hebrews 11:6. For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Psalm 14:1. The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.

Q. 2. What is the second duty of the first commandment?
A. It requires all men to know and acknowledge the unity of God; Deuteronomy 6:4. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And condemns polytheism, or plurality of gods; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many;) but to us there is but one God.

Q. 3. Whence sprang the opinion of more gods than one at first in the world?
A. It sprang from ignorance of Godís omnipresence and omnipotence. Hence came their vain imaginations; Romans 1:21. Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. They thought the presence and power of God might reach one place, and not another; 1 Kings 20:23. And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills, therefore they were stronger than we: But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

Q. 4. What were the first creatures worshipped as gods?
A. Probably the heavenly bodies, sun, moon, and stars, because of their splendour and influences. These as heralds, do proclaim God to the world; Psalm 19:1-2. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work: Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. And these messengers of God were mistaken for God himself; Job 31:26-28. If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity, for I should have denied the God that is above.

Q. 5. What doth these words [before me] import?
A. It notes Godís perfect knowledge and abhorrence of all idolatry, or worshipping of another God, as what he cannot endure to behold; Jeremiah 44:3-4. Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense to serve other gods whom they knew not, neither they, you, nor your fathers. Howbeit, I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early, and sending them, saying, Oh do not this abominable thing that I hate.

Q. 6. Are none guilty of this sin but heathenish idolaters?
A. Yes; all that place their supreme love or trust in any creature, make that creature their god; and in scripture are called idolaters, Colossians 3:5. And covetousness, which is idolatry. Philippians 3:19. Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.

Q. 7. How doth the idolatry forbidden in the first, differ from that forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The idolatry forbidden in the first commandment is a sin respecting the object of worship, when we set up any thing in the place of God, which by nature is not God; Galatians 4:8. Howbeit, then when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But that against the second commandment is, when we pretend to worship the true God, but do it by such means, arid in such a manner as he hath not required, or hath forbidden; Exodus 32:4. And he received them at their hands, and fashioned it with a graven tool, after he had made it a molten calf; arid they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Q. 8. What is the first inference from the first commandment?
A. That it is a special mercy to be brought forth in a land where the true God is known and worshipped; Psalm 147:20. He hath riot dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgments, they have not known them; praise ye the Lord.

Q. 9. What is the second inference from the first commandment?
A. That it is a great and dreadful sin to live without the worship of God in tile world; Ephesians 2:12. That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.

Q. 10. What is the third inference from the first commandment?
A. That Christians must not comply with idolatrous and superstitious worship, when they are cast into idolatrous places, how great soever the danger be; Psalm 16:4. Their sorrows shall be multiplied, that hasten after another god; their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their name into my lips.

Q. 11. What is the fourth inference from hence?
A. That supreme love, fear, and trust of the soul, is Godís peculiar right and due. Whosoever places them on any other besides God, is guilty of a very heinous arid great sin against him; 1 John 2:15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world:

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Compared with Job 31:24, 28. If I have made gold my hope, or have said to tile fine gold, thou art my confidence; this also were an iniquity to he punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above.

Q. 12. What is the fifth inference from hence?
A. That Godís eye discovers the closest idolatry in the world, whether it be in secret actions; Ezekiel 8:12. Hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark? Every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the Lord seeth us not, the Lord hath forsaken the earth. Or inward affections; Colossians 3:5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Q. 13. What is the sixth inference from hence?
A. That an high and full condition in the world, is a dangerous condition, and lies most exposed to the danger of heart-idolatry; Proverbs 30:9. Lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? Mark 10:24. How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven?

Q. 14. What is the last inference?
A. That in covenanting with God, and avouching him for our God, we must wholly renounce all others, and take God alone for our portion, and object of our love and dependence; Hosea 3:3. Thou shalt not be for another man; so will I also be for thee. Luke 14:33. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

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