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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Of the Manner of Hearing.

Q. 90. How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A. That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in your hearts, and practise it in your lives.

Q. 1. If the matter we read or hear be good, is not that enough for our salvation?
A. No, God requires that the word be read and heard in a due manner, and the manner of hearing is of special regard with God; Luke 8:18. Take heed therefore how ye hear, &c.

Q. 2. How many things belong to the due manner of hearing?
A. Three sorts of duties belong to it; some antecedent, as preparation and prayer; some concomitant, as due diligence arid retention; and some subsequent, as practice.

Q. 3. What is due preparation for hearing?
A. It consists in serious consideration of the greatness and holiness of that God whom we approach in hearing the word; Acts 10:33. Now therefore we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. And awing the heart even to a degree of holy trembling thereby; Isaiah 66:2. To him will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Q. 4. What is the principal consideration thus to awe the heart?
A. The word is in its own nature a heart-searching word; Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And that eventually it will be the savour of life or death to us; 2 Corinthians 2:16. To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life, &e.

Q. 5. What else belongs to due preparation to hear?
A. The discharging of the heart from worldly cares; Matthew 13:7. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choaked them. And carnal lusts; James 1:21. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Q. 6. What is the third act of due preparation?
A. Longing after the word for further communications of grace by it; 1 Peter 2:2. As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. Isaiah 2:3. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Q. 7. What is the second antecedent duty of hearing?
A. Prayer is an antecedent duty to hearing the word, and that both for the assistance of the minister; 2 Thessalonians 3:1. Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you. And our own illumination; Psalm 119:18. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Q. 8. What else should we pray for?
A. That God would pour out his Spirit with the word, according to that promise, Proverbs 1:23. I will pour out my Spirit upon you, I will make known my words unto you.

Q. 9. Doth unpreparedness for the word always hinder its efficacy on the heart?
A. No, God sometimes is found of them that sought him not; Isa. 65:1. I was found of them that sought me not, &c. But it is a sin to neglect it, and needs a pardon of God.

Q. 10. What is the first motive to prepare for solemn duties?
A. That it argues the sincerity of the heart, and in that case God will be merciful to infirmities; 2 Chronicles 30:18-19. For a multitude of the people, even a multitude of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did eat the passover, but not as it is written; wherefore Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord be merciful towards him that prepareth his whole heart to seek the Lord God, the God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.

Q. 11. What is the second motive?
A. It is a sweet sign that God will make that duty successful for which the heart is prepared; Psalm 10:17. Thou preparest their heart; thou bendest thine ear to them.

Q. 12. What is the third motive to preparation?
A. The majesty and jealousy of God, to whom we approach, obliges us to solemn preparation; Hebrews 12:28-29. Whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.

Q. 13. But must a man neglect the duty, if his heart be not duly prepared for it?
A. No; for that would be to add a new sin to a former, and aggravate it the more.

Q. 14. In what manner must the prepared heart go to the word?
A. Not in dependence on its own preparations, but upon the Spiritís assistance; Psalm 71:16. I will go forward in the strength of the Lord God, &c.

Q. 15. What is the first act of faith due to the word?
A. The assenting act of faith is required to the word read or preached, whereby we acknowledge it to be of divine authority; 2 Timothy 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; 2 Peter 1:21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Q. 16. What is the second act of faith required of us?
A. An applying act of faith is also required of us; Romans 15:4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Q. 17. What is the first end in applying the word?
A. It is first to be applied to our conviction both of sin and misery; Acts 2:37. Now when they heard this they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Q. 18. What is the second end, or use of applying it?
A. It must he applied for our guidance and direction to Christ; John 6:45. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of tile Father, cometh unto me.

Q. 19. What is the third use to which it must be applied?
A. We must apply it for our direction through the whole course of Christian duties: 2 Peter 1:19. We have also a most sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.

Q. 20. What other use must we apply it to?
A. It must be applied for our comfort in all inward and outward troubles: Romans 15:4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Q. 21. On what account are we to receive it with love?
A. We are to love it for its authorí sake, because it is the word of God; Psalm 119:159. Consider how I love thy precepts, &c.

Q. 22. What is the second motive of love to the word?
A. The holiness and purity of it deserves and engages our love to it; Psalm 119:140. Thy word is very pure.; therefore thy servant loveth it.

Q. 23. What is the third motive to engage our love to it?
A. The great and constant usefulness of it to our souls, as that we cannot subsist without; Job 23:12. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Q. 24. How doth this love to the word manifest itself?
A. Our love manifests itself in our longing after it; Psalm 119:20. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times. Our diligent attendance on it; Acts 10:33. Immediately therefore I sent unto thee, and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

Q. 25. How is faith and love evidenced to the word after hearing it?
A. By preserving it carefully in our hearts and memories; Psalm 119:11. Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Q. 26. What is the best cure for a bad memory?
A. Labour to get an high esteem of it, and an experimental feeling of it, and frequently meditate on it; Psalm 119:16. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. Psalm 119:98. I will never forget thy precepts; for with them thou hast quickened me. Psalm 119:99. Thy testimonies are my meditation.

Q. 27. How is faith and love principally manifested to the word after hearing?
A. It is principally manifested by bringing forth the fruits of it in our lives; Colossians 1:5-6. For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye have heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.

Q. 28. What is the use of all this?
A. This serves to reprove our formal and dead hearing the word, and excites us all to evidence and exercise more faith, love, and obedience, in hearing it.

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