When I started this blog, I promised to share gems from some of my rare theological library. One forgotten Elizabethan Purtian is Richard Greenham (c. 1542-1594). As an early Elizabethan puritan, Greenham's influence in the late 16th century was second only to that of William Perkins. What interests me here is his shorter catechism. It is striking how similar many of his Q&As are to the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). Further, his law/gospel understanding permeates the catechism. This is worth further study. Over the next few weeks I plan to provide the entirety of his shorter catechism on this blog. I edit only slightly to modern English while retaining the exact word choice of Greenham. I trust it will be a great blessing to you as we continue to study the trajectory of confessional Reformed Protestanism.
This is Part 2 of Richard Greenham's Shorter Catechism written around the same time as the Heidelberg catechism. Unlike the Ursinus, and like Luther, Greenham places the law proper in the guilt section of the catechism. This is the first table.
SEE PART 1
Guilt: The Law
Q. How shall we come to the right sight of our sins, and a sound persuasion of the greatness of them?
A. By the Spirit of God leading us into the true understanding of the law, and a due examination of ourselves thereby.
Q. Where is the law set down?
A. It is written in many places of the Scriptures, but the sum thereof us contained in the Ten Commandments.
I am the Lord your God, you shall have not other gods but me.
Q. How are they divided?
A. Into two principal heads or tables, as they be called.
Q. What does the first table teach us?
A. It teaches us our duty towards God, and is contained in the four first commandments.
Q. What does the second teach us?
A. Our duty towards our neighbor, and is contained in the six last commandments.
Q. Why are the duties towards God set down before the duties toward our neighbor?
A. Because the love of God is the ground of the love of our neighbor.
Q. What follows hereof?
A. That none can rightly love his neighbor except he first love God.
Q. Why are the duties towards our neighbor joined to our duties toward God?
1. Because the love of our neighbor is the proof of our love towards God.
Q. What ensues hereof?
2. That none can love God aright, except he also love his neighbor.
Q. Why are the commandments set down in ten parts, and not in general?
3. Because God is not pleased with doing our duties in general or in some part, but he will be wholly served in all and every one of his commandments.
Q. Why are they set down singularly or to everyone?
4. Because every one must do his own duty, though none go before him.
Q. What follows of this?
A. That every one must bear his own burden, and none shall have excuse by the example of others.
Q. Are there not some rules which serve for the better understanding of every one of the commandments?
A. Yes, there be four which have special uses:
1. First, in every commandment where evil is forbidden, there the contrary good is commanded.
2. Second, many more evils are forbidden, and many more good things are commanded in every commandment, than in words expressed.
3. Third, because God is a spirit, therefore his commandments are spiritual, and require spiritual obedience.
4. Fourth, in every commandment where evil is forbidden, there the occasions of the evil are forbidden; and where good is commanded, there also the occasions of good are commanded.
The First Table of the Law
Rehearse the first commandment?
You shall have no other gods but me.
Q. What evil is here generally forbidden?
A. Even that which the words do import.
Q. What good is commanded?
A. To have God to be my only God, and to always be in his presence.
Q. What is it to have God to be our only God?
A. To give him all things which be proper and peculiar to his majesty.
Q. Which be those that properly concern God, and therefore be the special things commanded?
A. They are very many.
Rehearse the sum of them, whereby the rest may be understood
I am bound to believe in God, to love God, to fear and obey him, to pray unto him and praise him.
Q. After what sort must you perform these duties of faith, love, fear, obedience, prayer, and thanksgiving?
A. With my whole mind and understanding, with my whole heart and my whole strength.
Q. Which be the peculiar sins herein forbidden?
A. To give any of the forenamed good things to any creature, or any other
thing whatsoever, whereby my heart may be withdrawn from God in any
part, or in any respect.
Q. Which be the occasions for the breach of this commandment?
A. 1. First, the vain desire for pleasures, riches, and glory of this world.
2. Second, a negligent and careless use of the means to serve God his providence.
Q. Are not the contrary good things to these commanded?
Q. Which are they?
1. First, a heart content with any estate, and using things of this world as though we used them not.
2. Second, a reverent and diligent use of the means to serve God’s providence.
Rehearse the second commandment
You shall not make to yourself any graven image, not the likeness, etc.
Q. What evil is expressly forbidden in this commandment?
A. I am forbidden to make any image either to represent God, or to worship
Q. What evil is generally forbidden?
A. I must avoid all inventions and devices of men in the outwards
worship of God, which be contrary or besides the written word of God.
Q. Which are the special evils forbidden?
A. Chiefly, all corruption in the substance of doctrine, prayer, sacraments,
and discipline of the church.
Q. What occasions of evil be forbidden?
A. There be some which we must necessarily avoid, unless we will fall into superstition and idolatry; and they be these:
1. First, to join false parts of worship with the true worship of God.
2. Second, to be present in body at idolatrous and superstitious service.
3. Third, the reservation of some special monument of superstition and idolatry.
Q. Which be the lesser occasions forbidden, and yet (so we have the
special grounds of God’s worship) we must, and may tolerate them,
when we cannot help them?
1. First, all vain, idle, and superstitious ceremonies.
2. Second, all keeping company with false worshippers.
Q. Is not the evil in heart also forbidden?
A. Yes, so far forth as I lust in my heart to have any of them prevail or be
Q. What good is generally commanded?
A. All the outward means of God’s worship, which be agreeable to his written word.
Q. Which is specially commanded?
A. I must use such doctrine, prayers, sacraments, and discipline of the church, as agreeable to God’s Word in the substance.
Q. What occasions of good be here commanded?
1. First, to have and use good books of the doctrine and history of
the church written according to God’s Word.
2. Second, erecting and maintaining schools of learning, as
nurseries of the ministry.
3. Third, sufficient provision to be made for the ministers of God’s Word.
4. Fourth, building and maintaining of the churches, and all things belonging thereunto.
5. Fifth, I must use all good ceremonies and orders agreeable to the Word of God.
6. Sixth, all familiar company with the true worshippers of God.
Q. What good in heart is commanded?
A. I am commanded to use the means of God’s worship, not only
outwardly, but also in spirit and truth.
Q. What is meant by these words: “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, etc.?”
A. That God will punish false worship in the false worshippers, and in their posterity unto the fourth generation.
Q. What is meant by these words: “And I will show mercy to thousands,etc.?”
A. That God will bless his true worship in the true worshippers and their
posterity to a thousand descent.
Q. What is the use of these?
A. The use is to make false worship more vile, and his true worship more precious in our eyes.
Rehearse the third commandment.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, etc.
Q. What evils be here forbidden?
1. First, all perjury, banning or cursing, enchanting, or conjuring.
2. Second, all swearing by false gods, or naming them with reverence.
3. Third, all customable swearing, or speaking of GOD without reverence.
4. Fourth, to cause God’s Name to be dishonored by false doctrine of ungodliness, either in myself or in others.
Q. What good is herein commanded?
1. First, in matters concerning God’s glory (justice, judgment, truth), I must swear by God only in.
2. Second, I must endeavor from my heart to grow up in true knowledge, and in godly life, that so God’s Name may be praised in myself, and by mine example in others.
Q. What is meant by these words: “For the Lord will not hold him
A. That God will certainly punish the dishonoring of his Name in any
Q. What is the use of this?
A. The use of this is, to make us more fearful to dishonor him, and more
careful to glorify his Name.
Rehearse the fourth commandment.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, etc.
Q. What is here generally commanded?
A. I am commanded to make it my whole delight, to sanctify the holy Sabbath of the Lord from morning to night.
Q. What is particularly commanded?
1. First, to use all the public means of God’s worship in the
congregation of God’s people.
2. Second, to rejoice to use all such private exercises, as may make
the public means profitable to myself, and to others.
Q. Which be those private exercises?
1. First, the examining of my sins and wants, private prayer, reading of the Scriptures, singling of Psalms, conference with others, and applying all things to myself, with a care to profit others.
2. Second, relieving the needy, visiting the sick, and them that be in prison, comforting them that be in any misery, reconciling them that be at variance, admonishing the unruly, and such
Q. Which is especially commanded?
A. The spiritual beholding of the creatures of God, thereby to provoke myself and others to praise him.
Q. What else is?
A. A diligent searching of my heart, with a like care to find out, and to reap some profit of the forenamed means, so that I may be the better for and through them.
Q. What is then particularly forbidden?
1. First, All such labors and pleasures, in thought, word, and deed
are forbidden, as may hinder me and others, for the using of, or
profiting the same means.
2. Second, the leaving unused any of those public means or private
Q. What is here generally forbidden?
A. The using either of those public or private means in ceremony without some good fruit in myself, or care of fruit in others.
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