A Catechism on the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England/Part I

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What is the subject of the first part?

On the doctrine concerning God.

What Articles does it comprise?

The first five.

Article I.

What is the subject of the first Article?

"Faith in the Holy Trinity."

What is the meaning of the word Trinity?

Threefoldness, or subsistence in Three Persons.

What do you mean by "the Holy Trinity?"

The Three Persons in One God.

What does this Article teach concerning the one God?

"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be Three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

Do we know the certainty that there is but one living and true God from natural reason or from revelation?

From revelation.

But may we not ascertain it by reason?

We may find strong reason for believing it, but we do not absolutely know it.

Prove it from Scripture.

Deut. iv. 39; Isa. xlv. 18; Jer. x. 10, first part.

What further proof is there?

The whole history of the Israelitish nation until the time of Christ was intended by Almighty God to impress it upon men's minds.

Why was so much labour requisite to establish it?

Because the ignorance and sinfulness of men led them to make gods of inferior beings.

What is meant when you say that God is "everlasting?"

That He never had a beginning and will never have an end.

Prove this from Scripture.

Ps. xc. 2; Isa. xli. 4.

What ground of natural reason is there for concluding that God is "without body?"

If He had a body, He must be limited and confined in space, and consequently could not be present and acting every where at the same time.

Show that it is taught in Scripture that God is without body.

We are told in St. John iv. 24, that "God is a spirit," and in St. Luke xxiv. 39, that "a spirit hath not flesh and bones."

What do you mean when you say that He is "without parts?"

That He cannot be divided into different portions.

How does this appear to be true?

It follows from His having no body.

How does this agree with those passages of Holy Scripture in which the eye, the arm, the feet, &c, of God, are spoken of?

This is only a figurative manner of speaking, employed to convey certain ideas more perfectly to our minds.

What do you mean by saying that He is "without passions?"

That He cannot be wrought upon or changed by any other being.

How does that appear?

Because He could not be the sovereign Ruler and Director of all things, if He were liable to be wrought upon or changed by any thing else.

Show from Scripture that God is unchangeable.

St. James i. 17. "With Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Why then is God spoken of as being angry or grieved, &c.?

Because the truth could not have been in any degree made known to us, except by language drawn from our own manner of feeling and acting.

Prove from Scripture that God is of infinite power.

St. Matt. xix. 26. "With God all things are possible."

Prove that He is of infinite wisdom.

Ps. cxlvii. 5.

Prove that His goodness is infinite.

St. Luke xviii. 19. "None is good, save One, that is, God:" that is, the goodness of God is perfect, whilst that of all other beings is imperfect.

In what sense is God the Maker of all things?

He made all things out of nothing.

Prove this.

Rom. xi. 36; Acts xiv. 15; Heb. xi. 3. "All things are of Him, the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein;" and "the things which are were not made of things that do appear."

Prove that He preserves all things.

Ps. xxxvi. 6; Job xii. 10. "He preserveth both man and beast;" and "in His hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."

What do you mean by "the unity of the Godhead?"

The oneness of the nature of God.

What statement is made on this article concerning the Holy Trinity?

"In unity of this Godhead there be Three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

What is meant by saying that the Three Persons are in the unity of this Godhead? That they are therefore one God, or that they are united in this Divine nature.

In what respect are they one?

They are "of one substance, power, and eternity."

Mention some passages of Scripture in which the Holy Trinity is spoken of.

Isa. vi. 3; St. Matt, xxviii. 19; 2 Cor. xiii. 14.

Show that the Persons of the Holy Trinity are of one substance.

In the Institution of Holy Baptism divine honour is equally paid to all; and St. Paul (2 Cor. xiii.) prays for divine blessings equally from all: and if they are thus equal in honour, they must be equal in substance or essential nature.

Show that they are of one power and eternity.

St. Paul prays for divine blessings from all equally, and that "for evermore:" now if they can equally impart spiritual blessings, and that for evermore, they must be of one power and eternity.

Article II.

What is the subject of the second Article?

"The Word or Son of God, which was made very man."

What is the meaning of "very man?"

Real man.

Prove that the Son of God and the Word of God are the same. Compare St. John i. 3, with Heb. i. 2, by which it appears that the Word and the Son equally made the world.

Prove that He was "begotten from everlasting of the Father."

St. John i. 1; Col. i. 15-17; Micah v. 2.

He was "in the beginning with God," "before all things that were created:" and "His goings forth have been of old, from everlasting."

What do you mean by saying that He is "very God?"

That He is God in the fullest sense.

Prove it from Scripture.

Col. i. 16, 17; Heb. i. 3; Rev. xxii. 13. He is "before all things, and by Him all things consist; all things were created by Him and for Him;" "He upholdeth all things by the word of His power;" He is "the beginning and the ending, the first and the last."

Prove that He is "eternal God."

Rev. i. 17, 18; xxii. 13.

Prove that He is "of one substance with the Father."

It would follow from His being the Son.

Prove it from Holy Scripture.

Col. i. 15; Heb. i. 3; St. John x. 30; xiv. 9-11.

He is "the image of the invisible God," "the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person;" he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father; He and the Father are one.

Prove that the Word or Son of God took man's nature.

St. John i. 14; Phil. ii. 6-8.

Prove that He did this "in the womb of the Virgin Mary and of her substance."

St. Luke i. 31, 32; Gal. iv. 4.

Prove that the Word of God, when made man, had the whole and perfect nature of God.

Col. ii. 9. "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead."

Prove that He had likewise the whole and perfect nature of man.

Heb. ii. 16, 17. "In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren."

Prove that "the Godhead and manhood were joined in one Person."

Phil. ii. 6, 7; Col. i. 14, 17; Heb. i. 8, 9. It is the same Person, who "was in the form of God and thought it not robbery to be equal with God," that "was made in the likeness of man and became obedient unto death:" the same "by whom all things consist," and in whose "blood we have redemption;" the same "whose throne is for ever and ever, and who hath God for His God."

Prove that this Person is never to be divided.

Rev. i. 17, 18. "He liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore."

Prove that, thus united, the two natures make one Christ.

Rom. ix. 5. Of the Israelites "as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever."

"Why is it stated that He truly suffered, &c.?

Because some taught that He suffered only in appearance.

How do we know that they were deceivers?

Because we have the testimony of eye-witnesses to the reality of His sufferings, &c.

Who are they?

All the Apostles, (Acts ii. 14, 23,) and particularly St. Matthew, St. John, and St. Peter.

For what purpose did He suffer?

"To reconcile us to His Father."

How so?

By being "a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men."

What do you understand here by a sacrifice?

An offering made to God to remove His displeasure.

What is "original guilt?"

The guilt of the evil disposition with which we are all born.

What are "actual sins?"

The sins which we have done ourselves.

Prove that the death of our Lord was a sacrifice offered to the Father.

Eph. v. 2; Heb. ix. 12. "Christ loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice unto God:" and "by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."

Prove that He was a sacrifice for our original guilt.

Rom. v. 12, 14, 18; Phil. ii. 8. "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." For "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

Prove that He was a sacrifice for actual sins.

Isa. liii. 5, 6; 1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

Prove that He became a sacrifice to reconcile us to His Father.

Rom. v. 10. "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."

Article III.

What is the subject of the third Article?

"The going down of Christ into hell."

In what sense was Christ dead and buried for us?

He died in order that He might undergo in our behalf the punishment due to sin; and He was buried in order that the fact of His death might be placed beyond dispute.

Why was this important?

In order that we might have the surest reliance on the reality of His resurrection and atonement. What is the force of the "as" and "so also" in this Article?

It shows that His going down into hell is of similar importance to His death and burial.

What is meant by "hell" in this Article?

"The place of departed spirits;" which the Church in the United States allows to be used as an equivalent expression.

How do you prove that Jesus went down into hell?

St. Peter (Acts ii. 31) says, concerning Jesus, that "His soul was not left in hell;" which of course implies that He went thither.

Show that the phrase "went down" is scriptural in relation to this subject.

Eph. iv. 9.

For what reason is it important to believe that Christ descended into hell?

Because otherwise His soul would not have undergone the full penalty of sin, nor would He have passed through all that mankind are destined to. Moreover, it was needful that He should go and proclaim to "the spirits in prison" the fact of His triumph over death. (1 St. Peter iii. 19.)

Give another reason.

Because if we believe that He descended into hell, we shall not so much dread to undergo that which He has undergone before us.

Article IV.

What is the subject of the fourth Article?

"The resurrection of Christ."

Why does the Article state that Christ "did truly rise again from the dead?"

Because some in ancient times denied a literal resurrection, and declared that it was only figurative.

How is the truth of His resurrection proved?

By the testimony of those who saw Him after He arose, by the gifts He bestowed on His followers after His resurrection, and by the rapid spread of the Gospel built upon the belief of this truth.

What is "the perfection of man's nature" here meant?

The completeness of His nature, as composed of body and soul.

What other things besides "flesh and bones" are essential to that completeness?

The senses, and power of bodily motion and action, &c.

Prove that Jesus took again His body, &c.

St. Luke xxiv. 39, 43. When He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He requested them to handle Him and see that He had flesh and bones, and He afterwards ate in their presence.

Prove that He ascended into heaven with His body. St. Luke xxiv. 50, 51; Acts i. 9. "He lifted up His hands and blessed" the Apostles; and immediately after "while they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight."

Prove that He sitteth there with His body.

It appears from St. Mark xvi. 19, that in whatever manner "He was received into heaven," in the same manner "He sat down on the right hand of God."

What is He there doing?

Pleading the merits of His own sacrifice on the cross before the Father, for the benefit of His people on earth.

Prove that He will remain in heaven until the day of judgment.

In Acts iii. 20, 21, it is said that "the heavens must receive Him until the times of the restitution of all things," that is, when all things will be made new; which will take place at His second coming to judgment.

Article V.

What is the subject of the fifth Article?

"The Holy Ghost."

What is meant by the Holy Ghost "proceeding from the Father and the Son?

That He issues forth from them and is sent by them.

Prove that He proceeds from the Father.

John xv. 26; Matt. x. 20. He is called "the Spirit of truth that proceedeth from the Father," and "the Spirit of the Father."

Prove that He proceeds from the Son.

In Rom. viii. 9, and 1 Pet. i. 11, He is called "the Spirit of Christ."

When did He proceed from the Father and the Son?

From all eternity.

Show that He is "of one substance with the Father and the Son."

It has been already proved that the Son is of one substance with the Father; if therefore the Holy Ghost is of one substance with the Father, He must be of one substance with both.

Prove that He is of one substance with the Father.

1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. The Spirit of God dwelling in us makes us temples of God.

Show that He is "of one majesty and glory with the Father and the Son."

This follows from His being of one substance with the Father and the Son.

Prove it directly from Holy Scripture.

Isa. vi. 3. The Holy Ghost is magnified by the heavenly host equally with the Father and the Son.

What is meant by the expression "very God?"

That He is God in the fullest sense.

Show that He is "eternal God."

It would follow from His being the Spirit of the Father, because He must endure as long as the Father.

Prove it directly from Scripture.

Heb. ix. 14. He is called "the eternal Spirit."