This Day in Presbyterian History:
Our Sorry State in Light of the Law
Finding no historical record of Presbyterianism on this date, the Shorter Catechism which immediately follows the exposition of the Ten Commandments, number 82, occupies our attention on this day, September 4, 2012. Our Confessional Fathers ask and answer, “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? Answer: No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God: but does daily break them in thought, words, and deed.”
We could sum up the commandments of God from Exodus 20 here so that we could know exactly what we are talking about in this answer. The children’s version, found in Alexander Whyte’s book of several centuries ago on “The Shorter Catechism with a Commentary,” helps us with their remembrance:
1. You shall not have more gods but Me.
2. Before no idol bow the knee.
3. Take not the name of God in vain.
4. Nor dare the Sabbath day profane.
5. Give both your parents honor due.
6. Take heed that you no murder do.
7. Abstain from words and deeds unclean.
8. Nor steal, though you are poor and mean (e.g. low).
9. Nor make a willful lie, nor love it.
10. What is your neighbor’s do not covet.
No ordinary person since the fall can keep God’s commandments. That is the sense of those beginning words in this catechism. Certainly Jesus kept perfectly His Father’s laws in His active obedience, but He was both God and man, not an ordinary man. Adam and Eve kept God’s moral law perfectly before the fall, but this answer defines itself with the phrase “after the fall.” No ordinary people, either of themselves, or by any grace received in their lives, can be perfectly obedient to the commandments of God.
Indeed, we, as the Confessional Fathers all too sadly acknowledge, “daily break them in thought, word, and deed.” All of our sins which we commit are thus reduced to three areas of our lives. Our thoughts no one but God sees, and so no one knows the sinfulness of ourselves better than us. Jesus enumerated the list of sinful thoughts in Matthew 15:19 when he spoke of “murder, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (NASB) James in chapter 3 of his letter spoke of the futility of controlling our tongues, in that we sometimes bless God and curse men, who have been made in God’s image. And John, in his letter in chapter 3, mentions the practice of sin, which is lawlessness. (v. 4)
And yet, here the good news. All of these sins are under the blood of Christ, and therefore forgiven by His grace with genuine biblical repentance on our parts. Every sin does deserve God’s wrath and curse, but praise God, Jesus become a curse for us, taking the wrath of God upon Himself on that cursed tree. To escape this holy wrath, God required faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, using the appointed outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.
Words to live by: Every time this contributor thinks he has been successful in pleasing God more and more, he goes back to the Ten Commandments, and their treatment of them in the Westminster Standards. He then finds that even in his best efforts, there has been plenty of weakness exhibited in thought, word, and deed. Where would we be without the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ? Praise God for His work of sanctification, which enables us to more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Through the Scriptures: 2 Chronicles 14 – 16
Through the Standards: Direction of prayer
WLC 186 — “What rule has God given for our direction in the duty of prayer?
A. The whole word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Savior Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.”
WSC 99 — “What rule has God given for our direction in prayer?
A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.“