I have just recently become aware of the commentary or “elaboration” on the Westminster Shorter Catechism prepared by the old Puritan author Joseph Alleine. The fuller title of the work is A most familiar explanation of the Assemblies shorter catechism wherein their larger answers are broken into lesser parcels, thereby to let in the light by degrees into the minds of the learners : to which is added in the close, a most brief help for the necessary but much neglected duty of self-examination to be daily perused : and to this is subjoined a letter of Christian counsel to a destitute flock. / by Jos. Allaine. (London : Printed for Edw. Brewster, 1674),. First printed in 1674, it was reprinted in Ulster in 1700 and again a short time later, but has never been reprinted in the modern era. Thankfully, we have it readily available in electronic form (see the above embedded link).
Alleine was not alone in this method, of taking the Catechism and then further explaining it with additional questions and answers. To give a sample of his treatment, let’s look at how he expounds on Question 25 of the Shorter Catechism:—
First the Catechism Question,
Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the Office of a Priest?
A. Christ executeth the Office of a Priest in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfie divine Justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.
And then Alleine’s elaborations,
Q. Who doth execute for us the Office of a Priest?
Q. Is Christ our only High Priest?
Q. What be the parts of Christs Priestly Office?
A. They are two, viz. His offering himself a sacrifice, and his making intercession.
Q. What did he offer up as a Priest to God?
Q. In what way did he offer up himself?
A. As a Sacrifice.
Q. Was he offered up by some other against his own will.
Q. Did he of his own accord offer up himself?
Q. What, was Christs body and soul the sacrifice that was offered up?
Q. Was the Cross the altar on which he offered himself a sacrifice?
Q. Was his Divine nature the altar that sanctified the gift of the Humane nature, and made it an acceptable Sacrifice for the end for which it was offered?
Q. How often did Christ offer up himself a sacrifice?
A. Only once.
Q. Is he to be offered up no more?
Q. Was his sacrifice, and oblation finished at his death?
Q. To what end did Christ offer up himself a sacrifice?
A. To satisfie Divine Justice.
Q. And for what else?
A. To reconcile us to God.
Q. What do you mean by Divine Justice?
A. The Justice of God.
Q. What do you mean by reconciling us to God?
A. Making God and us Friends.
Q. Is Christs once offering up of himself, sufficient for these ends? viz. to satisfie Gods Justice and make God and us Friends?
Q. What doth Christ do for us as a Priest, besides his offering up himself as a sacrifice?
A. He maketh intercession for us.
Q. What do you mean by Christs making intercession for us?
A. His praying, and making request to God for us.
Q. Is Christs intercession part of his Priestly office, as well as his oblation, or offering up himself a sacrifice?
Q. Did Christ interceed for us on earth?
Q. Doth be continue to make intercession for us now he is in Heaven?
Q. Doth he interceed for us, by presenting his sacrifice, and merits for us before his Father?
Q. And by presenting his will before his Father for us?
Q. Doth he not pray for us vocally then?
Q. But virtually?
Q. Hath he finished his intercession, together with his sacrifice?
Q. To which of Christs offices doth it belong to offer sacrifices, and make intercession for us?
A. To his priestly office.
I would love to hear from our readers, what you think of this teaching tool. Was it helpful? Do you think it could be used effectively in a Sunday School class, perhaps for middle school aged children and older,, as well as with adult classes?