WSC Q. 1

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Last year we wrote of the founding of the Presbyterian Ministers Fund on this day, January 11, in 1718. Rather than cover that ground again, and lacking some other significant Presbyterian event or person for this day, it seems good instead to turn to Leonard Van Horn’s commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Rev. Van Horn was born in 1920, educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, and pastored churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and New Mexico. He also served as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. His work on the ruling elder remains in print, but his series on the Shorter Catechism has, regrettably, never been published. It was originally issued in the form of bulletin inserts, and the PCA Historical Center is pleased to have a complete set of these inserts.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. Scripture References: I Cor. 10:31. Psalm 73:24-26. John 17:22,24.

Questions:

1.    What is the meaning of the word “end” in this question?
The word means an aim, a purpose, an intention. It will be noted that the word “end” is qualified by the word “chief”. Thus it is noted that man will have other purposes in this life but his primary purpose should be to glorify God. This is in keeping with the purpose for which man was made. It is when we are alienated from God that we have the wrong end or purpose in view.

2.    What does the word “glorify” mean in this question?
Calvin tells us that the “glory of God is when we know what He is.” In its Scriptural sense, it is struggling to set forth a divine thing. We glorify Him when we do not seek our own glory but seek Him first in all things.

3.    How can we glorify God?
Augustine said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds repose in Thee.” We glorify God by believing in Him, by confessing Him before men, by praising Him, by defending His truth, by showing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, by worshiping Him.

4.    What rule should we remember in regard to glorifying God?
We should remember that every Christian is called of God to a life of service. We glorify God by using the abilities He has given us for Him, though we should remember that our service should be from the heart and not simply as a duty.

5.    Why is the word “glorify” placed before “enjoy” in the answer?
It is placed first because you must glorify Him before you can enjoy Him. If enjoyment was placed first you would be in danger of supposing that God exists for man instead of men for God. If a person would stress the enjoying of God over the glorifying of God there would be danger, of simply an emotional type of religion. The Scripture says, “In Thy presence is fulness of joy. . . .” (Ps. 16:11). But joy from God comes from being in a right relationship with God, the relationship being set within the confines of Scripture.

6.    What is a good Scripture to memorize to remind us of the lesson found in Question No. 1?
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: …” (Ps. 42:1,2a). This reminds us of the correct relationship for the Christian, looking unto Him. It is there we find our ability to glorify Him and the resulting joy.

THE PRIMARY CONCERN OF MAN
It is a fact to be much regretted that the average Christian who gives allegiance to the Westminster Standards is a Christian that many times leaves out the living of these Standards in the daily pursuits of life. It is good to believe, it is good to have a creed in which to believe. But there is much harm that can result from believing in a creed and not living it day by day. From such an existence we arrive at a low tone of spiritual living and the professing believer becomes cold, formal, without spiritual power in his life.

We should always recognize that the first lesson to be learned from our catechism is that our primary concern is to be of service to the Sovereign God. Our Westminster Shorter Catechism does not start with the salvation of man. It does not start with God’s promises to us. It starts with placing us in the right relationship with our Sovereign God. James Benjamin Green tells us that the answer to the first question of the Catechism asserts two things: “The duty of man, ‘to glorify God.’ The destiny of man, ‘to enjoy Him.’ ”

It is to be regretted that though we have inherited the principles of our forefathers, in that their Creed is still our Creed, so many times we have failed to inherit the desire to practice their way of living. Many people will attempt to excuse themselves here by stating that we live in a different age, that the temptations and speed of life today divert us from spiritual things. But no matter what excuses we might give, the Catechism instructs us right at the outset that our duty is to glorify God, such is our chief purpose in life. All of us need to note the valid words of J. C. Ryle in regard to our Christian living: “Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business, the singleness of eye, the high tone of conversation, the patience, the humility that marked so many of our forerunners . . . ?”

May God help each of us to stop right now, read again the first question and answer of our Catechism, and pray to God that in the days to come our primary concern might be that we will live to His glory. It is not difficult for us to know the characteristics of such a life. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are plain enough.

The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 1 No. 3  January, 1961
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Words to Live By:
Given our comments in yesterday’s Words to Live By, it seemed quite appropriate today to touch on this first question from the Catechism. Dr. Van Horn’s summary statements, above, are particularly apt.

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This Day in Presbyterian History : 

The Main Purpose for Life

It seems there are noteworthy people and events to point to for every day of the calendar. But for this day of January 13, we would instead like to turn our attention to the magnificent answer of our Confessional fathers in The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question no. 1. — What is man’s chief end?  Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

The framers of this short answer were concerned about the “chief” end of man.  There could, and should, be other purposes for both faith and life.  Indeed, every person, and certainly every Christian, should be aware of these purposes as they relate to life in the home, vocation, the church, and society at large.  When changes come into your life, such as a birthday, anniversary, a new calendar year, or even the anniversary of conversion, a time of self-examination is afforded to assess progress in fulfilling these purposes.  But in and through all of these milestones, this all-encompassing chief purpose should be your guide.

The first aspect of your chief and highest aim in life is “to glorify God.”  Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians, “whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB)  And that prince of Bible expositors, John Calvin, further defines this glory of God by stating that “the glory of God is when we know that He is.”  But beyond seeing the divine glory in the revelation of Who He is as Creator and Redeemer, we are also given an answer as to how are to respond in our glorification of God.

» An edition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, published by the London Sunday-School Union.  J. Rider, Printer, Little Britain, undated [ca. 1803-1810], 63 p.; 10.3 cm. »

Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou has given me to do.” (John 17:4)  Jesus reflects on his ministry, considering how He had fulfilled His eternal purpose in coming to earth.  Likewise, our chief end in glorifying God is to finish the work which God’s Spirit has called us to do, in the home, our calling in life, through the church, and in society at large.

Our other chief purpose in life is to enjoy God forever.  The psalmist Asaph meditates on this aim when he wrote, “Whom have I in  heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth.” (Psalm 73:25) We are to delight in our God on earth as we shall do in heaven.  That translates out to delighting in God’s Word, the Bible, by  worshiping Him publicly and privately, enjoying His day, the Christian Sabbath, set aside for Him, and fulfilling our calling as spiritual sons and daughters of God in the family, our calling in life, through the church, and in the world at large.

Words to Live By:  By memorizing this answer, the reader will be able to do a quick check of this chief purpose in the words, thoughts, and actions of his/her life.  Use this time of reflection in some meditation, then prayer, and then action to resolve to glorify God and enjoy him this day, tomorrow, the next day, and into the next week, month, and year.

Through the Scripture: Genesis 40 – 42

Through the Standards: Proof Texts of Holy Scripture:

Hebrews 1:1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets . . . (ESV)

Matthew 4:4 “But He (Jesus) answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (ESV)

Luke 24:27, 44 “And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them (his apostles) in all the Scriptures the things concerning themselves.  Then he said to them, ‘These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (ESV)

2 Peter 1: 21 “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)

2 Timothy 3:16, 17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)

Isaiah 8:20 “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (ESV)

John 10:35 “So men . . . to whom God’s message came — and the Scripture cannot be set aside or canceled or broken or annulled –” (Amplified Bible)

Further reading on man’s chief end—there are many passages we could relate, but this from Richard Sibbes is a recent favorite:

“. . . let us never rest till we make it good that God is our God. For what if we have all things, if we have not God with all things? All other things are but streams; God is the fountain. If we have not the spring, what will become of us at last? Ahithophel had much wisdom and policy, but he had not God for his God. Ahab had power and strength, but he had not God for his God. Saul had a kingdom, but he had not God for his God. Herod had excellence, but he had not God for his God. Judas was an apostle, a great professor, but he had not God for his God. What became of all these? Wisdom they had, strength they had, honour they had, friends they had, but they had not God; and therefore a miserable end they made. What miserable creatures are all such, when they shall say, Friends have forsaken me, wealth has forsaken me, and health has forsaken me; terrors lay hold upon me, the wrath of God has overtaken me. But they cannot say, God is my God. Oh, such are in a miserable case, in a fearful estate indeed. Nay, suppose they have all these, suppose they could say they have a world of riches, they have inheritances, they have friends, etc., yet if they cannot say, God is my God, all is vanity. The whole man is this, to have God to be our God. This is the whole man, to fear God and keep his commandment, Eccles. 12:13. If a man have all the world, and have not God for his God, all is but vanity and vexation of spirit. Never rest therefore till we can prove ourselves to be in the covenant of grace, till we can say, God is our God.”

[
The Faithful Covenanter, by Richard Sibbes, Works, vol. 6, pp. 15-16.]

Also on this day:
In 1868, plans were laid for the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

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