The Shorter Catechism of Richard Greenham (1542-1594) – Part 1

Years ago, on a previous blog, I began the work of reproducing the Shorter Catechism of Richard Greenham. I never completed the project so I thought I would take this effort up again on the AGR blog. One of the most forgotten Elizabethan Purtians 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. This is Part I with section headings that I have added. I trust it will be a great blessing to you as we continue to study the trajectory of confessional Reformed Protestanism. The csatechism is taken from the 1612 edition of his Workes, the last and best edition.


Q. Whereas all men desire to be blessed, and the most men are deceived in seeking blessedness, tell me which is the true way thereunto?
A. To know God to be my father in Jesus Christ, by the revelation of the Spirit according to his word, and therefore to serve him according to his will, and to set forth his glory; believing that I shall want nothing that is good for me in this life, and that I shall enjoy everlasting blessedness in the world to come.

Q. How do you know this?
A. By the working of the Holy Ghost, and by the means of God’s word.

Authority of Scripture:
Q. What call you God’s word?
A. It is the revealed will of God, set forth unto us in the Holy Scriptures.

Q. Which call you the Holy Scriptures?
A. The books of the Old and New Testament, commonly called Canonical.

Q. Are all things that are necessary for us to know contained in them?
A. Yes: for God being full of all wisdom and goodness, would leave out nothing that was requisite for us to know.

Q. Is it lawful for to add or take away anything from God’s word?
A. No: for God has flatly forbidden it, and has pronounced grievous curses upon those that do.

Q. Why is it so grievous a sin?
A. Because it is a very great sin to alter the last will of a mortal man; therefore much more grievous a sin it is to change the last testament of the eternal God.

Q. Why is it requisite that the will of God should be set forth unto us?
A. That we might have pure rules of his worship, and sure grounds of our salvation.

Q. Is it not lawful to repose any part of God’s worship, or of salvation in the doctrine and doings of men?
A. No: for all men by nature are liars, and defiled with sin.

Q. What follows hereof?
A. That all men’s doctrines and doings are mingled with lies and corruption.

Q. How far are we bound to their doctrines and doings?
A. So far forth as they be agreeable to God’s Word.

The Reading of the Scriptures:
Q. May all read the Scriptures?
A. Yes, all that be of age able to discern between good and evil, ought to increase in knowledge, for their furtherance in salvation, as they increase in years.

Q. Why must all read such Scriptures?
A. First, because every one must be able to prove and try himself, whether he be in the faith, or not, 2 Cor 13:5.

Q. Why else?
A. Secondly, because every one must be able to prove and examine men’s doctrines (Acts 17) and doings, by the Scriptures, that they be not in their saluation by them deceived.

A. Thirdly, because every one must be able, as his calling requires, to teach, admonish, exhort, and comfort one another.

A. Fourthly, because every one must be able to make an account for the faith and hope that is in them.

14. Q. What if men cannot read?
A. Then they must use the help of others than can read.

Q. Is it enough to read the Scriptures privately, or with others?
A. No: for God has also commanded to hear them read publicly in the church.

Q. And is it enough to hear then read publicly in the church?
A. No: for he also has ordained preaching to be used.

The Principal Means of Grace
Q. Why must preaching be joined with reading?
A. Because it is the most principal and proper means to beget faith in us.

Q. Why must faith be mixed with the Word read and preached?
A. Because otherwise the word profits us nothing.

Q. How many things are requisite to be in every one that will come to hear the Word read and preached?
A. Among others, four are necessary.

Q. What is the first?
1. First, a reverent fear of the majesty of God.
2. Second, an assured faith in Christ.
3. Third, an earnest endeavor to frame our lives thereafter.
4. Fourth, they must pray for the Holy Ghost to be given them, to enlighten their minds, and to write all these things in their hearts.

The Law and the Gospel:
Q. Which is the principal part of God’s Word?
A. The Law and the Gospel.

Q. What call you the law?
A. It is that part of the Word that commands all good, and forbids all evil.

Q. What if we could keep the law?
A. Then we should be blessed.

Q. What if we break the law?
A. Then we are subject to the curse of God, and so to death and damnation.

Q. What call you the gospel?
A. It is that part of the Word which contains the free promises of God, made unto us in Jesus Christ, without any respect of our deserving.

Q. What does that work in us?
A. It works in us a true and lively faith in Jesus Christ, whereby we lay hold of the free remission of our sins in him, and the true repentance of them.

Q. What must we learn by the whole word of God?
A. Two things:
1. First, to make a right and sound entrance to our salvation.
2. Second, how to increase, and continue in the same unto the end.

Q. What is required for our right and sound entrance to our salvation?
A. Three things are required:
1. First, to know and to be persuaded of the greatness of our sin and the misery due to the same.
2. Second, to know and be persuaded, how we may be delivered from them.
3. Third, to know and be persuaded what thanks we owe to God for our deliverance.