Our current Sunday afternoon series at CRBC has been through Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism. I have been reading alongside this study Thomas Vincent’s classic The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture (1674; Banner 1980). LastSunday’s message was on question #18 (“What is the misery of that state whereinto man fell?”). Here is my summary and expansion of Vincent’s description of six “internal and spiritual miseries which men are liable unto in this life by the fall":
1. “To the thralldom of the devil to be led about by him at his will.” It is as if men are dogs on a leash led about by the devil. Paul says fallen man is in “the snare of the devil” and “taken captive to his will” (2 Tim 2:26).
2. “To judiciary blindness of mind, and reprobate sense.” Fallen sinners have eyes, but they do not see, ears, but they do not hear. In Romans 1:8 Paul speaks of those whom God has given over “to a reprobate mind.”
3. “To judiciary hardness of heart, and searedness and benumbedness of conscience.” God allows the hearts of sinners to become hardened (Rom 9:18). The conscience is seared “as with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4:2). Such men are, Paul says, “past feeling” (Eph 4:19).
4. “To vile actions.” Pick up the paper or go to any internet news site for an endless list of illustrations.
5. “To strong delusions and belief of damnable errors.” Think of it. There would be no heresies had man not fallen.
6. “To distress and perplexity of mind, dread and horror of spirit, and despairful agonies, through the apprehension of certain future wrath.”
Unbelieving man does not know it, but the nagging dread he feels as he ages is not just an aversion to his impending death but also to his certain judgment.
We’ve noted again and again in this exposition of the early questions in the catechism that it does not tire of describing man’s state in sin. It does this not to wallow in man’s depravity but to pave the way for the announcement of God’s response to man’s sin in Christ, “the only Redeemer of God’s elect” (from the answer to question #20).