I recently came upon this wonderful little work as it was contained in my recent purchased of the Westminster Confession of Faith (with accompanying materials). The Sum of Saving Knowledge was written around 1645 by David Dickson and James Durham, two Scottish Presbyterian Ministers and theologians. Thinking that the Westminster Catechisms were “too large and dark,” they drafted this summary and application of the standards for the edification of the church.
“The Sum” was so widely accepted and familiar among the churches, that within 20 years it was printed along with the Confessional Standards (the Confession of Faith and Catechisms), though never formally adopted as part of the standards.
One of my favorite authors, Robert Murray M’Cheyne noted in his journal in 1834 that it was through the reading the Sum of Saving Knowledge that “wrought a saving change in me.” I cannot recommend this work highly enough, it is simple and straightforward, and helps to articulate the faith and even evangelize the lost.
I have included a link here to download a .PDF or Ebook edition of the Sum of Saving Knowledge, as well as a link to a website where you can read it online. I’ve have also included the Brief Outline of the Sum below, and a quote from the Sum on the Covenant of Redemption.
THE CONTENTS OF THE SUM OF SAVING KNOWLEDGE
I. Our woeful condition by nature
II. The remedy provided in Christ Jesus
III. The means provided in the covenant of grace
IV. The blessings conveyed by these means
The Use of Saving Knowledge
1. For convincing of sin by the law
2. Of righteousness by the law
3. Of judgment by the law
4. For convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment by the gospel
Warrants and Motives to Believe
1. God’s hearty invitation
2. His earnest request to be reconciled
3. His command, charging all to believe
4. Much assurance of life given to believers
Evidences of true Faith
1. Conviction of the believer’s obligation to keep the moral law
2. That the believer practise the rules of godliness and righteousness
3. That obedience to the law run in the right channel of faith in Christ
4. The keeping of strait communion with Christ, the fountain of all grace and good works
On the Covenant of Redemption:
The sum of the covenant of redemption is this: God having freely chosen unto life a certain number of lost mankind, for the glory of his rich grace, did give them, before the world began, unto God the Son, appointed Redeemer, that, upon condition he would humble himself so far as to assume the human nature, of a soul and a body, unto personal union with his divine nature, and submit himself to the law, as surety for them, and satisfy justice for them, by giving obedience in their name, even unto the suffering of the cursed death of the cross, he should ransom and redeem them all from sin and death, and purchase unto them righteousness and eternal life, with all saving graces leading thereunto, to be effectually, by means of his own appointment, applied in due time to every one of them. This condition the Son of God (who is Jesus Christ our Lord) did accept before the world began, and in the fulness of time came into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary, subjected himself to the law, and completely paid the ransom on the cross: But by virtue of the aforesaid bargain, made before the world began, he is in all ages, since the fall of Adam, still upon the work of applying actually the purchased benefits unto the elect; and that he doth by way of entertaining a covenant of free grace and reconciliation with them through faith in himself; by which covenant, he makes over to every believer a right and interest to himself, and to all his blessings.
III. For the accomplishment of this covenant of redemption, and making the elect partakers of the benefits thereof in the covenant of grace, Christ Jesus was clad with the threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King; made a Prophet, to reveal all saving knowledge to his people, and to persuade them to believe and obey the same; made a Priest, to offer up himself a sacrifice once for them all, and to intercede continually with the Father, for making their persons and services acceptable to him; and made a King, to subdue them to himself, to feed and rule them by his own appointed ordinances, and to defend them from their enemies.Westminster Assembly. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. Print.