The Sum of Saving Knowledge

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.

Outline:

THE CONTENTS OF THE SUM OF SAVING KNOWLEDGE
Heads.

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.

Happy Reading!

SDG

Such Were Some of You

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9–11

This was the scripture I read this morning for my devotions.

Who needs a cup of coffee after reading something this jolting.

Paul wrote this to a Church that was dysfunctional. There was fighting among Christians about which gift of the Holy Spirit was more important than the others; about which preacher was better than the others, all the while, turning a blind eye – even encouraging – sinful behavior to continue in the lives of members of the Church. Moreover, Christians were taking each other to civil court over their disputes, putting themselves under the authority of the unrighteous worldly judges. When Christians wrong and defraud each other, they are behaving like the ungodly, unrighteous world around them, and this is not who you are.

Paul makes his point abundantly clear, and we should not deceive ourselves:

  • Sexual immorality is a sin
  • Idolatry is a sin
  • Adultery is a sin
  • Homosexuality is a sin
  • Stealing is a sin
  • Greed is a sin
  • Drunkenness is a sin
  • Reviling (abusive, angry, critical language) is a sin
  • Swindling others is a sin

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Paul has other such lists in Galatians 5:19-21 and Romans 1:18-32, but the point is clear: these are all sinful behaviors, and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. I may lose my audience, get removed from the blogosphere and social media for saying this, but it must be said, these things are sinful, and those who make a practice of unrighteousness will never enter in the kingdom of the righteous God.

But here’s the point of Paul’s message: “such were some of you.” Paul is writing to the redeemed, to those who have been called out of sinful living and into the righteousness secured for us in the righteousness of Christ. Those who are in Christ have been washed of the sin, cleansed from the filthiness of it. Those who are in Christ have been sanctified, set apart as holy for God. Those who are in Christ have been justified, declared righteous because of the righteousness of our mediator, Jesus Christ.

You were once defined by your unrighteousness, but now you are defined by your new life in Christ. Once you were marked by the division and animosity between God and man, and man and man, that comes about because of sin. Now you are marked by the peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness of our gracious God, and that grace permeates all our relationships.

I think the reason this passage reaches out and grabs us by the collar is because it does the two things that any presentation of the gospel ought to do: 1) It hits us with the condemnation of sin, of which we are all guilty and liable to judgment, and 2) It declares the salvation and redemption that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There is great hope in this passage, for while it does not excuse any sin, it does offer forgiveness in Jesus Christ for every sin. As the Spirit leads you to see the sinfulness of your sins and your desperate need for a savior, may you turn from your life of sin and come to rest in this assurance, that by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, you have been washed, sanctified, and justified in Jesus.

SDG