A Compendium of Scriptural Knowledge*
By Adam Clarke, LLD
1. There Is One God, who is self-existing, uncreated, infinitely wise, powerful, and good: who is present in every place; and fills the heavens, and earth, and all things. Now, as THIS ONE God is eternal, that is, without beginning or end, and is present everywhere, and fills all space, there can be only ONE such Being; for there cannot be two or more eternals, or two or more who are everywhere and fill all things. To suppose more than one supreme Source of infinite wisdom, power, and all perfections, is to assert that there is no supreme Being in existence. A plurality of eternal beings would resemble a plurality of universes, eternities, and infinite spaces; all which would be contradictory and absurd.
2. This one infinite and eternal Being is a Spirit: i.e., he is not compounded, nor made up of parts; for then he would be nothing different from matter, which is totally void of intelligence and power. And hence he must be invisible; for a spirit cannot be seen by the eye of man: nor is there any thing in this principle contradictory to reason or experience. We all know that there is such a thing as the air we breathe, as the wind that whistles through the trees, fans and cools our bodies, and sometimes tears up mighty trees from their roots, overturns the strongest buildings, and agitates the vast ocean; but no man has ever seen this air or wind, though every one is sensible of its effects, and knows that it exists. Now it would be as absurd to deny the existence of God, because we cannot see him, as it would be to deny the existence of the air or wind, because we cannot see it. As to reason and sense, the wind is known to exist by the affects which it produces, though it cannot be seen; so God is known by his works; and a genuine Christian is as conscious that this divine Spirit works in, enlightens, and changed his heart, as he is that he breathes the air, and feels the action of the wind upon his body; and is either chilled, cooled, or refreshed, by its breezes.
3. In this God there are found three persons, not distinctly or separately existing; but in one infinite unity; who are termed Father, Son, and Spirit; or God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; all existing in the one infinite and eternal God; neither being before or after the other, neither being greater or less than the other. These three divine persons are frequently termed among Christians, The Trinity.
4. This God is the Creator, Governor, and Preserver of all things: all creatures, animate and inanimate, owe their being to him; and by him they are all supported.
5. The works of creation show God to be infinitely powerful, wise, and good. His power is seen in the vastness or magnitude of his works; his Wisdom is seen in the skill and contrivance so evident in each, and in the whole; and his Goodness is seen in the end for which each has been formed: for he has made all intelligent and animate beings capable of happiness; and he has so contrived their bodies, minds, and different parts, as well as the things by which they are surrounded, that this happiness is, in general, within their reach.
6. Man is one of the chief works of God. His soul was created in the image of God, i.e., in righteousness and true holiness: and his body was formed out of the dust of the ground. There was no imperfection in his body, a machine of the most complicate, curious, and difficult contrivance: and no sinfulness in his mind; for God, who is all perfection, could make nothing that is imperfect; and He who is infinitely holy could make nothing that is impure.
7. But from this state of perfection and purity man fell, by his disobeying the commandment of God; and so became liable to sickness, death, corruption, and dissolution in his body; and became ignorant, sinful, and vicious in his soul.
8. God, who is infinitely good, showed his mercy to fallen, sinful man by promising him a Savior who was to come in that time which God should see to be the most suitable.
9. This Saviour was no less a person than the Lord Jesus Christ, who in that suitable time was to take upon him the nature of man, by assuming a human body; which he subjected to death, that he might make a sacrifice and atonement for all those who were partakers of the same nature, i.e., for the Whole Human Race.
10. Jesus Christ, as man, could suffer and die; as God, he was incapable of either, but it was necessary that his human nature should suffer in order to make an atonement; and it was necessary that his Deity should be united with that humanity, in order to make its suffering of infinite value, that thereby a suitable atonement might be made for the sins of the world.
11. The law which God gave to men was given to human nature. That nature transgressed this law; on that nature, therefore, divine justice had a claim; and from it that justice had a right to demand satisfaction. To have destroyed that human nature existing at the time of the transgression in the first human pair only, would have been inconsistent with the innumerable purposes of divine justice, mercy, and providence; therefore God permitted them to live and propagate a posterity upon the earth: but in his infinite love he found out a Redeemer for this fallen nature. But this Christ or Redeemer took not upon him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham, that is, human nature, that in the nature which sinned he might make the expiation required.
12. It was also necessary that this Redeemer should be infinitely divine and perfect; as the end of his great undertaking was not only to purchase pardon for a world of offenders, but to merit eternal happiness for mankind. Now an infinite happiness cannot be purchased by any price less than that which is infinite in value; and infinity of merit can only result from a nature that is infinitely divine or perfect.
13. Accordingly we find that, about 4000 years after the creation, this Jesus Christ was born in Judea, of a virgin, whose name was Mary, in whose womb his human nature was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost; and about thirty-three years afterward, having wrought multitudes of miracles, the most astonishing and beneficent, and preached that heavenly doctrine called the gospel or good news, he gave up his life at Jerusalem as a sacrificial offering for the lives of all mankind. He was buried; rose again, by that divine power which could not suffer death, on the third day, according to his own predictions; and gave commission to his disciples, (holy men to whom he had taught the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,) to go into all the world, and preach his gospel to every creature; which they and their successors have done, and are doing: and by these means Christianity has been spread and established in the earth; and will finally prevail in every nation of the world according to his own most positive declarations.
14. God has assured mankind that there is and can be no salvation but through Jesus Christ: that for the sake, and on the account, of his sacrificial sufferings and death he can forgive sins; and on no other account will he show mercy to any soul of man.
15. As all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and are consequently exposed to endless punishment, and no man can make an atonement for his own soul, God has commanded all who hear the gospel to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to believe on him as having died for them, and to believe that his sufferings and death are a sufficient sacrifice for their sins; and, consequently, to offer this sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ as a ransom price for their souls.
16. But it is not likely that any person will feel his need of Jesus Christ as his Savior, unless he feel that he is sinful, guilty, and cannot help himself: hence the Holy Scriptures require men to repent; that is, to turn from and be deeply sorry for their transgressions, to mourn and be distressed for having sinned against God, and to implore his mercy through Christ Jesus, by fervent and continued prayer.
17. Scripture gives no hope to any man, that his sins can be blotted out, or his soul saved, by anything he can do, or has done, or by any sufferings through which he can possibly pass: every man, therefore, must come to God through Christ, to be saved by free grace and mere mercy alone.
18. When a sinner comes thus to God, with a broken and contrite heart, believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, God freely pardons him; and he knows and feels that he is pardoned, because his darkness and distress are all taken away; and the Spirit of God bears witness with his spirit that he is a child of God: this God has promised; and, therefore, it is the privilege of every Christian to know that his sins are forgiven him for Christs sake: and of this fact there are thousands of living witnesses in the Christian church. Let it ever be remembered that genuine faith in Christ will ever be productive of good works; for this faith worketh by love, as the apostle says, and love to God always produces obedience to his holy laws.
19. Pardon or forgiveness of sin implies that the mans guilt is taken away; and that he is no longer in danger of falling into endless punishment.
20. Hence God promises his Holy Spirit to sanctify and cleanse the heart, so as utterly to destroy all pride, anger, self-will, peevishness, hatred, malice, and every thing contrary to his own holiness.
21. The work of pardon on the conscience is called Justification; the work of holiness in the heart is termed Sanctification: these two comprise the whole salvation of the soul in this world. He who is completely sanctified, or cleansed from all sin, and dies in this state, is fit for glory.
22. Let it be therefore
remembered, that Repentance must go before Justification; that
Justification must go before Sanctification; and that Sanctification
must go before Glorification. Consequently, he who does not repent and
forsake sin can not be justified; he who is not justified cannot be
sanctified, and he who is not sanctified cannot be glorified.
23. As the grace that produces any of these states may be lost through sin, or carelessness; hence the necessity that the true penitent should continue to watch and pray till he is justified that, when justified, he should continue to watch and pray, and deny himself, and take up his cross, till he is sanctified; and, when sanctified, he should continue the same course, believing, loving, and obeying, till he is glorified. As he will be in danger as long as he lives of falling from grace, so he should continue to watch and pray, believe, and maintain good works, as long as he breathes; for while thus employed, humbly trusting in the Lord Jesus, he cannot fall.
24. Jesus Christ has ordained only two sacraments, or religions ceremonies: The first Baptism, by which we enter into his church; and the second the Lords Supper, often called the Sacrament, by which we continue members of his church. The former implies being dipped in, or sprinkled with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The water is an emblem of the cleansing and purifying influence of the Holy Spirit; and the whole of the act itself signifies a consecration of the person to the endless service and glory of the ever blessed Trinity, that is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whose name he has been baptized. The second or holy sacrament is an emblem of the sacrificial death of Christ; the Bread which is used signifying his Body that was crucified, and the Wine his Blood that was shed for the sins of the world. But the bread and wine are only emblems of this body and blood; not changed into that of our blessed Lord, as some have erroneously imagined. He, therefore, who receives the holy sacrament professes thereby that he expects salvation only through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
25. The body is mortal, and must die and mingle with the earth, out of which it was made: but it shall be raised again by the power of Christ, in what is called the Resurrection from the dead. But the soul is immortal, and can neither die nor perish; but in the resurrection the body and soul shall be again united, both of the just and of the unjust.
26. After the resurrection comes the general Judgment, in which God shall render unto every man according as his works have been: those who have lived and died in sin shall be sent into hell, and be thus for ever banished from God and the glory of His power: those who have here received the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have been faithful unto death, shall be brought into the kingdom of glory, and be eternally with the Lord.
27. In the interim, from death to the resurrection, all souls shall be in a state of conscious existence; the wicked having a foretaste of the misery that awaits them, and the good having a foretaste of the blessedness which is prepared for them. But neither can be supremely happy or wretched till the souls are joined to their respective bodies; otherwise a day of judgment would be rendered unnecessary: for as the works for which they shall be punished or rewarded were done in the body; so they must be joined to their bodies before they can be capable of bearing the due degree of punishment, or enjoying the fulness of eternal glory.
28. Those who, at the day of judgment, are sentenced to punishment shall never escape from perdition; and those who are taken to glory shall never fall from it. Both states shall be eternal.
29. The Bible, from whence the above principles are drawn, is a revelation from God himself; and declares his will relative to the salvation of men. The words contained in it were inspired by the Holy Spirit into the minds of faithful men, called Prophets and Seers in the Old Testament; and Evangelists and Apostles in the New. These all spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance.
30. This Bible, or the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, are the only complete guide to everlasting blessedness: men may err, but the Scripture cannot; for it is the Word of God himself who can neither mistake, deceive, nor be deceived.
31. From this Word all doctrines must be derived and proved; and from it every man must learn his duty to God, to his neighbor, and to himself.
32. We have, therefore, three grand gifts, for which we should incessantly magnify God: First, His Son, Christ Jesus. Second, The influence of his Holy Spirit. And, Third, His blessed word.
33. This word shows us that God is Love: that he hateth nothing that he hath made; that he is loving to every man, and is not willing that any should perish, but that all shall come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.
34. It shows us that Jesus Christ tasted death for every man, and that the whole human race may believe in him to the saving of their souls.
35. It shows us that God sends his Holy Spirit into the hearts and consciences of all men, to convince them of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and that his light is to be found, even where his word has not yet been revealed.
36. On this ground the Bible informs us, God will judge the heathen who have never been favored with this divine revelation. Those who have acted conscientiously, according to the dictates of this heavenly light in their minds, shall not perish eternally; but have that measure of glory and happiness which is suited to their state; while those who have acted contrary to it shall be separated from God and happiness for ever.
37. By this light even the heathens are taught the general principles of right and wrong; of justice and injustice: not to injure each other: to be honest and just in their dealings; to abhor murder, cruelty, and oppression; and to be charitable and merciful according to their power.
38. Those who have been favored with divine revelation shall be judged according to that revelation. They have received much, and from them much shall be required; for the Bible assures us that those who have the gospel, and do not obey it, shall be punished with an everlasting separation from the presence of God, and the glory of his power, in that place of misery where their worm, the accusation and self-reproaches of a guilty conscience, shall never die; and their fire, the instrument of the torment, shall never be quenched.
39. Thus we find that
judge the heathen by the law which he has written in their minds;
and he will judge the Jews by the law which he has given them by Moses
and the prophets; and he will judge the Christians by the gospel of
Jesus Christ, which he has given them by the evangelists and apostles;
and he will judge the Mohammedans according to the opportunities they
have had of knowing the gospel, and the obstinacy with which they have
rejected it. And this will be an aggravation of the punishment of the
Jews, Mohammedans, and other unbelievers, that the gospel which would
have made them wise unto salvation, has been rejected by them; and they
continue blasphemously to deny the Lord that bought them.
40. As the sacred Scriptures were mercifully given to man to promote his present as well as his eternal happiness; hence they contain directions for every state and condition of life: on husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, they enjoin mutual love, affection, obedience, and fidelity. To governors and the governed they prescribe their respective duties; kings and magistrates, as the representatives of God, they enjoin to use their authority for the protection and comfort of the people: the people they command to love, honor, obey, and pray for their secular rulers;, to submit to those laws which are formed for the peace, good order, and prosperity of the state; and to hold in abhorrence every thing that might tend to disturb the peace of the community. In a word, they require all men to love their neighbor, every human being, as themselves; and in all circumstances to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them.
41. From the foregoing
we see that whatsoever is worthy of the infinite perfections of the One
Eternal Being and whatsoever is calculated to produce the present and
everlasting happiness of mankind, is taught in the Bible; and that
these truths have never been fully nor clearly taught, and most of them
not at all, in any system of religion which has been adopted by even
the wisest of the heathen nations; that where this book of divine
revelation has been received, there is found the greatest portion of
wisdom and true greatness; and the largest share of political,
domestic, and personal happiness; and that none in such nations are
wretched, ignorant, or miserable, but those who do not obey its
42. As this religion positively commands its professors to love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and their neighbor, any and every human being, as themselves, hence it is the duty of all Christian nations and people to exert themselves in every possible and reasonable way to send this glorious light of revelation to all the nations of mankind who have not yet received it; and while they continue to use that prayer which Jesus Christ has mercifully taught them, in which is contained this petition, Thy kingdom come, they should keep a constant eye on the condition of the heathen, and labor to send them that gospel so essential to their peace, their comfort, and their happiness.