Review: Thomas Vincent on the Shorter catechism

This is the “unofficial” commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, having received imprimaturs from John Owen and Thomas Watson.  It differs from Watson’s in that it follows a more exegetical approach to the Catechism (though Watson’s is written with more verve). It is mildly polemical, as Vincent will take pains to show why the “Papist” or antinomian is wrong, but even then he doesn’t let himself be sidetracked.

After quoting a particular Q&A, Vincent will then ask several follow up questions and most of his answers are quotes from Scripture.  He is particularly strong on the doctrine of God, 5th, 6th, and 7th commandments, and the sacraments.  Some examples:

God’s substance is spirit. A spirit is an immaterial substance. God’s knowledge: “The wisdom of God is his essential property, whereby, by one simple and eternal act, he knoweth both himself and all possible things perfectly, and according to which he maketh, directeth, and ordereth all future things for his own glory” (29).

“A covenant is a mutual agreement and engagement, between two or more parties, to give or to do something” (51).  Vincent’s definition of covenant is superior to accoutns that try to define covenant as “a bond in blood.”  The Pactum Salutis made in eternity is bloodless, for example.

“God doth bring his elect into an estate of salvation in the way of his covenant” (68).  The covenant of grace was made with Christ and the elect as his seed (68).  Vincent rightly notes this is not the same covenant God made with Christ in eternity.

While the prose reflects the 17th century, Vincent’s writing is clear and to the point (though he never matches Watson).  This is a fine all-around volume to the catechism.


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