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Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?

Answer. Out of the law of God.



In this division of the catechism which treats of the misery of man, we are to consider principally the subject of sin, together with the effects or punishment of sin. Other subjects of a subordinate nature are connected with this, such as the creation of man, the image of God in man, the fall and first sin of man, original sin, the liberty of the will, and afflictions. In regard to our misery, we must consider in general, what it is, whence, and how it may be known!

The term misery is more comprehensive in its signification than that of sin, for it embraces the evil both of guilt and punishment. The evil of guilt is all sin; the evil of punishment is all affliction, torment, and destruction of our rational nature, as well as all subsequent sins also, by which those are punished that go before; as the numbering of the children of Israel, for instance, by David, was a sin, and at the same time the punishment of a preceding sin, viz: that of adultery and murder, with which he was chargeable, so that it included the evil both of guilt and punishment. The misery of man, therefore, is his wretched condition since the fall, consisting of these two great evils: First, that human nature is depraved, sinful, and alienated from God, and secondly, that, on account of this depravity, mankind are exposed to eternal condemnation, and deserve to be rejected of God.

The knowledge of this our misery is derived out of the law of God; for, "through the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:20.) The language of the law is, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of the law, to do them." (Deut. 27:26.) The two following questions of the catechism teach us how the law makes us acquainted with our misery.

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