The Baltimore Catechism – Lesson First on the End of Man

LESSON FIRST

ON THE END OF MAN

The end of a thing is the purpose for which it was made.  The end of a watch is to keep time.  The end of a pen is to write, etc.  A thing is good only in proportion to the way it fulfils the end for which it was made.  A watch may be very beautifully made, a very rare ornament, but if it will not keep time, it is useless as a watch. The same may be said of the pen, or anything else. Now for what purpose was  man made?  If we discover that, we know his end.  When we look around us in the world, we see a purpose or end for everything. We see that the soil is made for the plants and trees to grow in; because if there was no need of things growing, it would be better to have a nice clean solid rock to walk upon, and then we would be spared the trouble of making roads and paving streets.  But things must grow, and so we must have soil.  Again, the vegetables and plants are made for animals to feed upon; while the animals themselves are made for man, that they may help him in his work or serve him for food.  Thus, it is evident everything in the world was made to serve something else. What then was man made for? Was it for anything in the world?  We see that all classes of beings are created for something higher than themselves.  Thus, plants are higher than soil, because they have life and soil has not.  Animals are higher than plants, because they not only have life, but they can feel, and plants cannot.  Man is higher than animals, because he not only has life and can feel, but he also has reason and intelligence, and can understand, while animals cannot.  Therefore, we must look for something higher than man himself; but there is nothing higher than man in this world, and so we must look beyond it to find that for which he was made.  And looking beyond it and considering all things we find that he was made for God  — to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him both in this world and in the next.  Again, we read in the Bible (Genesis i) that at the creation of the world all things were made before him and can exist after him.  The world goes along without any particular man, and the same may be said of all men. Neither was man made to stay here awhile to become rich, or learned, or powerful, because all do not become rich – some are very poor; all are not learned – some are very ignorant; all are not powerful –some are slaves.  But since all men are alike and equal in this, that they all have bodies formed in the same way and all have souls that are immortal, they should all be made for the same end.  For example, you could not make a pen like a watch if you want it to write.  Although, pens differ in size, shape, etc., they have all one general form which is essential to them.  So, although men differ in many things, they are alike in the essential thing, viz. that they are composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.  Hence, as pens are made only to write with, so all men must have only one and the same end, namely, to serve God.

  1. Q. Who made the world?
    A. God made the world.

  The “world” here means more than the earth – more than is shown on a map of the world.  It means everything that we can see –  sun, moon, stars, etc.; even those things that we can see only with great telescopes.  Everything, too that we may be able to see in the future, either with our eyes alone, or aided by instruments, is included in the word “world.”  We can call it the universe.

2. Q. Who is God?
A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things.

3. Q. What is man?
A. Man is a creature composed of body and soul and made to the image and likeness of God.

Creature” i.e., a thing created. Man differs from anything else in creation. All things else are either entirely matter or entirely spirit. An angel, for example, is all spirit, and a stone is all matter; but man is a combination of both spirit and matter – of soul and of body.

4. Q. Is this likeness in the body or in the soul?
A. This likeness is chiefly in the soul.

5. Q. How is the soul like to God?
A. The soul is like God because it is “a spirit that will never die and has understanding and free will.

My soul is like to God in four things.

(1) It is a “spirit.”  It really exists but cannot be seen with the eyes of our body. Every spirit is invisible, but every invisible thing is not a spirit.. We cannot see the wind. We can feel its influence, we can see its work – for example, the dust flying, trees swaying, ships sailing, etc. – but the wind itself we never see. Again, we never see electricity. We see the light or the effect it produces, but we never see the electricity itself. Yet no one denies the existence of the wind or of electricity on account of their being invisible. Why then should anyone say that there are now spirits –no God, no angels, no souls – simply because they cannot be seen, when we have other proofs, stronger than the testimony of our sight, that they really and truly exist?

(2) My soul will “never die” i.e., will never cease to exist; it is immortal. This is a very wonderful thing to think of. It will last as long as God himself.

(3) My soul “has understanding,” i.e., it has the gift of reason. This gift enables man to reflect on all his actions – the reason why he should do certain things and why he should not do them.  By reason he reflects on the past, and judges what may happen in the future. He sees the consequences of his actions. He not only knows what he does, but why he does it. This is the gift that places man high above the brute animals in the order of creation; and hence man is not merely an animal, but he is an animal with the gift of reason.

Brute animals have not reason, but only instinct, i.e., they follow certain impulses or feeling which God gave them at their creation. He stablished certain laws for each kind of animals, and they, without knowing it, follow these laws; and when we see them following these laws, always in the same way, we say it is their nature. Animals act at time as if they knew just why they were acting; but it is not so. It is we who reason upon their actions and see why they do them; but they do not have reason, they only follow their instinct.

If animals could reason, they ought to improve in their condition. Men become more civilized day by day. They invent many things that were unknown to their forefathers. One man can improve on the upon the works of another, etc. But we never see anything of this kind in the actions of animals. The same kind of birds, for instance, build the same kind of nests, generation after generation, without ever making change or improvement in them. When man teaches an animal any action, it cannot teach the same to its young. It is clear, therefore, that animals cannot reason.

Though man has the gift of reason by which he can learn a great deal, he cannot learn all through his reason; for there are many things that God Himself must teach him. When God teaches, we call the truths he makes known to us Revelation. How could man ever know about the Trinity through his reason alone, when, after God has made known to him that It exists, he cannot understand it? It is the same for all the other mysteries.

(4) My soul has “free will.”  This is another grand gift of God, by which I am able to do or not do a thing, just as I please. I can even sin and refuse to obey God. God Himself — while He leaves me my free will – could not oblige me to do anything unless I wished to do it; neither could the devil. I am free therefore, and I may use this great gift either to benefit or injure myself. If I were not free I would not deserve reward or punishment for my actions, for no one is or should be punished for doing what he cannot help. God would not punish us for sin if we were not free to commit or avoid it. I turn this freedom to my benefit if I do what God wishes when I could do the opposite; for He will be more pleased with my conduct and grant a greater reward than He would bestow if I obeyed simply because obliged to do so. Animals have no free will. If, for example, they suffer from hunger and you place food before them, they will eat; but man can starve, if he wills to do so, with a feast before him. For the same reason man can endure more fatigue than any other animal of the same bodily strength. In traveling, for instance, animals give up when exhausted, but man may be dying as he walks, and still, by his strong will power, force his wearied limbs to move. But you will say, did not the lions in the den into which Daniel was cast because he would not act against his conscience and obey the wicked king and offend God – as we read in Holy Scripture (Daniel vi. 16) – refrain from eating him, even when they were starving with hunger? Yes, but they did not do so of themselves, but by the power of God preventing them; and that is why the delivery of Daniel from their mouths was a miracle. It is clear, because the same lions tore in pieces Daniel’s enemies when they were cast into the den.

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