By BB Warfield, from The Princeton Theological Review, Vol 6 , 1908
No catechism begins on a higher plane than the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Its opening question, “What is the chief end of man?” with its answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” – the profound meaning of which Carlyle said grew to him ever fuller and richer with the years – sets the learner at once in his right relation to God. Withdrawing his eyes from himself, even from his own salvation, as the chief object of concern, it fixes them on God and His glory, and bids him see his highest blessedness in Him.
“The Shorter Catechism owes its elevated standpoint, of course, to the purity of its reflection of the Reformed consciousness. To others, the question of questions might be, “What shall I do to be saved?”, and it is on this plane that many, or rather most, of the catechisms even of the Reformation began.
There is a sort of spiritual utilitarianism, a divine euthuma [i.e., euthymia: a normal, tranquil mental state or mood], at work in this, which determines the whole point of view. Even the Heidelberg Catechism is not wholly free from this leaven. Taking its starting point from the longing for comfort, even though it be the highest comfort for life and death, it claims the attention of the pupil from the beginning for his own state, his own present unhappiness, his own possibilities of bliss. There may be some danger that the pupil should acquire the impression that God exists for his benefit.
The Westminster Catechism cuts itself free at once from this entanglement with lower things, and begins, as it centers and ends, under the illumination of the vision of God in His glory, to subserve [i.e., to help or promote] which it finds to be the proper end of human as of all other existence, of salvation as of all other achievements. To it, all things exist for God, unto whom as well as from whom all things are; and the great question for each of us accordingly is, “How can I glorify God and enjoy him forever?”