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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?

A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.


1. A gentleman, travelling in a stage coach, attempted to divert the company by ridiculing the Scriptures. 'As to the prophecies,' said he, 'in particular, they were all written after the events took place.' A minister in the coach, who had hitherto been silent, replied, 'Sir, I beg leave to mention one particular prophecy as an exception, 2 Pet. 3. 3, "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoifers." Now, sir, whether the event be not long after the prediction, I leave the company to judge.' The mouth of the scorner was stopped.

2. When the famous Duke of Wellington was, in the early part of his career—he was then Sir Arthur Wellesley—stationed in India, an officer, dining at the mess where he presided, was sporting his infidel sentiments. Sir Arthur wishing to put down such conversation, said, S , did you ever read Paley's Evidences? The reply was in the negative. 'Well then,' 'aid Sir Arthur, 'you had better read that book before you talk in the way you are doing.' The occurrence passed away, and the conversation was soon forgotten; but the reference to Paley's work led Colonel S. to inquire after it, and having obtained a copy, he read it with the most serious attention. He rose from the perusal of it with the fullest conviction of the falsehood of the system he had formerly adopted, and of the divine origin of Christianity. But he did not stop here, he was determined to examine the Book itself, which he was thus satisfied was a revelation from God. The result was, that he cordially received this revelation of mercy, saw and felt his need of a Saviour, and believing in Jesus, became a Christian, not in name only, but in deed and in truth. Colonel S. feeling his obligation to Sir Arthur, after-wards wrote to him, thanking him for his kindness, in recommending to him Dr Paley's valuable work; and earnestly advising him not to be satisfied with merely knowing the external evidence of Christianity, but to inquire what this divine communication really contains. It is not known whether any reply was made to this communication.

3. Naimbanna, a black prince from the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, arrived in England in 1791. The gentleman to whose care he was entrusted, took great pains to convince him that the Bible was the Word of God, and he received it as such, with great reverence and simplicity. Do we ask what it was that satisfied him on this subject? Let us listen to his artless words. 'When I found,' said he, 'all good men minding the Bible, and calling it the Word of God, and all bad men disregarding it, I then was sure that the Bible must be what good men called it, the Word of God.'

4. 'A few Sabbaths ago,' says one, 'a little boy, about six years of age, just after entering the school, came and asked me for the charity-box. I inquired what he wanted with it. "I want to put a halfpenny into it," said he. To examine his motives, and his knowledge of divine things more particularly, I asked him what good he supposed it would do to put his money into the charity-box. "I want to send it to the heathen," he replied. "Do you know," said I, "who the heathen are?" "They are folks who have not got any Bible, and live a great way off." "What is the Bible?" "The Word of God." "Of what use would it be to the heathen, if they had it?" "It would tell them to love God, and be good." "Where did the Bible come from?" "From heaven." "Was it written in heaven?" "No, the prophets and good men wrote it." "If good men wrote it, how then is it the Word of God, and came from heaven?" "Why, the Holy Ghost told them how to write it." "Did they see the Holy Ghost, and did He speak to them?" "No, but He made them think it." This was enough. I presented to him the charity-box; he dropped in his money; a smile ofjoy glowed upon his countenance; and he returned to his seat filled with the luxury of doing good.'

5. The learned Salmasius of Burgundy said on his death-bed, '0! I have lost a world of time! If one year more were added to my life, it should be spent in reading David's Psalms, and Paul's Epistles.'

6. John Locke, a little before his death, being asked what was the shortest and surest way for a young gentleman to attain a true knowledge of the Christian religion, made this reply; 'Let him study the Holy Scriptures, especially the New Testament; therein are contained the words of eternal life. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.'

7. It was customary, in Cromwell's time, for his soldiers to carry each a Bible in his pocket; among others, a profligate young man, who was ordered out to attack some fortress. During the engagement, a bullet had perforated his Bible, and gone so far as to rest opposite these words in Ecclesiastes; 'Rejoice, 0 young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth; and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgrnent.' These words so appropriate to his case, powerfully affected his mind, and proved, by the blessing of God, the means of his conversion. He wed to observe that the Bible had been the happy means of saving both his soul and his body.

8. During days of war a godly man visited a camp of French soldiers at Toulon, taking with him a number of French New Testaments which he distributed to the men, many of whom seemed pleased with the gift. He had at length exhausted all his store, with the exception of one copy; this he offered to a man standing near him. The man took it, opened it, and turning to a companion said sneeringly, 'Oh, this will do to light my pipe with.' A discouraging enough reception; but the book, having been once given, was beyond recovery.

About a year and half after this occurrence, the distributor of the Testaments was on a short journey through the South of France, and stopped on his way at a roadside inn for refreshment and a night's lodging. On entering the house, he soon perceived that something of a sad nature had happened to the landlady. On inquiring what it was, she informed him that her eldest son had been buried that very week. She went on very naturally to dilate on his many excellencies, and spoke of his happy deathbed. 'And sir,' said she, 'all his happiness was got from a little book that was given him sometime ago.' The traveller inquired further concerning the little book. 'You shall see it,' said the mother, 'it is upstairs.' She soon returned with the book. On opening it, he found it to be French New Testament, and identified it as the very one he had himself given, so many months before, to that seemingly unpromising soldier at Toulon. He discovered that five or six of the early pages had been torn out, thus indicating that the man had actually commenced the fulfilment of his threat to use the book to light his pipe with. This was not all. On the inside cover were written the words: 'Given to me at Toulon on —day; first despised, then read, and finally blessed to the saving of my soul.'

9. Two men came one night to a missionary in Madagascar. They had walked a hundred miles out of their way to visit him. 'Have you the Bible?' asked the missionary. 'We have seen it and heard it read,' one man said, 'but we have only some of the words of David, and they do not belong to us; they belong to the whole family.' 'Have you the words of David with you now?' asked the missionary. They looked at each other but would not answer. Perhaps they were afraid, but the kindness of the speaker moved one of the men to put his hand into his bosom and to take out what seemed to be a roll of cloth. He unrolled it and, after the removal of a few wrappers, there appeared a few old, torn, dingy leaves of the Psalms which had been read, passed round, lent and re-read, until they were almost worn out. Tears came into the missionary's eyes when he saw them. 'Have you ever seen the words of the Lord Jesus, or John or Paul or Peter?' he asked. 'Yes,' they said, 'we have seen and heard them, but we never owned them.' The missionary then brought out a Testament with the Book of Psalms bound up with it, and showed it to them. 'Now,' said he, 'if you will give me your few words of David, I will give you all his words, and all the words of the Lord Jesus, and John and Paul and Peter besides.' The men were amazed and delighted. But they wanted to see if the words of David were the same in the missionary's book, and when they found that they were, and thousands more of the same sort, their joy knew no bounds. They willingly gave up their poor, tattered leaves, seized the volume, thanked the missionary, bade him good-bye, and started off upon their long journey home, rejoicing like those who had found a great spoil.

10. A peasant in the county of Cork, understanding that a gentleman had a copy of the Scriptures in the Irish language, begged permission to see it. He asked whether he might borrow the New Testament in his own tongue that he might make a copy of it. The gentleman said that he could not obtain another copy, and that he was afraid to trust it with him so that he might take a copy in writing. 'Where will you get the paper?' he asked. 'I will buy it.' 'And the pens and ink?' 'I will buy them.' 'Where will you find a place to do the work?' 'If your honour will allow me your hall, I will come after I have done my work in the day, and take a copy by portions of time in the evening.' The owner of the book was so struck with his zeal that he gave him the use of the hall and a light, in order to make the copy. The man was firm to his purpose, in course of time finished the work, and produced a copy of the New Testament in writing by his own hand. A printed copy was later given him in exchange for it, and the written one was placed in the hands of the President of a Bible Society as a monument of the desire of the Irish to know the Scriptures.


This material is taken from THE SHORTER CATECHISM ILLUSTRATED by John Whitecross revised and republished by the Banner of Truth Trust edition 1968 and reproduced with their permission.

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