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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 8. How doth God execute His decrees?

A. God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.

1. The master of an Infant school, having directed a little fellow to move a stool, but so as not to be himself seen, thus endeavoured to instruct his infant charges: 'You cannot see any one moving the stool, is it not alive?' 'Oh no, master, it's not alive, never was alive; some one must be moving it.' 'But, my little fellows, you cannot see any body; perhaps it moves itself?' 'Oh no, sir, though we do not see any body, that does not make any odds; it does not move itself.' He then told them of the sun, and moon, and stars; and that although we did not see any one move them, yet it was certain they were moved, and no other could do so but God Himself, but we could not see Him. 'Yes, master, it must be God.' 'But then, my little folks, you cannot see Him?' 'Please, sir, we must believe it.' 'Well, then, you believe it?' 'Yes.' 'This then is faith.' 'Please, sir, then little faith is better than no faith.' 'If you have little faith, what will you do?' Little James said, 'I'll shut myself up in a corner, and I'll pray, "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief."'

2. Julian, usually styled the Apostate, one of the Roman emperors, with the view of invalidating the truth of our Saviour's prophecies respecting the desolation of the Jews, made an attempt to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem; but, from the breaking out of terrible balls of fire near the foundations, the workmen were obliged to abandon the impious attempt. 'Who hath hardened himself against God, and hath prospered?' (Job 9.4). 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.' (Is. 46.10).

3. In the seventeenth century when, from time to time, outbreaks of what was then called the plague visited various cities of Britain, the city of Chester was troubled in this way. In all such cases the godly of the city doubtless prayed for the special protection and deliverance of the Lord, and it is on record that a gracious answer to such a prayer led a certain citizen, when he rebuilt his house at a later date, to inscribe in clear bold letters across the front of his house, 'God's Providence is my inheritance' The house is still to be seen with its inscription: it is known as God's Providence House.

4. Alexander Peden, a Scottish Covenanter, with some others had been at one time pursued by both horse and foot soldiers for a considerable way. At last, getting some little height between them and their persecutors, he stood still and said to the little company, 'Let us pray here, for if the Lord hear not our prayer and save us, we are all dead men'. He then prayed, saying, 'Lord, this is the hour and the power of Thine enemies; they may not be idle. But hast Thou no other work for them than to send after us? Send them after them to whom Thou wilt give strength to flee, for our strength is gone. Twine them about the hill, 0 Lord, and cast the lap of Thy cloak over thir puir things, and save us this ae time, and we will keep it in remembrance, and tell it to the commendation of Thy guidness, Thy pity and compassion, what Thou didst for us at sic a time.' In this he was heard, for a cloud of mist immediately intervened between them and their persecutors, who also received orders from their commander to go to another part of the land.

5. An ancient philosopher used to bless the gods for three privileges: That he was made, not a brute, but a rational creature—That he was born, not in barbarous climes, but in Greece—That he lived, not in the more uncultivated ages, but in the time, and under the tuition of Socrates. How much better reason have we to bless God that, in His providence, we were born in Britain, in a time of gospel light.

6. 'Who would have thought,' says Saurin, 'that King Henry VIII, a cruel and superstitious king, the greatest enemy the Reformation ever had—he who, by the fury of his arms, and by the productions of his pen, opposed this great work, refuting those whom he could not persecute, and persecuting those whom he could not refute—who would have thought that this monarch should first serve the work he intended to subvert, clear the way for reformation, and by shaking off the yoke of the Roman pontiff, execute the plan of Providence, while he seemed to do nothing but satiate his voluptuousness and ambition?'

7. 'It was a special providence of God,' says Samuel Clarke, 'that the same day that Pelagius, the heretic, was born in Britain, St Augustine, the great confuter of the heresy, was born in Africa. Divine Providence so disposed it, that the poison and the antidote should come into the world together.'

8. John Brotherton was a soldier who fought at the battle of Minden (1759). When he left home, he took a small Bible, which he determined always to carry with him. When going to the battle, he put his Bible between his coat and his waistcoat, over his breast. It was the means of saving his life; for one of the enemy thrust at him with a bayonet, and the point of the weapon pierced through his belt and coat, and about fifty leaves of the Bible.

9. Thomas Charles of North Wales had a remarkable escape in one of his journeys to Liverpool. His saddle-bag was by mistake put into a different boat from that in which he intended to go. This made it necessary for him to change his boat, even after he had taken his seat in it. The boat in which he meant to go, went to the bottom, and all in it were drowned. Thus did God, in a wonderful way preserve His servant—'immortal till his work was done.' God had a great work for His servant to do, and He supported and preserved him till it was completed.

10. A pious old man who had served God for many years, was sitting one day with several persons, eating a meal upon a bank, near the mouth of a pit, in the neighbourhood of Swansea. While he was eating, a pigeon, which seemed very tame, came and fluttered in his breast, and slightly pecked him. It then flew away, and he did not think much about it; till, in five minutes, it came again, and did the same. The old man then said, 'I will follow thee, pretty messenger, and see where thou comest from.' He rose up to follow the bird and, whilst he was doing so, the banks of the pit fell in, and his companions were all killed.

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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