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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.

1. John Thomas, one of the missionary brethren of Serampore, Bengal, was one day, after addressing a crowd of the natives on the banks of the Ganges, accosted by a Brahmin as follows: 'Sir, don't you say that the devil tempts men to sin?' 'Yes' answered Thomas. 'Then,' said the Brahmin, 'certainly the fault is the devil's; the devil, therefore, and not man, ought to suffer punishment.' While the countenances of many of the natives revealed their approbation of the Brahmin's inference, Thomas, observing a boat, with several men on board, descending the river, with that facility of instructive retort for which he was so much distinguished, replied, 'Brahmin, do you see yonder boat?' 'Yes.' 'Suppose I were to send some of my friends to destroy every person on board, and bring me all that is valuable in the boat who ought to suffer punishment? I for instructing them, or they for doing this wicked act?' 'Why,' answered the Brahmin, with emotion, 'you ought all to be put to death together.' 'Ay, Brahmin,' replied Thomas, 'and if you and the devil sin together, the devil and you will be punished together.'

2. 'There is,' says one, 'a tree, called the manchineel, which grows in the West Indies; its appearance is very attractive, and the wood of it peculiarly beautiful; it bears a kind of apple, resembling the golden pippin. This fruit looks very tempting, and smells very fragrant; but to eat of it is instant death. Its sap or juice is so poisonous, that if a few drops of it fall on the skin, it raises blisters and occasions great pain. The natives dip their arrows in the juice that they may poison their enemies when they wound them. Providence has so appointed it that one of these trees is never found, but near it there also grows a white wood, or a fig tree, the juice of either of which, if applied in time, is a remedy for the diseases produced by the manchineel.

'Sin, like this poisonous apple, looks pleasant to the eye, and men desire it,—eat of it, and die. We may think there is no harm in such a thing—it is only a little sin. But who would eat only a little poison? The least sin, if not forgiven, will ruin our souls for ever. This is fruit that must not be tasted; yea, it ought not to be looked upon, or thought of. It is sin that gives to the darts of Satan all their fiery qualities; and to the arrow of death all its bitterness. Now, all who have looked upon the fruit of this tree have desired it and have eaten of it; and if not delivered from its fatal effects, will surely die; but there is a remedy at hand: it is the precious blood of the Son of God, which soothes the troubled conscience, and cleanses it from all sin.

"Not balm, new bleeding from the wounded tree,
Not blessed Arabia with his spicy grove,
Such fragrance yields".
(Nicholas Rowe)

'Apply, therefore, to this means of cure! fly to a crucified Saviour! there is no time to be lost!—the poison works within!—the disease every moment is increasing. Go to the great Physician without delay, and say, "Lord if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me whole."'

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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