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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fill?

A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itsell, and to the pains of hell for ever.

1. Some of the natives of South America, after listening a while to the instructions of the popish missionaries, gave them this Cool answer: 'You say that the God of the Christians knows everything, that nothing is hidden from Him, that He is everywhere, and sees all that is done below. Now, we do not desire a God so sharp-sighted; we choose to live in freedom in our woods, without having a perpetual observer of our actions over our heads.'

2. 'I am credibly informed,' says Job Orton, in his Sermons on Old Age, 'that a person who had lately a large sum of money left him to distribute in charity, had applications made to him for a share of it from no fewer than thirty persons who had rode in their own carriages.'

3. 'I have seen,' says a nobleman, once well known in the gay world, 'the silly round of business and pleasure, and have done with it all. I have enjoyed all the pleasures of the world, and consequently known their futility, and do not regret their loss. I appraise them at their real value, which in truth is very low; whereas those who have not experienced, always overrate them. They only see their gay outside, and are dazzled with their glare; but I have been behind the scenes. I have seen all the coarse pulleys and dirty ropes which exhibit and move the gaudy machine; and I have seen and smelt the tallow candles which illuminate the whole decoration, to the astonishment and admiration of the ignorant audience. When I reflect on what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I can hardly persuade myself that that frivolous hurry of bustle and pleasure of the world had any reality; but I look on all that is past as one of those romantic dreams which opium commonly occasions, and I do by no means wish to repeat the nauseous dose for the sake of the fugitive dream. Shall I tell you that I bear this melancholy situation with that meritorious constancy and resignation that most men boast? No, sir, I really cannot help it; I bear it because I must bear it, whether I will or not. I think of nothing but killing time the best way I can; now that time has become my enemy, it is my resolution to sleep in the carriage during the remainder of the journey.'

4. Some time ago, a gentleman in London, when on his death-bed, felt so strong an aversion to dying, and leaving behind him all his hard-earned wealth, that he hastily rose from his bed, went out and walked in his yard, calling out that he would not die. But the unhappy man's strength being soon exhausted, he was brought back to his bed by his affrighted friends, where he expired, for his hour was come. It is observed by one, that death comes always too soon to a bad man, even though he be far advanced in years, because it comes before he is ready.

5. It is said of Cesar Borgia, that in his last moments he exclaimed, 'I have provided in the course of my life, for everything except death; and now, alas! I am to die, although entirely unprepared.'

6. A boy went from a retired country hamlet to be apprenticed to a shopkeeper in a large city. The shop was in a street leading to the principal churchyard. Not having formerly seen a funeral above once in a year or two, he was alarmed to witness two or three funerals pass the shop the first day he was there; still more, by observing as many the second day: and finding not fewer on the third, he resolved to remain no longer in what he conceived to be so hazardous a place. By sunrise, on the fourth morning, he packed up his little bundle of clothes, and having escaped by the window of his chamber, he fled home in great haste to his mother. Being surprised at this unexpected visit, she naturally inquired into the cause of his return. 'Mother,' said he, 'a person is not sure of his life for a minute in that town, for they are burying the people as fast as they can.' It is to be feared that, from the frequency of the occurrence, the sight of a funeral makes but little impression on the minds of the generality of those who inhabit large towns.

7. 'Ah! Mr Hervey,' said a dying man, 'the day in which I ought to have worked is over, and now I see a horrible night approaching, bringing with it the blackness of darkness for ever. Woe is me! when God called, I refused. Now I am in sore anguish, and yet this is but the beginning of sorrows. I shall be destroyed with an everlasting destruction.'

8. A young girl, eighteen years of age, a native of New York, was brought up by her parents in all the gaiety and follies of youth; by them encouraged to ornament her person, and engage in every vain amusement. When she was taken ill, three physicians were sent for immediately, who pronounced her speedy dissolution. No sooner was their opinion made known to her, than she requested as a favour, that all her gay companions might be collected with haste. They were soon around her bed, when she told them she was going to die -- described the awful manner in which they spent their precious time, and in a very affecting manner, exhorted them all to repentance before it was too late. Turning next to her father and mother, she addressed to them, in the presence of her acquaintances, these heartrending words: 'You have been the unhappy instruments of my being; you fostered me in pride, and led me in the paths of sin; you never once warned me of my danger, and now it is too late. In a few hours you will have to cover me with earth; but remember, while you are casting earth upon my body, my soul will be in hell, and yourselves the miserable cause!' Shortly afterwards she died.

9. Some years ago, an individual, well known and highly respected in the religious world, in early life, was making a tour on the continent with a college companion. At Paris his friend was seized with an alarming illness. A physician of great celebrity was speedily summoned, who stated that the case was a critical one, and that much would depend on a minute attention to his directions. As there was no one at hand upon whom they could place much reliance, he was requested to recommend some confidential and experienced nurse. He mentioned one, but added—'You may think yourself happy indeed should you be able to secure her services; but she is so much in request among the higher circles here, that there is little hope of finding her disengaged.' The gentleman at once ordered his carriage, went to her residence, and much to his satisfaction found her at home. He briefly stated his errand, and requested her immediate attendance. 'Before I consent to accompany you,' she said, 'permit me to ask you a singular question. Is your friend a Christian?' 'Yes,' he replied, 'indeed he is—a Christian in the best and highest sense of the term, a man who lives in the fear of God. But I should like to know your reason for such an inquiry.' 'Sir,' she answered, 'I was the nurse that attended Voltaire in his last illness, and, for all the wealth of Europe, I would never see another infidel die.'

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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