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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


Q. 31. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.


1. Thomas Doolittle, a godly minister of the seventeenth century, used to catechise the members, and especially the young people of his congregation, every Lord's day. One Sabbath evening, after having received an answer in the words of the Assembly's Catechism, to the question, 'What is effectual calling?', and having explained it, he proposed that the question should be answered by changing the words us and our, into me and my. Upon this proposal a solemn silence followed; many felt its vast importance; but none had courage to answer. At length a young man rose up, and with every mark of a broken and contrite heart, by divine grace, was enabled to say, 'Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing my will, He doth persuade and enable me to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to me in the gospel.' The scene was truly affecting. The proposal of the question had commanded unusual solemnity. The rising up of the young man had created high expectations, and the answer being accompanied with proof of unfeigned piety and modesty, the congregation was bathed in tears. This young man had been convicted by being catechised; and to his honour, Doolittle says, 'from being an ignorant and wicked youth, he had become an intelligent professor, to God's glory, and my much comfort.'

2. George Whitefield was preaching once at Exeter. A man was present, who had loaded his pockets with stones, in order to throw them at the minister. He heard his prayer, however, with patience; but no sooner had he named his text, than the man pulled a stone out of his pocket, and held it in his hand, waiting for a fair opportunity to throw it. But God sent a word to his heart, and the stone dropped from his hand. After sermon, he went to Whitefield and told him, 'Sir, I came to hear you this day, with a view to break your head, but the Spirit of God, through your ministry, has given me a broken heart.' The man proved to be a sound convert, and lived an ornament to the gospel.

3. 'Will you go with me to hear our minister today?' said a serious youth, in humble life, to his younger brother. 'Not to-day,' was the answer; 'certainly not to-day.' 'Why not to-day?' asked the other. 'Because next week is the fair. I am sure Mr—— will preach against it to-day, and then I should not enjoy the fair at all, for I should go with a sting in my conscience.'

4. Nathaniel Partridge, one of the English ministers ejected in 1662, having once preached at St Alban's, upon these words, (Rev. 3. 18.), 'Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see;' a poor man, who was as blind in mind as he was in body, went afterwards to his house, and asked him very gravely, 'where he might get that ointment to cure his blindness?' It is to be hoped the minister improved the occasion, by saying something to this ignorant creature, with a view to open the eyes of his mind, though we are not informed respecting it.

5. 'I have taken much pains,' says the learned John Selden, 'to know everything that was esteemed worth knowing amongst men; but with all my disquisitions and readings, nothing now remains with me, to comfort me, at the close of life, but this passage of St Paul— "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners;" to this I cleave, and herein I find rest' (1 Tim. 1.15).

6. The excellent and pious James Durham, when on his deathbed, was for sometime under considerable darkness respecting his spiritual state, and said to his friend, William Carstairs; 'For all that I have preached or written, there is but one Scripture I can remember, or dare grip to: tell me if I dare lay the weight of my salvation upon it; "Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out."' Mr Carstairs answered, 'You may depend upon it, though you had a thousand salvations at hazard.'


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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