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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 41. Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?

A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

1. Archbishop Usher, being once on a visit to Scotland, heard a great deal of the piety and devotion of Samuel Rutherford. He wished much to witness what had been told him, but was at a loss how to accomplish his design. At length it came into his mind to dress himself like a pauper; and on a Saturday evening, when turning dark, he called at Rutherford's house, and asked if he could get quarters for a night. Rutherford consented to give the poor man a bed for a night, and desired him to sit down in the kitchen, which he cheerfully did. Mrs Rutherford, according to custom on Saturday evening, that her servants might be prepared for the Sabbath, called them together and examined them. In the course of the examination, she asked the stranger how many commandments there were. To which he answered, Eleven. On receiving this answer, she replied, 'what a shame is it for you! a man with grey hairs, in a Christian country, not to know how many commandments there are! There is not a child of six years old in the parish, but could answer this question properly.' She troubled the poor man no more, thinking him so very ignorant, but lamented his condition to her servants; and after giving him some supper, desired a servant to show him up stairs to a bed in a garret. Rutherford, on discovering who he was next morning, requested him to preach for him that day, which the bishop consented to do, on condition that he would not discover him to any other. Rutherford furnished the bishop with a suit of his own clothes, and early in the morning he went into the fields: the other followed him, and brought him in as a strange minister passing by, who had promised to preach for him. Mrs Rutherford found that the poor man had gone away before any of the family were out of bed. After domestic worship and breakfast, the family went to the church, and the bishop had for his text, John 13.34, 'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.' In the course of his sermon, he observed that this might be reckoned the eleventh commandment: upon which Mrs Rutherford said to herself 'That is the answer the poor man gave me last night;' and looking up to the pulpit, said, 'It cannot be possible that this is he!' After public worship, the strange minister and Samuel Rutherford spent the evening in mutual satisfaction; and early on Monday morning, the former went away in the dress in which he came, and was not discovered.

2. Ralph Erskine composed the following ode on the death of his first wife, Margaret Dewar, who died November 22, 1730, aged thirty-two, after having borne ten children:

The law brought forth her precepts ten,
And then dissolved in grace:
This vine as many boughs, and then
In glory took her place.
Her dying breath triumphantly
Did that sweet anthem sing,
Thanks be to God for victory:
O Death! where is thy sting?

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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