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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 42. What is the sum of the ten commandments?

A. The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.

1. 'Father,' said a little boy, 'what is the meaning of the words cherubim and seraphim, which we find in the Holy Scriptures?' 'Cherubim,' replied his father, 'is a Hebrew word, signifying knowledge; Seraphim is another word of the same language, and signifies flame. Whence it is supposed, that the cherubim are angels who excel in knowledge; and that the seraphim are angels likewise who excel in loving God.' 'I hope, then,' said the little boy, 'when I die I shall be a seraph; for I would rather love God than know all things.'

2. 'I see God will have all my heart, and He shall have it,' was a fine saying of a lady, when news was brought of two of her children, whom she tenderly loved, being drowned.

3. A martyr was asked, whether he did not love his wife and children, who stood weeping by him. 'Love them? Yes,' said he: 'if all the world were gold, and at my disposal, I would give it for the satisfaction of living with them, though it were in prison. Yet, in comparison of Christ, I love them not.'

4. A boy, called Abraham, not quite four years old, was not only remarkably patient and resigned during his last illness, but his conversation proved an abiding blessing to his father, who happened then to be in an unhappy state of mind. On the day before he died he asked him, 'Father, do you love me?' The father replied, 'Yes, I do.' Upon repeating his question, he received the same answer. 'But then,' added he, 'do you love our Saviour?' 'No,' replied the father, 'I am just now very poor and miserable.' 'Ah!' said the child, 'if you do not love our Saviour, you cannot love me as you ought.'

5. An orphan boy, of peculiar vivacity and uncommon talents, and who had been a favourite comic performer in worldly sports, was sent by his relations to New Hernhuth, a settlement of the Moravian missionaries. His agreeable and engaging manners gained him the affection of one of the wealthiest Greenlanders, in whose family he was placed, who had no son, and whose presumptive heir he was. At the first catechetical meeting at which he was present, being asked whether he would wish to be acquainted with our Saviour, and be converted, 'O yes!' replied he gaily, 'I shall soon be converted;' on which another, who had been lately baptized, gravely told him he little knew what conversion meant—that it was to yield the heart wholly to our Saviour, and to make a surrender of every evil inclination. This he found a hard saying, and would rather have thrown up his prospects among the brethren, and returned to his amusements; till, after considerable mental conllict, he at last ceased contending with his Maker, and yielded a willing and cheerful obedience.

6. During the retreat of Alfred the Great, at Athelney in Somersetshire, after the defeat of his forces by the Danes, a beggar came to his camp there, and requested alms. The queen informed him that they had only one small loaf remaining, which was insufficient for themselves and their friends, who were gone in quest of food, though with little hope of success. The king replied, 'Give the poor Christian one half of the loaf. He who could feed five thousand men with five loaves and two small fishes, can certainly make that half of the loaf suffice for more than our necessities.' Accordingly, the poor man was relieved, and this noble act of charity was soon recompensed by a providential store of fresh provisions, with which his people returned.

7. Louis IX, on his return to France with his queen and his children, was very near being shipwrecked, some of the planks of the vessel having started; and he was requested to go into another ship, which was in company with that which carried them. He refused to quit his own ship, and exclaimed, 'Those that are with me, most assuredly, are as fond of their lives as I can possibly be of mine. If I quit the ship, they will likewise quit it; and the vessel not being large enough to receive them, they will all perish. I had much rather entrust my life, and those of my wife and children, in the hands of God, than be the occasion of making so many of my brave subjects perish.'

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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