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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 53. Which is the third commandment?

A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.

Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?

A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, words and works.

1. In the year 1796, when the ship Duff was preparing to take out the missionaries from the London Missionary Society, Mr Cox, one of the directors, was one day walking in the street, where he was met by a very fine-looking boy, about fourteen years of age, who, stopping him, said, 'Sir, have not you some management in the ship that is going out with the missionaries?' 'Yes, I have, my young man,' said Mr Cox. 'I should like very much, sir, to go out with her as a cabin-boy.' 'Would you?' said Mr Cox; 'have you any parents?' 'I have a mother,' said the boy, 'but no father.' 'And is your mother willing you should go?' 'Oh yes, sir, very willing.' Mr Cox then desired the boy to call at his house, and to bring his mother along with him, that she might speak for herseff. At the time appointed, the boy and his mother came, and she having declared her willingness that her son should go, the matter was accordingly settled. In the course of the conversation, a gentleman who was present in order to try the boy, said to him, 'So you wish to go to sea?' 'Yes, sir, in the missionary ship.' 'And you know how to swear I suppose?' Shocked at the very idea of such a thing, the ingenuous little fellow burst into tears, and exclaimed, 'If I thought there would be swearing aboard at all, I would not go.'

2. A collier who was addicted to a very wicked course of life, going one Sabbath morning to buy a game-cock for fighting, was met by a good man on his way to a religious meeting, who asked him where he was going. He related the whole to him, and after much entreaty, was prevailed on to go with him to the meeting, where it pleased God to convince him of his misery. On the Monday morning he went to his work, where he was beset by the rest of the colliers, who swore at him, told him he was going mad, and upbraided him, by saying, that before a month was at an end, he would swear as bad as ever. On hearing this, he kneeled down before them all, and earnestly prayed that God would sooner take him out of the world, than suffer him to blaspheme His holy name; on which he immediately expired. The person who was the instrument of bringing him to a knowledge of the truth, died a few days afterwards.

3. John Howe being at dinner with some persons of fashion, a gentleman expatiated largely in praise of Charles I, and made some disagreeable reflections upon others. Howe observing that he mixed many horrid oaths with his discourse, took the liberty to say that, in his humble opinion, he had omitted one great excellence in the character of that prince; which when the gentleman had pressed him to mention, and waited with impatience to hear it, he told him it was this: 'That he was never heard to swear an oath in common conversation.' The gentleman took the reproof and promised to break off the practice.

4. One of the teachers of a Sabbath School, coming home from work one day, overtook a boy, whom he knew to be very wicked, and particularly addicted to swearing. The teacher asked him if he still swore? He answered, 'No.' 'What is the reason you have left it off?' 'Because I go to the Sunday School.'

5. A lady, in a letter addressed to the secretary of the Blackburn Religious Tract Society, states the following fact: 'One of our scholars had the Swearer's Prayer lent her lately, and returned it; but she thought very much about it, as her father was in the habit of profane swearing. She was at the time in a very bad state of health; but we did not think her dangerously ill, and paid but little attention to her—her parents only were acquainted with the state of her mind, and were not very competent to give her that direction which she then so much needed. Some weeks afterwards, on a Monday evening, her father came home from his work, and finding something wrong in the family, broke out into such an outrageous fit of swearing, as quite to alarm the child, who was gone to bed. She immediately got up, ran down stairs, and throwing her arms around his neck, begged him, in the most pathetic manner, not to swear. But on this, her feelings and weakness so much overcame her, that she fell down, apparently lifeless, at her father's feet, when he raised her, with all the tenderness of a fond parent; when she had recovered her senses, he asked her why she had given herself so much trouble. She replied, "Because, father, you should not swear." The next day she went to a girl in the school, who had a copy of the Swearer's Prayer, and borrowed it from her, but did not say for what purpose she wished it. Finding a convenient opportunity when her father was alone in the house, she went to him, saying, "Father, I have got a little book here; will you read it for me?" He took the book; but when he saw the title, would have instantly returned it, had she not entreated him with much tenderness to read it. To please the child he sat down beside her and read it. It pleased God to bless the reading of the tract to his soul; and I am happy to be able to add, that he was never known to swear any more after that time. The child did not long survive; but she lived long enough to see a reformation in her father's conduct, and died happy in the Lord, before she had attained her fourteenth year.'

6. 'In my walk this morning,' says the godly James B. Taylor, 'as I was passing a shop, a man swore by the sacred name of God. I passed on. The query arose, "Shall I let this sin go unnoticed?" I stopped. Many excuses entered my mind. At length this Scripture presented itself: "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." I went back, called the person by name, and requested an interview. We walked aside, where I had a serious talk with him; the result so far was favourable.'

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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