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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q 67. Which is the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

1. A noted physician on his deathbed, gave this advice to a noble friend who asked his counsel for the preservation of health: 'Be moderate in your diet, use much exercise, and little physic.'

2. 'A meek man,' says Matthew Henry, 'escapes many of those perplexities, those woes, and sorrows, and wounds without cause, which he that is passionate, provoking, and revengeful, brings upon his own head.' An instance of this he mentions, taken from Richard Baxter's book on Patience: 'Once as the author was going along the streets of London, a hectoring rude fellow jostled him; he went on his way, and took no notice of it; but the same man affronting the next person he met in a similar manner, he drew his sword, and demanded satisfaction, on which mischief ensued.'

3. A minister, praying for a child apparently dying, said, 'If it be Thy will, spare this child.' The wretched and distracted mother interrupted him with the words, 'It must be God's will; I will have no ifs.' The child, to the surprise of many, recovered, but lived to break his mother's heart, and was publicly executed at the age of twenty-two.

4. The power of the Spirit of God in bringing conviction of sin to men who have so long professed innocence that, in some cases, they have almost deceived themselves into believing that they have been wrongly charged with guilt, is sometimes remarkably demonstrated. It is related that a young German who, for the crime of murder, had been long in solitary confinement, was repeatedly visited by a minister of the gospel to whom he made the most positive declarations of his innocence. After six months had elapsed, on leaving him one evening, the minister pointed his attention to three verses in the New Testament about the confession of sin to God and of divine forgiveness for Christ's sake—I John 1. 8-10—and especially urged upon him the importance of the truths which they taught. He promised to read them; he did so; and when he threw himself upon his pallet to rest, he found that sleep had forsaken him; he turned again and again, but still there was no rest. The verses had made a deep impression on his mind, and although for six months he had asserted that he was innocent of the crime for which he was charged, the first words he uttered to the keeper in the morning were, 'I did commit that murder.' Whether he confessed also to God and received the forgiveness and cleansing which the Word of God proclaims is not mentioned.

5. Canute, King of England in the eleventh century, promised to make the man who would kill Edmund Ironside, his rival, the highest man in England. Instead of this, when one had performed the deed and expected his reward, Ganute commanded him to be hanged on the highest tower in London. Thus too does Satan deal with his servants and assistants.

6. The Romans had a law, that no person should approach the emperor's tent in the night, upon pain of death; but it once happened that a soldier was found in that situation, with a petition in his hand, waiting an opportunity of presenting it. He was apprehended, and about to be executed; but the emperor having overheard the matter in his pavilion, cried aloud, saying, 'If the petition be for himself let him die; if for another, spare his life.' Upon inquiry, it was found that the generous soldier was pleading for the lives of his two comrades, who had been taken asleep on the watch. The emperor nobly forgave them all.

7. The following facts concerning a young chief of the Pawnee Indians of North America are highly creditable to his courage, his generosity, and his humanity. At the age of twenty-one, his heroic deeds had acquired for him in his tribe the rank of 'the bravest of the brave.' The savage practice of torturing and burning to death their prisoners, existed in this tribe. An unfortunate female of another tribe, taken in war, was destined to this horrible death. The fatal hour had arrived, the trembling victim, far from her home and her friends, was fastened to the stake, the whole tribe was assembled on the surrounding plain, to witness the awful scene. Just when the wood was about to be kindled, and the spectators were on the tiptoe of expectation, the young warrior, who sat composedly among the other chiefs, having before prepared two fleet horses, with the necessary provisions, sprang from his seat, rushed through the crowd, loosed the victim, seized her in his arms, placed her on one of the horses, mounted the other himself and made the utmost speed towards the tribe and friends of the captive. The multitude, dumb and nerveless with amazement at the daring deed, made no effort to rescue their victim from her deliverer. They viewed it as an act of their deity, submitted to it without a murmur, and quietly returned to their village. The released victim was accompanied through the wilderness towards her home, till she was out of danger. He then gave her the horse which he rode, with the necessary provisions for the remainder of her journey, and they parted. On his return to the village, such was the respect entertained for him, that no inquiry was made into his conduct -- no censure was passed upon it; and after this transaction, no human sacrifice was offered in this or in any other of the Pawnee tribes.

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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