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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour's wealth or outward estate.

1. A gentleman in Surrey held a farm worth £200 a year in his own hands, till he was obliged to sell half of it to pay his debts, and let the other half to a farmer, on a lease of twenty-one years. After a while, the farmer wanted to buy the land. "How is this," said the gentleman, "that I could not live upon the farm, being my own, while you have paid rent, and yet are able to purchase it?" "Oh," said the farmer, 'two words make all the difference; you say go, and I say come; you lay in bed, or took your pleasure, and sent others about your business; and I rise betimes, and see my business done myself.'

2. A blacksmith in the city of Philadelphia, complained to his iron merchant, that such was the scarcity of money, he could not pay his rent. The merchant then asked him how much rum he used in his family in the course of the day. Upon his answering the question, the merchant made a calculation, and showed him, that his rum amounted to more money in the year than his house-rent. The calculation so astonished the mechanic, that he determined from that day not to buy or drink spirits of any kind. In the course of the next ensuing year, he paid his rent, and bought a suit of new clothes out of the savings of his temperance. He persevered in that habit of temperance through the course of his life; and the consequence was, competence and respectability.

3. A person in Maryland, U.S.A., who was addicted to drunkenness, hearing a considerable uproar in his kitchen one night, felt the curiosity to step without noise to the door, to know what was the matter. He discovered that his servants were indulging in the most unbounded roars of laughter at a couple of Negro boys who were mimicking him in his drunken fits, showing how he reeled and staggered, how he looked and nodded, and hiccupped and tumbled. The pictures which were thus drawn of him, and which filled all the spectators except himself with such merriment, struck him with so salutary a disgust that from that night he became a perfectly sober man, to the great joy of his wife and children. At times the ability to see ourselves as others see us brings our sin home to us with such conviction that it proves sin's cure.

4. Philip, King of Macedon and father of Alexander, having drunk too much wine, judged a cause unjustly, to the hurt of a poor widow who, when she heard his decision, boldly cried out, 'I appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober.' The king, struck by this strange appeal, began to recover his senses, heard the cause anew, and finding his mistake, ordered her to be paid, out of his own purse, double the sum she was to have lost.

5. The only sailor who perished in the Kent Indiaman, was present in the hold very shortly after the commencement of the fire which destroyed the vessel, when, availing himself of the confusion, he hastened to the cabin of the second mate, forced open a desk, and took from thence 400 sovereigns, which he rolled up in a handkerchief, and tied round his waist; but in attempting to leap into one of the boats, he fell short, and the weight of his spoils caused him immediately to sink.

6. Samuel Kilpin of America, giving an account of his early life, says, 'when seven years old, I was left in charge of the shop. A man passed, crying, "little lambs, and all white and clean, at one penny each." In my eagerness to get one, I lost all self-command, and taking a penny from the drawer, I made the purchase. My keen-eyed, wise mother, inquired how I came by the money. I evaded the question with something like a lie. In God's sight it was a lie, as I kept back the truth. The lamb was placed on the chimney-shelf, and much admired. To me it was a source of inexpressible anguish. Continually there sounded in my ears and heart—"Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not lie." Guilt and darkness overcame my mind, and in sore agony of soul, I went to a hay-loft, the place is now perfectly in my recollection, and there prayed, and pleaded with groaning that could not be uttered for mercy and pardon. I entreated mercy for Jesus' sake. With joy and transport I left the loft, from a believing application of the text, "Thy sins that are many are all forgiven thee," I went to my mother, told her what I had done, sought her forgiveness, and burnt the lamb, whilst she wept over her young penitent.'

7. One of the teachers in a Sabbath school, going to visit a boy who had been absent, heard the following story related by his mother: 'O mother!' exclaimed the boy, as he entered the house one day, 'something has killed all my rabbits.' Without giving his mother time to reply, he continued, 'It is a judgment of God come upon me, for stealing meat for them; but,' said he, 'I am glad that I have none left, for they would have been a temptation to make me steal again.'

8. Samuel Fairdough, at thirteen years of age, hearing a minister preaching on restitution, from the instance of Zaccheus, and often repeating that the sin was not forgiven unless what was taken were restored, was so touched with remorse for the robbing of an orchard, that after a restless night, he went to a companion of his, who was guilty of the same crime, and told him that he was going to Mr Jude, the owner, to pay him twelve-pence for his three-pence worth of pears, of which he had wronged him. His companion, fearing whipping from his master, answered, 'You talk like a fool, Sam, for God will forgive us ten times sooner than old Jude will forgive us once.' But Sam, being of another mind, went to Jude's house, confessed the injury, and offered the money. Jude pardoned him; but he would take no money. This grieved him more; upon which he made application to the minister and opened to him the whole state of his mind, who received and treated him with great kindness and attention, and gave him suitable counsel. 'This', he wrote, 'contributed to impress me with a special care of exact justice, and the necessity of restitution in the case of things unjustly taken away, being like a burnt child dreading fire.'

9. Thomas Boston states, in his Memoirs, that having been employed, when a young man, for some time, by a notary, his employer failed to pay him for his services. Seeing a neglected book—The Exposition of Matthew's Gospel by David Dickson—lying in the notary's chamber, he secretly took it away, thinking he might lawfully use this method of paying himself: but, on further reflection, he viewed his conduct as sinful, and inconsistent with strict justice, even though he was never paid. Impressed with this conviction, he replaced the book with the same secrecy in which he had taken it away.

10. David Dickson, a minister of the seventeenth century, when riding between Edinburgh and Glasgow, was attacked by robbers. Instead of giving way to his fears, Dickson boldly admonished them of their danger with respect to their souls, and concluded by earnestly exhorting them to try some other profession more safe and creditable than that in which they were engaged. Some years after this, when quietly seated in the College of Edinburgh, he was surprised by receiving the present of a pipe of wine, accomp of wine of winesage that the gentleman who sent it, requested the pleasure of drinking a glass of the wine with him next evening, in his study. The request was granted; and, in the course of conversation, the gentleman, after finding that the minister retained no recollection of having seen him before, informed him that he was one of the robbers who attacked him, that he had been seriously impressed by his admonition, and that, having adopted his advice, he had prospered in foreign trade, and now came to thank his benefactor.

11. Dr George Lawson of Selkirk, when preaching on the eighth commandment, insisted strongly on the duty of restitution. Next morning, a family, from whose house a pair of shoes had been stolen some years before found the price of them lying on the window-sill, placed there by the unknown offender. Ministers draw the bow at a venture, but God directs the arrow to the heart.

12. A widow with a large family was in difficulty over the payment of her rent and her landlord decided to sell her furniture to obtain the sum due to him. George Whitefield learned of her sad plight and gave her the five guineas which she so badly needed. A friend at hand told Whitefield that he could not afford this act of generosity. He replied, 'when God brings a case of distress before us, it is that we may relieve it.' The two men shortly took their journey together, and before long encountered a highwayman who relieved them of their money. Whitefield now turned the tables on his friend, reminding him how much better it was for the widow to have the five guineas than the highwayman. After their loss, the two resumed their journey. Soon, however, the highwayman returned and demanded Whitefield's coat which was so much better than his own. Whitefield of necessity accepted the robber's ragged garment until he could get a better. Presently the same highwayman was for a third time seen galloping furiously towards them, but they spurred on their horses and reached shelter and safety without being overtaken. The robber was doubtless immensely mortified, for when Whitefield took off the tattered coat he found in one of the pockets a small parcel containing a hundred guineas.

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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