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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?

A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?

A. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his.

1. 'No doubt,' said John Brown of Haddington, 'I have met with trials as well as others; yet so kind has God been to me, that I think, if God were to give me as many years as I have already lived in the world, I would not desire one single circumstance in my lot changed, except that I wish I had less sin. It might be written on my coffin, Here lies one of the cares of Providence, who early wanted both father and mother, and yet never missed them.'

2. An Italian bishop struggled through great difficulties without repining, and met with much opposition without ever betraying the least impatience. An intimate friend of his, who highly admired those virtues, which he thought it impossible to imitate, one day asked the bishop if he could communicate his secret of being always easy? 'Yes,' replied the old man, 'I can teach you my secret with great facility: It consists in nothing more than making a right use of my eyes.' His friend begged him to explain himself. 'Most willingly,' replied the bishop; 'in whatever state I am, I first of all look up to heaven, and remember that my principal business here, is to get there; I then look down on the earth, and call to mind how small a space I shall occupy in it when I am to be interred; I then look abroad on the world, and observe what multitudes there are who are, in all respects, more unhappy than myself. Thus I learn where true happiness is placed, where all our cares must end, and how very little reason I have to repine or complain.'

3. The danger of wealth and elevation may, with propriety, be used as a motive to contentment in a humble state. It is said of Pope Pius V that when dying he cried out despairingly, 'When I was in a low condition, I had some hopes of salvation; when I was advanced to be a cardinal, I greatly doubted it; but since I came to the popedom, I have no hope at all!'

4. If discontented persons would but look with a more impartial eye on the world, they would see themselves surrounded with sufferers; and find that they are only drinking out of that mixed cup which Providence has prepared for all. 'I will restore thy daughter again to life,' said an eastern sage, to a prince who grieved immoderately for the loss of a beloved child, 'provided thou art able to engrave on her tomb the names of three persons who have never mourned.' The prince made inquiry after such persons, but found the inquiry vain, and was silent.

5. The Greenlanders, David Crantz the missionary-historian tells us, are naturally the most selfish people in the world, and unwilling ever to give to any one, unless they hope for a return; and quite careless even for the welfare of their own friends and countrymen. When, however, the little flock of Greenlanders who had been converted to the faith of Christ were told by the missionaries of the distress to which the Christian Indians of North America were brought by a fire, which had destroyed their settlements, their hearts, now melted by the love of Christ, were full of love to His members, and their brethren in Him. With many tears, they heartily offered to do all in their power to relieve their sufferings. They had no money to give: 'but,' cried one, 'I have a fine reindeer skin-take it.' Another said, 'Here, I will give a new pair of reindeer boots.' Another offered a stock of train oil, 'that they may,' said he, 'have something to burn in their lamps, and a seal, that they may have somewhat to eat.' These gifts were of little value when turned into money; but the missionaries would not refuse the mite of the poor Greenlanders, who offered it with true joy: and they sent the value of their gifts to North America.

6. Two neighbouring farmers had a dispute about their right to some property, which they could not settle, and therefore an action was brought to determine it. On the day of the trial, one of the farmers, having dressed him-self in his best clothes, called upon the other to accompany him to the judge, when he found his neighbour at work in his ground; on which he said, 'Is it possible that you can have forgotten that our cause is to be decided to-day?' 'No,' said the other, 'I have not forgotten it, but I cannot well spare the time to go; I knew you would be there, and I am sure you are an honest man, and will say nothing but the truth. You will state the case fairly, and justice will be done.' And so it turned out, for the farmer who attended, stated his neighbour's claims so clearly that he lost the case, and returned home to inform him that he had gained the property.

7. A very gratifying instance of generosity and kindly feeling was lately witnessed among the boys of a Sabbath school. One of their number having been absent for several Sabbaths, the boys were informed that the cause was his having no shoes, his parents being too poor to buy him any. The next Sabbath, they freely contributed a sufficient sum to enable their school-fellow to appear among them, at their next meeting in school, with new shoes.

8. During the prevalence of the small-pox in Greenland, which proved very fatal, the Moravian missionaries showed the greatest kindness and attention to the poor inhabitants; they accommodated as many as their house would contain, surrendering to the afflicted even their own sleeping chambers; and thus though unable to make themselves distinctly understood by words, they preached by their conduct, and not without effect. One man who always derided them when in health, expressed his obligation to the minister shortly before he died: 'Thou hast done for us what our own people would not do; for thou hast fed us when we had nothing to eat—thou hast buried our dead, who would else have been consumed by the dogs, foxes, and ravens—thou hast also instructed us in the knowledge of God-and hast told us of a better life.'

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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