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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape His wrath and curse due to us for sin?

A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.


1. 'A pious young physician,' says one, 'whose father I knew, and of whose excellent character I had often heard, called on me one day, and after friendly salutations and expressions of Christian affection, said, "Do you know, sir, how much I am indebted to you for giving me a tract many years ago?" I told him I had no knowledge of ever presenting him with one; but recollecting that his father formerly kept a turnpike gate, and that often when I stopped to pay my toll, I used to give tracts to the children who were playing about the door, it occurred to me as possible, that on some of these occasions he had been among them. "When I was a boy," said he, "you gave me a tract, as you were riding by my father's house, and the first words that caught my eye were,

'Stop, poor sinner, stop and think.'

I was much affected with the whole hymn, beginning with these words, and committed it to memory. Five years ago, while a member of a university, in a time of universal attention to religion, I was present at a meeting for prayer and other devotional exercises, when they commenced singing the hymn,

'Stop, poor sinner, stop and think.'

My early impressions were all instantly revived; I saw that I was ruined by sin; that an eternity of woe was before me; and I found no peace till I looked to the Saviour crucified for me; and, as I hope, by true repentance and faith in His blood, gave myself to Him, to be His for ever." 'The youth is now an active, godly praying physician.

2. John Brown of Haddington, towards the close of life, when his constitution was sinking under his multiplied and ceaseless labours, preached on the Monday after the dispensation of the Lord's Supper at Tranent near Edinburgh, a serious and animated sermon from these words: 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.' After the service was concluded by prayer and praise, and he was just about to dismiss the congregation it occurred to him, that he had made no direct address to those who were destitute of the grace of the Lord Jesus; and, though worn out by his former exertions, he, at considerable length, and with most intense earnest-ness, represented the horrors of their situation, and urged them to have recourse, ere the season of forbearance was past, to the rich and sovereign grace of the long despised Saviour. This unlooked-for exhortation apparently made a deep impression, and was long remembered by the more serious part of the hearers.

3. A certain man on the Malabar coast of India, having inquired of various devotees and priests how he might make atonement for his sins, was directed to drive iron spikes, sufficiently blunted, through his sandals; and on these spikes, he was enjoined to place his naked feet, and to walk about four hundred and eighty miles. If, through loss of blood, or weakness of body he was obliged to halt, he might wait for healing and strength. He undertook the journey, and while he halted under a large shady tree, where the gospel was sometimes preached, one of the missionaries came and preached in his hearing from these words: 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin.' (1 John 1.7). While he was preaching, the man rose up, threw off his torturing sandals, and cried out aloud—'This is what I want:' and he became a lively witness, that the blood of Jesus Christ does indeed cleanse from all sin.

4. In a Sabbath-school in Southwark, London, two instances of great diligence in conunitting the Word of God to memory, once occurred. In the twelvemonth from October 1826 to October 1827, William M—— repeated to his teacher all the chapters from the 11th of Luke, to the end of the 2nd Epistle to Timothy, besides various chapters from other parts of the Bible, making a total of above six thousand verses of Scripture. Another boy, in the same class, named James J——, committed to memory, and repeated to his teacher, from the New Testament, from the 14th chapter of Luke to the end of the Revelation; and, from the Old Testament, the whole of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Solomon's Song, and Isaiah, besides a few other chapters, making, in the whole, a total of above eight thousand verses repeated to his teacher in one year, which forms an average of one hundred and fifty verses every week. These two boys learned these portions of Scripture, in addition to the weekly lessons which were set them in common with the other boys in the class; and they learned them of their own accord. The teachers of the school wishing to encourage such uncommon application to the Scriptures, gave to each of them, as a token of their approbation, a small gilt-edged Bible, with which the boys were much pleased and gratified.

5. A clergyman in the county of Tyrone (Ulster), had for some weeks observed a little ragged boy come every Sabbath, and place himself in the centre of the aisle, directly opposite the pulpit, where he seemed astonishingly attentive to the service, and, as it were, eating his words. He was desirous of knowing who the child was; and for this purpose hastened out after sermon, several times, but never could see him, as he vanished the moment service was over, and no one knew whence he came, or any thing about him. At length the boy was missed from his usual situation in the church for some weeks. At this time a man called on the minister, and told him a person very ill was desirous of seeing him; but added, 'I am really ashamed to ask you to go so far, but it is a child of mine, and he refused to have any one but you. He is altogether an extraordinary boy, and talks a great deal about things that I do not understand.' The clergyman promised to go, and kept his promise. The rain poured down in torrents, and he had six mises of rugged mountain to pass. On arriving where he was directed, he saw a most wretched cabin indeed; and the man he had seen in the morning was waiting at the door. He was shown in, and found the inside of the hovel as miserable as the outside. In a corner, on a little straw, he beheld a person stretched out, whom he recognised as the little boy who had so regularly attended his church. As he approached the wretched bed, the child raised himself up, and stretching forth his arms said, 'His own right hand hath gotten Him the victory,' and immediately expired!

6. Thomas Halyburton, when a young man, was asked by an aged minister, if he had ever sought a blessing from the Lord upon his learning. Halyburton confessed that he had not. The reverend man, looking him sternly in the face, replied, 'Unsanctified learning has done much harm to the church.' Halyburton was more conscientious afterwards in acknowledging God while pursuing his studies.

7. An incident is related in the life of Dr Robert Balmer, showing how early he had learned to think and reason on religious questions. When about ten years of age, an old man, a neighbour, came frequently at leisure hours to converse with his parents. This person was harrassed with doubts and fears about his interest in the Saviour. One day Robert listened while his mother argued with the man, and endeavoured to persuade him to dismiss his fears, and to commit himself trustingly to Christ. It was in vain. He still reiterated, 'Christ will have nothing to do with me.' Robert perceiving, it would seem, that the man was speaking under the influence of morbid feeling, and wilfully putting away consolation, at last put in his word. 'Then what is the use of your aye talk talking about Him to my mother? If He'll have nothing to do with you, can't you let Him alone?' 'Let Him alone, hinney!' the man replied, 'I would not let Him alone for a thousand worlds.' 'O then,' said the boy, 'I'm thinking you'll do well enough.'


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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